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Roman architecture and engineering was never less than bold, but its painting and sculpture was based on Greek traditions and also on art forms developed in its vassal states like Egypt and Ancient Persia.
To put it another way, despite their spectacular military triumphs, the Romans had an inferiority complex in the face of Greek artistic achievement.
It served a purpose, a higher good: the dissemination of Roman values along with a respect for Roman power.
As it transpired, classical Roman art has been immensely influential on many subsequent cultures, through revivalist movements like Neoclassical architecture, which have shaped much European and American architecture, as exemplified by the US Capitol Building The lesser-known Classical Revival in modern art (1900-30) led to a return to figure painting as well as new abstract movements like Cubism.
The same PR value was accorded to relief sculpture (see, for instance, the Column of Marcus Aurelius), and to history painting (see, Triumphal Paintings, below).After the founding of the Roman Republic in 500 BCE, Etruscan influence waned and, from 300 BCE, as the Romans started coming into contact with the flourishing Greek cities of southern Italy and the eastern Mediterranean, they fell under the influence of Greek art - a process known as Hellenization.Soon many Greek works of art were being taken to Rome as booty, and many Greek artists followed to pursue their careers under Roman patronage.Moreover, we should note that cities in Ancient Rome were less provincial and far more powerful than Greek city-states, so that its art invariably played a more functional role - not least because Roman culture was actually a melange of different beliefs and customs, all of which had to be accomodated.Thus, for example, art quickly became something of a status symbol: something to enhance the buyer's home and social position.
Despite this, Roman sculptors and painters produced only a limited amount of outstanding original fine art, preferring instead to recycle designs from Greek art, which they revered as far superior to their own.