Welcome to History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond
History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond was developed by middle school teachers at Teachers’ Curriculum Institute (TCI). We, Bert Bower and Jim Lobdell, are two former high school teachers who started TCI. Our goal is to help students like you succeed in learning about history in a way that is fun and exciting. With the help of teachers from around the nation, we’ve created the TCI Approach to learning. This chapter explains how the TCI Approach will make medieval history come alive for you.
The TCI Approach has three main parts. First, during class you’ll be involved in a lot of exciting activities. For example, you’ll learn about medieval towns in Europe by bringing to life various places, like a legal court and a medieval fair. You’ll participate in the gold and salt trade of West Africa to understand how Ghana became a powerful kingdom. You’ll explore the world of Japanese samurai by visiting a “samurai school” of training. Every lesson is built around an activity like these.
Second, during and after these activities, you get to read this book. You’ll discover that your reading connects closely to the activities that you experience. We’ve worked hard to make the book interesting and easy to follow.
Third, during each lesson you’ll write about your learning in your Interactive Student Notebook. You’ll end up with your very own personal account of medieval history.
With the TCI Approach, you’ll not only learn more about history than ever before, but you’ll have fun doing it. Let’s take a closer look at how this approach will help you learn medieval history.
Theory-Based, Active Instruction
History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond is probably unlike any other history program you have ever encountered. Perhaps you have been in history classes where you listen to the teacher and then read a textbook and answer chapter questions. Does this approach make you excited about learning history? Most students would say no, and educational researchers would tend to agree. Researchers have discovered new ways of reaching all students in the diverse classroom. This program relies on three of their theories.
Students learn best through multiple intelligences. Howard Gardner, an educational researcher, discovered that people use their brains in very different ways to learn the same fact or concept. From this discovery, he created a theory called multiple intelligences. There are seven intelligences. You can think of them as different ways of being smart—with words, with pictures, with numbers, with people, with your body, with music and rhythms, and with who you are. Everyone has multiple intelligences. Using one or more of these ways of being smart can help make learning easier.
Cooperative interaction increases learning gains. Through research, Elizabeth Cohen discovered that students learn more when they interact by working in groups with others. Interactive learning includes working with your classmates in many kinds of activities. You’ll work in groups, do role plays, and create simulations. This kind of learning requires you and your classmates to share ideas and work together well.
All students can learn via the spiral curriculum.Researcher Jerome Bruner believed that learning isn’t just up to students. Teachers need to make learning happen for all students. Bruner believed, as the TCI Approach does, that all students can learn through a process of step-by-step discovery. This process is known as a spiral curriculum.
These three theories are the foundation of the TCI Approach. Putting them into practice in History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond gives you what you need to succeed.
A lot of people care about what you are learning in history. These people include your parents, your school administrators, your teachers, and even your state and national elected officials. In fact, if you’re like students in most states, you take tests at the end of the year to measure your progress.
Most end-of-year tests are based on standards. Standards are the key pieces of information about history that elected officials think are important for you to remember. When you read most standards, you might scratch your head and think, “These seem really hard to understand, and they’re probably even harder to learn and remember.” There’s no need to worry about that with History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond. Every lesson is based on standards. So every day, while you’re having fun learning medieval history, you are also learning key standards.
You’ll be recording everything you learn in your Interactive Student Notebook. When it’s time to prepare for tests, your notebook will make it easy to review all the standards you’ve learned.
In fact, students across the nation using the TCI Approach are getting better scores than ever on standardized tests. A big reason for this success is that the TCI Approach is based on interactive learning. That means you won’t just read about history. You’ll be actively involved in experiencing it and recording what you learn. Now let’s look at what you’ll do during each part of a lesson with the TCI Approach.
With the TCI Approach, learning starts even before you begin studying. Most of the lessons in History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond begin with a Preview assignment. Previews are short assignments that you complete in your Interactive Student Notebook. They allow you to make a personal connection to what you will study.
After you complete a Preview assignment, your teacher will hold a brief class discussion. Several students will share their answers. Your teacher will then reveal how the assignment “previews” what is to come in the lesson.
Here are some examples of the kinds of Preview assignments you will complete:
• Before learning about the rise of the Byzantine Empire in Chapter 6, you will play a game exchanging colored tokens. You will compare your experience to the system of trade in the Byzantine city of Constantinople.
