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Roman Art and Architecture

The ancient art and architecture, which were in Rome have left many people with an enormous and remarkable heritage. There is an enormous quantity of remarkable artifacts and architecture including amazing memorials, pottery, masks and many others that have left people dumbfounded. Roman art and architecture had a philosophical impact on our world today, as it has been credited to influencing modern art, architecture, and even modern city planning. Early Roman structures were copied from the Greeks architecture, but with time the Romans established their own identity and developed different fascinating architectural shapes and forms. As a result, more or less, the Roman art is based on Greek art in some ways (Kleiner 2010).

However, this does not mean that Roman art is just a continuation of Greek art. Roman art is a split into four categories namely paintings and mosaics, statues, relief sculptures, and portrait sculptures. For portrait sculptures, they were designed by the Romans to show their desire for factualness recording even the homeliest features as demonstrated by the head of a Roman sculpture marble made in 80 B.C. The artist carefully carved each fold and bulge of the entire face surface trying not to miss any slightest detail creating a blunt, bald record of features. There was a feeling of super realism as no idealism or improvement of features was done on the end product. Mosaics and paintings were influenced by the architecture of the Romans with their architecture consisting of building with a smaller number of windows and doors, thus resulting in large stretches of wall for decorations (Roman Art n.d.).

According to “Roman” Encarta 96, Roman art and architecture were the art and architecture of the Roman Empire extended from the British Isles to the Caspian Sea with its earliest establishment dating back to 509 B.C. The Roman created an impressive architecture, numerous structures that blended beauty with utility. They used quarried stone that was used in conjunction with timber beams, plaques, marble, and terra-cotta plaques and tiles. Marble was an essential substance that was used during the Republican times (Gill n.d). The Romans also developed a totally new type of material called ‘caementum’ and ‘conctretus’ (caementum was made from cement and conctretus from concrete). Concrete was used especially, because it was watertight, fireproof, easy to make, and comparatively cheap to obtain. Concrete can also be molded into any shape, quickly hardens to form a very strong material that can last a very long time with little care (Roman Art and Architecture n.d.). The cement, used by the Romans, had a great durability that some it used to build bridges, roads, and some buildings that still exist today.

Concrete vaulting ensured the construction of the great baths and amphitheaters of the Dome of Pantheon and Roman world. The Romans used Basilica, which had huge vaulted walls to construct courtrooms and other civic buildings. The walls were used mainly for two things as far as Roma art is concerned; as a barrier and open the wall, thus enhancing the space of the room (Early Christian art and architecture n.d.). The colors used included green, black, deep red, yellow or violet. Two methods were used for painting: plaster compounded with marble dust and laid directly on the wall for a number of years, then polished to a marble finish. Another method was known as panel painting and consisted of applying stucco on pine, cypress, lime, oak or larch after which the painting was mounted on the wall. These two methods were the ones that were used to paint the walls. Although, the style changed with the time, the methods remained just the same (Art & Architecture n.d.).

For relief sculptures, the size of the relief was dependent on location, purpose, and treatment of the monument. Two types of relief sculptures were used. The pictorial frieze is a continuous representation of some historical event while the image is a self-representation of an event relating especially to military figures. A relief was treated as a space in which figures emerged from or disappeared to varying by the method used for execution. Another form of art from which Romans heavily copied the Greeks was the sculptures. The Romans added the portrait heads and the wings with draping clothing. Their favorite portraits were nude, muscular, and powerful male bodies. As a result, most of the nude male bodies were just that of muscular men. Many statues of people represented the person’s real characteristics. An example is a small head sculpture meant that the person had little intellect (Harrison 2010).

Four styles were basically used to paint incrustation. The first style was employed from 200-60 B.C, where walls were divided to bright polychrome panels containing occasional textural contrast. From 60-20 B.C, another style called the architectural style. It was commonly used. This method made a wall look like it is extending beyond the room although not systematically perspective. The third style, ornate style, existed from 60 B.C. to 20 A.D was used and it included subdividing a wall into several panels using either horizontal or vertical bands. The last style of painting, the intricate style, took place from 60-79 A.D. It involved walls that had separate paintings making people feel as though they were walking through an art gallery by looking at the different paintings. It is worth noting that the Roman art was not only limited to wall painting. Romans also did glass painting, illustrating of books, easel painting, murals, calla walls of temples, and interior & exterior decorations of buildings.

Many of Romans’ remarkable buildings were constricted during the Imperial period that started from 27 B.C. and lasting to 476 A.D. Romans started to build theaters in the late Republican period (Gill n.d.). The theaters were semicircular that consisted of tall stage building that abutted a semicircular orchestra with a tiered seating area. The earliest known amphitheater was built around 75 B.C., and is found at Pompeii while the grandest Coliseum was built at around 70-80 A.D and could hold about 50,000 spectators (Roman). Another spectacular building that withstood the ravages of time and man is the Pantheon (Art & Architecture n.d.). However, one can clearly see that the columns of the Pantheon are Corinthian rather than Doric. The entire pantheon structure is lighted through one aperture, the oculus, which is in the centre of the dome. Its great vaulted dome has a diameter of 142 ft. The Pantheon, erected by The Roman Empire Hadrian between 118 A.D and 128 A.D. replaced a smaller temple that was built by Marcus Vipsanius in 27 B.C. The Pantheon was consecrated as a church in early 7th century (Art & Architecture n.d.).

