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5 - Roman Emperors, Conquest, and Violence

Images from the Eastern Provinces

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 November 2020

Amy Russell
Brown University, Rhode Island
Monica Hellström
University of Durham
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This chapter examines monuments and objects depicting the Roman emperor as a violent agent of conquest which were produced in the eastern provinces during the first and second centuries CE. Imagery of the emperor subjugating and enslaving peoples and provinces could be found on large public buildings, such as the Sebasteion at Aphrodisias, as well as on statues, coins, and terracotta votives. The creators and patrons of these imperial representations were influenced both by local (Greek, Egyptian) and by Roman concepts of rulership and artistic traditions. This desire to depict the violent treatment of foreign peoples by Roman emperors demonstrates that eastern patrons and artists sought to identify themselves with the civilised world of Rome, rather than with the subjugated barbarian ‘other’. The Roman emperor was thus envisioned as a protector of his people, and a guarantor of their safety and security. But it is probable that these images also carried a more sinister message, reminding the emperor’s subjects that he could punish them as well.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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