In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Architecture of the Eastern Roman Empire

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works, Anthologies, and Journals
  • Urbanism and Architecture

Architecture Planning and Preservation Architecture of the Eastern Roman Empire
Rubina Raja
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 January 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 12 January 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190922467-0080


The topic of architecture of the eastern parts in the Roman Empire is wide-ranging geographically and broad-ranging chronologically, including architecture that ranges from Greece across Asia Minor and the Levant and partly even into Persia/Parthia. Furthermore, the term also covers the architecture of Roman Egypt as well as the various regions of North Africa well into its hinterland, despite the fact that North Africa is not east of Rome geographically speaking. Chronologically the period covered can be defined as from the time when Pompey the Great annexed parts of the East in 63 BCE until Constantinople became the new capital of the Roman Empire in 330 CE under Constantine the Great. However, in this article some literature covers as late as mid-7th-century CE, since architectural traditions can be traced beyond the end of Roman domination in the East. Therefore, in many ways the term “architecture of the Eastern Roman Empire” is an artificial label created on the basis of the Roman Empire’s extent into the East and other regions around the Mediterranean, incorporating various provinces (sometimes with changing provincial borders) at various points in time, and thus it can also be considered as a somewhat fluid category, since some monuments, which are considered Roman in their architectural expressions, would have been located outside of the Roman Empire. However, despite the fact this is an artificially created label, it does exactly, within the context of the study of architectural traditions and developments in the Roman Empire, make sense to at least be able to approach various aspects of the architectural heritage and traditions found in the eastern parts of the empire and beyond under such a heading. Aspects of architecture of the Roman Empire, and particularly the Eastern Roman Empire, due to its rich architectural heritage, are some of the most studied areas of the archaeology of the Roman Empire. Therefore, the reader will also naturally find numerous other useful contributions in Oxford Bibliographies that concern architectural themes, some slightly overlapping in time or in geographical scope, along with this contribution, but these also introduce other aspects, and the reader is therefore encouraged to explore these for further and related literature. The current contribution is structured partly according to overview and reference works, partly according to types of monuments and topics. Literature in a number of languages is included (English, French, German and Italian). However, it should be acknowledged that Arabic, Greek, and Turkish are languages in which relevant research also is published—a fact which often unfortunately is not acknowledged in broader scholarship, but deserves to be acknowledged to a much greater extent. In several of the bibliographies in the works cited the reader will find references to works in these languages. This contribution is not intended to be exhaustive but provide the reader with a solid basis upon which they can continue research and explore further topics.

General Overviews

No comprehensive overview of the architectural history of the Eastern Roman Empire exists. Such an overview must be puzzled together from numerous works, including books, edited volumes, articles, and book chapters in different languages. Brown 1961 (although now out of date), Gros 1996, and Gros 2001, as well as MacDonald 1982 (also out of date) and MacDonald 1986 together provide good overviews, while none of them, however, focus exclusively on the eastern parts of the empire. Sear 2020, Ward-Perkins 1981, and von Hesberg 2005 also constitute standard works on architecture in the Roman world in general. In Oxford Bibliographies Online Delaine 2010 is relevant to this topic as well. Thomas 2007 focuses on architecture of the Antonine age, but deserves to be included here, since the approach is fresh and solid and much can be drawn from it about traditions and developments before and after. Ulrich and Quenemoen 2014 is an edited handbook with several useful chapters.

  • Brown, Frank E. The Great Ages of World Architecture: Roman Architecture. New York: George Braziller, 1961.

    While out of date concerning the bibliography and some interpretations and ranging much more widely than the eastern parts of the Roman Empire as well as chronologically much more broadly, this monograph still holds good overviews of monuments from the Roman imperial periods also covering the East. It is chronogically structured, chapters 4–6 being the most relevant (dealing with the early empire, the high empire, and the late empire).

  • DeLaine, Janet. “Roman Architecture.” In Oxford Bibliographies Classics. Oxford University Press, 2010.

    This contribution is a bibliographic contribution and gives short introductions to various themes related to Roman architecture. The references complement the literature described in this contribution well.

  • Gros, Pierre. L’architecture romaine du début du IIIe siècle av. J.-C. à la fin du Haut-Empire. Vol. 1, Les monuments publics. Les manuels d’art et d’archéologie antiques. Paris: Picard, 1996.

