URBAN ROMAN ARCHITECTURE: CITIES
 
Cities help to form the cultural and social structure of Roman civilization: commerce was centralized, conquered lands were communicated and population was usually under control.
Modelo de planta de una ciudad tipo romana
Model for the plan of a Roman city

 
Urban design of Roman cities follows clear laws for the development of public and military services.
 
Roman city is basically composed by a number of identic components, disposed in a special way -parallel and equal-distant- separated by streets. The whole forms a unit of rectangular design surrounded by a perimetral wall with watchtowers. All the streets are equal except for two: the North-South one -kardo maximus- and the East-West one -decumanus-. Both are wider and end at the four doors of the exterior wall.
 
At the cross of both streets is the city's forum and the market.
 
These components were necessary for the design of public buildings: amphitheatre -two components long and one-and-a-half wide-, theatre -one component-, market -one component-, the whole forum -two components-, and so on.
 
These urban rules were developped during nearly 10 centuries in order to create the different cities.
 
In these cities, kinds of housing could be divided into house, domus, insula and villa. There also were casae or housings for slaves and low classes. Because of their weak systems of building they have all dissapeared in our days. Indeed, there were also great communitary buildings as basilicae, termae and the very important social and cultural systems called forums. In Roman Hispania there was a lot of capital cities. Today we can point out to the researchs of:
  • Asturica Augusta (Astorga) BASIC INFORMATION
  • Corduba (Cordoba)BASIC INFORMATION
  • Colonia Clunia Sulpicia BASIC INFORMATION
  • Barcino (Barcelone)BASIC INFORMATION
  • Emerita Augusta (Merida) BASIC INFORMATION
  • Segobriga (Saelices)BASIC INFORMATION
  • Carthago Nova (Cartagena)BASIC INFORMATION
  • Italica (Santiponce)BASIC INFORMATION
  • Tarraco (Tarragona)BASIC INFORMATION
    • Dibujo de distintas formas constructivas de una muralla
      Picture on the different constructive
      ways of a wall
    • The Walls. Defence of cities has been one of the capital problems that civilizations had to solve in order to project the futur of their citizens, goods, culture and ways of life. Romans were the first in the technique of improving different kinds of defence, using walls. We have many instances in Hispania. Most of them belong to the first years of domination -1st and 2nd centuries b.C.- and have been restored or rebuilt, showing the weight of these constructions in Roman world. After the "Pax Augusta" the reduction of these kind of walls was clear, being reactivated from 3rd century because of the presence of barbaric invasions.
       
      Walls did usually consist of two parallel covers or paraments of masonry -opus quadratum- of a different size. There was between them a stuffing of mortar, stones or even Roman concrete. These exterior walls had often padded ashlars and were separated by 4 m. from each other. They were up to 10 m. in rare cases.
       
