Art Timeline  
  1 c. 15000 - 5000 BC Prehistoric Art
  2 5000 BC - 5ОО BC The Art of the Ancient Kingdoms of Egypt - Aegean Art
  3-4 5ОО вс - 12th century The Art of the Greeks
  5-6 5ОО вс - 12th century Italic Art
  7-8-9 12th century (1100-1199) The Early Christians  Art - Byzantine Art
  10-11 13th century (1200-1299) Gothic Art
  12 14th century (1300-1399) Gothic Art - International Style
  13 15th century (1400-1499) The Early Renaissance
  14 16th century (1500-1599) The High Renaissance
  15-16 16th century (1500-1599) Mannerism
  17-18-19-20 17th century (1600-1699) Baroque
  21-22 18th century (1700-1799) Rococo
  23-24-25-26-27-28-29 19th century(1800–1899) Neoclassical - Romanticism
    19th century (1863-1899) Impressionism Timeline
    19th century (1860-1899) Simbolism
    20th century(1900-1999) ART OF THE 20TH CENTURY
5ОО вс - 12th century
see also:
Art in Pompeii & Herculaneum
Column of Trajan
  Art in Pompeii & Herculaneum
Archaic Vase Painting
Ancient Greek Sculpture
Lysippos - Praxiteles
Italic Art

Harious peoples occupied Italy during the first millennium bc the main groups in the Alps were the Ligurians in the west, the Veneti to the east, and the Protocelts to the north.
The Po valley and Etruria were occupied by the Villanovan group, which developed into the historical Etruscan civilization. South of Etruria were the Latins, who founded Rome; and farther south, to the east, and in the islands were various populations of different provenances, some of whom, like the Sardi, or the Elymi of Sicily evolved highly original cultures.
From this rich diversity of peoples, and with the addition of Greek (Magna Graecia and Sicily) and Punic (Sardinia and western Sicily) colonies, evolved the ancient art of Italy.

Head from a stela.
Museo Nazionale
del Gargano, Manfredonia, Italy.



Daunian stelae (commemorative slabs or pillars) were cur from the soft stone of the Gargano promontory in Apulia. Initially white, this stone tended to darken as it aged. The stelae were painted in red and black, as was contemporary pottery (seventh to sixth century bc).
Across Apulia, from Sipontum to Arpi, to Canosa, and as far as Melfitano, the ruling families honoured their dead in this monumental form. The figures, mostly female, are heavily stylized and contained within the rectangular form, with just the faintest sign of chiselling in places to create the almost imperceptible effect of bas-relief details. The body, long garments, jewels, and other personal objects are very stylized. So too is the head, which is often rendered as a smooth, featureless oval with a conical headdress for women or a sectioned helmet for men. The arms are folded across the torso and the feet are not included. Instead, the rectangle becomes a space which is filled with delicate and intricate decoration, combining geometric patterns with a variety of figurative scenes - travel, hunting, fishing, navigation, milling and weaving, lovers, banquets and ritual games, domesticated animals, monsters, and mythical figures. The sculptors were precise in their rendering of detail, as they were convinced of the power of symbols and of the significance of human existence within the cosmic design.

Funerary stelae of women limestone.
Museo Nazionale del Gargano, Manfredonia, Italy.

The Italics

Despite the diversity of the peoples and regions, artistic production in the Italian peninsula was united by a readiness to embrace existing forms. From early prehistory, the need to express beliefs and experiences - magical, religious, and funerary -was manifested in personal adornment and in the production of cult and votive objects. It was also evident in other artistic endeavours, such as the great series of rock carvings in the Alpine foothills of northern Italy, which depict scenes of hunting, ploughing, and combat and seem to include both human and supernatural figures. By the end of the first millennium bc, there had been profound changes in society, with the development of complex social stratification; this was reflected in art in the erection of memorials to eminent people and other public monuments. In the Gargano area of the Italian peninsula and in Sardinia, stone sculpture was produced from the end of the Bronze Age. The Mycenaeans, who had reached southern Italy earlier in the Bronze Age, introduced the use of refined clay as a substitute for the rougher impasto materials. Painted decoration on pottery began with the proto-geometric style of the lapygian peoples in Apulia ( 11th—9th century bc). followed by the Oenotrian style found from Basilicata to the Tyrrhenian coast. Then, in the late ninth and eighth centuries bc, Phoenicians and Greeks arrived in Italy and Sardinia, resulting in the adoption of new pottery techniques for some forms in Central Italy: the use of the wheel, refined clay, and painted decoration.

Oenotrian geometric earthenware pot showing a mourning scene, Tursi.
Museo Nazionaie Archeologico. Matera, Italy

Male funerary stela, limestone,
Bigliolo (Aulla, Val di Magra).
Museo Civico, Pontremoli, Italy.

During the Orientalizing period (seventh century bc) and Archaic period (sixth and earlier fifth centuries bc) there was increased cultural exchange over ancient land routes, or by way of new sea lanes along the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian coastlines. The Orientalizing period is named after the wealth of luxury goods imported from the Near East and the Aegean, including vessels of gold, silver, glass, and fine pottery, as well as ivories and ostrich eggs, many decorated with figured scenes. The Daunians controlled the mouth of the Ofanto from Canusium, as well as trade with groups across the Adriatic. The geometric tradition of the lapygians provided the basis for a regulated decorative style, which, in pottery, resisted outside influence. The princely tombs of Noicattaro and Conversano in Peucetia reveal an accumulation of imported merchandise rather than the products of a purely local tradition. The Messapians, who were in close contact with the Greeks, imitated the use of the Black-Figure technique in ceramics, adopted Greek forms of worship, and developed monumental architecture. Etruscan influence prevailed in Campania as a result of their direct dominance as far as the valley of the River Sele. By the end of the fifth century bc, the use of both painted terracotta decorations for the eaves of buildings and terracotta votives was widespread in southern Italy. The influence of the Greek colony at Cumae extended from Capua to Teanum, Minturnae, and Satricum, and as far as Rome and Caere. With the Sabellian conquest of Capua in 423bc, production of sculpture in tufa began, a parallel practice to the Etruscan limestone caning at Chiusi. From about 400bc, when the Lucanians took control of Poseidonia (Paestum), until the foundation of the Latin colony in 273bc. funerary painting became popular in this area, though it had started in the Orientalizing period in Etruria. The subjects were mainly funerary scenes depicting musicians, games, and offerings. The red, black, and yellow on a white ground (blue and green were rare) conformed to the four-colour convention observed by the great Greek painter Apelles (360-315bc). In Italy, the colour was painted on a layer of lime plaster applied to the rock. This contrasted with the Greek tradition, in which stucco was used to simulate marble as a support for the colour. The Sabines were influenced by a style that spread beyond the Apennines from Etruria and the Faliscan area; it featured animals and an original treatment of monster images. In Umbria, during the fifth century bc, small bronzes of stylized warrior men and gods, elongated to the point of deformation, were dedicated at sanctuaries. The stelae statues from Luna represented a late development of megalithic sculpture among this warrior community. Of interest are their anthropomorphic figures, which arose from contact with northern Etruria (610-600bc). Paleo-Venetian art adopted Orientalizing schemes to depict the life of the upper classes. Later, the theme was used in the thriving local bronze-working industry and revealed Etruscan influence. The art of the Siculi and Elymi in Sicily developed independently of Greek and Punic art.
At a very early stage they used monumental forms for dwellings and sanctuaries, as at Mendolito, Sabucina. and Monte Adranone (late sixth century bc). The exploits of Alexander the Great inspired the western campaigns of Alexander of Epirus and Pyrrhus, and the ensuing period was dominated by Hellenistic innovations.

