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What Was the Purpose of Ancient Roman Art?

The Romans began creating art in the 7th century B.C.. Early Middle Eastern, Etruscan and Greek influences began giving way to distinctively Roman styles around 400 B.C.. The Romans used art for political propaganda and decoration.


Sculptures were linked to the Roman concept of service to the state and served as propaganda that celebrated the lives of generals and emperors. Although early sculpture imitated the idealized features of classical Greek work, later Roman artists created realistic portraits of Roman historical figures and heroes. Relief sculpture, which features raised figures against a flat background, was used on the monumental columns and arches that celebrated military victories.


The Romans decorated the interiors of buildings with paintings and a form of art called mosaic. Artists created mosaics by arranging pieces of glass, marble, wood or tile into pictures. They were used on floors, ceilings, arches and walls.


Paintings and mosaics included realistic imagery designed to create the illusion that the figures were actually in the room. Subjects included portraits, mythology, daily life landscapes, still lives, strange animals and swirling plants.

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