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7 - Local Aspirations and Statues of Emperors in Roman North Africa

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 November 2020

Amy Russell
Brown University, Rhode Island
Monica Hellström
University of Durham
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The practice in provincial towns of raising statues to emperors is often interpreted as a mode of communication between emperors and subjects, whether as top-down distribution of imperial ideology or as from-below declarations of loyalty to the regime. This chapter explores ways in which imperial statues communicated vertically, on the initiative of locals and with local aims. Using inscribed statue bases from Roman North Africa, it describes how imperial honorific monuments were exploited for the career purposes of local elites, and accompanied significant advancements by both individuals and communities. Imperial monuments and priesthoods became indispensable tokens of local standing, displaying and confirming the local powers that be. They were consequently much desired, and access to them could be opened or closed as it suited the aims of the imperial administration. Both locals and emperors could thus exploit the imperial image – the one for their potency, the other for how demand for them fuelled local peer-to-peer competition – but without communicating directly through them.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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