    Monumental work covering public Roman architecture from the Republican until the end of the high imperial period. Volume 1 of a two-volume work (Volume 2 is also included in this section). Volume 1 is structured according to monument types and gives the reader solid overviews of monuments. It does not focus solely on the eastern Roman Empire. Contains numerous good plans and drawings of monuments. Due to its age, it is out of date on literature for some monuments.

  • Gros, Pierre. L’architecture romaine du début IIIe siècle av. J.-C. à la fin du Haut-Empire. Vol. 2, Maisons, palais, villas et tombeaux. Les manuels d’art et d’archéologie antiques. Paris: Picard, 2001.

    Comprehensive monograph addressing private Roman architecture from the Republication period until the end of the high imperial period. Volume 2 of this work is also structured according to monument types, rather than geographic location. It holds good overviews of types and architectural development. Due to its age, it is out of date on literature for some monuments.

  • MacDonald, William L. The Architecture of the Roman Empire. Vol. 1, An Introductory Study. Yale Publications in the History of Art. Rev. ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1982.

    While this monograph focuses on four monuments constructed in Rome between 60 and 130 CE—namely the palaces of Nero and Domitian, Trajan’s Markets next to his Forum, and the Pantheon in the shape it was constructed in under Hadrian—it also draws wide-ranging conclusions about the influence that Roman urban iconic monuments had across the empire. The 1982 bibliography is updated, but of course it is out of date in some areas today. Originally published in 1965.

  • MacDonald, William L. The Architecture of the Roman Empire. Vol. 2, An Urban Appraisal. Yale Publications in the History of Art. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1986.

    This book focuses on the urban settlements of the Roman Empire from the point of departure of town planning as a coherent process, which in many ways was ideological. While not only focusing on the eastern parts of the Roman Empire, the book, due to the nature of its material, includes many case studies from the East.

  • Raja, R. “Archaeology and architecture.” In A Companion to the Hellenistic and Roman Near East. Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World. Edited by Ted Kaizer, 126–134. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2021.

    This short contribution covers both the Hellenistic and Roman periods. It holds an updated bibliography and covers the main monuments in the Roman Near East; however, due to its brevity, it does not go into details with any specific monuments.

  • Sear, Frank. Roman Architecture. 2d ed. London: Routledge, 2020.

    DOI: 10.4324/9781351006187

    This is a fully revised version of the first 1983 edition. While treating Roman architecture across the empire from the Rupublican period until and including the late empire, there are several chapters which are of particular interest for the eastern parts of the Roman Empire, including chapters 5 (The Julio-Claudians), 7 (The Flavians), 8 (Trajan and Hadrian), 11 (The Eastern Provinces), and 12 (The Late Empire). The bibliography is up to date.

  • Thomas, Edmund. Monumentality and the Roman Empire: Architecture in the Antonine Age. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199288632.001.0001

    This monograph focuses on architecture of the Antonine period, the 2nd century CE. While chronologically restricted, this period presents us with numerous monuments constructed in the eastern parts of the Roman Empire, many of which were financed by Roman emperors. This work is a good example of a period study and holds a thorough and solid bibliography.

  • Ulrich, Roger B., and Caroline K. Quenemoen, eds. A Companion to Roman Architecture. Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.

    A companion comprised of twenty-five chapters, focusing on various themes and topics all relating to Roman architecture. While none are dedicated exclusively to the eastern parts of the Roman Empire, there are numerous relevant chapters on monument types and chronological overviews, which are relevant to architecture in the East. Most of the chapters conain up-to-date bibliographies, with some omissions.

  • von Hesberg, Henner. Römische Baukunst. Beck’s Archäologische Bibliothek. Munich: C. H. Beck, 2005.

    This book is a history of Roman building traditions along with interpretations of their meanings within a wider Roman cultural context, often exemplified through case studies. It includes numerous examples from the eastern parts of the Roman Empire. The bibliography is thorough and updated until 2003.

  • Ward-Perkins, John B. Roman Imperial Architecture. 2d ed. The Pelican History of Art. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1981.

    Despite the fact that this book was published in the early 1980s, it still remains one of the standard works on architecture of the imperial periods. While the bibliography is no longer up to date, there is still much to get from the various descriptions and analysis of monuments in the eastern Roman provinces. The book covers a wide geographical and chronologicallyrange up to the early medieval period.

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