Roman art

Roman art refers to the visual arts made in Ancient Rome and in the territories of the Roman Empire. Roman art includes architecture, painting, sculpture and mosaic work. Luxury objects in metal-work, gem engraving, ivory carvings, and glass are sometimes considered in modern terms to be minor forms of Roman art,[1] although this would not necessarily have been the case for contemporaries. Sculpture was perhaps considered as the highest form of art by Romans, but figure painting was also very highly regarded. The two forms have had very contrasting rates of survival, with a very large body of sculpture surviving from about the 1st century BC onward, though very little from before, but very little painting at all remains, and probably nothing that a contemporary would have considered to be of the highest quality.

Ancient Roman pottery was not a luxury product, but a vast production of "fine wares" in terra sigillata were decorated with reliefs that reflected the latest taste, and provided a large group in society with stylish objects at what was evidently an affordable price. Roman coins were an important means of propaganda, and have survived in enormous numbers.

Roman fresco Villa dei Misteri Pompeii 009
Fresco from the Villa of the Mysteries. Pompeii, 80 BC
MANNapoli 9112 Sacrifice Iphigenia painting
Iphigenia in Aulis Wall painting from north wall of the House of the Tragic Poet, Pompeii


Left image: A Roman fresco from Pompeii showing a Maenad in silk dress, first century AD
Right image: A fresco of a young man from the Villa di Arianna, Stabiae, 1st century AD.


While the traditional view of the ancient Roman artists is that they often borrowed from, and copied Greek precedents (much of the Greek sculptures known today are in the form of Roman marble copies), more recent analysis has indicated that Roman art is a highly creative pastiche relying heavily on Greek models but also encompassing Etruscan, native Italic, and even Egyptian visual culture. Stylistic eclecticism and practical application are the hallmarks of much Roman art.

Pliny, Ancient Rome's most important historian concerning the arts, recorded that nearly all the forms of art – sculpture, landscape, portrait painting, even genre painting – were advanced in Greek times, and in some cases, more advanced than in Rome. Though very little remains of Greek wall art and portraiture, certainly Greek sculpture and vase painting bears this out. These forms were not likely surpassed by Roman artists in fineness of design or execution. As another example of the lost "Golden Age", he singled out Peiraikos, "whose artistry is surpassed by only a very few ... He painted barbershops and shoemakers’ stalls, donkeys, vegetables, and such, and for that reason came to be called the 'painter of vulgar subjects'; yet these works are altogether delightful, and they were sold at higher prices than the greatest paintings of many other artists.”[2] The adjective "vulgar" is used here in its original meaning, which means "common".

The Greek antecedents of Roman art were legendary. In the mid-5th century BC, the most famous Greek artists were Polygnotos, noted for his wall murals, and Apollodoros, the originator of chiaroscuro. The development of realistic technique is credited to Zeuxis and Parrhasius, who according to ancient Greek legend, are said to have once competed in a bravura display of their talents, history's earliest descriptions of trompe l’oeil painting.[3] In sculpture, Skopas, Praxiteles, Phidias, and Lysippos were the foremost sculptors. It appears that Roman artists had much Ancient Greek art to copy from, as trade in art was brisk throughout the empire, and much of the Greek artistic heritage found its way into Roman art through books and teaching. Ancient Greek treatises on the arts are known to have existed in Roman times, though are now lost.[4] Many Roman artists came from Greek colonies and provinces...[5]

Roman sacrifice Louvre Ma992
Preparation of an animal sacrifice; marble, fragment of an architectural relief, first quarter of the 2nd century CE; from Rome, Italy

The high number of Roman copies of Greek art also speaks of the esteem Roman artists had for Greek art, and perhaps of its rarer and higher quality.[5] Many of the art forms and methods used by the Romans – such as high and low relief, free-standing sculpture, bronze casting, vase art, mosaic, cameo, coin art, fine jewelry and metalwork, funerary sculpture, perspective drawing, caricature, genre and portrait painting, landscape painting, architectural sculpture, and trompe l’oeil painting – all were developed or refined by Ancient Greek artists.[6] One exception is the Roman bust, which did not include the shoulders. The traditional head-and-shoulders bust may have been an Etruscan or early Roman form.[7] Virtually every artistic technique and method used by Renaissance artists 1,900 years later, had been demonstrated by Ancient Greek artists, with the notable exceptions of oil colors and mathematically accurate perspective.[8] Where Greek artists were highly revered in their society, most Roman artists were anonymous and considered tradesmen. There is no recording, as in Ancient Greece, of the great masters of Roman art, and practically no signed works. Where Greeks worshiped the aesthetic qualities of great art, and wrote extensively on artistic theory, Roman art was more decorative and indicative of status and wealth, and apparently not the subject of scholars or philosophers.[9]

Owing in part to the fact that the Roman cities were far larger than the Greek city-states in power and population, and generally less provincial, art in Ancient Rome took on a wider, and sometimes more utilitarian, purpose. Roman culture assimilated many cultures and was for the most part tolerant of the ways of conquered peoples.[5] Roman art was commissioned, displayed, and owned in far greater quantities, and adapted to more uses than in Greek times. Wealthy Romans were more materialistic; they decorated their walls with art, their home with decorative objects, and themselves with fine jewelry.

In the Christian era of the late Empire, from 350 to 500 CE, wall painting, mosaic ceiling and floor work, and funerary sculpture thrived, while full-sized sculpture in the round and panel painting died out, most likely for religious reasons.[10] When Constantine moved the capital of the empire to Byzantium (renamed Constantinople), Roman art incorporated Eastern influences to produce the Byzantine style of the late empire. When Rome was sacked in the 5th century, artisans moved to and found work in the Eastern capital. The Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople employed nearly 10,000 workmen and artisans, in a final burst of Roman art under Emperor Justinian (527–565 CE), who also ordered the creation of the famous mosaics of Basilica of San Vitale in the city of Ravenna.[11]


Pompeii Painter
Pompeian painter with painted statue and framed painting, Pompeii

Of the vast body of Roman painting we now have only a very few pockets of survivals, with many documented types not surviving at all, or doing so only from the very end of the period. The best known and most important pocket is the wall paintings from Pompeii, Herculaneum and other sites nearby, which show how residents of a wealthy seaside resort decorated their walls in the century or so before the fatal eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. A succession of dated styles have been defined and analysed by modern art historians beginning with August Mau, showing increasing elaboration and sophistication.

Starting in the 3rd century CE and finishing by about 400 we have a large body of paintings from the Catacombs of Rome, by no means all Christian, showing the later continuation of the domestic decorative tradition in a version adapted - probably not greatly adapted - for use in burial chambers, in what was probably a rather humbler social milieu than the largest houses in Pompeii. Much of Nero's palace in Rome, the Domus Aurea, survived as grottos and gives us examples which we can be sure represent the very finest quality of wall-painting in its style, and which may well have represented significant innovation in style. There are a number of other parts of painted rooms surviving from Rome and elsewhere, which somewhat help to fill in the gaps of our knowledge of wall-painting. From Roman Egypt there are a large number of what are known as Fayum mummy portraits, bust portraits on wood added to the outside of mummies by a Romanized middle class; despite their very distinct local character they are probably broadly representative of Roman style in painted portraits, which are otherwise entirely lost.

