Table of Contents
The Romans were a a historically significant faction that reigned over the Mediterranean Sea; the significance of the Romans can be understood by the ubiquitous presence of Roman-based concepts, such as its obvious impact on language evolution, specifically the Romance languages, of Western Civilization and even its extent within the legislative and judicial branches of democratic governments. The most fascinating time stamp that Roman Civilization has left upon society, however, lies within the Roman structures that can be found all across Europe. Essentially, these monuments of Roman architecture and engineering—a process adapted and garnered over centuries—illuminate the importance of Roman structural engineering. The mere presence of the structures intermixed throughout Europe profoundly demonstrate the resilience of these structures, and thus the prowess that Romans had attained over the life span of the Republic and the Empire; basically the Romans found a way to incorporate structures that lasted for millennia. In recognition of the ingenuity found in Roman structural engineering, it is important to analyze how such structures remain so resilient, and in this way we will stray away from overindulging in the aesthetics and architecture—though these aspects undoubtedly drove the construction of these structures. Keeping this in mind, let us investigate the structural powerhouse that is Hadrian’s Villa so that we may unveil and understand the structural engineering behind the Roman structures that still stand today.
A Brief Historic Analysis
Hadrian and the Roman Empire
Hadrian, born Publius Aelius Hadrianus, ruled over the great Roman Empire after the reign of Trajan, one of the most highly esteemed emperors apart from Augustus. Over the length of Hadrian’s reign, ruling from 117 to 138 AD, Hadrian witnessed and held the empire at the height of its conquest over the Mediterranean. After gaining ascension to the Roman throne—the circumstances of which had been fairly peculiar(MacDonald, 1995)—the once army general Hadrian halted the Roman conquest into the region of the Parthians, staunchly believing that war was an unnecessary output for the empire (Adembri, 2000). Instead, the new emperor insisted on the restructuring, fortification, and defense of the large empire, establishing a period of structural growth during his 29-year rule (Adembri, 2000). Hadrian traveled throughout the Roman Empire for most of his life, and he spent the last 7 years of his life within the confines of Rome and his villa (Adembri, 2000).
Hadrian’s focus on structural expansion certainly explains the increase of brick production during this period (MacDonald, 1995), and it further provides the means and reason for the numerous historic structures and monuments erected at the time. The most notable monuments of Hadrian’s time were the Pantheon, the Temple of Venus and Rome, and Hadrians’ Mausoleum, today known as Castel Sant’Angelo, where Hadrian is supposedly buried. The Pantheon, as a note, was built before Hadrian, but it was rebuilt and fortified during the time of Hadrian. These structures, however, do not hold with certainty the emperor’s architectural will, as it is fairly debated that he had little or no impact on such structures (implying that there were engineers beyond Hadrian that are not noted within Roman literature) (MacDonald, 1995). It is not totally far-fetched to believe that Hadrian could have had a formidable impact on the planning of the structures, as the emperor was prone to European architecture and perhaps structural engineering of the time due to his many travels, and he without a doubt was an intellectual of the time (MacDonald, 1995). Nevertheless, there is no conclusive evidence as to whether or not Hadrian had any impact on the structural engineering of those monuments affiliated with him (MacDonald, 1995), so there is no reason for us to debate it here. Effectively, we will appreciate the engineers of Hadrian’s Villa, whoever they may have been, through investigating the engineering behind the structures still standing. The most valuable idea to take away from Hadrian is the fact that he provided the means (the money) for the Villa and its many substructures to be created. Thus, when I argue Hadrian’s “testament,” I do not indulge in a magnificent, intellectual Hadrian but instead in a Villa that was only brought about by Hadrian’s will.
