Aesthetic, Sociological, and Exploitative Attitudes to Landscape in Greco-Roman Literature, Art, and Culture
This article introduces and discusses ancient and contemporary approaches to landscape and proposes model readings for their evaluation. Model readings suggest strategies drawn from environmental and ecocritical studies alongside art historical, and more traditional literary studies approaches. This article emphasizes in particular the benefits of evaluating architectural and agricultural interventions in nature alongside one another. Perceptions of landscape in the Greco-Roman world were strongly associated with cultivation and human invention. In order better to understand how and why aesthetic interest, sentiment, mood, and movement can also be significant, this article explores what makes for “improvement” and value in landscape. It also investigates how contemporary theory offers new ways of evaluating ancient depictions of landscape and responses to the natural environment.
This chapter analyzes some of the historical ways sculpture was conceptualized, critiqued, and evaluated in the Roman world. How did Roman viewers go about making sense of statues? What sorts of social, cultural, and intellectual frameworks were at play? And in what ways were these ideas like and unlike our own modern ideologies? The chapter concentrates on three broadly defined (albeit interconnecting) evaluative modes, each one structured around a particular Latin author: first, Cicero’s critique of appropriate sculptural subjects for particular contexts of display; second, Pliny the Elder’s emphasis on history and agency in the final five books of his Natural History; and third, rhetorical traditions of art criticism enshrined in Quintilian’s Education of an Orator. By comparing literary evidence with surviving assemblages of sculpture, the chapter posits a close correlation between the critical frames of Roman writers and those evidenced through surviving archaeological materials.
While the Romans did not have museums, practices of collecting and display were fully developed in Rome. Romans used collections of objects to substantiate, reinforce, and broadcast particular views of the world. This chapter shows how current work in museum studies opens new avenues of research into Roman art. It draws on recent scholarship on collecting that explores debates over cultural property, questions of viewing, and the role of collections in the construction of personal and imperial identities. It is here—with the appropriation of patrimony, with the creation of art, and with ideas of a universal artistic heritage—that we find ancient analogs of modern museums.
This chapter examines the use of anthropological approaches in the study of the art and architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. It begins by considering the juxtaposition between anthropology and classical archaeology, citing the case of Carl Robert and his analysis of texts and images in terms of narrative structure by invoking the notion of Völkerpsychologie. It then turns to a discussion of the formalist approach as the dominant mode for interpreting both sculpture and painted vases. The chapter concludes by analyzing the issue of what constitutes “art” and the value of aesthetic appreciation, along with the essential underpinnings of traditional Greek and Roman art history.
The retrospective styles of archaism and eclecticism, although often marginalized in scholarship, are central to an understanding of Roman sculpture, as they are part of a larger, second-century BC trend of the transfer to Rome of original Greek sculpture, as well as sculptural production in the capital by Greek artists. Eclecticism was a direct result of this influx of masses of looted and purchased Greek sculpture in multiple styles; archaism had a religious significance, conferring greater venerability on images of the gods, and may have been used to recall lost original cult statues. Three influential workshops, the schools of Polycles, Arcesilaos, and Pasiteles, are central to the development of archaizing and eclectic works. Though both styles appear in a range of materials, the extensive use of terracotta, the traditional material of the Italic past, marked these works, whose styles certainly evoked Greek cultural traditions, as specifically Roman.
The earliest-known portraits and ideal statues in Republican Rome are associated with sacred locales and fora. By the imperial period, ideal statues and portraits of imperial family members and local elites adorned architectural monuments built throughout the Roman empire. From theaters to baths to monumental fountains, many of these edifices developed multistory aediculated façades for statuary display. In each architectural setting, local and imperial traditions contextualized and nuanced the statuary display of ideal and portrait statues, which followed basic rules of decorum to express the architectural function of the space and the social expectations of the patron and community. The concept of decorum, however, may have fluctuated over time and geography.
