The 4 Major Periods in Ancient Rome:
  1. REPUBLIC 509 - 27 BCE <<<<<
  2. EARLY EMPIRE 27 BCE - 96 CE
  3. HIGH EMPIRE 96-192 CE
  4. LATE EMPIRE 192 – 476 CE

Ancient Rome MAIN PAGE

REPUBLIC 509 - 27 BCE [482 total]

Marcellus, b.268(?) – d.208 BCE, consul
Marius, b.157 – 86 BCE, consul
Sulla, b.138 – d.79 BCE, consul & dictator
Pompey, b.106 – d.48 BCE, consul
Julius Caesar b.100 – d.44 BCE, con & dict (A)
Mark Antony, b.83 – d.30 BCE, consul

REPUBLIC - important terms
  • craze for Greek art
  • concrete
  • arch
  • barrel vault
  • buttressing
  • fenestration
  • groin vault
  • hemispherical dome
  • city planning
  • forum
  • basilica
  • impluvium
  • verism
  • wall painting
  • linear (single point) perspective
  • aerial perspective
  • pseudoperipteral
  • portico

Titus_Livius_aka livy.png
Livy (aka Titus Livius)

Introductory Questions
Q: Briefly describe the geographic territory ruled by the Roman Empire.
Q: How is Tarquinius Superbus important to Rome?
Q: According to the historian Livy, what event caused the "craze for works of Greek art?
Q: What is significant about the establishment of a centralized Roman government?
Q: Explain the structure of the Roman government during the Republic.



Variations on the use of the "arch":


Q: What architectural invention enabled Roman architects with a greater ability in their designs of structures?
Q: Explain the manner in which the Romans made variations of the arch.
Q: Explain the architectural vocabulary associated with the parts comprising the arch.

Temple of Fortuna Virilis (AKA Temple of Portunus)
75 BCE

Q: Explain how the combination of Etruscan & Greek architecture with the Roman Architectural Revolution created unique buildings that expressed the Roman Imperial spirit.
  • A temple dedicated to Portunus (Roman god of the harbors).
  • Later dedicated to grandson of Augustus.
  • Etruscan in plan.
    • High podium (E)
    • Front access only (E)
    • Free-standing columns located in front only (E)
    • Deep porch (E)
    • Free-standing (Ionic) columns & frieze (G)
    • Engaged columns on both sides and back [R]
    • Materials: tufa, travertine, overlaid w/ stucco (to imitate white marble of Greeks) [R]
  • Engaged half-columns around sides and back is called pseudoperipteral.
  • Romans adapting and adjusting elements from Greeks and Etruscans
  • side note: C/C Temple of Veii : Temple of Portunus
  • Video clip about the Temple of Portunus (SmartHistory / Khan Academy) - link

Temple of Vesta
1st C BCE, Tivoli, Italy
Greek:Temple of Athena
Greek:Temple of Athena (model)

Q: How is this like a Greek tholos?
  • theater with semi-circular colonnade and royal temple.
  • behind pavilion was tholos, temple to Fortuna; hides ancient rock-cut cave where acts of divination took place.
  • overlooks gorge, frieze with oxen heads holding garlands.
  • Greek inspired model (reference Temple of Athena)
  • shrines of Vesta were commonly round in structure
  • non-Greek elements:
    • frontal orientation; narrow stairway onto high podium, leading to cella door (axial alignment)
    • cella wall - made of concrete

Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia
(restored view)

  • the most impressive and innovative use of concrete during the Republic.
  • spread out over terraces leading up a hillside to a tholos (round) temple at the peak of an the 'ascending triangle'.
  • resembles the terraced sanctuaries from the Hellenistic (East), but means of construction were distinctly Roman.
  • barrel vaults used
  • Romans transformed the entire hillside > thus subjugating nature itself to human will and rational order.

Funerary relief w/ portraits
30 BCE
  • An example of non-elite portraiture
  • tombs of ordinary people.
  • all named "Gessia" - indicating that the slaves still carry name of their owner
  • Gessia Fausta (L; former slave; alive), Publius Gessius (center; slave owner; deceased), Gessia Primas (R, former slave; deceased)
  • Fausta and Primas - both freed slaves
  • when freed slaves died, they often ordered portrait for tombs
  • this work was probably commissioned by Fausta
  • frontal portraits
  • proclaiming status as legal members of Roman society; citizenship was prized!

