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The Art of Imperial Rome

June 15, 2011

Wayne Craven, the renowned art historian at the University of Delaware, has long been fascinated by the shadows cast from the past onto contemporary society.  Dr. Craven offered the following insights on Roman art and architecture:

"As Rome established herself as the center of civilization,
it became clear that her destiny in the arts was to be
realistic in sculpture, as she had been imperialistic in
government... Roman art and architecture has had a profound
impact throughout the ages by influencing modern city planning,
architecture, and art. From our city streets to our football stadiums,
and even our tile floors, Roman art and architecture has provided important
examples and has been emulated."

What are your thoughts on Roman art and architecture, within the context established
by Craven's statement above, and where do your sensibilities reside (i.e., do you prefer
Greek or Roman art/architecture)? 


Pantheon, Rome
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31 Comments
  1. Douglas Falla permalink

    I completely agree with Craven’s statement above, I can see how the Roman influence the all the following architecture so much. I believe they set a foundation for the rest of the generations that came after them. They’re architecture/art raised the bar very high for the rest of us. In my opinion I like Roman art/architecture better because it was so unique and better than Greek architecture. A lot of people would argue that the Romans copied the Greek, yes they have a bit in similarity but the romans came out with something more advanced and unique.

  2. Julie Dickinson permalink

    To choose one over the other is not something I am willing to do. I believe both Greek and Roman art/architecture have amazing qualities. Not one greater than the other. Greek art demonstrates a naturalistic and realistic characteristic. Ideal beauty was portrayed when composing the sculptures. They were focused on the gods versus the practical person. Roman art was inspired by the great qualities of Greek art and sculptural forms. Many similarities have been found within both forms of artwork. Roman art not only depicted gods but also battle scenes and had a documentary sense to them. No two artists work in the same manner, given the same subject they demonstrate beautiful qualities and different ways.

  3. Joshua Stewart permalink

    I find it fascinating how a civilization as old as the Roman and the Greek have had such a large impact on modern society.whether it be art, government , architecture, ect its hard to go a day without seeing or being influenced by antiquity. It makes me wonder how the world would look had thing we draw influence from today never been created and if just a handful of thing that have been lost to time and that we have no knowledge of today still existed to this very day.

  4. Randee Oh permalink

    I think it is truly amazing how influential these people where. I think in a way we are trying to do what they did. They took what worked and expounded upon it. We see what worked great for them and have learned to make our structures better from it. Unfortunately for the most part they got to see firsthand how things where working in the first place and could even be taught by that people; whereas we are still trying to put the pieces together.

  5. Craven’s statement does not identify the source of Roman art and architecture as being the product of its imperialism. Roman art and architecture was clearly copied from the Greeks. While I think the Romans took Greek architecture and proportion and continued to grow and excel in architecture and structure design the Romans never surpassed the beauty and quality of Greek art. The Romans built incredible structures like the Colosseum and the Pantheon. Roman sculpture, while very good, just doesn’t have the spirit captured in Greek sculpture.

  6. Diana Cosio permalink

    I agree with Craven’s statement completely about Roman Art and Architecture being a fundamental part of western culture and civilization. This is not to say that the Greeks do not deserve any credit. The Greeks were in fact the pioneers of realism in art and made astonishing discoveries in architecture. But the Romans must be praised for absorbing the knowledge of the Greeks, the Egyptians, and other civilizations and harmoniously combining it and then filling in the missing pieces with their own discoveries, such as the arch, the dome, and aging effects in sculptures.
    Today, we also do as the Romans did, we accumulate knowledge from other cultures and past civilizations and then create a hybrid system which fulfills our needs. So by being influenced by the Roman civilization, we are in fact taking knowledge from the Greeks and other ancient cultures.

  7. Irene Webber permalink

    I agree with Craven’s statement. While the Greeks are the foundation for Roman art & architecture, the Romans were able to develop the Greeks knowledge even farther. They made profound discoveries in architecture, and moved into more realistic representations in sculpture. This does not mean the Greeks were less successful in their accomplishments, they just hadn’t progressed their ideas to the level of the Romans. We do take from the Romans knowledge in art and architecture and transform it to fit our needs today.

  8. Chase Menaker permalink

    I think it is fascinating to see parts of our culture that has been influenced by those past. It’s no surprise to me that there are so many pieces of Roman art and architecture still alive today. They were so focused on authoritarianism and function that it would make sense that some of their practices are still in function today. If I had to choose between Greek and Roman art I would choose Greek. There is something magical and pure about how intoxicated they were with beauty. If I was to see a modern day artwork that was as obsessed with human perfection as the Greeks were, I would think it was shallow. Instead, the Greeks had a great respect for beauty that you can still sense today.

