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Architecture + Branding: Imprinting the Imperium Romanum wherever thy may ROME

1-Adaptable aggregating enterprise

From the earliest days of the Roman Republic, expansion was established as a natural state of order. As such, Rome had a vested interest in being adaptable, malleable, and open to adopting the best techniques and technologies from its rivals and conquests.

Fitness regimens, culture, languages, grammar, literature, governance, several aspects of Roman culture were actually cribbed from the conquered Greeks and Etruscans. Arts, sculpture, and architecture, particularly theatre and amphitheatre design, were adopted, refined and modified by the Romans. The dome, the vault and the arch also benefitted from Roman ingenuity and engineering.

Syracusa and Carthage, which had threathened Rome’s expansion plans, inadvertedly aided Rome to perfect its ship building expertise and naval battle techniques, thereby adding to Rome’s dominating presence across the Mediterranean. In military matters and horsemanship, Rome was influenced by Gaul. From the Celtics, Rome adopted the spatha (Celtic cavalry sword). Adaptable and integrative, ROME would select the best features from its conquests and institute them across all its territories.

As the transition from Republic to Empire was happening, expansion had long become entrenched as the modus operandi for the 500-year old Roman Republic. The transition was prolonged, being commonly ascribed to numerous events, including Julius Caesar’s appointment as perpetual dictator (44 BC), the Battle of Actium (2 September 31 BC), and the Roman Senate’s granting to Octavian the honorific Augustus (4 January 27 BC). Much like the Republic period, ROME, entering the Imperial Era, would continue on an expansionary course unabated.

2-Widespread, Dominating

At the height of the Roman Empire, Rome’s influence was undeniable. Wherever the Roman armies stood, ROME was underfoot, or soon would be. ROME was entrenched everywhere, as far as the eye could see, all-conquering, widespread, dominating, unstoppable.

To the north and north east, the Roman Empire stretched out to Gaul (France), controlled much of Germania (Germany), reached into Britannia (southern and central Great Britain along with England and Wales), and encompassed Caledonia (southern Scotland).

To the south, Sicily, Syracusa and parts of North Africa were controlled by the Empire.

To the east, Corsica and Sardinia were under Roman rule.

To the west, the Empire annexed Egypt, had possessions in Asia Minor, Umbria, Constantinople (Istanbul), Caucasian Albania, Azerbaijan, Dacia (Romania), Armenia, Syria, Macedonia and Croatia to name a few.

Map of Roman Empire (source: wikipedia)

Historians have postulated that under Emperor Trajan (98 to 117AD), the Roman Empire controlled approximately 6,500,000 km2 of land area. Spread across modern-day Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Croatia, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Israel, Jordan, Libya, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and the United Kingdom, it was the largest extent to which the Roman Empire would ever expand.

 3-The walls spoke of cultural assimilation

The Empire was unparalleled in the use of physical branding throughout its lands and territories. They possessed an inate mastery of the use of the built environment to communicate to its citizenry, as much as to its foes that this is ROME!

Within the Empire, the city of Romewas the nucleus, and life revolved around the city. Residential architecture within the Roman teritorries spanned from modest houses and apartment blocks to country villas and palatial homes. However, the Empire made the most of architectural branding in buildings intended for public use.

In general, Roman towns and cities imitated the capital city, replete with landmarks such as forums, temples, theatres and amphitheatres.The essence of Rome was imbued in cities and towns across the vast empire. ROME employed architecture to supply its citizens with social places to entertain and provide for basic needs, whilst also doubling as apparatus for cultural transference and absolute acquiescence.

Fashioned upon the Roman Forum in the city of Rome, every Roman province in the Republic and the Empire was endowed with a forum. Serving primarily as a marketplace, a forum was an integral part of Roman life, political proceedings and discourse. Forums were regarded as a gathering place of considerable social significance. Few roman forums remain in existance as many have been destroyed.

Roman Forum at Jerash, Jordan (source: wikipedia)


Remains of the West Gate of the forum in Athens, Greece (source: wikipedia)

Remains of the forum in Athens, Greece (source: wikipedia)

Religious compliance was also an important component of Roman integration. Temples, another architectural identifier, were utilized to disseminate and entrench acceptable religious beliefs and denote obdurate Roman influence and presence.

The Pantheon in Rome, Italy (source: wikipedia)

Maison Carrée in Nimes, France (source: wikipedia)

Maison Carrée in Nimes, France (source: wikipedia)

Other architectural staples of the capital city, such as arches, theatres and amphitheatres, were constructed across the lands under Empire control. These landmarks and gathering spaces served both to engross the citizenry and to fortify ROME’s unyielding influence and absolute dominion.

