|Cornice fragment from |
Temple of Venus Genetrix
Julius Caesar 49 - 44 B.C.E.
In the year 63 B.C.E. Julius Caesar campaigned fiercely for and seized the highest religious office, that of Pontifus Maximus. With his ascension to dictator in 49 B.C.E. he effectively became both the head of state and of religion, a precedent that would continue throughout Roman Imperial times. One of his first architectural commissions was the Forum of Julius anchored by a temple dedicated to Venus Genetrix, the goddess of motherhood and domesticity.
Augustus 27 B.C.E. - 14 C.E.
|Procession scene on the|
Ara Pacis Augustae
Tiberius 14 - 37 C.E.
|Villa Jovis, Isle of Capri|
distinct preference for the country life. So much so that he essentially moved to the isle of Capri, establishing the first Imperial villa, a private estate from which he ran the empire.
Caligula 37 - 41 C.E.
Caligula did have a reputation as a wanton, hedonistic, irresponsible emperor. He took Tiberius' shift toward private architecture to the extreme, building one villa after another. This directly led to his reign coming to a swift end by assassination. Nevertheless, he did commission two major aqueducts into the city of Rome. Also, during his rule tufa and pumice began to be incorporated as aggregates for a "lightweight" Roman cement that would open up architectural possibilities for vaults and domes.
Claudius 41 - 54 C.E.
Claudius also had an interest in architecture and civic architecture specifically. He commissioned an amazing harbor to be constructed at the mouth of the Tiber river, at the town of Portus. "Porta" is Latin for "door" or "gate" and the town of Portus was so named as the Tiber river was considered the symbolic "gateway" to Rome. This is how the word "port" arrives to English today, meaning a constructed harbor. Heavy rustication contrasted with delicately carved elements typified public works under his rule, perhaps denoting a nostalgia for an Etruscan past.
Nero 54 - 68 C.E.
|Octagonal room, Domus Aurea|
Vespasian 69 - 79 C.E.
|Colosseum groin vaults|
Also of significant architectural interest is the hierarchical arrangement of the Classical orders on the façade: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns are placed as a system one surmounted above the other. They serve no structural purpose as the load is carried entirely by the concrete system of vaulting. However, they visually reinforce the sense of vertical support and adorn and refine the façade with a logical system of proportion. The more geometric, austere Doric columns rest below, terminating with slender, delicate Corinthian pilasters at the very top. This precedent of superimposition of the orders continued to be used from antiquity through the Renaissance and into our time.
Titus 79 - 81 C.E.
Titus was best known for his conquest of Jerusalem, as a Roman general in 70 C.E. He also commissioned a magnificent public building, the first of the imperial bath houses, the so called "Thermae Titi" or Baths of Titus. Though only fragments survive today, enough of the building was remaining in the 16th century for Andrea Palladio to accurately survey and record the plan which made even more elaborate use of groin vaulting than the Colosseum. The famous triumphal "Arch of Titus" commemorating his victory in Jerusalem was actually erected in his honour by his brother and successor, Domitian.
The last of the Flavian line, Domitian was an omnivore for architecture, commissioning his own grand palace, a new forum and an incredible stadium. A little known treasure is the Forum Transitorium. The entablature of the colonnade projects and recedes to form bays in a rhythmic pattern that conveys a movement and vitality that would be once again explored in the 17th century Baroque.
The "Circus Agonalis" or stadium of Domitian must have been a wonder with the arena floor at over 700 feet in length and the seats rising to 100 feet above. Not much is left of the structure; however, the footprint of the arena is occupied by the lovely Piazza Navona, one of the most cherished gathering places in Rome.
Contributed by Patrick Webb