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building techniques and materials, Roman  

Roger B. Ulrich

The inherent strengths, weaknesses, and availability of diverse Roman building materials governed the techniques used in construction and greatly influenced the final appearance of Roman architecture. Trace archaeological evidence exists of buildings and burials in Rome from the Italian Bronze Age (second millennium bce) or earlier, and substantial physical remains, in the form of Iron-Age huts and grave goods, roughly correspond to the Romans’ own belief of the foundation date of their city (traditionally 753 bce). Rome’s earliest builders sourced materials obtainable from the immediate environment and transformed them using practical knowledge. Within the span of a couple centuries, architectural design, implementation, and decoration reflect a broad interaction between Roman builders and their counterparts in the regions around central Italy (particularly Etruria to the north and Campania to the south) and also the wider Mediterranean world, particularly those areas where Greeks traditionally lived or had placed colonies. While southern Italy and Sicily represent the closest areas for the transmission of Greek ideas, Greek building practices on the Greek mainland and in Asia Minor also influenced Roman projects from the Archaic period onwards. As Rome grew wealthier and expanded abroad, patrons and builders imported marble to the capital from the Aegean, well before the discovery of more local, Italian sources. The importation of exotic stones grew exponentially over the period of the late Republic and the first two centuries of empire. The coloured marbles that embellished the buildings of Rome served as physical testimony to Rome’s control over the eastern Mediterranean. Nothing, however, was as transformative as the adoption of concrete in the late 3rd century bce, the mass production of fired brick, and the ensuing experimentation that resulted in the vaulted structures that have become the hallmark of Roman architecture.

Article

portraiture, Greek  

Sheila Dillon

Portrait statues were a major component of Greek sculptural production, and many of these statues were made by the most famous sculptors of Greek antiquity. A public honorific portrait statue was in fact the highest honour an individual could receive and as such was much coveted. However, as most of these monuments were of bronze, very few have survived. Given the absence of the statues themselves, we are left to reconstruct the history and appearance of Greek portraiture primarily through other kinds of evidence: later literary sources, Roman-period copies primarily of portrait heads, inscribed statue bases, decrees recording the decision to award an honorific portrait. Based on this evidence, it is clear that portrait statues were a prominent feature of the statuary landscape of Greek cities and sanctuaries, particularly in the Hellenistic period, when their numbers increased and the range of people represented by them came to include women and children.

Article

Sappho, lyric poet, c. 630–c. 570 BCE  

Page duBois

The poet Sappho, one of the greatest poets of world literature, a rare example of a woman whose work has survived in appreciable measure from archaic Greece, was celebrated in antiquity as “the tenth Muse” (Anth. Pal. 9.506). The Garland of Meleager, a Hellenistic anthology, includes some verses of Sappho, which the poet calls “few, but roses.” Sappho has long been praised as a superb poet of Eros, capable of subtle and effective evocations of desire and erotic pleasure, especially devoted to Aphrodite, who sends the joys and pains of love. Aphrodite is seen by some as an alter ego to the poet herself. Sappho appeals to her, as the poems voice yearning for an absent object of desire.1 She also invokes the Muses, and the Graces. The erotic poems often recall intimacy; express loss, tender yearning, and homoerotic longing; and create in memory a community bound by pleasure and song, exhibiting great elegance of composition and a sensuous luxury.

Article

polychromy, sculptural, Greek and Roman  

Jan Stubbe Østergaard

The term “polychromy” has been in use since the early 19th century to denote the presence of any element of colour in Greek and Roman sculpture. The evidence for such polychromy is literary, epigraphical, archaeological, and archeometric; research on the subject therefore requires collaboration between the humanities, conservation science, and natural science. Such research should go hand in hand with the investigation of the polychromy of Greek and Roman architecture, since it is symbiotically related to sculpture, technically as well as visually.

Knowledge of Greek and Roman sculptural polychromy is still very uneven. Scholars have focused on stone sculpture, and most research has been directed towards the Archaic, Early Classical, Hellenistic, and Imperial Roman periods. For terracottas, the Hellenistic period has enjoyed the most research, while investigation of the polychromy of bronze sculpture has only recently begun.

The scientific research methodology applied concerns the materials and techniques employed. The main colouring agents are paints, metals, and coloured marbles. Pigments are based on inorganic and organic materials applied with proteins, wax, or plant gums as binding media. Metals used are bronze, copper, silver, and gold. A range of coloured marbles came into use in the Roman Imperial period, but in all periods, assorted materials such as semi-precious stones and metals were used for inlaid details and attached objects like jewelry and weapons.