Silenus and Maenad Dancing,
terracotta antefix, Satricum.
Museo Nazionale di Villa Giulia, Rome.



A painting at Paestum from the tomb of a survivor of the battle of the Caudine Forks commemorates this Samnite victory over the Romans, at a time when the Lucanians, rulers of Paestum. were their allies (321bc). The painting conforms to the historical narrative style of ancient Greece. In the background are a mountain and four cattle, which are drawn to a larger scale than the human figures. These animals are seen in similar circumstances in a painting by the Greek artist Euphranor of the confrontation preceding the battle of Mantinea (362bc). Also related to Euphranor's painting of the Stoa of Zeus at Athens is the contrast between the marching Romans, earning spears and shields, and the deployment of their enemies, hidden by the terrain. The helmeted commander, who stands on the rise, threatens the legions that have fallen into the ambush. A fresco from a tomb in Rome shows the counterpart to this scene, with episodes from the Samnite wars as seen by the Romans in the style of Fabius Pictor. Quirites (Roman citizens) with large shields also appear in the polychrome decoration of vases from Arpi, the Daunian city allied with Rome against the Samnites.

Battle of the Caudine Forks, tomb painting trom Andriuoio.
Museo Nazionaie Archeologico, Paestum, Italy.


Bronze urns with mobile, semicircular handles (situlae) were produced from the Po river to the Danube. The first examples in the Tyrol and Slovenia had geometric decoration, and later types reflected the Orientalizing taste for rows of animals. At Este, the centre of production, the Benvenuti situla was the first to bear narrative scenes featuring peace and war. Other situlae have scenes from agriculture, commerce, games, and battles, interspersed with plants and real and fantastic animals taken from eastern models (600bc). The final examples, with flowers, date from the fourth century bc. For a long time, the art of the situlae was common to populations both north and south of the Alps. The influence of Mediterranean figurative art on the European continent is also apparent in Celtic culture.

Benvenuti situla, bronze.
Museo Nazionale Atestino, Este, Italy.


Lavinium was a sacred city linked with the origins of Rome. According to legend, Lavinium was founded by Aeneas in honour of his wife Lavinia, daughter of King Latinus. For centuries the magistrates of Rome came to Lavinium to offer sacrifices when taking office. The city had links with the Hellenic shrines. Magna Graecia, and Etruria, the art styles of which would have been familiar. Painted terracotta sculpture was common to Etruria. Latium, and Campania and. like other artistic products, had distinct local styles.
The sculptors at Lavinium who made the series of fine terracotta votive statues drew on the Archaic and classical Greek art styles but adapted them to their own needs and aesthetic preferences. The offering figure (left) dating to c 325-300BC, is a product of the mature local style. The classical Greek influence is clear in the heavy rounded jaw, the pouting, slightly downturned mouth, and the clothing (a long tunic of fine linen and a woollen cloak); while the frontal pose and lavish jewellery are reminiscent of the sixth-century Archaic Greek korai (young women). However, the overall effect is non-Greek. This and the second figure have a powerful presence and are the work of skilled craftsmen with a long tradition behind them.

The Albani Maiden, marble.
Villa Albani, Rome.

They have exploited the plastic qualities of the terracotta to the full, with the pose giving solemnity and intensity, and the various details and textures adding a sense of vitality. The necklaces, armring, and diadem have been copied from life -examples in gold, silver, semiprecious stones, glass, and amber have been found in contemporary central Italian tombs. These are wealthy, aristocratic figures, or possibly goddesses, and would have carried clear messages about religious beliefs and the organization of society, easily understood by contemporary' viewers. Their calm dignity is also seen later in sculptures such as The Albani Maiden.

Terracotta offering figure, Lavinium. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Head of maiden, terracotta, Lavinium. Soprintendenza Archeologica per il Lazio, Rome.

The Etruscans

The Etruscans developed a sophisticated civilization in the first millenium bc in central Italy - between the Tiber and Arno rivers - with outposts in the Po valley and Campania. They adopted an alphabet from the Greeks to write inscriptions in their own language, which was unlike any other in Italy. For them, the religious aspect of life was all-embracing, ritual pervaded everyday life, images of death took on natural guises, and women enjoyed undisputed privileges. The people who became the historical Etruscans are recognizable in the Proto-Villanovan (12th-10th century bc) and Villanovan (ninth to eighth century bc) archaeological cultures. They found self-expression in the production of bronzes by specialist craftsmen and handmade pots that were incised and impressed with complex geometric patterns.

Bronze situla from Bologna, Certosa.
Museo Civico Archeologico, Bologna.

Villanovan ossuary with bowi-shaped lid, impasto,
ninth-eighth century BC, San Vitale.
Musee Civico Archeologico, Bologna.


In the Villanovan and earlier Etruscan periods, highly abstract renderings of the body accompanied some dead to the grave. Villanovan biconical cinerary urns miay be interpreted as a replacement for the body destroyed by cremation. This body reference later became more explicit: at Vulci, the head was rendered as an anonymous sphere on a cylindrical neck (680-670BC). At Chiusi, in the seventh and sixth centuries bc, there was a flourishing production of anthropomorphic cinerary urns featuring heads with eyes, nose, mouth, and ears and often decorated with bronze elements such as earrings. The urns sometimes have arms and may be seated on bronze or pottery chairs.
Later, a widespread practice developed, of sculpting one or more human figures on the lid of a sarcophagus or ash chest. For example, the painted terracotta Sarcophagus of the Married Couple from Cerveteri carries exquisitely modelled, life-size figures of a man and woman, reclining as if on a banqueting couch.

Stylized bronze head, Vuici.
Museo Nazionale di Villa Giulia, Rome.

