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The arts

People visiting or living in Rome or the cities throughout the Empire would have seen art in a range of styles and media on a daily basis. Public or official art—including sculpture, monuments such as victory columns or triumphal arches, and the iconography on coins—is often analysed for its historical significance or as an expression of imperial ideology. At Imperial public baths, a person of humble means could view wall paintings, mosaics, statues, and interior decoration often of high quality. In the private sphere, objects made for religious dedications, funerary commemoration, domestic use, and commerce can show varying degrees of aesthetic quality and artistic skill. A wealthy person might advertise his appreciation of culture through painting, sculpture, and decorative arts at his home—though some efforts strike modern viewers and some ancient connoisseurs as strenuous rather than tasteful. Greek art had a profound influence on the Roman tradition, and some of the most famous examples of Greek statues are known only from Roman Imperial versions and the occasional description in a Greek or Latin literary source.
 
Despite the high value placed on works of art, even famous artists were of low social status among the Greeks and Romans, who regarded artists, artisans, and craftsmen alike as manual labourers. At the same time, the level of skill required to produce quality work was recognized, and even considered a divine gift.
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