Plan of a Roman basilica (Basilica of Trajan), 2nd
Reconstruction of interior
One more important architectural form from ancient Rome is the triumphal arch. These monuments were
erected by decree of the Roman Senate to honor emperors as they returned from a great conquest. The
triumphal arch is generally a large arch (in reality a vault, since these structures can be thirty or forty feet
deep), framed by two pairs of engaged columns, with smaller niches or sometimes secondary openings
between them on either side. Above this is and an “attic” or tall lintel with commemorative inscriptions.
Triumphal arches, like the Arch of Constantine shown below, were often decorated with relief sculpture
that celebrated the achievements of the emperor. The triumphal arch form was adapted in later periods
as a way of marking the most sacred area of a church or as a decorative motif for windows.
The Arch of Constantine, c. 320
Although a town can grow up organically from a settlement along a road or river, the Greeks and Romans
developed distinctive town plans that can still be seen at the heart of many cities in Europe, Africa, and the
Near East. According to early sources, Hippodamos of Miletos (498 408 BCE) developed an orderly grid
plan, with all streets at right angles, which is now called a HIppodamian plan. This plan was superimposed
like a net over the terrain; that is, roads simply went over hills, rather than around then. An open area in
the center of the town, called the agora functioned as a meeting and marketplace.
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