Each year millions of people marvel at the sight of ancient Roman buildings like the Colosseum, Trajan`s columns, the Forum Romanum (the Roman Forum), and the Circus Maximus. But unlike these buildings, the architects who designed them and oversaw the construction are often overlooked. So this article is dedicated to shining some light on the men who were responsible for the construction of the ancient Roman buildings that we still admire today.
It`s impossible to name the 3 most important Roman architects since most of their names (like the name of the architect who built the Colosseum) did not survive until the present day. But 3 important Roman architects were Appolodorus of Damascus (he built Trajan`s Forum and the Trajan`s Column), Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (best known for his Vitruvian man and his book De Architectura), and Sextus Julius Frontinus (who built several important aqueducts).
Let`s take a closer look at the three.
Apollodorus of Damascus
Apollodorus of Damascus was a famous Roman architect and engineer who lived from around 65 to 130 AD. He was originally born in the city of Damascus, modern-day Syria. When he was summoned to Rome by Emperor Trajan, he brought several Eastern innovations with him and introduced them into Roman architecture.
He is best known for his work as an architect and engineer in the court of the Roman Emperor Trajan, for whom he designed and oversaw the construction of several important public works.
One of Apollodorus’s most famous works was the renovation of the Circus Maximus, a large arena in Rome that was used for chariot races and other public events. Apollodorus of Damascus is also credited with designing and building the Trajan’s Forum, a large public space right next to the Forum Romanum in the heart of Rome, which was considered one of the most impressive architectural achievements of its time, as well as with the construction of the Trajan`s Column, a 98 ft high column that commemorates Trajan`s victory in the Dacian Wars.
In addition to these public works, Apollodorus also designed and built several monumental fountains and bathhouses, which were highly regarded in ancient Rome for their beauty and functionality.
Aside from his work as an architect and engineer, Apollodorus is also remembered for his writing.
Although no books or written works by Apollodorus have survived to the present day, it is believed that he wrote several papers on architecture and engineering, which were widely read and highly regarded in his time. These books are thought to have influenced other architects and engineers, both in ancient Rome and in later periods, and they have been referenced by several prominent writers, including Vitruvius and Pliny the Elder.
Despite his contributions to the field of architecture and engineering, relatively little is known about Apollodorus’s life and personal background.Nevertheless, his works have had a lasting impact on the history of Roman architecture, and he is remembered as one of the most important architects of his time. The Trajan`s Forum and the Trajan Column he built in Rome, for example, are still considered masterpieces of ancient engineering and design, and they continue to inspire architects and engineers to this day.
In conclusion, Apollodorus of Damascus was a famous Roman architect and engineer who lived in the first and second centuries AD. He is best known for his work as an architect and engineer in the court of the Roman Emperor Trajan and for his contributions to the design and construction of several important public works, including the Trajan’s Forum. Despite the lack of written works by Apollodorus, he is remembered as one of the most important architects of his time, and his works continue to inspire architects and engineers to this day.
Marcus Vitruvius Pollio
Marcus Vitruvius Pollio was an ancient Roman architect, engineer, and writer who lived during the first century BCE. He was born in 80 BC and lived until after 15 BC. Vitruvius was one of the most important figures in the history of Roman architecture and is best known for his famous treatise, “De Architectura.*” This book was the first comprehensive work on architecture and engineering and is still widely read and studied today.
Vitruvius was an architect and engineer for the Roman army, and his work took him to many parts of the Roman Empire, where he was exposed to a wide range of architectural styles and techniques. By the way. In the following, I will refer to him as Vitruvius since his first name (Marcus) and his third name (Pollio) are not entirely secure. Do you want to find out more about what the different parts of a Roman name meant and why Roman names could get so long? Then I would like to recommend you my article here.
But back to Vitruvius. He was especially interested in the use of mathematical principles in architecture and was a firm believer in the idea that architecture should be based on a rational and systematic approach.
One of Vitruvius’s most famous contributions to architecture was his concept of the “Vitruvian Man.” This is a drawing of a man with outstretched arms and legs, inscribed within a circle and a square. The drawing represents the ideal proportions of the human body and demonstrates Vitruvius’s belief that architecture should be based on a harmonious balance between form and function.