Perhaps more than other aspect of Roman culture, the study of architecture is affected by two preconceptions, the first resulting from its durability, the second from later attitudes. First, because buildings appear as a solid and visible legacy of Roman culture, it is assumed that Romans themselves clearly recognised the meaning of architecture. Yet, within a short time-span, two ancient writers, Varro and Vitruvius, presented different views. Vitruvius, the more fortunate in transmission, was ambivalent about the definition of ‘architecture’, calling it first a compound of aesthetic concepts – organisation, layout, good rhythm, symmetry, correctness, and allocation; but, a chapter later, a combination of scientific domains – building, mechanics, and orology. For Varro, architecture was one of nine ‘disciplines’; his lost treatise can hardly have contained such technicalities or defined ‘architecture’ so comfortably within the parameters of the modern academic subject. This article explores past debates on Roman architecture, including one concerning archaeology and architectural history; form and function as well as utility and ornament of Roman buildings; public architecture and private building; and centre and periphery.
Eugenio La Rocca
In recent years, the question of what constitutes art has often been asked. The question arose quite naturally from the dismissal of the traditional concept of art as imitation of the real – a notion that, though variously inflected, has held sway up until the dawn of the twentieth century. In the ancient world, images were intended as a representation of the real, as ‘mimesis’, and they were perceived accordingly. By now it is common knowledge that the mimetic theory of art does not correspond to the actual practices of artists, even if they earnestly believed they were representing humans and objects as they really were. More than an actual imitation of the real, it was the artists' apprenticeship in the workshop of established sculptors and their acquisition of traditional techniques that determined how ancient artists worked. This article discusses art and representation, art as a means of communication and medium of expression, Roman art in the frame of ‘Lebenswelt’, Roman art and the Greek canon, the symbolic language of Roman art, and Roman art and stylistic dissonance.
The art of Roman Britain has often been sidelined or even denigrated, largely as a result of modern sensibilities concerning quality. Focusing on the moment of creation alone overlooks the longevity of objects, and the multiple and even conflicting potential interpretations by contemporary and later observers. How accurately any given art object may have been read is a problematic issue and one that continues today; there is a false confidence in the simplicity of this task for modern observers, even on the most basic level of subject. The varied assemblage from Roman Britain should provide more than illustrations of the deities that might have been worshipped, or the apparent failings of its makers and users in terms of competency or aesthetics. Its eventual deposition is also more complex than simple disposal of redundant objects or destruction of hated idols. The art of Roman Britain still has much to offer.
Diana Y. Ng
Roman Asia Minor, due to its own Hellenized history, long involvement with the imperial capital, and widespread wealth, is an important region for various types of sculpture, including freestanding statuary, reliefs, and sarcophagi. Access to multiple local sources of marble had led to the rise of sculptural workshops across the region in the Hellenistic period, which continued apace during the Roman empire. Consequently, there is an extensive record of scholarship on sculpture from Roman Asia Minor, and this chapter provides a brief survey of important sites, established topics, and emerging areas. It is clear that though Asia Minor—also referred to as Anatolia—was culturally and ethnically heterogeneous, there are nevertheless connections between different sites and sculptural centers, as well as common concerns shared by the commissioners, designers, and viewers of sculpture.
Yaron Z. Eliav
This article discusses Roman public bathhouses, which provided a wide range of services that included swimming pools, saunas, and meeting rooms. It looks at the technology and cultural facets that were present in the bathhouses. It then describes the facilities, the social encounters that occurred, and the statues that were displayed there. The article also studies the supposed hostility of the Jews toward the bathhouses, the issue of nudity, the potential hazards, and the wide dissemination of Roman baths.
Carol C. Mattusch
Bronze statues are infrequent survivors of Roman antiquity, and the discovery of an ancient bronze is always treated as an extraordinary find. And yet Pliny the Elder, whose book on bronze statuary has always served as the primary source of information in this field, reports that in his day, the first century AD, there were thousands of bronzes to be seen in both public and private settings. A thorough analysis of all the evidence, not just philological but also technical and stylistic, reveals that indeed bronzes could be produced in multiples and that they were ubiquitous. Their paucity in modern times has privileged them, but this was not the case during antiquity.
This chapter examines the religious contexts of ancient Greece, with particular emphasis on the articulation and original functions of altars and temples. It begins with a discussion of ritual and ritualization within the context of ancient Greek architecture and imagery. It then considers the use of vase paintings and votive relief sculptures in sacrificial rituals and processions. The chapter concludes by analyzing the connection between architectural decoration and ritual in the ancient Greek world.
