Terminologies in Roman Architecture

Updated on February 20, 2018

Centuriation

Centuriation was a method of land measurement used by the Romans. In many cases land divisions based on the survey formed a field system, often referred to in modern times by the same name.

Centuriation is characterized by the regular layout of a square grid traced using surveyors' instruments. It may appear in the form of roads, canals and agricultural plots. In some cases these plots, when formed, were allocated to Roman army veterans in a new colony, but they might also be returned to the indigenous inhabitants, as at Orange (France)

Aqueduct

Aqueduct (bridge), a bridge that is constructed to convey water over an obstacle, such as a ravine or valley.

The multiple arches of the Pont du Gard in Roman Gaul (modern-day southern France). The upper tier encloses an aqueduct that carried water to Nimes in Roman times; its lower tier was expanded in the 1740s to carry a wide road across the river.
The multiple arches of the Pont du Gard in Roman Gaul (modern-day southern France). The upper tier encloses an aqueduct that carried water to Nimes in Roman times; its lower tier was expanded in the 1740s to carry a wide road across the river.

Hypocaust

The hypocaust is one of the most ancient forms of an HVAC system. Like many great innovations, it originated with the Romans over 2000 years ago. A hypocaust is both a primary system and a secondary system, as it creates heat and distributes it as well.

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Thermae and Balneae

In ancient Rome, thermae and balneae were facilities for bathing. Thermae usually refers to the large imperial bath complexes, while balneae were smaller-scale facilities, public or private, that existed in great numbers throughout Rome.

Apodyterium

In ancient Rome, the apodyterium (from Ancient Greek: ἀποδυτήριον "undressing room") was the primary entry in the public baths, composed of a large changing room with cubicles or shelves where citizens could store clothing and other belongings while bathing.

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Caldarium

A caldarium (also called a calidarium, cella caldaria or cella coctilium) was a room with a hot plunge bath, used in a Roman bath complex.

This was a very hot and steamy room heated by a hypocaust, an underfloor heating system. This was the hottest room in the regular sequence of bathing rooms; after the caldarium, bathers would progress back through the tepidarium to the frigidarium.

Caldarium from the Roman Baths at Bath, England. The floor has been removed to reveal the empty space where the hot air flowed through to heat the floor.
Caldarium from the Roman Baths at Bath, England. The floor has been removed to reveal the empty space where the hot air flowed through to heat the floor.

Ttepidarium

The tepidarium was the warm (tepidus) bathroom of the Roman baths heated by a hypocaust or underfloor heating system.The specialty of a tepidarium is the pleasant feeling of constant radiant heat which directly affects the human body from the walls and floor.

Frigidarium

A frigidarium is a large cold pool at the Roman baths. It would be entered after the caldarium and the tepidarium, which were used to open the pores of the skin. The cold water would close the pores. There would be a small pool of cold water or sometimes a large swimming pool (though this, differently from the piscina natatoria, was usually covered). The water could be also kept cold by using snow.

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Laconicum

The laconicum was the dry sweating room of the Roman thermae, contiguous to the caldarium or hot room. The name was given to it as being the only form of warm bath that the Spartans admitted. The laconicum was usually a circular room with niches in the axes of the diagonals and was covered by a conical roof with a circular opening at the top, according to Vitruvius (v. 10), from which a brazen shield is suspended by chains, capable of being so lowered and raised as to regulate the temperature. The walls of the laconicum were plastered with marble stucco and painted blue with gold stars.

Roman theatres

Roman theatres derive from and are part of the overall evolution of earlier Greek theatres. Indeed, much of the architectural influence on the Romans came from the Greeks, and theatre structural design was no different from other buildings.

Standard floor plan of a Roman theatre.
Standard floor plan of a Roman theatre.

Hippodrome

The hippodrome was an ancient Grecian stadium for horse racing and chariot racing. The name is derived from the Greek words hippos (horse) and dromos (course). The term is used in the modern French language and some others, with the meaning of "horse racecourse"; hence, some present-day horse racing tracks are also called 'hippodromes', for example the Central Moscow Hippodrome.

Stadium

Stadium is the Latin form of the Greek word "stadion" , a measure of length equalling the length of 600 human feet.As feet are of variable length the exact length of a stadion depends on the exact length adopted for 1 foot at a given place and time. Although in modern terms 1 stadion = 600 ft (180 m), in a given historical context it may actually signify a length up to 15% larger or smaller.

Roman basilica

The Roman basilica was a large public building where business or legal matters could be transacted

Colosseum

The Colosseum or Coliseum , also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre (Latin: Amphitheatrum Flavium; Italian: Anfiteatro Flavio [amfiteˈaːtro ˈflaːvjo] or Colosseo [kolosˈsɛːo]), is an oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy. Built of concrete and sand.