Some also had tiny figures of humans and animals on handles, rims, and lids. They exploited extensive iron, copper, and lead deposits in Etruria to form the foundations of a thriving economy. Trading contacts with the east Mediterranean began in the late ninth century and were soon enhanced by the establishment of Greek and Phoenician trading stations in southern Italy. Sicily, and Sardinia. The local Italian groups adopted new techniques such as wheel-throwing and painting pottery, and precious metal-working techniques. The elites who controlled trade were increasingly interested in acquiring exotic luxury items, and adopting eastern aristocratic behaviour such as wine drinking and banqueting as indicators of rank. From the seventh century, the Etruscans promoted representational art. drawing on eastern Mediterranean models. Etruscan potters became specialized, producing their own versions of Greek figured pottery (Corinthian, Black-, and Red-Figure), and also inventing the elegant black pottery known as bucchero (c.670bc), and soon traded across the Mediterranean. From early times, the Etruscans were skilled seafarers and for centuries dominated the Tyrrhenian sea. The new skills were partly introduced by foreign craftsmen. Greeks living in western Turkey were driven out by the Persians in the sixth and early fifth centuries bc, and many of them settled in the west. Etruscan art at this time was especially influenced by the Ionian Greek art and it is likely that Ionian craftsmen and artists came to work in Etruscan cities: Cerveteri was the home of the Master of the Hydriae (water vases) and the Micali Painter; and Tarquinia has a concentration of fine tomb paintings depicting banquets, funeral dances, and games. At Veii, the sculptors of the fine terracottas decorating the roof of the Portonaccio Temple (510-490BC) worked in the Ionic tradition, but the final products are nonetheless distinctively Etruscan. Most striking are the full-size painted terracotta statues of Apollo and Herakles confronting each other over a hind, watched by Hermes and Apollo's mother Leto. These powerfully modelled figures stood on the roof ridge and, with the other figured and floral terracottas protecting the eaves, would have made a great display. Contact with the merchants of Aegina (510nc) and relations with Magna Graecia and Sicily followed. The maritime supremacy gained by Syracuse after the Greeks won the battle of Cumae (474bc) interrupted the import of Greek goods into the ports of Etruria. Gradually, some trade was rerouted via the Adriatic and the Etruscan site of Spina on the Po delta. The northern inland cities such as Clusium (Chiusi) and Arretium (Arezzo) continued to thrive and industries developed from the import of ceramics from Athens via Spina (450-440bc). The new Greek classical style is clearly reflected in the tradition of stone sculpture at Chiusi, especially in the fine limestone stelae with scenes of banqueting and funeral games. The sculptors of Volsinii (Orvieto) used terracotta to give expression to Attic forms and decorative styles in the great temples of the late fifth century bc. Local bronze-workers made the almost life-size statue of Mars (400bc), found at Todi, for an Umbrian client, displaying skilful artistic-licence compared with the classical Greek tradition. The fifth centuiy bc also saw conflict with the growing power of Rome. The great city of Veii finally fell in 396bc, and some other cities only remained independent via treaties and alliances with Rome. Conflict with the Greeks of Magna Graecia continued, for example the Syracusans sacked the port of Pyrgi and captured Caere. In Etruscan tomb-painting the banquet scene was often now set in Hades and accompanied by demons and spirits of the underworld, producing a more sombre vision of death. Temple terracottas continued to be important. At Falerii, which remained the bulwark of the Etruscan area after Tarquinia's war with Rome (358-335bc), the Temple of Lo Scasato I, dedicated to Apollo, has fine sculptures in the pediment zone, including one of Apollo leaping into his chariot. Artists from Volsinii may have worked in Tarquinia on the "Ara delia Regina1' temple. Remaining from the pediment is a pair of splendidly modelled winged horses pawing the ground as if about to take flight. Also important are the terracottas of Temple A at Pyrgi, with late classical features again in an Etruscan formulation. Etruscan bronzes - especially votive figures and household items, such as mirrors, candelabra, and incense-burners -were famed in antiquity. Also important was the production of sarcophagi and ash chests in terracotta and stone from the sixth to the first centuries bc, with varied local traditions and specialities. For example, in the later period, the northern city of Volterra produced chests in local alabaster with complex high-relief scenes from myth and history on the front.

Head of Leucotea, terracotta, from Pyrgi.
Museo Nazionale di Villa Giulla, Rome.



Bellerophon on Pegasus defeating the chimaera,
back of a mirror, bronze, Paiestrina.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The chimaera is a mythical beast, part lion, part goat, and part snake, which was killed by the hero Bellerophon. In Etruscan art. it occurs on mirrors, painted pottery, and private seals. Most famous is the Chimaera of Arezzo, a magnificent life-size bronze statue, made in the early fourth century bc and found during building work in 1553 near the Porta San Lorenzo, Arezzo. Although wounded in the leg and goat's head, the cornered beast crouches as if about to spring at its attacker and snarls ferociously. An Etruscan votive inscription on its right foreleg, added to the wax model before casting, indicates that this sculpture was made in a North Etrurian workshop. The tail is a restoration of 1785. The powerful body is modelled naturalistically in sharp contrast with the stylized muzzle and the stiff petal-shaped tufts of the ruff and mane. On the mirror from Palestrina, dating from about 330bc, Bellerophon riding Pegasus deals the mortal blow to the chimaera. The goat's head has already been speared but the animal fights to the last. The turmoil of bodies enclosed within the circle of the mirror enhances the sense of drama.

Full view of the Chinaera of Arezzo.
Museo Archeologico, Florence



The main figure of a naked boy stands half a metre (one and a half feet) high. The face, toes, fingers, genitals, navel, and buttocks are naturalistically modelled, drawing ultimately on Greek art. However, the spectral elongation of this figure — referred to by one romantic author as "The Evening Shadow" - came out of a very different artistic and cultural tradition rooted in popular Italic and Etruscan cult. This tradition continued to produce wooden ex-votos of board-like form and simple stylized figures in sheet and cast bronze with non-classical proportions throughout the first millennium bc. These elongated figures may be male or female, children or adults, nude or clothed, with arms at their sides or with one forearm extended in a gesture of offering. They have attracted much attention by their strange form and powerful presence. For example, the similarly elongated figures by the 20th-century Italian sculptor Giacometti suggest a direct influence, although they are differently modelled.

Votive figure,  bronze,
second-first century bc,
from Volterra.
Museo Etrusco Guarnacci,
Volterra, Italy.
Votive figure, bronze,
Sanctuary of Diana Nemorensis,
Musee du Louvre, Paris

Tomb paintings were rare and the privilege of an elite few in Etruscan society. Only a section of the society was buried in chamber tombs, and only one or two per cent of these tombs was decorated with paintings. A recurrent theme is that of the banquet, in which couples recline on couches and are attended by servants, dancers, and musicians. This detail comes from the back wall of the Tomb of the Lionesses, which has a pair of lionesses in the gable space, a high dado of dolphins and birds above a dark sea, and a decorative upper border of lotus and palmette. Between the gable and the dado is the main scene of dancers and musicians flanking a great bronze krater - a vessel used for mixing wine and water. Along the side walls, four men recline against cushions. The scenes are divided by slender columns, and banqueting and funeral garlands are painted as if hanging from iron nails.

Circa 520bc; detail of a wall-painting from the Tomb of the Lionesses.
Monterozzi necropolis, Tarquinia, Italy.


References to the house are common in the shape and decoration of tombs belonging to leading Etruscan families. The Tomb of the Reliefs (late fourth century bc) at Cerveteri is a rock-cut underground chamber, with 13 niches for burials and more marked in the floor, and a pair of supporting pillars. It belonged to the aristocratic Matuna family, and is unique in being decorated with realistically modelled and painted stuccos of armour and weapons; household, prestige, and cult objects; and real and fantastic creatures. Actual examples of many of these objects are known from contemporary tombs and cult deposits. On the left pillar (right) are a lituus (ceremonial horn), two staffs, a leather belt, a wine jug, a wine cup with leaf decoration, a baton, an axe, a large knife, coiled rope, a piece of folding furniture (possibly a crib), a bag, a goose, and a beech-marten (probably a household pet). The main burial niche (below) is carved to represent a kline (banquet couch). Underneath are a low footstool and two figures from the underworld:
the three-headed dog, Cerberus and the Scylla, who is half man and half seipent. A frieze of weapons and armour runs along the top of the wall. The pilasters bear two busts (now faceless), possibly of underworld deities, and objects
expressing the elite status of the family: the woman's fan. a staff, and the wine cup and jug used in aristocratic banquets. The wood and ivory chest is of the type used for household papers or linen, and has two folded cloths on top.

