Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 243

During all of this final period Greek art was very largely influenced by the relations which existed between Greece and Rome. About the year 200 B.C. the Roman conquest of Greece led to an important traffic in works of art between Rome and the Greek cities. For a time, indeed, statues formed a recognized part of the booty which graced every Roman triumph. M. Fulvius Nobilior carried away not less than five hundred and fifteen. After the period of conquest the importation of Greek statues continued at Rome, and in time Greek artists also began to remove thither, so that Rome became not only the centre for the collection of Greek works of art, but the chief seat of their production. At this time the Roman religious conceptions were identified with those of Greece, and the Greek gods received the Latin names by which we now know them. The influence of the Greeks upon Rome was very marked, but the reflex influence of the material civilization of Italy upon Greek art was altogether bad, and thus the splendor of classical art went out in dilletantism and weakness.

The destruction of the Roman Empire by the barbarians makes a break in the artistic history of the world. Not for many centuries was there a vestige of artistic production. Even when in Italy and France the monks began to make crude attempts to reach out for and represent in painting and sculpture imaginative conceptions of things beautiful, they took their material exclusively from Christian sources. The tradition of classical stories had nearly vanished from the mind of Europe. Not until the Renaissance restored the knowledge of classical culture to Europe do we find artists making any use of the wealth of imaginative material stored up in the myths of Greece. Then, indeed, by the discovery and circulation of the poets of mythology, the Greek stories and conceptions of characters, divine and human, became known once more and were used freely, remaining until the present day one chief source of material and subject-matter for the use of the painter and sculptor.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Bulfinch's Mythology: The Age of Fable, by Thomas Bulfinch