Abstract: Technological Innovation in Imperial Rome: What Can Ancient Concrete Tell Us about Roman Society?


In this talk, I will introduce how Roman and modern concrete are different and then trace the role that the introduction of concrete had on the development of imperial architecture in Rome. Starting with the Colosseum in 80 AD and ending with the Baths of Diocletian in 305 AD, I look at particular building methods relating to concrete vaulting that were developed to allow the builders to construct larger and more complex structures. I then relate these techniques to the social and economic context in which they occur and explore how this changes over time. Topics include brick stamps and the development of the brick industry and its effect on social mobility, the eruption of Vesuvius and its effect on the availability of building materials, the marble trade and its effect on aesthetic expectations within society, the effect of economic problems of the third century on construction in Rome. This lecture is a synopsis of some of the major themes in my recently published book.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

 Lancaster, L. C. Concrete Vaulted Construction in Imperial Rome: Innovation in Context. Cambridge University Press (2005)

MacDonald, William L. 1982 (2nd ed. revised, 1st ed. 1965). The Architecture of the Roman Empire I. Yale University Press, New Haven.

Ward-Perkins, J.B. 1970. Roman Imperial Architecture (2nd ed. 1981). Harmondsworth.

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