In addition to his work as an architect and engineer, Vitruvius is also known for his writing. He wrote ten books on architecture, engineering, and construction, which were compiled into the work “De Architectura.” This book was a comprehensive guide to the principles and practices of architecture and engineering and covered topics such as city planning, construction techniques, and the use of materials.
“De Architectura” was widely read in the ancient world and was considered a standard reference for architects and engineers. It was also popular among Renaissance architects, who were inspired by Vitruvius’s ideas and incorporated many of his principles into their own work. Today, “De Architectura*” is still widely read and studied, and it remains an important source of information about ancient Roman architecture and engineering.
Do you also want to read De Architectura just like the Ancient Romans did? Then I would like to recommend you the translated version that you can find here*
In conclusion, Marcus Vitruvius Pollio was an ancient Roman architect, engineer, and writer who lived during the first century BCE. He is best known for his famous treatise, “De Architectura,” which was the first comprehensive work on architecture and engineering. Vitruvius was an important figure in the history of Roman architecture and is remembered for his contributions to the field, including his concept of the “Vitruvian Man” and his work on the famous temples and public buildings of ancient Rome. Despite the passage of time, his ideas continue to be influential and his legacy remains an important part of the history of architecture.
Sextus Julius Frontinus
Sextus Julius Frontinus was a renowned Roman architect, engineer, and author who lived during the first century AD. He was born around the year 40 AD and died around the year 103 AD. Frontinus is best known for his work as a public servant in Rome, where he held several important positions, including that of consul and governor of Britain. He is also remembered for his contributions to the field of architecture and engineering, and his writing on these subjects.
Frontinus was an expert in the fields of water management and hydraulic engineering, and he is considered to be one of the most important figures in the history of Roman engineering. Sextus Julius Frontinus is best known for his work on the aqueducts of Rome, including the Aqua Claudia and the Anio Novus, which were two of the largest and most complex systems of their kind in the ancient world. He was also responsible for the construction of several other important public works, most likely including the construction of the Templum Pacis on the Forum Pacis.
In addition to his work as an architect and engineer, Frontinus is also remembered for his writing. He wrote a number of books on water management and hydraulic engineering, which were highly regarded in his time and remain an important source of information on these subjects today. His most famous work, “De Aquis Urbis Romae” (The Waters of the City of Rome)*, is a comprehensive study of the water supply of the city, including information on the sources of the water, the methods used to distribute it, and the problems that were encountered in the process.
Sextus Julius Frontinus’s writing is notable for its detail and accuracy, and it remains an important source of information on the water supply of ancient Rome. He is also remembered for his emphasis on the importance of proper management and maintenance of public works, which he saw as essential for the health and well-being of the citizens of Rome. This emphasis on public service and responsible management is part of what makes Frontinus such an important figure in the history of Roman architecture and engineering.
So Sextus Julius Frontinus was a renowned Roman architect, engineer, and author who lived during the first century AD. He is best known for his work on the aqueducts of Rome, including the Aqua Claudia and the Anio Novus, and for his contributions to the field of water management and hydraulic engineering. He is also remembered for his writing, including his famous work “De Aquis Urbis Romae,” which remains an important source of information on the water supply of ancient Rome.
Here* you can find a translated version of his book „De Aquis Urbis Romae“ that gives you an excellent insight into the water supply of ancient Rome. The translated version is actually titled „The Two Books on the Water Supply of Rome“.*
Frontinus’s legacy continues to be an important part of the history of Roman architecture and engineering, and his ideas on public service and responsible management remain relevant today.
Now you might have realized that neither of the mentioned architects has built the Colosseum, probably the most famous Roman building of all time. The reason why I did not include the architect responsible for the Colosseum in this article is simple: We don`t know the name of the architect who was responsible for building the Colosseum, his name was lost.
However, if you want to find out more about the Colosseum (and if the Colosseum was the only place where Gladiator fights were held in Rome) you might want to check out my article here. There you can also find out more about where Gladiators fought before the Colosseum was opened in 80 AD.
Take care of yourself because you deserve it. You really do.
Until next time
Tony Rook: Roman Building Techniques (2013).*
David Macaulay: City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction (1983).*
Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture.*
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