The Aesthetics of Violence: Myth and Danger in Roman Domestic Landscapes

Classical Antiquity 31 (2):349-389 (2012)
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This paper explores the use of art to recreate violent mythological landscapes in Roman domestic ensembles. Focusing on the Niobids found in two imperial horti it argues that the combination of sculpture and landscape exerted a powerful imaginative effect over ancient viewers, drawing them into the recreated mythological world. Mythological landscape paintings also offered a view out onto a mythological realm, fostering the illusion of direct access to the spaces of myth. However, these fantasy landscapes need to be seen in the light of the associations which natural landscapes held in the Roman imagination. Recreations of mythological landscapes in domestic art express the desire to incorporate the natural world into the domestic sphere but through the presence of violent events they also highlight the inherent powers of those landscapes and the gods who frequent them. They speak to a yearning to immerse oneself in myth and the natural realm, yet also warn of the perils of such a desire



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