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Level 5

5AACAR21 The Art of Acquisition: Conquest, Collection and the Rise of Rome (Hellenistic Art II)

Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutor: Dr Will Wootton
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour seminars (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list  for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x essay of 2,500 words (60%); 2 x commentary of 750 words (20% each) 

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

In the first century AD, Pliny the Elder famously claimed in his Natural History that art ceased in the early third century BC only to be revived in the middle of the second century by artists much inferior to their predecessors. This damning opinion of ‘Hellenistic’ art has long influenced its study, but the surviving material shows it to be a dynamic, varied and complex art subject to technological innovation, exotic influence and demand for realism, caricature, humour and eroticism.

This term follows the decline of the Attalid, Macedonian, Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms and the rise of Rome, investigating the complex interrelationships between ‘Hellenistic’ and ‘Roman’ art as a result of conquest and looting as well as collecting and copying. It covers indigenous arts from Italy through to Afghanistan examining their interaction with the Hellenistic world and the creation of hybrid forms. Its reception is developed through discussion of the copying (or reproduction) of mosaics, paintings and sculpture within the Roman sphere. Furthermore the continued influence of Hellenistic art is approached with reference to Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo art.

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

  • Beard, M. & J. Henderson, Classical Art: from Greece to Rome (Oxford, 2001).
  • Burn, L. Hellenistic art from Alexander the Great to Augustus (Los Angeles, 2005).
  • Bugh, G.R. The Cambridge companion to the Hellenistic world (Cambridge, 2006).
  • Edwards, C. ‘Incorporating the alien: the art of conquest, in C. Edwards & G. Woolf (eds.), Rome the Cosmopolis (Cambridge, 2003), 158-176.
  • Errington, R.M. A history of the Hellenistic world (Oxford, 2008).
  • Erskine A. (ed.), A companion to the Hellenistic world (Oxford, 2003).
  • Green, P. Alexander to Actium: the historical evolution of the Hellenistic age (Berkeley, 1990).
  • Gruen, E. The Hellenistic World and the Coming of Rome (Berkeley, 1984).
  • Marvin M. The Language of the Muses: the Dialogue between Roman and Greek Art (2008).
  • Miles, M.M. Art as plunder: the ancient origins of debate about cultural property (2008).
  • Ogden, D. (ed.), The Hellenistic world: new perspectives (Swansea, 2002).
  • Onians, J. Art and thought in the Hellenistic world (London, 1979).
  • Pollitt, J.J. Art in the Hellenistic age (Cambridge, 1986).
  • Smith, R.R.R. Hellenistic sculpture (London, 1991).
  • Smith, R.R.R. ‘The use of images: visual history and ancient history’ in T.P. Wiseman (ed.), Classics in progress: essays on ancient Greece and Rome (Oxford, 2002), 59-102.
  • Stewart, P.C.N. Roman art (Oxford, 2004).
  • Westgate, R.C. ‘Hellenistic Mosaics’, in D. Ogden (ed.), The Hellenistic World: New Perspectives (Swansea 2002), 221–51.
  • Zanker, P. Pompeii: Public and Private Life (Cambridge, Mass., 1998).
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