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Ancient Roman Paintings & Ancient Roman Architecture: Pompeii

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Famous Roman Paintings, Mosaics and Architecture in Pompeii

Pompeii were ruined by the volcano eruption (Mount Vesuvius), but some of Ancient Roman art including famous roman paintings – frescoes, mosaics and architecture related to Pompeii survived. The pieces are very well preserved thanks to the volcano ashes that preserved everything under neath it.  This makes Pompeii a treasure for anthropologists, as well as ancient Roman art and culture enthusiasts.

In the following video a college professor gives a profound explanation and analysis of the classic Roman city - Pompeii and ancient Roman art related to the city, including:

* architecture

* mosaics

* ancient Roman paintings – frescoes that were found in Pompeii.

Ancient Roman Art: A Bird’s Eye View Of Roman Architecture

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By Chris Bouter


The Romans fabricated two kinds of houses, the domus and the insula. The first was the privilege of the affluent, the latter was an apartment building for the working class. The domus consisted of a few rooms built around an atrium. Often more rooms were added at the back around a court with columns, the peristyle. The atrium was an oblong room with an open roof. The atrium with the surrounding chambers was purely built in Roman style. The peristyle was drawn up in Greek or Middle Eastern fashion.

  • Domus

The common activities of the family took place in the atrium. The chambers around it were meant for relaxation and conversation. It could be reached from the street through the prothyrum, an entrance with corridor. Between the atrium and the peristyle there was the tablinum, an open living room that could be closed with a curtain. A broad walkway, the fauces, was situated at the side of the tablinum to provide easy access to the peristyle. The peristyle, such as in the domus of Vettii at Pompeji, encompassed the family living room. Around the court of columns were situated the oecus (reception), the cubicula (sleeping rooms), the alae (niches for private conversations), the triclinia (dining rooms). In the domus of Pansa at Pompeji the triclini possess three couches for nine persons to lie on (as was customary for Romans); nine persons being the accepted number of guests for a Roman party. The latter domus also possessed an upper storey built both around the atrium and the peristyle.

  • Insula

The second kind of building, the insula (lit. ‘island’), was the apartment building. The insula provided cheap or affordable housing for workers in places where space was expensive and the population numerous. The insula was fabricated with stones or bricks and covered with concrete and often had five or more stories; despite legislation that stipulated against structures higher than 21 meters, or 18 meters in the time of Trajan. The ground floors were usually reserved for different kinds of stores and craftsmen.

Most insulae were fitted with wooden or concrete balconies. Pumps were used to transport water up, but did not reach above the lower stories. Renters in the higher flats had to make do with public sanitation and water facilities. The insulae were designed for maximum use of space. Light came in from the outside windows and the courtyard. Cheap construction and a shortage of water caused numerous collapses and fires. Excavations at Ostia, practically a suburb of Rome, attest to these things. These buildings were also mentioned by Roman authors.

Ancient Roman art, architecture, houses and ancient Roman paintings were very well preserved in the Pompeii.


Romans possessed a tremendous technique in the way of city planning. When a new city was laid out, its function, climate and geographical location were taken into account. Characteristic of a Roman town (probably developed from earlier Italic towns in combination with the occupation of building an army camp) was its square layout. Roads and streets ran on parallels and met in the center, comparable with New York.

  • Forum

In (or close to) the center laid the so-called forum, the hub of Roman culture. Gradually around this, other buildings were erected for specific civil, trade and religious activities. In the time of the Caesars it was customary to make the forum as large as possible, to provide space for all sorts of events. In a great and ancient city as Rome itself there were different forums; each with its own objective, such as administration, justice, commerce and finance. Also there were forums especially for the sale of meat or vegetables. For the latter purpose the macellum was developed, a market building with shops all around a pillared court.

Ancient Roman architecture forum Ancient Roman Art: A Birds Eye View Of Roman Architecture

  • Water System and Building Design

Long established communities, which had grown more haphazardly than by the plan, in time were influenced by Roman designs as described above. Often, however, also at Rome, the situation hindered a logical application. Usually rows of pillars were made on both sides of important streets. Water was conducted to spectacular fountains and basins for practical use.

Water was transported through aqueducts to large reservoirs (if the climate did not prescribe wells). Sewer systems collected the superfluous water from the streets and from private quarters. One saying about the sewer became famous: pecunia non olet (money does not smell).

Building codes were drawn up and implemented. The design of an entire town can clearly be seen in some places in North Africa, such as at Timgad, Tebessa and Thuburbo Majus. In these towns little or none at all was added and the original planning is still intact.


