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Sculpture in Roman Britain

Statues and statuettes, ranging from large representations of the Emperor to small bronze images of gods, were more than simply decorative. Placed in public and private places these representations helped to spread Roman political and religious beliefs throughout the provinces of the Empire.

Roman art and sculpture were strongly influenced by earlier Greek styles and were sometimes produced by Greek craftsmen. The Roman style was diffused around the Empire and mixed with local cultural and artistic traditions. During the Iron Age in Britain art was often essentially abstract in form - the representational sculpture of ancient Rome is likely to have been alien to native British craftsmen. The forms produced by local artists, though different to the purely classical syle, do not reflect a lack of ability but perhaps a lack of interest in a more realistic view of the human body. However, it is interesting to see how these two styles existed alongside each other, with many native artists adopting the new Mediterranean approach as well as maintaining the established Celtic style of art. It is probable that Mediterranean-made statues imported to Britain were used as models by local craftsmen. In this way Rome absorbed as well as dominated the culture of conquered peoples.

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