Nothing remains of the Greek paintings imported to Rome during the 4th and 5th centuries, or of the painting on wood done in Italy during that period.[4] In sum, the range of samples is confined to only about 200 years out of the about 900 years of Roman history,[12] and of provincial and decorative painting. Most of this wall painting was done using the secco (“dry”) method, but some fresco paintings also existed in Roman times. There is evidence from mosaics and a few inscriptions that some Roman paintings were adaptations or copies of earlier Greek works.[12] However, adding to the confusion is the fact that inscriptions may be recording the names of immigrant Greek artists from Roman times, not from Ancient Greek originals that were copied.[8] The Romans entirely lacked a tradition of figurative vase-painting comparable to that of the Ancient Greeks, which the Etruscans had emulated.

Variety of subjects

The Wedding of Zephyrus and Chloris (54–68 AD, Pompeian Fourth Style) within painted architectural panels from the Casa del Naviglio

Roman painting provides a wide variety of themes: animals, still life, scenes from everyday life, portraits, and some mythological subjects. During the Hellenistic period, it evoked the pleasures of the countryside and represented scenes of shepherds, herds, rustic temples, rural mountainous landscapes and country houses.[8] Erotic scenes are also relatively common. In the late empire, after 200AD, early Christian themes mixed with pagan imagery survive on catacomb walls.[13]

Landscape and vistas

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Boscotrecase, Pompeii. Third style

The main innovation of Roman painting compared to Greek art was the development of landscapes, in particular incorporating techniques of perspective, though true mathematical perspective developed 1,500 years later. Surface textures, shading, and coloration are well applied but scale and spatial depth was still not rendered accurately. Some landscapes were pure scenes of nature, particularly gardens with flowers and trees, while others were architectural vistas depicting urban buildings. Other landscapes show episodes from mythology, the most famous demonstrating scenes from the Odyssey.[14]

In the traditional view, the art of the ancient East would have known landscape painting only as the backdrop to civil or military narrative scenes.[15] This theory, defended by Franz Wickhoff, is debatable. It is possible to see evidence of Greek knowledge of landscape portrayal in Plato's Critias (107b–108b):

... and if we look at the portraiture of divine and of human bodies as executed by painters, in respect of the ease or difficulty with which they succeed in imitating their subjects in the opinion of onlookers, we shall notice in the first place that as regards the earth and mountains and rivers and woods and the whole of heaven, with the things that exist and move therein, we are content if a man is able to represent them with even a small degree of likeness ...[16]

Still life

Roman still life subjects are often placed in illusionist niches or shelves and depict a variety of everyday objects including fruit, live and dead animals, seafood, and shells. Examples of the theme of the glass jar filled with water were skillfully painted and later served as models for the same subject often painted during the Renaissance and Baroque periods.[17]


Portrait of family of Septimius Severus - Altes Museum - Berlin - Germany 2017
The Severan Tondo, a panel painting of the imperial family, c. 200 AD; Antikensammlung, Berlin
Fayum mummy portrait of a woman from Roman Egypt with a ringlet hairstyle. Royal Museum of Scotland.

Pliny complained of the declining state of Roman portrait art, "The painting of portraits which used to transmit through the ages the accurate likenesses of people, has entirely gone out ... Indolence has destroyed the arts."[18][19]

In Greece and Rome, wall painting was not considered as high art. The most prestigious form of art besides sculpture was panel painting, i.e. tempera or encaustic painting on wooden panels. Unfortunately, since wood is a perishable material, only a very few examples of such paintings have survived, namely the Severan Tondo from c. 200 AD, a very routine official portrait from some provincial government office, and the well-known Fayum mummy portraits, all from Roman Egypt, and almost certainly not of the highest contemporary quality. The portraits were attached to burial mummies at the face, from which almost all have now been detached. They usually depict a single person, showing the head, or head and upper chest, viewed frontally. The background is always monochrome, sometimes with decorative elements.[20] In terms of artistic tradition, the images clearly derive more from Greco-Roman traditions than Egyptian ones. They are remarkably realistic, though variable in artistic quality, and may indicate that similar art which was widespread elsewhere but did not survive. A few portraits painted on glass and medals from the later empire have survived, as have coin portraits, some of which are considered very realistic as well.[21]

Gold glass

Galla Placidia (rechts) und ihre Kinder
Detail of the gold glass medallion in Brescia (Museo di Santa Giulia), most likely Alexandrian, 3rd century AD[22]

Gold glass, or gold sandwich glass, was a technique for fixing a layer of gold leaf with a design between two fused layers of glass, developed in Hellenistic glass and revived in the 3rd century AD. There are a very few large designs, including a very fine group of portraits from the 3rd century with added paint, but the great majority of the around 500 survivals are roundels that are the cut-off bottoms of wine cups or glasses used to mark and decorate graves in the Catacombs of Rome by pressing them into the mortar. They predominantly date from the 4th and 5th centuries. Most are Christian, though there are many pagan and a few Jewish examples. It is likely that they were originally given as gifts on marriage, or festive occasions such as New Year. Their iconography has been much studied, although artistically they are relatively unsophisticated.[23] Their subjects are similar to the catacomb paintings, but with a difference balance including more portraiture. As time went on there was an increase in the depiction of saints.[24] The same technique began to be used for gold tesserae for mosaics in the mid-1st century in Rome, and by the 5th century these had become the standard background for religious mosaics.

The earlier group are "among the most vivid portraits to survive from Early Christian times. They stare out at us with an extraordinary stern and melancholy intensity",[25] and represent the best surviving indications of what high quality Roman portraiture could achieve in paint. The Gennadios medallion in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, is a fine example of an Alexandrian portrait on blue glass, using a rather more complex technique and naturalistic style than most Late Roman examples, including painting onto the gold to create shading, and with the Greek inscription showing local dialect features. He had perhaps been given or commissioned the piece to celebrate victory in a musical competition.[26] One of the most famous Alexandrian-style portrait medallions, with an inscription in Egyptian Greek, was later mounted in an Early Medieval crux gemmata in Brescia, in the mistaken belief that it showed the pious empress and Gothic queen Galla Placida and her children;[27] in fact the knot in the central figure's dress may mark a devotee of Isis.[28] This is one of a group of 14 pieces dating to the 3rd century AD, all individualized secular portraits of high quality.[29] The inscription on the medallion is written in the Alexandrian dialect of Greek and hence most likely depicts a family from Roman Egypt.[30] The medallion has also been compared to other works of contemporaneous Roman-Egyptian artwork, such as the Fayum mummy portraits.[22] It is thought that the tiny detail of pieces such as these can only have been achieved using lenses.[31] The later glasses from the catacombs have a level of portraiture that is rudimentary, with features, hairstyles and clothes all following stereotypical styles.[32]

Genre scenes

Roman genre scenes generally depict Romans at leisure and include gambling, music and sexual encounters. Some scenes depict gods and goddesses at leisure.[8][12]

Triumphal paintings

Roman fresco from Boscoreale, 43-30 BCE, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Roman fresco from the Villa Boscoreale, 43–30 BC, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Pompeii - Casa dei Casti Amanti - Banquet
Roman fresco with a banquet scene from the Casa dei Casti Amanti, Pompeii

From the 3rd century BC, a specific genre known as Triumphal Paintings appeared, as indicated by Pliny (XXXV, 22).[33] These were paintings which showed triumphal entries after military victories, represented episodes from the war, and conquered regions and cities. Summary maps were drawn to highlight key points of the campaign. Josephus describes the painting executed on the occasion of Vespasian and Titus's sack of Jerusalem:

