One exception to this is Pausanias, a Greek writer. He recorded the quarrying done in Greece but he lived in the second century a.D. For other details, the information related to their architecture is limited to the writings of Vitruvius, an architect in Rome, also a military engineer and a writer who lived during the rule of Augustus (Masrgary, 1957; Derry and Williams, 1961).
The Greek construction inherits its glory from the timber-framed European houses that revolved around three chambers and hearths and not from the buildings in the Near East or even the Mycenean tombs. The temples that appeared earlier in Greece were built of mud bricks with a timber roof that was thatched to facilitate a wider construction, the transverse beams were held by a row of posts that were kept in the middle and the posts were also kept in the mud brick walls for the same use. That's how the architecture began to originate in the age of Pericles (Masrgary, 1957; Derry and Williams, 1961).
In the Mycenean era, the hard limestone of Argos was used while in the west and north of Peloponnese the classical architects used another type of materials that a more appropriate surface that facilities the plastering with fine stucco (of burnt limestone) which was later colour-washed. However, the great public buildings at Athens where marble was used, the material was brought from the quarries on Mount Pentelicon. The blocks were shaped into rectangles by using chisels and then wedges were used on the shapes. The Pentelic marble was characterized by fine grain and milky whiteness and the iron traces added a considerable brown finish to the shape. As the finishing was smoother with iron traces, it was considered better than the burnt limestone (Masrgary, 1957; Derry and Williams, 1961).
The Greeks did not really prefer the brightly coloured marble quite unlike the Roman. The Parian marble that was mostly used for sculpture was not coloured and the Naxian was grey. The Hymettos marble was considered inferior and the quarries of large Syracuse limestone did not become fully popularized in the usage until the beginning of third century B.C (Masrgary, 1957; Derry and Williams, 1961).
As the blocks of limestone and marble could be made up to 15 feet long, a possibility of trabeated architecture began to see the light of the day. The drums were used to construct the columns as the Egyptians did.
When stones that were not very hard were used, the drums would sometimes alter to become a lathe. When the blocks of stone were grinded together, the people were able to attain a very fine jointing. However, the clamps were made of different metals, such as iron and what was even more remarkable was the use of wrought-iron beams. An example of such a case was at the Parthenon where the wrought iron beams aided as cantilevers to hold up the statues and sculptures with the most weight. The timber framework was used for the low pitched roofs of these buildings (Ashby, 1935; Derry and Williams, 1961).
Broadly, the Roman contribution to the architectural history is threefold. They derived their methods from the Greeks after modifying and adjusting it according to their needs and demands thereby decorating their cities, empires, temples and other important places. Moreover, the Romans further found uses of the arch which were earlier used by the Etruscans, almost a millennium before Romans came to build huge bridges in blocks shaped like wedges. Lastly, the Romans they took advantage of four centuries of their empire in the west for more public works which paved way for modern practices of civil and military engineering (Ashby, 1935; Derry and Williams, 1961).
Marble was not used to build Augustan Rome. It was only used for decorating and finishing of the work so that the end product held important value as an Italian product. The Carrara marbles that are pure white in colour are known throughout the world for their beauty. Of the marbles imported, the imperial porphyry from Egypt held great attraction for the people. It was also kept as imperial property as it was characterized by a true imperial purple colour (Ashby, 1935; Derry and Williams, 1961).
The Romans used two other stones in their construction: Travertine and a hard basaltic rock. The travertine was used to build the ancient walls of the catacombs and most of the Colosseum while the basaltic rock was used in the paving of the roads that led to the city. The Romans used the stone in almost every sphere of their empire. The Baalbek in Syria and the gritstone of Hadrian's Wall were both used in the Roman architecture. It is also claimed that there is barely any English building stone left that the Romans did not use in their construction as they also used Bath stone and Colchester in their buildings (Ashby, 1935; Derry and Williams, 1961).
The Romans also made used of wedges in quarrying. The wedges were put into the furrows and then filled with water to create pressure through swelling. They were skilled establishing their stone in the quarry. In many examples, such as the famous multi-angular York tower the stones used by Romans have outperformed the quality of the stones laid over a thousand years later. Copper fed saws were used to cut even though most of the shaping of the blocks were carried out from pounding done by stone balls. Later, saws driven from water were used by Moselle as documented in Ausonius Mosella (Robins, 1946; Derry and Williams, 1961).
However, during the rule of Augustus, it must be noted that Romans used a wider variety of materials and not just stones. The kiln burned bricks, used by the Egyptians were also used. The largest of the variety available was around 23 inches square and had a thickness of about one and a half inch. The bricks would be mostly covered with plaster but were used mainly to surface walls (Robins, 1946; Derry and Williams, 1961).
Regardless of the materials commonly used, most of the Rome was itself constructed from concrete (Kosmatka et al., 2002). The Romans were endowed with a volcanic earth called pozzolana in their land which actually formed cement after having being mixed with line. The cement could resist both fire and water. When mixed with other materials such as bricks or stones, the concrete adopted the hardness of the brick or the stone itself, depending on the material it was mixed with (Li et al., 2003). The concrete was so useful that it was not only used for foundations and walls but also in the construction of vaults and domes that required a harder material for the construction. When concrete was used in the construction it also helped to reduce the overall weight of the vaulted structure (Robins, 1946; Derry and Williams, 1961).
The wedge shaped stones that would combine to form an arch could also be used to construct a vault just by adding more materials and timber structures that provided support at the time of construction. However, the consequence of using the wedge shaped stones for the arch was both dark and dangerous because there was an outward thrust upon the walls on which the vault was laying its weight. The Romans then decided to construct cross vaults to support the structure thereby facilitating longer constructions as in the example of the 100 feet of Diocletian's palace (Robins, 1946; Derry and Williams, 1961).
The outward thrust that rendered the walls and foundation weak was a problem that was faced by their successors as well and the fact that the Romans were able to resolve their problems was an example of a great architectural achievement. The constructions were designed mainly for buildings in the garden or for the hot rooms present in baths. One of the famous examples is of the Bath of Caracalla where the diameter of the dome was 116 feet (Briggs, 1945; Derry and Williams, 1961).
The largest Roman dome was on the Pantheon temple. The diameter of the dome was of about 142 feet. The accuracy of the composition and method of construction are so remarkable that it remains a mystery to date. The rest of the supporting structure was built from concrete which was furthered held by brick arches (Lancaster, 2005). The doors in this remarkable construction were of bronze while the roof was made of gilt bronze tiles. To date the building is considered a royal mausoleum (Briggs, 1945).
Terracotta tiles were considered significant because of their use as a material that would help in the construction of the roofs and more importantly in the construction of hypocausts. These were the rooms that were tiled for about 23-inch squares. One of the hypocaust was characterized by small tiles that were used for the columns which allowed a way out for the heat (Briggs, 1945). These tiles were used by Romans as well as the Greeks quite extensively (Kirby, 1956).