Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ancient Romans: Greek Admirer's

Roman Art and literature is largely inspired by the Greeks that they profoundly admired.  The Romans admired the realism yet idealized sculpture the Greeks used when depicting the Gods, Goddesses, Heroes and Athletes of their time and emulated the style without the idealism.  The Romans loved Homer's Iliad and Odyssey and many of their Gods are copies of the Greek Gods with different names.  Although the Romans took architecture to the next level, and developed an amazing style using arches, barrel vaults and domes that cannot be compared, they also used a lot of Greek inspiration and admired Greek style so much, that if you look at the Pantheon from the right angle, you might even confuse the two buildings.


Well, maybe not, but your kids are likely to.  There is a lot one could cover in the realm of what the two societies had in common because of the admiration of the Romans for Ancient Greek Culture.  Entire museums are stuffed with art from antiquity that would allow us to compare the art and architecture of the two societies (click the link above for activities to teach about Roman Art).

Since Alice had an entire unit on Ancient Greece last spring, she was often able to recognize similarities all on her own, I found we really didn't need to spend a lot of time on these types of comparisons.   When we read the story of Ceres and Proserpina she responded, "Wait a minute, that's Demeter and Persephone" (for some reason, she doesn't remember Ishtar and Tammuz as well). As I've said in other blarticles, she ADORES history and took a special liking to the Greeks.  She remembers nearly every detail.   Of course the Romans also had their own unique twist to things, arches and domes, mosaics, Janus and others, but that is another lesson altogether.

The best way to take a look at the art from antiquity is to go visit a local museum, but if you aren't near a museum with an antiquities collection, there are tons of websites and video on depicting art from both societies.  We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to go with Alice's grandparent's to the Getty Villa in California spring.  It was a great day and well worth the trip if you have a chance to go.  If you can get to The Getty Villa or any other museum with an antiquities collection, make sure to look at Roman Sculpture and compare the existence of personal "imperfections" or character in Roman sculptures as opposed to the Greeks who liked to sculpt everyone in the most "perfect" dimensions, proportions and way possible.

For the bulk of our comparisons, Alice and I read quite a few of the Myths presented in the book, "Gifts from the Gods" by Lisa Lunge-Larson, which presents many of the myths the two societies had in common (and a few particular only to one), along with modern words we still use today that are based on aspects of the myths.  The book also contains quotes from modern children's fiction that use the words being defined.  The myths are well-told and the violence and sex is downplayed quite nicely so the book is useful even with elementary kids.  Don't be afraid to use the book with middle school students too though.  It is still great literature, and sophisticated enough for them to enjoy it too.  I used to have my middle school kids study children't books and then make their own children's book about certain topics.  It can often be harder to distill concepts down to something children can understand while still maintaining accuracy than writing a "sophisticated" report with all kinds of "big words".  Giving my middle school kids this understanding and context allowed me to read to them from children's books without anyone taking offense and by the end of the year, they were bringing picture books to me to use with future classes. 

Comparing the Roman and Greek versions of Myths or thier characters, is a great way to introduce Venn Diagrams to your elementary school student, by having him or her have one circle be for the Romans and one for the Greeks.  I focused this lesson on the mythology but you could do this with art or architecture as well.  The idea is that your kids then sort out which Gods (such as Tiberinus - Tiber River God - and Janus) belonged only to the Romans and which the two societies had in common.  With older kids, you could have them practice their research skills and have them analyze the similarities and differences in the two panthea and how each society revered each God.  For example, the Greek View of Fortuna and o Ares was much more negative than the way the Romans viewed either of these gods.  The Romans had additional gods as well.  The variations are slight, but see what your kids can discover.

The Activity that proved to be really fun for my first-grader though was a handout with ten memory cards to make from Alice's school.  Basically, one set of cards had Cronus, Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Hera, Athena, Aphrodite, Hermes, Demeter, and Ares.  The other set of cards had the same images but used the corresponding Roman names; Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto, Juno, Minerva, Venus, Mercury, Ceres, and Mars.  Alice colored them in, we cut them out and then played memory with the cards.  You could make your own set and also add, Eros/Cupid, Heracles/Hercules or Odysseus/Ulysses and more.  We decided to expand our set.  All we did to do this was use an old deck of cards with a few cards missing and found images online to print off.  We pasted these images over the numbers side of the cards and had our own set.  We also added Janus in order to play an "Old-Maid" like version where if you pulled Janus you lost your turn and one of your pairs did not count as a point at the end of the game. 

For More Articles with Lessons, Resources Lists and Links about Ancient Rome click here.

This link will take you to an article with background info about classical art.

Art of the Western World - Greece
Art of the Western World - Rome

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comments!