There was also wrought gold and ivory fastened about them all; and many resemblances of the war, and those in several ways, and variety of contrivances, affording a most lively portraiture of itself. For there was to be seen a happy country laid waste, and entire squadrons of enemies slain; while some of them ran away, and some were carried into captivity; with walls of great altitude and magnitude overthrown and ruined by machines; with the strongest fortifications taken, and the walls of most populous cities upon the tops of hills seized on, and an army pouring itself within the walls; as also every place full of slaughter, and supplications of the enemies, when they were no longer able to lift up their hands in way of opposition. Fire also sent upon temples was here represented, and houses overthrown, and falling upon their owners: rivers also, after they came out of a large and melancholy desert, ran down, not into a land cultivated, nor as drink for men, or for cattle, but through a land still on fire upon every side; for the Jews related that such a thing they had undergone during this war. Now the workmanship of these representations was so magnificent and lively in the construction of the things, that it exhibited what had been done to such as did not see it, as if they had been there really present. On the top of every one of these pageants was placed the commander of the city that was taken, and the manner wherein he was taken.[34]

These paintings have disappeared, but they likely influenced the composition of the historical reliefs carved on military sarcophagi, the Arch of Titus, and Trajan's Column. This evidence underscores the significance of landscape painting, which sometimes tended towards being perspective plans.

Ranuccio also describes the oldest painting to be found in Rome, in a tomb on the Esquiline Hill:

It describes a historical scene, on a clear background, painted in four superimposed sections. Several people are identified, such Marcus Fannius and Marcus Fabius. These are larger than the other figures ... In the second zone, to the left, is a city encircled with crenellated walls, in front of which is a large warrior equipped with an oval buckler and a feathered helmet; near him is a man in a short tunic, armed with a spear...Around these two are smaller soldiers in short tunics, armed with spears...In the lower zone a battle is taking place, where a warrior with oval buckler and a feathered helmet is shown larger than the others, whose weapons allow to assume that these are probably Samnites.

This episode is difficult to pinpoint. One of Ranuccio's hypotheses is that it refers to a victory of the consul Fabius Maximus Rullianus during the second war against Samnites in 326 BC. The presentation of the figures with sizes proportional to their importance is typically Roman, and finds itself in plebeian reliefs. This painting is in the infancy of triumphal painting, and would have been accomplished by the beginning of the 3rd century BC to decorate the tomb.


26 colonna traiana da estt 05
Section of Trajan's Column, CE 113, with scenes from the Dacian Wars

Early Roman art was influenced by the art of Greece and that of the neighbouring Etruscans, themselves greatly influenced by their Greek trading partners. An Etruscan speciality was near life size tomb effigies in terracotta, usually lying on top of a sarcophagus lid propped up on one elbow in the pose of a diner in that period. As the expanding Roman Republic began to conquer Greek territory, at first in Southern Italy and then the entire Hellenistic world except for the Parthian far east, official and patrician sculpture became largely an extension of the Hellenistic style, from which specifically Roman elements are hard to disentangle, especially as so much Greek sculpture survives only in copies of the Roman period.[35] By the 2nd century BC, "most of the sculptors working in Rome" were Greek,[36] often enslaved in conquests such as that of Corinth (146 BC), and sculptors continued to be mostly Greeks, often slaves, whose names are very rarely recorded. Vast numbers of Greek statues were imported to Rome, whether as booty or the result of extortion or commerce, and temples were often decorated with re-used Greek works.[37]

A native Italian style can be seen in the tomb monuments of prosperous middle-class Romans, which very often featured portrait busts, and portraiture is arguably the main strength of Roman sculpture. There are no survivals from the tradition of masks of ancestors that were worn in processions at the funerals of the great families and otherwise displayed in the home, but many of the busts that survive must represent ancestral figures, perhaps from the large family tombs like the Tomb of the Scipios or the later mausolea outside the city. The famous bronze head supposedly of Lucius Junius Brutus is very variously dated, but taken as a very rare survival of Italic style under the Republic, in the preferred medium of bronze.[38] Similarly stern and forceful heads are seen in the coins of the consuls, and in the Imperial period coins as well as busts sent around the Empire to be placed in the basilicas of provincial cities were the main visual form of imperial propaganda; even Londinium had a near-colossal statue of Nero, though far smaller than the 30-metre-high Colossus of Nero in Rome, now lost.[39] The Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker, a successful freedman (c. 50-20 BC) has a frieze that is an unusually large example of the "plebeian" style.[40] Imperial portraiture was initially Hellenized and highly idealized, as in the Blacas Cameo and other portraits of Augustus.

Luk Konstantyna 6DSCF0032
Arch of Constantine, 315: Hadrian lion-hunting (left) and sacrificing (right), above a section of the Constantinian frieze, showing the contrast of styles.

The Romans did not generally attempt to compete with free-standing Greek works of heroic exploits from history or mythology, but from early on produced historical works in relief, culminating in the great Roman triumphal columns with continuous narrative reliefs winding around them, of which those commemorating Trajan (113 CE) and Marcus Aurelius (by 193) survive in Rome, where the Ara Pacis ("Altar of Peace", 13 BC) represents the official Greco-Roman style at its most classical and refined, and the Sperlonga sculptures it at its most baroque. Some late Roman public sculptures developed a massive, simplified style that sometimes anticipates Soviet socialist realism. Among other major examples are the earlier re-used reliefs on the Arch of Constantine and the base of the Column of Antoninus Pius (161),[41] Campana reliefs were cheaper pottery versions of marble reliefs and the taste for relief was from the imperial period expanded to the sarcophagus.

All forms of luxury small sculpture continued to be patronized, and quality could be extremely high, as in the silver Warren Cup, glass Lycurgus Cup, and large cameos like the Gemma Augustea, Gonzaga Cameo and the "Great Cameo of France".[42] For a much wider section of the population, moulded relief decoration of pottery vessels and small figurines were produced in great quantity and often considerable quality.[43]

After moving through a late 2nd century "baroque" phase,[44] in the 3rd century, Roman art largely abandoned, or simply became unable to produce, sculpture in the classical tradition, a change whose causes remain much discussed. Even the most important imperial monuments now showed stumpy, large-eyed figures in a harsh frontal style, in simple compositions emphasizing power at the expense of grace. The contrast is famously illustrated in the Arch of Constantine of 315 in Rome, which combines sections in the new style with roundels in the earlier full Greco-Roman style taken from elsewhere, and the Four Tetrarchs (c. 305) from the new capital of Constantinople, now in Venice. Ernst Kitzinger found in both monuments the same "stubby proportions, angular movements, an ordering of parts through symmetry and repetition and a rendering of features and drapery folds through incisions rather than modelling... The hallmark of the style wherever it appears consists of an emphatic hardness, heaviness and angularity – in short, an almost complete rejection of the classical tradition".[45]

This revolution in style shortly preceded the period in which Christianity was adopted by the Roman state and the great majority of the people, leading to the end of large religious sculpture, with large statues now only used for emperors, as in the famous fragments of a colossal acrolithic statue of Constantine, and the 4th or 5th century Colossus of Barletta. However rich Christians continued to commission reliefs for sarcophagi, as in the Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, and very small sculpture, especially in ivory, was continued by Christians, building on the style of the consular diptych.[46]

Museo archeologico di Firenze, coperchio di sepolcro muliebre da Tuscania, terracotta con tracce di policromia III sec. d.c

Etruscan sarcophagus, 3rd century BC

Capitoline Brutus Musei Capitolini MC1183 02

The "Capitoline Brutus", dated to the 4th to 3rd centuries BC

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A Roman naval bireme depicted in a relief from the Temple of Fortuna Primigenia in Praeneste (Palastrina),[47] which was built c. 120 BC;[48] exhibited in the Pius-Clementine Museum (Museo Pio-Clementino) in the Vatican Museums.


