1st - 2nd centuries A.D. (Empire)
The Lillian Z. Turnblad Memorial Fund
Greek creation myths, and their Roman counterparts, explained the origin, structure, and nature of the world. These mythologies were
central to ancient religions, though as time passed they came to be viewed as literature more than anything. Hesiod (HES-ee-ud), the
Greek poet-historian, wrote the most detailed account of the Greeks' creation mythology. He presented creation in the form of a
genealogical chart. According to Hesiod, the six Titan couples produced the first generation of Greek deities.
The ancient Romans adapted much of the Greeks' mythology, including their notion of creation. In many cases, Roman household gods,
practical forces in daily life, took on the fabulous personalities and exciting exploits of the Greek gods.
The Roman Empire was born in 31 B.C. when Octavian Caesar, later known as Augustus, triumphed after 90 years of civil war. Augustus
and his immediate successors in the 1st century A.D. promoted the arts in order to display the grandeur of their empire.
The general, idealized figures of ancient Greek sculpture, frequently emulated by early Romans, gave way to realistic portraiture
in the 1st century A.D. The Romans, who valued the family, recorded the faces and character traits of important family members in
realistic portraits. Although this boss is very small, there is evidence of realistic treatment in the face, such as the indications
of wrinkles on the forehead and cheeks. Realism is perhaps most evident in the irregular profile of the nose, ending in a rounded
form, which would have seemed unattractive. (An ideal nose, sometimes called a Grecian nose, sloped in a straight line from the top
of the forehead to its tip.) Roman artists portrayed gods and other mythical beings with similar
REALISM and individuality.
Affluent Romans liked to display their wealth in elaborately decorated furnishings. Ornamental pieces, called bosses, adorned the
juncture points of tables, stools, and the curving heads and footboards of luxurious bronze and wooden couches. The finest pieces
incorporated detailed INLAY work in silver, ivory, and tortoiseshell.
This circular bronze boss depicts the Titan Oceanus. His bearded face projects out from a
BACKGROUND of decorative scales. In
keeping with the artistic realism of the time, Oceanus is portrayed as a bearded old man, not as a monster or an abstract force of
nature. Locks of wavy hair frame his heavy face. His eyes are inlaid silver, and silver and copper inlays highlight his cheeks,
nose, and forehead. Two dolphins leap from the top of his head, suggesting the form of a crown and alluding to Oceanus's role as
an aquatic ruler. Two fish dive among the locks of his hair near his temples, and two others emerge from his beard.