With so many things “Greco-Roman”, one might think Greece and Rome arose from the same ethnic and cultural ancestors. But they didn’t. Greece was well established when Rome came along, and Romans or Latians no doubt saw Greece as an older brother or a respectable wise old man. With Greece having a thousand or more years jump on the Latin speakers, Romans had a lot of work and development ahead of them to catch up to the Greeks. But rather than reinventing the wheel, the Romans adopted many systems already in place in Greece, such as politics, economics, class system, and religion – even the Grecian gods which they then gave Roman names to. Hence the term Greco-Roman. But, what about their art? Did Rome follow in Greece’s footsteps on art, or did they make their own unique art?
Greeks, having already established their cities and knee deep in philosophy, seemed more concerned with ideal beauty and an innovative betterment of their art and architecture. The Romans were relatively new, and still in the midst of building their cities. If you are new at something, your approach is different than a veteran whose had time to see it all. A new artist has to go through the stages a mature artist has already gone through. For example, a new artist might paint what they see. But if you are a seasoned artist or collector, you often times are looking for better examples of what you are collecting. While the Greeks were established, the Romans were in their first phases of creating and collecting. And so it makes sense they would paint what they saw with a realist approach. Once you learn that, it’s time to move on. The more one paints or sculpts, the more one might try to improve his skill and seek new and refreshing subjects, or reflect things within their culture. Greece was highly into philosophy and class system. They were interested in what makes the most attractive humans to honor their heros in sculpted busts of stone. They measured head size, ear size, lip size, angle of forehead, shape of head, and so forth. The used these results in their art to attain what they thought, a thousand plus years ago, was the ideal good-looking human.
The Romans and Greeks are locked together in a timeless link which holds their diverse societies close. Greece was fundamental in influencing their younger neighbors, who often emulated this ancient culture they respected in religion, politics, education, and economics. Italy’s art is realistic, down to earth, everyday life, while Greece’s art is ideal, emphasizing what they considered to be the most beautiful. Rome is “of the people”, which you can see in their close knit groups and high respect for loyalty, while it seems Greece strives for superiority in beauty as an experienced and seasoned culture looking for something to entertain them beyond the everyday. The term Greco-Roman defines their cultures as similar in basic structure, but the age difference will forever showcase their differences.