History of Art 291/Classics 270/AHMA 210
Greek and Roman Art in the Bay of Naples
From earliest times the Bay of Naples was home to a series of important Greek settlements —Cumae, Parthenope, Neapolis; and in the late Republic this part of Italy came to enjoy a fabulous prosperity as the site of Rome’s most important port, Puteoli. During these years Baiae, located right on the water beside Puteoli, became the playground of Rome’s rich and famous; and in 31 BC Agrippa also situated the main naval base of the Mediterranean Roman fleet there, at Misenum. By then the entire coastline south of Naples, embracing Herculaneum, Oplontis, Pompeii, Stabiae, and Surrentum, had become a resort area—a sort of Roman Côte d’Azur; and a host of luxury villas were constructed here at almost every conceivable location, even dotting the steep slopes of mount Vesuvius.
The ancient sources show clearly that during this time Naples and its inhabitants retained their distinctive Greek character. The language spoken there continued to be Greek, which was (for the most part) the language of the city’s inscriptions too. Naples was the closest Greek city to Rome and relatively easy to reach; so the Roman elite flocked to it and its environs to indulge in a more relaxed and flamboyant Hellenic lifestyle than could safely be managed in Rome itself. This seminar will consider the Greek artistic heritage of the Bay of Naples under Roman patronage. Including a two-week visit to the area, and focusing on specific buildings and artworks discovered there, we shall attempt to rediscover the special flavor of this part of the Italian peninsula during its heyday in the late Republic and early Empire.