Statue of Roman general as heroic nude,
Baths of Constantine, Rome.
Museo Nazionale Romano, Rome.

Rome - from Monarchy to Republic

In order to understand the art of a particular place, it is necessary to look at the artistic output of its earliest period. Rome seems to have begun life as a series of Iron Age villages of huts on the Palatine Hill and elsewhere (ninth century bc). The great Roman Empire had its roots in a society of warrior-farmers who furnished their tombs with personal ornaments and weapons signifying social role and rank. Where the Tiber island formed a convenient river-crossing, an important port on the left bank grew up (beside the later Forum Boarium, or cattle market). Out of the cultural mixing of goods and ideas arriving in Rome over the following centuries, an independent art style gradually emerged. A familiarity with Greek art helped to determine choice, and from early on Rome shared many aspects of artistic production with Etruria and Campania. From the time of Tarquinius Priscus to that of Tarquinius Superbus (616-509bc), Rome was ruled by an Etruscan dynasty. Direct inspiration also came from the colonies of southern Italy and Sicily.
The Roman Republic was created after the expulsion of the Tarquinian dynasty in 509bc. At the outset, sculptors made statues in bronze, such as the cult figure of the goddess Diana in Aricia. The Capitoline Wolf (c.500-480bc) - which has long been interpreted as the she-wolf who suckled Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome, and his twin Remus - is similar in style and quality to the great Etrusean bronzes like the Chimaera of Arezzo, but may also have been produced in Rome. The twins were added in the 15th century ad. Aristocratic laws against excessive public spending and private luxury led to a decline in artistic production. From 366bc, plebeians were eligible for the consulship. The peaceful resolution of plebeian conflict with the patricians (339bc), in fact, consolidated the domination of the wealthy, regardless of family background. The economic influence of the eastern world, as experienced during the period of Alexander the Great (334-323BC), helped to expand the internal economy, and in Rome, as elsewhere, art was commissioned as a sign of social status. Classicizing (323-301bc) and Hellenistic Baroque styles characterized the revival of architectural decoration and votive terracottas. Trade and war brought fine artworks to Rome. The conquest of Syracuse (212bc), when the Romans removed a number of pictures, statues, and decorative objects from the city, brought about another unforeseeable and definitive change in attitude towards Greek art forms. Imports included masterpieces of art from various periods. These were displayed in temples, porticos, and private homes, regardless of their original provenance and purpose. They were all brought together at the whim of the conquerors, as booty, expression of aristocratic taste, and symbols of public benefaction. Distancing works from their source in this way meant that their original meanings could be manipulated at will and the chance to see them in a new setting stimulated a fresh approach to figurative art. From the subject matter and styles of another people came a new form of artistic production. The images served to venerate both the traditional gods and those taken over from the Mediterranean pantheon. They portrayed private individuals as votives in sanctuaries, and celebrated triumphant generals, to describe their exploits and to commemorate the dead.

The Capitoline Wolf,
Museo del Palazzo del Conservatori, Rome.



At a time when a classicizing style was current in Greece (323-301 bc) and Greek influence was uppermost, the character of Etruscan art contrasted ever more strongly in its content. The limestone sarcophagus of the Amazons at Tarquinia (C.320.BC) has a finely painted scene of Greeks fighting Amazons. The grimaces on the warriors' faces and the shape of some of the helmets recall the south Italian pottery by the Darius Painter. Like the murals of the Greek porticos, the scenes are framed by pilasters and architraves, but the architectural design is local. The Amazons' victory over the Greeks is an Etruscan theme, symbolizing hostility towards the Greek colonies in southern Italy and Sicily. Non-Greek features are the nudity of one of the combatants, the red footwear, and the decorative collars on some of the horses. Etruscan autonomy is also evident in the Amazonomachia painted on the sarcophagus of the Priest, where the figure of a Lasa, an Etruscan death companion, appears with the fallen warriors.

Detail from the sarcophagus of the Amazons,
painted limestone, Tarquinis.
Museo Archeologico, Florence.


Temple architecture in Italy developed differently from that in the Greek world. The Roman architect Vitruvius, writing at the time of Augustus, described what he called the Tuscan temple type, and many of the features characteristic of Etruscan temples also occur in their Roman counterparts. There is a high podium (platform); the columns could be widely spaced because the architraves were of wood; and the pronaos (front porch) was as deep as the cella (enclosed chamber). In the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter, the division into three cellae repeated the Etruscan tradition, as did the sculptures decorating the roof, which tradition holds were executed by Vulca, a sculptor of the Etruscan city of Veii. Begun by the kings, it was finished under the new Republic (est. 509bc). In 494BC, artists from Sicily came to work on the Temple of Ceres Liber and Libéra. The Temple of Portunus shows how the Greek Ionic peripteros (with columns on all sides) was adapted to Roman taste, emphasizing the front: the columns of the pronaos continue along the cella walls in the form of pseudoperipteros (half-columns) attached to the wall.

Temple of Portunus, Rome,
first century bc.

Marine fresco with cupids.
Archaeological Museum, Rhodes.


Macedonia had a significant influence on Roman wall-painting. One house at Amphipolis has frescos of both the First and Second Pompeiian styles of wall-painting. The pavilion of the tomb of Lyson and Callicles at Lefkadia is a masterpiece of bold architectural illusion. The Macedonian painter Heraclides, who moved to Athens after the defeat of King Perseus at Pydna (168bc), was one of many artists to introduce Hellenistic traditions to the Romanized Western world. Iaias of Cysicum. who migrated from Pergamum when the kingdom collapsed in 133bc, became a successful portrait painter. A marine fresco with cupids survives in a house on Rhodes. The figures, against a pale background, were first traced in grey outline, and their forms then modelled with shadows and touches of light. This technique was also used in the Landscapes of the Odyssey fresco series in a house on the Esquiline in Rome, but with reddish-brown outlines. The frescos were inspired by a cycle of Rhodian panels, from a period when the island's sculptors were reproducing bronze groups showing the adventures of Ulysses for Roman commissions. In the painting, the hero and his crew appear as tiny figures acting on the world's stage. In a metaphor of life, the Odyssey is enacted amid perilous seas, towering rocks, and shadows from the afterlife.

Landscapes of the Odyssey:
Ulysses in the Land of the Lestrygonians,
fresco, 50-40BC,
the Esquiline, Rome.
Biblioteca Vaticana, Vatican City.

The Tivoli General,
marble, by a Greek sculptor, Sanctuary of Hercules Victor at Tivoli.
Museo Nazlonale Romano, Rome.


