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Greek Culture and the Roman World

Ex Graecia is a collection of marble fragments dating from the Roman Empire. The fragments, all of which come from various contexts, give a glimpse of the integration and syncretism of Greek art and mythology with Roman values and ideals, to create pieces ranging from sarcophagi to stelae, victory columns and friezes.

Ex Graecia is a long-term exhibition and will run until 2022.

Around 800 BCE, ancient Rome began as a small town in central Italy on the Tiber River. In the late fourth century BCE, the Romans initiated a policy of expansion that in 300 years made them the masters of the Mediterranean world. At its peak the Roman Empire encompassed most of continental Europe, Britain, much of western Asia, northern Africa and the Mediterranean Islands. Impressed by the wealth, culture, and beauty of Greek cities in Greece, south Italy and Asia Minor, victorious generals returned to Rome with the spoils of war, leading to an influx of Greek art, literature, mythology and ideas into the capital. The looted artworks were housed in public buildings, temple precincts and private collections, ultimately leading to a wider fashion, and growing market for Greek style art and sculpture in Rome.

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Rome’s response to Greek art was a combination of adoption, adaption, imitation, rejection and prohibition. Ancient literary sources give us some idea as to the impact this flood of Greek art had on Roman culture and aesthetic sensibilities. Roman affection for Greek art extended to the commissioning of Greek or Roman artists to create copies of famous works, either from moulds of original works, or by having new pieces made in the Classical style. Had this not been the case our current understanding of ancient Greek art and sculpture would be considerably diminished due to the lack of surviving originals. Artists such as Polykleitos, Kresilas, or Alkamenes in the fifth century and Skopas, Praxiteles, or Lysippos in the fourth century BCE are known almost exclusively from Roman copies.

The collection featured in Ex Graecia: Greek Culture and the Roman World is on loan from the Koumantitakis Family. 

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