Hadrian’s Villa: A Historic Overview
Though architecture and history are not the focus of this analysis, the importance of the two features articulate an understanding as to why the structure was erected. Hadrian had a certain love for architecture and its aesthetic features (Adembri, 2000), and this fact can be understood by the numerous travels on which Hadrian embarked (MacDonald, 1995). Hadrian’s Villa is an extension and expansion of the Republican Villa already situated in the valley near Tivoli before Hadrian’s reign as emperor (Adembri, 2000); Hadrian, of course, had no problem claiming the structure as his own. Renderings of different provinces of the former Roman Empire were supposedly outlined within the Villa, bringing to light the impact of Hadrian’s travels on this structure (MacDonald, 1995); in short, the Villa imitates various architectural values that would have been present during the time of Hadrian (MacDonald, 1995). Construction of the enormous Villa started in 118 AD, a year after Hadrian’s rise to power, following which a laborious effort transpired to erect many of the structures found in the Villa (Adembri, 2000). The construction most likely continued until the death of Hadrian (Adembri, 2000). After the fall of the Roman Empire, and perhaps even after the death of Hadrian, there was no means of protecting or sustaining the Villa, subjecting the structure to probable robbery, destruction, and the elements; moreover, the Renaissance period brought forth a new esteem for such villas, and so many of the art and architecture features of the Villa were transferred from Hadrian’s Villa to other destinations (Adembri, 2000). In short, what is now visible is only the tip of the iceberg which represents the former dominance and raw beauty the Villa maintained. Luckily, that which is most important—the structural foundation and layout of the Villa—still exists today.
|Figure 1: Detailed Map of Hadrian’s Villa||Figure 2: Bird’s Eye View of Hadrian’s Villa|
Hadrian’s Villa: Structural Analysis
The size of Hadrian’s Villa is not a particularly absolute description since we have no idea what the original span of the Villa was meant to be. (MacDonald, 1995). A good estimate to go by is around 250 acres. Figure 1 above compares the size of the Villa to the surrounding town (it’s huge), and figure 2 details the structures that can be found within the Villa. The passage of time, however, has led to the ownership of the land changing hands over the two millennia, and that which is now under control of the Italian Government is all that is available to public viewing (Adembri, 2000). Though a substantial amount, the buildings left out of public viewing such as Academia and the astounding “Reverse-Curve Pavilion” are not sights offered to the public. With this in mind, as shown by the Prezzi shown below below, the area of the Villa that will be analyzed is that which is available to anyone who might want to see the grand Villa for himself or herself. The analysis that follows takes a magnifying glass to the diverse structural themes posited throughout the Villa by observing the Villa’s common structural foundations. Much to my chagrin, the topics explored here will not fully do justice for the Villa, but this analysis ought to demonstrate raw Roman structural engineering at its finest.
Hadrian’s Villa, like a corpse, has decayed over time and has been the victim of looters. Nevertheless, the bones and foundations of Hadrian’s Villa that still exist today without a doubt reveal an uncanny slideshow of Roman structural engineering. The left-over walls, the broken columns, and the abundant arches are the fundamental aspects to this testament to Roman structural engineering, which all are displayed in figure 3 below. The evaluation that follows reconciles the presence of columns, masonry, and arches within the Villa.
|Figure 3: A column view of the Maritime Theater.|
The presence of columns at the site seems to be overshadowed by that of masonry material, opus reticulatum and opus testaceum to be precise; nevertheless, columns are interspersed throughout much of the Villa. The column, thus, was utilized in formats that clearly superseded the utility of masonry construction. As seen at both the Maritime Theater and Tre Esedre, the columns provided the means to support circular structures while maintaining a presence of aesthetics. Surely the masonry materials actuate the physical structure of the building, but the column was superior in offering open areas desirable for usage (Adam, 2007). Open areas that would have been the result of column work can be seen throughout the Villa, which mirrors with the frequent use of columns in Roman structural engineering in general.
