Ancient/Classical History/Roman architects and engineers.


Hi Maria,
I was wondering where all those famous Roman architects and engineers were formed. As far as I know, there were no universities as such. Did they learn on the job, simply by working with those who had more expertise or were there real "schools"? Moreover, did they analyze schemes or make calculations as we do today before starting the construction of a building (I mean the most ancient ones) or was it all much simpler and "direct"? Thank you in advance.
Kind regards,



though Roman architecture  and engineering  fall outside my area of expertise  which is Roman history, i.e. the study of  past  Roman events from the founding of Rome in 753 BC to the fall of the Western Roman empire in 476 AD, I can suggest that you get information  from a  book entitled “De architectura”( On architecture) which  is just a treatise on architecture  written by the Roman architect Vitruvius ( (flourished 1st century BC) after 27 BC and dedicated to his patron, the emperor Octavianus Augustus.

"De architectura" comprises ten books, each with a separate preface.

So, Book I, after a section  on the nature of architecture and the personality and ideal training of the architect, discusses town planning ; Book II covers building materials (brick, sand, lime, stone, timber) and methods; Books III and IV are devoted to religious architecture and to a detailed discussion of the classical orders; Book V  tells of other forms of public architecture, with special emphasis on the theatres;Book VI deals with domestic architecture;Book VII with such practical matters as types of flooring, stuccowork, painting, and colours;Book VIII turns to the sources and transport of water, by conduit or aqueduct; Book IX describes various forms of  mensuration, clocks and dials, after a long excursus on astronomy; Book X covers mechanics, with particular reference to water engines  and artillery and other forms of military engineering.

This treatise is written in Latin, of course, but you can read an English translation at:*.html

That being stated, it is true that at the beginning Roman architects and engineers,  who already from the 5th. century BC had borrowed from the  subdued Etruscans the use of the arch and the  vault (see e.g. Rome’s Cloaca Maxima, one of the world's earliest sewage systems), were formed on the job, simply by working with those who had more expertise, but later they had to analyze schemes and make calculations before starting the construction of a building, as we read in the IX book, section 4 , 5,6,7 and 8 of “De Architectura” at*.html where Vitruvius talks about sciences influencing architecture, such as  geometry, mensuration, astronomy, mathematics, optics, acoustics (see theatres),religion (see temples), meteorology (see microclimate of the areas where a buildinghad to be constructed).

Hope this can be helpful to you.

Best regards,


Ancient/Classical History

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts




My field of expertise is Ancient Greek and Roman History.


Over 25 years teaching experience.

I received my Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

This expert accepts donations:

©2016 All rights reserved.