      There are many remainings in Hispania. The most outstanding are:
      • Roman wall of Lucu Augusti, (Lugo) BASIC INFORMATION
      • Roman wall of Tarraco, (Tarragone) BASIC INFORMATION
      • Roman wall of Asturica Augusta (Astorga, Leon) Page on Asturica Augusta
      • Roman wall of Termantia Page on Termantia
      • Roman wall of Segobriga (Saelices, Cuenca) Page on Segobriga.
      • Roman wall of Barcino (Barcelone) Page on Barcino.
      • Roman wall of Corduba (Cordoba) Page on Corduba.
        Muralla de Zaragoza
        Roman wall of Zaragoza
        (Bank of Images of National Centre
        of Information and Educational Communication)
      • Roman wall of Caesar Augusta, (Zaragoza). As a Roman city with a new plan it was protected by a big wall with a rectangular perimeter. It was about 1.000 m. long and 500 m. wide. The wall was built at 1st century b.C. and reinforced at 3rd century A.D. because of the barbaric threat. Original construction of exterior walls was made of ashlars without stuff on similar files with an inner core of opus caementicium. It could be 10 m. high and up to 7 m. wide. Usual defensive watchtowers were placed at 15 m. from each other and got a semicircular plan. The whole were about 120 towers.
      • Roman wall of Ampurias (Girona). This Roman city founded close to the "Greek neapolis" was endowed with walls that enclosed a rectangular city of more than 22 has.
      • Roman wall of Carmo (Carmona, Seville). Roman city strategically placed on a tableland, on an old Carthaginian settlement. In fact, the wall was composed by many buildings from different civilizations -Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabians...-, that made it the most secure city in Southern Peninsula. The whole, constructed on foundations from 7th century b.C., includes defensive buildings made by Romans at 3rd. century b.C. Its Roman origin can be seen today because of its ashlars in many areas. Main element is the Gate of Seville.
        Murralla de Coria
        Wall of Coria
        (Bank of Images of National Centre
        of Information and Educational Communication)
      • Roman wall of Caurium (Coria, Caceres). Built at 3rd-4th centuries, it has been used as a fortress in many warlike conflict. It has been well preserved until our days. It was constructed with ashlars without stuff. Today many doors or gates for access can be seen -Saint Peter's one and Our Lady of the Guide- with their towers, but the most part has been deeply changed.
      • Roman wall of Gerunda (Girona). It is curious its building from a triangular plan. It was mostly rebuilt and reinforced keeping, in many cases, the Roman factory in its inner part. Cyclopean ashlars can be seen on it. They were used as bases for the original construction. In other areas, as St. Christopher gate, ashlars without stuff are perfectly preserved.
      • Roman wall of Leon. It was conceived as a wooden wall for sheltering and defending militar camp of "Legio VII Gemina Pia Felix". Later, when civil population settled down there, wall was rebuilt with stone. Today, scholars cannot assure whether remainings are Roman or not, since Arabian Almanzor and his sons destroyed the city many times. It is probable that its walls were rebuilt at Middle Ages.

      Roman walls in Caceres, Ilipa (Alcala del Rio), Osuna, Baelo-Claudia (Cadiz), Italica and Acinippo (Ronda, Malaga) are also outstanding.
       
      Casa romana de numancia
      Roman house in Numantia.
      Press to enlarge.
    • The house, or basic Roman nucleus for living, is the older, more usual and poor of constructions for lodging people in Roman world. First ones got a circular plan with a vegetable cover. Later, they got better in their factory, being made of stone, wooden structure and rectangular plan, keeping their vegetable cover.
       
    • Roman rich house or domus, was the usual housing for important people in each city. Perfectly described by architects, it was endowed with a structure based on distribution through porticated patios: the entry
      Domus
      Roman domus. Press to enlarge.
      -fauces- gives access to a small corridor -vestibulum-. It leads to a porticated patio -atrium-. Its center, the impluvium, is a bank for the water falling from the compluvium. At both sides -alae- there are many chambers used as rooms for service slaves, kitchens and latrines. At the bottom, the tablinum or living-room can be found, and close to it, the triclinium or dining-room. This atrium gave also light enough to next rooms. At both sides of the tablinum, little corridors led to the noble part of the domus. Second porticated patio peristylium, was bigger and endowed with a central garden. It was surrounded by rooms -cubiculum- and marked by an exedra used as a chamber for banquets or social meetings. Weather or available room caused that houses had one or two floors. There were also domi with a single porticate patio as an axis for the whole housing. At both sides of the building many doors for access to chambers could be open. These chambers were -tabernae-: little shops belonging to the domus or else rented to other merchants.
       
      In Hispania many domi remainings are outstanding: You can also see other important remaninigs in general pages of the cities of: Termantia, Asturica Augusta (Astorga), Corduba (Cordoba), Emerita Augusta (Merida), Italica (Santiponce) and Tarraco (Tarragone).
       
    • Insula is a good sample for a popular urban house. It can be said that it is the forerunner of our modern buildings with apartments. In order to take advantage from the room in cities, buildings up to four floors were constructed. The ground floor was for shops -tabernae- and the ohers for apartments of different sizes. Every room was communicated through a central communitary patio decorated with flowers or gardens. We can imagine a building with these features between the ruins of Termantia.
       