The Orator, c. 100 BC, an Etrusco-Roman bronze statue depicting Aule Metele (Latin: Aulus Metellus), an Etruscan man wearing a Roman toga while engaged in rhetoric; the statue features an inscription in the Etruscan alphabet


Augustus of Prima Porta, statue of the emperor Augustus, 1st century AD, Vatican Museums

Tomba dei decii, dalla via ostiense, 98-117 dc.

Tomb relief of the Decii, 98–117 AD

Claudius Pio-Clementino Inv243

Bust of Emperor Claudius, c. 50 CE, (reworked from a bust of emperor Caligula), Vatican Museums


Commodus dressed as Hercules, c. 191 CE, in the late imperial "baroque" style; Capitoline Museum, Rome.

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The Four Tetrarchs, c. 305, showing the new anti-classical style, in porphyry, now San Marco, Venice

Great Cameo of France CdM Paris Bab264 white background

The cameo gem known as the "Great Cameo of France", c. 23 AD, with an allegory of Augustus and his family

Head old Roman Glyptothek Munich 320

Portrait Bust of a Man, Ancient Rome, 60 BC

Lucius Caecilius Iucundus, plaster cast of Roman bronze and marble original, House of Caecilius Iucundus (V-i-26), Pompeii, c. 79 AD, National Archaeological Museum, Naples - Spurlock Museum, UIUC - DSC05672 (cropped)

Roman portraiture is characterized by its "warts and all" realism.

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Veristic portrait bust of an old man, head covered (capite velato), either a priest or paterfamilias (marble, mid-1st century BC)

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Bust of Antinous, c. 130 AD

Traditional Roman sculpture is divided into five categories: portraiture, historical relief, funerary reliefs, sarcophagi, and copies of ancient Greek works.[49] Contrary to the belief of early archaeologists, many of these sculptures were large polychrome terra-cotta images, such as the Apollo of Veii (Villa Givlia, Rome), but the painted surface of many of them has worn away with time.

Narrative reliefs

While Greek sculptors traditionally illustrated military exploits through the use of mythological allegory, the Romans used a more documentary style. Roman reliefs of battle scenes, like those on the Column of Trajan, were created for the glorification of Roman might, but also provide first-hand representation of military costumes and military equipment. Trajan's column records the various Dacian wars conducted by Trajan in what is modern day Romania. It is the foremost example of Roman historical relief and one of the great artistic treasures of the ancient world. This unprecedented achievement, over 650 foot of spiraling length, presents not just realistically rendered individuals (over 2,500 of them), but landscapes, animals, ships, and other elements in a continuous visual history – in effect an ancient precursor of a documentary movie. It survived destruction when it was adapted as a base for Christian sculpture.[50] During the Christian era after 300 AD, the decoration of door panels and sarcophagi continued but full-sized sculpture died out and did not appear to be an important element in early churches.[10]

Minor arts

Cameo August BM Gem3577
The Blacas Cameo of Augustus, from his last years or soon after

Pottery and terracottas

The Romans inherited a tradition of art in a wide range of the so-called "minor arts" or decorative art. Most of these flourished most impressively at the luxury level, but large numbers of terracotta figurines, both religious and secular, continued to be produced cheaply, as well as some larger Campana reliefs in terracotta.[51] Roman art did not use vase-painting in the way of the ancient Greeks, but vessels in Ancient Roman pottery were often stylishly decorated in moulded relief.[52] Producers of the millions of small oil lamps sold seem to have relied on attractive decoration to beat competitors and every subject of Roman art except landscape and portraiture is found on them in miniature.[53]


Luxury arts included fancy Roman glass in a great range of techniques, many smaller types of which were probably affordable to a good proportion of the Roman public. This was certainly not the case for the most extravagant types of glass, such as the cage cups or diatreta, of which the Lycurgus Cup in the British Museum is a near-unique figurative example in glass that changes colour when seen with light passing through it. The Augustan Portland Vase is the masterpiece of Roman cameo glass,[54] and imitated the style of the large engraved gems (Blacas Cameo, Gemma Augustea, Great Cameo of France) and other hardstone carvings that were also most popular around this time.[55]


Bikini mosaic
Roman mosaic of female athletes playing ball at the Villa Romana del Casale of Piazza Armerina, Roman Sicily, 4th century AD

Roman mosaic was a minor art, though often on a very large scale, until the very end of the period, when late-4th-century Christians began to use it for large religious images on walls in their new large churches; in earlier Roman art mosaic was mainly used for floors, curved ceilings, and inside and outside walls that were going to get wet. The famous copy of a Hellenistic painting in the Alexander Mosaic in Naples was originally placed in a floor in Pompeii; this is much higher quality work than most Roman mosaic, though very fine panels, often of still life subjects in small or micromosaic tesserae have also survived. The Romans distinguished between normal opus tessellatum with tesserae mostly over 4 mm across, which was laid down on site, and finer opus vermiculatum for small panels, which is thought to have been produced offsite in a workshop, and brought to the site as a finished panel. The latter was a Hellenistic genre which is found in Italy between about 100 BC and 100 AD. Most signed mosaics have Greek names, suggesting the artists remained mostly Greek, though probably often slaves trained up in workshops. The late 2nd century BC Nile mosaic of Palestrina is a very large example of the popular genre of Nilotic landscape, while the 4th century Gladiator Mosaic in Rome shows several large figures in combat.[56] Orpheus mosaics, often very large, were another favourite subject for villas, with several ferocious animals tamed by Orpheus's playing music. In the transition to Byzantine art, hunting scenes tended to take over large animal scenes.


Metalwork was highly developed, and clearly an essential part of the homes of the rich, who dined off silver, while often drinking from glass, and had elaborate cast fittings on their furniture, jewellery, and small figurines. A number of important hoards found in the last 200 years, mostly from the more violent edges of the late empire, have given us a much clearer idea of Roman silver plate. The Mildenhall Treasure and Hoxne Hoard are both from East Anglia in England.[57] There are few survivals of upmarket ancient Roman furniture, but these show refined and elegant design and execution.

Coins and medals

Hadrian, with "RESTITVTORI ACHAIAE" on the reverse, celebrating his spending in Achaia (Greece), and showing the quality of ordinary bronze coins that were used by the mass population, hence the wear on higher areas.

Few Roman coins reach the artistic peaks of the best Greek coins, but they survive in vast numbers and their iconography and inscriptions form a crucial source for the study of Roman history, and the development of imperial iconography, as well as containing many fine examples of portraiture. They penetrated to the rural population of the whole Empire and beyond, with barbarians on the fringes of the Empire making their own copies. In the Empire medallions in precious metals began to be produced in small editions as imperial gifts, which are similar to coins, though larger and usually finer in execution. Images in coins initially followed Greek styles, with gods and symbols, but in the death throes of the Republic first Pompey and then Julius Caesar appeared on coins, and portraits of the emperor or members of his family became standard on imperial coinage. The inscriptions were used for propaganda, and in the later Empire the army joined the emperor as the beneficiary.


