What Was the Purpose of Ancient Roman Art?

By Frank B. Chavez III ; Updated September 15, 2017

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.

Propaganda

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.

Decoration

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.

Features

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.

About the Author

Frank B. Chavez III has been a professional writer since 2006. His articles have appeared on numerous websites including WitchVox and Spectrum Nexus as well as in the e-magazine Gods and Empires. He has his associate degree with an emphasis in theater arts from Chabot College, where he received the theater department's Joeray Madrid Award for Excellence in Dramaturgy.