Constantinopolis und Roma

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GUDRUN BÜHL: Constantinopolis und Roma. Stadpersonifikationen der Spätantike. Akanthus, Verlag für Archäologie, Zürich 1995. ISBN 3-905083-10-8. 334 p.

ARCTOS 30 /1996

Gudrun Bühl has studied the personifications of Rome and Constantinople in the late Roman Empire. The personifications of Rome, Constantinople and other cities of the Empire flourished in the fourth and fifth centuries. Bühl, a specialist in Christian archaeology and Byzantine art, has gone through a vast material of the representations of Rome and Constantinople and a wide comparative material of different other personifications. She has analyzed personifications of Rome and Constantinople in coins, imperial and consular diptychs, reliefs, missoria, mosaics, and Christian art. Bühl tries to find out what these city personifications stand for. Their figures clearly came from Graeco-Roman pagan art but what happened to their meaning? Did their meaning remain the same or were the old forms filled a new late antique Christian meaning? Was a personification a symbol of citizenship, an expression of the political ambitions of a city or an expression of imperial ideology? Bühl shows that the continuation of city personifications in late antique art cannot be understood just as passive preservation of Graeco-Roman pagan forms.

The personification of Constantinople adopted the form of Rome but also general forms of city personifications and developed its own attributes. According to Bühl the figures of Rome and Constantinople e.g. on coins in the mid-fourth century appear as guarantees of imperial promises. She studies the city statuettes of the Esquiline treasure with a special interest and discusses their probable function. She points out that city personifications cannot be identified simply through their external attributes but through different facts, the context, the purpose and the historical background of the monument. On imperial and consular diptychs city personifications appear with emperors and consuls: personifications give them supermundane legitimization of political power. Bühl calls personifications the new lictors of the consul. In addition to their function as protectors of political power, personifications also appear as expressions of the loyalty to emperors. Figures of cities or provinces are depicted bringing gifts (in reality taxes) to emperors in various reliefs, manuscripts, diptychs, and mosaics.

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