Roman Republican Architecture
- LAST REVIEWED: 01 March 2023
- LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190922467-0026
- LAST REVIEWED: 01 March 2023
- LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190922467-0026
The designation “Republican” refers to the Roman political period, traditionally dated between 509 and 31 BCE. Roman Republican architecture is understood as the product of the built environment in the city of Rome as well as the territory controlled by Romans during this period. Scholarship on Roman architecture in general has focused on building typology; structure, materials, and construction techniques; and design and urbanism—all frequently with an interest in historical context. The study of the Republic has incorporated these traditions, but analysis of the physical remains is often restricted, due to the much degraded state of many early monuments; thus, critical study of ancient textual sources is often crucial, and study of the historical or cultural context of architecture sees increased attention. There is an equally strong—and recently deepened—interest in sociologically and anthropologically informed study of the use and experience of architecture and its effects on Roman society. The best-known aspects of architecture from the period include the construction of monumental temples in stone and terracotta at first, and later incorporating stone entablatures, roofs, and eventually concrete from foundations to superstructure. As for the geographical extent of Roman territory (both political and cultural), it was rarely static and in some cases is poorly understood; furthermore, Romans were frequently in contact with communities and cultures around them, so in some cases it is essential to look outside of Roman territory to understand Roman Republican-era architecture. This bibliography is not meant as a digest of buildings, but rather, after General Overviews and Reference Works, it covers various important topics in the field. As a whole, though, the citations have been assembled in a way that there should be at least one key source on most of the major monuments of the Roman Republic. The bibliography is limited to Italian territory, though the reader will find some references to Roman architecture from wider Mediterranean territories that Rome controlled by the mid-2nd century. Furthermore, the study of Republican architecture is necessarily tied to archaeological excavations, yet this is not a bibliography of Roman archaeology. Thus, although some seminal studies of individual monuments and excavations appear, most works are on the discipline of architectural history and questions related to it, rather than on sites and their excavation. More so than for the period of the Empire, the study of Republican architecture has been dominated by Italian scholarship, with some important work by French and German scholars. Anglophone interest has been infrequent until recently, so scholarship in English presents only a spotty picture of the state of the field. This bibliography is purposefully focused on English-language scholarship, but for some areas, works in foreign languages are essential for study beyond introductory material.
It has long been difficult to find an up-to-date, general overview of Roman Republican architecture in survey form. The lone surveys of the field are Boëthius 1992 and Frank 1924, both out of date. The best and only comprehensive, up-to-date treatment is Davies 2017, but it is tough for beginners and is focused on architecture as it relates to politics. A truncated version can be found in Davies 2014, cited under Mediterranean Influences. Cornell 2000, Welch 2006, and Torelli 2006 offer brief historical, cultural, and political summaries of architecture and urbanism from the early middle Republic onward. Both Gros 1996–2011 (in French) and Hesberg 2005 (in German) cover the full history of Roman architecture from a typological and sociological perspective, with good sections on Republican material.
Boëthius, Axel. Etruscan and Early Roman Architecture. 2d ed. Revised by Roger Ling and Tom Rasmussen. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992.
The standard and only true survey dedicated to the Roman Republic, with valuable content on the surrounding region, both Etruria and elsewhere in central Italy. The chapters are oriented chronologically and by subcategories. It is now substantially out of date, both in terms of known monuments and methods, and in regard to the bibliography.
Cornell, T. J. “The City of Rome in the Middle Republic (400–100 BC).” In Ancient Rome: The Archaeology of the Eternal City. Edited by J. C. Coulston and Hazel Dodge, 42–60. Oxford: Oxford University School of Archaeology, 2000.
A brief synthesis of the urban and architectural growth of Rome in the long middle Republic, with a focus on the historical and political situation of monumental production. The chapter focuses on the traditional major monuments, historical figures, and cultural events.
Davies, Penelope J. E. Architecture and Politics in Republican Rome. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017.
Although not a survey per se, the work is a comprehensive, masterful, and recent treatment of Republican architecture. With a focus on history and politics as they relate to architectural production, rather than on structure or typology, it is also restricted predominantly to the city of Rome rather than the whole territory during the Republic. Covers the full chronological breadth of the Republic in sequence, which remains rare.
Frank, Tenney. Roman Buildings of the Republic. Rome: American Academy in Rome, 1924.
Now out of date, the book is the earliest study of Republican architecture in the city of Rome (not the territories) as a corpus, and serves as an attempt to systematically organize the study of early Roman architecture. It is, therefore, seminal to the historiography of the field. Much of the methodology has been questioned and the dating adjusted by the more recent work in this bibliography.
Gros, Pierre. L’architecture romaine: Du début du IIIe siècle Av. J.-C. à la fin du Haut-Empire. 3d ed. 2 vols. Paris: Editions A & J Picard, 1996–2011.
The premier survey of Roman architecture, assembling technical and cultural study of monuments from Rome and its territories from the Republic through the Empire. Previous editions gave far less weight to the Republic, and the current edition begins in the 3rd century after only brief notes on earlier work. For the 3rd–1st centuries, it remains the standard survey. Volume 1 focuses on public monuments, Volume 2 on private monuments and palatial architecture.
Hesberg, Henner von. Römische Baukunst. Munich: C. H. Beck, 2005.
This survey or Roman architecture integrates the standard study of construction, design, and building typology with an assessment of social and political purpose, from the Roman regal period through the late Empire. Rather than a reference book (cf. Gros 1996–2011), it is a comprehensive study of Roman architecture as social practice from the author’s perspective.
Torelli, Mario. “The Topography and Archaeology of Republican Rome.” In A Companion to the Roman Republic. Edited by Nathan Rosenstein and Robert Morstein-Marx, 81–101. Oxford and Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2006.
A succinct, cogent, historically focused description of urban Rome from the very beginning of the Republic to the end. It follows a traditional chronology and interpretation, some of which has been questioned. It is also short on images. A more expansive explication of the same perspective, with a focus on urbanism, can be found in Torelli 2007, cited under Republican Urbanism. Translated by Helena Fracchia.
Welch, Katherine. “Art and Architecture in the Roman Republic.” In A Companion to the Roman Republic. Edited by Nathan Rosenstein and Robert Morstein-Marx, 496–542. Oxford and Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2006.
A brief and selective survey of typologies of Roman Republican architecture and related issues, including manubial temples, honorific arches, houses and tombs, as well as art. A good pendant to Torelli 2006.
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