The Romans borrowed heavily from the Greeks, as the Greeks had successfully built a long-lasting cultural empire under men like Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great (336–323 BCE) created a Greek Hellenistic empire that stretched from the Aegean Sea to the borders of India. In doing so, he helped cement...
The Romans borrowed heavily from the Greeks, as the Greeks had successfully built a long-lasting cultural empire under men like Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great (336–323 BCE) created a Greek Hellenistic empire that stretched from the Aegean Sea to the borders of India. In doing so, he helped cement Greece as a powerful Mediterranean entity, one that later empires would use as a model.
When the Romans came to power, particularly once they transitioned from a republic to an empire with Emperor Augustus in 27 BCE, they adopted many elements from the successful Greeks. Chiefly among them was their education system. Greek tutors were sought after by many Mediterranean civilizations; Plato once trained Alexander the Great, and enslaved Greeks were later brought into Roman households to tutor children. Once the Roman Empire took control of what used to be Greek lands, upper-class patrician families thought it necessary to train their children to speak Latin and Greek, as the Greeks were considered preeminent scholars. This shows us that the Romans adapted Greek education and scholarship into their own system.
Additionally, prior to the official adoption of Christianity in the fourth century, the Roman pantheon of gods was modeled after the Greeks’. Many of the Roman gods were copied from their Greek counterparts and renamed; Greek Zeus became the Roman Jupiter, Greek Poseidon became the Roman Neptune, and Greek Aphrodite became the Roman Venus. Many of their origin stories were identical, showing that the Romans adopted the Greek religion as their own.
Their architectural forms were similar as well. The Romans constructed buildings that contained Greek architectural styles, like the Greek colonnade. However, this was more of an adaptation, as the Romans were master engineers. They were the first to use concrete in their construction, and Roman building designs far surpassed their Greek counterparts.
Roman art is also an example of adaptation. While Greek and Roman statues look similar, it is clear that the Greek designs held more imperfections than Roman ones. Roman statues focused more on realism than their Greek counterparts, including details even if they made the subject look less than perfect.
In terms of painting, fewer examples of Greek art have survived. However, the Romans have at least four periods where their art evolves, going from basic frescoes modeled after the Greeks to panoramas and Christian imagery once they formally adopted Christianity in the fourth century. This shows us more of a rejection of earlier Greek civilization as the Romans tried to distance themselves from paganism.