A view of the statue of Aphrodite in Room 23

Room 23

Roman encounters with Greek sculpture

100 BC–AD 200

Visiting the gallery

Opening times

Room 23 is closed until late 2019

Visit Room 23 to enjoy many sculptures that are Roman versions of Greek originals.

During the Roman conquest of the Mediterranean in the second and first centuries BC, Greek sculpture was both admired and looted, with many statues shipped back to Rome. When Greek originals couldn't be acquired, Roman patrons commissioned new sculptures to decorate their public buildings, private villas or sanctuaries to the gods.

Room 23 displays Roman statues, some based closely on marble or bronze originals, others only loosely inspired by Greek sculpture. Most of these sculptures survive in multiple Roman versions, discovered at sites all over the Mediterranean. In many cases, the Greek originals don't survive.

Gods, athletes, heroic figures, subjects inhabiting the sensual worlds of the gods Aphrodite and Dionysos and decorative relief sculptures were popular. From the Renaissance onwards, sculptures like these were being discovered in Rome and other ancient sites around the Mediterranean, collected by royalty, successive Popes and European antiquarians during their Grand Tours of Italy.

Later artists drew inspiration from Greek and Roman sculptures and created innovative works in 'Classical' styles.

Gallery facts

  • Roman conquests of the Greek World saw victorious generals plundering many Greek masterpieces.  
  • Many of the naked, male athletic statues were marble adaptations of Greek works originally cast in bronze.
  • Variations between Greek and Roman sculpture show that Roman works were not just imitations but creative adaptions to suit Roman tastes.  
  • Many marble sculptures have lost their attributes which would help us to identify their subjects. 
  • From the time of their rediscovery from the Renaissance in Italy onwards, many of the marble sculptures were reworked, restored or even customised to suit the taste of collectors for complete figures rather than fragments. 

Accessibility

Visit Accessibility at the Museum for more information.