Late antiquity saw a decline in the quantity and quality of production of marble sculpture, even in Greece and Asia Minor, where the tradition of public portraits started, and also where it lasted the longest. This ancient tradition of cities honouring benefactors with public statues diminished but persisted in the 5th century AD, and then ended with portraits of imperial officials and emperors. The carving of marble then continued for architectural elements alone into the Byzantine era. Yet the last statue bases still warmly praise the naturalism of the new works, and the offices of the honorands, even as their proportions appear more awkward, and their material of manufacture clearly reused. Literary sources testify to the positive political significance of statues when put up, and the negative reaction when torn down. Yet in the 6th century most statues of officials and emperors were torn down, reused for building material or discarded. While cult statues bear the brunt of Christian zeal in texts, just as many human portraits were marked with crosses or thrown down wells. This seminar looks at some new examples of recently excavated or studied portraits from Greece It suggests that contrasts between literary sources and archaeological evidence show a clear transition in political uses of portraits throughout late antiquity.

About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

Classics and Ancient History seminars are followed by a wine-and-cheese reception ($2 coin donation per person). Enquiries about the seminars may be made to Dr David Pritchard

The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for 2017 can be found at http://www.friendsofantiquity.org.au.

Venue

Michie Building
Room: 
216