Is it possible to list the many ways we are indebted to the ancient Romans? In our architectural forms (amphitheaters aka stadiums) and materials (concrete), our highway systems, our calendar, our currency, and our concepts of law and government, we see a Roman influence. In fact, it’s incredibly present in our architecture, in particular, Chicago’s Soldier Field, not only in the design of this stadium, modeled, in part, after the Roman amphitheater, the Colosseum, but in the spirit of the place. In both, we see demonstrations of physical feats, from football games to gladiatorial contests. And it is/was around these events that much contemporary and ancient Roman public life centered. As it has with Chicago and the Chicago Bears, these landmarks and their events created a national identity for the Romans. And they were particularly skilled, like we are, at constructing such images of themselves, for the sake of political and social, and cultural propaganda.
In their faces, we see ourselves, down to the smallest wrinkle and fleeting expression. For it was the Romans who added a sense of palpable realism to their art. In their many copies of original Greek sculptures, they combined the Greek love of idealism with the commanding reality of everyday life. We see that here in this portrait bust of an old man (ancestor and Roman patrician) the wrinkles on his brow, around his eyes and ears. In fact, it is so realistic, it is considered superrealistic or veristic. These kinds of objects, called imagines (likenesses), were kept in Roman patrician homes and displayed at funerals. And we see them in these naturalistic Fayum portraits, which show the supple art of encaustic painting on these portraits placed over the mummies of the dead. They combine Egyptian burial practices with a Roman love of realism and individualism during a period in which Rome controlled this part of Egypt.
So, it’s these two art forms on which we’ll focus in our brief study of ancient Rome: their minimalist and utilitarian architecture with their love for realist specificity in portraiture. We’ll look at a handful of objects, spanning the Roman republic, early and late empire (500 BCE to 2 nd century CE) which attest to this distinctly Roman trait. We can even see it here in the Roman aqueduct, an ingenious system for transporting fresh water to Rome, using the basic laws of gravity, which allowed for the Romans to have sophisticated irrigation and sewage systems, enabling Rome to remain clean and prosperous and its population to thrive.
But not only did the Romans model their work after the ancient Greeks, whose Classical period was prospering during the early days of the Roman republic. They combined this Greek love of ideal beauty, as we’ve seen in Polykleitos’s Spear Bearer , with Etruscan love for informal realism, as seen in the vibrant expressions and gesticulating hands of Apulu and other Etruscan sculptures. The Etruscans had thrived in the 8 th through 6 th centuries BCE, but were ultimately defeated by the Romans in 509 BCE only to have their style appropriated and modified by the Romans. In fact, you could say that the Romans, through their imperialistic plundering of Europe and beyond, were quite skilled at assimilating other cultures and their artistic styles into their own.
In addition to the overall design of the Ara Pacis being Greek-inspired, the details of the reliefs on the south frieze also show an indebtedness to the Greek Parthenon, particularly the Panathenaic procession surrounding the cella of the Parthenon. However, unlike the Parthenon, these figures are less generic and idealized and more realistically rendered. The Parthenon frieze represents the idea of the procession, while the Ara Pacis procession shows a specific event, likely the inaugural ceremony of 13 BCE. Also, the figures are recognizable and include people of all ages, from young to old. This too had a propagandistic function, intended to encourage strong family bonds during a period of declining birth rates.
Lecture, Ancient Rome
The Roman Empire Aerial views of Solider Field, Chicago & the Colosseum, Rome, ca. 70-80CE Gladiator, 2000, Ridley Scotthttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1UmHfWCw-4
Roman Realism Fayum mummy portrait,Head of an old man, mid-first century BCE. 2nd century CE, Louvre Museum
The Roman Empire Republic = 509 – 27 BCE (ended with Augustus) Early Empire = 27 BCE – 96 CE High Empire = 96 – 192 CEMap of the Roman Empire, 2nd century CE Pont du Gard, Nimes, France, 40-60 CE With the Greeks, there’s always an aesthetic element. I prefer the virile Realism of Rome, which doesn’t embellish. The truthfulness of Roman art- It’s like their buildings, but all the more beautiful in their genuine simplicity. -Pablo Picasso
Before Rome – The Etruscans Praxiteles Aphrodite of Knidos, ca. 350-340BCE. Apulu (Apollo), ca. 510-500BCE. Fig. 3-3.
Roman Art Forum of Trajan ColosseumDates and Places:• 509BCE-337CE• Italian peninsula, Western Europe, Near EastPeople:• Republic (senate and elected consuls)→Empire• Polytheistic (Greek and Etruscan gods become Roman, e.g. Tinia (Etruscan) to Zeus Model of the city of Rome during the (Greek) to Jupiter (Roman) fourth century CE. Fig. 3-9.• Military expansion spreads Arch of Constantine culture• Greek “craze” (began 3rd century BCE)
Roman ArtThemes:• Portraits• Gods and rituals• Homes, civic buildings, templesForms:• Verism, idealism, perspective• Concrete construction Still Life with peaches, Herculaneum,• Etruscan influence Italy, 62-79 CE• Greek influence
The Republic - Pompeii Left: Aerial view of Pompeii, second century BCE. Fig. 3-12. Right: Aerial view of the amphitheater, Pompeii, ca. 70BCE. Fig. 3-13.
The Republic - Pompeii Cubiculum (bedroom) atrium peristyle (colonnade) Impluvium (basin) Left: Atrium of the House of the Vettii, 62-79CE. Fig. 3-15. Right: Restored view and plan of a typical Roman house. Fig. 3-16.