• Before learning about the influence of Islam on West Africa in Chapter 14, you will complete a spoke diagram. You will use the diagram to show ways your community has been influenced by cultures from other parts of the world.
• Before learning about China’s foreign policies in Chapter 19, you will complete a T-chart on policies toward your neighbors. You will hear and note arguments for both sides.
• Before learning about the rise of Japan’s warrior class in Chapter 22, you will examine a list of skills and knowledge for American soldiers. You will give your opinion about which are most important for their training.
Preview assignments like these will spark your interest and get you ready to tackle new concepts. Next come the exciting activities that make up the heart of each lesson. As you’re about to see, these activities draw on many ways of being smart—our multiple intelligences.
Multiple-Intelligence Teaching Strategies
The teaching strategies in the TCI Approach are based on hands-on learning. Every lesson in History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond is built around a fun and exciting activity. We mentioned some examples earlier. Here are some other things you and your classmates will do to experience medieval history:
• For Chapter 3, you’ll take a walking tour of medieval sites in Europe to see the influence of the Roman Catholic Church on daily life.
• For Chapter 16, you’ll become Chinese government officials to debate how people are chosen to serve the emperor.
• For Chapter 27, you’ll pretend to be museum curators designing exhibits on the achievements of the Maya, Aztecs, and Incas.
Activities like these will challenge you to use your multiple intelligences. Think about times when learning new things has been easier for you. Were you looking at pictures about the new ideas? Were you writing about them? Does acting out an event help you to better understand what happened? Studying history is a lot easier and more fun when you learn new ideas in ways that best suit your learning styles. Here is a list of the different intelligences:
• Linguistic (word smart)
• Logical-mathematical (number/reasoning smart)
• Spatial (picture smart)
• Body-kinesthetic (body smart)
• Musical (music smart)
• Interpersonal (people smart)
• Intrapersonal (self smart)
While you’re engaged in fun and exciting activities, you’ll also be reading this book to learn more about medieval history. The next page explains why this book is so easy to read.
The TCI Approach is all about being successful and having fun while you learn. You’re about to discover that History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond is interesting to read and easy to understand. That’s because this book is “reader friendly,” which is another of saying that it makes readers want to read it. Some people call this considerate text. The writers of this book considered your needs as a reader and made sure you would have fun reading.
Here are some of the ways this book is considerate of all levels of readers:
• Each chapter is organized around key concepts. Introduction and summary sections point out the big ideas in the chapter.
• Each chapter begins with a graphic organizer—a picture that represents the main ideas of the chapter. The graphic organizer also appears in the Reading Notes in your Interactive Student Notebook. It will help you remember key ideas long after you’ve read the chapter.
• Short chapters make it easier for you to understand and remember what each one is about.
• Each section has a clear focus and a subtitle that provides an outline for your reading. Research shows that presenting new information in easy-to-manage chunks makes it easier to understand.
• Important new words are in bold type. These words are defined in the margins and in the Glossary at the back of the book.
• Photos and illustrations provide additional information about the topic on the page. A great way to check your understanding is to ask yourself, “How does this picture show what I just read?”
Most importantly, History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond is as exciting to read as a good story. The next section explains a special way of taking notes that will help you remember what you read.
Graphically Organized Reading Notes
Note taking is very important in the TCI Approach. As you read this book, you’ll complete Reading Notes in your Interactive Student Notebook. You’ll answer important questions, find main ideas, and connect new ideas to what you already know.
Your Reading Notes will leave you with a picture in your mind of each chapter’s key ideas. The graphic organizers at the start of each chapter will be a visual reminder of what you read. In your Reading Notes, you’ll use those same graphic organizers to help you record key ideas. For example, in Chapter 24, you’ll be taking notes on a diagram of a Mexican flag. You will use the colors, sections, and symbols to show how the Aztecs created an empire. For Chapter 28, you will take notes around a flowering plant. The plant represents the roots and growth of the Renaissance. For Chapter 35, you’ll use a picture of Enlightenment thinkers in an 18th-century French salon. You’ll take notes about each thinker’s ideas on sunrays that “shine” from their heads.
Completing your Reading Notes will help you study in two ways. First, it will encourage you to think carefully about what you read. Second, recording key ideas will help you remember them for a long time.
There’s one more part of the TCI Approach that will help you remember the important ideas you are learning. Read the next page to find out.
At the end of each lesson, you’ll complete a Processing assignment in your Interactive Student Notebook. Here you’ll show that you understand the key concepts of the lesson.
