Roman Art - Ancient Rome - Roman Republican Art
PRINT THIS PAGE answers questions: an online encyclopedia of history and science

Roman Art


Roman art grows out of Etruscan art, and at first it is a lot like Etruscan art. Because of this, it has a close relationship to Greek art as well. Roman art as a type of its own really gets going around 500 BC with the beginning of the Roman Republic. Roman people were particularly interested in portraiture: in making statues that really looked like one particular person, especially a famous person. Greek people were more interested in ideals: what is the most beautiful man? what is the most athletic man? But the Romans were more interested in reality.

A lot of people living in Rome seem to have believed, also, that having a good image of somebody's face was important to keeping their ghost happy after they died so they wouldn't haunt you. So throughout the time of the Roman Republic and all the way through the Roman Empire we see a lot of portraits.
Ara Pacis
Ara Pacis
About 200 BC, the Romans began conquering Greece, and this changed their art styles a lot. As the Roman soldiers marched through Greece, they saw a lot of Greek art in the temples, and in the cemeteries, and in public squares and people's houses. The Romans thought of the Greeks as being cooler than they were, so whatever the Greeks were doing in art, the Romans wanted some. They brought home a lot of the Greek art they saw (either by buying it or by stealing it, or maybe sometimes the Greeks gave it to them for presents), and they also brought back Greek sculptors (often as slaves) to make more art for them in Rome. Augustus' Ara Pacis, for example (the Altar of Peace), shows a lot of influence from Greek art in the fancy swirls on the front, in the frieze which is so much like the Parthenon frieze, and in the meanders underneath the frieze.

Learn by doing: look at public buildings near you. Do we also copy Greek and Roman art?
Roman Art - the Roman Empire

Bibliography and further reading about Roman art:

Ancient Roman Art, by Susie Hodge (1998). For kids.

Roman Art: Romulus to Constantine, by Nancy and Andrew Ramage (4th Edition 2004). The standard textbook.

A Coloring Book of Ancient Rome, from Bellerophon Books (1988). For kids.

Roman pottery
Ancient Rome home

Copyright 2012-2015 Karen Carr, Portland State University. This page last updated September 2015.

About - Contact - Privacy Policy - What do the broom and the mop say when you open the closet door?