From about 200 B.C. till 50 A.D. the many encounters with Greek culture, as well as the fact that Rome developed as a republic, caused temples to be constructed conform Greek style. Both sculpture and spatial effects imitated Greek designs. Greek influence on Roman culture was summed up in the saying: Graeca capta Romam cepit (Conquered Greece conquered Rome).

However in the time of Caesar Augustus Roman temples took on a more Italic spatial look. Also new forms, particularly with floral arrangements and detailed friezes, were invented. In this time above all in secular buildings an architectural style was developed totally owned by Roman influences. Also it was in this time that Roman culture started exercising its influence in foreign countries, for instance in the construction of theaters and amphitheaters.

Roman temples differed in many important details from their Greek predecessors. Greek temples had three steps round about, but the Roman temple had a high platform, or stage, with a staircase that served as entrance. Greek temples almost always looked out to the East or West, but the position of the Roman temples depended on the surrounding buildings.

The Romans often built round temples, of which the most important one survives as the Pantheon at Rome till today. It consists of a rotunda with a diameter of almost fifty meters and surrounded by concrete walls seven meters thick. A central opening at the top with a nine meter diameter lets the light in. This is called the oculus (eye), situated in the dome. The rotunda and the dome are examples of Roman expertise in working with concrete.

Ancient Roman architecture Pantheon 300x216 Ancient Roman Art: A Birds Eye View Of Roman Architecture


Romans had a predilection for spatial compositions worked out in the organization of lines, surfaces, mass and voluminous parts. In this they differed from their predecessors in those times around the Mediterranean. No matter how much they adopted the elements of previous styles, they did this in their own fashion.

One can distinguish five different Roman styles of building, adopted from Greek culture, but used in their own unique ways. These were the:

    • Doric
    • Ionic
    • Corinthian
    • Toscan and
    • mixed architectonic styles.

On the average Roman proportional styles were more tempered, but with more flair for detail. Columns and pillars were often smooth, but the architrave, frieze and cornice were embellished.


Towards the end of the republic the so-called balneae (baths) had become a recognized characteristic of the Roman way of life. Particularly during the empire they were very popular. The Stabian Baths at Pompeii have been preserved best.

Imperial thermae were more than baths alone. They were extremely large complexes for all kinds of physical exercise and housed halls where philosophers, poets and orators addressed the public.


Roman theaters differed from those of the Greeks in various ways. The auditorium was not dug out and the walls encompassing both the stage and the seats, were continuous. The entrance to the dancing stage was formed by vaulted passages. The choir did not play a role in Roman theater. The dancing section therefore was part of the auditorium. The wall behind the stage was decorated lavishly.

* Amphitheaters

Amphitheaters were arenas where plays and various shows were staged. The most important one was the Colosseum at Rome, built in about 70-82 A.D. It occupied an area of about two to three hectares and offered seats to fifty thousand spectators. Eighty exits allowed the public to leave quickly. The entire structure was made of concrete - the outside was covered with calcareous sinter and the inside with costly marble.

Ancient Roman architecture Colloseum 300x176 Ancient Roman Art: A Birds Eye View Of Roman Architecture

* Circus

The circus was mainly a racing track with seats to the sides. One end was round and the other straight to allow access for the wagons. In the middle there was a line of demarcation where arbiters could perform their functions. Since it was the largest facility for viewing a spectacle, it was also used for other activities. The circuses became infamous because of the burning of Christians in the time of Nero.


Arches of triumph were sometimes erected to commemorate an important event or military campagne. Most of the time they sat by themselves and did not serve as a passage. They were decorated with reliefs and fitted out with statues.


The Roman tomb consisted of a knoll of earth, the tumulus. It was surrounded by a ring of cement usually of considerable height. Only a few of such tombs remain, particularly the tomb of Hadrianus, now called Castel Sant’Ange lo.


The basilica was a large covered hall used by the judiciary and also by bankers and merchants. The largest such basilica was constructed in seven years, begun by Maxentius and completed by Constantine in about 313 A.D. One can still find the vaults of the salient rooms at the North side. They prove the quality of the mixture and durability of Roman reinforced (with stones, not iron) concrete. For after all these years they still hang there without support.

Ancient Roman Architecture Basilica of constantine 300x199 Ancient Roman Art: A Birds Eye View Of Roman Architecture


The construction of bridges and aqueducts also belonged to Roman expertise. The most famous examples of surviving aqueducts are the Pont du Gard at Nimes and at Segovia in Spain. The best example of a bridge is found at Rimini. It was built by Augustus and Tiberius. The most impressive one is perhaps at Alcantara in Spain.


