Roman art, term for the art of ancient Rome and the Roman Empire.

It was created on the basis of Italian and Etruscan art under the strong influence of Hellenistic art (greek art). The architecture, the portrait and the relief with historical depiction were in the foreground in all epochs of Roman art. In architecture, the most important elements are the arch, the vault and the dome. With them are connected – as a Greek heritage – the column orders. The Roman temple shape is the podium temple (temple on a high substructure) with emphasis on the front side (entrance, to which an outside staircase leads up), round temples were also built next to it. The image of the Roman city was determined by large state buildings, mostly made of marble: temples, basilica (market and court hall), theaters, thermal baths, triumphal arches, columns of honor, city gates, aqueducts. Significant examples of Roman architecture emerged primarily in Rome, but also in the provinces (in Split the palace of Diocletian, other buildings in Trier, NĂ®mes or Arles). In painting and sculpture, a sober, dry realism and a style that deceptively imitated reality prevailed. With the wall painting in Pompeii, important works of Roman painting have come down to us.

Plastic and relief

In the free plastic works of the Roman period, the typifying ideal sculpture predominated, the mythological figures and cult images were more or less free copies of Greek models that were also newly combined (e.g. the Ildefonso group in the Prado, Madrid, is a figure freely based on Praxiteles, the other freely designed after Polyklet). Under Augustus Greek originals were used as much as possible for cult images, and original Greek gable figures from the Classical era were also used at the Temple of Apollo on the Marsfeld. The well-known Laocoon group was worked in Rhodes according to the Pergamene model (probably early 1st century AD). Images of gods stood in temples, mythological and allegorical statues z. B. in libraries, palaces, nymphaea and thermal baths. Honor statues, the v. a. found on forums and in basilicas should represent an individual person objectively, with the main focus on the head. The heads of the statues were worked separately, the – usually clothed – figure was of secondary importance. The portrait, conceived from the outset as a bust, found widespread use.

In the Republican era, portraits were sober (Caesar, Cato), and sometimes they were extremely bitter. Under Augustus it reached a high point of individualization, at the same time the series of official portraits of the emperors began, which were supposed to illustrate certain properties and achievements propagandistically in ideal typification. Classicist-ideal forms of representation of the imperial portraits (Augustus, Trajan, Hadrian) alternated with pathetic (Nero) or realistic (Vespasian). The official types of portraits were spread across the entire Roman Empire through coins and official and private statue foundations, and they were also imitated in every detail in private portraits. After the ideal and courtly refinement of the 2nd century AD (Antinous statue), the late 2nd and 3rd centuries AD created almost revealing portraits, including the emperors (Commodus, Caracalla, Maximinus Thrax, Philip Arabs).

From the 4th and 5th centuries are v. a. Some larger-than-life imperial statues and heads have survived (Constantine statues and heads in Rome; Colossus von Barletta; head of Emperor Theodosius, Istanbul, Archaeological Museum; Empress Ariadne, Rome, Conservator’s Palace), they show abstraction, rigid frontality, a representation principle probably from Iran which found its way into Roman art particularly through Parthian art. In the citizen and civil servant portraits (statues in Rome, Conservator’s Palace; from Ephesus in Vienna and from Aphrodisias in Istanbul) the expressive features of the 3rd century are continued with abstract stylization.

In relief art, the ornament as building ornamentation (kymation, especially egg stick; bucranion; garlands) on capitals and column bases became very important; Roman art developed a great joy in storytelling in the figural relief. In the private sector, v. a. Grave reliefs about social stratifications, professional and military status information. Freed Roman slaves z. B. was entitled to a grave portrait in a box frame (1st century AD). The sarcophagi, widespread in Rome and the Mediterranean provinces since the 2nd century AD, were decorated with ornamental or figurative relief decorations, the friezes being conceived as a sequence of events. A completely new interest was expressed in the description of historical events. Even the procession on the Ara Pacis Augustae is seen as a specific event, the Trajan Column (113 AD) bears a pictorial chronology of the campaigns against the Dacians. The arches of honor and triumphal arches were also suitable for historical documentation. B. the Arch of Titus (after 81 AD in Rome).

the Arch of Trajan in Benevento (114 AD), the Arch of Septimius Severus (203 AD) in Rome in the “picturesque style” of the 3rd century AD (light and dark contrasts due to the deeply jagged surface) and the Arch of Galerius in Thessaloniki (around 297/298).


Some branches of cabaret flourished in Roman times, especially after the 2nd Punic War. a. Precious silver dishes, including large bowls (paterns) with embossed figural scenes (treasure finds from Boscoreale, Kaiseraugst, Berthouville in the French department of Eure, Hildesheim, Mildenhall), and glass art (glass). The Turkey workshops are among other things. presumed in Alexandria and Constantinople. The centers of glass art are easier to localize, among others. Alexandria, Syria, Puteoli near Rome (mosaic and millefiori glass), Gaul, then v. a. Cologne. Statuettes of gods made of bronze or silver from some excellent Toreutian workshops were widespread throughout the empire, there were also local craftsmen. Relief ceramics (terra sigillata) were produced in many regional production facilities, first (mid-1st century BC) in Arezzo as well as Lyon and Pisa. They came from Rome since the 1st century BC. Circular small clay lamps dominating the market, which were soon imitated and widely traded in northern Italy. In the glyptic there are occasionally splendid, Gems and cameos cut from semi-precious stones or glass paste with representations from the field of state iconography. Ivory carvings gained importance in later antiquity. The extensive minting of coins contributed significantly to the spread of Roman iconography.

Roman Arts