It was in the area of architecture that Roman art produced its greatest innovations. Because the Roman Empire extended over so great of an area and included so many urbanized areas, Roman engineers developed methods for city building on a grand scale, including the use of concrete. Massive buildings like the Pantheon and the Colosseum could never have been constructed with previous materials and methods. Though concrete had been invented a thousand years earlier in the Near East, the Romans extended its use from fortifications to their most impressive buildings and monuments, capitalizing on the material's strength and low cost.[58] The concrete core was covered with a plaster, brick, stone, or marble veneer, and decorative polychrome and gold-gilded sculpture was often added to produce a dazzling effect of power and wealth.[58]

Because of these methods, Roman architecture is legendary for the durability of its construction; with many buildings still standing, and some still in use, mostly buildings converted to churches during the Christian era. Many ruins, however, have been stripped of their marble veneer and are left with their concrete core exposed, thus appearing somewhat reduced in size and grandeur from their original appearance, such as with the Basilica of Constantine.[59]

During the Republican era, Roman architecture combined Greek and Etruscan elements, and produced innovations such as the round temple and the curved arch.[60] As Roman power grew in the early empire, the first emperors inaugurated wholesale leveling of slums to build grand palaces on the Palatine Hill and nearby areas, which required advances in engineering methods and large scale design. Roman buildings were then built in the commercial, political, and social grouping known as a forum, that of Julius Caesar being the first and several added later, with the Forum Romanum being the most famous. The greatest arena in the Roman world, the Colosseum, was completed around 80 AD at the far end of that forum. It held over 50,000 spectators, had retractable fabric coverings for shade, and could stage massive spectacles including huge gladiatorial contests and mock naval battles. This masterpiece of Roman architecture epitomizes Roman engineering efficiency and incorporates all three architectural orders – Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.[61] Less celebrated but just as important if not more so for most Roman citizens, was the five-story insula or city block, the Roman equivalent of an apartment building, which housed tens of thousands of Romans.[62]

Teatro romano de Mérida (2)
Roman theatre in Mérida

It was during the reign of Trajan (98–117 AD.) and Hadrian (117–138 AD) that the Roman Empire reached its greatest extent and that Rome itself was at the peak of its artistic glory – achieved through massive building programs of monuments, meeting houses, gardens, aqueducts, baths, palaces, pavilions, sarcophagi, and temples.[50] The Roman use of the arch, the use of concrete building methods, the use of the dome all permitted construction of vaulted ceilings and enabled the building of these public spaces and complexes, including the palaces, public baths and basilicas of the "Golden Age" of the empire. Outstanding examples of dome construction include the Pantheon, the Baths of Diocletian, and the Baths of Caracalla. The Pantheon (dedicated to all the planetary gods) is the best preserved temple of ancient times with an intact ceiling featuring an open "eye" in the center. The height of the ceiling exactly equals the interior diameter of the building, creating an enclosure that could contain giant sphere.[59] These grand buildings later served as inspirational models for architects of the Italian Renaissance, such as Brunelleschi. By the age of Constantine (306-337 AD), the last great building programs in Rome took place, including the erection of the Arch of Constantine built near the Colosseum, which recycled some stone work from the forum nearby, to produce an eclectic mix of styles.[13]

Roman aqueducts, also based on the arch, were commonplace in the empire and essential transporters of water to large urban areas. Their standing masonry remains are especially impressive, such as the Pont du Gard (featuring three tiers of arches) and the aqueduct of Segovia, serving as mute testimony to their quality of their design and construction.[61]

See also


  1. ^ Toynbee, J. M. C. (December 1971). "Roman Art". The Classical Review. 21 (3): 439–442. doi:10.1017/S0009840X00221331. JSTOR 708631.
  2. ^ Sybille Ebert-Schifferer, Still Life: A History, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1998, p. 15, ISBN 0-8109-4190-2
  3. ^ Ebert-Schifferer, p. 16
  4. ^ a b Piper, p. 252
  5. ^ a b c Janson, p. 158
  6. ^ Piper, p. 248–253
  7. ^ Piper, p. 255
  8. ^ a b c d Piper, p. 253
  9. ^ Piper, p. 254
  10. ^ a b Piper, p. 261
  11. ^ Piper, p. 266
  12. ^ a b c Janson, p. 190
  13. ^ a b Piper, p. 260
  14. ^ Janson, p. 191
  15. ^ according to Ernst Gombrich.
  16. ^ Plato. Critias (107b–108b), trans W.R.M. Lamb 1925. at the Perseus Project accessed 27 June 2006
  17. ^ Janson, p. 192
  18. ^ John Hope-Hennessy, The Portrait in the Renaissance, Bollingen Foundation, New York, 1966, pp. 71–72
  19. ^ Pliny the Elder, Natural History XXXV:2 trans H. Rackham 1952. Loeb Classical Library
  20. ^ Janson, p. 194
  21. ^ Janson, p. 195
  22. ^ a b Daniel Thomas Howells (2015). "A Catalogue of the Late Antique Gold Glass in the British Museum (PDF)." London: the British Museum (Arts and Humanities Research Council). Accessed 2 October 2016, p. 7: "Other important contributions to scholarship included the publication of an extensive summary of gold glass scholarship under the entry ‘Fonds de coupes’ in Fernand Cabrol and Henri Leclercq’s comprehensive Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie in 1923. Leclercq updated Vopel’s catalogue, recording 512 gold glasses considered to be genuine, and developed a typological series consisting of eleven iconographic subjects: biblical subjects; Christ and the saints; various legends; inscriptions; pagan deities; secular subjects; male portraits; female portraits; portraits of couples and families; animals; and Jewish symbols. In a 1926 article devoted to the brushed technique gold glass known as the Brescia medallion (Pl. 1), Fernand de Mély challenged the deeply ingrained opinion of Garrucci and Vopel that all examples of brushed technique gold glass were in fact forgeries. The following year, de Mély’s hypothesis was supported and further elaborated upon in two articles by different scholars. A case for the Brescia medallion’s authenticity was argued for, not on the basis of its iconographic and orthographic similarity with pieces from Rome (a key reason for Garrucci’s dismissal), but instead for its close similarity to the Fayoum mummy portraits from Egypt. Indeed, this comparison was given further credence by Walter Crum’s assertion that the Greek inscription on the medallion was written in the Alexandrian dialect of Egypt. De Mély noted that the medallion and its inscription had been reported as early as 1725, far too early for the idiosyncrasies of Graeco-Egyptian word endings to have been understood by forgers." "Comparing the iconography of the Brescia medallion with other more closely dated objects from Egypt, Hayford Peirce then proposed that brushed technique medallions were produced in the early 3rd century, whilst de Mély himself advocated a more general 3rd-century date. With the authenticity of the medallion more firmly established, Joseph Breck was prepared to propose a late 3rd to early 4th century date for all of the brushed technique cobalt blue-backed portrait medallions, some of which also had Greek inscriptions in the Alexandrian dialect. Although considered genuine by the majority of scholars by this point, the unequivocal authenticity of these glasses was not fully established until 1941 when Gerhart Ladner discovered and published a photograph of one such medallion still in situ, where it remains to this day, impressed into the plaster sealing in an individual loculus in the Catacomb of Panfilo in Rome (Pl. 2). Shortly after in 1942, Morey used the phrase ‘brushed technique’ to categorize this gold glass type, the iconography being produced through a series of small incisions undertaken with a gem cutter’s precision and lending themselves to a chiaroscuro-like effect similar to that of a fine steel engraving simulating brush strokes."
  23. ^ Beckwith, 25-26,
  24. ^ Grig, throughout
  25. ^ Honour and Fleming, Pt 2, "The Catacombs" at illustration 7.7
  26. ^ Weitzmann, no. 264, entry by J.D.B.; see also no. 265; Medallion with a Portrait of Gennadios, Metropolitan Museum of Art, with better image.
  27. ^ Boardman, 338-340; Beckwith, 25
  28. ^ Vickers, 611
  29. ^ Grig, 207
  30. ^ Jás Elsner (2007). "The Changing Nature of Roman Art and the Art Historical Problem of Style," in Eva R. Hoffman (ed), Late Antique and Medieval Art of the Medieval World, 11-18. Oxford, Malden & Carlton: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4051-2071-5, p. 17, Figure 1.3 on p. 18.
  31. ^ Sines and Sakellarakis, 194-195
  32. ^ Grig, 207; Lutraan, 29-45 goes into considerable detail
  33. ^ Natural History (Pliny) online at the Perseus Project
  34. ^ Josephus, The Jewish Wars VII, 143-152 (Ch 6 Para 5). Trans. William Whiston Online accessed 27 June 2006
  35. ^ Strong, 58–63; Henig, 66-69
  36. ^ Henig, 24
  37. ^ Henig, 66–69; Strong, 36–39, 48; At the trial of Verres, former governor of Sicily, Cicero's prosecution details his depredations of art collections at great length.
  38. ^ Henig, 23–24
  39. ^ Henig, 66–71
  40. ^ Henig, 66; Strong, 125
  41. ^ Henig, 73–82;Strong, 48–52, 80–83, 108–117, 128–132, 141–159, 177–182, 197–211
  42. ^ Henig, Chapter 6; Strong, 303–315
  43. ^ Henig, Chapter 8
  44. ^ Strong, 171–176, 211–214
  45. ^ Kitzinger, 9 (both quotes), more generally his Ch 1; Strong, 250–257, 264–266, 272–280
  46. ^ Strong, 287–291, 305–308, 315–318; Henig, 234–240
  47. ^ D.B. Saddington (2011) [2007]. "the Evolution of the Roman Imperial Fleets," in Paul Erdkamp (ed), A Companion to the Roman Army, 201-217. Malden, Oxford, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-2153-8. Plate 12.2 on p. 204.
  48. ^ Coarelli, Filippo (1987), I Santuari del Lazio in età repubblicana. NIS, Rome, pp 35-84.
  49. ^ Gazda, Elaine K. (1995). "Roman Sculpture and the Ethos of Emulation: Reconsidering Repetition". Harvard Studies in Classical Philology. Department of the Classics, Harvard University. 97 (Greece in Rome: Influence, Integration, Resistance): 121–156. doi:10.2307/311303. JSTOR 311303. According to traditional art-historical taxonomy, Roman sculpture is divided into a number of distinct categories--portraiture, historical relief, funerary reliefs, sarcophagi, and copies.
  50. ^ a b Piper, p. 256
  51. ^ Henig, 191-199
  52. ^ Henig, 179-187
  53. ^ Henig, 200-204
  54. ^ Henig, 215-218
  55. ^ Henig, 152-158
  56. ^ Henig, 116-138
  57. ^ Henig, 140-150; jewellery, 158-160
  58. ^ a b Janson, p. 160
  59. ^ a b Janson, p. 165
  60. ^ Janson, p. 159
  61. ^ a b Janson, p. 162
  62. ^ Janson, p. 167