Decumanus Maximus

In Roman city planning, a decumanus was an east-west-oriented road in a Roman city, castrum (military camp), or colonia. The main decumanus was the Decumanus Maximus, which normally connected the Porta Praetoria (in a military camp, closest to the enemy) to the Porta Decumana (away from the enemy).

Decumanus Maximus in Palmyra in Syria
Decumanus Maximus in Palmyra in Syria | Source

Cardo maximus

A cardo was the Latin name given to a north-south street in Ancient Roman cities and military camps as an integral component of city planning. The cardo maximus was the main or central north–south-oriented street.

Roman cardo in Beit She'an, Israel
Roman cardo in Beit She'an, Israel | Source

Forum

A forum (Latin forum "public place outdoors",plural fora; English plural either fora or forums) was a public square in a Roman municipium, or any civitas, reserved primarily for the vending of goods; i.e., a marketplace, along with the buildings used for shops and the stoas used for open stalls. Many forums were constructed at remote locations along a road by the magistrate responsible for the road, in which case the forum was the only settlement at the site and had its own name

Forum of Pompeii, seen from above the Basilica with a drone photograph by ElfQrin
Forum of Pompeii, seen from above the Basilica with a drone photograph by ElfQrin | Source

Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus (Latin for greatest or largest circus, in Italian Circo Massimo) is an ancient Roman chariot racing stadium and mass entertainment venue located in Rome, Italy. Situated in the valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills, it was the first and largest stadium in ancient Rome and its later Empire. It measured 621 m (2,037 ft) in length and 118 m (387 ft) in width and could accommodate over 150,000 spectators.

Civitas

In the history of Rome, the Latin term civitas (plural civitates,Latin pronunciation: [kɪwɪtaːs] ), according to Cicero in the time of the late Roman Republic, was the social body of the cives, or citizens, united by law (concilium coetusque hominum jure sociati). It is the law that binds them together, giving them responsibilities (munera) on the one hand and rights of citizenship on the other. The agreement (concilium) has a life of its own, creating a res publica or "public entity" (synonymous with civitas), into which individuals are born or accepted, and from which they die or are ejected. The civitas is not just the collective body of all the citizens, it is the contract binding them all together, because each of them is a civis.

A military diploma, or certificate of successful military service, granting citizenship to a retiring soldier and the dependents he had with him at the time. The key phrase is "est civitas eis data" where civitas means citizenship. cc:MatthiasKabe
A military diploma, or certificate of successful military service, granting citizenship to a retiring soldier and the dependents he had with him at the time. The key phrase is "est civitas eis data" where civitas means citizenship. cc:MatthiasKabe | Source

Ancient Roman temples were among the most important buildings in Roman culture, and some of the richest buildings in Roman architecture, though only a few survive in any sort of complete state. Today they remain "the most obvious symbol of Roman architecture". Their construction and maintenance was a major part of ancient Roman religion, and all towns of any importance had at least one main temple, as well as smaller shrines. The main room (cella) housed the cult image of the deity to whom the temple was dedicated, and often a small altar for incense or libations. Behind the cella was a room or rooms used by temple attendants for storage of equipment and offerings. The ordinary worshipper rarely entered the cella, and most public ceremonies were performed outside, on the portico, with a crowd gathered in the temple precinct.

A Roman mammisi or chapel added to Dendera Temple, using the traditional Egyptian temple style.
A Roman mammisi or chapel added to Dendera Temple, using the traditional Egyptian temple style. | Source

O. A. W. Dilke The Roman Land Surveyors, p. 134, 1992 (1971), ISBN 90-256-1000-5

A. Piganiol, Les documents cadastraux de la colonie romaine d'Orange, XVIe supplément à Gallia, Paris, 1962

Pitts, M. 2006. Roman pool may be for early Christian baptism. British Archaeology

Fagan, Garrett G. (2002). Bathing in Public in the Roman World. University of Michigan Press.

A Brief History of the Olympic Games by David C. Young, p. 20

Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus

John E. Stambaugh (1 May 1988). The Ancient Roman City. JHU Press. pp. 283–. ISBN 978-0-8018-3692-3.

Proto-Indo-European *dʰworom "enclosure, courtyard", i.e. "something enclosed by a door"; cognate with Old Church Slavonic дворъ dvorŭ "court, courtyard".

This is a modern recalculation of the seating capacity at the Circus, a substantial downward revision of Pliny the Elder's estimate of 250,000. For discussion see Humphrey, p. 216

Abbott, Frank Frost; Johnson, Allan Chester (1926). Municipal Administration in the Roman Empire. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 12.

Christoph F. Konrad (2004). Augusto Augurio: Rerum Humanarum Et Divinarum Commentationes in Honorem Jerzy Linderski. Franz Steiner Verlag. pp. 126–. ISBN 978-3-515-08578-6.

Summerson (1980), 25

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