Roman art, term for the art of Roman antiquity, in the narrower sense the representative, especially official art in Rome and other centers of the Roman Empire.

The political-military successes of Rome led in the 2nd century BC. For the development of a unified urban Roman culture, which was passed on from Rome to the constantly expanding sphere of power. According to globalsciencellc, Since Roman art served political purposes and state self-expression to a large extent, Rome remained the actual center, where the artistic forms of expression that were relevant for the rest of the empire were generally developed. Roman art originated in a Hellenistic environment that had also influenced Etruscan art. The Romans continued to draw on Etruscan builders and artists for a long time. Since the 3rd century BC Hellenistic artists flocked to Rome, even more so in the 2nd century BC. BC, where v. a. the “baroque” art of Pergamon was formative, which partly entered into a symbiosis with the Etruscan tradition. The demand for originals and copies of Greek works was great, especially in the 2nd century BC. An abundance of Greek, BC. a. Hellenistic, works of art such as sculptures, silver utensils, etc. to Rome (spoils of war and art theft). The early 1st century BC BC turned to the Greek classical period, as well Augustus, the v. a. Renewed the Roman values ​​under the guiding principle of the »Pietas« and expressed them in a new, strictly regulated classicism of art and architecture (Augustan art). Roman art v. a. in the fields of architecture, portrait and relief. In the various provinces and regions, apart from the often pure takeovers in the official area, local traditions also remained formative, and there were also developments of their own (provincial Roman art). The end of a proper Roman art is not sharply delimited; in general, the art of the post-Constantine period up to the death of Justinian I (565 AD) is called late antique art; the Early Christian art is part of late antiquity; Byzantine art has its roots here.

Masterpieces of Roman Art (selection)


  • Colosseum in Rome (inaugurated in 79/80 AD)
  • Pantheon in Rome (110 / 115–128 AD)
  • Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli (118-134 AD)
  • Baths of Caracalla in Rome (212–217 AD)
  • Diocletian’s Palace in Split with the emperor’s mausoleum (295–305 AD)
  • Arch of Constantine in Rome (313–315 AD)

Plastic and relief

  • Bronze statue, so-called arringatore (around 100–90 BC; Florence, Museo Archeologico)
  • Ara Pacis Augustae in Rome (13-9 BC)
  • Statue of Augustus by Prima Porta (around AD 14; Rome, Vatican Collections)
  • Statue of Empress Faustina the Younger as Venus with Cupid (160–165 AD; Rome, Vatican Collections)
  • Marc Aurel Column in Rome (consecrated 193 AD)
  • Large Ludovian battle sarcophagus (around 260 AD; Rome, Museo Nazionale Romano)

Painting and mosaic

  • Dionysian ritual, wall frieze in the Mystery Villa near Pompeii (around 80-30 BC)
  • Ixion room in the house of the Vettiers in Pompeii (AD 62–79)
  • Alexander mosaic from the House of the Faun in Pompeii (end of the 2nd century BC; Naples, Museo Nazionale Archeologico)
  • Mosaic of the so-called “Little Hunt” from the villa in Piazza Armerina in Sicily (probably 2nd half of the 4th century AD)


In the sacred area, the city of Rome mostly followed the Etruscan type with the one-sided frontal podium in its temples. The high Roman podium temples were usually rectangular and had columns only on the front side, on both sides columns were partially blinded (pseudoperipteros, e.g. Maison Carrée in Nîmes). There were also round temples (Rome, Temple of Hercules; Tivoli, Temple of Vesta).

The columns went back to the Etruscan type (Tuscan column), the Greek-Hellenistic column orders were taken up, whereby (since Augustus) the Corinthian was preferred (Temple of Mars Ultor, Forum Romanum), and a separate Roman composite order of the capital was created.

Greater importance came from the 4th / 3rd. Century BC To the Roman civil engineering, which was linked to Etruscan predecessors. The powerful, calm Roman arch shaped bridges, aqueducts and amphitheaters (Rome, Milvian Bridge; aqueducts near Alcántara, Segovia; Pont du Gard; Colosseum).

The application of mortar works in monumental architecture from the end of the 2nd century BC onwards had significant consequences for the overall development. The cast masonry made of rubble and mortar forming the solid core was initially clad with irregular (Opus incertum), then with regular tuff stones (Opus reticulatum) and, since the 1st century AD, with bricks. This construction made possible the vaulting technique, which was particularly cultivated by the Romans. With it, they erected enormous substructures for terraces, which made them largely independent of the terrain, and constructed huge domes over high, wide spaces (thermal baths, basilicas, palaces, pantheons).

With the redesign of the Roman Forum by Augustus and the redesign of the Augustus Forum, the character of the old city centers changed (also outside of Rome). They became large, closed, open-space systems. These squares are characterized by axial planning and alignment with a podium temple, a basilica, usually with the long side open to the square, stools, porticos (forum). Symmetry also determined the military camp (Castra) and the new veteran cities (Aosta, Turin, Verona, Timgad, Trier).

The new spatial architecture corresponded to the formation of a facade architecture as an independent architectural element; Theaters (Scaenae Frons), fountains, public buildings, palace courtyards were given monumental fronts. The preference for richly structured facades also characterizes a new creation of Roman art: the triumphal arch, erected as an arch of honor on almost all forums of the empire. Roman art also went its own way with the development of the amphitheater (the first solid example of the building type was built in Pompeii after 80 BC), the forms of the basilica with the tribunal of the magistrate in the rear, the warehouses (horrea) and various Grabbautypen (tomb) and the differentiation of the well n since the 1st century. Chr. (Nero) symmetrically laid out thermal baths.

In the residential building, in addition to the single house, in which elements of the Italian atrium house and the Greek peristyle house were arranged according to the principle of axial perspective, multi-storey tenements with sometimes lavish facades, increasingly luxurious private rural villas (e.g. Ciceros Tusculanum) and magnificent imperial ones Palaces and villas (Capri, Sperlonga, Baia, Tivoli).

The highlights of imperial building undertakings after Augustus were the Trajan’s Forum and the Trajan’s Markets in Rome, an imposing brick building with numerous shops, magazines and a large sales hall behind its curved, multi-storey front, as well as in the reign of Hadrian, a heyday of architecture and the arts, the Pantheon and Castel Sant’Angelo and at Tivoli the complex Hadrian’s Villa.

Since the last third of the 2nd century, there has been an increase in dimensions on the one hand, and an accumulation of small structural elements on the other. These new tendencies can be found most clearly in the architecture of the North African and eastern provinces (Leptis Magna, Sabratha, Palmyra, Baalbek), which are now increasingly important for the development of “imperial art”. The structuring of the temples and cities is a characteristic of the Antonine-Severan art (138 to 235 AD) and an expression of the organizational skills of the Romans. Increasingly, thermal baths and basilicas were erected as gigantic magnificent buildings, which present an already unreal illusory world of the Roman great power. The existing building types also entered into new connections, e.g. B. in Diocletian’s Palace in Split, in which the traditional form of the Castra with residential palace, Temple and mausoleum is designed into a fortress-like overall complex. New religious communities built new cult spaces (mithraea) for Rome; the Christians used the Roman basilica to build their churches.

Roman Arts

Roman Arts
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