  • Beckwith, John. Early Christian and Byzantine Art. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970.
  • Boardman, John, The Oxford History of Classical Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.
  • Grig, Lucy. “Portraits, pontiffs and the Christianization of fourth-century Rome.” Papers of the British School at Rome 72 (2004): 203-379.
  • --. Roman Art, Religion and Society: New Studies From the Roman Art Seminar, Oxford 2005. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2006.
  • Janson, H. W., and Anthony F Janson. History of Art. 6th ed. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001.
  • Kitzinger, Ernst. Byzantine Art In the Making: Main Lines of Stylistic Development In Mediterranean Art, 3rd-7th Century. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995.
  • Henig, Martin. A Handbook of Roman Art: A Comprehensive Survey of All the Arts of the Roman World. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983.
  • Piper, David. The Illustrated Library of Art, Portland House, New York, 1986, ISBN 0-517-62336-6
  • Strong, Donald Emrys, J. M. C Toynbee, and Roger Ling. Roman Art. 2nd ed. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1988.

Further reading

  • Andreae, Bernard. The Art of Rome. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1977.
  • Beard, Mary, and John Henderson. Classical Art: From Greece to Rome. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Bianchi Bandinelli, Ranuccio. Rome, the Center of Power: 500 B.C. to A.D. 200. New York: G. Braziller, 1970.
  • Borg, Barbara. A Companion to Roman Art. Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons, 2015.
  • Brilliant, Richard. Roman Art From the Republic to Constantine. Newton Abbot, Devon: Phaidon Press, 1974.
  • D’Ambra, Eve. Art and Identity in the Roman World. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998.
  • --. Roman Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • Kleiner, Fred S. A History of Roman Art. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2007.
  • Ramage, Nancy H. Roman Art: Romulus to Constantine. 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ : Pearson, 2015.
  • Stewart, Peter. Roman Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • Syndicus, Eduard. Early Christian Art. 1st ed. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1962.
  • Tuck, Steven L. A History of Roman Art. Malden: Wiley Blackwell, 2015.
  • Zanker, Paul. Roman Art. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010.

External links


Bishapur (Middle Persian: Bay-Šāpūr; Persian: بیشاپور‎, Bishâpûr) was an ancient city in Sasanid Persia (Iran) on the ancient road between Persis and Elam. The road linked the Sassanid capitals Estakhr (very close to Persepolis) and Ctesiphon. It is located south of modern Faliyan in the Kazerun County of Pars Province, Iran.

Bishapur was built near a river crossing and at the same site there is also a fort with rock-cut reservoirs and a river valley with six Sassanid rock reliefs.

The most important point about this city, is the combination of Persian and Roman art and architecture that hadn't been seen before Bishapur construction. Before Bishapour was built, almost all the main cities in Persia/Iran had a circular shape like the old city in Firuzabad or Darab. Bishapour is the first city with vertical and horizontal streets also in the city specially in interior design we can see tile work that's adapted from Roman Art

Borghese Collection

The Borghese Collection is a collection of Roman sculptures, old masters and modern art collected by the Roman Borghese family, especially Cardinal Scipione Borghese, from the 17th century on. It includes major collections of Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titian, and of ancient Roman art. The Borghese also bought widely from leading painters and sculptors of his day, and Scipione Borghese's commissions include two portrait busts by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.[1][2] Most of the collection remains intact and on display at the Galleria Borghese, although a significant sale of classical sculpture was made under duress to the Louvre in 1807.

Casa del Menandro

The House of Menander (Italian: Casa del Menandro) is one of the richest and most magnificent houses in ancient Pompeii in terms of architecture, decoration and contents, and covers a large area of about 1,800 square metres (19,000 sq ft). Its quality means the owner must have been an aristocrat involved in politics, with great taste for art. Mussolini held a lunch party in Room 18 (Pompeii photo archive negatives A/234-236) when he visited Pompeii in 1940.

The house was excavated between November 1926 and June 1932 and is located in Region I, Insula 10, Entrance 4 (I.10.4) of the city.

