Art History Chapters

  1. Introduction to Western Art History
  2. Art in the Ancient Middle East to 400 B.C.
  3. Art of the Hebrews and Jews, 2000 B.C. to A.D. 135
  4. Art of the Ancient Greeks, 1200 B.C. to A.D. 146
  5. Art of the Romans, 753 B.C. to A.D. 300
  6. Christian Art in the Roman Empire, 4 B.C. to A.D. 1453
  7. Art in the Early Middle Ages, A.D. 500 to 1000
  8. Art in the High and Later Middle Ages, 1000 to 1500
  9. Art of the Renaissance, 1400 to 1648
  10. Art in Early Modern Europe, 1543 to 1815
  11. Art during the Industrial Revolution, 1764 to 1914
  12. Art in the Age of Imperialism and Nationalism, 1810 to 1918
  13. Art during the InterWar Years and World War II, 1917 to 1945
  14. Art during the Early Cold War, 1945 to 1980
  15. Art during the Contemporary Era, 1980 to the Present
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Art History for Chapter 5:

Imperium Romanum: The Romans, 753 B.C. to A.D. 300


Roman art is usually characterized as being dominated by the cultural influence of the Greeks. Much of Greek Art actually survives because the Romans so enthusiastically made copies for their own palaces, temples, markets, and homes.
The Etruscans who ruled Rome before 500 seem to also have instructed the Romans on art. Ancient burial tombs of the Etruscans, that housed families in death as they lived, survive to show us how personal and touching and graceful Etruscan art could be.


mosaic mosaic Painting/Graphic Arts

The buried remains of Pompeii and Herculaneum uniquely instruct us about much of the graphic arts. Only there did a substantial number of paintings survive to be excavated after the Eighteenth Century. The Romans also showed a special talent in mosaics. Roman paintings and mosaics reveal their ability to portray objects naturalistic anatomy, perspective, and color. The artists of the Renaissance a thousand years later had to re-invent those skills without benefit of being familiar with Roman precedents.

hadrian hadrian


With their sculpture the carried on the Hellenistic trend toward emotion laden realism. Portraits of emperors were used to solidify imperial loyalty. All the emperors were recognizable as individuals, some with aspects of their character showing through.

Important sculptures in bas-relief adorned triumphal arches or columns to memorialize victories of slaughter and conquest.

oldromanwoman roman woman The busts of many regular Roman citizens likewise survive, often with quite moving results.


aqueduct Architecture

Roman engineering skills helped them to secure their empire across the ancient world. The Roman contributions to urban architecture were practical and beautiful. The rounded arch, vaults (barrel vault for naves, groin vault where naves intersect), use of brick and concrete, covered with marble facades, allowed buildings to be constructed with speed and grandeur. They were taller and covered more square footage than any thing rival civilizations, or barbarians, had. pantheon

The Pantheon built from A.D. 118 to 125 survives as a noble ruin to engineering and grace. The forums, the basilicas, baths, colosseums, and aqueducts enriched urban life.
Many of their governmental and religious structures followed Greek style and format. The Romans preferred this late Corinthian style of columns.
For private living the rich had villas out outside of town, the middle classes and urban poor lived in tenement apartments in the cities.


Last Updated: 17 January 2017