...but they were superb letterers. That's (above) the lettering at the bottom of the column. Thick and thin, serifs...wow, the Romans knew all about things like that. I assume the absence of space between the words is decorative and formal, and not the way writing was usually done (Stephen disagrees... read his correction in the comments).
Amazingly the Roman fonts are still with us, not only in the ubiquitous Times New Roman, but in in a host of adaptations like the ones above.
One of the most interesting of all modern fonts is Helvetica. It began life in Switzerland in 1957, in fact the name is a Latin form of the word Switzerland. It's the Calvin Kline of fonts, something that's simultaneously simple, elegant and avant garde.
My book on the subject, "Just My Type," says: "The font manages to convey honesty and invite trust, while its quirks distinguish it from anything that suggests overbearing authority; even in corporate use it maintains a friendly hominess."
Here's (above, top) my other favorite font, Futura. It's controversial because it only seems to work for capitalized titles. Whole paragraphs of it seem a little harsh. If I have the story right, somebody decided to make a version of it that favored paragraphs, and that's how Verdana (above, bottom) came to be. The problem is that Verdana only looks good in paragraphs. Verdana titles are lackluster and anal retentive. What a dilemma!
Stupid me, I would use Futura for the headlines and Verdana for the prose, but for some strange reason a lot of people don't want to do that. Forced to make a choice, most moderns prefer Verdana, so now Futura is on the endangered fonts list.
Ikea recently made the headlines when it switched it's official title to Verdana. Protesters picketed, talk of boycott was in the air. ...it was reminiscent of the public outcry when Classic Coke was taken off the shelves.