The long imperial Roman peace has left the densest and most varied record of artistic and visual representation of any period of antiquity, and at the height of the empire more cities, communities, and individuals than ever before came to invest in the 'classical' culture of monumental representation. The course studies the art and visual culture of the Roman empire in its physical, social, and historical contexts.
The period saw the creation of a new imperial iconography – the good emperor portrayed in exemplary roles and activities at peace and war. These images were deployed in a wide range of media and contexts in Rome and around the empire, where the imperial image competed with a variety of other representations, from the public monuments of city aristocrats to the tombs of wealthy freed slaves. The course studies the way in which Roman images, self‐ representation, and art were moulded by their local contexts and functions and by the concerns and values of their target viewers and 'user‐groups'.
Students learn about major monuments in Rome and Italy and other leading centres of the empire (such as Aphrodisias, Athens, Ephesus, and Lepcis Magna) and about the main strands and contexts of representation in the eastern and western provinces. They will become familiar with the main media and categories of surviving images – statues, portrait busts, historical reliefs, funerary monuments, cameos, wallpaintings, mosaics, silverware, and coins and learn how to analyse and interpret Roman art and images in well‐documented contexts and how to assess the relation between written and visual evidence.