The Roman generals who led the armies of conquest in the eastern Mediterranean from 200 to 60bc were quick to adopt the Greek art of sculpture, especially individual portraiture. Many commissioned statues of themselves in bronze and marble from the best Greek sculptors of the day, shipping the results back to be displayed in Rome. In style and technique, the Roman portraits closely resemble those of contemporary Hellenistic kings, with powerfully modelled features of heroic cast, but they do not wear royal diadems and often sport the short beard of the campaigning soldier. In time, by force or of their own accord, many Greek artists moved to Rome, importing the marble from their homelands. Throughout the later Roman Empire, Greece and the Greek East continued to supply much of the marble and most of the craftsmen employed in the West.
In about 50bc. major new marble quarries were opened in Italy (Carrara), which greatly increased supplies. However, the last two centuries bc saw many statues made from several smaller blocks joined together, in lieu of a single block sufficiently large to carve a work in one piece. For example, the statue of a general found at Tivoli, dating from about 70bc, was constructed from at least seven separate pieces. His face is highly individual in the Roman manner, while the body is an ideal type taken from the earlier Greek repertoire, semi-draped in a military cloak to suit Roman tastes.

Roman general with beard, bronze, by an Asiatic artist, from the Punta del Serrone off the Brindisi coast. Museo Archeologico Provinciale F. Ribezzo, Brindisi. Roman general, marble, Apollonla. Archaeological Museum, Tirane, Albania.
Roman general, marble, Rome. Glyptothek, Munich.


The great Greek-Italian sculptor Pasiteles, born in southern Italy, grew up during the civil wars - an age when military commanders were noted for their revolutionary ideas. Cosmopolitan and adventurous, he wrote a five-volume book on "the famous works throughout the world", which in terms of history and criticism was as significant a landmark for its age as Winckelmann's History of Ancient Art was for the 18th century. For the first time, the Greek works of art in Rome were listed with locations and descriptions. This was an immense museum, which contemporary and later artists could use freely for reference and imitation, expanding on the past in their choice of models, the novel ways in which they were combined, and technical virtuosity. It was the theoretical equivalent of the Roman schoiar Varro:s approach to language. Attic purity was the sign of an excessively bigoted code of ethics, whereas Asiatic licence reflected moral laxity. The path indicated by Pasiteles exemplified the balanced outlook of the Roman citizen. Varro adopted the same principle in the encyclopaedic classification that would later serve to revive learning and custom under Caesar and Augustus. Pasiteles became a Roman citizen in 89bc and made a significant contribution to a nation just emerging from civil war. The example he gave the city was not derived from Athens or the East but from Italy's Greek colonies, which for centuries had nourished Roman culture A technical innovator, he perpetuated the figurative art of the Greek world in his sculpture and metalwork, and founded a school that in its copies of classical masterpieces formed a new chapter in the history of Italian and European art.

The Late Republic

After the second Macedonian war (200-197isc), more importance was given to the notion of otium (private leisure) as opposed to negotium (public service). Greater interest was shown in beautiful objects for everyday use and in wall paintings for home decoration, exemplifying the taste for refinement and luxury, against which Cato the Censor (Marcus Porcius Cato. died 149bc) had raged in vain. During the period of the Late Republic (100-31bc), complete Roman control of the Mediterranean stimulated a flourishing trade in luxury merchandise. Whether at work in their lands of origin or as immigrants to the city of Rome, artists from Attica, Asia, and Rhodes turned out faithful marble copies of the famous bronzes of classical (Neo-Attic) or Baroque (Neo-Hellenistic) art. To satisfy the growing fashion for furnishings, they produced statues in smaller forms such as berms (bust-bearing pillars with four sides) and a wide range of decorative objects, which included large stone vases. Private collections often reflected the interests of the owner and among the prized contents of villas were busts of philosophers, orators, military leaders, and athletes.
The galleries of famous Greeks were counterparts to the family portraits found in traditional Roman houses. Pride of place went to the maiores, the ancestors who represented the highest moral virtues and guaranteed continuity, meriting emulation and personifying (like the philosophers) the wisdom of the past. Ancestors explained names and gave meaning to the cults and activities of the family.
The family tree represented an archive of likenesses whereby the legitimacy of descendants could be confirmed. In the symbolic sense, the resemblance to Alexander the Great claimed by Pompey (106-48bc) could be backed up by a precedent, in this case the longstanding exercise of military powers. In due course, waxen masks based on the facial features of ancestors were carried in processions through the streets and into the Forum.

The Greek historian Polybius wrote:
"When an illustrious member of the family dies, he is carried to his funeral by men who resemble him in stature and general appearance. If the deceased was a consul or praetor, they wear a toga edged with purple, if he was a censor, they wear an all-purple toga, and if he was a triumphator, they wear a gold-bordered toga. They proceed in chariots, preceded by fasciae, axes, and whatever other insignia may be appropriate for magistrates, according to the status that the deceased enjoyed in life among his fellow citizens."

Esquiline Venus, Lamiani, Rome.
Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome.


In the first century bc, the aristocracy in Rome began to develop into luxury garden-villas what had previously been horti (vegetable plots) in the hills around the city. Dining pavilions, bath houses, and private theatres of exotic architectural design, richly ornamented with paintings, mosaics, and coloured stones, were set in landscaped parks of colonnaded garden-courts, artificial lakes, and fountains. The buildings were filled with niches and other specially made settings for bronze and marble statuary of great variety. The collections included older Greek works, antiques of the fifth to third centuries bc brought to Rome as war booty or later purchased on the Mediterranean art market. Some complemented the genuine antiques with close replicas made by famous Greek artists. Most, however, were new productions by contemporary sculptors adapting Late Hellenistic traditions to an increasingly discriminating Roman clientele. This statue of a maidenly Venus, goddess of fertility, beauty, and love, was found on one of the horti on the Esquiline hill, where it may have adorned a bath house. The goddess is shown in preparation for a bath. Beside her is a tall vase standing on a cosmetic box, over which she has draped a towel. The cobra snake entwined around the vase and the roses on the box are attributes associated with the Egyptian goddess Isis, whom Romans identified with Venus. Carved in translucent white marble from the Greek island of Paros, the brilliance of which is emphasized by the high polish on the flesh, the statue echoes figures of Venus' Greek equivalent Aphrodite. However, the sweet expression, small breasts, and slightly boyish figure are ver)' much to Roman taste.

Portrait head of Pompey, Licinii Tomb, Rome.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen


After the Social War (89bc). current political events in Rome were reflected in its portraiture. Replicas exist of the statue that the general and statesman Pompey installed at the height of his power in the room where the Senate met. The sculptor carefully modelled his forelocks in a manner reminiscent of the styles of Alexander and Aemilius Paulus, and reproduced his caring expression. The work reflected Pompey's dual nature — aristocrat and demagogue. The plump cheeks, soft lines around the mouth, short-sighted eyes, and raised eyebrows that wrinkle the forehead: all are captured in an expression that suggests both the reserve of the high-ranking diplomat and the charisma of a man who was the idol of the people. (Compared with the harsh Sulla, in whose service he had begun his career, the affable young Pompey had completely won over the ordinary citizens.) This image of Pompey was the enigmatic witness to tiie killing of his great rival, Julius Caesar (44bc). The dictator was stabbed to death at the foot of the statue, which had been re-erected after the inconstant populace had pulled it down. Pompey himself had been stabbed to death in 4Sbc, having fled to Egypt after being defeated in battle bv Pharsalus.


