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Roman Art Lesson for Kids: History & Facts

Instructor: Jenna Conan

Jenna is a fourth grade teacher with a master's degree in instructional design and an undergraduate degree in elementary education.

Ancient Roman civilization ruled over much of three continents for many years. The Romans were well-known for their artistic style and much of their art survives and is popular even in modern times.

Roman Art

Centered around Rome in central Italy, ancient Roman civilization ruled over much of Europe and parts of Africa and Asia for over 1000 years. The arts were important to Romans and many wealthy, powerful people used the arts to memorialize their legacy, or what they would leave behind after their life. Roman artists used many varied materials, like marble, paint, gems, silver, bronze, and terracotta, and adapted artistic styles from all over the world to create their own. What kind of art do you think the Romans were best known for? See if you can figure it out!

Influences on Roman Art

Ancient Greece had an important influence on Roman artistic style. After the Romans conquered Greece, they brought many Greek artists back to Rome to make sculptures and other art for them. Other civilizations that the Romans conquered (ancient Egyptians, Germans, and Celts) also influenced Roman art.

Art of the Republic

The Roman Republic is believed to have been founded around 509 BCE; Rome was ruled by a Senate and governed by elected officials. At that time, most art being created was political: it usually showed military battles or portraits of the people who contributed to the Republic. These people were shown with bald heads and extra wrinkles to show that they had spent their lives working for the Republic; this style of art emphasized flaws to create portraits with personality.

Bust from the time of the Republic
Bust of Balding Man with Wrinkles from the time of the Republic

Art of the Roman Empire

Augustus rose to power in approximately 27 BCE; this is known as the rise of imperial Rome or the Roman Empire. Much of the art during this time was for the service of the ruler and his family, so each of the periods are named after the ruler of the time. The Augustan came first, then the Julio-Claudian, the Flavian, up until the Eastern Roman Empire in 518 CE. Imperial art was often classical, influenced by the Greeks and other classic styles from the past. Over time, Roman art shifted to a style called 'late antique art', with stiff poses and less naturalism.

Sculpture

The Ancient Romans decorated with statues in many places, such as public buildings, parks, gardens, and even the private homes of wealthy Romans. They were so influenced by Greek art that many Roman sculptures were actually copies of Greek sculptures. These sculptures may have been of gods and goddesses, philosophers, famous athletes, or successful generals. Wealthy Romans had sculptures made of themselves or their family members.

A type of sculpture that the Romans were known for is the bust. It's a sculpture of a person's head and shoulders. Busts were created of famous people or the ancestors of the wealthy.

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