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Clarke, in his article ‘Just Like Us’: Cultural Constructions of Sexuality and Race in Roman Art, suggests that the Roman empire was perceived to be just as ordinary civilization as those existed after its worldwide dominion because there was no different in the way they founded their art. Clarke suggests that the perception of Romans as a leading civilization was actually legitimized by their authority and power (Clarke 599); however, classical scholars argue that the only reason the Romans were dominating every aspect of society at that time was because there was no other empire that could topple that of the Romans’.
Consider a case of an erotic picture, the mosaic of the bath usher appears hypersexual or racially discriminating just to a modern viewer who does not possess the required cultural conditioning and scheme of principles. Evaluation of these images based on modern cultural contexts would mean rendering them back the value and power that they possessed for the ancient viewer.
In a modern viewer’s point of view, especially that who does not believe in values of the Roman Empire would really lower down the quality and value of Roman Art, at least, in terms of his or her senses. It is just in this perception that our culture and modern understanding of the art have triumphed over making the ancient Romans ‘just like us.’ Nevertheless, the fact remains that Romans have really set the bar for so many classical virtuosity, especially in various forms of the art.
I think that Clarke’s argument is valid in that the only things that prove Romans were of a notch higher that every other civilizations is because there was no other empire that could top them in all aspects: art, military, politics, wealth, people, etc. That edge became the factor that led everyone to think that the Romans were different; that they are unique and insurmountable. But Clarke is valid by saying that the old perceptions about Romans, particularly in their artworks, which is generally an aplomb to their history and culture are results of a non-competitive platform during the reign of the Romans but if you compare Romans to any civilization today, be it the United States of America or China, you will find that the Romans are ‘just like us’.
Clarke, John. “’Just Like Us’: Cultural Constructions of Sexuality and Race in Roman Art.”
Art Bulletin 78.4 (1996): 599-603. Print.
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