These pages encourage you to relate ideas to one another. You’ll make connections between the past and present. You’ll show your understanding of concepts by creating illustrations, diagrams, flowcharts, poetry, and cartoons. As one student said, “It’s really cool to have a place in our notebooks where we can record our own ideas. It makes learning history a lot more fun.”
Here are some examples of the kinds of Processing assignments you’ll complete:
• In Chapter 6, you will study important events, people, and places in the Byzantine Empire. In the Processing assignment, you will create a real estate advertisement to encourage people to move to Constantinople, the capital city of the empire.
• In Chapter 9, you will learn about the main beliefs and practices of Islam. In the Processing assignment, you’ll write a newspaper story about a day in the life of a Muslim teenager.
• In Chapter 30, you will create a gallery of sculptures for key figures of the Renaissance. In the Processing assignment, you’ll decide where to best seat each individual for a lively dinner party.
Students across the country report that their Processing assignments have helped them understand and remember what they have learned. As a result, they are earning higher test scores.
Multiple Intelligence Assessments
Do you dread taking chapter and unit tests? If so, maybe you feel that most tests don’t let you show what you’ve learned. The tests for History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond are different. They let you show how well you understand each lesson’s key ideas.
These tests also allow you to use your multiple intelligences. Each test has some of the usual multiple-choice questions. These will help prepare you for taking more formal tests. But other parts of the assessments will challenge you to use more than just your “word smart” intelligence. They’ll give you a chance to shine if you are good in other areas, such as reading maps, using charts and graphs, drawing, understanding music, or analyzing historical paintings. You may also be asked to show how well you read. You’ll be invited to express your ideas and your understanding of historical events in writing, too.
The secret to doing well on tests is preparation. You have the perfect tool for this purpose: your Interactive Student Notebook. Right there on those pages are your notes about all the key ideas in each chapter. Students who study their Reading Notes and Processing assignments before a test usually earn good scores.
Success on tests is important, but the most important thing of all is learning. We’ve designed our tests to assess not just your understanding but to help you remember key ideas. That’s because the lessons you learn from medieval history can help you make sense of your world and guide your future decisions. We hope that what you learn in History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond will remain with you for years to come.
Europe During Medieval Times
Setting the Stage 4
The Legacy of the Roman Empire 7
Discover the reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire and how aspects of ancient Roman culture, such as art, architecture, engineering, and language, continue to influence and affect modern life today.
The Development of Feudalism in Western Europe 19
Learn about the feudal system and the differences between the social classes of monarchs, lords and ladies, knights, and peasants.
The Role of the Church in Medieval Europe 31
Explore the influence of the Roman Catholic Church as the center of medieval life during the High Middle Ages.
Life in Medieval Towns 43
Learn about the growth of medieval towns and explore aspects of daily life during the later Middle Ages.
The Decline of Feudalism 53
Explore how three key events in England and Europe—the signing of the Magna Carta, the bubonic plague, and the Hundred Years’ War—contributed to the decline of feudalism.
The Byzantine Empire 61
Learn about the Byzantine Empire’s beginnings in eastern Europe, its greatest emperor and distinctive church, and its relationship with the Roman Empire.
Medieval Europe Timeline 68
The Rise of Islam
Setting the Stage 72
The Geography of the Arabian Peninsula 75
Study the Arabian Peninsula’s environments and discover the ways of life of its people in the sixth century.
The Prophet Muhammad 83
Explore Muhammad’s life and learn about the spread of Islam throughout Arabia and beyond.
The Teachings of Islam 93
Take a closer look at the basic beliefs and practices of the Islamic faith. Discover how Islam is practiced as a complete way of life.
Contributions of Muslims to World Civilization 105
Discover the many achievements of Muslims in architecture, education, science, geography, mathmatics, medicine, literature, art, and music.
From the Crusades to New Muslim Empires 119
Explore the impact of the crusades on Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Learn how new Muslim empires arose and how Islam continued to spread to new parts of the world.
Islam Timeline 130
The Culture and Kingdoms of West Africa
Setting the Stage 134
Early Societies in West Africa 137
Discover how the kingdoms of Ghana, Songhai, and Mali developed out of early societies in West Africa.
Ghana: A West African Trading Empire 145
Learn about Ghana’s government and military as well as how Ghana’s people acquired wealth through the trans-Saharan trade.
