Echoes of Rome: Roman Influences in Everyday Modern Lives (2023)

ByGregory S. Aldrete, Ph.D.,University of Wisconsin, Green Bay

The Romans are long gone, but their influence can be felt even now in different spheres of life. These influences are not limited to language and architecture. They stretch far and beyond our imagination. What are these influences?

Echoes of Rome: Roman Influences in Everyday Modern Lives (1)

Latin Influence in Modern English

The language you are reading this in is affected by Rome. Written English employs the Latin alphabet, and about one-third of English words are derived from Latin, and at least another third come from languages that are descended from Latin.

In the specialized vocabularies of science, medicine, and law, the percentage of Latin or Latin-derived words is even higher, amounting to 90% in the most common estimates. So the very way we communicate, both in speech and writing, is primarily through a system developed by the Romans.

This is a transcript from the video seriesThe Roman Empire: From Augustus to the Fall of Rome.Watch it now, on Wondrium.

Roman Materials and Style in Architecture

What about the buildings we live in? The popular image of Roman architecture is a marble structure with columns, and the Neoclassical style which combines Greek and Roman elements. This style has been widely used especially for major public edifices such as government buildings, universities, and museums.

Echoes of Rome: Roman Influences in Everyday Modern Lives (2)

The most widespread legacy of the Romans on modern construction is probably their mastery and popularization of concrete as a building material. The Romans also made extensive use of brick in their structures, both monumental and private.

Other important Roman contributions include domes, especially large ones, arches, and vaulting. All of these are still standard parts of the modern architectural vocabulary, appearing in thousands of structures all around the world.

Roman Models for Modern Buildings

Many specific types of buildings can trace their lineage back to Roman models. The most famous Roman edifice, the Colosseum is the direct inspiration for almost every contemporary sports arena and stadium.

The Pantheon, with its innovative combination of a triangular pediment and classical columns fronting a giant dome, is copied today by innumerable government buildings, from the Capitol in Washington DC to most local state capitols, as well as banks, courthouses, and museums.

Roman bath complexes were the ancestors of contemporary spas and bath houses, featuring hot water pools as well as centralized heating systems that warmed up the floors and walls.

Learn more about Roman art and architecture.

Markets, Apartments, and even Christmas?

Trajan’s Market, a multistory assemblage of over 150 rooms linked by arcades, internal hallways, and staircases, was the forerunner of contemporary shopping malls and office complexes.

It is not just in the realm of public architecture that the Romans have had a profound influence, but in the private, domestic sphere as well. For example, most of Rome’s inhabitants lived in apartment buildings that could rise eight or 10 stories high, and the nicer examples are strikingly modern in appearance and organization.

The way in which we regulate and measure time is by systems developed by the Romans. Our 365-day annual calendar, including the names of all the months, is essentially the same as that instituted by Julius Caesar. Dividing the day into 24 hours is also a Roman practice, although their hours varied in length according to the time of year. The Romans loved holidays and festivals, and aspects of many of these were assimilated into their modern counterparts; thus Christmas incorporates some elements of the Roman Saturnalia festival.

Learn more aboutthe early Roman emperors.

Influence of the Roman Republic

One of the most overt ways in which Rome has shaped the modern world is in the area of politics and government.The United States was founded and designed as a deliberate imitation of the Roman Republic. This is why it possesses such features and vocabulary such as a senate, three branches of government, a system of checks and balances, and vetoes, all of which were components of the Roman Republic.

The emphasis on citizenship and the participatory role of citizens are based on a Roman paradigm, exemplified by the legendary Roman citizen, Cincinnatus. The Founding Fathers were steeped in classical ideas, and self-consciously set out to fashion a new Rome.

The instigators of the French Revolution were similarly inspired by an idealized notion of the Roman Republic, and both countries adopted much of their symbolism and terminology from Rome.

In general, Roman history and the Latin language have given rise to a surprising number of terms for absolute rulers, including ‘prince’ fromprinceps; ‘duke’ fromdux; ‘Tsar’ and ‘Kaiser’ from Caesar; and, of course, the word “dictator” itself.

Learn more aboutRome’s transition from a Republic to an Empire.

Military Ranks and Insignias

The Roman military has been one of the most emulated in all of history. The Roman legions have functioned as the paramount example of a professional fighting force which many subsequent armies have attempted to copy.

The traits of discipline and organization embodied by Rome’s legions have also become central concepts for later professional armies. Even the command structure of the legions, with its division between officers and centurions, is mirrored in how most modern armies employ a system of commissioned and non-commissioned officers.

It is no coincidence that many militaries and governments have adopted the eagle as a symbol, in direct imitation of the famous eagle standards borne by the Roman legions.

Modern Athletic and Celebrity Culture

Many of our mass entertainments follow in Rome’s footsteps. Not only do our stadiums look like Roman ones, but the whole culture of professional sports teams, with their distinctive colors, fans, and rivalries, recalls the chariot-racing factions of the Circus Maximus.

Even related phenomena, such as celebrity athletes, a mania for sports statistics, and gambling on athletic events, were as familiar to ancient Romans as they are today. When it comes to staging spectacular shows as entertainment, and relishing violence in sports, the Romans surpassed anything found in modern culture.

