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Durham University

Department of Classics and Ancient History


Publication details for Dr Edmund Thomas

Thomas, Edmund (2015). Roman Architecture as Art? In A Companion to Roman Art. Borg, Barbara Wiley Blackwell. 344-364.

Author(s) from Durham


The most influential English-language authority on Roman architecture in the last hundred years consistently emphasized how Roman builders were preoccupied above all with practical solutions to practical problems. The traditional focus on exterior order and proportion was the result of the strong emphasis of architects’ education on geometry. At Rome, the Temple of Trajan appears to have diverged at an angle behind the porticos to the rear of the great spiral column. Around the middle of the first century, a new architecture appeared that challenged the assumption that buildings needed to be bulky to carry artistic weight. Roman architects now began to play with the meaning and versatility of its schoolroom building blocks, the classical orders. In the Roman east, as at Aphrodisias, the earliest marble stage façades of theater buildings had already presented a columnar architecture with anti-classical effects including mixed orders, variety of ornamentation, and broken pediments.