Influence of Etruscan Literature on Ancient Rome Architecture
The architecture of ancient Rome is often described as distinctive in nature due to its hugely unique characteristics. However, a deeper analysis of this architecture reveals that it was significantly influenced by other civilizations. Ancient Rome architecture was inspired by architectural styles that preceded it and the influence of these civilizations is evident in most of the classic roman architecture pieces. The emergence of Roman civilization was contemporary with of the Etruscans, the Egyptian and the Greek dynasties. However, unlike all these cultures, the importance and relevance of the Rome Empire continued going as the first millennium BCE faded. The empire reached its pinnacle in the first and second centuries CE. As time progressed, the Roman Empire slowly absorbed the Greeks, the Etruscans and Egyptians as well as other smaller cultures to form a massive empire characterized by an unusually homogeneous style of architecture (Fazio, Moffett, Wodehouse, & Moffett, 145). This paper seeks to look at the influence of one of these dynasties or civilizations on ancient Rome architecture. The civilization in question is that of the Etruscans. The paper will conduct an in-depth study and analysis of how Ancient Rome architecture was influenced by the Etruscan architecture. The paper will start by exploring the background of the Etruscan civilization.
The Etruscan civilization emerged in the period between 100 BCE and 1200 BCE. Although the origins of this civilization are not very well understood, members of this culture are thought to have immigrated from the Asian Minot into the Italian peninsula during the mentioned period after the Hittite power collapsed (Fazio, Moffett, Wodehouse, & Moffett, 145). The Etruscan civilization possessed a unique brand of architecture that would later on leave distinctive imprints on the Roman civilization.
The Etruscans are credited as constructors of some of earliest monumental buildings of Rome (Adkins and Adkins, 164). The ancient Roman houses and temples were closely based on models from the Etruscan civilization. The first Roman religious buildings, for instance, the temples of Diana and Jupiter were built under Etruscan king’s patronage. In addition, Etruscan engineers and architects carried out most of the planning of the city of Rome. The Etruscan engineers and architects put forth the Roman Forum as the center of political, economic and religious life as well as Rome’s ultimate public sphere. They also drained the existing marshes and channeled most of the waters into sewers constructed in the underground. In fact, the Cloaca Maxima also referred to as the Greatest Sewer still runs today under the Roman Forum. It was built between the sixth and seventh century BCE. The Eutorscan Street currently preserves the memorable feature that depicts the Etruscan influence on Roman architecture (Fazio, Moffett, Wodehouse, & Moffett, 145).
The religious architecture of the Etruscans was remarkable. In fact, an analysis of the religious Roman architecture reveals that Rome borrowed almost every single religious architecture aspect from the Etruscans. The Etruscan temples built between the eight and the fourth century BCE acted as the forerunners of some of the supreme religious architecture pieces of Rome (Adkins and Adkins, 163). One of the greatest architect of this period named Vitruvius and his writings on the Tuscan and Etruscan temple designs reveal that the Roman adopted most of these designs in construction some of their most phenomenal temples. Some of the most distinctive elements depicting the Etruscan influence on Greek temples include the podium as well as an emphasis on the temples from ate the expense of the other three sides (Adkins and Adkins, 164). In addition, just like the Etruscan temples constructed previously, the Roman temples were painted and adorned with relief decorations and rich sculptures. For example in terms of the decorations, the Altar of the Queen temple featured life-size decoration of terracotta-winged horses.
Another influence emanates from the construction materials utilized. For years, the Etruscans used wood as the main construction material for columns. These wooden columns were then set on stone bases for protection purposes. Wood remained the primary material for construction throughout the Etruscan history and when the Romans absorbed this civilization, they continued using the Etruscan design in their construction of the columns, which they referred to as “Tuscan” (Adkins and Adkins, 170).
In regards to the house, the Etruscan influence is depicted by the Roman town houses, which were built and grouped around a hall located centrally similar to the way the Etruscans constructed their houses.
Another distinctive influence of the Etruscan civilization is visible in the ancient Roman arches. Romans were notoriously known for the use of the arch, which they had borrowed from the preceding Etruscan civilization (Cunningham Reich, 105). In fact, the arch is one of the most popular forms of Roman architecture, which in even in the modern day has been imitated in all parts of the globe, from Champs Elyees in Paris to the Washington Square in the city of New York (Cunningham Reich, 105). In the ancient Roman culture, the arches signified military victories. The Etruscans had been building arches since the fifth Century BCE, and so when the Roman civilization took over, they borrowed this form of architecture and made it their own. From the second century BCE onwards, the Romans built arches in large numbers whereby most of them were used for aqueducts and bridges. At that time, the laws of physics that explain the conditions required for an arch to be constructed so that it does not collapse and remains intact for a long time were not known or understood fully. Yet, the ancient Etruscans and later on the Romans came up with empirical methods for the construction of and designing of arches that stand even today, more than 2000 years later.
In the current study of architecture, Ancient Roman receives much attention mainly due to its hugely unique nature and its relative advancement despite its period of enactment. This attention is truly warranted as the architecture of the ancient Roman Empire stood out from other architectural styles of the world during that era. However, it would be unfair to ignore the other civilizations that influenced the ancient Roma architecture. In this paper, the Etruscan influence on Roman architecture has been observed. The Etruscans were not the only ones who influenced the ancient Rome architecture as other cultural groups like the Greeks and the Egyptians played a hand. Had there been no influence from these cultural groups, the outcome would probably have been so different. Some of the classic ancient Roman designs would not have come into being. For instance, the renowned Roman arches were influenced by the Etruscans and had the Etruscans not have discovered the art of constructing arches, and then the Romans would also not have constructed some of the brilliant arches that still stand today.
It is, hence, very important to understand the influence of various cultures and how this influence played a hand in their overall cultural development.
Adkins, L, and R. Adkins. Handbook to life in ancient Rome. New York, NY: Facts on File, 1994. Print.
Cunningham, L, and J. Reich. Culture and values: A survey of the humanities. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2002. Print.
Fazio, M W., M. Moffett, L. Wodehouse, and M. Moffett. A world history of architecture. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2008. Print.