Private homes and even palaces usually were styled with inner courts and gardens instead of an impressive facade. This tradition was maintained, as far as possible, in the settlements in the North of Europe and in England. Also elaborated provisions for heating had to be taken care of there. In the climate of the Mediterranean, however, a tendency towards light and open construction prevailed instead of a compact and imposing one.


Also in the layout of imperial palaces at Rome the emphasis lay on gardening. The buildings themselves, as far as their function was concerned, were not very monumental and they were spread over the Palatine hill as it were randomly. Augustus himself bought and enlarged the home known as the House of Livia, still in existence today. Very little remains of Nero’s famous Golden Palace, occupying once a territory of more than 120 hectares. One can find the baths of Titus there now, the Colosseum and the Basilica of Maxentius.

The Villa of Hadrianus at Tivoli, started in about 123 A.D., was a luxurious residence with parks and gardens laid out on a grand scale. Because of the unequal terrain terraces and staircases were constructed. There still remain enormous stones and concrete fabrications. All the buildings are in Roman style, but with Greek names. The Latin word villa denoted an estate, complete with a home, terrains and precincts and dependent facilities. Around Pompeii relatively simple villas were found. Descriptions known in literature, such as of Pliny the Younger who describes his villa at Laurentum, and remains of the Palatial residence at Piazza Armerina in Sicily, represented the upper class. The villa of Hadrianus is too elaborate and detailed to be called a typical villa.

This article has been taken from my N.T.-Greek course, where you can find more interesting info.

Article Source: – Chris_Bouter
A Birds Eye View Of Roman Architecture



Ancient Roman Art – Timeline of Ancient History

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Do you often get confused when trying to determine the time frame of Ancient Roman art? Here is a great infographic that gives you a clear overview over different periods and civilizations of the ancient history. 

 ancient roman art ancient civilizations Ancient Roman Art   Timeline of Ancient History


With a help of this simple and effective chart you can always remember when the Ancient Roman art and culture began.

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The Glory Of Ancient Roman Mosaics

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By Steve Coe

The Romans were not the first to use tiles and small stone blocks to create designs and patterns to adorn the floors and walls of ancient buildings, such as temples and palaces. It had been done before, in both Greece and in the Ancient Near East – but the Romans have truly perfected the technique of mosaic making and developed it from a decorative craft into magnificent ancient roman art. Roman mosaics were both attractive and long lasting and were eminently practical for a variety of architectural applications.

Around two thousand years ago the Romans developed a skill in making high quality cement mortar and concrete that was both structurally very strong and also waterproof. This technological innovation allowed for considerable scope and flexibility in developing architectural forms and led to the widespread use of mosaic panels for enhancing the looks and utility of their buildings.

To make their mosaics, they used tiny, squared off blocks of natural stone, marble or tiles, called tesserae, embedded in mortar and with the joints between them grouted up with cement, to provide extremely durable concrete floors, walls and arched roofs. Besides being attractive, correctly laid mosaic tiles rendered floors:

  • waterproof,
  • hygienic,
  • easy to clean and
  • equally importantly, also reflected light – essential properties for public buildings such as the bathhouses of a people obsessed with bathing.

But hand in hand with advances in technique and innovative applications of practical utility, so also went the development of a tradition of artistic excellence. We have many splendid examples of both abstract and representative ancient Roman mosaic art that is truly outstanding by any standard.

628px Neptune Roman mosaic Bardo Museum Tunis 300x286 The Glory Of Ancient Roman Mosaics

The Triumph of Neptune – Ancient roman mosaic

Ancient Roman mosaic designs are very distinctive and display worthy examples of both abstract and representative art. Although always immediately recognizable as Roman, many different style and themes are used:

  • black and white (dichromatic) highly stylized mosaic representations of dolphins and sea monsters adorned the floors of public baths,
  • whilst in the seclusion of their villas, the rich favored more colorful realistic mosaic representations of gods, gladiators and gracious ladies at leisure,
  • a great deal of purely geometric mosaic decoration and bordering was used in repetitive patterns
  • there were also many mosaics of pastoral and culinary themes in somewhat random, but pleasing depictions, especially in dining rooms and reception areas.

It is wonderful that numbers of fine ancient Roman mosaic panels, many still in excellent condition, can be found all over the numerous lands that Rome once ruled – vivid reminders of a time when her mighty empire stretched from Britain in the West to Israel and Iraq in the East and from Germany in the North to Morocco and Egypt in the South. The extensive mosaic record of Rome that has been unearthed from all over Europe, North Africa and the Middle East is a wonderful legacy.

