Ancient Rome: c. 753 B.C.E. – 400 C.E.

The brilliance of ancient Roman art can be seen in the wall paintings of Pompeii, the massive ambition of the Colosseum, and the daring engineering of the Pantheon. According to legend, Rome was founded in 753 B.C.E. by Romulus, its first king. In 509 B.C.E., Rome became a republic ruled by the Senate (wealthy landowners and elders) and by the Roman people. During the 450 years of the republic, Rome conquered the rest of Italy and then expanded into France, Spain, Turkey, North Africa and Greece. Rome, in turn, was heavily influenced by Greek culture. The Republic collapsed in civil war during the 1st century B.C.E. and the Roman empire began. Starting with Augustus in 27 B.C.E., the emperors ruled for five hundred years. They expanded Rome’s territory and by about 200 C.E., their vast empire stretched from Syria to Spain and from Britain to Egypt.


Sardonyx cameo showing Trajan and his wife, Roman, 105-115 (BM)
From monarchy, to republic, then empire—at its height, Rome controlled territory from Scotland to the Middle East.

Introduction to ancient Rome




Preparations for a Sacrifice, fragment from an architectural relief, c. mid-first century C.E., marble, 172 x 211 cm / 67¾ x 83⅛ inches (Musée du Louvre, Paris)
Animal sacrifice played an important role in ancient Roman religion, but what was involved in the preparation?

Preparations for a Sacrifice





Maison Carrée, c. 4-7 C.E.
This well-preserved building in modern-day France is a textbook example of a Vitruvian temple.

Maison Carrée





Hadrian's Wall, England
At the remotest point of the Roman Empire, Hadrian erected this fortification—a symbol of control and dominance.

Hadrian: Building the wall



Capitoline Wolf, 5th century B.C.E. or medieval, bronze, 75 cm (Capitoline Museums, Rome)
Abandoned as infants, the mythical founders of Rome were raised by a she-wolf.

Capitoline She-wolf



The art of gem carving
Watch a modern artist engrave a precious gemstone using the techniques of the ancients.

The art of gem carving



Capitoline Brutus, 4th-3rd century B.C.E. bronze, 69 cm (Capitoline Museums, Rome)
Once identified as the founder of the Roman Republic, debate over this figure’s true identity rages on.

Capitoline Brutus




The Pantheon, Rome, c. 125
The Pantheon has one of the most perfect interior spaces ever constructed—and it’s been copied ever since.

The Pantheon (Rome)



Veristic male portrait (similar to Head of a Roman Patrician), early 1st Century B.C.E., marble, life size (Vatican Museums, Rome)
With age comes experience, and sculptors in the Roman Republic highlighted seniority—warts and all.

Veristic male portrait