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Roman Art and the Ways It Excelled


During the vast Roman Empire, which lasted for hundreds of years, artists created widespread forms of outstanding artworks that have continued to be popular even in modern times. Roman art excelled in different ways due to its diversity, availability to the masses, and embracing of trends from all over the empire. More importantly, the Romans were proud of their culture and superiority when they ruled the world. As such, they wanted to leave a legacy, and thus their art was well-thought and planned to create a lasting impression. This paper ranks, with copious examples and argumentation, the ways in which Roman art most excelled.

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Success Based on Legacy

Romans had a collective desire to leave a legacy with their artworks, which ultimately ensured the success of whatever they were doing. For instance, a sculpture for a public square was not merely a piece of carving erected somewhere for the sake of it. On the contrary, it was supposed to tell a story to the future generations concerning the greatness of Rome. For example, the Arch of Titus is celebratory artwork depicting war, victory, and the might of the Romans, especially the siege of Jerusalem. Romans also capitalized on the frequent visits to their homes and decorated their walls with mosaics, paintings, and other sculptural displays with the subject matter being busts of mythological, historical, or important ancestors to create the perception of an erudite engrossed in culture. For instance, the Augustus of Primaporta was mainly used to underline how abled Augustus was by presenting him as youthful and idealized, which were hallmarks of classical art.

Finally, after their death, Romans would leave behind imagery to identify themselves as individuals, which gave rise and popularized funerary imagery, such as the Via delle Tombe at Pompeii. Death touched everyone in society regardless of class or status, and thus the popularity of funerary art became widespread, and with it came the success of Roman art. Additionally, funerary art was not a preserve of anyone, and everyone was allowed to have it as a way of documenting diverse experiences of the different people who lived in the Roman Empire including men, women, elites, emperors, and freedmen, which underscores diversity as explored in the next section.


Roman art benefited significantly from different forms of diversity, and it became successful in the process. For instance, in all recorded ancient civilizations, no other culture would commission a former slave his or her portrait bust. However, in the Roman Empire, art was accessible to the masses despite social status or economic well-being. As such, Publius Curtilius Agatus, a former slave, had his sculpture made. The former slave is seen having the same hairstyle as Emperor Augustus. This form of freedom was one of the hallmarks of success for Roman art. Additionally, Roman artists were not interested in reinventing the wheel unnecessarily, and thus they imitated, copied, and innovated where possible to produce art on a grand scale.

Any material that could be used for art was turned into a useful object, thus making artworks cheap and accessible to any interested person. Besides, Roman artists became obsessed with recording historical events without caring about symbolism or mythological metaphors. The emerging commission of any artist became to immortalize individual private patron in art. For instance, paintings mainly focused on depicting landscapes and other trivial objects associated with daily life. Ultimately, realism became an ideal art perspective as artists sought to cultivate knowledge and appreciate art itself. In the process, Roman art excelled as most people could identify with it, and most importantly, access and own it.

Golden Ratio and Conquest

Romans borrowed from the Greeks the idea of using the golden ratio to create sculptures of ideal human bodies, which continues to be a standard of beauty even in modern times. The use of a geometrical formula to create sculptures using ratio (1:1.618) made Roman art popular as it came close representing reality. One of the outstanding works created using this formula was the “Apollo of the Belvedere” where he is drawn proportionally to scale. The famous “Galata Suicide” captures Ludovisi Gaul attempting to kill himself together with his wife after being defeated by a Roman emperor. Even Americans copied this form of sculpting to make the enormous statue of President Lincoln in Washington DC using the same technique. Additionally, Romans looted artworks after conquering cities and employed foreign artists in Roman cities for public appreciation. For example, As such, Roman art became popularized as people became curious to see what had been added to the stockpile of artworks around the empire.


Roman art was one of the successful works among the documented ancient civilizations. This success was mainly hinged on the Romans’ collective desire for a lasting legacy. Additionally, Roman art was diverse and accessible to everyone including freed slaves, which was one of the underlying factors for its success. Roman art also excelled due to the use of the golden ratio and stealing artifacts during conquests.

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