Funerary Procession Relief
Second half of 1st C BCE
  • limestone relief of dead freeman
  • depicting funeral procession
  • musicians, professional female mourners pulling hair in grief, and deceased’s wife and children
  • the deceased props himself up on bier (like those in Greek Geometric vases) with canopy - as if still alive! (Etruscan in nature - refer to Etruscan Sarcophagus)
  • unconventional >> groups of figures are shown as "floating" on ground lines (like flying carpets)
    • rules of Classical art (favored by elite patrons) ignored here
    • Q: Why? A: The artist was attempting to show overlapping rows of people
  • Notice the similar references / connections to the figure depicted in this Roman relief (below)
    roman republic sarcophagus_compare.jpg

Wax death masks
  • cast in plaster and comm. to sculpt head in marble
  • sometimes create imaginary portraits of long dead.
  • preserved likenesses of ancestors in homes, paraded at funerals, taken in procession to forum where son gave oration of virtues.
  • later people died, family members with same size and build wore mask to impersonate: wore robes and togas.
  • portrait masks restricted by law to Patrician class (elevated status).
  • slaves and former slaves couldn’t have (acc. to Roman law, slaves were not people but property)
  • placed in atrium of main hall in wooden shrine or mini temple, permanent fire burning in hearth as honor for deceased.
  • kept family documents, busts and casts of death masks in tablinum.
  • if house sold, purchaser not allowed to remove certain relics by law.
  • almost exclusively men, advanced age.

Republican Verism

Q: Explain Republican verism: its origins, purpose, and unique statement when compared to the sculptural styles we have viewed so far in class.

Head of Roman Patrician
  • Verism: ver = truth
    • some say this brutal realism was accurate
    • others say this treatment could have been an exaggeration (a form of propaganda, if you will)
  • This serves as an example for the idea that the head alone was enough to constitute a portrait for the Roman Republic; Contrast this to the Greeks - who insisted that the body was inseparable.
  • Almost exclusively men, advanced age, elders (held power)
  • What does this reflect about the individual?
    • Serious
    • Determined
    • Experienced
    • Loyal to family and state
  • Wrinkles were respected, admired, seen as "marks of distinction"; evidence of hard work, rich experience
  • During the Republic, the patricians held great pride in distinguished lineage... and sculptural portraits were a suitable mode through which this was celebrated.
  • side note: C/C Kresilas’ portrayal of Pericles (herm).

Portrait of General
  • Greek art popular to copy; bodies from stock in variety of poses with socket in neck for head.
  • Stern Republican head on powerful youthful body.
  • Portrait head preserves appearance, cuiriass by side as prop informs military officer, Greek body type shows he is a hero.

Roman Patrician with Busts
  • Also referred to alternate title: "How to hold your family tree with 2 hands"
  • Man in center, full body - holding busts of his ancestors (prob his father and grandfather).
  • Right-hand head (our left) dates from 40-50 BCE
  • Left - 20-15 BCE
  • Patrician's head - missing (replaced with another from 40 BCE)

Denarius with portrait of Julius Caesar 44 BCE
  • Denarius - the type of coin seen here
  • The profile reflects the likeness of Julius Caesar
  • written around the perimeter "Dictator Perpetuo" (dictator for life); this was the title given to JC
  • note aging face and receding hairline
  • conforming to the Republican veristic tradition
  • So - what's unique about this?
    • placement of a living person's likeness on a coin (this was certainly not the norm!)
    • Republic Rome (early part): divinities on coins [which was a Greek convention]
    • Republic Rome (now): Caesar was the 1st to dare place his image on a coin
  • Coinage - a perfect mode / medium for those in power
    1. continual reminder of provisions for people > ability to engage in commerce
    2. every coin was also another opportunity to expose those using it to the likeness of those in command.
  • Sheer propaganda

The City of Pompeii
Q: What does Pompeii say about the Roman's ability with city planning?
Q: Describe the events leading up to, during, and after the explosion of Mount Vesuvius.
Q: What sources do we have that enable us to gain insight into the sequencing of events that took place?
Q: Compare and contrast the buildings and tombs used by the workers of Ostia to the homes and tombs of the rich and famous Romans.

