Early empire



In ancient Rome, official portraits were full of political messages. What does Vespasian’s portrait say about him?

Portrait of Vespasian


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




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

The art of gem carving



Column of Trajan, Carrara marble, completed 113 C.E., Rome
Trajan expanded the Roman Empire to its greatest extent, celebrating his victories with this monumental column.

Column of Trajan


Ara Pacis Augustae (Altar of Augustan Peace), 9 B.C.E. (Ara Pacis Museum, Rome, Italy) (photo: Steven Zucker, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Augustus is said to have found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble—this altar symbolizes his golden age.

Ara Pacis



Colosseum (Amphitheatrum Flavium), c. 70-80 C.E., Rome
Gladiators, animal hunts, and executions: learn about the Colosseum, a monumental gift to the Roman people.

The Colosseum



Arch of Titus, Rome, after 81 C.E.
At the end of a Roman triumph, the defeated general was murdered. The victim was marched under this triumphal arch.

The Arch of Titus


Dioskourides, Gemma Augustea, 9 - 12 C.E., 19 x 23 cm, double-layered sardonyx with gold, gold-plated silver (Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna)
Even the smallest carvings, seen only by a select few, could carry a strong political message.

Gemma Augustea