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HSC Ancient History


									                                          HSC Ancient History
                                   Assessment Task 4- Part A: Research
                                   Roman Society from Augustus to Titus

      Describe the main features and functions of art and architecture in Roman society during this period:

             Roman artistic and architectural design throughout the period ranging from the rise of Augustus (27BCE)
to the death of Titus (81 AD) is notably characterized as ornate in nature; featuring immense developments which
ultimately formed a completely new style of building and decoration. The innovations of this period including
advancements in building materials and engineering techniques, the influence of neighbouring cultures such as the
Greeks and the Etruscans, the varying types of buildings and their primary functions within society, the decoration of
domestic and public buildings, the numerous art styles as wells as the significance of art and architecture as a means
for propaganda; have accredited the Early Roman Empire period as an era of which has held and continues to hold a
profound impact upon successive and modern-day artistic and architectural formations.

             The period of Roman society from Augustus to Titus saw great progress within the fields of engineering
methods and constructive materials. Prior to the Imperial period, quarried stone, in conjunction with timber and
terracotta were the essential building materials; however this method was often unsuitable in covering vast areas with
vaults, domes and walls. The most significant of advancements is the invention of concrete (opus caementicum),
which was created by mixing pazzolana: a strong volcanic material found in extensive beds at Pozzuoli near Naples,
with rubble and a mixture of limestone. This new material supplemented the expensive and often-limited resource of
marble as well as the traditional stone post -and-lintel system, providing architects of the time with an opportunity to
liberate design from the canonical rectilinear patterns of classical architecture. This innovation paved the way for the
construction of the grand amphitheatres and public baths, which adorned the ancient Roman world. The refinement of
the constructive methods of arch building allowed for the foundations of a system of aqueducts, which became a vital
aspect of civilian life. The series of aqueducts carried water from the hills to large tanks or cisterns in the cities; they
contained pipes lined with cement and were covered to stop the water evaporating or becoming contaminated. These 2
key technical advancements demonstrate Rome’s prominence as an influence for future architectural designs.

             As the Roman Empire expanded throughout Italy and the Mediterranean during the time of Augustus to
Titus, so did the artistic and architectural influences of neighbouring cultures. The 2 main influences were the Greeks
and the Etruscans; because of the geographical extent of its territory and the large numbers of diverse populations
encompassed by its frontiers, Roman art and architecture became and eclectic mix of varying styles and designs. Prior
to the Imperial period, monumental architecture was closely associated to that of the Etruscans, but the growth of the
Empire meant that Roman society, including its artistic and architectural styles was beginning to be exposed to new
cultures, techniques and designs; predominantly those of Greece. Roman architects borrowed many Greek features,
but adapted them to Italian ideas and plans. The Romans utilized 5 orders of columns, which were directly taken from
Greek traditions: Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Tuscan and Composite. Generally, Roman columns were slenderer than
their Greek counterparts and elaboration and decoration were greatly emphasized where the Greek work was often left
plain. The combination of Roman fundamental building processes along with Greek designs and styles created a new
form of architecture; one which would inspire and impact many succeeding civilizations.

             Ancient Roman architecture entailed many forms of buildings and structures, including key public
constructions such as temples, fora, theatres and baths as well as private dwellings such as tombs, domus and insulae.
These buildings served as places for worship, political and social gatherings and entertainment purposes; they
provided both an aesthetic and practical function for Roman society. Temples were erected in the forum and
throughout the city and often portrayed friezes upon its walls. These temples incorporated a rectangular plan with a
gabled roof, deep porch with free standing columns and a frontal staircase giving access to its high plinth or platform.
The forum was the focal point of any Roman city, and was usually situated at the center of the city. The building
compiled of an open area, bordered by colonnades and functioned as the chief meeting place of the city: the site
housed the city’s primary religious and civic buildings including the Senate house, records office and basilica- site of
business transactions and legal proceedings. During the Early Empire period, Augustus built the Forum Augusta in
order to emphasize the importance of the Julian family and their connection to the gods Mars, Venus and Aeneas.
Theatres and amphitheatres held immense significance within the everyday life of Roman citizens; they became a
place for entertainment and socialization. Roman theatres were semi-circular in plan and consisted of a tall stage
building adjoining a semi-circular orchestra and tiered seating area known as the cavea. Amphitheatres were elliptical
in plan and contained a central arena where gladiatorial and animal combats took place. The grandest amphitheatre of
ancient Rome is the Colosseum initiated by Vespasian in 69 AD and finished and inaugurated by Titus in 80 AD. The
Colosseum held approximately 50,000 spectators. Private housing was classified into 2 distinct types; the domus and
the insulae. The standard domus consisted of an entrance corridor (fauces), a main room (atrium) open to the sky with
a central basin for the collection of rainwater, a series of small bedrooms (cubicula) and possibly a small garden.
Insulae were multi-story brick and concrete structures similar to modern-day apartment houses. These buildings had
no running water and so inhabitants were forced to use public toilets and baths. Most insulae were constructed of
poorly produced materials and were at high risk of fires or even collapse. Most public facilities such as baths, theatres
and temples were constructed with the intention to demonstrate the great abilities of Roman architects and builders;
theses building were intended to impress and reflect the greatness of the Imperial family.