General overview:
  • In 62 CE - earthquake, repairs in progress in town.
  • Later, on August 24, 79 CE Mount Vesuvius erupts and buries towns around Bay of Naples including Pompeii.
  • Rediscovered in 18th C, undisturbed for over 16 centuries.
  • luxurious resort community, population of 25,000
  • Excavation in 1800’s - found carbonized loaves of bread, fish, eggs, and nuts (priests abandoned lunch).
  • Pompeii port of agriculture and commerce; Herculaneum seaside resort (certainly wealthier than Pompeii).
    • Both somewhat provincial, not major sources of wealth and art patronage.
    • Few pieces above “hack” level compared to Rome and Alexandria.
  • Pliny the Elder, famous for Natural History about the history of Greek art dies trying to get closer and save people.
  • Pliny the Younger stayed behind to continue studies at house and records events.
    • "Volcanic clouds general appearance like a pine: rose to great height, split into branches. Buildings shook and swayed, outside danger of falling pumice stones. Elsewhere daylight, but Vesuvius' darkness blacker and denser than any night ever was. Daylight returned 2 days later".
    • He and mother left and started walking on falling pumice to get away, in darkness, hearing cries of others, kept walking to safety.
  • Eyewitness - started at 1 P.M. and by end of next day, villages covered with 18 feet of ash and pumice. Dropped at rate of 10,000 tons per second, people put pillows on heads and tied down to leave. Power carried material 3X higher than planes fly. Earthquakes prior to rupture and at time, but they were used to them so they didn’t worry. Most got outside city walls, 10-20 thousand killed outside city by surge clouds. People vaporized to the bone in less than 2/10 of a second, couldn’t even respond to the pain.
  • Herc was fine until midnight: then every living thing (human, plant, bacteria) died in seconds. Many went to shore to try and escape, Roman soldier thrown down so hard cracked every bone in body except inner ear.
  • Plaster casts of voids of people - interesting to us because these people were "caught" at the moment of death. Mummies are posed and do not offer the same mystique as the dead bodies which were frozen in their tracks. They were not posed or presented, as with the Egyptian mummies. A tad more interesting.

  • Pliny the Younger describing Mt. Vesuvius eruption in 79 CE - link
  • Pompeii: "Bang Bang (My Lover Shot Me Down)" by Nancy Sinatra - link

  • Pompeii: Window on Ancient Rome; This is a very nice video that details the highlights of Ancient Pompeii (Italy) - link

  • Top 5 Facts - Pompeii -

  • Pompeii: Frozen in Time (bodies of those who did not survive) - link
  • Pompeii: New Studies Reveal Secrets From a Dead City | National Geographic -
  • Ancient Prostitution of Pompeii - History Documentary HD 2016 -

  • Pompeii: The Last Days (the history of the eruption that buried Pompeii) - link << dead link
  • Pompeii: Lost and Found (c/o Stuff You Missed in History Class) podcast - link << dead link
  • A Day in Pompeii - 5pm 24 August 79 AD (c/o Sound Design); A scene from the 3D movie used in the "A Day in Pompeii" - link<< dead link
  • Pompeii: information c/o University of Virginia - link << dead link

Pompeii, 2nd C BCE

  • the forum was the center of civic life and city (in other words - the "public square")
    defined by the intersection of the streets: Cardo (N-S); Decumanus (W-E)
  • was originally at the "heart" of original Pompeii town; now it exists at in the SW corner of the the "expanded Roman city"
  • closed-off and purposefully left empty for pedestrian traffic - festivities and conducting business
  • some buildings of note:
    • Temple of Jupiter - located at North end
    • Basilica - located at SW corner


  • located at SW corner of Forum
  • originally housed law court of Pompeii
  • resembles the Forum in plan (a microcosm of it)
  • interior space divided into central nave and flanking aisles (prototype for future churches)

Temple of Jupiter


  • North side (facing forum from basilica)
  • Material: tufa covered with white stucco [R]
  • Etruscan plan (but, columns of Corinthian order)
  • Chief side to focus attention (E) - certainly not Greek.
  • Also consider the fact that most Greek temples existed in isolation.
  • Shrine to Jupiter, and in 80 BCE, when Pompeii became Roman colony, converted to Capitolium - triple shrine - Jupiter, Juno, Minerva (Roman chief gods).