|Figure 4: Broken Column with artificial channels||Figure 5: Broken Column with chunks of stone removed|
Technique of Dowelling
Columns are a very common part of Roman structures, immortalized by the entrance to the Pantheon, and the value of such supporting structures are due to the marble or other valuable material of which they are composed (Adam, 2007). In a structural sense, the value of the column is represented by its ability to offer support to structures while not requiring a large amount of space (Adam, 2007). Though the Pantheon best shows Roman capability when it comes to monolithic columns, large monolithic columns were not always a feasible outcome (Adam, 2007). When monolithic columns were not available during construction, the Romans would construct columns in pieces or parts using either marble or material comparable in value(Adam, 2007), and this is demonstrated at Hadrian’s Villa. The columns with three holes shown in figures 4 and 5 above offer evidence of a column-making process known as dowelling (Adam, 2007). In this process, metal dowels are inserted into man-made holes in the column, and these dowels are held in place by lead that has cooled from a liquid state; depending on the weight of the column, the workers would either first insert the dowels into the upper piece of the column (following which the lead would be poured into the hole of the this piece, keeping the dowel in place), or, if the weight of the column piece was unbearable, the dowel would be inserted into the lower piece first, and after the upper piece was placed upon the lower piece, an artificial channel would be used to fill in the hole (Adam, 2007). In figure 4 above we can see a kind of line or channel that leads straight to a missing piece of the column, resembling the latter approach of dowelling. This process would offer stability to the column, mimicking that which is established by the monolithic columns found throughout famous Roman structures.
Labeling this section “bricks” would have been misleading, as the type of material utilized in the structures found at Hadrian’s Villa does not exactly resemble the brick material known today. In fact, the techniques integrated into the foundations of such structures distinctly varies from present-day brick laying (Adam, 2007). A fair amount of Roman structures still standing utilize masonry construction, followed by covering up such foundations in marble or other desirable material (Adam, 2007). Understandably, masonry structures are often found stripped of their marble shell due to the material’s value. Hadrian’s Villa is an obvious victim of this theft, but because of this we can closely study and examine the masonry dimension of Roman structural engineering. Interesting enough, the most ubiquitous foundation leftover in the remains of Hadrian’s Villa is a vast amount of masonry material, establishing the fact that masonry was the main component of construction materials in Hadrian’s Villa. Thus, it is important to analyze these masonry foundations.
|Figure 6: Opus Mixtum that uses three different types of masonry||Figure 7: A clear display of opus reticulatum|
Types of Masonry Materials
Throughout Hadrian’s Villa, three main types of masonry material exist: opus reticulatum, opus testaceum, and opus mixtum. The opus reticulatum is the successor of the opus quasi recticulatum, the first type of material mass produced for structural foundations (Adam, 2007). Opus reticulatum takes on the shape of a rectangle, but in Roman structures are rotated to display the shape of a diamond (Adam, 2007). Figure 7 displays opus reticulatum and the way it was placed within a structure. Though the rotation is merely for aesthetics, the mass production of opus reticulatum was the first material where builders could, without the worry of fitting material easily, place the masonry material one on top of the other (Adam, 2007). This design surpassed the original material known as opus incertum, which was a combination of mortar along with rubble found anywhere in Italy (Adam, 2007). Though sufficient, opus incertum always required the operation of choosing rock or rubble that fitted well with the other implemented rocks and pebbles; this was not an impossible task, but it certainly inflicted blows on the efficiency of production (Adam, 2007). Opus testaceum, on the other hand, best resembles that which is known today as brick (Adam, 2007). Figure 6 shows opus testaceum implemented into a mixture of different masonry. This material, though notably thinner than brick used today, makes up the most astonishing and fascinating buildings that remain within the Villa. The third type, opus mixtum, is simply a mixture of different masonry material, which is demonstrated by figure 6 above (Adam, 2007). Figure 8 offers a great diagram as to both the appearance and the organization of the three masonry materials just mentioned. It is also worth mentioning that, though it never appeared by itself within on of the structures of the Villa, opus vittatum seems to have also played a role in the use of opus mixtum throughout the Villa. This last material, not quite brick however, are the bulky, rectangular shaped masonry material displayed in figure 6 above (the opus vittatum is the bulky, brick-comparable material that is above and below the thin, rectangular opus testaceum).