             The decoration of domestic and public buildings during the period ranging from Augustus to Titus was
based greatly on ornate and atheistic styles. Walls of elegant homes were painted with scenes from Greek mythology,
landscape scenes or images of animals. The artist applied the paint to the wall while the plaster was still wet. Painters
of the time, sought to create vast spaces beyond the surface of the wall; a technique accomplished through the use of
perspective. Colonnades, gardens, theatrical stages and round temples were popular motifs and these designs were
even employed within the house of Augustus on the Palatine Hill (25 BCE) as well as a villa belonging to Augustus’
wife Livia. The floors of both domestic and public buildings were adorned with colourful mosaics; images made up of
small pieces of stones, pottery or glass. Public buildings and private villas housed marble statues and busts. These
forms of artistic design illustrate the Roman fascination with beautification and lavish lifestyles.

              Roman art forms, in particular portraiture, throughout the Early Empire period held immense significance
as a reflection of individuals and the image they wished to present to society. Roman portraiture combined both
realistic and idealized depictions and representations. Augustus is portrayed in statue form, relief’s and carved capitals
as always young and dressed to represent a role in which he wanted the Roman people to associate with him; as
Pontifex Maximus or addressing his soldiers. These images were imbued with cultural rather than individual
characteristics. A perfect example of this style is evident in the statue of Augustus from Prima Porta. The portrait
heads of succeeding emperors were less idealized than those of Augustus; Tiberius was often depicted with a hard,
lined face with distrustful eyes, Nero was presented as a plump-faced youth. Idealism gave way to realism and
vitality. Statues of deities, heroes and mortals were erected and placed in a wide variety of locations; every temple had
a cult statue and important civic buildings possessed a portrait of the current emperor. Popular forms of artistry
including the minor arts of metal work and gem cutting were highly respected throughout the Roman Empire.
Precious stones would be carved in 2 ways; either by cutting into the surface of the stone to create the picture
(intaglio) or by cutting back the stone to make the picture stand out (cameo); the most famous cameo is the large
Cameo of the Deified Augustus which now resides in Paris. The most widely distributed of the minor portrait arts
were Roman coins struck in gold, silver and copper. These coins bore the portraits of reigning emperors and their
families. Roman portraiture in sculptures and paintings was less idealized than those of the Greeks, however an image
of power and strength was still a desired representation.

              Art and architecture although mainly used for aesthetic and practical purposes, often transcended as a
form of propaganda and self-glorification. Triumphal arches were a key means of presenting achievements and
commemorating events; they were often isolated rather than built to span a roadway and were usually decorated with
columns and relief’s of chief events. The most noted of these arches is the Arch of Titus, which was constructed to
celebrate the capture of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Another fine example is the Ara Pacis Augustae, which celebrated the
initiation of Pax Romana (Roman Peace). These constructions in conjunction with artistic portraiture enabled
powerful and influential people of Rome to manipulate the image they wished to portray to the people of Rome.

              Roman artistic and architectural design throughout the period ranging from the rise of Augustus (27BCE)
to the death of Titus (81 AD) is notably distinguished as elaborate in nature; featuring vast developments which
ultimately formed a completely new style of building and decoration. The innovations of this period have recognized
the Early Roman Empire period as an era of which has held and continues to hold a profound impact upon successive
artistic and architectural formations; its remnants still present in modern-day artistry and constructive projects.

    Get Smart Revision Guide- Roman Society: Augustus to Titus
    Excel Ancient History Book 1

Christine Malnersic 

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