Most Famous Piece of Ancient Roman Art

Written by kristy ambrose
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Most Famous Piece of Ancient Roman Art
The remains of the Roman forum. (Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Ancient Rome has left a legacy that still persists in the modern world. Even if you don't know the names of art pieces or exactly where they come from, chances are you have seen famous examples of ancient Roman artwork. They have appeared in countless reproductions, tourist magazines and art textbooks.


A few large, marble body parts are all that remains of the Colossal Statue of Constantine I. The statue was about 30 feet high, in a seated position, and was originally placed in the Basilica Nova of Maxentius and Constantine in the Roman Forum. The hand, with a single finger extended, is probably the most recognisable bit.

Most Famous Piece of Ancient Roman Art
Not intact, but still quite famous. (Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)


The ancient Romans kept domesticated dogs for safety and companionship. Cave Canem, a simple mosaic found on the floor of The Tragic Poet in Pompeii, is simply named for the Latin words "Beware of Dog," which are also part of the mosaic. Many homes in Pompeii had similar mosaics cautioning visitors about the resident canine.

Most Famous Piece of Ancient Roman Art
Some things never change. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Paintings and Frescos

The paintings and murals that decorate The Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii are not only famous for their form but for how well they have been preserved. They depict a mysterious procession that is not fully understood, but is generally believed to be part of an ancient initiation rite into adulthood. Few paintings have survived to the present day from ancient Rome.

Most Famous Piece of Ancient Roman Art
Frescoes in the Villa of Mysteries are some of the few paintings that have survived from ancient Rome. (Jupiterimages/ Images)


There are many structures and buildings that still strike the onlooker with wonder and awe, but the Roman Colosseum is by far the most famous. The word "Colosseum" is the most popular search term on the Internet under the buildings category. The real name for the Roman Colosseum is the Flavian Amphitheater and it was completed in 80 A.D.

Most Famous Piece of Ancient Roman Art
The Roman Coloseum at night. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)


Christianity was not well thought of in ancient Rome, but its presence did create at least one piece of famous art. The Alexamenos Graffito dates from the first century A.D. and was sketched by an unknown artist and discovered on the Palatine Hill in 1857. This simple etching is famous for illustrating how the average Roman viewed Christianity. It is clearly not complimentary, giving the person on the cross the head of a donkey and mocking the human figure -- presumably Alexamenos, who is also named in the etching -- for his worship of the crucified figure.

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