|Figure 8: Roman Masonry (Oleson, 2008)||Figure 9 Displays opus caementicium in the gaps and tops of the masonry shown here|
Opus caementicium, perhaps better known as Roman cement, played an essential role in the foundations outlined by masonry construction. The formation of this mixture is anchored in the production of lime and the mixing of aggregates, the compounds that prevent lime from cracking and losing adhesive capabilities (Adam, 2007). The combination of certain aggregates and lime spurs the production of mortar, which is critical in the laying of masonry material on top of each other (Adam, 2007). This use of mortar can be seen between the masonry in figure 6 above. Moreover, the mortar would then be used as the main component opus caementicium; to complete the construction material, the mortar would simply be mixed with rubble, broken clay, pottery, or any form of hard material useless otherwise for the construction of buildings (Adam, 2007). Once mixed together, the Roman cement was ready to be utilized as needed. In order to use the opus caementicium, the Romans would first make a frame out of masonry materials and then pour the cement into the frame (Adam, 2007). The Roman cement was inserted into the frame for each successive level of framework produced for the structure (Adam, 2007). Usually, there would be at least two people on each side of the structure, building up the framework while someone else filled in the center with opus camenticium (Adam, 2007). The end result would be a structure in which only the outside masonry material could be seen, while the cement laid hidden within the structure. Thus, when pieces and chunks of walls are missing from such masonry structures, the role of the cement can be seen clearly. Figure 9 above demonstrates the presence of opus caementicium within the Villa. For a more in-depth analysis of opus caementicium Nigel Lyons has a fantastic article named “Understanding Roman Concrete” on this wiki site that explores further the importance and value of Roman cement.
|Figure 10: The Dome structure next to the Maritime Theater||Figure 11: Inside the Edificio Sopra Structure|
Holes in the Wall (Scaffolding)
Another perhaps surprisingly feature of Hadrian’s Villa is the seemingly innumerous amount of holes in the structures. Whether looking at the Scenic Triclinium, the Maritime Theater, or even the Caserma Dei Vigli, the walls of these structures behold a plethora of holes designated for scaffolding (Adam, 2007). Figures 10 and 11 above are two different structures in which such scaffolding holes can be seen. Socketed scaffolding incorporates the process whereby builders create holes—known as putlog holes—into the side of structures so that the design of scaffolds utilizes the structure itself for support, removing the need of human-designed support (Adam, 2007). Putlogs holes could either be designed to go through the entire structure or just part of the structure, depending on both the surroundings and decisions made at the time (Adam, 2007). Both types of methods are shown below in figures 12 and 13. Once the scaffolding was in place, workers would continue to produce the masonry construction as discussed in previous sections, adding in the putlog holes as necessary.
|Figure 12: Scaffolding where putlogs go through entire wall(Adam, 2007)||Figure 13: Scaffolding that partially utilized the wall (Adam, 2007)|
The arch is a fundamental part of Roman construction, tracing all the way back the sixth century BC (Adam, 2007). Hadrian’s Villa upholds this common Roman theme with ease, as almost every structure within the site intertwines the structural phenomenon in some way, shape, or form. Though the arch certainly has a value in aesthetics, the arch has the incredible effect of opening up a large amount of space that would have been lost with the erection of a wall (Adam, 2007). Hadrian’s use of the arch not only displays the architectural impact it had on the planning of the villa, but also the impact arches had on Roman construction in general.
|Figure 14: An example of a segmental arch at the Villa||Figure 15: Arches found in the Triclinio Estivo structure|
Common Types of Arches Found
The arches that are still standing within the site predominately consist of masonry construction, with the exception of the arches found on the Scenic Canal (seen in the Prezzi above). The fact that the arches on the Scenic Canal are comprised of material other than masonry suggest that the Villa may have once had a great variety of arches; nevertheless, arches other than masonry arches are hardly present at the Villa. The structures presented above in figures 14 and 15 above, however, interpret in full the variety of masonry arches within the confines of the Villa. The bottom two arches of figure 15 represent most closely what is known as a perfect arch: an arch with the form of a semi-circle (Adam, 2007). This was certainly the most implemented type of arch by the Romans (Adam, 2007). Figure 14 displays what is known as a segmental arch, where the width of the arch is greater than the height of the arch (Adam, 2007). The arch above the right-most semi-circular arch in figure 15 arguably displays that of a lintel arch—an arch that does not take on a curve but is rather linear (Adam, 2007). The linear arch can also be seen in figure 3. In all the above arches, the masonry opus testaceum fully make up the segments, and this is repeated throughout Hadrian’s Villa. The construction of masonry arches allowed for the avoidance of shaping stone to resemble a segment of the curved arch, a rather arduous process (Adam, 2007). The greater efficiency behind the creation of masonry arch may have been the key reason for its major presence within the Villa. The only arch not mentioned above is the relieving arch also found throughout the Villa. The relieving arch is discussed below in the arch analysis. Figure 15 below shows more examples of such arches at the Scenic Canal.
