What were the distinctive characteristics of Roman culture?
The culture of ancient Rome can be described as covering a 1,000 year period, and developed from a small agricultural community defined by narrow ethnicity to a multilingual and multicultural empire covering an area now occupied by 13 modern nations. To generalize about such diverse chronological and geographical diversity is to dramatically oversimplify.
Rome is known for many significant engineering feats, such as building aqueducts and roads and monumental architecture, but the ancient Persian, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian empires also accomplished significant feats of engineering (and irrigation in the case of Egypt).
A complex written law code is considered an important feature of Roman culture, but written law codes date back to Mesopotamia, though it might be said that the Roman one was distinctive for its complexity. Roman administration was extremely efficient by ancient standards (but so was that of ancient Persia).
Perhaps rather than trying to suggest that Rome was unique, it would be better to state that it was one of several large ancient empires (including the Mesopotamian, Mycenaean, Egyptian, and Persian) that lasted for several centuries, had complex laws and administration, produced major cultural and intellectual works, impressive feats of engineering and monumental building, and was militarily strong.
Roman culture borrowed and improved on Greek culture and other foreign cultures, making it difficult to adequately point out its distinct features. It should be noted that sections of the Roman population held on to Greek features, for instance, giving preference to the Greek language over the Latin language. However, despite this challenge, Roman culture has identifiable features that can effectively be associated with the culture and the era.
The Romans contributed the arches and domes in their architectural designs and structures. One popular structure with these features, and which also serves as a symbol of Roman culture is the Colosseum. The Colosseum was used for official ceremonies, but it was made popular by the death matches between gladiators that were carried out for the entertainment of the public.
Satire has also been considered a distinct feature of Roman culture. The style was used in numerous literary works.