This book, first published in 2004, develops a theory for the understanding of Roman pictorial art. By treating Roman art as a semantic system it establishes a connection between artistic forms and the ideological messages contained within. The history of Roman art traditionally followed the model of a sequence of stylistic phases affecting the works of their era in the manner of a uniform Zeitgeist. By contrast, the author shows different stylistic forms being used for different themes and messages. The reception of Greek models, a key phenomenon of Roman art, thus appear in a new light. The formulations of specific messages are established from Greek art types of different eras serving to express Roman ideological values: classical forms for the grandeur of the state, Hellenistic forms for the struggling effort of warfare. In this way a conceptual and comprehensible pictorial language arose, uniting the multicultural population of the Roman state.
Tonio Hoelscher is Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Heidelberg. His publications focus on public monuments, political iconography and urbanism in Ancient Greece and Rome and on general art and cultural theory. His is a member of various scientific institutions, including the Academia Europae, London. Anthony Snodgrass is Emeritus Professor of Classical Archaeology in the University of Cambridge whose books include Homer and the Artists (Cambridge University Press, 1998). Jas' Elsner is Humfry Payne Senior Research Fellow in Classical Art and Archaeology in the University of Oxford. His books include Art and the Roman Viewer (Cambridge University Press, 1995) and Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph (1998).
Foreword; Preface; 1. Introduction; 2. The Greek paradigm: example for lifestyle, academic subject, or building block of imperial culture?; 3. The monuments: questions, categories, theses; 4. Battle-scenes: the tradition of Hellenistic pathos; 5. Battle-scenes: their reception in Rome; 6. State ceremonial: the tradition of Classical dignity; 7. The semantic system: the elements and their use; 8. The semantic system: premises and structure; 9. The origins of the system: dynamics and statics; 10. Language of imagery and style; 11. Formal system and style in the theory of rhetoric and of imagery; 12. Conclusion: language of imagery and culture of empire; Bibliography, supplementary bibliography.