Skip to content Skip to navigation

Looking like a Roman, Looking like a Greek

Photo of Carolyn MacDonald
Stanford University
June 2015

In the long wake of Rome’s conquest of the Greek Mediterranean, the self-styled Italian backwater was flooded with Greek arts, Greek texts, and Greek artists, first marched through the streets in triumphal parades, later drawn by the wealth of the new imperial capital. According to the Romans’ own tradition, this is how culture came to Italy: “Captive Greece took captive her fierce captor, and brought the arts to rustic Latium” (Horace Epistles II.i.156-7).  In this dissertation, MacDonald examines how Rome's appropriation of Greek visual culture gave rise to the formulation of 'Greek' and 'Roman' modes of engaging with art.  Through close analysis of Greek and Latin ekphrases and imagetexts from Rome and Roman Italy, c.50 BCE-100CE, she traces the construction of these culturally marked modes of viewing and argues that they constitute strategic answers to the fraught question of how to look at Greek art in Rome through the eyes of a captor rather than a captive.