The Republic - Pompeii• Pompeii typical Roman city• Civic center is forum (public square) and basilica (administrative center, law court)• Amphitheater (“double theater”) supported by concrete barrel vaults• Two-story colonnade• Elite live in inward-looking domus (most live in apartment buildings)• Central atrium (partially open), axial plan Aerial view of Pompeii, second• Mural painting on interior walls of homes century BCE. Fig. 3-12. and businesses• Covered by eruption from Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE, preserved under ash Atrium of the House of the Vettii, 62-79CE. Fig. 3-15.
The Republic - Pompeii Dionysiac mystery frieze, ca. 60-50BCE, Villa of the Mysteries
The Republic - Pompeii• Second style mural painting• Illusion of three-dimensional world via linear perspective• Atmospheric perspective for hazy distance• Celebration of rites of Dionysus (Greek god, Roman Bacchus) by women• Mortals and gods Dionysiac mystery frieze, ca. 60- 50BCE. Fig. 3-18• Unofficial mystery religion• Initiation ceremony (winged Pompeii: Life and Death in a Roman Town BBC nude woman whips kneeling http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zyz0kM25uoc woman)
Roman Art: EarlyEmpire Polykleitos, Doryphoros (Spear Bearer) ca. 450-440BCE Greek Portrait of Augustus as general, early first century BCE. Fig. 3-1.
Roman Art: Early Empire• Emperor and pontifex maximus (chief priest of state) following defeat of Cleopatra and Marc Antony• Pax Romana (two centuries of peace)• Idealized (youthful) imperial portrait molds public opinion (political propaganda)• Orator pose• In contrapposto like the Spear Bearer• Cupid for divine lineage• Military victory on Aule Metele (Arringatore) breastplate (over 1st century BCE, Etruscan Parthians)http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/roman-sculpture.html Portrait of Augustus as general, early first century BCE. Fig. 3-1.
Roman Art: Early Empire Corinthian capitals (Greek) Ara Pacis Augustae, Altar of Augustan Peace, Rome, 13-9 BCE
Roman Art: Early Empire Procession of the Imperial family, detail from south frieze, Ara Pacis Augustae 13 BCE, Roman Frieze = part of the entablature between the architrave and cornice; any sculptured or painted band in a building. Elders and Maidens, detail of Panathenaic Festival procession east frieze, 3’6”, Parthenon, Greek
Roman Art: Early Empire Aerial view of the Colosseum, ca. 70-80CE, Rome Fig. 3-28. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ycODdZkRpQ&feature=relmfu
Roman Art: Early Empire• Flavian dynasty (Vespasian)• Built to gain public approval• Gladiatorial combats, naval battles (arena flooded), etc• 50,000 spectators entered through 160’ 80 entrances/exits (tarp cover during bad weather)• Substructures included waiting rooms• Concrete barrel-vaulted skeleton• Arches flanked by engaged columns and lintel• Tuscan Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian on first three tiers• Greek orders + Roman arcade Detail of the façade of the Colosseum, 70-80CE. Fig. 3-29.
Roman Art: HighEmpire 128’ Column of Trajan & detail, 112CE. Fig. 3- 35.http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/column-of-trajan.html
Roman Art: High Empire• First High Emperor Trajan (Spaniard) enlarges empire• Creates forum with temple, basilica, equestrian portrait, market nearby• Column with Trajan’s victories in 625’ spiral narrative frieze (150 episodes, 2,500 figures, not chronological) Apollodorus of• In low relief, simple scenes of war Damascus, preparation and battles Forum of• Monument to Roman military prowess Trajan, 112CE. Fig. 3-34. (records Dacian military campaigns)• Nude sculpture of emperor once set on top• Originally held Trajan and wife’s ashes in base Column of Trajan, 112CE. Fig. 3-35.
Roman Art: High Empire 142’ diameter 142’ tall Restored cutaway view of the Pantheon, 118-125CE. Fig. 3-38. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfyO1w96lUo
Pantheon, 118-Roman Art: High Empire 125CE. Fig. 3- 38.• Temple of all the gods• Built by Hadrian (Spaniard)• Concrete• Colonnaded courtyard• Porch with Corinthian columns and pediment• Cylindrical drum, hemispherical dome (142’ diameter, pumice to lighten, decreased thickness toward top (coffering))• 30’ diameter oculus (eye = opening at top)• Architecture of space, not mass• Symbolic = intersection of earth (drum, horizontal circle) and dome (heavens, vertical circle)• Dramatic use of light, reflects movement of sun
Roman Art:High Empire “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself in your way of thinking.” -Marcus Aurelius Equestrian status of Marcus Aurelius, ca. 175CE. Fig. 3-40.
Roman Art: High Empire• Equestrian portrait (only one of this size to survive)• Gilded bronze• Superhuman scale (Aurelius enlarged)• Gesture of greeting and authority• Animated & balanced (right arm and right leg of horse raised)• Introspective verism (realism) - detailed anatomy of man (face, individualized expression) and horse• Character of Marcus Aurelius important• Wrote Meditations, philosophical treatise• Thought to represent Constantine so not melted after advent of Christianity• Significantly influenced Renaissance Equestrian statue of Marcus artists Aurelius, ca. 175CE. 11’6”http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/equestrian-sculpture-of-marcus-aurelius.html
Roman Art: Late Empire• Empire in decline in late imperial era (3rd and 4th century CE)• Rise of Christianity (Edict of Milan, ending persecution of Christians, in 313 CE• Constantine, a Christian, founded “New Rome” (renamed Byzantine, Constantinople)• Beginning of Middle Ages• Basilica with colossal portrait of emperor (also baths and arch)• Fragments remain• Absolute ruler (idealized image Portrait of Constantine, ca. of eternal authority) 315-330CE. 8’6”. Fig. 3-48.