Rome boasted impressive technological feats, using many advancements that were
lost in the Middle Ages and not rivaled
again until the 19th and 20th centuries. An example of this is Insulated glazing, which was not invented again
until the 1930s. Many practical Roman innovations were adopted from earlier
Greek designs. Advancements were often divided and based on craft. Artisans guarded technologies as trade secrets.
civil engineering and military engineering
constituted a large part of Rome's technological superiority and legacy, and
contributed to the construction of hundreds of roads, bridges, aqueducts, baths,
theaters and arenas. Many monuments,
such as the Colosseum, Pont du Gard, and Pantheon,
remain as testaments to Roman engineering and culture.
were renowned for their architecture,
which is grouped with Greek traditions into "Classical
architecture". Although there were many differences from Greek architecture, Rome borrowed heavily from
Greece in adhering to strict, formulaic building designs and proportions. Aside
from two new orders of columns, composite and Tuscan,
and from the dome, which was derived
from the Etruscanarch, Rome had relatively few architectural
innovations until the end of the Republic.
In the 1st
century BCE, Romans started to use concrete
widely. Concrete was invented in the late 3rd century BCE. It was a powerful
cement derived from pozzolana, and soon
supplanted marble as the chief Roman building
material and allowed many daring architectural forms. Also in the 1st century BCE, Vitruvius wrote De
architectura, possibly the first complete treatise on
architecture in history. In late 1st century BCE, Rome also began to use glassblowing soon after its invention in Syria about 50 BCE. Mosaics
took the Empire by storm after samples were retrieved during Lucius Cornelius Sulla's campaigns in Greece.
made possible the paved, durable Roman roads,
many of which were still in use a thousand years after the fall of Rome. The
construction of a vast and efficient travel network throughout the Empire
dramatically increased Rome's power and influence. It was originally
constructed to allow Roman legions to be
rapidly deployed. But these highways also had enormous economic significance,
solidifying Rome's role as a trading crossroads—the origin of the saying
"all roads lead to Rome". The Roman government maintained way
stations that provided refreshments to travelers at regular intervals along the
roads, constructed bridges where necessary, and established a system of horse
relays for couriers that allowed a
dispatch to travel up to 800 km (497 mi) in 24 hours.
constructed numerous aqueducts to supply
water to cities and industrial sites and to aid in their
agriculture. The city of Rome was supplied by 11 aqueducts with a
combined length of 350 km (217 mi). Most aqueducts were constructed below the
surface, with only small portions above ground supported by arches. Sometimes,
where valleys deeper than 500 m (1,640 ft) had to be crossed, inverted siphons were used to convey water across
also made major advancements in sanitation.
Romans were particularly famous for their public baths,
called thermae, which were used
for both hygienic and social purposes. Many Roman houses came to have flush toilets and indoor
plumbing, and a complex sewer
system, the Cloaca Maxima, was
used to drain the local marshes and
carry waste into the Tiber river.
historians have speculated that lead pipes in the sewer and plumbing systems
led to widespread lead poisoning, which
contributed to the decline in birth rate
and general decay of Roman society leading up to the fall of Rome. However, lead content would have been minimized
because the flow of water from aqueducts could not be shut off; it ran
continuously through public and private outlets into the drains, and only a few
taps were in use. Other authors have raised similar objections to this theory,
also pointing out that Roman water pipes were thickly coated with deposits that
would have prevented lead from leaching into the water.