Roman Innovation In Structural Engineering

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Roman Innovations in Structural Engineering
The ancient Romans incorporated many building techniques from other Mediterranean cultures, including the arch of the Etruscans and the practice of mixing lime with sand to create a stronger mortar mix (Ambler, n.d.). With a willingness to experiment and a strong drive towards civil engineering and innovation the Romans were able to expand the possibilities of architecture to unimaginable accomplishments. Grand monuments that still stand today as a testament to the abilities of Roman ingenuity.
From the Etruscans the Romans learned how to build using an arch, prior to this the post and lintel system was used. The post and lintel system is very common even today; a horizontal
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Jean-Jacque Gelbart,
The next breakthrough in the fields of structural engineering and architecture was the discovery of concrete, opus caemeticium, in 25 BCE. Builders who used pozzolana, a volcanic sand found near Naples, realized that their mortar was much stronger, more durable, and was able to set underwater (Ambler, n.d.). At first they used the concrete to fill walls, packing it in around fillers and facing the walls with non-structural bricks (Shaeffer, 1992). The progression of innovation led from the true arch to vaults, barrel vaults were structurally a series of vaults lined-up. Groin vaults are an intersection of barrel vaults joining at ninety degree angles. The structural and aesthetic improvements brought on by experimentation culminated in the creation of one of the most fascinating structures of all time. Roman architectural focus turned towards the interior and the achievement of the dome with the vast space it
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The structure consists of a circular drum, six meters thick and reinforced with arches and piers, capped with a concrete dome (Godden, 1980). In order to construct a dome of this magnitude the Romans had to utilize many engineering techniques; the thickness of the dome varies from 5.9 meters at the base to 1.5 meters at the apex, the interior of the dome features recessed panels requiring less material and reducing weight. Also the base of the dome contains heavy aggregates, with aggregate density decreasing higher up, (Shaeffer, 1992), employing the native pumice stone known as tuff.

Interior of the Pantheon, c.1734
Giovanni Paolo Panini

Conclusion What the Romans lacked in artistic style they more than made-up for with engineering initiative. With experimentation and ingenuity the Romans were able ton create structures, not easily imitated and that have stood the test of time, a tribute to the once great empire that built
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