Roman (Pompeian) Temple of Jupiter [reconstruction]
temple of jupiter_screenshot.png
Greek Parthenon

Pompeian Amphitheater
70 BCE
  • SE end of town
  • Wealthy officials of Pompeii - patrons
  • Amphitheater means “double theater”
    • Recall Amphora: the double handled vase / jar [amph = double].
  • 2 elliptical cavea (seating areas)
    • side note: Think 'cavern', 'cave', 'caveat'
  • Earliest amphitheater (double theater, like 2 Greek theaters together) known, could seat 20,000 spectators (more than entire pop. 1.5 C later).
  • Special reserved seats for donors
  • Seating by rank (civic & military)
  • Only concrete made this possible. Concrete was unknown to the Greeks
  • Barrel vaults form tunnels leading to arena
  • Arena - Latin for "sand”; soaked up blood
  • side note: C/C Roman Amphitheater : Greek theater
    • Gladiatorial combats / animal hunts = sharp contrast to Greek theater (comedies and tragedies)
    • Greek built theirs into hillside; this design necessitated building an artificial mountain for the cavea (seating area)
    • *So, the Roman theater differs in both form and function from the Greek theater.

Plan of Pompeian house
Q: Describe the concepts, methods and materials of Roman house construction; especially as seen in the Roman House of Pompeii.
Q: How did it differ from typical housing for Romans in Rome?

  • Entered through foyer (fauces: throat of house) to central reception area (atrium), which had flowering plants, statues and fountains. Rooms flanking could open inward (rooms) or outward (rented as shops). Roof partially open to sky, admit light and slants to channel rainwater into impluvium (basin) below. Small bedrooms called cubicles, study, dining room, kitchen, some small garden. Main living rooms under protection of different deities on walls, Bacchus in triclinium (dining room), Venus in bedroom. 2nd C added peristyle garden behind, 2nd source of light. Often a fountain or pool, marble statue, mural paintings, mosaic floor.

(Atrium of) House of Vettii
  • fauces = Latin for "jaws" (like the foyer)
  • cubiculum
  • impluvium
  • peristyle
  • tablinium

Roman Wall Painting

  • great in quantity
  • true fresco
  • testify to the prosperity and tastes of time
  • end of 19th C - August Mau (German art historian) discerned 4 styles

Q: Examine and compare the four styles of Roman wall painting.
Q: Explain the similarities & differences between each of the four styles.

FIRST STYLE (AKA Masonry Style)
  • the aim = imitation / illusionism

Samnite House (Herculaneum)
late 2nd / early 1st C BCE
  • located in the fauces of the Samnite House
  • true fresco, colors applied while plaster damp, painstaking preparation of the wall
  • the aim = imitation / illusionism; the painter attempts to emulate costly marble panels (imported from different quarries across the Mediterranean).
    • think of how we, today, attempt to recreate faux effects in our houses (on walls or furniture) - crackle glazes, antiquing medium, etc.
    • also - Formica counter-tops that appear to be made from granite
  • stucco relief
  • this concept is not new to Pompeii or Rome (Greeks did this in the late 4th C BCE onward)
  • But, it is yet another example of Hellenization of Roman architecture.

SECOND STYLE (3 examples)
  • popular 80 - 15 BCE
  • First Style never went out of fashion, but the Second Style represented the antithesis of it (in a sense).
  • Scholars, for the most part, attribute the Second Style to the Romans (some Greek precedents do exist)
  • dissolving a room's confining walls; illusionism used to extend beyond the walls, into a 3D world.

