The Last Statues of Antiquity

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Classics Faculty

Abstract

The monumental squares, streets, and public buildings of ancient towns were filled with large bronze and marble figures. By the third century important cities of the empire could have over a thousand such statues, looking down from their pedestals on the life of the city below. Indeed the habit of erecting statues in public to rulers and prominent local figures was a defining characteristic of the ancient world. The dedication of statues expressed the relationship between rulers and ruled and articulated the benefaction-and-honour system of city politics. Statues also played a significant role both in defining civic identity, and in forming and perpetuating a city's collective memory.

In the fourth to sixth centuries AD, statues continued to be erected in many parts of the empire; but already the uniform practices of earlier imperial times had broken down and become attenuated. By the mid-seventh century, the statue-habit, once so ubiquitous, had completely disappeared from the Roman world. Not even in Constantinople were new statues set up.

The aim of our project is to document and examine these remarkable changes, in the context of historical and cultural developments within the Roman world between the fourth and the seventh centuries A.D. The changes are quantifiable, at least approximately, because the evidence available is so extensive; and they provide an effective way of measuring and visualising the broader transformations that created first 'Late Antiquity', and eventually the 'End of Antiquity' itself.

Our project involves the collection of all the evidence, empire-wide, for the erection of new statues: statue-bases with inscriptions (which provide most of our data); fragmentary and whole statues themselves; and scattered references to new statues in historical and literary texts. This systematic work of collection has never been done before.

Preliminary research suggests about 1,700 new statues can be documented from this period, and reveals that these were distributed very unevenly, both geographically and chronologically, in patterns that look highly significant, if sometimes puzzling. For instance, by the fourth century new statues seem already to be very rare in the northern provinces (which is interesting but not unexpected, given the early decline of traditional civic culture in these regions), but they also appear to be uncommon in the Levant, despite a flourishing urban life in this area.

A principal aim of our project is to chart accurately these processes of change and contraction, looking not only at the distribution of statues, but also at the type of person erecting statues, and at the type of honorand. This will produce important and novel results, that have never been examined in a comparative way, empire-wide; and, crucially, it will provide the relevant data for an intelligent analysis of why statues persisted in some areas, but disappeared in others. Some of the most obvious variables we shall explore are the decline of traditional civic politics and civic identity, the arrival of new barbarian rulers, the impact of christianization (with its hostility to 'idols'), the emergence of new artistic forms (such as mosaics in churches), and the continuity or loss of craftsmanship skills.

Our aim is to produce an accessible study of 'The Last Statues of Antiquity', in book form, supported by a well-designed searchable on-line catalogue, freely available. This catalogue will be the essential foundation on which our arguments will be based; but it will also act as a free-standing resource usable by scholars, students, and the interested public. This data-base would be useful, as a teaching and research tool, both for people with broad interests (for example, in urban history and archaeology, in late Roman art history, or in the politics of the later Roman world), and for more specialist projects, such as costume-history, marble studies, and the development of letter-carving.
 
Description The project has explored the character, quantity, and distribution of public statues set up in the cities of the Roman Empire in the period of Late Antiquity, that is, from AD 284 until the end of ancient statue practice. To do this it has constructed a searchable database of all published examples of surviving statuary and inscribed bases for such statues. The database contains some 2,600 entries and gives now a clear, complete, and rounded picture of statue practice in this period -- both the distinctive nature of this last great period of ancient statue use and the character of its eventual demise, already for the most part in the sixth century AD.
Exploitation Route The same methodology and approach might be well applied to other bodies of similar and even larger bodies of archaeological material in different time periods or different regions.
The database produced in the grant period has been used by scholars of archaeology, art, and history for their own studies. They can explore and assemble groups of entries and analyse results as fits their own interests. The database has become a point of reference.
Sectors Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

URL http://laststatues.classics.ox.ac.uk/
 
Description Our database has been widely used by archaeologists, epigraphists, ancient historians, and art historians for its complete presentation of the body of data relating to a major and discrete historical phenomenon. The open-access searchable nature of the database has made it widely accessible in a way that no print catalogue could achieve (indeed the scale of the database, with over 2700 detailed entries and discussions, could never have been produced in print). The database is also a permanent cultural heritage record of a large body of monumental epigraphy and statuary.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description ERC - Advanced Investigators
Amount £1,633,217 (GBP)
Organisation European Research Council (ERC) 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 01/2014 
End 02/2019
 
Title Last Statues of Antiquity 
Description Database of 2,700 inscribed statue bases and items of statuary from the period 280-600. Since the end of the project, 200 further entries have been added to the web-database (which receives about 400 hits a month). The entries in the database have been maintained regularly since the end of the grant period. The database is on line and is adjusted whenever possible. In order that it be fully available in the future in case the on line version fail or lack maintenance, an embargoed copy of the data has been deposited in the Oxford Research Archive at https://ora.ox.ac.uk/objects/uuid:ec67de16-feed-45fb-aec6-1f8879a95353 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2012 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Large number of inquiries about the structure and construction of our database. The database is widely viewed as a model - in terms of simplicity of use, and depth of information provided. It receives some 500 hits a month, with over 45% being returning traffic. A comparison of the annual use between February 2015 to February 2016 and February 2016 to February 2017 even shows an increase in usage. Emails from colleagues, and verbal praise confirm the database's success. 
URL http://laststatues.classics.ox.ac.uk/
 