This chapter examines the religious contexts of ancient Rome, with particular emphasis on the interrelationships among buildings, images, and rituals from the Republican to the Late Imperial period. It discusses the link between sacred spaces and architecture, along with public spaces and buildings and houses. In particular, it considers the role of Roman buildings in creating an appropriate setting for the performance of ritualized acts full of meaning for contemporary society. It also explores mural paintings, plaster decorations of ceilings, and floor mosaics in the domestic sphere.
Lena Larsson Lovén
This chapter discusses visualizations of children and childhood in the commemorative arts of Roman Italy over more than three centuries (first century BC to late second century CE). During this period children, both nonmythical children and those in mythological disguise appear recurrently on various memorial types commissioned by private persons. The focus of this chapter is exclusively on representations of nonmythical children in pre-Christian funerary iconography, contextualized in their time and social setting. The body of evidence discussed includes child commemoration on reliefs, funerary altars, and sarcophagi. The chapter presents a general view of how Roman children looked, how they were dressed, differences in gender and status between children and of the expectations of children’s future roles, and how the perceived social roles of Roman children changed over time.
John H. Oakley
This essay provides the first concise overview of the depiction of children in Greek archaic and classical art. The survey commences with a brief consideration of earlier Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Orientalizing Age images of children before turning to the rich supply of images of children in archaic art. The early examples are primarily mythological, but by the middle of the sixth century a wide variety of everyday scenes of children exists. Children at this time are primarily shown as small adults. This changes in the classical period, the heyday of picturing children in Greek art, when many children display the physiological forms appropriate for their age. Artists at this time have often carefully observed how children appear and act. New scenes of children at work and play are introduced. All these depictions of children provide a rich and unparalleled source for the study of children in antiquity.
Jamieson C. Donati
This chapter focuses on the city and the concept of the urban environment in the context of art and architecture in ancient Greece and Rome. Using a holistic approach, it highlights the wide variety of buildings produced in the Greek and Roman world. Before discussing the specific achievements of Greek and Roman urbanism, the chapter considers the scholarly investigations into the historiography of ancient Greek and Roman cities, including large-scale archaeological excavations and geophysical surveys. It then examines changes in the ancient built environment, particularly the integration of public architecture, especially stone temples, in Greek settlements and nearby sanctuaries. The chapter also looks at residential housing and the transition from the modest settlements of Early Iron Age Greece to elaborate cityscapes.
Hima Mallampati Gleason
This chapter analyzes the history of institutional collecting of classical sculpture in the United States, with a focus on the collecting behavior of universities, art academies, galleries, libraries, and for-profit and nonprofit museums. As demonstrated, the motivations surrounding the collection of classical sculpture and casts often varied in these institutions, but the acquisition of this material offered the possibility of significant exposure to classical art and ideology for American citizenry. Toward the end of the chapter, the change from the collecting of casts to the acquisition of original artifacts in nonprofit museums is explored. Here, the chapter argues that collecting ancient objects rather than casts was often a result of changing theoretical and financial concerns that affected the conception and purpose of American museums.
Ancient statues have been prized by collectors through most of history. This chapter looks at the major assemblages of Roman sculpture formed in the premodern period, from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Initially concentrated in Italy, these collections gradually found favor throughout Europe. Prized in the Renaissance for their beauty, rarity, and artistic virtuosity, ancient (usually marble) sculptures bestowed status on their owners, sometimes hinting at noble genealogies. In subsequent centuries, ever-larger collections bespoke their owners’ wealth, as well as social prestige and political power. Grand Tour collecting in the eighteenth century established neoclassical taste among collectors and aesthetes throughout Europe. Finally, in the latter phase of our history, sculptural collections advanced the imperialist ideologies of the emerging European states of Britain, France, and Germany.
Adolf H. Borbein
This chapter examines the connoisseurship of Greek and Roman art and architecture, from the Roman Imperial period to Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, Early Modern times, and the nineteenth century. It first looks at the chronology of artists ranging from painters to architects and important sources for the emergence of art history, such as Cicero’s description of the formal development of sculpture and painting from the fifth to the fourth centuries BCE and their contribution to naturalism. It then turns to authors and connoisseurs of the Roman Empire before concluding with a discussion of new methods in the attribution of works of art to ancient artists.