Architect, Engineer (60 – 125)
The greatest architect in Greek history and the royal architect of Emperors Trajan and his successor Hadrian. His creations, both beautiful and practical, exhibit impressive functionality even for modern-day standards and serve as incarnations of the immortal Hellenic spirit and ideals. A polymath with contributions to military engineering and philosophy, Apollodorus’ name surpassed the borders of the Roman Empire and was hailed as one of the greatest scientific minds of his time. Two of his most famous creations, Trajan’s Forum and the Pantheon of Rome serve as Hellenism’s eternal testaments to humanity.
Apollodorus came from Damascus of Syria, at the time colonized by the Greeks. During Trajan’s expedition in Dracia Apollodorus served as his chief engineer. He was comissioned to construct what would be known as the Pontes Traiani or Trajan’s Bridge, which connected both shores of the Danube River. Stretching at a length of 1135 meters, this arched bridge was made of wood and stone and was joined by two “iron gates” at both ends, which served as fortresses. Although only parts of it survive today, depictions of it can still be seen in coins and reliefs while descriptions of it left by Procopius also survive.
Following the Dracian wars, Apollodorus constructed Trajan’s Baths on the hill of Esquilinum. This enormous complex boasted a gymnasium, auditoriums, libraries and artificial cysternae for water storage. Between 107 and 113 Apollodorus built the Forum of Trajan, a complex consisting of multiple buildings which housed, among other things, markets, archives as well as two libraries, one Latin and one Greek. The forum has numerous temples namely for Athena, Venus, Mars as well as for Trajan and his wife themselves. The Forum is widely regarded as Apollodorus’ greatest architectural endeavour as well as a masterpiece exhibiting incredible technological craftsmanship.
Arguably of insuperable beauty and artistry is the Pantheon, one of the most well preserved ancient structures in all of Rome. Built in 123 by Apollodorus, the Pantheon has a round rotonda of 43,3 diameter which symbolizes the celestial sphere. As its name suggests, it was dedicated to all of the Gods. It is to this day one of the most memorable monuments of Italy as well as of the entire world, which subsequently inspired the construction of similar Panthea.
Other structures constructed by Apollodorus in Rome were the Odeon of Domitian, the Mercatus Trajani or Market of Trajan, which housed over 150 different shops and offices, the hippodrome next to the Mausoleum of Hadrian and the Aqueduct of Trajan. He paved many roads and avenues that connected cities, built the city harbour in Civitavecchia and constructed the Tropaeum Trajani, a commemorative building in Adamclisi for the Dracian wars.
Not surprisingly, Apollodorus was also involved with the construction of war machines as preserved in his writings Poliorcetica, where he describes several machines used in battles, such as the poliorcetic climax, a siege engine used to conquer walled cities and the poliorcetic turtoise, an engine resembling the shape of a turtle used for penetration of armies. It possessed wheels and a large tube which unleashed fire.
It is safe to assume that no other architect or engineer existed at the time as prolific as Apollodorus, who could combine practicality with beauty so flawlessly in his creations. With Apollodorus Greek architecture reached its apogee. Without a doubt Apollodorus made Rome stand out from the rest of the cities of the Roman Empire and made it worthy as its capitol.
- Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. (1998). Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades Publications. Athens.
- Blyth, P. H.. Apollodorus of Damascus and the Poliorcetica.