Common Questions about Roman Influence in Modern Life

Q. Can we see the Roman influence in European languages?

Yes, we can see the Roman influence in many European languages. These languages are descended from Latin, and at least 60% of English, directly or indirectly, has Latin roots. In technical fields such as medicine, law, and science, Latin has influenced about 90% of the vocabulary used.

Q. What is the Roman influence on modern buildings?

The Roman influence in modern buildings can be seen both in terms of design—domes, pillars, arches—and in terms of material such as tiles, bricks and concrete. In addition, several structures, such as sports arenas, spas, supermarkets, and even apartment buildings are modeled on Roman originals.

Q. What is the Roman influence in politics and government?

The Roman Republic has influenced the ideas of the senate, three branches of government, a system of checks and balances, and vetoes, all of which were components of the Roman Republic. The emphasis on citizenship and the participatory role of citizens are also based on a Roman paradigm.

Keep Reading
Ancient Roman Architecture: Rome’s Most Impressive Buildings
How Did the Golden Age of Rome End?
Rome and Its Architectural Marvels


How the Romans have influenced the modern world today? ›

From bridges and stadiums to books and the words we hear every day, the ancient Romans have left their mark on our world. Ancient Romans have had a tremendous impact on art and architecture. We can find traces of Roman influence in forms and structures throughout the development of Western culture.

What are some examples of Roman influence on our lives today? ›

The Roman influence in modern buildings can be seen both in terms of design—domes, pillars, arches—and in terms of material such as tiles, bricks and concrete. In addition, several structures, such as sports arenas, spas, supermarkets, and even apartment buildings are modeled on Roman originals.

What 3 Roman contributions still influence our lives today? ›

  • 13 Things The Romans Did For Us. Published: 14 January 2022. ...
  • Fast Food. It might seem a modern marvel, but the Romans were the first to introduce street stalls and 'food on the move' as we might think of it today. ...
  • Advertising and Trademarks. ...
  • Plumbing and Sanitation. ...
  • Towns. ...
  • Architecture. ...
  • Roads. ...
  • Our Calendar.
Jan 14, 2022

What is Rome's biggest influence in the modern world? ›

Inventing and Spreading the Western Culture

The Romans were the main force in spreading many aspects of what is known Today as the "Western Culture". This includes: Western values, government and law concepts (see further below) Civil engineering and infrastructure.

How did Rome influence the modern United States? ›

Not surprisingly, then, Rome inspired many features of our own Constitution, including its checks and balances, bicameral legislature, term limits and age requirements. In some cases, the Founders copied terms straight out of the Roman constitution: words like senate, capitol and committee.

What Roman contributions still influence our lives today quizlet? ›

What Roman contributions still influence our lives today? Romans have influenced our beliefs about law, justice, government, and citizenship. The use of Latin alphabet and language; literature. Architecture and the use of concrete in construction.

What 6 things in modern society were influenced by Roman culture? ›

The legacy of Ancient Rome is still felt today in western culture in areas such as government, law, language, architecture, engineering, and religion. Many modern-day governments are modeled after the Roman Republic.

What are 4 contributions from the Roman Empire to modern life? ›

Roman roads, buildings, arches, and aqueducts still stand today over 2,000 years after they were built. Roman architecture was so impressive – both in how it functioned and how the buildings looked – that it was the model for later buildings throughout the world.

What are 4 things the Romans invented that we use today? ›

10 inventions to thank the Roman Empire for
  • Cement. When you visit Rome, you'll see some stunning and impressive ancient structures still standing in some shape or form. ...
  • The Aqueduct. ...
  • Sanitation. ...
  • Roads. ...
  • Social care and welfare. ...
  • Julian Calendar. ...
  • Elements of surgery. ...
  • Elements of the modern legal system.
May 16, 2017

What are 2 examples of Roman influenced architecture in modern society? ›

The Arc de Triomphe and the Place Vendôme are just two examples of French architects borrowing Roman formulas.

What 3 early peoples influence Romans? ›

Name three early peoples of Rome and describe their relationships with Rome? Etruscans, Latins, and Greeks. They were part of the Indo-Europeans.

What are the most significant things the Romans contributed to the world? ›

The Romans invented many surgical tools and pioneered the use of the cesarean section, but their most valuable contributions to medicine came on the battlefield. Under the leadership of Augustus, they established a military medical corps that was one of the first dedicated field surgery units.

What did the Romans bring us? ›

Many of our buildings and how they are heated, the way we get rid of our sewage, the roads we use, some of our wild animals, religion, the words and language we speak, how we calculate distances, numbers and why we use money to pay for goods were all introduced by the Romans.

What 3 ideas did America get from Rome? ›

America's advent of the executive, judicial, and legislative branches were directly derived from the Ancient Roman model. In times of peace, the executive branch of the ancient Rome comprised two consuls, elected by Roman landowners for 1 year terms.

How did ancient Rome affect the US? ›

Many modern societies have borrowed some aspect of ancient Roman thought, but its shaping influence on the United States has been especially profound. The framers of the U.S. Constitution incorporated Roman ideas about the separation of powers and the need for a senate.


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