|Figure 16: Arches found at the Scenic Canal||Figure 17: Force Diagram of an arch (Adam, 2007)|
Analysis of the Arch
The arch was primarily used for the opening up of space while support of the structure remained (Adam, 2007), offering two desirable outcomes in one structure. Figure 17 is a voussoir arch example of the distribution of forces within an arch (Adam, 2007). Though the masonry arches don’t match up exactly with the voussoir arch in material type, we still can easily set the two side-by-side for an enriching analysis. Figure 17 shows how the weight of the stones in the arch are redistributed into abutments of the archs (the sides of the arch touching the ground). Basically, since the blocks are slanted with respect to the abutments, the forces which they exert on the arch abutments are also slanted. The summation of the oblique forces caused by the slanted blocks is represented by “Q.” Force “P” is the force due to the keystone, the middle of the arch. The reason the key stone is held in place is explained by Newton’s Third Law: simply, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Since the oblique blocks exert the force Q on the abutments, the abutments apply the same force to the blocks in the opposite direction. The two abutments apply the same Q forces, but in different directions where as the horizontal components are opposite to each other and the vertical components point in the same direction. Force P then, since the keystone does not move, is relocated to the abutments of the arch. When we add forces P and Q together, the outcome is still an oblique force pointing outside of the abutments (this is the force “R” represented in figure 17). This presents a rather precarious situation for the arch, as the horizontal component is not negligible. This becomes even more problematic when there is mass above the arches, complicating the situation even more. Figure 17, as we will show below, doesn’t fully capture the stability of an arch, but it is a great place to start.
|Figure 18: Simplified Force Diagram of an Arch|
Figure 18 shows a reliable simplification for an arch structure. Sections A and D above represent the areas above the abutments and above the points where the arch shape begins (points a and d). The weight of these sections are directed vertically on the abutments, as represented by “FA.” Sections B and C are areas above the arches and between the abutments. Just as with forces P and Q from figure 16, the summation of forces from the weight of sections B and C will be directed at oblique angles to the abutments. “FB,” which represents the summation of weight of section B, can be simplified to be exerted at point a. FB exerts both a horizontal and vertical thrust on the abutment, forces that cannot be ignored. Basically, the horizontal component of FB forces point c to have a counterclockwise moment: it wants to rotate to the left. This moment is represented by “Tf.” In order for this moment to be negated so that the arch doesn’t fall over, either FA would need to be large enough to counteract this moment, or there would need to be a moment enacted on point c in the opposite direction. If another arch was constructed to the left of section A, such a opposite moment could be accomplished. If another arch was not constructed, the abutment would need to be wide enough so that FA had an appreciable affect on Tf. This same process can be repeated for the other half of the arch, the forces will just have an opposite horizontal direction.
The most important point from the above analysis is that the abutments of arches had to be wide enough and have enough vertical force in order for the arch structure not to fall over and collapse. This arch analysis can be used for any arch, but other considerations have to be taken. Segmental arches, for example, can be analyzed in the same way, but with the recognition that the closer a curved segment reaches linearity, the more horizontal the forces due to the sections of the arch will be (Adam, 2007). The relieving arch, with the above analysis in mind, can be recognized as a relieving mechanism, discharging weight from supported structures unto lower parts of the structure (Adam, 2007). Good examples of relieving arches are seen in figures 19 and 20 below. The relieving arch is not meant to completely rid the structure of the forces above it, but instead it redistributes where the forces are exerted so that structures below do not take on the full brunt of mass above.