The Influence of Islam on West Africa 155
Explore Islam’s influence on West African religious practices, government and law, education, language, architecture, and decorative arts.
The Cultural Legacy of West Africa 165
Learn about West African oral and written traditions, music, and visual arts and how they continue to influence the world today.
West Africa Timeline 172
Setting the Stage 176
The Political Development of Imperial China 179
Explore China’s political development under several dynasties and their different approaches to government.
China Develops a New Economy 187
Discover how changes in agriculture, trade and commerce, and urbanization helped China’s economy grow during the Song dynasty.
Chinese Discoveries and Inventions 195
Explore Chinese advances in exploration and travel, industry, military technology, everyday objects, and disease prevention during the Tang and Song dynasties.
China’s Contacts with the Outside World 205
Learn how the Chinese both welcomed and rejected foreign contact and how cultural exchange affected China during the Tang, Yuan, and Ming dynasties.
Imperial China Timeline 212
Japan During Medieval Times
Setting the Stage 216
The Influence of Neighboring Cultures on Japan 219
Discover how Japan blended ideas from other cultures into its own unique civilization.
Heian-kyo: The Heart of Japan’s Golden Age 229
Explore how Heian aristocrats lived and how they created new kinds of art and literature in Japan’s Golden Age.
The Rise of the Warrior Class in Japan 241
Meet Japan’s samurai and learn about their code of conduct and the lasting mark they left on Japanese culture.
Japan Timeline 252
Civilizations of the Americas Setting the Stage 312
Setting the Stage 256
The Maya 259
Trace the development of Mayan civilization and study Mayan class structure, family life, religious beliefs and practices, and agricultural techniques.
The Aztecs 271
Learn about the Aztec people and how they built a great empire in central Mexico.
Daily Life in Tenochtitlan 279
Discover what life was like in the Aztecs’ capital city of Tenochtitlan. Explore Aztec class structure, marriage, family life, food, markets, religious practices, and recreation.
The Incas 289
Explore how the Inca Empire was built and maintained. Learn about the Incas’ class structure, family life, religion, and relations with other people.
Achievements of the Maya, Aztecs, and Incas 301
Study the accomplishments of these three great peoples of the Americas, with a focus on science and technology, arts and architecture, and language and writing.
Civilizations of the Americas Timeline 308
Europe’s Renaissance and Reformation
Setting the Stage 312
The Renaissance Begins 315
Explore how the Renaissance differed from the Middle Ages and classical times. Examine changes in European life that led to the Renaissance.
Florence: The Cradle of the Renaissance 323
Visit the Italian city of Florence to learn about the advances in architecture and engineering, painting, sculpture, literature, science, and mathematics that were made during the Renaissance.
Leading Figures of the Renaissance 333
Learn how Renaissance ideas spread from Italy across Europe, and study the lives and work of ten leading figures of the Renaissance.
The Reformation Begins 347
Learn about the problems that weakened the Roman Catholic Church, meet the early reformers who tried to change the church, and discover how the Reformation ended the religious unity of Christian Europe.
The Spread and Impact of the Reformation 357
Explore the growth of Protestantism and the Counter-Reformation of the Catholic Church. Learn about the beliefs and practices of three Protestant sects: Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Anglicanism.
Renaissance and Reformation Timeline 368
Europe Enters the Modern Age
Setting the Stage 372
The Age of Exploration 375
Learn how the voyages of discovery by explorers from Portugal, Spain, and other European countries changed how Europeans saw the world.
The Scientific Revolution 389
Meet some of the key scientists of this period, and learn about their major discoveries and inventions.
The Enlightenment 399
Meet philosophers whose ideas influenced the Enlightenment, and discover how their work led to new thinking about government and individual rights.
Modern Europe Timeline 410
Welcome to History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond. The word medieval refers to the period between ancient and modern times. In this book, you’ll explore this period in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. You’ll sometimes go beyond the medieval period to look at what happened before and after it.
Studying history involves figuring out what happened in the past, and why. People who study history are a lot like detectives. They ask questions and study clues. They form hypotheses, or educated guesses. Then they test their ideas against the evidence.
Many scholars study the past. Among these “history detectives” are archeologists and historians. Scholars like these are interested in much more than names and dates. They try to understand people’s cultures and ways of life. They study values, beliefs, customs, political systems, and much more.
Archeologists study the distant past by examining objects that people left behind. These objects are called artifacts. They can include anything that people made or used. Some examples are clothing, tools, buildings, weapons, and coins. Clues like these can tell us a great deal about what cultures were like before they had written records.