Another great achievement as far as Roman architecture is concerned was the layout of its cities and construction of apartment buildings. A typical Roman city of the late Republic Empire had a rectangular plan that used to resemble a Roman military base. The city usually had two main streets; the east-west thoroughfare was called the Decumanus while the main north-south thoroughfare was called Cardo (Art & Architecture n.d.). Some other smaller streets split the town into blocks with a large wall and the gate that enclosed the city. Inside The city were different recreational buildings, shops, and buildings for homes that were dispersed throughout the area (Roman Encarta 96). The shops were typically one roomed units that opened into the sidewalks. For large cities and bigger towns, they had public paths and during the republic Era, they were generally made of a suite of dressing room with bathing chambers with palaestra, hot, warm or cold baths with an exercising area (Roman Baths n.d.).

The city plan had lecture halls, libraries, vast public mausoleums that were decorated with statues, paintings, stuccos and mosaics (Roman). According to Adam, in the 2nd century of AD, the Romans numbered almost one million. Close to the communal apartment were the dwellings of the rich aristocracy and the emperor’s palace that were several storeys high (up to 60 ft). However, the apartments were sometimes hurriedly built with only thin flutes and long beams that they easily fell down sometimes. These apartments could also easily fall prey to fires that swept through the city.

With time, the Romans established themselves as the center of civilization, and thus it was clear that Rome’s destiny in the art lied in realistic sculpture (Reinhold 1990). The Roman Encarta reports throughout the Rome Empire, reliefs, and statues were often displayed in and around public as well as private buildings. Style of the imperial relief sculptures ranged from the neo-Greek classicism to the antique, frontal schematics and hieratic style of the Arch of Constantine. In a wide variety of contexts, statues were erected for deities, heroes as well as mortals. Each temple had a cult statue that was made of marble or bronze images of heroes and gods. During the Roman imperial period, portrait painting was best represented by a series of wooden panels that were recovered from the Roman Egypt. The works were initially called the “Fayum portraits,” from the agricultural district in Egypt from which they were discovered first. They were painted then in an encaustic technique, which involves pigment medium of hot wax. The panels from the above method are among those that have survived a high level of accomplishment on the part of Roman painters. The images are a reflection of the existing tastes and provide a chronological overview of how portraits developed through time during the Roman Imperial Period. In Pompeii, mural painting is well documented, especially in 79 A.D, when Pompeii and other cities were also buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted (Kleiner 2010). It is worth noting that when painted murals existed, colored floors were also most likely to be there. The colored floors were mainly painted in solid colors, but were usually made of thousands of tiny mosaic cubes or marble slabs containing many hues (Roman).

Roman Architecture

It is a fact that Romans are considered among the greatest architects of the earlier times. The Romans had greatly borrowed ideas from the Greeks, but made some considerable changes to the forms and styles of the buildings. This can be clearly seen in the Roman arches. One of the main elements was the use of engaged columns. An engaged column was basically a column that was attached to project half of it from the wall (Art & Architecture n.d.). The Roman temples were largely built using the Greek styles. Although, they were heavily altered to fit into the Romans desires. Roman engineers and architects used their expertise to build one of the best roads, theaters, baths, forums, and bridges that some of them including columns, some buildings, and arches are still standing today (Sear 1983; Roman Art n.d.).

The Romans did create vast empires in Africa, the Mediterranean region, Asia and most parts of Europe, but what they did leave behind was their culture and traces of architecture. One of such is the Amphitheater of France. Some of the other important structures of the Romans include Hadrian’s Wall in England, Theater of Orange, Imperial Baths of Trier, Porta Nigra of Trier, Temple of Vesta, Arch of Triumph of Orange, Pont du Gard, and Spain’s Aqueduct of Segovia (Sear 1983; Snyder 1979).

In mid 6 c. BC, Roman was conquered by Etruscans who ruled them for one and half centuries. Thus, the Etruscans are said to be responsible for the creation of monumental buildings in Rome as well as several engineering works. There is a lot of contribution to later Roman developments by Etruscan in the field of architecture and engineering. The Etruscans developed their own style of art. Although, they admired Greek art and architecture. Roman houses as well as Roman temples were closely based on the Etruscan models (Sear 1983).

Conclusion

The Roman Empire influenced other cultures. Its art of creativity and architecture is considered to be its greatest power in their success stories. It is a well-known fact that Roman art and architecture had an insightful impact throughout the ages as it is credited to influencing modern art, architecture, and city planning. The Roman art and architecture are also credited to have influenced our football stadiums, city streets, and our floor tiles. This important examples are providing that the Roman Empire has been emulated the world over. It is worth noting that the Roman art was not only limited to wall painting. Romans also did glass painting, illustrating of books, easel painting, murals, calla walls of temples, and interior & exterior decorations of buildings. The Roman art influenced people’s religion, mythology as well as architecture. As a result, today we have the same techniques and styles of sculpture, paintings, and statues albeit with a modern touch.

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