Roman Propaganda Expressed Through Art

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Unit 7 Essay
Mark Sprowls
AP art history
The Roman rulers from ancient times are well-known for their ability to coax their people into thinking a certain way through the use of convincing pieces of art. The Roman Empire was very troubled and its emperors are infamous for such things as lavish spending, unnecessary war, and even the killing of family members, and this begs the question: how were there so few large scale revolts of the Roman populous? The answer is the use of propaganda in popular Roman culture. The Roman Empire used propaganda for political purposes by incorporating Roman family values, victorious war scenes, and general Roman successes into their artworks.

Adding family values to art that depicted a Roman ruler’s kin instilled trust into the emperor’s regime and was a very common practice. The Romans were notorious for their murder of their own family members in order to gain power, which aroused question of the empire in its citizens. Of course the last thing a ruler would want to happen is to be overthrown by his people so Roman rulers quickly devised a way to reestablish the citizen’s faith in the emperor, which just happened to be the integration of propaganda into art pieces. One prime example of this is the Tellus panel on the Ara Pacis. On this panel we can see Tellus, the Earth, who represents the fertility of the royal family and perhaps hints at the godly power that the royal family held. Another example of the addition of family values to a piece of art is Painted portrait of Septimus Severus. This work depicts the royal family with one member of the family, Geta, with his face rendered unrecognizable. The story behind Geta is that he was murdered by his brother, Caracalla, so that Caracalla would have ultimate ruling power. Oddly enough etching out Geta’s face was a form of propaganda that incorporated family values because it made its audience “forget” about Geta so that the general population would not remember the tragedy...
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