Roman Achievements in Construction

Romans borrowed most of their construction techniques from the Etruscans who occupied the northern part of today’s Italy. Etruscans were the first to build a proper arch using stones. Terracotta technology was highly advanced among the Etruscans, enabling them to make good quality fired bricks.

Roman Masonry Construction

One of the construction techniques that Romans borrowed from Etruscans was to build the arches and other structures they named opus quadratum. This consisted of cut stone blocks arranged in regular patterns primarily applied to make bridges with longer spans than previously possible.

Brick Building

Romans had to invent complicated timber frameworks and lifting machines to achieve such feats. Brick-making boomed as an industry that enjoyed state monopoly. Because building bricks were cheaper than stone, they were easily mass-produced and did not require any complex training to achieve. The brick arch was slowly incorporated into building wall openings, and mortar was used to hold them in place.

Most Durable Concrete Ever

Initially, the Romans used mortar obtained from mixing lime, sand and water. However, at the start of the second century BC, the Romans introduced a new mortar called pulvis pateoli. The material was formed and mined at Mount Vesuvius, and we now know it as pozzolana. When mixed with lime in different proportions, pozzolana forms a more durable cement that would harden even underwater. Finally, the Romans invented opus caementicium by mixing pozzolana with lime, water, and sand with broken bricks or stones.

Other Achievements

Other advancements Romans made were in timber and metal construction. For example, they invented the truss, a hollowed-out beam that helped them build truss bridges that their armies would use. Even though the theoretical understandings of the truss may have been absent, Romans took the idea further and incorporated metals such as bronze. Bronze was chosen for its durability and tensile strength. Apart from trusses, it was also used to make gilded bronze roof tiles and bronze doors.

Romans’ other revolutionary material in construction was glass borrowed from their Egyptian counterparts, who mainly used it for jewellery and interior decoration. Coloured glass was invented to be used in mosaics and to decorate the inside of Roman buildings. Romans were the first to create clear window glass, which was made by blowing molten glass into cylinders and then laying it flat.