Early Christian art and architecture

Early Christian art and architecture or Paleochristian art is the art produced by Christians or under Christian patronage from the earliest period of Christianity to, depending on the definition used, sometime between 260 and 525. In practice, identifiably Christian art only survives from the 2nd century onwards. After 550 at the latest, Christian art is classified as Byzantine, or of some other regional type.It is hard to know when distinctly Christian art began. Prior to 100, Christians may have been constrained by their position as a persecuted group from producing durable works of art. Since Christianity was largely a religion of the lower classes in this period, the lack of surviving art may reflect a lack of funds for patronage, and simply small numbers of followers. The Old Testament restrictions against the production of graven (an idol or fetish carved in wood or stone) images (see also Idolatry and Christianity) may also have constrained Christians from producing art. Christians may have made or purchased art with pagan iconography, but given it Christian meanings, as they later did. If this happened, "Christian" art would not be immediately recognizable as such.

Early Christianity used the same artistic media as the surrounding pagan culture. These media included fresco, mosaics, sculpture, and manuscript illumination. Early Christian art not only used Roman forms, it also used Roman styles. Late classical style included a proportional portrayal of the human body and impressionistic presentation of space. Late classical style is seen in early Christian frescos, such as those in the Catacombs of Rome, which include most examples of the earliest Christian art.Early Christian art and architecture adapted Roman artistic motifs and gave new meanings to what had been pagan symbols. Among the motifs adopted were the peacock, grapevines, and the "Good Shepherd". Early Christians also developed their own iconography, for example, such symbols as the fish (ikhthus), were not borrowed from pagan iconography.

Early Christian art is generally divided into two periods by scholars: before and after either the Edict of Milan of 313, bringing the so-called Triumph of the Church under Constantine, or the First Council of Nicea in 325. The earlier period being called the Pre-Constantinian or Ante-Nicene Period and after being the period of the First seven Ecumenical Councils. The end of the period of early Christian art, which is typically defined by art historians as being in the 5th–7th centuries, is thus a good deal later than the end of the period of early Christianity as typically defined by theologians and church historians, which is more often considered to end under Constantine, around 313–325.


The Erotes () are a collective of winged gods associated with love and sexual intercourse in Greek mythology. They are part of Aphrodite's retinue. Erotes (Greek ἔρωτες) is the plural of Eros ("Love, Desire"), who as a singular deity has a more complex mythology.

Other named Erotes are Anteros ("Love Returned"), Himeros ("Impetuous Love" or "Pressing Desire"), Hedylogos ("Sweet-talk"), Hymenaios ("Bridal-Hymn"), Hermaphroditus ("Hermaphrodite" or "Effeminate"), and Pothos ("Desire, Longing," especially for one who is absent).The Erotes became a motif of Hellenistic art, and may appear in Roman art in the alternate form of multiple Cupids or Cupids and Psyches. In the later tradition of Western art, erotes become indistinguishable from figures also known as Cupids, amorini, or amoretti.

Gallo-Roman culture

The term "Gallo-Roman" describes the Romanized culture of Gaul under the rule of the Roman Empire. This was characterized by the Gaulish adoption or adaptation of Roman morals and way of life in a uniquely Gaulish context. The well-studied meld of cultures in Gaul gives historians a model against which to compare and contrast parallel developments of Romanization in other, less-studied Roman provinces.

Interpretatio romana offered Roman names for Gaulish deities such as the smith-god Gobannus, but of Celtic deities only the horse-patroness Epona penetrated Romanized cultures beyond the confines of Gaul.The barbarian invasions beginning in the early fifth century forced upon Gallo-Roman culture fundamental changes in politics, in the economic underpinning, in military organization. The Gothic settlement of 418 offered a double loyalty, as Western Roman authority disintegrated at Rome. The plight of the highly Romanized governing class is examined by R.W. Mathisen, the struggles of bishop Hilary of Arles by M. Heinzelmann.Into the seventh century, Gallo-Roman culture would persist particularly in the areas of Gallia Narbonensis that developed into Occitania, Cisalpine Gaul, Orléanais, and to a lesser degree, Gallia Aquitania. The formerly Romanized north of Gaul, once it had been occupied by the Franks, would develop into Merovingian culture instead. Roman life, centered on the public events and cultural responsibilities of urban life in the res publica and the sometimes luxurious life of the self-sufficient rural villa system, took longer to collapse in the Gallo-Roman regions, where the Visigoths largely inherited the status quo in 418. Gallo-Roman language persisted in the northeast into the Silva Carbonaria that formed an effective cultural barrier with the Franks to the north and east, and in the northwest to the lower valley of the Loire, where Gallo-Roman culture interfaced with Frankish culture in a city like Tours and in the person of that Gallo-Roman bishop confronted with Merovingian royals, Gregory of Tours. Based on mutual intelligibility, David Dalby counts seven languages descended from Gallo-Romance: Gallo-Wallon, French, Franco-Provençal (Arpitan), Romansh, Ladin, Friulian, and Lombard. However, other definitions are far broader, variously encompassing the Rhaeto-Romance languages, Occitano-Romance languages, and Gallo-Italic languages.

House of the Centenary

The House of the Centenary (Italian Casa del Centenario, also known as the House of the Centenarian) was the house of a wealthy resident of Pompeii, preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The house was discovered in 1879, and was given its modern name to mark the 18th centenary of the disaster. Built in the mid-2nd century BC, it is among the largest houses in the city, with private baths, a nymphaeum, a fish pond (piscina), and two atria. The Centenary underwent a remodeling around 15 AD, at which time the bath complex and swimming pool were added. In the last years before the eruption, several rooms had been extensively redecorated with a number of paintings.Although the identity of the house's owner eludes certainty, arguments have been made for either Aulus Rustius Verus or Tiberius Claudius Verus, both local politicians.Among the varied paintings preserved in the House of the Centenary is the earliest known depiction of Vesuvius, as well as explicit erotic scenes in a room that may have been designed as a private "sex club".

House of the Faun

The House of the Faun (Italian: Casa del Fauno), built during the 2nd century BC, was one of the largest and most impressive private residences in Pompeii, Italy, and housed many great pieces of art. It is one of the most luxurious aristocratic houses from the Roman republic, and reflects this period better than most archaeological evidence found even in Rome itself.

Interlace (art)

In the visual arts, interlace is a decorative element found in medieval art. In interlace, bands or portions of other motifs are looped, braided, and knotted in complex geometric patterns, often to fill a space. Interlacing is common in the Migration period art of Northern Europe, especially in the Insular art of Ireland and the British Isles and Norse art of the Early Middle Ages and in Islamic art.

Intricate braided and interlaced patterns, called plaits in British usage, are found in late Roman art in many parts of Europe, in mosaic floors and other media. Coptic manuscripts and textiles of 5th- and 6th-century Christian Egypt are decorated with broad-strand ribbon interlace ornament bearing a "striking resemblance" to the earliest types of knotwork found in the Insular art manuscripts of Ireland and the British Isles.