Example A:
Villa of Mysteries Frieze (aka Dionysiac Mystery Frieze) - [room 5]
Pompeii, Italy; ca. 60-50 BCE

  • Pompeii: Villa of the Mysteries [video from tour] - link
  • Pompeii: Villa of the Mysteries / Triclinium Dionysus Bacchus mural [video form tour] - link

Example B: Linear perspective (late / mature 2nd style example)
Villa of Publius Fannius Synistor
Boscoreale, Italy; ca. 50-40 BCE
Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 9.42.42 PM.png
  • 3-D setting extends beyond wall to see vistas of Italian towns.
  • cubiculum - room
  • single point perspective: Single vanishing point, but employed inconsistently here.
  • theater may have inspired decoration: rear wall w/ grotto (setting for satyr plays); side walls w /paintings of theatrical masks from lintels.

Example C: Atmospheric perspective
Villa of Livia Primaporta
Primaporta, Italy; ca. 30 - 20 BCE

  • villa of Emperor Augustus’ wife
  • Primaporta (north of Rome)
  • decorated on all sides with garden-scapes
  • to suggest recession - artist employed atmospheric perspective (depth increasingly blurred).
  • believable wrap-around of nature = unprecedented!
  • copies of luxurious gardens frequent in larger palaces and villas. Narrow strip of grass, nature behind fenced. Laurels, oleanders, cypress, roses, periwinkles, poppies. Actual gardens revealed by excavations elsewhere, most urban gardens had practical functions, w/ fruit and nut trees, densely planted orchard similar to this.

  • delicate linear fantasies on monochromatic backgrounds
  • reasserts primacy of wall

Villa of Agrippa Posthumous
Boscotrecase, Italy; ca. 10 BCE
currently housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
  • third style - not much later; began to favor wall surface again (reassert the primacy of the wall's surface).
  • this is one of the earliest examples of the Third Style.
  • delicate linear fantasies on monochrome background.
  • Insubstantial colonettes supporting featherweight canopies
  • tiny floating landscape on jet-black ground
  • presented in frames like modern paintings (yet, they are not easily mistaken for tiny windows into space beyond - illusionism not the goal)
  • miniature arrangement of trees, architecture, and figures in monochromatic background
  • nature and landscape - primary interest.

  • The taste for illusionism returned
  • popular in 50s CE
  • preferred manner of mural decoration when Mount Vesivius erupted
  • Nero's Golden House in 79 CE
  • irrational architectural

Domus Aurea of Nero - Golden House of Nero
Rome, Italy; 64-68 CE
  • upper = sea creatures.
  • landscapes, framed paintings in center of large white areas.
  • not cityscapes, fragmented buildings make motif (architecture simply became a decoration, a mere art motif)

Ixion Room - House of Vettii - [triclinuim P]
Pompeii, Italy; ca 70 - 79 CE
  • (opened onto peristyle of earlier) crowded, combinations of colors
  • dining room - like a menu of all four styles (each style represented)
  • Lowest zone, imported marble.Large white panels with floral frames and floating central motifs.
  • Pompeii: "Fourth Style" Paintings at the House of Vettii [west triclinium] - link

Portrait of Husband & Wife
Pompeii, Italy; 70 - 79 CE
Q: Explain how the Portrait of Husband & Wife is similar to and different from our wedding photographs of today.
  • painted portraits also found on walls.
  • part of 4th style, wall opening into atrium.
  • man holds scroll, woman holds stylus and wax writing tablet: used to show fine education, even if sitters were uneducated or even illiterate.
  • Roman equivalent of modern wedding photos.

Still life with Peaches

Herculaneum, Italy; 62 - 79 CE
Q: What is the medium used to create this work? Describe.
Q: Why is this painting significant?
  • illusionistic effects
  • on steps and shelves, gradually shaded, attention to contour shadows and highlights.
  • nothing like these inanimate objects until Dutch in 17th and 18th C.
  • Pliny from Natural History - tells the story of Parrhasios and Zeuxis in competition
    • Zeuxis painted a picture of grapes so true, birds flew up to the wall of the stage. Parrhasios (also spelled Parrhasius) showed his picture of a linen curtain that was so realistic the judge told him to draw the curtain and show the picture. Zeuxis discovered his mistake and the prize was therefor awarded to Parrhasios. Reference the link for more information.