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by Archaeology Newsroom

Collections and collectors in ancient Rome: 1st century B.C. – 1st century A.D.

The article aims to throw light on Roman collecting attitudes during the first centuries B.C. and ad, and thus indicate how the developments during this interesting transitional era have influenced the broad history of European collecting and the shaping of contemporary museums. The acquaintance with the Greek world had a powerful impact on Roman thought and customs, The Romans inherited Greek interest in works of art and the Hellenistic tradition of using them to convey political and social messages. During the period under examination, this tradition was further explored and thus new collecting practices and notions were added to the existing ones. Gradually collecting became a social and intellectual phenomenon of indisputable status. Roman collectors developed an interest in Greek objets d’ art and luxury goods, as well as natural and artificial curiosities. Within the above framework, three collecting modes have been detected, according to different personal and emotional motives, as well as social, ideological and political demands. Two of them, “passionate collectors” and “intellectual humanists” have been influenced by the “philhellenic” attitude, while the third, the “encyclopedists”, from the conservative attitude. There is a clear line of development from the sculpture and curiosities’ collectors of the 1st centuries B.C. and ad through the rest of the Roman period and onwards, through the 15th and 16th centuries and so, to the whole idea of the value of classical antiquity and contemporary museum collections.