  9. Cally Vaurs permalink

    I personally prefer the Roman architecture because it has a “magical” quailty about it. When I think of the Greeks I think of mathematical “perfection”. The Roman’s did borrow bits of Greek ideas as Craven pointed out, but I think that is what all “artists” do in someway. Obviously the Romans did not recreate the wheel, however, they did make their creations their own. I really like how the Pantheon’s power is disguised by its location and the real experience doesn’t happen until you actually get inside. That is the whimsical feeling that I love and appreciate from the Roman architecture.

  10. Alex Trimble permalink

    I honestly like the architecture of each pretty equally, but for different reasons. I like the drama of Greek architecture, with important buildings up on hillsides looming over the town, like the Parthenon, rather than hiding in a busy intersection surrounded by other buildings, like the Pantheon. However, I also like that aspect of Roman architecture because it makes it more approachable as an experience. They are fairly similar though, with the Romans taking influence from what the Greeks made and then adjusting it to their own purposes and innovating it with the development of both concrete and dome/arch architecture. Also, while Rome influences us, Greece influenced Rome, so I think in that way we are really influenced by both.

  11. Mary Anderson permalink

    It says something about the Romans that we are still using their designs and embellishments in our own structures. The Romans wanted to be powerful forever and have achieved their goal in that their designs of art, architecture, and even government are still held as practical and useful in the 2000s. I think that both the Greek and Romans had some great ideas when it comes to art and architecture that I use in my own art and home. I don’t necessarily favor one over the other because they are both very instrumental in present art and architecture.

  12. Ed Goodman permalink

    I agree with his statement. You can see the modern adaptations of roman art and architecture all over the place. However, I don’t think I could pick between roman and greek architecture and art. Both are very beautiful and are both still very present in our society today. Without what they both have created I can’t even begin to imagine how different everything that we have and do would be.

  13. Maryann Floren permalink

    Roman versus Greek art; architecture. It is a really hard decision to choose one over the other. They both are very influential and have been for thousands upon thousands of years. As far as Craven’s statement goes, yes I agree completely. But I also think the same goes for Greek art. I think they compliment each other as far as time and location. Without either, we would not have the Pathenon or the Parthenon.

    Think about it, why would we choose one over the other?!

  14. Lindsey Paige permalink

    I feel as though Greeks excelled in the quality and diversity of their sculptures. They were the first to create truly amazing, lifelike sculptures in tribute to everything from various pagan deities to the perfection of the human form. In that sense, the Roman’s copying of Greek art, while wonderful, did not achieve the same level of prowess and inspire the same sense of awe in the viewer. On the other hand, Roman architecture achieved a level of ingenuity and majesty as a result of their tendency to borrow ideas from other civilizations that Greek culture simply did not. So I suppose the answer would be that they each excelled in different areas.

  15. Sculptures of Greece are definitely one of the most influential artistic movements of any ancient culture. We can see that Roman sculpture was heavily influenced by Greek. While Greek sculptors traditionally illustrated military exploits through the use of mythological allegory, the Romans used a more documentary style. Roman reliefs of battle scenes for the glorification of Roman. I think that I can not choose one over the other because both Greek and Roman art are both advance in different area.

  16. Victoria Brown permalink

    Our society would not be the same without the Roman influence. Our art, our economy, and our structure are all ripples form the Roman Empire. Rome took what they admired from the Greeks and added innovation. Although they failed to create the same level of harmony between the structures mathematical calculations and the beauty of nature, they were able to oppose ideals and come up with something new and different, an example being the Pantheon. They were able to take the humanism found in the Greek sculptures and paint them in true emotions, far from perfection. I always found this a sort of contradiction.. The Greeks were praised for their perfected forms of humans, often without flaws but drenched in emotion, whereas the Romans cut our the idea of perfection and laced expressions with wrinkles and impurities, yet it was these statues that stood for absolute power and strength. It creates an entirely different experience for the viewer. In this sense, I still enjoy the Greek art because it evokes more from me, whereas I am dumbfounded by the realism of the Romans statues and the flaws put into them, the feeling of power is more difficult to relate to and puts the viewer in a subordinate position.

  17. Christina Lopez permalink

    Roman art had reach its greatness only because they had a foundation in Greek art. The Romans are the best at improving any idea or achievement in the ancient world. They learned from examples and then they created art that showed power and greatness. I think Roman art is amazing but not unique. They had the ability of turning Greek art or any art into Roman art. Eventually, that Roman art became unique as they discovered new ideas and new artistic skill to really create a new foundation of Roman art. Now to this day Roman art has a strong hold in architectural structures that represent governmental power or simply political power as the Romans did.

