Cultural Constructions: Depictions of Architecture in Roman State Reliefs Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Thill, Elizabeth
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Classics
  • Architectural depictions are an important window into crucial conceptual connections between architecture and culture in the Roman Empire. While previous scholarship has treated depictions of architecture as topographic markers, I argue that architectural depictions frequently served as potent cultural symbols, acting within the broader themes and ideological messages of sculptural monuments. This is true both for representations of particular historic buildings (identifiable depictions), and for the far more numerous depictions that were never meant to be identified with a specific structure (generic depictions). This latter category of depictions has been almost completely unexplored in scholarship. This dissertation seeks to fill this gap, and to situate architectural depictions within scholarship on state reliefs as a medium for political and ideological expression. I explore the ways in which architectural depictions, both identifiable and generic, were employed in state-sponsored sculptural monuments, or state reliefs, in the first and second centuries CE in and around the city of Rome. My work is innovative in combining the iconographic and iconological analysis of architectural depictions with theoretical approaches to the symbolism of built architecture, drawn from studies on acculturation (Romanization), colonial interactions, and imperialism. I present a comprehensive analysis of the architectural depictions of six case studies: the Trajanic Arch at Beneventum, the Column of Trajan, the Great Trajanic Frieze, the Anaglypha Reliefs, the Column of Marcus Aurelius, and the panels from a lost arch of Marcus Aurelius. By integrating a close analysis of the architectural depictions within the study of the themes of these monuments, I connect the depictions of buildings to ideas of identity, urbanism, and the supremacy of Rome. I demonstrate how depictions of elaborate, sophisticated buildings celebrate the particular architectural glory of Rome, and associate Rome closely with the phenomenon of urbanism. In contrast, the illustration of strange, primitive architecture for Rome's enemies underscores their inferiority, as well as the impermanence of their way of life. Architectural depictions thus serve as an essential source of information for the study of culture, architecture, imperialism, and ideology in Rome at the height of her multi-cultural empire.
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  • In Copyright
  • Truemper, Monika
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2012

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