Historians both record and interpret the past. They try to understand how events are connected by tracing their causes and effects. Historians are most interested in the last few thousand years, when people began leaving written records.
Historians use two types of sources to study the past. Primary sources come from the period being studied. Often they are written documents such as diaries, letters, and official records. Artifacts and works of art are also primary sources.
Secondary sources are materials that interpret primary sources. For instance, a historian might write someone’s biography, or life story. To do so, the historian might use primary sources such as letters and diaries. The biography itself is a secondary source. Other people can learn useful things from the historian’s work.
History is like a mystery that never ends. That’s because scholars’ ideas about the past change as they learn more. In this book, you’ll join the history detectives in exploring the past. You’ll study clues and weigh the evidence. You’ll make and defend your own educated guesses. You’ll see for yourself that history is very much alive!
Europe During Medieval times
Chapter 1 The Legacy of the Roman Empire
Chapter 2 The Development of Feudalism in Western Europe
Chapter 3 The Role of the Church in Medieval Europe
We will begin our study of the medieval world with the continent of Europe. Our study of this region will include England, the continent of Europe, and the Byzantine Empire (which straddled Europe and Asia).
Europe is bounded by seas and oceans and threaded with rivers. During medieval times, these waterways allowed people to travel more easily through Europe, but they also made settlements along coastal areas vulnerable to attack by invaders. Mountain ranges—like the Pyrenees, Alps, and Carpathian Mountains—helped protect settlements but also acted as barriers to travel and trade.
The period of time we call medieval began with the fall of the Roman Empire and lasted until about 1450 C.E. (C.E. means Common Era, and B.C.E. means Before the Common Era). Toward the end of this period, many Europeans felt they were living in a time of dramatic change. They began referring to the centuries since the fall of Rome as the Middle Ages. We still use this term today.
Historians divide the European Middle Ages into three periods:
• Early Middle Ages: From about 476 to 1000 C.E.
• High Middle Ages: From about 1000 to 1300C.E.
• Late Middle Ages: From about 1300 to 1450 C.E.
Europe During Medieval Times
The Early Middle Ages began after the fall of the Roman Empire in the west. The Roman Empire had unified Europe. After the empire ended, western Europe fell into chaos. People spoke different languages and could not communicate as easily. Fewer travelers braved the ruined roads. Force became the law of the land. In the east, however, the Byzantine Empire survived Rome’s fall.
By the start of the High Middle Ages, about 1000 C.E., life had become more stable. Many separate European kingdoms (such as England, France, the Papal States, and the Holy Roman Empire) had formed in the west.
During the High Middle Ages, most people in western Europe lived in the countryside under an economic and political system called feudalism. Under feudalism, a king (sometimes a queen) ruled the kingdom. The king granted land to nobles in exchange for military service. Peasants worked the land for the nobles.
The Late Middle Ages were a time of transition. Trade between the west and the east flourished once more, as it had under the Roman Empire. As a consequence, people in western Europe began moving from the countryside into towns. This led to many other changes.
Let’s start our exploration of the Middle Ages with a close look at the Roman Empire. Why did it fall? What influence did it have on western civilization?
Climate Zones of Europe
The Legacy of the Roman Empire
The oldest of ancient Rome’s great roads, the Appian Way ran from Rome to southern Italy.
“All roads lead to Rome” boasted the ancient Romans. For 500 years, from about 27 B.C.E. to 476 C.E., the city of Rome was the capital of the greatest empire the world had ever seen. Road markers for thousands of miles showed the distance to Rome. But more than roads connected the empire’s 50 million people. They were also connected by Roman law, Roman customs, and Roman military might.
At its height, around 117 C.E., the Roman Empire spanned the whole of the Mediterranean world, from northern Africa to the Scottish border, from Spain to Syria. During this time, the Roman world was generally peaceful and prosperous. There was one official language and one code of law. Roman soldiers guarded the frontiers and kept order within the empire’s boundaries. Proud Romans believed that the empire would last forever.
But the empire did not last. By the year 500, the western half of this great empire had collapsed. For historians, the fall of Rome marks the end of the ancient world and the beginning of the Middle Ages.
As one historian has written, “Rome perished, yet it lived on.” The medieval world would pass on many aspects of Roman culture that still affect us today.
