In its developed stages Greek architecture was based on the use of finely dressed stone masonry, mainly limestone. Where available, white marble was used for the finest structures. Transport costs would influence the choice of stone: local stone would often be used as an economy. In major buildings the dressed blocks were regularly fastened with clamps and dowels of wood or metal, but without mortar; and although exceptionally almost entire buildings might be of marble, including ceilings of quite large span (e.g. the Propylaea at Athens), considerations of cost often meant that the less conspicuous parts were built in local limestone. See quarries. Inferior materials were regularly surfaced with fine marble stucco to resemble masonry. In Hellenistic buildings all but the best materials were plastered on the interior often to receive painted decoration (see painting, greek). In simpler buildings, walls were still built of mud‐brick. Tiles were usually terracotta, occasionally marble. Bronze was used for many decorative purposes and facings (e.g. the temple of Athena Chalkioikos at Sparta). Waterproof cement was regularly used for hydraulic works and for floors which required frequent washing.
Roman building practice was everywhere based on locally available materials. The only building materials widely transported in the empire were marble and timber for roofing. In Rome itself the plentiful local supplies of soft, easily dressed, volcanic tufa were used from the 6th cent. bc onwards and remained in use at all periods as a general‐purpose building material (see quarries). From the 2nd cent. bc travertine was quarried near Tibur. This was a fine building stone, used esp. in the later republic until the large‐scale use of marble was developed under Augustus. For much domestic architecture the use of timber‐framed unfired brick (see brickstamps) was widespread in Rome before the fire of ad 64. The major Roman contribution to architectural development was the exploitation and perfection of opus caementicium, Roman concrete. This comprised a hydraulic mortar laid in alternate courses with aggregate. It derived its unique strength from the use of the local volcanic deposits. In Rome from the 2nd cent. bc onwards it was increasingly employed in monumental building, at first faced with small irregularly shaped stones and later with small squared stones set diagonally. Building in concrete was flexible and cheap and allowed the construction of vaulted chambers on a large scale. The aggregate was often skilfully graded by weight, the supreme example being the dome of the Pantheon; from the time of Hadrian the vaulting‐load might be further lightened by the incorporation of large jars. In Rome and central Italy concrete from the 1st cent. ad was faced with fired brick. From the 1st cent. bc Roman architecture made extensive use of white and coloured marble for columns, veneer, and paving (see carrara). Roof tiles were made of terracotta or stone. Waterproof mortars and lead and terracotta piping were regularly employed for hydraulic installations (see baths).
Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500).