Roman art grows out of Etruscan art, and at first it is a lot like Etruscan art. Because of this, it has a close relationship to Greek art as well. Roman art as a type of its own really gets going around 500 BC with the beginning of the Roman Republic.
Roman people were particularly interested in portraiture: in making statues that really looked like one particular person, especially a famous person. Greek people were more interested in ideals: what is the most beautiful man? what is the most athletic man? But the Romans were more interested in reality.
A lot of people living in Rome seem to have believed, also, that having a good image of somebody's face was important to keeping their ghost
happy after they died so they wouldn't haunt you. So throughout the time of the Roman Republic
and all the way through the Roman Empire we see a lot of
About 200 BC
, the Romans began conquering Greece
, and this changed their art styles a lot. As the Roman soldiers marched through Greece, they saw a lot of Greek art
in the temples
, and in the
cemeteries, and in public squares and people's houses
. The Romans thought of the Greeks as being cooler than they were, so whatever the Greeks were doing in art, the Romans wanted some. They brought home a lot of the Greek art they saw (either by buying it or by stealing it, or maybe sometimes the Greeks gave it to them for presents), and they
also brought back Greek sculptors (often as slaves
) to make more art for them in Rome. Augustus
' Ara Pacis
, for example (the Altar of Peace), shows a lot of influence from Greek art in the fancy swirls on the front, in the frieze
which is so much like the Parthenon frieze
, and in the meanders
underneath the frieze
For some general books about Roman art, check out these from Amazon.com or from your library:
Ancient Roman Art, by Susie Hodge (1998). For kids.
Roman Art: Romulus to Constantine, by Nancy and Andrew Ramage (4th Edition 2004). The standard textbook.
A Coloring Book of Ancient Rome, from Bellerophon Books (1988). For kids.