|Figure 19: Example of relieving arch at Rocca Bruina||Figure 20: Examples of Arches and Relieving Arches at Piazza d’Oro|
The Arches of the Great Baths
So far we have covered what is found throughout most or all of the villa: masonry construction, columns, and arches. Indeed, these features are the main composition of most Roman structures found today, pitting Hadrian’s Villa as a historical site of true Roman structural engineering. A rather phenomenal presentation still residing at the villa, nevertheless, is the Great Baths structure located in the center of the site. The most fascinating aspect of this structure is not only the size that it retains, but the many structural advances which the structure retains. Figures 21 and 22 display the perimeter of the Great Baths. The fascinating structure has masonry vaults, domes, and an intriguing construction of an intersection of arches. These structures as discussed in the sections to follow are all expansions upon the basic structure of the arch.
|Figure 21: A side view of the Great Baths||Figure 22: A view of the main hall of the Great Baths|
A Recognition of Technique
As discussed before, scaffolding would have had a rather important role in the construction of the Great Baths. The process of implementing arches and domes into such a structure would require a molding, most certainly composed of wood, that would hold up pieces of the structure while construction was carried out (Adam, 2007). Moreover, the type of wooden platform or cage necessary for each element of the Baths would have varied, as each arch and dome differs in size and shape (Adam, 2007). Though there is no evidence and pictorial clues as to how the Romans constructed such moldings or what they looked like, it is important to recognize that this sort of wooden structure was imperative to construction of such domes and arches (Adam, 2007). Without a doubt, the structures throughout the Villa would have used the same wooden moldings—however they were structured—in the many domes and arches found at his Villa. Figures 23 and 24 below are reimaginings of what the wooden molding or framing may have looked like.
|Figure 23: A reimagining of an arch frame (Adam, 2007)||Figure 24: A reimagining of the Pantheon frame (Adam, 2007)|
|Figure 25: Dome of the Great Baths|
The dome is quite the masterpiece of Roman structural engineering. Though it was sought after mainly for its architectural qualities, especially the hole marking the center of these Hadronic domes(Adam, 2007), the structural analysis of such reveals a truly remarkable accomplishment. Theoretically, the dome can be thought of as an infinite amount of infinitely thin arches, stacked on against the other, rotated about an origin; the dome is half a hollowed-out sphere in a perfect world. In order for stability to exist within the dome, the weight of the walls of the dome caving inward would have to decrease as the walls approach the center of the dome (Adam, 2007). The Romans thus could either make the walls thinner as they approach the center or use less dense material in constructing the walls as they approached the center (Adam, 2007). The pictures in figure 25 look like the ceiling is thinning as the dome approaches the center. Moreover, domes had to be built in stages, incorporating pieces of the dome one at a time (Adam, 2007). This process can be seen in the circular lines etched within the dome walls in figure 25 above, implying a step-wise process that was done similarly for the Pantheon (Adam, 2007). The fact that a large portion of the dome in figure 25 remains intact demonstrates the structural soundness that the dome is beholden to. The front portion that is missing is probably due to a push for architectural fondness that lacked structural stability and perhaps due a composition of valuable material.
|Figure 26: The Cross-Vault Intersection at Hadrian’s Villa|
A phenomenal, out of place structure incorporated into the Baths is the intersection of arches pictured above in figure 26. The intersection represents a convergence of four different arches onto one specific central point. Two things ought to be recognized in detailing this specific structure; a lot of time and effort would’ve been necessary in designing this convergence of arches, as the shape and size of each arch changes as one approaches the center (Adam, 2007). Secondly, and more importantly, the rarity of this design within Roman construction defies the fact that this structure is present at Hadrian’s Villa (Adam, 2007). The Roman’s seemingly despised the collision of arches with different heights, avoiding at all costs connecting the two in a completing manner (Adam, 2007). Thus, it is bizarre to find this style of construction at Hadrian’s Villa, as it is found mostly in structures built after the third century (Adam, 2007). The utility of this intersection is rather questionable, most assuredly built only for aesthetics; the presence of the style, nevertheless, is fascinating all the same.
