There are quite a few impressive Roman buildings still standing today. Perhaps more than any other civilization the Romans are famed for their incredible architecture. There appeared almost no limit to what they could do with stones, bricks, mortar and wood.
The rivers Rhine and Danube are huge streams, which for most of the time formed the northern border of the empire. Though at times the Romans did set across to conquer some of the lands beyond these great rivers. In order to easily resupply their troops they built enormous bridges across. Hence the barbarians soon learnt to see the bridges themselves as further Roman weapons. Julius Caesar famously constructed a bridge across the Rhine in only 10 days. Trajan built a huge bridge across the Danube into Dacia. These were fetes of incredible engineering skill, performed with only the most basic tools. No other civilization but the Romans could have achieved this at the time.
Under the emperor Titus the Colosseum, which his father Vespasian had begun, was completed. It was indeed the most magnificent amphitheatre in the world. Often it is confused with the Circus Maximus (which was used for the chariot races). The Colosseum was the venue for gladiatorial and animal fights, rather than races. One thinks, the arena could even be flooded for purpose-built ships to enact naval battles.
Roman roads ran to every corner of the Roman empire. Well built, stone-covered roads laid on proper foundations. The Romans learnt early on that to control their territories they needed easy access to them. Also trade prospered (and brought in taxes) wherever there was reliable roads. Sooner or later all towns and cities of the empire were connected by an elaborate road system, which meant that from any place within the empire you could travel to Rome by road – leading to the famous phrase; ‘All roads lead to Rome’
When the Romans required more water for a large town or city, but couldn’t find it where it was needed, they simply built a channel to carry water from elsewhere to where it was required. Emperor Claudius even had a tunnel built through the hills to carry water from a lake into Rome. Sometimes though a valley could lie in between the place from where the water came and where it needed to go. Here the Romans simply constructed bridges for the channel to cross the valley. Mostly we refer to these as aquaeducts. Though really, the whole channel, be it such a spectacular bridge or just a pipe in the ground, is an aquaeduct.
Under the emperor Justinian the greatest church of its day, the Santa Sophia, was built in Constantinople. It was by far the largest and most lavish church of its time. Huge domes form its roof, and intricate carvings adorn the walls. Wherever you look, there is sheer beauty. So fantastic was and is the Santa Sophia that when the Turks conquered Constantinople in AD 1453, they didn’t destroy, nor damage it at all, – despite it being a temple of their Christian enemy. Far more, they converted it into a mosque for themselves. The church still stands today in Istanbul (Constantinople’s modern day name) and it is called Aya Sophia by the Turks.
Hadrian’s Wall is a landmark in northern England known all over the world. Emperor Hadrian is famous for having stated that the empire should expand no further (although emperor Augustus said it before him!), and his wall is a powerful symbol of his intention to defend the empire from its enemies, rather than to further attack them. It is eighty Roman miles long, with turrets, small castles and forts at regular intervals. Though most of its remains are not actually built under Hadrian’s reign at all. For his wall was mainly built of earth and wood. But under Septimius Severus it was reconstructed in stone. But it was Hadrian who first built defences there, and hence it has always kept his name.
Historian Franco Cavazzi dedicated hundreds of hours of his life to creating this website, roman-empire.net as a trove of educational material on this fascinating period of history. His work has been cited in a number of textbooks on the Roman Empire and mentioned on numerous publications such as the New York Times, PBS, The Guardian, and many more.