Luna (goddess)

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Luna is the divine embodiment of the Moon (Latin luna; cf. English "lunar"). She is often presented as the female complement of the Sun (Sol) conceived of as a god. Luna is also sometimes represented as an aspect of the Roman triple goddess (diva triformis), along with Proserpina and Hecate. Luna is not always a distinct goddess, but sometimes rather an epithet that specializes a goddess, since both Diana and Juno are identified as moon goddesses.In Roman art, Luna attributes are the crescent moon plus the two-yoke chariot (biga). In the Carmen Saeculare, performed in 17 BC, Horace invokes her as the "two-horned queen of the stars" (siderum regina bicornis), bidding her to listen to the girls singing as Apollo listens to the boys.Varro categorized Luna and Sol among the visible gods, as distinguished from invisible gods such as Neptune, and deified mortals such as Hercules. She was one of the deities Macrobius proposed as the secret tutelary of Rome. In Imperial cult, Sol and Luna can represent the extent of Roman rule over the world, with the aim of guaranteeing peace.Luna's Greek counterpart was Selene. In Roman art and literature, myths of Selene are adapted under the name of Luna. The myth of Endymion, for instance, was a popular subject for Roman wall painting.

Muscle cuirass

In classical antiquity, the muscle cuirass (Latin: lorica musculata), anatomical cuirass, or heroic cuirass is a type of cuirass made to fit the wearer's torso and designed to mimic an idealized human physique. It first appears in late Archaic Greece and became widespread throughout the 5th and 4th centuries BC. Originally made from hammered bronze plate, boiled leather also came to be used. It is commonly depicted in Greek and Roman art, where it is worn by generals, emperors, and deities during periods when soldiers used other types.

In Roman sculpture, the muscle cuirass is often highly ornamented with mythological scenes. Archaeological finds of relatively unadorned cuirasses, as well as their depiction by artists in military scenes, indicate that simpler versions were worn in combat situations. The anatomy of muscle cuirasses intended for use might be either realistic or reduced to an abstract design; the fantastically illustrated cuirasses worn by gods and emperors in Roman statues usually incorporate realistic nipples and the navel within the scene depicted.

Opus sectile

Opus sectile is an art technique popularized in the ancient and medieval Roman world where materials were cut and inlaid into walls and floors to make a picture or pattern. Common materials were marble, mother of pearl, and glass. The materials were cut in thin pieces, polished, then trimmed further according to a chosen pattern. Unlike tessellated mosaic techniques, where the placement of very small uniformly sized pieces forms a picture, opus sectile pieces are much larger and can be shaped to define large parts of the design.

Portrait of Terentius Neo

The Portrait of Terentius Neo is a famous, unique and exquisite fresco that was found in Pompeii in the House of Terentius Neo in Reg 7, Ins 2, 6. It is currently preserved at the Naples National Archaeological Museum.

It is considered one of the finest pieces of art from the area of Vesuvius.It was sometimes erroneously called the portrait of Paquius Proculus as the result of some confusion because the fresco was not found in the House of Paquius Proculus which is in Reg I, Ins 7, 1.An inscription was found on the outside of the house was an election recommendation for Terentius Neo.

The fresco depicts a pair of middle-class Pompeians believed to be man and wife. Terentius Neo was a baker as the house had been modified to include a bakery, and the portrait shows the couple as equal members of a confident and fashionable mercantile class. The man wears a toga, the mark of a Roman citizen, and holds a rotulus, suggesting he is also involved in local public and/or cultural events. The woman is in the foreground and holds a stylus and wax tablet, emphasising that she is of equal status, educated and literate.The fact that the portrait shows imperfections or peculiarities in the faces is rare in similar frescoes and brings to life the characters.

Rhea Silvia

Rhea Silvia (also written as Rea Silvia), and also known as Ilia , was the mythical mother of the twins Romulus and Remus, who founded the city of Rome. Her story is told in the first book of Ab Urbe Condita Libri of Livy and in fragments from Ennius, Annales and Quintus Fabius Pictor.

Roman mosaic

A Roman mosaic is a mosaic made during the Roman period, throughout the Roman Republic and later Empire. Mosaics were used in a variety of private and public buildings. They were highly influenced by earlier and contemporary Hellenistic Greek mosaics, and often included famous figures from history and mythology, such as Alexander the Great in the Alexander Mosaic. A large proportion of surviving examples come from Italian sites such as Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as other areas of the Roman Empire.

Roman portraiture

Roman portraiture was one of the most significant periods in the development of portrait art. Originating from ancient Rome, it continued for almost five centuries. Roman portraiture is characterised by unusual realism and the desire to convey images of nature in the high quality style often seen in ancient Roman art. Some busts even seem to show clinical signs. Several images and statues made in marble and bronze have survived in small numbers. Roman funerary art includes many portraits such as married couple funerary reliefs, which were most often made for wealthy freedmen rather than the patrician elite.

Portrait sculpture from the Republican era tends to be somewhat more modest, realistic, and natural compared to early Imperial works. A typical work might be one like the standing figure "A Roman Patrician with Busts of His Ancestors" (c. 30 B.C.).By the imperial age, though they were often realistic depictions of human anatomy, portrait sculpture of Roman emperors were often used for propaganda purposes and included ideological messages in the pose, accoutrements, or costume of the figure. Since most emperors from Augustus on were deified, some images are somewhat idealized. The Romans also depicted warriors and heroic adventures, in the spirit of the Greeks who came before them.

Roman sculpture

The study of Roman sculpture is complicated by its relation to Greek sculpture. Many examples of even the most famous Greek sculptures, such as the Apollo Belvedere and Barberini Faun, are known only from Roman Imperial or Hellenistic "copies". At one time, this imitation was taken by art historians as indicating a narrowness of the Roman artistic imagination, but, in the late 20th century, Roman art began to be reevaluated on its own terms: some impressions of the nature of Greek sculpture may in fact be based on Roman artistry.

The strengths of Roman sculpture are in portraiture, where they were less concerned with the ideal than the Greeks or Ancient Egyptians, and produced very characterful works, and in narrative relief scenes. Examples of Roman sculpture are abundantly preserved, in total contrast to Roman painting, which was very widely practiced but has almost all been lost. Latin and some Greek authors, particularly Pliny the Elder in Book 34 of his Natural History, describe statues, and a few of these descriptions match extant works. While a great deal of Roman sculpture, especially in stone, survives more or less intact, it is often damaged or fragmentary; life-size bronze statues are much more rare as most have been recycled for their metal.Most statues were actually far more lifelike and often brightly colored when originally created; the raw stone surfaces found today is due to the pigment being lost over the centuries.


Tyche (English: ; Greek: Τύχη Ancient Greek: [tý.kʰɛː] Modern Greek: [ˈti.çi] "luck"; Roman equivalent: Fortuna) was the presiding tutelary deity who governed the fortune and prosperity of a city, its destiny. In Classical Greek mythology, she is the daughter of Aphrodite and Zeus or Hermes.

In literature, she might be given various genealogies, as a daughter of Hermes and Aphrodite, or considered as one of the Oceanids, daughters of Oceanus, and Tethys, or of Zeus. She was connected with Nemesis and Agathos Daimon ("good spirit").

The Greek historian Polybius believed that when no cause can be discovered to events such as floods, droughts, frosts, or even in politics, then the cause of these events may be fairly attributed to Tyche.Increasingly during the Hellenistic period, cities venerated their own specific iconic version of Tyche, wearing a mural crown (a crown like the walls of the city). These are called the "Tyche of Alexandria" etc. This practice was continued in the iconography of Roman art, even into the Christian period, often as sets of the greatest cities of the empire. By then the Tyche were probably seen as merely personifications of the city with little religious significance.

William D. Walsh Family Library

The William D. Walsh Family Library is a library located at Fordham University's Rose Hill Campus in the Bronx, New York City. In its 2004 edition of The Best 351 Colleges, the Princeton Review ranked Fordham's William D. Walsh Family Library fifth in the country, ahead of Yale, Harvard, and Columbia.

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