Roman Engineering

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[edit] Origins of Roman Engineering

Although the Romans are generally famous for their advanced engineering accomplishments, most of their own inventions were improvements on older ideas, concepts and inventions. Cement was originally invented in Egypt, although the Romans improved the formula. Technology for bringing running water into cities was also invented in the east. The architecture used in Rome was strongly influenced by Greek and Etruscan sources. Roads were common at that time, but the Romans improved their design and perfected the construction methodologies to the extent that many of their roads are still in use today.

[edit] Use of Water

Main article: Aqueduct (Roman)

Three hundred million gallons of water were brought into Rome by 11 different aqueducts each day. Per capita water usage in Rome matched that of modern-day cities like New York City or modern Rome. Most water was for public uses, such as baths and sewers. The aqueducts could stretch from ten to sixty miles long, and decreased from an elevation of one thousand feet above sea level at the source, to two hundred feet when they reached the reservoirs around the city. Inverted siphons were used to force water uphill if it was not practical to build a raised aqueduct over a certain depression.

The Romans were among the first civilizations to harness the power of water. They built some of the first watermills outside of Greece for grinding flour and spread the technology for constructing watermills throughout the Mediterranean.

[edit] Architecture

Main article: Roman architecture

The buildings and architecture of Ancient Rome were impressive even by modern standards. The Circus Maximus, for example, was large enough to be used as a stadium, and at other times could be flooded with water to create naval battles, purely for entertainment.

[edit] Materials

The most common materials used were brick, cement and marble. Brick came in many different shapes. Curved bricks were used to build columns, and triangular bricks were used to build walls.

Marble was mainly a decorative material. Caesar Augustus once boasted that he had turned Rome from a city of stone to a city of marble. The Romans had originally brought marble over from Greece, but later found their own quarries in northern Italy.

Cement, also known as mortar, was originally invented in Asia. It was made of hydrated lime (calcium oxide) mixed with sand and water. The Romans discovered that substituting or supplementing the sand with a pozzolanic additive, such as volcanic ash, would produce a very hard cement, known as hydraulic mortar or hydraulic cement. They used it for more repetitive tasks, especially their roads.

[edit] Roman Roads

Main article: Roman roads
Image:RomaViaAppiaAntica03.JPG
Via Appia, a road connecting the city of Rome to the Southern parts of Italy, remains usable even today.

Roman roads were constructed to be immune to floods and other environmental hazards. Many roads built by the Romans are still in use today.

There was no standard design to a Roman road. However, most roads were composed of five layers. The bottom layer, called pavimentum, was one inch thick and made of mortar. Above this were four strata of masonry. The layer directly above the pavimentum was called the statumen. It was one foot thick, and was made of stones bound together by cement or clay. Above that, there were the rudens, which were made of ten inches of rammed concrete. The next layer, the nucleus, was made of twelve to eighteen inches of successively laid and rolled layers of concrete. Summa crusta of silex or lava polygonal slabs, one to three feet in diameter and eight to twelve inches thick, were laid on top of the rudens. The final upper surface was made of concrete or well smoothed and fitted flint.

Generally, when a road encountered an obstacle, the Romans preferred to engineer a solution to the obstacle rather than redirecting the road around it. Bridges were constructed over all sizes of waterway, marshy ground called for the construction of raised causeways with firm foundations, and hills and outcroppings were frequently cut or tunneled through rather than avoided.

[edit] Roman military engineering

Engineering was also institutionally ingrained in the Roman military, who constructed forts, camps, bridges, roads, ramps, pallisades, and seige equipment amongst others.

Roman Engineering

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