Ancient Roman fresco
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Ancient Roman Arts

    The arts flourished in ancient Rome, and some of the visual arts reached a pinnacle that would not be seen again until the Renaissance. The arts of Rome included painting, mosaic, sculpture, architecture, theater, and music. There were also minor forms of Roman art which flourished in ancient times, such as glass work, pottery, and metal work, and even images struck on coins, but this website lacks the space to touch on those art forms. It is enough that an overview of the major art forms is presented. Unfortunately, the ravages of time have deprived us a full appreciation of ancient Roman art.

    Roman art developed as the traded with, conquered, and absorbed first her neighbors and then other lands. As a result of this contact, Roman art displays the influence of native Italic, Etruscan, Greek, and even Celtic art forms. Of all the outside influences, Greek culture had perhaps the greatest impact on Roman art. It is remarkable that what we know of many ancient Greek masterpieces of sculpture that have not survived we know as a result of existing Roman copies of the works. The Greeks were also pioneers of perspective and realism in drawing and painting, portrait painting, the art of fresco painting, and sculpting in both high and low relief, and the Romans borrowed heavily from their examples.

    As the empire expanded and great wealth began to flow into Italy from Europe and the Near East, wealthy Romans began to decorate their homes with elaborate frescoes, fantastic mosaics, and beautiful sculptures. To impress themselves on the voting public or to add luster to the family name, wealthy Romans would also commission public works of art, some of which still survive.

    Roman mosaic work also thrived. In addition to fine examples of mosaic portraits and illustrations of historical and mythological subjects, examples of ancient mosaic floor designs and wall art often give us a vivid picture of various aspects of everyday life, from food, household items, sports, and entertainment.

    Roman theater evolved from religious ceremonies and practices in the fourth century BC. Throughout the history of Rome, theatrical presentations were part of the celebrations of Ludi, or periods of public holiday, which had a large religious component. Roman theater fell into the genres of comedy and tragedy.

    While no early Roman tragedies survive at least three were known to exist and there are two surviving examples from the time of the empire. Several Roman comedies survive, all based on Greek subjects, but Roman theater did not include the use of a chorus to separate the dramatic episodes of a play. A Roman innovation to theater was the inclusion of musical accompaniment to the dialog and action.

    Ancient Roman music was a part of the religion and culture of the civilization from its onset. The tibia, a sort of flute, was played at sacrifices and music was usually played at funerals, weddings and sporting events and games. Roman music was heavily influenced by the Etruscan culture from which the Romans borrowed heavily.

To learn more about each genre of ancient Roman art, click on the Images below.

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Ancient Resource Project Guttenberg Archaeology Roman History title="Art Institute of Chicago" alt="Art Institute" /> title="Attalus History Resource" alt="Attalus" /> title="The British Museum" alt="British Museum" /> title="Rome Reborn" alt="Rome Reborn"/>" title="Amazon" alt="Buy the book" /> Default