Ancient Roman Art

Ancient Roman art is an extremely comprehensive topic that spanned for almost a millennium and involved three continents specifically Africa, Europe, and Asia.

According to several scholars, the beginning of Roman Art can be dated back to 509 B.C.E during the establishment of the Roman Republic.

Traditionally, Roman art was divided into two specific main periods particularly the art of the Republic which lasted until 26 B.C. and the art of the Roman Empire which began from 27 B.C. until 330 C.E.

Modern historians concluded that most of Ancient Roman art was a poor replica of Greek art. The Greek art and culture reached Rome obliquely with the help of Etruscans and more directly through Greek colonies in Italy.

After conquering Greece, the Romans brought a wide range of Greek artists to Rome to devised sculptures for them. Similar to Greek art, Roman art is also made up of an extensive variety of media which include but are not only limited to terracottas, painting, marble, gems, mosaic, bronze, and silver works.

Perhaps, though, the greatest points of distinctness for Roman art are its immensely diverse designs that embrace the art trends of the past and present from every junction of the empire.

Unlike any other empire, the city of Rome promoted ethnic diversity and the Romans had no second thoughts of acclimatizing the artistic influences from the other Mediterranean civilizations that bordered and pioneered them.

Among the most popular Roman art that assumed a critical part in the lives of people in Ancient Rome were sculptures.

It is said that Ancient Romans used to put up decorations on sculptures that are located in a variety of places which included private homes, public parks, gardens, and public buildings.

In fact, wealthy Romans along with other emperors decorated their respective rooms with sculptures of themselves or their ancestors. 

Facts about Roman Art

  • Common ancient Rome sculptures include the Roman Bust. Ordinarily, a Roman bust is a head sculpture of an Emperor, King, or an ancestor. Typically, wealthy Romans would put up busts of their ancestors on the entrance hall of their houses to show off their lineage.
  • The major periods of Roman art were named after major dynasties and individual rulers. Certain periods of Roman art include the Augustan, Julio-Claudian, Flavian, Trajanic, Hadrianic, Antonine, Severan, Soldier Emperor, Tetrarchic, and Constantinian.
  • Interestingly enough, Roman art was just not art for Senators and Emperors but for all of the peoples in Rome including slaves, freedmen, soldiers, and middle-class businessmen.
  • Roman paintings were normally painted directly on the walls. As a result, most of these paintings were destroyed over time, but, however, some managed to survive and were preserved in the city of Pompeii.
  • Historians believe that Roman wall painters or perhaps their clients opted for natural earth colors such as shades of browns, yellows, and reds.
  • Mosaics are considered as the greatest contribution of Ancient Rome to art. During ancient times, Romans used to create pictures that were made up of colored tiles. It was normally utilized by Romans either as decorative flooring or wall art. Unlike paintings, mosaics were able to withstand the test of time.
  • Roman mosaics were a popular feature of public buildings and private homes across the empire of Rome which spanned from Africa to Antioch.
  • Popular subjects of mosaics included hunting, agriculture, gladiator contests, and scenes from mythology.


  • What were the key art forms in Ancient Rome?
    The key art forms in Ancient Rome include paintings, sculptures, and mosaics.
  • What were the minor Arts of Ancient Rome?
    The minor arts of Ancient Rome were wide and diverse. It normally included silverware such as plates, mirrors, and figurines as well as small gold portrait busts and jewelry of all shapes and sizes.
  • What happened to full-sized sculptures in the Christian era?
    During the Christian era, panel paintings and full-sized sculptures died out for religious reasons.
  • Who are the common subjects of sculptures?
    Common subjects of sculptures included philosophers, successful generals, revered athletes, gods, goddesses, kings, and emperors.