This mosaic is from the floor of the apse of a public hall, facing the forum of Praeneste (now Palestrina), and pre-dates the setting-up of the colony by Sulla in 82bc. The structure, with its wall decorations, was built at the same time as the Temple of Fortune during a period of prosperity for Praeneste brought about by the opening of the free port of Delos (166bc) and the increased presence of Italian merchants in the Aegean. The mosaic was laid with a slight depression in the centre and may have been covered with a thin veil of water, which would have brought out the vivid colouring. It is a unique example of such detailed representation: the scene includes a wide range of rocks and minerals, plants and animals, and depicts activities from the daily life of the people who lived on the plain and in the marshes of Alexandria.

Floor mosaic;
Museo Nazionale Archeologico, Palestrina, Italy.

Art of the Roman Empire

The enduring image of Rome represents one of mankind's greatest collective achievements. Reflected in imperial art from the accession of the first Roman emperor Octavian (31bc), to the deposition of the last, Romulus Augustus (ad476), it was continued by the Byzantine dynasties ("emperors of the Romans" until 1453). and revived at intervals in the medieval and modern Western world. During the reign of Augustus (31bc-ad14), imperial art - whether in the context of public celebration or in the form of portraits of the sovereign - imperial art was promoted at even,' social and economic level and exported to the most distant bounds of the empire. This mood of ideological fervour permeated the art of the entire imperial era.


An Empire of Symbols

Undaunted by any challenge, the Romans built arches, bridges, aqueducts, roads, walled cities, and frontier fortresses. These constructions were the conscious symbols of a mighty empire, the lasting and immutable traces of which are still to
be seen today from Europe through to Mesopotamia and North Africa.
At the heart of the continued reverence of the ideal of the empire by so many generations was the long-standing religious concern of the Romans to guarantee the survival and good fortune of their community through the scrupulous observance of divine will. Superstitious practices, threatened by the popularity in Italy of Epicurean doctrine, were modified for future centuries by Augustus, who translated them into loyal adherence to the images of the new regime. Out of the mythology inherited from eastern Greece, which had caused so much embarrassment to the rationalists, a few retained elements were sufficient to trace the essential historical origins of Rome and to rechannel traditional beliefs towards the new structures of imperial rule. These included the descent of the Julians from the goddess Venus Genitrix; the role of Mars, from the birth of Romulus to the avenging of the murder of Caesar; and the protection of Diana and Apollo in the battles that ended the civil wars. The task of the Chief Pontiff charged with religious functions was to preserve on the basis of these beliefs the "reciprocal link" (religion) with the gods rather than to expound the nature of the divinities. The past was reinterpreted as the forerunner of the history of Rome by writers such as Livy. who began with Aeneas and continued with the achievements of the Romans in accordance with the will of providence. In reviving the forms of worship necessary for the maintenance of the state, the leading personage of the governing class evoked the moral aspect of ancient religious zeal, adapting it to popular philosophical attitudes. The portraits of Augustus embodv the heroic and the divine aspects of the "actions" (res gestae) of the man who performed them. Crossing the "city of marble" from the Palatine to the Capitol and the Campus Martins, one is surrounded by buildings and monuments that culminate in the Mausoleum of Augustus, where the apotheosis of the Emperor fulfilled the legend of his origins: the entrance to the mound was in line with the Pantheon, the place where Quirinus, at Rome's beginning, ascended to the skies. Virgil's Aeneid projects the message into the future. The Ara Pads, the altar set up to commemorate the rule of Augustus, transmits the tidings of messianic investiture and discloses the eternity of Rome, as do the Carmen Saeculare (a choral lyric) of Horace and the fourth Eclogue of Virgil. Henceforth, no public monument would fail to reflect in the actions of the heroes being portrayed or in its allegorical decoration faith in the sacred, everlasting essence of Rome.

Marble bust of Octavian, Fondi.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples.
The young adopted son of Caesar is portrayed as a Hellenistic prince


Certain motifs from the Hellenistic-style imagery of Octavian remain in official portraiture created after 27bc, when he was honoured with the title of Augustus. However, these Greek influences are tempered by the Roman preference for specific detail in portraiture. This is typified in the impressive marble statue of Augustus from Prima Porta, dating from after 17bc. which although based on a classical model has been modified in order to capture the actual features of the emperor. In Greece, among the many conventional images, there is an extraordinary bronze statue, depicting Augustus on horseback with military and religious attributes. Among these can be seen the sheath of his sword and the lituus (a staff used for divination) of the augurs on the mount of his ring — Augustus was appointed Chief Pontiff in 12bc. His neck is long and the fringe of hair is typically forked above the brow us in the earlier portraits. The bodv is thin under the mantle, the face is bony, and the skull irregularly broad. An air of defiance is suggested by the prominent chin, the lips pursed by the nervous contraction of the cheeks, and the tension in the eyes. The memory of youth contrasts with the harsh truth of a man in advanced age. The principal representation of Augustus and other images of him are cast aside by the artist, who shows the disturbing truth, far removed from the image favoured for propaganda purposes - the signs of an unhappy adolescence, the mental turmoil of an ageing man who, behind the unyielding mask of power, never reached full maturity.

Statue of Augustus,
Prima Porta, Rome.
Museo Chiaramonti, Vatican City
Statue of Augustus,
Prima Porta, Rome.
Museo Chiaramonti, Vatican City
Fragmentary equestrian statue of Augustus, from the northern Aegean, bronze.
National Archaeological Museum, Athens


Octavian, renamed Augustus in 27bc, originally lived near the Forum but later moved to the Palatine, where he bought the house that belonged to the orator Hortensius. After the victory over Semis Pompeius (36bc), he purchased nearby buildings and had them demolished, donating the land to the state for the Temple of Apollo. On the ground floor of his house, in the western sector that was intended for private use. the decorative paintings of the so-called Room of the Masks still appear remarkably fresh and bright. The walls represent, by means of skilful illusion, the outlines of a theatre stage. The structure appears superimposed on the permanent background of stone, which is enlivened by recesses and projections. The central area reproduces the painted fabric curtain covering the door to the stage, with a reference to the work being performed. On the western wall is a sacred landscape that alludes to a satirical play. The horizontal lines, which in reality come towards the foreground, converge at a vanishing point set at the eye-level of anyone entering the room, in accordance with the theory of geometric perspective outlined by the Greek philosopher Democritus in Aktinographia. Equally rigorous rules applied to the depiction of shadows. In this "second style" decoration of the House of Augustus, perspective of what was much later termed the Brunelleschi type was generally superseded by a system of different viewpoints for the three horizontal sections (plinth, central fascia, and cornice) of the wall. In the Room of the Masks, adherence to the theoretical model is attributed to a painter from the court of Cleopatra, who followed the victorious Octavian from Alexandria (28bc).