In this chapter, you will discover how and why the Roman Empire fell. Then you will learn how Rome’s influence lives on in art, architecture and engineering,language and writing, and philosophy, law, and citizenship.
Use this drawing as a graphic organizer to help you explore Roman influences on modern life.
1.2 The End of the Roman Empire in the West
Rome’s first emperor, Caesar Augustus, ended 100 years of civil war and expanded the boundaries of the empire. When he died in 14 C.E., few Romans could imagine that the empire would ever end. Yet by the year 500, the western half of the empire had collapsed. What caused the fall of the mighty Roman Empire?
Problems in the Late Empire There was no single reason for the end of the Roman Empire. Instead, historians point to a number of problems that combined to bring about its fall.
Political instability. Rome never solved the problem of how to peacefully transfer political power to a new leader. When an emperor died, ambitious rivals with independent armies often fought each other for the emperor’s crown.
Even when the transfer of power happened without fighting, there was no good system for choosing the next emperor. Often the Praetorian Guard, the emperor’s private army, chose the new ruler. But they frequently chose leaders who would reward them rather than those who were best prepared to be emperor.
Economic and social problems. Besides political instability, the empire suffered from economic and social problems. To finance Rome’s huge armies, its citizens had to pay heavy taxes. These taxes hurt the economy and drove many people into poverty. Trade also suffered.
For many people, unemployment was a serious problem. Wealthy families used slaves and cheap labor to work their large estates. Small farmers could not compete with the large landowners. They fled to the cities looking for work, but there were not enough jobs for everyone.
Other social problems plagued the empire, including growing corruption and a decline in the spirit of citizenship. Notorious emperors like Nero and Caligula wasted large amounts of money. A rise in crime made the empire’s cities and roads unsafe.
Weakening frontiers. A final problem was the weakening of the empire’s frontiers. The huge size of the empire made it hard to defend. It sometimes took weeks for leaders in Rome to communicate with generals. By the 300s C.E., Germanic tribes were pressing hard on the
In 410 C.E., a Germanic tribe attacked Rome, the capital of the western part of the Roman Empire.
western borders of the empire. Many of these people settled inside the empire and were recruited into the army. But these soldiers had little loyalty to Rome.
The Fall of RomeIn 330 C.E., the emperor Constantine took a step that changed the future of Rome. He moved his capital 850 miles to the east, to the ancient city of Byzantium. He renamed the city New Rome. Later it was called Constantinople. (Today it is known as Istanbul, Turkey.)
After Constantine’s reign, power over the vast empire was usually divided between two emperors, one based in Rome and one in Constantinople. Rome became the capital of just the western part of the empire.
The emperors in Rome soon found themselves threatened by invading Germanic tribes. In 410 C.E., one of these tribes attacked and looted Rome itself. Finally, in 476, the last emperor in the west was driven from his throne. The western half of the empire began to dissolve into separate kingdoms ruled by different tribes.
In the east, the empire continued for another 1,000 years. Today we call this eastern empire the Byzantine Empire, after Byzantium, the original name of its capital city. You will learn more about the Byzantine Empire in Chapter 6.
In western Europe, Rome’s fall did not mean the end of Roman civilization. The influence of Rome lived on through the medieval period and all the way to our time. As you read about the legacy of the Romans, think about how ideas and events from the distant past still affect us today.
The Roman Empire at Its Height, About 117 C.E.
1.3 The Legacy of Roman Art
The Romans adopted many aspects of other cultures and blended them into their own culture. This was true of Roman art. The Romans were especially influenced by the art of the Greeks. In fact, historians often speak of “Greco-Roman” art. Rome played a vital role in passing on this tradition, which has had a major influence on western art.
The Romans added their own talents and tastes to what they learned from other cultures. For example, they imitated Greek sculpture, but Roman sculptors were particularly good at making lifelike busts and statues.
Romans were also great patrons (sponsors) of art. Wealthy families decorated their homes with statues and colorful murals and mosaics. Roman artists were especially skilled in painting frescoes, scenes painted on the moist plaster of walls or ceilings with water-based paints. Roman frescoes often showed three-dimensional landscapes. Looking at one of these frescoes was almost like looking through the wall at a view outside. You’ve probably seen similar murals in restaurants, banks, and other buildings.
American artists have often adopted a Roman style to add nobility to sculptures and paintings of heroes. Shown here is a Roman statue of the emperor Augustus and an American statue of George Washington. In what ways are they alike?