Figure 27 below shows a diagram describing an intact representation of an intersection. The groined lines–the curved lines produced by the convergence of two arches–seen below intersect at the central point of the intersection, forming what looks to be perpendicular semicircles (Adam, 2007). The below intersection is known as a cross-vault (Adam, 2007), and this design is very similar to the intersection pictured above. The force dispersion implemented by the cross-vault still necessitates itself on the concept of arches, in which the arch form for each vault shrinks as the vault approaches the center. Just as described in the analysis of arches, the weight of the arch is distributed between the two abutments due to the weight of the arch and the weight above the arch. Each abutment now, however, is impacted by two arches, and thus the mass of the abutment must be adjusted in order to operate under the stress. Moreover, the keystone that represents the center of the intersection would also enact forces against each abutment, acting as if the center of two different arches (Adam, 2007). The remaining decorations on the cross-vault in figure 26, if looked at closely, detail the form of the intersection and give an idea of what it once looked like. The cross-vault is an impressive addition to Hadrian’s Villa.
|Figure 27: A Diagram Representation of a Cross-Vault (Adam, 2007)|
A Walk Around the Maritime
The Maritime Theater is perhaps one of the most impressive remains of the body of Hadrian’s Villa. Though it certainly does not live up to the astonishing Baths or the Piazza d’Oro in a structural sense, the great Theater expresses the pulchritude of the historic villa. The many columns and substructures that remain within the Maritime Theater only hints at the original presence that the structure once held; it is a true work of art. Geometrically speaking, the circular execution of the structure in its masonry wall, remaining columns, and layout definitely describes an art-centered focus in the creation of this structure. The destruction of the structure is quite evident, but the remaining foundations as shown in the video below gives an idea as to what the original Theater looked like. Certainly this was an architectural masterpiece and cannot be inspected in much more detail than what has already been discussed; the Maritime Theater, however, is one of many structural phenomena of the Villa.
Hadrian’s Villa contains an amazing conglomeration of Roman structural engineering. All that is left of the site are bones and fractures that once fortified and upheld the incredible site; these structures, however, are the result of the Roman’s advancement in both their building materials and their technology. The ways in which the Romans built structures and the materials they used for such structures exemplify the superiority which the Romans had obtained. The Villa commissioned by Hadrian provides the world a picture of the structural prowess accessed by the Romans, especially in masonry design. All the arches, the domes, the concrete, and all the leftover walls of Hadrian’s Villa synthesize together to form this structural brilliance. The Villa offers a testament to Roman structural engineering at its greatest height.
Reflection on the Villa:
The site of Hadrian’s Villa is simply overwhelming, as I felt I could have spent all my day searching through the ruins that remain. The sheer size of the Villa and the number of structures within the Villa are quite intoxicating. I submit, however, to the fact that renovations have certainly kept the Villa intact, whether due to the clearance of overgrowth or reconstruction of certain parts of the site. The most striking part of my experience was the realization that Romans had come upon incredible ability in structural engineering. The structures within Hadrian’s Villa have stood the test of time and other forms of natural selection, though visibly have been broken down for valuable materials. Moreover, the variety of buildings provided by the site goes beyond the normal Roman site, as most Villas do, and entertains the many facets of structural engineering the Romans had discovered. Though the Villa is missing many of its pieces, what remains is the fractured vision of the former Roman Empire, and through walking this site we can begin to perceive such a vision through our own eyes.
Adam, Jean-Pierre, and Anthony Mathews. Roman Buildings: Materials and Techniques. Routledge, 2007.
Adembri, Benedetta. Hadrian’s Villa. Electa, 2000.
MacDonald, William L., and John A. Pinto. Hadrian’s Villa and Its Legacy. Yale University Press, 1995.
Oleson, John Peter, and Lynne Lancaster. “Roman Engineering and Construction.” The Oxford Handbook of Engineering and Technology in the Classical World, Oxford University Press, 2008.