Roman Architecture Adapted from Colleen Messina

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Roman Architecture
Adapted from Colleen Messina


1     The Romans were great builders. Many things you see today have been inspired by ancient Rome. Even though they copied some things from the Greeks, the Romans had many original ideas.
2     The Romans used arches extensively. An arch is a curved structure that can hold a lot of weight. Arches helped Roman architects a great deal. With arches, they could build over windows and doors. With arches, they could build huge structures called aqueducts. Aqueducts brought water to the city of Rome from the hills.
3     The Romans invented concrete. Concrete comes from lime and water. A Roman builder would make a mushy paste. Then, he would add volcanic sand and pebbles. You would have to stir this mixture hard. You would have to be strong. It would turn into a big, messy blob of gray stuff with little lumps in it. Then, you would mold it into whatever shape you wanted. The concrete would dry. It would get hard. It would never get soft again, even in the rain. The Romans built an enormous structure called the Coliseum with concrete. It was named the Flavian Amphitheatre, and it held 50,000 people. Today, people all over the world call it the Coliseum.
4    If you could look down on the top, you would see that it looks like a football stadium. It is oval-shaped. There is a big arena in the center and seats all around. The Romans enjoyed watching many kinds of fights there. Today, many of them seem cruel. They would be illegal now, but in ancient Roman times, thousands of people enjoyed these contests. Roman fighters, called gladiators, would fight to the death in the Coliseum. There were also events in which hunters hunted wild animals. Sometimes, the arena was even filled with water for a sea battle. Other shows acted out land battles and ancient myths.
5     Would you like to see the stadium where these contests took place? A large part of the Coliseum is still standing, and it is open for tours. If you visit Rome, you can see the stadium and imagine what it was like to be part of the crowd there. Look at the outside of the Coliseum. You see three tiers of arches circling around the huge building. Above that, there is a fourth level. On that top story there were masts that held up a giant canopy. It shaded the fans and still let a breeze pass through. Just like in a modern stadium, the seats for the fans circled around inside. The most important fans sat on the lower level close to the action. The everyday people sat higher up.
6     The arena in the center used to have a wood floor. It was covered with sand, and this is where the shows took place. That floor is no longer there. Below the arena floor there are two more levels. Since the floor is gone now, you can see into the rooms below. There were rooms for gladiators waiting to fight. There were rooms for wild animals. There were also rooms for everything else needed to put on the shows. Special effects could be created from these rooms. Gladiators and animals could be raised up on platforms. They would appear suddenly through trapdoors in the floor. There were even hoists to raise an elephant up to the stage.
7     Roman builders also made bricks out of baked clay. Bricks were used in many Roman structures. Each brick maker put his own special mark on his bricks. That would tell others who made the brick and where it came from.
8     The Romans also built many roads over thousands of miles. These roads helped the army keep track of the vast Roman Empire. The roads were straight. Chariot wheels moved much more easily over paved roads than on muddy ruts. The Romans liked straight roads. They even went through cliffs so their roads could be straight. The Romans were great builders. Even fast food restaurants use ideas from the Romans! From arches to concrete, our modern world has been influenced by the architects of ancient Rome.

Roman Coliseum

Circus Maximus

Wrigley Field

United Center

Year built

80 AD

500 BC

1914 AD

1988 AD

Years used

More than 400

Almost 1000

92 and counting

17 and counting

Used for…

Gladiator fights, Naval battles, mock wars, prisoner and animal executions, speeches and plays

Chariot Races, foot races

Baseball (Cubs), Football (Bears and college football), Concerts

Basketball (Bulls), Hockey (Blackhawks), Shows, Concerts


144 Feet tall

700 Yards long

135 feet high

155 feet high


55,000 and up (100,000 max)




Levels of Seats










Luxury Boxes






Had hundreds of statues, one in each arch of stadium. Floor changed for “naval” battles

Had 12 large starting gates for the chariots

Ivy covered walls, field changed for football

Remove hard floor for ice rink

  1. Which civilization inspired the Romans in some ways?

    1. Chinese

    2. Indians

    3. Mesopotamian

    4. Greek

  1. How did Romans get their water?

    1. They got it directly from the sea

    2. There was a nearby river

    3. They traded for fresh water with a nearby city

    4. Aqueducts brought water in from the mountains

  1. Which of the following events were not held in the Flavian Amphitheatre?

    1. Chariot Races

    2. Gladiator Battles

    3. Battle Reenactments

    4. Theatrical Performance

  2. Which stadium is the oldest

    1. Wrigley Field

    2. United Center

    3. Circus Maximus

    4. Roman Coliseum

  1. Which stadium had the most uses?

    1. Wrigley Field

    2. United Center

    3. Circus Maximus

    4. Roman Coliseum

  1. Which stadium could hold the most people?

    1. Wrigley Field

    2. United Center

    3. Circus Maximus

    4. Roman Coliseum

  1. Which thing did all the stadiums have in common?

    1. They all had luxury boxes

    2. They held over 20,000 people

    3. Sports were played in each stadium

    4. All of the above

  1. Which Roman contribution in the field of architecture is the greatest and why? Answer in at least two complete sentences.

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