Hadrian’s Arch in Athens, Greece (source: wikipedia)

Hadrian’s Gate in Antalya, Turkey (source: wikipedia)

Arch of Constantine in Rome, Italy (source: wikipedia)

Arch of Marcus Aurelius in Tripoli, Libya (source: wikipedia)

Arch of Medinaceli in Medinaceli, Spain (source: wikipedia)

Arch of Septimius Severus in Latakia, Syria (source: wikipedia)

Arch of Trajan in Timgad, Algeria (source: wikipedia)

Triumphal Arch in Moulay Idriss, Morocco (source: wikipedia)

Triumphal Arch of Orange in Orange, France (source: wikipedia)

Triumphal Arch of the Tetrarchy in Sbeitla, Tunisia (source: wikipedia)

Triumphal Arch in Tyre, Lebanon (source: wikipedia)

Roman Theatre of Amman, Jordan (source: wikipedia)

Roman Theatre in Arles, France (source: wikipedia)

Roman Theatre in Dougga, Tunisia (source: wikipedia)

Arausio Theatre in Orange, France (source: whittman.edu)

Roman Theatre in Palmyra, Syria (source: wikipedia)

Roman Theatre in Plovdiv, Bulgaria (source: wikipedia)

Roman Theatre in Fiesole, Italy (source: wikipedia)

Colosseum (Roman Amphitheatre) in Rome, Italy  (source: wikipedia)

Pula Arena (Roman Amphitheatre) in Pula, Croatia (source: wikipedia)

Remains of Syracusa (Sicily) Amphitheatre in Syracuse, Italy (source: wikipedia)

Carefully crafting spaces in which public life was to unfold, the Romans utlized architecture as a social tool to engineer desired responses, propagate Roman culture, and integrate their conquered foes. The importance and use of physical symbols was deep rooted, roadways, bridges, aqueducts, buildings, all worked in unison to serve as constant reminders of ROME.

4-Trespass ROME

As successful as ROME was in plying Architectural Identity to gain compliance and cooperation over the populace, they were also skilled at using the built environment to achieve submission and subjugation.

The expansive land area under Roman control would prove difficult to defend, thus branding distant lands with the imprint of the Empire would help to deter the enemies. The construction of military installations, fortifications (castras),  defensive outposts and physical impediments to troop movement, into the far reaches of the Empire’s lands operated as discernible markings of ROME’s omnipresence and clout. These served to disuade and discourage enemies, ward off potential threats, and send an irrefutable message to all those who would dare to trespass ROME.

Roman Castra at Porolissum, Dacia (Romania) (source: wikipedia)

Remains of a Roman Castra at Masada, Isreal (source: wikipedia)

Hadrian’s wall at Greenhead Lough, Scotland (source: wikipedia)

Hadrian’s wall from Housesteads, Scotland (source: Wikipedia)

5-ROME Redux

The Empire’s reign continued for numerous centuries. In 476, the Western Roman Empire collapsed. Several centuries later, in 1453, the Eastern Roman Empire fell.

ROME’s hegemony was legendary, and the echoes of its presence remain vivid and unmistakeable. In a decisively overt manner, Architectural physical markers were habitually present, unrelentingly brandishing ROME into the consciousness at every turn. The supremacy of ROME was blatant, imposing, evident and tangible.

Aerial view of the city of Rome, Italy (source: wikipedia)

Map of Italy (source: wikipedia)

Rome, the modern-day city, is much reduced in physical scale from what its namesake once commanded. However, endowed with an enduring, resilient and well-defined Architectural Identity, Rome has excelled in exploiting its built environment legacy to advance and maintain the legendary and mythic brand stature of ROME.

Panamoric view of the Colosseum (Amphitheatre) and the Arch of Constantine in Rome, Italy  (source: wikipedia)

All brands and trademarks are property of their respective owners.


About marc lortie

marc lortie is an Architectural Designer (Technologist) currently based in Ottawa, Ontario (Canada). marc has several years of experience working in Canada and the USA on various projects, including commercial shopping centres, big-box stores, industrial plants, educational facilities, warehouses, storage facilities, intermodal facilities, hotels, offices, and residential developments. marc is a graduate of Carleton University, Algonquin College and La Cite Collegiale.


2 thoughts on “Architecture + Branding: Imprinting the Imperium Romanum wherever thy may ROME

  1. Brilliant study of monumental branding techniques. We should learn more from the great masters of the past. The Roman Empire is still unsurpassed in structural (and structured) propaganda, where the building is the message. The size, in this case, is a substitute for the scalability and replication of modern media.

    Thanks for the inspiring subject,


    Posted by carlo | March 16, 2012, 7:45 am
  2. Nice job on this bro

    Posted by firespark | January 7, 2015, 7:04 pm

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