Wall-painting of theatre scene,
from the Room of the Masks.
House of Augustus, Rome


During the period from Sulla to Caesar (c.90-40bc). artists in Rome from the Greek cities of southern Italy and Sicily had concentrated on the revival of parts of ancient Greek culture. This trend culminated in the Ara Paris, or Altar of the Augustan Peace, erected in 13bc to celebrate the era of prosperity and security during the rule of Augustus. The sculpture, which blends Hellenistic influence with the universal message of Periklean Athens, is an Italic-style realistic-record of the consecration ceremony and was dedicated on 30 January, 9bc. It shares the same formal treatment as Phidias' Panathenaic processional frieze in the Parthenon. On the northern face is a procession, perfectly ordered by family and rank, of the principal figures: priests, augurs, lictors (attendants). Octavian, flamens (priests). Agrippa, the young Cains Caesar, Livia, Tiberius, Antonia Minor and Drusus with their son Germanicus, Domitia and Domitius Ahenobarbus, and Maecenas. For many centuries to come, this composition typified dynastic propaganda. The arrangement of acanthus scrolls crowded with small animals beneath the figures brings together patrician traditions and the new order of the principate. On the eastern face of the monument Aeneas is shown as the founding father, whose family tree is traced by the tendrils. These were the noble branches of an ancestry rooted in custom. The hypnotic rhythm of the plant spirals changes for the sudden halt of the procession at the entrance to the enclosure, enabling the participants to gather up their robes or turn round, while a cloaked figure in the background, a symbol of winter, places his finger to his lips to impose holy silence.

Relief depicting the consecration ceremony, with Augustus,
members of his family, priests, and officials.
Ara Pacis, Rome



Augustus entrusted the continuity of his ideas to forms of unquestionable beauty. Since Rome appears as the magnified projection of the predominant Greek city-state, its archetype was the Athens of Perikles. The Hellenic figurative tradition was acknowledged most of all in the decoration of civic and religious buildings in Rome. A law was even proposed (but not approved) by Agrippa. Augustus' son-in-law, whereby all original Greek works of art transferred to Italy would be exhibited in public places. Appreciation of Rome's heritage was guaranteed by classicism.
which tempered the acceptance of Hellenic experiments. With craftsmen working to specific models, they were conforming to a single will, taking pride in being part of a collective enterprise, the allegorical transformation of Rome, which conferred upon Augustus the character of Supreme Being. In the official portrait of the princeps, to which the title of Augustus was added in 27bc, the facial features were adapted to meet the rules of classical statuary and the hairstyle made to resemble those of the heroes of Polykleitos. For the court and the citizens in outlying estates and provincial cities who were following the example of Rome, workshops of Athenian sculptors were recruited to provide copies of the most famous originals by Greek sculptors such as Myron and Lysippos. This became the most popular way to furnish a house or villa. Some artists moved to Italy and supplied a wide range of casts, a selection of which were added to Rome's growing collections. The most famous masterpieces of the moment were copied although it was hard to capture the poetic spirit of the original: the final result depended on the ability of the artist to imbue his copy with some of the original's vitality and energy. At Baiae, one workshop possessed the moulds of dozens of famous works from Athens, from which it turned out statues and bronze herms, monuments with a square shaft bearing a bust. Many of these statues were found in the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum where, along with images of the owner, the heads of philosophers stood side by side with the busts of warriors and the likenesses of heroes, such as Achilles and Pentesilea, and divinities including Minerva, Apollo, Diana. Hermes, Bacchus, and Herakles, In wall-paintings, known as the "second style" (according to the four Pompeian "'styles"), architectural forms created an illusion of space, at the centre of which were reproductions of Hellenistic masterpieces showing mythological scenes.

Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa
(son-in-law of Augustus).
Capitoline Museum, Rome.
From humble origins Agrippa became Augustus' most competent general and admiral.
As aedile, he played an important role in the embellishment of Rome


Plan of the Baths of Diocletian, Rome.
The central part of the baths now forms
the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli
Contemporary view of the Baths of Diocletian, Rome.
The modern semicircular building has the same
diameter as the original edifice,
built between ad298 and ad306.

During the imperial period, the popularity of the public baths signalled a reversal of the trend of the late republican age when privacy had prevailed. The lavatrina, a small room for private ablutions in houses, was replaced by communal establishments. The balaneia or public baths which originated in Sicily and Greece, offered hot water and steam baths, using a system of hot air passed through underground pipes (hyperkausterion). The hygiene value of this system was emphasized in the .sanctuary of Epidaurus where the original Greek system was supplemented by new structures in the Roman age. Initially, the public baths built in Rome were known as balnea (third century bc), and then thermae, still of Greek derivation (thermos meaning "warm"). The baths were regularly inspected for cleanliness and temperature: later, these inspectors were called curatores thermarum. The Romans were inspired by the Greek combination of baths (loutra) with gymnasiums and soon had special areas for physical exercise. The Baths of Agrippa (19bc) were built on a monumental scale, complete with a park and a vast swimming pool.
The Central Baths of Pompeii (still incomplete in ad79) were based on the precepts of Vitruvius, the military engineer and author of De architecturea. One of Nero's architects introduced the axial and symmetrical plan (ad62), later developed by Apollodorus of Damascus in the Baths of Trajan, where a separate section was provided for cultural activities with Latin and Greek libraries and rooms (auditoria) for lectures and conferences. This plan became even larger in the subsequent urban complexes of Caracalla and Diocletian. As visitors followed the ritual sequence of changing room, gymnasium caldarium (hot room), tepidarium (warm room), and frigidarium (cold room), the could enjoy the statuary and decoration, which included a manner of subjects: athletes, nymphs, the Bacchic dance, Venus rising from the water, and the beneficent divinities. In the words of an anonymous epigram: "Baths, wine, and love corrupt our bodies. But thev are life."

Baths of Trajan,
detail of the model of ancient Rome.
Museo delta Civilta Romana, Rome


Alexander and Augustus

The dissemination of the imperial message was reminiscent of the reign of Alexander the Great (356-323bc). The conquests of Rome rivalled those of Macedon in terms of territorial gain and promised even greater stability. The link was made by the consecration of the bronze supports of the tent that Alexander had taken on his campaigns in the temple of Mars Ultor. However, it was made clear that the Roman Empire shared nothing, nor bore comparison, with any Greek monarchy: this illusion had been dispelled by Caesar. When the young Octavian visited the founder's tomb in Alexandria, he refused to look at the remains of King Ptolemy, declaring that he had come to see a king, not a corpse. Rome had subdued the kingdom of Macedonia and all the others derived from it, in order to reassume the universal destiny of Alexander.
The long-established strategy of forming contacts was replaced by annexation, an integral form of rule in which Augustus' image was replicated everywhere, as that of Alexander had been, as the living embodiment of the all-embracing empire. Artists, with their responsibility for perpetuating heroic human faces and deeds, were part of culture, and as necessarv as lawyers, doctors, and state officials in safeguarding humanity. One outcome of the Roman vision was that Greco-Latin culture was made tangible and lasting in the form of monuments. Architecture, painting, and sculpture took on a role comparable in society to that attributed to Greek philosophy. Aristotle held that logic was the foundation of reason and central to all discourse, even it the conversation turned from fact to persuasion: in Roman treatises it was the practical outcome of eloquence that became the highest expression of intellectual activity. Artistic production was a "demonstrative discourse", entrusted to specialists whose task was to immortalize collective functions and ceremonies or individual services.

