If you've just stumbled onto this blog, please forgive the appearance; it's still under construction. If I've used one of your photos (found on Google) in a lecture and you don't approve, please write a comment and I'll remove it.

The purpose of this blog is to explain the basics of art and culture to English language learners in secondary school in Slovakia. This is not for profit. If you look to your right, you'll see a long list of topics that I plan to cover. This is a large project that will most likely take years to complete, covering some topics I know little about (like dance), so I will be borrowing heavily from other experts, with their permission, giving credit wherever possible. Please be patient, and, of course, all advice is greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Art of Ancient Rome

History of Rome

G    Rome was founded around 750 BC by the legendary king Romulus.

G    In 509 BC, Rome became a republic, ruled by a Senate, and by the people. This lasted 450 years, during which the Roman Republic expanded throughout Europe and the Mediterranean.

G    During this time, Rome conquered Greece and assimilated much of Greek culture - their art, architecture, philosophy, and religion.

G    In 51 BC, Julius Caesar defeated the Gauls and became Rome's most powerful general, so powerful that the Senate feared him. They ordered him to step down, and Julius refused, beginning a civil war.

G    Julius Caesar won this war, proclaiming himself emperor for life... But a group of Senators, including his friend Brutus, killed him in 44 BC, stabbing him to death.

G    But, Caesar had a son, Octavian. He defeated Mark Antony and Cleopatra, and became Rome's second Emperor, changing his name to Augustus. The Roman republic was at an end. Now it was an empire.

G    This empire lasted for 500 years, during which it expanded to Britain, Syria, and Egypt.

G    In 313 AD, Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and made it the official religion of Rome.

G    The Roman Empire fell for a variety of reasons. Part of the problem was it was too large to manage. This is called over-expansion. Imagine trying to govern all that land without our modern technology: no modern transport, no modern communication. Add to this, a series of weak emperors, civil war, financial crisis, and barbarian invasions.

G    In the 4th century, the Roman Empire split in two, beginning the eastern Byzantine Empire. This empire would last until 1453, when the capital city, Constantinople, was defeated by the Ottoman Turks, and became Istanbul.

G    The Western Roman Empire fell much earlier, in 470 AD, due to barbarian invasions.

Roman Art:

G    Roman art consisted of marble sculpture, painting, mosaics, jewellery & other metalwork, and glass blowing, which Romans used in place of ceramics.

G    While Roman artists were great, they were also anonymous. Roman historians paid no attention to them, instead focusing on the great Greek artists they copied from.

G    Besides Greece, Roman art was also influenced by Egypt and the Etruscans (a civilization also located in Italy that came before the Romans).

G    Romans loved Greek art, and copied many famous Greek statues. It's lucky for us, because many of the original Greek works were destroyed.

G    But, Roman artists didn't simply copy. They made small changes and added a sense of humour (often dark) to their works, making it distinctly Roman.

G    Another change was Roman portraiture. Greeks idealized figures, but Romans preferred a more realistic look. They were proud of their age, their wrinkles and bald head, as it represented their many years of service.

G    After Rome switched from a republic to an empire, its artistic style went back to that of classical Greece, stressing the perfection of their country, with perfect, ideal figures. Augustus Caesar, for example, made his portraits look like a young athlete, even right before his death.
G    Starting around 200 AD, Roman art shifted style. Realism became less important. Roman design became simpler, more childlike. By the end of the empire, Romans developed the same Byzantine style of art that characterized the dark ages. So, Roman art began to fall in the same way that Rome did.

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