This paper outlines the main characteristics of the art and architecture of the Roman republican era and imperial period in turn, and then traces the areas of similarity, which suggest continuity and areas of difference, which indicate elements of change. …
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This research aims to evaluate and present one feature which is noticeable from the Republican period of Roman art. This is the tendency to imitate Greek models of sculpture. Hellenist artists were much admired by the Romans, not just in sculpture but also in literature, music and all kinds of arts and crafts. In sculpture this influence can be seen very clearly in the muscular, semi-naked bodies and the static poses which exude a sublime and noble authority: “Critics are united in acknowledging the enormous debt owed to Greece by all branches of Roman art.” A good example of the way that Romans imitated Greek culture in the early days of the Republic can be seen in the statue of Diaoumenos which is a marble copy of a Greek bronze. The different material makes it somewhat stiffer and more formal than the bronze original must have been, but it shows a similar preoccupation with physical prestige. Vergil’s account of the early history of Rome contains an illuminating passage on the differing value systems that existed between Greeks and Romans. Anchises says: “Others will cast their breathing figures more tenderly in bronze and bring more lifelike portraits out of marble. Roman, remember by your strength to rule earth’s peoples for your arts are to be these: to pacify, to impose the rule of law to spare the conquered, battle down the proud.” This suggests that the emphasis for Romans may have been more on the symbolism of power and authority that these statues conveyed, than appreciation of the physical beauty of the piece. There are also technical differences in the way that the Romans adapted Greek techniques and styles. Jackson points out that the Roman funerary rights often involved the production of realistic death masks, from which also portraits in three dimensional marble could be made later, and explains the verism of late republican portrait statues as being partly derived from this tradition: “the death mask emphasizes the construction of the face and skull, whilst Hellenistic art shows more concern for the plastic rendition of muscle and for the surface detail generally.”
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