Funerary steia of Lutatia Lupata, portrayed as a lute player, first century ad, Augusta Emerita, Museo Arqueologico, Merida, Spain. The portrayal of the dead person was a privilege now extended to the middle classes

Public Art

The end of the class struggle and the civil war helped bring a new sense of cohesion to society. From the time of the early kings to the middle of the republican period, conflicts among patricians and plebeians had emphasized the contrast between native art and works intended for an aristocracy that was cautiously receptive of Hellenic models. Now it was difficult to isolate "plebeian" art in the historical sense of that social class. By the time of Augustus. Rome had already established an equilibrium between both factions, resulting in a more uniform structure of government. Augustus chose to revive the title of "tribune of the people", which would render inviolable his own person and his right to pass laws. Restoration of internal peace after the final defeat of Mark Antony had removed the most serious threat to Roman unity. Official planning gradually yielded to private patronage, the living standards of the middle class improved, and purchasing power mushroomed. The general mood was one of harmonious celebration. Romans had always found reassurance in the purpose and content of their monuments, which tended to vary in form according to the public level of cultural sophistication. The new factor, as compared with the traditional social structure of republican times, was that Rome now ruled over a cosmopolitan population such as Alexander had only dreamed of in his final years when he encouraged Macedonian men to marry Persian women. Ever since the Hellenic age. Greeks had been amazed at the custom of the quirites (Roman citizens) of granting citizenship to freed slaves and of allowing the sons of such slaves access to the magistracy. The father of the family could likewise free his foreign servant to make him his equal. Every Roman could thus create new citizens, investing them with prestige and power, and helping to formulate a mass culture more complex and comprehensive than that of Alexandria. To the multitudes, with their basic representative needs -votive offerings, portraits, and funerary monuments - was allotted that element of Greek culture which had already permeated Italic culture and plebeian art: socialist realism. This was not so much promoted by the people as offered to them like "bread and circuses". The combination of simplicity and Greek influence can be seen in the figurative decoration of commemorative monuments, a form of public art implemented by the state. Originally, there had been the triumphal painting of the republican age, on huge canvases, illustrating the actions of victorious heroes. These were much more likely to influence the collective mind than any easel painting, rather in the manner of modern-day billboards. In the celebratory relief of the imperial age. state policy still indulged the popular partiality for story-telling, combining clear narrative with spectacular rediscovered Hellenistic devices. Over time, the Roman manner of depicting history became so entrenched in the social imagination that up until the age of medieval Christianity, it came to be seen as the only way of presentation, and was almost second nature, part of the visual experience of Western civilization. No matter how Roman citizens of every extraction might differ privately in the choice of other forms of art, they were united in their positive reaction to the omnipresent propaganda of the Empire.

Detail of a relief commemorating the Dacian Wars
showing a soldier loaded with mule loaded with booty.
Trajan's Column, Rome.
The natural setting of this scene is typical of Hellenistic art

Antonia Minor.
Museo Nazionale Romano, Rome
(formerly Ludovisi Collection)


Daughter of Mark Antony and Octavia (sister to Augustus). Antonia Minor married Drusus Minor (second son to I.ivia), by whom she bore Claudius. As emperor, Claudius dedicated coins inscribed "Antonia Augusta" to her after she died in ad37, their image corresponding to that of the large bust known as the Ludovisi Juno. The woollen band, adorned with pearls and beading that surrounds the diadem of Juno is appropriate to her role as priestess to the Divine Augustus. Hellenic queens were often exalted in this ambiguous manner, both as priestesses and divinities. A perfect example is provided by this courtly sculpture in Neo-Attic style. Compared with models of the classical age, the effect of light and shade-in the coiffure becomes more prominent here and charming ringlets appear behind the ears and trail down the neck, alluding to the style introduced by Agrippina the Elder. The head, inclined slightly to the left, was inserted into the
drapery of a colossal statue of the imperial cult. As Seneca declared in his Apocolocynthosis ("The Pumpkinification of Claudius"), an irreverent comment on the deification of the late Emperor, the step from the sublime to the ridiculous is a small one.


Characteristic of the Roman world, clientes (or freedmen) were literally the plebeian followers of the patricians, who gave service and loyalty in return for protection. The career of a rising politician depended on the number of clientes he had. so maintaining them was regarded as an economic investment along with property. The freed slaves became citizens and remained followers of their patronus (manumitter). Even in death, they continued to enhance the patricians prestige, with their funerary monuments lining the roads outside the city, which bore inscriptions proclaiming the bonds made through manumission. During the time of Augustus, Luni marble replaced travertine stone for these sculpted portraits. Cutting off the figure at the base of the chest was a legacy of the Etruscan tradition. Busts were sculpted in deep frames, as if they were facing outwards from inside a window, from the tomb towards life. Family members were placed close together or shown in embrace. Customs governing the public image were once again controlled by rules that had been blurred at the tempestuous conclusion of the republic. Augustus ordered the wearing of an unusually large toga as a sign of a civis romanus and this style found keen acceptance among the freedmen who could thus assert the privileges they had won.

Gratidii group, restored relief.
Museo Pio-Clementino.
Vatican City (formerly Mattel Collection)

Portraits of freectmen.
Museo Nazionale Romano, Rome,
(formerly Mattei Collection)

Children born of a freedman after his manumission were free of all special restrictions and the son of a freedman gained the right to join the army. Alongside representations of toga-wearing men and women wrapped in mantles were the citizens in arms, in the heroically nuked pose of Greek derivation. The number of individuals represented, including those still living, and the size of the monument, constituted a metaphor of pride and hope for the growing family. The figures vary greatly: each one has a story to tell: it is a record of the past and a model for the future. For example, the gestures of the married couple in the Gratidii group tell a love story. The static, frontal representation of individual faces derives from Italic tradition, but the overall composition has elements both of classical nobilitv and Greek sentiment.

Rabirii group, Via Appia, Rome.
Museo Nazionale Romano, Rome


From the reign of Augustus, the wearing of the toga became increasingly popular. The balteus, the sweep across the chest, became looser with a tuck in it (umbo); another fold of material (sinus) hung at knee-level. In the marble statue of Titus (ad79-81), which came from the Lateran Palace, the line of the drapery runs from the right foot to the left shoulder, over which the end (lacinia) falls. The shadows are so dense and the folds so fine that it resembles a work in bronze. The artist has combined the emperor's coarse features with an elegance achieved through the delicate carving; which in the skilfully rendered folds reveals the pose of the body beneath. The large head is modelled with incredibly light touches. The small, rather disquieting eyes are surrounded by tiny wrinkles and framed by a square face. The smile on the prominent mouth suggests both sensuality and amiable optimism. Near the left foot lies a wasp's nest; this is a reference to Titus' grandmother Vespasia Polla, who derived her name from the insect, vespa (wasp), and from his father's surname Vespasian. The log. inside which is a honeycomb (favus, another phonetic allusion to the family name Flavius), serves, therefore, not merely as a physical prop: it is his family tree.

Marble statue of Titus Ftavius Vespanius,
Lateran Palace, Rome.
Museo Chiaramonti, Vatican City