Description Collaboration: Alexander Sokolicek, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University 
Organisation New York University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution He input all the inscribed late antique statue bases from Ephesos into the database.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Collaboration: Amelia Brown, Faculty Member; School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics (HPRC). The University of Queensland 
Organisation University of Queensland
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Dr. Brown contributed new material from Corinth to the database.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Collaboration: Carlos Machado, Sao Paolo, Bazil 
Organisation Federal University of São Paulo
Country Brazil 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Detailed input to project database of inscribed bases from Italy
Start Year 2009
 
Description Collaboration: Jeremy Worth, Institute of Archaeology, Oxford 
Organisation University of Oxford
Department Institute of Archaeology
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Designed and oversaw the construction of the database.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Collaboration: Johanna Auinger, Österreichisches Archäologisches Institut, Wien 
Organisation Austrian Archaeological Institute
Country Austria 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution She input all the statuary from Ephesos in the database.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Collaboration: Marianne Bergmann, Director Emeritus of the Archäologisches Institut, Universität Göttingen 
Organisation University of Göttingen
Department Archaeological Institute
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Professor Bergmann wrote entries about porphyry sculpture for the database.
Start Year 2011
 
Description Agora Gate at Aphrodisias in Late Antiquity 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact lecture which focused on late-antique sculpture arrangements within a specific context within a specific city. This lecture was given at the University of Hamburg.

strong discussion
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Care of the past. Building and Statues at Aphrodisias in late antiquity and thereafter, paper given at Université Libre de Bruxelles 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact The paper was intended to show the diachronic importance of the Roman statue tradition. It gave students access to material that they would not otherwise be able to visualize or contextualize.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Ehrenstatuen in der Spätantike 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact lecture on the general trends of statue honours in late antiquity. It was given at the Institut für Klassische Archäologie at the University of Tübingen.

Spread knowledge of the project in continetal Europe
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Late Roman Syria, paper given at Sir John Soane's Museum, London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The paper discussed Syria and its cultural output in Late Antiquity. It used the findings from the database made during the grant period and so brought attention to it.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Lecture: Long Lives of Roman Statues: Public Monuments in Late Antique Aphrodisias (Geneva, London, Freiburg, Oxford, Uppsala, University of Edinburgh) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The lecture, given at different universities, was aimed at students and colleagues studying Classics, History, and Archaeology. It used the information gathered during the grant period and promoted interest in the on-line database produced during the grant period.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016
 
Description Lives of Classical Statues in Late Antiquity 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact lecture discussing the re-use of earlier statues in classical antiquity. This lecture was given at the Scuola Normale of Pisa, Italy.

vigorous discussion of issues raised.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Lives of statues in late antique Aphrodisias. New research and new finds, paper given at The University of Nottingham and Durham University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact the paper presented new archaeological finds within the context of the Last Statues of Antiquity project. It exposed University students to material that they would otherwise have no access to.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
 
Description Moving statues in Late Antiquity 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact lecture that discussed issues of care, maintenance, and new use of older statues in late antiquity. This lecture was given at two different universities in two different countries; at the University of California at Berkeley, USA and at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

Strong discussion and exchange of views on issues raised. NB: The start and end dates refer to two different days on which the lecture was given at the two different universities. That is, 22/10/2010 it was presented at Berkeley and on 9/11/2010 at Basel.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Os Limites da Integração Política: Itália e África, 280-450 d.C 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A lecture which discussed the epigraphic testimony for statue honours and politics in Italy and Africa in late antiquity. It was given at the University of São Paulo in November 2011.

Spread knowledge of the project in Latin America
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Public Image of Constantine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact lecture presenting the portraits of Constantine and the new imperial image of the early fourth century. This lecture was given at Morley College, London to an audience of 60-70.

Vigorous discussion of the issues raised.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Second Lives of Classical Statues 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact keynote lecture that discussed the re-use of earlier statues in late antiquity. This lecture was given at the University of Thessaloniki, Greece.

discussion and exchange of ideas
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Statue dedications in late antique Italy: a quantitative approach 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact a lecture which discussed the main approach to gathering epigraphic evidence for the project. This lecture was given in Rome at the German Archaeological Institute (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut) in March 2009.

Spread knowledge of the project's methodology internationally
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Statues and Civic Life in Late Antique Italy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact lecture which focused on the statue honours of Italy. This lecture was given in Helsinki, at the Faculty of Classics, University of Helsinki, in March 2009.

Spread knowledge of the project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description The disappearance and reappearance of public statues. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact paper which discussed the theme of the project. This was given at the University of Edinburgh as part of the The Denys Hay Seminar, a weekly seminar series supported jointly by the Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies Programme and the School of History and Classics.

strong discussion and exchange of views
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008
 
Description The end of the statue habit 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This paper presented the general results of the project. This was given at Oxford University in a graduate seminar entitled After Rome.

Colleagues and outsiders provided further data
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Two 'new' philosopher portraits from Aphrodisias, Paper at conference, Norwegian Institute in Rome 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The paper was the result of research done on the project and it invited considerable scholarly discussion about new interpretations of old material-- the audience was invited to re-consider methodologies and re-evaluate long accepted views on the art history of late antiquity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016