Roman Art


The Romans controlled such a vast empire for so long a period that a summary of the art produced in that time can only be a brief and selective one. Perhaps, though, the greatest points of distinction for Roman art are its very diversity, the embracing of art trends past and present from every corner of the empire and the promotion of art to such an extent that it became more widely produced and more easily available than ever before. In which other ancient civilization would it have been possible for a former slave to have commissioned his portrait bust? Roman artists copied, imitated, and innovated to produce art on a grand scale, sometimes compromising quality but on other occasions far exceeding the craftsmanship of their predecessors. Any material was fair game to be turned into objects of art. Recording historical events without the clutter of symbolism and mythological metaphor became an obsession. Immortalising an individual private patron in art was a common artist's commission. Painting aimed at faithfully capturing landscapes, townscapes, and the more trivial subjects of daily life. Realism became the ideal and the cultivation of a knowledge and appreciation of art itself became a worthy goal. These are the achievements of Roman art.

More about: Roman Art


  • c. 10 BCE
    Statue of Augustus as Pontifex Maximus sculpted.
  • 9 BCE
    A massive altar the Ara Pacis is completed by Augustus in Rome.
  • c. 100 CE
    In Roman marble sculpture the pupil and iris of the eye begins to be sculpted rather than merely painted onto the statue.
  • 113 CE
    Trajan's column is constructed in Rome which commemorates the emperor's campaigns in Dacia.
  • c. 130 CE
    The idealised colossal marble statue of Antinous is sculpted and his cult is founded
  • c. 176 CE
    A huge bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback is erected in Rome.
  • c. 180 CE
    The Column of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina is erected in Rome. It depicts in relief sculpture the emperors' campaigns across the Danube.
  • 190 CE - 192 CE
    The bust of Commodus as Hercules is sculpted.