High Empire. 97BCE-192 CE The period when the Roman Empire was at its peak. The patronage of the various emperors led to the building of some of Rome’s grandest public structures, including Trajan and his arch and column and the justly famous domed Pantheon and Villa built on orders from Hadrian. The Pantheon is famous for its Architecture of Space. The equestrian statue of Marcus Arelius is the first of a long line of “man on horseback” statues that students will find in art history.
Key Vocabulary for High Empire Art.
Arch of Trajan Trajan’s column Pantheon
Hadrian’s Villa Ostia
equestrian statue mummy portrait apotheosis
High Empire Background
Under Trajan, Hadrian, and Antonine emperors, the Roman Empire reaches its peak size
Rome was recognized as the sole power of Western Europe although Germanic tribes in Central Europe, Berbers in North Africa, Parthians (in modern Iran) and Persians in the Middle East were always a threat
First non-Italian Roman emperor – born in Spain
Domitian was assassinated in 96 AD
The aged Nerva took over and died after 16 months. Before his death, he adopted Trajan, who became his successor
A capable and successful leader – expanded the empire and created social programs to help the people
Trajan was given the title Optimus – greatest (a title that he shared with Jupiter). Trajan and Augustus were the emperors to whom all later emperors would compare themselves.
Founded Timgad, colony for army veterans. Started out with Hippodamian plan. More chaotic outside of original city boundaries as it grew.
Fora (plural of forum) were civic centers of Roman cities.
Fora usually included government buildings such as a basilica, temples to gods, and a market place.
The Republican Forum was the original forum in Rome, but famous Roman leaders beginning with Julius Caesar added their own additions. Trajan’s Forum was the largest.
The attic of the arch shows a relief of Jupiter handing Trajan a lightning bolt, granting him dominion over the universe.
Trajan rebuilt the Circus Maximus which was the venue for chariot races.
Funerary relief of a circus official, Ostia, 20”high; early example of a continuous narration (compare with Trajan’s column); non-elite style (for freedmen & working class), i.e. disregard for illusionism of early empire. Shakes hands with statue of wife means she’s dead and he’ll be with her in the afterlife.
A fellow Spaniard, adopted by Trajan to succeed him
Admirer of Greek culture, loved the arts, architecture, and literature
Wore a beard to imitate the appearance of Greek philosophers
Had Apollodorus of Damascus assassinated for disrespecting him and being overly critical of his architectural designs.
Portrait Bust of Hadrian
Hadrian took the throne at the age of 41. He reigned for two decades.
He is also depicted as a mature adult who never ages.
Hadrian’s bearded appearance set a trend for future emperors.
Resembles Kresilas’ portrait of Pericles, the great Athenian leader
Built in Rome between 118-125 CE during Hadrian’s reign
Porch-like entrance into the building
16 columns each weighing 60 tons
Resembles a Greek temple (Corinthian columns, entablature with post and lintel support, pediment)
A huge dome resting on a drum
Influenced by Greek tholos
Dome is 142 feet high with a diameter of 142 feet
A perfect hemisphere
Dome includes COFFERS – recessed panels which decorate the dome and relieve weight from the dome. The coffers decrease in size from the base of the dome to the oculus to give the illusion of greater height.
Circular opening 30 feet in diameter located at the apex of the dome
The interior could be imagined as the orb of the earth
The dome is the vault of the heavens
The ceiling was once covered with gilded bronze rosettes which enhanced the dome’s symbolism as the starry heavens
As the sun passes through the sky, a natural spotlight is cast into the rotunda, progressively illuminating the interior. To the Romans, the sun symbolized the eye of Jupiter, and its penetrating presence inside the temple seemed to make the deity manifest.
7 shrines representing 5 planets and 2 luminaries (sun and moon)
How was the Pantheon constructed?
Illustrates the uses and importance of CONCRETE
Began with a concrete foundation – a ring of concrete 15 feet deep and 24 feet wide
8 enormous concrete piers spaced to create 7 recesses
6 different mixtures of concrete used from base of drum to the top of the dome – heavier mixture with more stone toward the bottom, lighter mixture with fine pumice toward the top
Dome’s thickness decreases as it nears the oculus
Dome’s weight was lessened without weakening its strength through the use of COFFERS.
Rain was drained off by small inconspicuous openings in the floor which slopes slightly toward the center of the building.
One of the most influential designs in architectural history
Influenced Palladio’s Villa Rotunda
Influenced designs by Thomas Jefferson such as his home Monticello.
Hadrian’s Villa, Canopus and Serapeum , Tivoli, 125 – 128 CE. Designed at least partially by Hadrian. Inspired by trip to Egypt, but very original design
Canopus = pond
Serapeum = grotto (a small cave or cavern, or a structure designed to look like one).
Arcuated lintel! Both respect for Greek design and willingness to break the rules.
Al-Khazneh (“Treasury”), Petra, Jordan 2nd C. CE.
Cut into living rock
Count the ways liberties were taken with Greek formulae.
Insula, Ostia (Rome’s harbor)
Over 90% of Rome’s and Ostia’s inhabitants lived in insulas (apartments) made out of brick.
Very little light and air from courtyards. Thus focus was outside in insulas: windows.
Modest inside decoration. Finer apartments had mosaic floors and frescoed ceilings. Mosaics usually B&W.
Ostia funerary art
For working class.
Painted terracotta plaques showing the deceased doing his/her occupation
The Antonines (138 – 192 CE)
History/Background: Hadrian adopted 51 year-old Antonius Pius as his son and successor and required Antonius to adopt Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. Hadrian dies later that year and was declared a god. Antonius Pius ruled for thirteen years.
On A.P.’s death M.A. and L.V. erected a memorial to him. On pedestal one side has inscription, one side has Apotheosis, and two sides have identical versions of the decursio (ritual circling of the imperial funerary pyre).
Slide: Apotheosis (ascent to heaven) of Antonius Pius and Faustina, relief on pedestal of the column of A.P. ,Rome, ca. 161 CE.
Elegant, classical proportions
Single ground plane
Campus Martius (Field of Mars, island in Tiber river) personified by youth with obelisk
Rome personified by Roma leaning on shield with Rom. and Remus being suckled by she-wolf.
A.P. and Faustina being elevated to realm of gods on a winged personification of unknown ID.
Faustina had been dead for 20 years when A.P. died. Conflated (mixed) different times. New to classical repertoire (stock of things available). Implies A.P. was faithful husband after wife’s death.