Ancient Roman Art and Architecture

Trevi Fountain

Ancient Rome ruled the earth for many generations. It was seen as the most powerful nation because it had excellent military organization warfare, engineering as well as unbeatable architecture. There are many inventions even today that started in ancient Rome, including the dome and gloin vault. Apart from these, the development of concrete and the extensive European network of roads and bridges is started here. Considering this, one can easily assume that Ancient Rome was the most developed kingdom, and so had many works of art.

Art is always associated with the history of human civilization; it should, therefore, be the foundation of early Rome. But that is not the case. Surprisingly, Roman sculptors and painters produced a tiny number of remarkable original fine art. Most of their works came from recycling Greek art, which they found to be better than what they had. Many artworks practiced by Roman, even today, including sculptures made of bronze/sarcophagi, paintings, and decorative art has a Greek origin. Every piece of fine art that came from the Roman Empire had already been perfected in ancient Greece. It does not come as a surprise therefore that you will find names of many Greek sculptors and painters, like Phidias, Kresilas, Myron, Heracleam Agatharchos and Parrhasius mentioned as greatest of all times. At the same time, Romans appear only as skilled tradesmen. They have remained anonymous without any explicit mention of neither their names nor the works they did.

This does not, however, mean that Roman Art did not have any sense of innovation. On the contrary, they had the most magnificent architecture of the ancient world. They also created great landscape paintings as well as portrait busts. Several masterpieces come from this period, which is quite outstanding. One of the most amazing features across the world is, for instance, the “Ara Pacis Augustae and Trajan’s Column.” Even so, we can still conclude that art in Prehistoric Rome was derivative and, more importantly, utilitarian. The artwork was meant to serve a higher purpose of good, which included showing off Roman values and the power it carried over other nations. It might have been derived from Greeks, but still, it had the Roman culture engulfed to instill in different societies.

How art started in Rome

Rome is believed to have existed far beyond 750BC. But it existed for many centuries without being noticed anywhere else in the world. Its initial rulers were Etruscan kings who encouraged the making of Etruscan art such as a mural, sculptures, and metal works to cover tombs and palaces. Later in 500 BC, when the Roman Republic was founded, the power of the Etruscan kings started waning. By 300BC, Romans began to meet with beautiful and already flourishing art from Greece. This is where the process known as Hellenization began when the Romans fell under the influence of Greek art. Much Greek art was carried to Rome, bringing along artists in pursuit of careers.

Despite the overwhelming number of enthusiasts, Roman leaders were still not concerned. They were mainly focused on survival and military supremacy, perhaps the reason they did not notice the influence of Greek art from the beginning. After winning the Punic War against Hannibal and the Carthaginians in 200 BC; however, the empire felt safe enough to focus on the cultural establishment. But then, it did not have a cultural tradition yet, copying most artistic works from Greece still. Rome had a unique setting from other kingdoms those times. Very few cultural things, including artistic languages, were associated directly with it.

Inferior art culture

 Even the heroic statues came without heads so that buyers could fit their own. This happened even though Roman architecture and engineering were bold enough. They all praised the spectacular military triumphs, but they lacked boldness in art. And this inferiority complex led them to recycle Greek sculptures. No one knows for sure why Roman was so weak in culture. There are a few classical scholars who have pointed out the pragmatic temperament of ancient Rome as the main reason. Others have mentioned their focus on territorial prowess as their luck of concentration on culture.

Roman art, as the Romans themselves, tended to be more realistic and direct. Every piece had detailed information without any idealism. During the later years of Hellenism (BC 26 to BC 200), there started to arise some propaganda values in statues. They aimed more at conveying political messages through poses and accessories. Therefore, the realistic and direct nature of art in these periods became more of a documentary style. The Hellenistic style conveyed messages of military success with attachments to propagandist values.

Important forms of ancient Roman art

Roman Sculptures

Sculptures became the highest and most sort after forms of art in Rome during the Hellenism period. Even though they came from Greeks, they were delivered without heads so that the owners could fill them. The only perfect the classical Greek sculptures with a focus on realism. What is witnessed until today are mixed styled as prevalent in Eastern art.

Wall paintings

The Roman building was mostly designed in the interior with bold colors and designed. The use of stucco to create relief came hand in hand with wall paintings and fresco. They all presented different ranges of intricate details with a realistic approach. Wall painter used natural earth colors like shades of reds, yellows, and browns.


Private homes and public buildings were a standard feature. They came from different parts of Africa to Antioch. Know as opus tessellatum; they were created with small, black, white, and colored marbles. They included great themes like gladiator contests, sports, agriculture, hunting, animals, and plants. Roman mosaics came from their own culture and were cultivated to present different ideas.

Minor arts

Ancient Rome was full of different types of minor arts. They illustrated their love for fine precious material with different designs. Such works include all kinds of jewelry, small gold portraits, silverware like mirrors, cup plates, and many others. There were also gem-cutting and engravings, sardonyx cameos, seals, vessels, carved and engrave ivory potteryTrevi Fountain, and many other artistic items.


1016 Words


Mar 04, 2020


3 Pages

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