We are fortunate that so many fine examples of this unique art form can be viewed in numerous museum exhibitions and also insitu in a multitude of heritage sites. Many of these distinctively Roman works look as though they were laid out only yesterday – their magnificence undiminished after the passage of twenty or so centuries. This is indeed a lasting tribute, both to the durability of the medium and also to the fine craftmanship of the original ancient Roman mosaic artists.

You can find other aspects of the history of mosaics at the web page “Roman Mosaics” How To Make Mosaics – Roman Mosaics.

To find out more about the wonderful art of Mosaics, with its fascinating history, the types of materials and tools, adhesives and grouts – visit the website

Article Source: – Steve Coe



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Ancient Roman Art and Social Class – Video

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In the following video an expert explains the influence social class played in ancient Roman art. This influence differentiates:

  • imperial works of ancient Roman art that were carefully and proportionally crafted and mimicked Greek ideals with flawless features,
  • from plebeian works of ancient Roman art, that were more robust and disproportional.


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Ancient Roman Art

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Ancient Roman art (500 BC – 476 AD) comes from Roman Empire, that was one of the largest empires in the history, so its art reflects its power and influence. Ancient Roman art has its roots in the Etruscan art (900 BC), but really became its own type of art around 500 BC with the beginning of the Roman Republic, and continued until the fall of Western Roman Empire in 476.

Roman Empire included different civilizations that influenced its culture. The biggest influence on the ancient Roman art came from ancient Greek art, that was more advanced and which ideas and methods were basis for art in ancient Rome. The reason for this is that many Roman artists came from Greek colonies in the time when Romans were conquering Greece. Besides this different Roman Emperors wanted their sculptures reflecting Greek heroes and Gods, to emphasize their power and greatness and ancient Roman architecture wanted to reflect great  ancient Greek wonders.

ancient roman art Hercules Ancient Roman Art

Ancient Roman statue: Farnese Hercules, 3rd century, inspired by the Greek statue of Hercules

Ancient Roman art also found inspiration in Egyptian and eastern art, and was influenced by the early Christians. In the latest years of the Roman empire there were also visible influences of Germanic, Celtic and Barbarian art.


The most important forms of ancient roman art are:

  • Ancient roman architecture
  • Ancient Roman paintings
  • Ancient Roman sculptures
  • Mosaics

Besides these main forms, ancient Roman creativity is shown in other creative works such as metal work, engraving, ivory carvings, pottery, miniature book illustrations and other minor forms of ancient Roman art.


Many techniques and methods used by the ancient Roman artists were developed by ancient Greek artists. Some of these are: high and low relief, free-standing sculpture, bronze casting, vase art, mosaic, cameo, coin art, fine jewelry and metalwork, funerary sculpture, perspective drawing, caricature, genre, landscape and portrait painting, architectural sculpture, and trompe l’oeil painting. Most of these techniques were used also by the artists centuries later.

While Greek artists were more interested in ideals, Romans were interested in reality, so portraiture was one of the most popular art forms in ancient Rome.

Ancient Roman paintings, mosaics and architecture remained very well preserver in Pompeii.

Ancient roman fresco 300x300 Ancient Roman Art

Wall painting/fresco: Woman writer from Pompeii, 1st century


Ancient Roman artists were mostly anonymous, although there are some known ancient Roman artists such as:

  • Sculptors: Arkesiloas, Boethos of Chalkedon, Stetphanos, Zenodrous
  • Painters: Demetrios of Alexandria, Timomachos


Ancient Roman art of the first and second century AD: Popular is portraiture, as well as Greek imitations and wall painting. Art was also used as propaganda for the emperors’ ideas.

Ancient Roman art of the the third century AD: New ideas emerged in Roman art, such as depicting bloodshed that was influenced by the wars with Germans. Use of drill in sculpture was replacing chisel. Interest in the soul inspired by Christians shows up in art as emphasis on the eyes, often looking upward to heaven. Body  is not that important to artists anymore, so artists tend to depict it inaccurately (to short limbs, bigger head).

Ancient Roman art of the fourth century AD: Interest in soul continues, which shows in art as big eyes and unreal bodies, there is also less bloodshed visible in art.

Christian era of the late Empire (350-500): Wall painting, mosaics and funerary sculpture were popular in ancient roman art. On the other hand full sized sculpture in the round and panel painting subsided because of religious reasons. Eastern influences were showing.

After the fall of Rome in 5th century artists moved to Eastern capital, where they mostly found work in churches.