Hellenistic and Roman Art – summary of reading

Tutor notes regarding feedback with any suggestions/corrections are the end of this blog.


  • Unrest due to wars with Persia and other countries during time of Alexander the Great.
  • Development of Republic of Rome which resulted eventually in political and civil unrest at end of 1st Century AD and Augustus restored peace with the start of the Pax Romana.
  • Development of urban cities – insulae (multi-storey dwellings) enabling growth.
  • Cracks appear in Roman Imperial Empire with death of Marcus Aurelius but no obvious reflection in art at this time.
  • Change in religious beliefs eventually encompassing Christianity.


  • Artists strove for absolute standard – as art became collectable status of artists declined.
  • For Romans artists were considered workmen but architects were exulted and considered learned men.
  • First female professional artists appeared during Hellenistic period.


  • Use of marble developed as a cladding for rough textured concrete and brick.
  • Development of concrete from a fast setting medium into one of a slow setting nature.
  • Development of use of molding of space due to combination of concrete, arches, vaults and domes.
  • Perspective system devised and illusions in architecture and painting developed.
  • Development of previous skills in sculpture (and subsequently portraiture busts), mosaics, silver work, bronze casting, glass and onyx carving all taken to higher level of skills.


  • Hellenistic style that evolved from the end of the Classical Greek period and existed through the days of Republic of Rome as the fledgling civilisation expanded until emperors first appeared to herald the Imperial Roman Empire.
  • Roman script – developed by the Romans for artistic possibilities and one of most important contributions to the arts of all.
  • Illusionist paintings and architecture prominent.
  • Architectural style – Composite order of Corinthian and Ionian elements. Also arches, vaults and domes predominant and recognisable styles of Roman architecture.
  • Still lifes in art first appear.
  • Pompeiian styles I, II, III and IV.
  • Allegorical style first appears in European art.


  • Hellenistic influence throughout both Republic and Imperial Roman eras plus Etruscan, Egyptian and Oriental.
  • Political and religious influence.


  • Aristotle – great scientist and mathematician, Livy – historian of Roman Republic, Pliny – writer, Vetruvius – architectural theorist, Plutarch – moralist and biographer, Plotinus – last philosopher of ancient world.


  • My tutor has suggested in addition to referencing art as a status symbol it would be good to relate this to the attitudes of Romans towards artists in that the status was raised by the fact the rich wanted to possess works of art of highly technical merit.
  • I am also advised to consider the fact that the decoration of the Roman villas and houses in the early imperial period was linked to the development of the art trade and also the rich employed connoisseurs who advised them on appropriate painting/sculpture for their gardens/houses – along with the high prices paid for works of art or sketches by the most famous painters by wealthy Romans  … the connoisseurs employed and also the high prices for the art works are two aspects that continue in modern wealthy society.
  • Along with Plato and Aristotle my tutor asks me to consider the justification for imitative art, Roman portrait styles or the changes in wall paintings.
  • Further points including exploring the transformation of temples that are based on Greek and Etruscan prototypes and reflect on the impact of Roman architecture on the architecture of post-classical times.

As I work through corrections I am reflecting on the points raised at a much later date and also now have a much better understanding of the period.  I have  responded further  to these points in my response to the Tutor Report:  – https://theinquisitivebunny47.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/tutor-feedback-on-assignment-2/     

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