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CHAPTER FOUR. Art, Architecture, and Archaeology in the Roman Empire

Lea Stirling

Subject Archaeology, Art
Roman History » Roman Empire
Classical Art and Archaeology » Roman Art and Archaeology

Key-Topics arts and architecture

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631226444.2006.00009.x


Throughout the countryside, streets, and museums of the former Roman Empire are physical remains of that empire such as aqueducts, amphitheaters, portraits of emperors and anonymous citizens, and terracotta lamps. These ruins, art objects, artifacts, potsherd scatters, and even seeds and bones all testify to aspects of the ideology, beliefs, aspirations, social norms, and lifestyles of the inhabitants of that empire. Some of these material remains are studied as art objects, while others are considered archaeological, but they present the fullest picture of Roman life when taken together. Given the immensity of this body of information, I do not present a chronological survey, but rather a consideration of the chief genres of artistic monument and the leading avenues of archaeological research, grouped thematically instead of by method of investigation. Art cannot be understood independently of the society that produced it, and we find the power relationships, agendas, and anxieties of the Roman world embedded in its art. From this immense and unwieldy corpus of information, we may distil some major contexts: the emperor, the cityscape, the countryside, the home, and death. Looking at the Roman army provides a further example of how very different kinds of evidence can be integrated to contribute to a historical picture. Before continuing, however, we must first raise the most fundamental ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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