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Roman Synopsis:

Roman Art

Unified by the common language Latin, the people of Italy eventually concentrated their political center in Rome. The Roman government sponsored large scale building projects that included basilicas, racetracks, theaters, public baths, aqueducts, housing and new towns (Stokstad, 134). Roman art can be divided into the Republican and Empirical periods.

The last of the Roman kings were overthrown in 509 BCE, and the Republican form of rule, controlled by the Senate, was adopted. Art and architecture was influenced by both Etruscan and Greek models. The standard temple was Etruscan in form, decorated with engaged Greek columns. Secular architecture included domestic apartments and houses (examples at Pompeii); aqueducts, or levels of arcades to transport water; triumphal arches such as the Ara Pacis, to commemorate the victory of Augustus; colosseums, constructed in concrete and decorated with increasingly complex engaged Greek columns; and basilicas, great halls used as administrative centers. The greatest Roman accomplishment in architecture is the Pantheon, a giant rotunda with an entrance porch featuring Greek elements. The interior of the building is covered with a coffered dome centered by an oculous.

Relief sculpture, such as that of the Ara Pacis, became increasingly complex, depicting individuals and suggesting spatial depth "by carving the closest elements in high relief and those farthest back in increasingly lower relief" (Stokstad, 138). Sculptures on the Arch of Titus have an even more dynamic quality, insinuating that the marchers are moving toward the arch. Free standing sculpture was used mainly for political propaganda, such as the statue of Augustus of Primaporta. Equestrian statues, such as that of Marcus Aurelius, were also popular for the glorification of leaders. Wall paintings included all subjects, even false architecture. "Trompe l'oeil" was also popular in mosaics, located mainly on the floor.

For a brief period in the third century there was a shift toward the abstraction of figures and the simplification of form, as seen in The Tetrarchs, a symbolic representation of the four-man political rule of the period. The Arch of Constantine combines new works in this simplified sculptural style with pieces of sculpture taken from earlier works, executed in a more naturalistic style.


The Art of Ancient Rome
Roman Republic 509-27 B.C.
Early Empire 27 B.C. - A.D. 96
High Empire A.D. 96 - 192
Late Empire A.D. 192 -337


Tablinum - room beyond the atrium that housed urns, masks, and busts of family ancestors
Oratorical gesture - (ad locutio)
Barrel vault
Groin vault
Nave - columned main central space of a basilica, usually clearstoried
Aisles - columned side spaces parallel to the nave
Apses - semicircular or octagonal niches at the ends of basilicas
Linear perspective
Atmospheric perspective
Cuirass Statues, referring to the military breastplate worn by the figures. This formula documents the military function of the Emperor as the leader of the army
Panegyrics - laudatory descriptions of the Emperor


Roman Republic 509-27 BC

Temple of “Fortuna Virilis”, Rome, ca. 75 B.C.

Temple of “the Sibyl” or of “Vesta”, Tivoli, early first cent. B.C.

Patrician carrying two portrait heads, 30 B.C. - A.t). 15

Head of a Roman patrician, Marble, approx. 1’2” ca. 75 - 50 B.C.

Atrium, House of the silver wedding, Pompeii, early first cent. B.C.

First Style wall painting in the fauces of the Samnite House, Herculaneum, late second cent. B.C.

Dionysiac mystery frieze, Second Style, Villa of the Mysteries, Pompeii, 5’ 4” h. ca. 60 - 50 B.C.

Gardenscape, Second Style, Villa of Livia, Primaporta, 6’ 7”, ca. 30 - 20 B.C.

Thirds Style, Villa of Agrippa Postuxnus, Boscotrecase, 7’ 8”, ca. 10 B.C.

Fourth Style, House of Vettii, Pompeii, ca. AD. 70 - 79

Still life with peaches, detail of a Fourth Style wall painting, Herculaneum, ca. A.D. 62- 79

Early Empire 27 B.C. - A.D. 96

©1995 by Justin D. Paola

Portrait of Augustus as general, Prim aporta, Marble copy of bronze original, 6’ 8”, ca. 20 B.C.

Ara Paci Augustae, Rome, 13 - 9 B.C.

Female personification (Tellus?), panel from east facade, 5’ 3”

Procession of the imperial family, detail of south frieze, 3’ 3”

Maison Carree, Nimes, France, c. AD. 1 - 10

Pont du Gaurd, near Nimes, France, c. 16 B.C.

Colosseum, Rome, Italy, AD. 70 - 80

Portrait of Vespasian, Marble, 16” c. A.D. 69 - 79

Portrait of a Flavian woman, Marble, 2’ 1” c. A.D. 90

Arch of Titus, Rome, Italy, after A.D. 81

Spoils of Jerusalem, Marble, 7’ 10”

Triumph of Titus, Marble, 7’ 10”


Arch of Titus, sketch by Jennifer Bush

High Empire A.D. 96 - 192


Column of Trajan, Rome, A.D. 112

Pantheon, Rome, 142’ c. AD. 118 - 125

Canopus and Serapeum, Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli, Italy, c. AD. 130 - 138

Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius, Rome, Bronze, 11’ 6” c. AD. 175

Late Empire A. D. 192 - 337

Portrait of Caracalla, Marble, c. A.D. 211- 217

Baths of Caracalla, Rome, c. AD. 212 - 216

Battle of Romans and barbarians (Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus), Rome, Marble, 5’ c. AD. 250 - 260

Portrait of the four tetrarachs, Porphyry, 43” c. AiD. 305

Palace of Diocletian, Split Croatia, c. A.D. 300 - 305

Arch of Constantine, Rome, c. A.D. 312 - 315

Portrait of Constantine, from the Basilica Nova, Rome, Marble, approx. 8’6” Ca. A.D. 315 - 330

Basilica Nova, (Basilica of Constantine), Rome, C. AD. 306 - 312



Nero's Domus Aurea Fresco Preservation

An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors

Into the Roman World

RomanSites is a bibliographical tool that can be used as a proxy for searching the Web very rapidly for Roman material – in essence, a manual search engine*/home.html
Vitruvius: On Architecture - online text of the famous tome

DJB Quick Notes

Roman city planning (G9-218):


Pompeii Styles:

Portrait of Augustus as general from past: contrapustto, oratorian gesture, dressed in armor, bare feet (indicating person is deceased).

DJB In-Depth Notes