The Roman Empire had a huge impact on the artistic and architectural patterns of many places where the empire ruled. The artistic impressions that were depicted in the art and architectural forms addressed various forms of human activities and emotions. Roman Empire art and architecture reflected the value that was accorded to the elite and aristocrats within the Roman society before the advent of Christianity (Lockard 344). Roman Empire art was evident in sculptures, paintings and temples which described various aspects of life within the empire.
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Some of the art forms and architectural designs were dedicated to Roman deities that played a special role in Roman pagan religious beliefs. Temples in the Roman Empire were built mostly for the sake of carrying out rituals dedicated to these deities. The style of art and architecture during this period was heavily influenced by Greeks, Etruscans and Egyptians (Lockard 347). The Roman Empire imposed its art in the areas that it ruled which was evident in the architecture, sculpture and paintings of that period.
Augustus Caesar’s reign saw the erection of many statues, temples, monuments and paintings by artists who glorified the emperor. Sculptors and other artists had a prominent role in designing the buildings and monuments of exceptional quality which had political and religious significance (Lockard 353). Glassware, silver ware and other precious items were engraved with Roman heroes and deities, and it can also be considered as a part of the Roman art. The advent of Christianity and the rise of the Byzantine Empire brought significant changes to the art and architecture of the Roman Empire.
The Shift of Art from Realism and Proportion to Otherworldliness
The decline of the Roman Empire in the dark ages affected its art negatively and led to its downswing since the empire could not sustain its rule any longer. The Roman lands were invaded and people who lived there were enslaved. The efficient governance system that the empire was known for collapsed which resulted into the collapse of formal educational systems (Kleiner 296). The rise of Christianity and the dominance of the Byzantine Empire that previously belonged to the eastern territories of the Roman Empire led to new art forms being introduced.
Constantinople assumed power over the whole Roman Empire and introduced Christianity in the new Byzantine Empire. Art in the form of sculptures, paintings and other religious buildings had strong inclinations to the new religious order in the new Byzantine Empire. The church controlled artistic expression and as such, the art that was produced had to conform to the Christian religious order in the empire (Kleiner 299). The art forms became more spiritually oriented and extramundane.
This shift was captured in church structures, paintings and sculptures which were more mystical than realist. The basilica format which was borrowed from the Roman forms of architecture became the favored design for church construction in the empire (Kleiner 301). Gradually the early Christian art forms withdrew from the materialistic depictions that were prominent in Roman art to more mundane and mystical depictions. The churches were decorated with mosaics, sculptures and religious paintings to give devotees an otherworldly experience while worshipping. The paintings were not well proportioned and they mainly portrayed religious figures and powerful biblical stories. Chalices and crosses were the main symbols of religious devotion and they were mainly abstract.
Kleiner, Fred S. A History of Roman Art, Enhanced Edition. Boston: Wadsworth, 2010. Print.
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Lockard, Craig A. Societies, Networks and Transitions: To 1500. 2nd ed. Boston: Wadsworth, 2011. Print.