Your Subtitle text

Roman Arches

Ancient Roman Engineering - Arches


Richard Acree

Two of the most visible and impressive components of Ancient Roman structural engineering and architecture include the arch and the column. This article is about the arches designed and used frequently in ancient Roman engineering.

A trip to Rome will quickly reveal that the ancient Romans were very advanced in engineering and architecture. The use of arches as a structural device was rampant in buildings and bridges. No place is this more prevalent than in the Colosseum itself, shown on the left. Arches were used to strengthen walls, provide passageways, and provide ventilation. Eighty arched entrances were built into the exterior of the Colosseum to provide quick entry and exit for 55,000 people.

This photo below is of an arched passageway leading from the outside of the Colosseum into the interior. The large round blocks on the floor were some of the columns that fell but were recovered and placed here for tourists to see.   


What is amazing is that some of these arches were designed and constructed almost 2000 years ago. In this photo you can see an interior wall of the Colosseum as the sun casts shadows over the arches. The Colosseum is 4 stories high and is classified as an amphitheatre.


 Arches were sometimes embedded in walls of the Colosseum that were completely filled, yet the arch was clearly visible.

The holes visible were mostly intentional. Wooden posts were inserted into these holes as part of the structural system.






And other arches are embedded in walls so that they are flush with the wall side. These arches are called blind arches, because they may not be readily visible or could be covered easily and therefore not readily visible.

 Arches were also used as part of their monuments, as was the case for this Arch of Constantine, which faces the Colosseum.

 And arches are seen here in one of the many bridges crossing the Tiber River, which runs through Rome. Notice the extensive use of the arch to support the bridge structure.

To comment or ask questions about this article please email to

 Thank You,

Richard Acree


To return to the HABITEC Home Page please click here!

Website Builder