  18. Bryan Yim permalink

    I agree with Craven’s statements. But we are able to find great similarities between Greek and Roman arts. Roman art was a continuation of Greek art and they have extended the use of art by using art as a tool to express its authority. Greek and Roman architecture do effect the forms of the present buildings; Greek form presents a space for knowledge (libraries) while Roman form represents authority (government buildings).

  19. Roman architecture evolved from the many new ideas the Greeks had created. The Romans took their architecture to a new level. They maintained the beauty and elegance of the Greek’s architecture but made their buildings more efficiently and placed them in much more public areas. Because we follow many of the Roman styles and techniques to this day, I believe that their art/architecture in history has been very important, but without the Greeks, the Roman style may not have been as predominate.

  20. Cristine Lim permalink

    Both Greek and Roman art is similar because Roman architecture and sculptures are an expansion of Greek work. It was heavily influenced by the Greeks, but to choose one over the other is wrong. They both have unique styles and have stood the test of time.

  21. Danielle Nazareno permalink

    Roman art and architecture is profound and intelligent. Not only was it well built and beautifully designed, but created with much consideration and multiple purposes. It is because many architecture and art are inspired and replicate the Roman style because the designs were successful, efficient, and beautiful all at the same time. I do, however, think Greek architecture and art is more preferable to me. I think the Greeks were more aware and sophisticated of their art than the Romans.

  22. Kellilyn Monar permalink

    I would have to say that I like Greek art and architecture a bit more. After all, they were the first to make the realistic sculptures and fascinating buildings. I feel as if the Romans took Greek art and architecture and put there own twist on it, but never tried to out do the Greeks. The Greeks were the inventors, and in my opinion, the best. Even today, you see Greek art and architecture being replicated. Statues today are mostly expressive and realistic; and many government buildings are very similar to original Greek architecture.

  23. I absolutely love Greek and Roman art however I feel that my prefered tastes lead a little more towards that of the Roman culture. I think it is absolutely marvelous how both architecture styles are still followed and considered major influences for todays modern buildings. However I think that the Roman culture and architecture is a little more used and sought after today than that of the Greeks, which in a way is ironic because beginning out the Romans were only copying the architecture and movement of the Greeks. I think that they are both highly influential and will continue to be throughout our history.

  24. silvia G permalink

    I agree with Craven’s statements. But to choose on over the other is wrong because without either one of them our building wouldnt be the same. They are both unique in their own way.

  25. Brook Haler permalink

    I guess I prefer Greek. I prefer the expressions and emotions of the subjects of the art. It’s not just about conveying power and authority. The Greeks almost seemed to use their art for self-reflection…either for themselves or for others to use in that fashion upon viewing. The Greeks seemed to use their art to represent a broader range of emotion. Even though the eyes are flat, one can almost see the emotion of the statue within. Not that this isn’t done within Roman art, but the range of emotion represented doesn’t seem to be a broad and varied.

  26. Michael Fraser permalink

    I would have to strongly agree that Roman culture has had a huge impact on all civilizations after it. The two major ones are the government and the architecture that was developed and used during this time. The one that is really impressive is the stadiums that were build thought the empire to entertain the masses and keep the people happy is still used today thought the world.

  27. Laura Cruz permalink

    it’s hard to choose between Greek and Roman but, I do think they had a big influence in the work done today. Later many tried to have a little Roman or Greek in their buildings because they work hard to make to stand out in society.

  28. Alex Kereczman permalink

    The beauty that has trickled down from Roman art and architecture is wonderful. Unconciously, society has embraced this old civilization in the modern world. It touches our lives daily and our creations of most things are constantly influenced by the old ways.

    I prefer Roman art, because it has a more fluid nature within the bodies and the portrait busts of roman officials are breathtaking. Greek is lovely in its own right, but Roman is a step above. Roman architecture is also more to my liking with the use of more elaborate designs and lighting techniques.

  29. Mike Bautista permalink

    I have to agree with Craven’s statements. Looking at any building that houses authority figures (in the US at least), the Roman artistic sensibilities are hard to not notice. There is such an undeniable sense of power and authority that is portrayed when one sees a building that emulates that Roman style. Though I can’t say this without bias, I’ve lived all my life seeing those authority buildings as they are and it’s trained my brain to associate that kind of architecture with power.
    Though Roman architecture is so beautiful to behold, I think my sensibilities lean toward Greek. Their sculptures are so beautiful to me. Their buildings might not be as perfect as the Roman’s, but if a building serves its purpose, or at least houses the company that does what it’s meant to do, I can overlook its design.

  30. Lucy Glover permalink

    My appreciation is towards both Greek and Roman art and
    architecture. The Romans and Greeks provided a fundamental
    base on many levels and have greatly influenced
    architectures and art in various cultures. Neither
    one is better than the other, they are just respected
    for different qualities.

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