  • The villae, houses far from cities, were thought for realizing agricultural explotations -villae rustica-, or else as places for the rest of important persons -villae urbana-. Entertaining villa was endowed with every comfortable element in its age as well as gardens and splendid views. Country villae got stables, cellars, stores and orchards apart from the noble rooms.
    In Hispania there are many remainings, often by rivers. We can point out to:
    • Villa of Centelles -today Mausoleum of Centelles-, in Tarragone BASIC INFORMATION
    • Villa of Munts, in Tarragone Page of the city of Tarraco
    • Villa Fortunatus in Fraga, Huesca. it was built at 2nd century and is placed at the bank of Cinca river. Its main element is a big porticated patio measuring 21 x 17 m. long with 22 columns for subjection. There were several rooms around it. It was endowed with termae, decorative aquariums and underground heating. On a part of it, using its foundations, was built a paleochristian basilica at 6ht century.
      Villa La Olmeda
      Plan of the Villa La Olmeda
    • Villa La Olmeda at Pedrosa de La Vega, Palencia is supposed to be built at 2nd century for the first time, but most part of actual remainings are from the end of 3rd century. It has not been easy doing clear researchs because the area was used as a Visigothic necropolis at Middle Ages. It was an agricultural explotation with high level. Its center was a house with porticated patio. Basic plan of the residential whole was square with four towers, one at each corner. Those placed at northern fašade got a square plan, those at southern one, octogonal. Between them an exterior portico with solarium was open at the upper floor. It weas endowed with its own termae -frigidarium and swimming-pool- at the north-eastern side. Among the rooms there was an important Reception chamber "oecus" with 15 m. x 12 m. long, placed at the back part of the patio. Doubtless, the most outstanding in the villa is its spectacular and numerous mosaics covering nearly every floor. The prettiest are those from the already named "oecus" and those from the peristile's corridor.
    • Villa Quintanilla de La Cueza, Palencia. Built at 2nd century was an agricultural villa, specially designed for cereal crop. It was left at 4th century, probably because of the arrival of a new Visigothic order. Its plan is slightly disordered with three groups of rooms with different positions. It is very important its system of underground heating, hipocaustum, with furnace and distribution pipes.

     
  • The basilica, a social center for trading, was also for political meetings. Judgements could be celebrated there.
    Planta de Basilica romana
    Plan of a Roman basilica

     
    Its plan is rectangular and composed by three or five naves separated by columns being wider the central one. Those composed by five naves had often two levels at the central one in order to open doors for receiving sunlight. This nave was headed by an exedra or apse, where presidence was located. At the bottom there was the fauces or entering.
     
    The cover, with gabled roof, got a flat inner ceiling though sometimes vault was used.
     
    Scholars point out to the remainings of basilicae in the cities ofSegobriga and Clunia.
     
    Termas de Caracalla
    Plan of Caracalla Termae. Press to enlarge.
  • Termae were buildings of great proportions for public use. They were baths distributed in swimming-pools: the warm -caldarium were the minor ones-; moderate -or tepidarium, the biggest ones- at the center of termal whole, and the coolest -or frigidarium-. They were endowed with changing-rooms (apodyterium) and next buildings with gymnasiums and recreative functions. Apart from their elemental function, baths had a social one, since they were a point for meetings, business and politics as an expression of Roman greatness for general population. Because of that, baths got not only a magnificent size, but also a magnificent quality in constructive and decorative materials. Its plan showed usually a symmetrical structure: equal elements in relation to an axis.
     
    Every important city had to offer a great termal building. In fact there was a lot of them at Rome, competing between them. Famous termae of Caracalla are outstanding.
     
    In order to regulate water temperature there were underground rooms where water was heated up with fire proof bricks -praefurnium-. Water ran through pipes under rooms until it came to final swimming-room. Paving was made with opus signinum -brick with mortar- in order to make easy the circulation of heat and make ground like a radiator.
     
    Most outstanding in Hispania are:
     
  • Forums were cultural centers in cities. They were often placed at the crossroads of important urban ways: kardo maximus and decumanus. A great porticated square was the center of a group of buildings around it. They were communicated through it. Temples for Imperial worship, schools, basilicae, markets or even termae had a direct access through forum. In many cases even buildings for spectacles -circus, theatres and amphitheatres- were communicated so. Forums were a way in for important persons to tribunals.
     
    Forums were in every Hispanic city.Forum of Tarraco is outstanding for being the biggest of the whole Peninsula. We can also point out to: