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ART IN THE LIVES OF ORDINARY ROMANS

ART IN THE LIVES OF ORDINARY ROMANS

VISUAL REPRESENTATION AND NON-ELITE VIEWERS IN ITALY, 100 B.C.––A.D. 315

JOHN R. CLARKE

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS

BERKELEY

LOS ANGELES

LONDON

University of California Press Berkeley and Los Angeles, California

University of California Press, Ltd. London, England

© 2003 by the Regents of the University of California

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Clarke, John R., 1945–

Art in the lives of ordinary Romans : visual representation and non-elite viewers in Italy, 100 b.c.–a.d. 315 / John R. Clarke. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-520-21976-7 (cloth : alk. paper)

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Art, Roman—Themes, motives.

2. Art, Roman—Social aspects.

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Social classes in art.

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Social status—Rome.

I. Title.

N72.S6 C58

2003

709'.37—dc21

2002154934

Manufactured in Canada

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The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of ANSI/NISO Z39.48–1992 (R 1997) (Permanence of Paper).8

TO MICHAEL LARVEY

CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

INTRODUCTION

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ix

PART 1:

IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

15

1. AUGUSTUS’S AND TRAJAN’S MESSAGES TO COMMONERS • 19

2. THE ALL-SEEING EMPEROR AND ORDINARY VIEWERS:

MARCUS AURELIUS AND CONSTANTINE

42

PART 2:

NON-ELITES IN THE PUBLIC SPHERE

3. EVERYMAN, EVERYWOMAN, AND THE GODS

4. EVERYMAN AND EVERYWOMAN AT WORK

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95

5. SPECTACLE: ENTERTAINMENT, SOCIAL CONTROL, •

SELF-ADVERTISING, AND TRANSGRESSION

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6. LAUGHTER AND SUBVERSION IN THE TAVERN:

7.

COMMEMORATION OF LIFE IN THE DOMAIN OF THE DEAD:

NON-ELITE TOMBS AND SARCOPHAGI

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PART 3: NON-ELITES IN THE DOMESTIC SPHERE

8. MINDING YOUR MANNERS:

BANQUETS, BEHAVIOR, AND CLASS

9. PUTTING YOUR BEST FACE FORWARD:

SELF-REPRESENTATION AT HOME

CONCLUSIONS

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NOTES

277

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

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ILLUSTRATION CREDITS

INDEX

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CONTENTS

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Researching and writing this book has been an exciting and rewarding experience—a very special part of my life for the past six years. I am most grateful for the generous grants that supported the travel and uninterrupted research and writing time that this project demanded. A Fellowship for College Teachers from the National Endowment for the Hu- manities, coupled with a Research Grant from the University of Texas, permitted me to live and work in Rome in the spring of 1999. To allow me to keep up the momentum of my spring-term leave, Sherry and Tommy Jacks provided funds to allow me to work throughout the summer without having to teach summer school. Dicky and Mary Gay Grigg followed suit with generous grants that allowed me to work full-time on the book during the summers of 2000 and 2001. In the course of my researching and writing this book, many scholars generously oªered their advice and criticism. I know from my own experience what a sacrifice it is to put aside one’s own work and take the time to read and critique a colleague’s work. Many individuals made that sacrifice, some returning to my manuscript and the ques- tions it raised more than once. I wish to thank those who read the full manuscript: An- thony Corbeill, Penelope Davies, Frank Fisher, Sandra Joshel, Natalie Kampen, Eric Moor- mann, and Andrew Riggsby; and those who read individual chapters: James Packer, Richard Shiª, and Michael Thomas. Their corrections, criticisms, questions, and answers

were invaluable; I hope they realize how much their contributions mean to me and how heartfelt my thanks are. The same thanks go out to colleagues who advised me on specific questions: Richard Beacham, Malcolm Bell, Jonathan Bober, John Bodel, Katherine M. D. Dunbabin, Luciana Jacobelli, Gabriele Iaculli, Archer Martin, Matthew Roller, John Tamm, Carolyn Valone, Eric Varner, Roy Bowen Ward, and Jane Whitehead. I am also delighted to thank a younger group of colleagues. In a great Art History grad- uate program like that of the University of Texas at Austin, one’s graduate students be- come colleagues as they progress through their studies, from seminars to dissertations to teaching at their own universities. In my spring 2000 seminar, “Pompeii and Ostia:

Visual Representation and Non-elite Romans,” the students read the manuscript of this book and tested out many of its ideas, and I thank them: Mark Caªey, Charlotte Cousins, Susan Gelb, Rowena Houghton, Alvaro Ibarra, Kris Muñoz-Vetter, Nathalie Ryan, Jen- nifer Sherlock, and Carlie Wilmans. My graduate research assistants, Nayla Muntasser (1999) and Lisa Kirch (2000–2001) provided invaluable help on a variety of tasks rang- ing from bibliographic searches to photo permissions. Michael Thomas joined Michael Larvey and me in Italy on several occasions, engaging me through astute questions and helping with di‹cult photo shoots. I codirected two fine dissertations, both completed in 2000, that helped shape the questions I ask in this book: Lauren Hackworth Petersen’s dissertation on the art of the Roman freedman substantially changed my views about so- called freedman art, and Margaret Woodhull’s dissertation on women’s patronage during the early imperial period helped focus my inquiries into the links between gender and patronage. The American Academy in Rome, as always, provided both a sense of continuity and opportunities to meet new scholars and artists. Lester Little, the director, and Adele Chatfield-Taylor, president, helped make the Academy community a vibrant and pleas- ant one. Pina Pasquantonio, associate director, deserves special thanks, as do Anne Coul- son, who helped with several permissions. The Academy’s Library, where I have now worked for thirty years, is better than ever, thanks to Christina Huemer, its director, and the able staª: Antonella Bucci (now retired), Tina Mirri, Antonio Palladino, Paolo Im- peratori, and Paolo Brozzi. Alessandra Capodiferro, Lavinia Ciuªa, and Francesca Romolo in the Academy’s Fototeca helped with photographic research. Thanks also to Renzo Caris- simi, Luca Zamponi, Norman Roberson, and Enrico Dressler. In order to study at first hand all of the works of art and architecture in this book, I sought the help of many individuals. Pompeii’s superintendent, Pier Giovanni Guzzo, granted permission for extensive on-site study and photography. Antonio D’Ambrosio and Antonio Varone were wonderfully helpful in facilitating our work, and Lina Ferrante was especially adroit in expediting the complex paperwork. Grete Stefani graciously guided me through the photo archive, as did Antonio Parlato and Rosa Verde. At the Museum of the Civitella in Chieti I enjoyed the support of Adele Campanelli and her staª; at the Vatican Museum, Francesco Buranelli. Anna Gallina Zevi, superintendent of Ostia, gra-

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

ciously granted me access to the monuments, and Jane Shepherd was especially helpful in resurrecting historic photographs from the Ostia Photo Archive and in arranging the new color photography of the painting from tomb 22 of the Necropolis of the Laurentine Road. At the Naples Museum, Stefano De Caro generously granted us extensive permis- sions to study and photograph, and Maria Rosaria Boriello, director of the museum, fa- cilitated our work. I am most appreciative that the Central Institute for Restoration in Rome undertook the daunting task of cleaning and restoring the fresco from the Caupona of Salvius, seen for the first time in this book without its layers of calcified grime. Anna Mura Somella, director of the Museums of Ancient Art of the City of Rome, gave per- mission to take new photographs of the Altar of the Vicus Aesculetus, and Emilia Ta- lamo, director of the Museum of Montemartini, kindly expedited our photographic work. Antonio Ortolan—as he has for so many of our projects through the years—produced beautiful prints from the photographs that Michael Larvey took for this book. Kirby Conn did an excellent job digitizing and refining the linework. In my trajectories, usually taking me from archaeological sites, to museums, and back to the library, I lived mostly in the first century. My friends in Rome and Naples encour- aged my time-travel even while helping me keep abreast of the curious cultural currents of the fin-de-siècle: Carolyn Valone, Brenda Preyer, Pamela and Larry Christy, José Luis Colomer, Gerald and Minu Moore, Jeªrey Blanchard, Estelle Reddeck, Luciano Santarelli, Alessandro Cascone, Sasà Esposito, François Uginet, and Fabio Pignatelli. Long stays at Pompeii found me always at the Sabatino family’s hotel; they were gracious hosts, and they and their staª, especially Crescenzo Cirillo, deserve thanks. In Austin, wonderful friends and neighbors looked after house and garden: Frank Fisher, Ben Welmaker, and the Rankins: Susan, Jim, Jonah, and especially Zane. Kirk Tuck, Belinda Yarritu, and their son Benjamin often indulged and encouraged my work on this project, and Alene De Leon, administrative assistant in the Art History o‹ce, generously gave of her time to help the book along. Last—and certainly not least—I am grateful to Michael Larvey, my partner in life and in work for twenty-five years. He encouraged this project at every step, from shooting the videos that sketched out the research early on, through the actual research, and on to tak- ing the beautiful photographs that illustrate this book. Michael kept me asking questions because he asked so many himself; he made this project both more di‹cult because of all those questions and more rewarding because we could share the answers (when I found them). It is to him I dedicate this book: comiti comilitoniqve vagvlo blandvlo

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

xi

INTRODUCTION

In the late sixties, when I first began to study Roman art, no one took the art of ordinary Romans seriously. The privileged monuments—the ones worthy of serious art-historical investigation—were great architectural ensembles like the Forum of Trajan; historical re- liefs like those on the Ara Pacis or the Arch of Constantine; the portraits of emperors and empresses. All of them, whether commissioned by the emperor, the Roman senate, or private individuals, exalted imperial ideals. Wall paintings and mosaics were minor arts— especially when they decorated houses at Pompeii—and belonged in books on everyday life, not in proper art history. Real Roman art was the art of the elite. All this has changed now, and we have many diªerent methodologies and disciplines to thank. Social art history—the study of the conditions surrounding the making and con- suming of art—broke the ice and got scholars to ask about the other 98 percent of Ro- man society: the freeborn working poor, slaves, former slaves, and foreigners. Whether with a Marxist, feminist, or anthropological bent, social art history broadened our knowl- edge of the use and reception of visual representation in ancient Roman society. Parallel to these art-historical approaches was groundbreaking work on ancient literature. Clas- sical texts, of course, reflect elite attitudes toward the non-elite. This is not surprising, considering that elite males wrote these texts or commissioned them. You will find no woman, freedman, slave, or foreigner speaking for her- or himself. 1 Elite authors put words in their mouths.

What is surprising is how much information lies just beyond Virgil, Ovid, Livy, and Tacitus—in anonymous poetry, legal texts, tomb inscriptions, captions on wall paint- ings, soldiers’ diplomas, papyri, and gra‹ti. Thanks to new study of nonliterary texts, we know more about the questions that the literature passes over: the condition of women of diªerent classes, relations between masters and slaves or former slaves, and Roman attitudes toward everything from commerce to same-sex relationships. Still, rarely does a textual scholar venture to interpret the much more ample evidence of Roman visual representation. This book is about how ordinary people living in Roman Italy understood and used visual art. What part did art play in their lives? To answer this question, we have to con- sider both who paid for the art (the patron) and just who the potential viewers were. We must also ask how a specific visual representation communicated its message to those viewers. Analysis of the process of viewing art in its original context can reveal much about the patron and the people who looked at it. Although these points seem obvious, only re- cently have scholars begun to study Roman non-elite visual representation to explore ques- tions of identity, communication, and cultural practice.

NON-ELITE ART AND THE STILWANDEL

When scholars started to explore the art of the non-elite, their focus was not its content but rather its unusual formal characteristics. 2 They focused on its style. They wanted to use formal analysis of non-elite art to explain an anomaly in Roman art: the change, around the year 150, from Hellenistic forms of representation to ones they called Late Antique. How to explain the antinaturalistic traits of Late Antique art? Its preference for frontal presentation of the human figure, hierarchical proportions (the most important figure the largest), axially symmetrical compositions, and the rendering of surface in harsh black- and-white modeling (“optical” chiaroscuro)? Alois Riegl, in his 1901 study of Late Antique art, was the first to defend this art—until then considered decadent and unworthy of serious study. 3 Although a succession of schol- ars followed him in their attempts to explain, through careful formal analysis, this mo- mentous shift in modes of visual representation, they favored imperial monuments— rather than non-elite ones—in their eªorts to pinpoint the moment when the Stilwandel, or Change in Style, began. 4 In a series of works through 1940, Gerhart Rodenwaldt tried another approach, based on visual analysis—but with a diªerence. He proposed that Roman art stood between two poles: state art (or “great” art) being one pole and “popular” art the other. 5 His model was, in a sense, the opposite of the traditional “trickle-down” hypothesis. He proposed that all of the formal traits that seemed to be such strange invasions into the Hellenisti- cally based realism of imperial Roman art were, in fact, already present in the art of the non-elite. In the postwar period Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli developed Rodenwaldt’s thesis in

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INTRODUCTION

a series of works that culminated in his two-volume history of Roman art published in 1969. 6 What Bianchi Bandinelli added to Rodenwaldt’s scheme was a theory of class strug- gle loosely based on Marx. He, too, wished to explain the Change in Style, and, like Ro- denwaldt, he noticed the existence, well before the year 150, of art that looked like Late Antique imperial art. Bianchi Bandinelli added an ethnic and political element by divid- ing artistic expression into the elite or “patrician” and the non-elite or “plebeian.” He ex- plained that the reception of Greek and Hellenistic art in central Italy, beginning in the third century b.c., was uneven. Whereas the patricians embraced Greek forms to legit- imize their power, the ordinary Romans, the plebs, viewed Greek art with suspicion, bas- ing their own art on native “Italic” models. Bianchi Bandinelli analyzed portraits and grave reliefs from central Italy that ignored the careful modeling, naturalism of proportion, and perspective systems of Hellenistic art. These were works that seemed to anticipate Late Antique art by as much as three centuries. According to Bianchi Bandinelli, when the plebs took political power around a.d. 200, they brought their art forms with them, thus explaining the formal shifts in imperial monuments like the Arch of Septimius Severus in the Roman Forum. 7 Although there were many problems with Bianchi Bandinelli’s hypothesis, it had the virtue of framing the paradox of formal change (the Stilwandel) in terms of class and ac- culturation. 8 And by calling attention to works of art that did not conform to the style of o‹cial monuments of state art, he was suggesting that Roman patrons and viewers de- manded and consumed a great variety of styles and forms in their art. Bianchi Bandinelli paved the way for scholars seeking to articulate the social and cultural history of Roman art. Most germane to the questions I pose here and in the following chapters are the con- tributions of Paul Zanker, whose work stresses how the elites and the emperor built power through cultural programs with strong visual components. Always attuned to questions of audience and reception, Zanker also articulates the ways that specific groups used elite visual forms in their own, often idiosyncratic ways. 9 Zanker represents but one of a new generation of scholars who shy away from the all-encompassing theories of stylistic change that so beguiled the founders of Roman art history. 10 The new Roman art history seeks to understand how, in specific circumstances, vi- sual representation functioned within a multilayered system of communication. Style and form—the focus of most scholarship on Roman art through 1970—are only parts of that system. There are many other questions that need to be asked. By asking “Who paid for it?” we can find out about the patron. By asking “Who made it?” we get information about the artist. The question, “Who looked at it?” seeks to establish the identity of the intended viewers or consumers. Questioning the circumstances under which people looked at a work of art leads us into the realms of ritual—from legally prescribed religious practice to habitual behaviors, including mundane, everyday activities like visiting people, mar- keting, promenading, bathing, and dining. The question, “What else does it look like?” takes us back to iconographical models for the work of art and shows how the meanings of such models can change in each new application. Only by asking these and related

INTRODUCTION

3

questions can I accomplish the aim of this book: to analyze artworks in their original con- texts, and thereby to gain a better understanding of the attitudes, belief systems, and cul- tural practices of ordinary Romans.

“ELITE,” “NON-ELITE,” AND “ORDINARY”:

TESTING DEFINITIONS OF STATUS THROUGH VISUAL REPRESENTATION

Rather than trying to define an ancient Roman’s status first, and then deciding whether his or her visual art expresses that status, this book begins with analysis of the art. I use art to question the patron’s notion of his or her social status or position. Why? For one thing, no one noun or adjective adequately describes a Roman person’s social status. There is considerable literary evidence, mostly from Cicero, for the political sys- tem of the late Republic, the earliest period considered in this book (100 b.c.–27 b.c.). Yet even for this period, scholars have contested the terminology to describe men who held o‹ce in Rome. Were they the “governing class,” the “aristocracy,” or the “elite”? 11 For another thing, who was elite or non-elite—and how art might express that diªerence—changed over time. In the reign of Augustus (27 b.c.a.d. 14), the emperor, faced with dramatically diminished elite ranks and the funds that came from them, in- stituted an exclusive freedman order; wealthy former slaves could become seviri augustales, thereby paving the way for the social advancement of their freeborn sons. A century later, the terms honestiores and humiliores appear in the legal literature to denote two social groups who received diªerent legal treatment. The honestiores included senators, equestrians, mu- nicipal and provincial decurions, soldiers and veterans, judges, and magistrates; they ex- pected and got privileges, such as exemption from capital punishment and lenient treat- ment before the courts. 12 Slaves, former slaves (freedmen), and men who, although born free, had neither wealth nor a record of holding prestigious o‹ces, made up the humi- liores. The situation changed yet again by the late third century, when Diocletian set up a kind of feudal system that tied people to their land and their trades, making social mo- bility quite di‹cult. 13 Most scholars agree on how ancient Romans defined a person who was “elite.” Ro- mans had a diªerent conception of human worth from ours. They especially valued men born of free citizen families that had a record of serving the state and the military and that possessed wealth—especially in land holdings. 14 An elite Roman possessed the four prerequisites necessary to belong to the upper strata of society: money, im- portant public appointments, social prestige, and a membership in an ordo. (The ordines are those of senator, decurion, and equestrian.) 15 The non-elite person lacked one or more of the four prerequisites. Slaves occupied the lowest stratum of the non-elites, followed by the former slaves (freedmen or libertini), who although technically free could not hold important public o‹ces. Freedpersons—especially those who worked in the imperial bureaucracy—could gain impressive political power, but the stain of their slave birth sep- arated them from the upper strata. But free birth was only one of the prerequisites for

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INTRODUCTION

membership in the upper strata, and we find many freeborn Romans (ingenui) in the lower strata. Even among slaves there was a clear hierarchy of social value. Imperial slaves in close contact with the emperor and his family occupied the most privileged position, followed by well-educated and skilled slaves. Owners of such slaves entrusted them with impor- tant work, ranging from educating the owners’ children to running their business en- terprises. These high-level slaves had a good chance of earning their freedom, unlike the slaves who worked in the fields. Slaves received a regular allowance (peculium), and often they were permitted to keep a percentage of the income they brought in for their masters or mistresses. With these earnings a slave might buy his or her freedom. Sometimes a slave received freedom at the death of his owner, through a provision of the owner’s will; in other cases a master who was still living might free a slave as a reward for meritorious service. 16 Once freed, the former slave became a client of his or her former master or mistress. The freedperson—whether born into slavery, abandoned as a baby and brought up as a slave, or enslaved in war—acquired the legal status of a Roman citizen through the process of manumission. Nevertheless, freedpersons occupied a social and legal space fraught with contradictions. Although a former slave had the status of citizen, Roman society des- ignated him or her as a libertinus or libertina. The former slave carried the stain of hav- ing been someone’s property, and even though freed, he could not hold prestigious po- litical and religious o‹ces. Wealthy freedpersons tended to spend their resources in paving the way for their children’s political careers, since their children were born free and the- oretically stainless. The terms elite and non-elite diªerentiate those who were esteemed in Roman society from the people who for various reasons could not win such esteem. There are many ways to conceptualize the relations among elite and non-elite Romans. Géza Alföldy’s diagram demonstrates the stratifying eªects of Roman social organization by focusing on the strict definitions of the orders (fig. 1). But these social strata were neither static nor rigidly cir- cumscribed. Brent Shaw’s diagram elaborates Alföldy’s overly neat scheme. In it Shaw attempts to locate definitions of status (“ruling classes,” “free classes,” and “dependent classes”) in a dynamic system where relationships among classes depend on mutual needs (fig. 2). 17 Given the di‹culties of defining status in ancient Roman society through study of the written record, the study of visual representation can at best help to articulate, by means of concrete examples, the dynamic and shifting relationships among the strata. It cannot define status and class once and for all. I make no claim to precision in my use of the terms elite and non-elite. I only claim to test these terms through analysis of visual rep- resentation. When I use the term non-elite, I want to emphasize that a person either pay- ing for or looking at a work of art had no access to the upper strata of society. I use the adjective ordinary as a synonym for non-elite because (in the English language) it em- phasizes a person’s identification with the cultural values of the lower strata. We will see

INTRODUCTION

5

UPPER CLASSES LOWER CLASSES
UPPER
CLASSES
LOWER
CLASSES

The emperor, the imperial household

Ordo senatorius (consulares, “ordinary” senators)

Ordo equester (high prefects and procurators, those who possessed the militia equestris, other equestrians both within and above the ordines decurionum)

Ordines decurionum (local aristocracy)

Imperial slaves and freedmen (familia Caesaris), wealthy freedmen

Freeborn Freedmen Slaves CITY POPULACE

Slaves Freedmen Freeborn COUNTRY POPULACE

FIGURE 1

The orders-strata structure and its eªects. SENATORS EQUITES DECURIONS Ruling classes and institutions; emperor,
The orders-strata structure and its eªects.
SENATORS
EQUITES
DECURIONS
Ruling
classes and
institutions;
emperor,
senate, army
“Free”
political
classes
“Dependent”
classes
FREEDMEN
SLAVES
PEASANTRY
URBAN POPULACE
Political relations
Dependency relations
Status definitions

FIGURE 2

Proposed schema of the relationship of social groups to a class model.

that ordinary, or non-elite, Romans tend to esteem activities that the elites of the upper strata do not, and that they express this diªerence in their art. Non-elite Romans often choose to represent themselves or others carrying out com- monplace activities. When elites represent themselves, they favor images that show them carrying out o‹cial, prestigious practices using the visual language of the imperial house. Although non-elites will sometimes do the same, more often they tend to commission art that portrays them in a great variety of ordinary—or at least uno‹cial—acts: sacrificing to household gods, processing cloth, hauling grain, brawling in the amphitheater, drink- ing in taverns, defecating, and mourning.

PROBLEMS OF CLASSIFICATION AND THEORIZATION

I admit that neither non-elite nor ordinary is adequate to the range that the visual repre- sentations reveal. For one thing, definitions and expressions of a person’s status change over the period considered in this book. In the days of the late Republic, for example, it is relatively easy to identify a person’s status by looking at the art he commissions; at that point in time the political elite is more or less identical with the cultural elite. 18 By the mid–first century a.d., the rise of the freedman class blurs this equation. This newly ar- rived group uses art to impress others with their newly acquired culture. Studies by Paul Zanker, 19 Diana Kleiner, 20 Eve D’Ambra, 21 and others have called attention to possible re- lationships between the freedman’s precarious social status and the art that he or she com- missioned. However, recent scholarship has convincingly critiqued the notion of “freed- man art” as a special subcategory of Roman art. 22 The notion of freedman art has even entered some surveys of Roman art, generally to explain anomalous visual representa- tions. 23 Although the art of freedmen features frequently in this book, so does that of the freeborn working poor, the foreigner, and the slave. The art that they commission and live with—in all of its variety and originality—reveals the hopes and anxieties of people whose social position is ambiguous. It also helps us to understand the changes in defini- tions of social status over time. 24 I have no general theories to oªer about non-elite visual representation. I resist the tendency in recent scholarship to use analysis of visual art to generalize about class, gen- der, and social status. Instead I oªer concrete examples through case studies that allow me to explore individual works of art in some depth. These case studies usually begin with the architectural context but then focus on figural representations in the media of painting, sculpture, and mosaics. (The study of what building types non-elite persons chose is too vast for me to give it the attention it deserves here.) I have chosen case stud- ies where I know that the person who paid for the work of art did not qualify for the up- per strata. I call this person the patron, and I assume that he or she consciously chose the imagery that the artist made—even though, in the absence of written documents, we cannot be sure that the patron, rather than the artist, made all the choices. (The term “pa- tron” is not to be confused with the Latin term patronus, used to designate the man who

INTRODUCTION

7

agreed to protect another person by making him his client; Roman law clearly defined the patronus-client relationship between a former slaveowner and his freedman.) 25

I glean information about the patron unevenly, although I insist on having some in-

dication of who he or she was. The form of a person’s name in tomb inscriptions often reveals that he or she was a former slave. In other cases, the purpose of the artwork—to publicize the services of a wool-treating plant, for example—points to the patron’s non- elite status. Often the visual representation constitutes wishful thinking: for instance, a man and his wife portrayed as scholars but displayed in a bakery. The “ordinary” people whose art I consider vary considerably among themselves. Some- times they are clearly slaves or former slaves. But sometimes they are would-be elite, on the borders between elite and non-elite society. To test the blurry borders between the art of the elite and non-elite, I have deliberately included two monuments belonging to per- sons technically occupying the upper stratum of Pompeian society. One of these is the tomb of Vestorius Priscus—who, when he died at twenty-two, was a minor o‹cial (an aedile) at Pompeii. Although he was “elite,” the poverty of his tomb and its decoration persuades me to consider him among the non-elite. Another case where o‹cial status seems to be at odds with visual representation is in the late decoration of the modest house of Lucretius Fronto. Although written evidence suggests that at least some of the Lucretii

belonged to Pompeii’s elite ranks, the latest phase of painted decoration in the house seems to tell a diªerent story. In many ways this book employs the methods and continues the work of Looking at Lovemaking: Constructions of Sexuality in Roman Art, 100 b.c.a.d. 250. With that book, I demonstrated how visual representation reveals a person’s sexual acculturation. Every- one acquires, from his or her upbringing, attitudes that regulate behavior; we call this process acculturation. It is possible to understand a person’s acculturation through the study of visual representation. By paying attention to who sees the art, where he or she sees it, and under what circumstances, it is often possible to understand a viewer’s atti- tudes toward what the art represents. The location of a work of art often tells us about the audience and the expectations that the patron had of that audience. For instance, a rep- resentation of carpenters at work will convey a diªerent set of meanings depending on its location. As part of a painting on the facade of a shop, it announces a commercial activity, addressing both viewers on the street and customers coming into the shop. On the facade of a tomb the same representation addresses a family member coming to mourn or a passerby who needs to be informed about the dead man’s profession. The physical setting reveals both the patron’s and the viewer’s attitudes toward a specific vi- sual representation.

I am also concerned, of course, with who the viewers are. I have come up with several

strategies to investigate this question. Perhaps the most unusual is that of beginning with imperial art in part 1, where I look at four important monuments in Rome from the point of view of ordinary viewers. This strategy is admittedly an exercise in historical imagi- nation, but one that emphasizes, in a new way, the non-elites living in Rome. Part 1 also

8

INTRODUCTION

employs a chronological framework, taking us from the late first century b.c. to the year a.d. 315, when Constantine dedicated his great triumphal arch. Twelve years later he shifted the capital from Rome to Constantinople. In part 2 and part 3, where I consider art clearly made for non-elites, I take a thematic rather than chronological approach because the nature of the evidence changes. The erup- tion of Vesuvius in a.d. 79 preserved much fragile art that time has erased elsewhere. For instance, at Ostia, a city gradually abandoned as its harbor filled up with silt from the Tiber, there is little left of the street-side painting that must have flourished there as it did at Pompeii and Herculaneum. For similar reasons Pompeii has given us the names of many more people than Ostia has, since the ashes of Vesuvius preserved ephemeral evidence, like election slogans painted on walls. Although you will find many more case studies from Pompeii than from the other cities I consider (Rome, Ostia, Ravenna, and Chieti), by choosing themes rather than chronology as an organizing principle, I try to suggest how the practices of the well-preserved period (100 b.c.a.d. 79) might have con- tinued and developed in later centuries. In part 2, I look at art that everybody could see: art in the public sphere. From among the many themes that I could have chosen, I have limited myself to art that tells us about how ordinary people handled visual representation in relation to five themes: religion, work, public spectacle, humor, and burial. I chose these themes because I felt that I had new insights to bring to them, and also because they give the reader a sense of the great variety of visual representation that ordinary Romans produced for the public sphere. In part 3, I shift to art that people invited into a house would have seen, and there I specifically look at how ordinary people used art to picture the pleasures of the banquet and to rep- resent themselves.

ROMAN WAYS OF SEEING

In addition to analyzing who the viewers were by considering the circumstances sur- rounding each artwork, I have also tried to think how each work might have sent diªer- ent messages to a range of possible viewers. Recent scholarship has addressed in depth the diªerent ways that a work of art might communicate its message to viewers. John Berger, David Freedberg, Norman Bryson, and others have demonstrated how the same work of art can send diªerent messages depending on who the viewer is. 26 Variables such as gender, class, religion, and literacy complicate the notion of viewership and change the eªectiveness of visual communication. 27 These variables apply to both the making and the transmission of images. As Norman Bryson has pointed out in advocating analy- sis of painting as a sign system, the art-historical project of determining the original con- text of production must go beyond merely charting the circumstances of patronage or the conditions of original perception: “Original context must be considered to be a much more global aªair, consisting of the complex interaction among all the practices which make up the sphere of culture: the scientific, military, medical, intellectual and religious

INTRODUCTION

9

practices, the legal and political structures, the structures of class, sexuality and economic life in the given society.” 28 Bryson’s expanded conception of context fits well with my own approach to the interpretation of Roman non-elite visual representation. 29 In my chart I propose that to begin to understand the making and transmission of images, we must ask who the patron, the artist, and the viewer are (fig. 3). In addition to investigating the physical context and the circumstances surrounding the viewing of the imagery, we must also try to take into account in what terms or in what respect each viewer understands the imagery. Authors like Berger, Freedberg, and Bryson, working with early modern and contem- porary art, have the advantage of being able to investigate a wealth of written sources that reveal attitudes toward visual representation. With the ancient Romans written sources on attitudes toward visual culture are scanty for the elite and almost non-existent for the non-elite. One passage from Ovid’s Art of Love, addressed to elite readers, reminds us how unlike the modern art historian the ancient Roman viewer could be. Ovid advises the young man confronted with the confusing panoply of topographical paintings, alle- gorical figures, and notable individuals passing by in a triumphal procession simply to concoct interpretations to impress his girlfriend:

And when some girl inquires the names of the monarchs, Or the towns, rivers, and hills portrayed, Answer all her questions (and don’t draw the line at Questions only): pretend You know even when you don’t. Here comes the Euphrates, tell her, With reed-fringed brow; those dark Blue tresses belong to Tigris, I fancy; there go Armenians, That’s Persia, and that, h’r’m, is some Upland Achaemenid city. Both those men are generals— Give the names if you know them, if not, invent. 30

What is striking about this passage is that Ovid encourages the viewer to invent what he doesn’t know for sure: no one is going to check his historical accuracy. 31 Although Ovid is writing satire to amuse his readers, what he says about making up interpretations pokes fun at the elite practice of ekphrasis, or the explanation of paintings. In his Imagines, Philo- stratus provides examples of ekphrasis that are as fantastic in their invention as those of Ovid’s parade-watcher. Jasˇ Elsner’s analysis of texts that treat the interpretation of visual representation provides further evidence that the elite Romans valued the ability to make fanciful connections between what they saw and what the image could signify. 32 For the elite viewer, the work of art was just a jumping-oª point for a virtuoso display of rheto- ric and erudition. By exaggerating such free association in explaining the work of art Petro- nius satirizes the rich but ignorant freedman Trimalchio. 33

10

INTRODUCTION

MAKING OF

IMAGE

TRANSMISSION

OF IMAGES

WHO

IS PATRON?

WHO

IS ARTIST?

VIEWER ADDRESS

WHO

IS VIEWER?

Patron’s social status:

Training and ability

Location of image:

Viewer’s social status:

Elite

street temple dining room tomb house tavern latrine in moving procession

Viewing context —seen while:

Elite

Non-elite:

 

Non-elite:

 

freeborn

 

freeborn

freedman

freedman

slave

slave

foreigner

foreigner

Patron’s gender role Patron’s motivations:

 

Viewer’s gender role Viewer’s past experience —image seen before in:

advertisement of goods or services commemoration entertainment mediation—to resolve community tensions appeasing gods or propitiation competition or one-upmanship announcement of status or wealth apotropaic/admonition civic benefaction

working walking standing praying dining shopping mourning visiting defecating —seen with what other images?

temple forum theater coin house pattern book procession or triumph

 

Size and scale of image:

close viewing

distant viewing

Patron’s understanding of image:

Has models:

 

Viewer’s understanding of image:

knows/does not know model or referent

understands/does not understand models Has no models:

knows/does not know model or referent believes/does not believe image is a god or goddess

 

invents from observation invents through pastiche

Literate/illiterate

Patron’s occupation or profession

Literate/illiterate

Cost and medium of image

Writing/no writing on image

Literate/illiterate

Viewer’s occupation or profession

FIGURE 3

A model for the reception of visual art in ancient Rome. Parallels between the making and transmission of images are shown in boxes.

These literary accounts of how people responded to visual art indicate that interpret- ing imagery was a common social practice. But the point of such interpretation was to tell a good story that somehow related to what the viewer and his audience could see. Ac- curate, scientific description was not the principal goal. If contemporary art-historical prac- tice rewards accuracy in visual analysis, it is because interpretation of visual imagery is a highly specialized discipline that aims to discover the “correct” meaning. If elite Ro- mans routinely interpreted visual art in a free-ranging way, perhaps non-elites did so as well. To address this possibility, in the case studies in this book, I try to imagine the re- actions of a variety of viewers. Of course, I am going out on a limb, for I am daring to imagine how, say, a woman who was a slave might see an image diªerently from a free- born man. My method is purposely speculative. At the end of many of the case studies I construct scenarios—“what if ” viewing scripts. I intend these viewing scenarios as a corrective to the only viewer that modern schol- arly literature has given us: an upper-class male who knows everything because he has read all of Latin and Greek literature and has the advantage of photo archives and history books. This is not my idea of a typical—and certainly not an ordinary—Roman viewer, whose knowledge of myths, visual models, literary sources, and styles had limits, no mat- ter how learned he or she might have been. No ancient viewer had the advantages of the modern scholar; to see Roman art exclusively from the scholar’s point of view is to distort its purposes and meanings for the ancient viewer. To try to correct this modern view, out on a limb I go! Although I have tried to use my historical imagination responsibly in con- structing my hypothetical viewers, I am sure that my own conceptions of non-elite Ro- mans have colored my constructions. I invite readers to improve on—or even to discard— my viewer profiles, using their own knowledge of Roman history, art, and society. Language also shapes visual experience. In my attempt to frame non-elite visual rep- resentation in historically and culturally synchronous terms, I consistently use Latin words for the objects and actions depicted. They are always in italics the first time I use them in a chapter, followed by approximate English equivalents. My hope is that language will help—like my viewer scenarios—to make this art seem strange to you, the reader. 34 It is important that we understand how diªerent ancient Roman culture was from that of con- temporary Euro-America. Saying that the Romans were “just like us” is really saying noth- ing at all. This book attempts to add nuance and substance to the parallels we have always wanted to draw between ancient Romans and ourselves—to make concrete the generalizations that have tended to erase diªerence. What emerges is a rich—and indeed strange—set of cultural and social structures within which individuals used art to express who they were and what they valued. There is no way of isolating “the” ancient Roman viewer, just as there is no way of defining the “typical” American or Englishwoman. My hope is that this book will open your eyes to the astounding complexity and cul- tural diversity of the lower strata of ancient Roman society. You will meet people who found ways to celebrate their diªerences through the art that they both commissioned

12

INTRODUCTION

and looked at, and you will see how this art encoded their social status, identity, beliefs, tastes, and values. Only if we consider non-elite art as a system of communication em- bedded within a specific culture can Roman individuals emerge with any distinction. The certainty of cultural generalization is reassuring but hollow; uncertainty is challenging but rewarding. Context is everything.

INTRODUCTION

13

PART 1

IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

JUST LIKE US?

If we want to understand the art that ordinary people commissioned and consumed in the Roman empire, we need to begin by looking at the dominating form: art created un- der the auspices of the emperor. Study of visual representations commissioned by the emperor—especially when they picture ordinary freeborn Romans (the ingenui), former slaves, foreigners, and slaves—can show us how the emperor and the upper strata of Ro- man society wished all viewers to understand the place of non-elites within the system. Study of imperial art also provides a frame of reference for parts 2 and 3, where we ex- amine non-elite art and test the “trickle-down” hypothesis: that non-elite artworks are lit- tle more than debased copies of imperial art. Finally, the focus on imperial art allows us to reflect on and try to remedy a major problem in the history of Roman art: the fact that until recently most scholars have set out Roman art as a story of the accomplishments of imperial visual representation. Imperial art has been the basis for constructing Roman art history. There is an agenda behind writing Roman art history on such an exclusive basis. Re- cent critical theory has demonstrated that the historian’s narrative is rarely what it says it is: an objective account of the facts. If we ask: What stock did the author have in writing the history of Roman art on the basis of elite art? a telling perspective unfolds. The art

that traditional historians have examined is monumental, expensive, and imperial. All three of these features in visual representation comply with “history” as traditionally conceived—and traditional art history as well. If it is to matter, Roman art history—like the story of the Romans themselves—must be the tale of Empire. Just as the ancient Romans constructed their own history over time—and often re- vised it—so have we moderns. What stands out in modern projects to create the history of Rome is the desire to make the Romans a precedent for “us.” 1 If we look at the history of writing about the art of Rome, this “us” is the ruling elite of any historical period; the problematic notion that the Romans were “just like us” forms the premise and subtext of five centuries of classical studies. If Renaissance princes had a deep stock in estab- lishing their legitimacy through the study of classical texts, it was because princely poli- tics and codes of conduct required a powerful precedent—no less authoritative and pow- erful than the fabled Roman empire. Renaissance humanists looked to Cicero, Virgil, and Livy for ways to define the early modern state. Subsequent attempts to legitimize the prince, the absolute monarch, colonialism, nineteenth-century nationalism, and—finally and most terrifyingly—German and Italian fascism, 2 always went back to the ancient Ro- mans, to those same texts with their histories of emperors and Empire, their great lawyers, statesmen, rhetoricians, moralists, and poets. In this formula for writing the history of the Romans, the art that fitted best with the study of classical texts and inscriptions was the art that illustrated imperial power. The themes were grand ones—whether chronicling the lives of emperors and their families (for example, the Ara Pacis) or imperial conquests (the Column of Trajan, the triumphal arches)—yet the charge was the same: to show the all-encompassing power of the im- perial model. 3 The study of portraiture, presumably the art that would reveal the most about individuals in Roman history, began with the goal of providing galleries of emperors’ busts for princely Renaissance palaces. The rows of famous Romans became the prince’s ready-made “ancestors.” Even today, studies of Roman portraiture tend to ignore the anony- mous portraits—the ones that cannot be identified through comparison with coins bear- ing images of the emperors and their families. Little wonder that histories of Roman art inevitably prefer dynastic labels to indicate the date of a work of art: “an Augustan gem,” “a Trajanic wall painting,” “a Constantinian portrait.” If these labels and methods of study seem natural to us, it is because contemporary Euro-American culture is in many ways the product of centuries of adaptation of ancient Roman texts and cultural artifacts to fit the requirements of increasingly capitalist, bour- geois, and colonial systems. If the Romans seem to be in all things so much like “us,” it is because “we” have colonized their time in history. (I use the words “we” and “us” to de- note the elite, white male of Euro-American culture—the voice I perceive to be the dom- inant one in traditional scholarship.) We have appropriated their world to fit the needs of our ideology. Of course, I, too, have an agenda in writing my history of Roman art. I wish to draw a picture of a pluralistic, rather than an imperialistic, Roman society. I want to tell the sto-

16

IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

ries of the ordinary Romans—the ones usually excluded from the traditional histories— and I base my narrative on the analysis of art. My approach fails to create a straightfor- ward, linear narrative, and this is to be expected. In place of the unity of purpose that char- acterizes the histories of imperial art, I find a variety of intentions and eªects. I understand this pluralism of content and style as the logical result of a society that was highly diverse and anything but monolithic. Since no monuments could be more multilayered and polysemic than the big impe- rial ones set up in Rome, it is puzzling that few scholars have considered their imagery in terms of an ordinary Roman viewer. Most studies assume the view of the omniscient elite Roman. Not surprisingly, this “ideal” viewer is much like a modern scholar of clas- sical art and literature. In the following two chapters I examine imperial monuments for signs of the ordi- nary Roman. In chapter 1, I consider the Ara Pacis Augustae (9 b.c.) and the Forum, Ba- silica, and Column of Trajan (a.d. 113). They belong to the optimistic early empire, when the emperor wished to be thought of as the first citizen, or princeps. Artists used the time- tested forms of Hellenistic art to portray the emperor fulfilling his religious, civic, and military duties. Chapter 2 considers the Column of Marcus Aurelius (ca. 193) and the Arch of Constantine (315). In them artists forge new ways of representing the emperor as supreme, divine leader; they create visual hierarchies that express the changed social order. For all of these visual representations, I conjecture viewers whose acculturation was diªerent from that of elite persons, and I ask if there were messages for such non-elites as foreigners, slaves, former slaves (freedmen and freedwomen), and the freeborn work- ing poor. All of these monuments should encode imperial values—since the patrons are emperors. Yet when non-elites saw them, how did they understand the messages in terms of their own status and experience? And if a non-elite viewer finds a‹nities with the im- agery, then we must ask whether this is an intended eªect: Is he or she receiving a mes- sage sent from “on high”?

IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

17

1

AUGUSTUS’S AND TRAJAN’S MESSAGES TO COMMONERS

THE ARA PACIS AUGUSTAE AND THE ORDINARY VIEWER

Much erudite ink has flowed to explain the complex iconography of the Ara Pacis Au- gustae (13–9 b.c., fig. 4). First and foremost are the attempts to identify the protagonists in the processional friezes along the north and south sides of the altar’s enclosure. These friezes probably represent the founding (constitutio) of the altar on July 4, 13 b.c. 1 Al- though scholars agree that the south frieze shows Augustus surrounded by members of the four priestly colleges, followed by his (extended) family as they approach the plaza in front of the altar (the west side), there is considerable disagreement about the identities of the men, women, and children pictured there (fig. 5). Similarly, no one doubts that some of the men in togas on the north frieze also belong to the priestly colleges, followed by Augustan family members, yet scholars have reached no agreement on the specific identities of women and children at the end of that procession. 2 A second feature of the Ara Pacis that has been the focus of much debate are the four panels on the east and west sides of the enclosure wall. The two that are well preserved have received the most attention. Today there are so many iconographical interpretations of the relief of a woman with two baby boys in her lap—most of them invoking contem- porary literary texts for explanations—that one can only call it a complex allegorical figure:

Tellus/Italia/Pax/Venus/Ceres (fig. 6). 3 Less problematic is the mythological scene on the

FIGURE 4 Rome, Ara Pacis Augustae (13–9 b.c.), view from west. FIGURE 5 Rome, Ara

FIGURE 4

Rome, Ara Pacis Augustae (13–9 b.c.), view from west.

4 Rome, Ara Pacis Augustae (13–9 b.c.), view from west. FIGURE 5 Rome, Ara Pacis Augustae,

FIGURE 5

Rome, Ara Pacis Augustae, south side. Procession of Augustus and his family.

FIGURE 6 Rome, Ara Pacis Augustae, east side. Tellus/Italia. FIGURE 7 Rome, Ara Pacis Augustae,

FIGURE 6

Rome, Ara Pacis Augustae, east side. Tellus/Italia.

FIGURE 6 Rome, Ara Pacis Augustae, east side. Tellus/Italia. FIGURE 7 Rome, Ara Pacis Augustae, west

FIGURE 7

Rome, Ara Pacis Augustae, west side. Aeneas sacrificing.

west: it illustrates Aeneas sacrificing the white sow with thirty piglets to the Penates (guardian gods) at Lavinium (fig. 7). 4 Enough remains of the panel opposite it on the left to identify it as Romulus and Remus being suckled by the she-wolf while Mars looks on. Its content serves as a kind of pendant to the Aeneas scene. The same might be said of the female allegorical figure opposite Tellus/Italia on the enclosure’s east side: despite the fragmentary condition of the relief, scholars have convincingly identified the figure as Roma, seated on a heap of weapons.

AUGUSTUS’S AND TRAJAN’S MESSAGES

21

FIGURE 8 Drawing of Ara Pacis Augustae with horologium and mausoleum. The third important problem

FIGURE 8

Drawing of Ara Pacis Augustae with horologium and mausoleum.

The third important problem that scholars have investigated is the decoration of the inner and outer sides of the enclosure. On the lower half of the inner walls we see, repro- duced in marble, the wooden boards of the temporary palisade that constituted the orig- inal sacred boundary (or templum) around the altar. Above this board fence, many-fruited garlands wound with fillets hang from the skulls of sacrificed bulls, with a libation dish (patera) centered above each swag of the garland. 5 Exuberant vine-scrolls filled with flora and fauna decorate the exterior face of the palisade (see fig. 10). Rather than ask what the meaning of each of these components might be—rather than searching for the “key” to its iconography—I want to ask what the Ara Pacis as a whole might have communicated to ordinary viewers. To answer this question, we must step back from the details and look at the altar’s place among the monuments of Augustan Rome. Diane Favro’s recent study of how Augustus transformed the city during his forty- one-year reign emphasizes the perceptions of an ancient viewer as he or she walked its streets, strolled through its gardens and plazas, attended to daily business, took part in religious rituals, or pursued various forms of recreation. 6 Arguably the greatest concen- tration of Augustan building was on the Campus Martius, an area outside the city’s sa- cred boundaries (the pomerium) but bordered by the major road to the north, the via Flaminia (fig. 8). As the illustration demonstrates, the Ara Pacis was one of three highly original monuments that transformed the area into an Augustan theme-park. The Ara Pacis was quite modest in size compared with the two monuments that took up the great- est space: the mausoleum and the sundial. Each monument articulated diªerent messages. Augustus’s great mausoleum pro- claimed the dynasty that he founded (fig. 9). Although Augustus insisted in all of his public political life that he was the restorer of the Republic, he had in point of fact cre- ated the Roman Empire, ruled by dynastic succession. The mausoleum was to contain his ashes and those of his successors, the Julio-Claudians. If the mausoleum was a sign of the end of the Republic for the senatorial class, ordinary Romans may have thought of it as a strange transplant—for the tombs that they ordinarily saw were massed together along the roads outside the city walls. Its magnitude, its isolation in a magnificent gar- den, and the very ashes it contained constituted a reminder of the glory of Augustus and the extent of his family. 7 Since, in point of fact, Augustus spent much of his reign adopt-

22

IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

Mausoleum Ustrinum N ' 7 3 5 8 1 Sundial 1 Ara Obelisk Pacis VIA
Mausoleum
Ustrinum
N
'
7
3
5
8
1
Sundial
1
Ara
Obelisk
Pacis
VIA
DEL CORSO/ VIA FLAMINIA
VIA
DI
RIPETTA

FIGURE 9

Rome, Augustan monuments in the Campus Martius.

ing successors only to have them die, dynastic succession was a constant concern: his mausoleum was one strategy for keeping ordinary Romans from perceiving the ongoing crises of succession. 8 Recent work on the great sundial that occupied the larger part of Augustus’s plaza has highlighted its relationships with both the mausoleum and the Ara Pacis. The sundial (called both horologium and solarium in contemporary inscriptions) was a tour-de-force in both its conception and its construction. Augustus, in concert with wealthy elites ea- ger to serve his aims, had been filling Rome with expensive buildings that were a won- der to all—especially to the ordinary Romans who had not seen the splendid cities of Greece, Asia Minor, and Egypt. In this context, the great labor needed to bring a 21.8- meter (71-foot) Egyptian obelisk to Rome and to set it up as the sundial’s pointer (gno- mon) was a wonder indeed. 9 Its message was a dual one. It was a reminder of Augustus’s (and Agrippa’s) triumph over Mark Antony and Cleopatra at Actium in 31 b.c.—a tri- umph that gained the rich province of Egypt for Rome. It also symbolized perpetual, cycli- cal time: the eternal reign of Augustus and his heirs. The horologium told time in a mon- umental way, its shadow playing over a surface of about 100 square meters (1100 square feet). In 1976 Edmund Buchner argued that there were important connections between the horologium, the Ara Pacis, and the mausoleum. 10 Most scholars immediately em- braced his ideas—especially his striking notion that on the afternoon of Augustus’s birth- day, 23 September, the shadow of the obelisk pointed toward the west entrance of the Ara Pacis. In 1990 Michael Schütz raised serious doubts about this and other connections—

AUGUSTUS’S AND TRAJAN’S MESSAGES

23

both geometrical and astronomical—among the monuments that Augustus erected on the Campus Martius. 11 Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that for the ordinary Roman the entire complex excited amazement. What of the imagery on the Ara Pacis itself ? Access to the altar within the precinct was limited to the priests and Vestal Virgins in charge of the annual sacrifices, although the fact that the precinct wall had doors opening to reveal both the back of the altar and its front made it possible for people to see more of the interior imagery than they could with just one door. People could have glimpsed, perhaps, the garlands decorating the precinct wall and the small sacrificial friezes on the altar itself. But on ordinary days these doors were closed, and the curious would have had to be content with views of the exterior. It was no accident that the Ara Pacis had pride of place along the via Flaminia, for this was the road that Augustus took on his triumphant return from Spain and Gaul. Yet Au- gustus did not celebrate a triumph—an honor he refused; the Ara Pacis was a way of marking his victory with new imagery. Instead of presenting the moment of the triumphal procession, Augustus’s curious new altar pictured the union of his family with the o‹cial priesthoods at the moment of the altar’s first use. The altar’s very strangeness—as an un- precedented substitute for the triumphal arch—must have piqued the curiosity of elite and non-elite viewers alike. But what in its imagery would have caught the attention of the non-elite viewer? The enclosure wall rose to a height of 6.1 meters (over 19 feet) from the paving of the plaza to its top. It stood with its back to the via Flaminia, so that only the allegorical figures of Tellus/Italia and Roma would have been visible from the road, with highly foreshortened views-in-passing of the two processional friezes on the sides of the enclosure wall. It was only the viewer approaching from within the broad plaza of the sundial who would have understood that the dual processions constituted a visual reenactment of the ceremonies that occurred on the altar’s founding date. Unlike the modern scholar, aided by closeup photographs, an ancient viewer would not have been able to identify all the figures in those friezes. For one thing, the processional friezes were quite high up; the bottom of the frieze was 3.9 meters (nearly 12 feet) from the pavement. For another, it is unlikely that an ordinary viewer living at the time of the altar’s inauguration could have distin- guished the slight physiognomic diªerences between one Julio-Claudian man or woman and another. The only easily identifiable figures are those of Augustus and Agrippa, since the composition of the south frieze singles them out. Nor would coins in a viewer’s purse have helped with the identification of the rest of the figures, since Tiberius had yet to have a coin issued with his profile on it; nor were there coins for Julia, Livia, Drusus the Elder, and other family members. What an ordinary viewer would have noticed were the little figures—the images of children on both north and south friezes. Children had never before appeared on a ma- jor public monument. In purely visual terms, they break the monotony set up by the adults

24

IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

in the friezes, who are all about the same height so that their heads line up in the top one- eighth of the panels. The children’s dress is unusual as well. On the north frieze a little girl wears the toga, usually restricted to free male citizens. Two of the male children wear barbarian dress. 12 Although it is unlikely that someone outside elite circles could have identified any of the children, their very presence—highlighted by their unusual dress— must have provoked comment. Part of this curiosity about the children, I propose, would have been what we call “hu- man interest”—in this case ordinary people’s identification with family and child-rearing. Just as the emperor and his family had oªspring, so did the ordinary person. The chil- dren’s physical closeness to their mothers and fathers, clinging to their garments even as they attempt to walk along with the adults, must have struck a common chord with view- ers who had children of their own. 13 Representing children provided the ordinary person with a point of identification with Augustus and his family. The children, too, publicized Augustus’s much-discussed legislation aimed at increasing legitimate, freeborn oªspring in Rome. Their presence was one way of proclaiming that the future of Rome rested in its children. 14 They also advertised the success of the new dynasty that Augustus had founded; the images of children clinging to members of Au- gustus’s family provided visible proof that there were successors to Augustus. If the processional reliefs freeze for all eternity a particular moment—the beginning— of the altar’s ritual life, what would an ordinary viewer make of the four reliefs flanking the enclosure wall’s two doors? Like the processional friezes, they are high up, but in con- trast to them, it would have been less di‹cult to grasp the basics of their imagery. The figures are larger and fewer in number. Babies—two of them—in the lap of Tellus/Italia symbolize human fertility much as do the representations of children in the processional frieze. The two allegorical figures of winds (aurae) were familiar enough to signal that this woman with her two infants belonged to the symbolic realm. That the artist juxta- posed her with the figure of Roma, seated on a heap of captured weapons, made clear that both reliefs were allegorical. Some viewers may have understood the pair—as mod- ern scholars have—as a contrast between war and peace. Successful warfare creates peace and permits the kind of abundance (on land and sea, among animals and humans) figured in the Tellus/Italia relief. Whereas the panels on the exterior back of the enclosure that faced the via Flaminia employ female allegorical figures to announce the dual theme of peace and war, the all- male characters on the two front panels move in the realm of mythical history. Aeneas on the right panel enacts the sacrifice that fulfilled his destiny: to found Lavinium by en- shrining the Penates that he had brought from Troy. This foundation was the prelude to Rome’s. Ordinary viewers would have connected Aeneas’s act of sacrifice with the ritual that took place every year at the Ara Pacis: the slaughter of the three animals (ram, steer, and heifer), the cooking of the choice parts (exta) as a sacrifice to the gods, and the join- ing in on the feast—eating roasted meat—afterwards. 15 The more astute might have con-

AUGUSTUS’S AND TRAJAN’S MESSAGES

25

nected the image of Aeneas sacrificing with Augustus. Augustus, head veiled like Ae-

neas, appears at the point in the south processional frieze closest to the panel of Aeneas. Moreover, Augustus was the person who first sacrificed at the newly constituted altar. The image on the left—Mars observing the suckling of Rome’s eventual founders by the fabled she-wolf—extended this notion that wondrous events heralded Roman mo- ments of foundation. Even more marvelous than the sow with thirty piglets that Aeneas took as a sign for the foundation of Lavinium was the suckling of Rome’s eventual founder(s) by a she-wolf. Yet for the person standing in the plaza on a ceremonial occa- sion, these representations attached to the altar’s precinct wall must have paled by com- parison with the excitement of the rituals themselves. But for the non-elite viewer—especially the viewer who came not to attend the rituals but to stroll through Augustus’s great plaza and see what could be seen—there was one attraction much more interesting than the figural reliefs. Larger by over a foot (0.35 m), closer to the ground than the figural friezes, and more available to the viewer’s scrutiny

at eye-level, was the beautifully carved and conceived decoration of the enclosure wall’s

lower half. 16 As Barbara Kellum has pointed out, it was not just magnificent buildings and important works of art that attracted the populace to public spaces. She cites the gi- ant grapevine that shaded the whole of the Porticus of Livia, and the unusual animals—

both live and in sculptural replicas—that Augustus put on display. 17 In the context of con- temporary popular interest in the wonders of the natural world, both the content and the form of this decoration was arguably the most extraordinary aspect of the Ara Pacis for

all ancient visitors. For one thing, this decoration takes up over one-half of the enclosure’s

exterior surface, and more than one-third of its interior. For another, the exquisite carv-

ing achieves a realism within the stylistic framework of neo-Attic art unsurpassed by any surviving artifacts from the period. David Castriota’s recent book convincingly argues through analysis of all its elements that the frieze was much more than fancy decoration; its flora and fauna were prime carriers of meaning for the ancient viewer. 18 From an armature consisting of stylized acanthus tendrils and blossoms, diªerent botanical species—realistically portrayed—emerge: laurel, ivy, grapevines with grape clus- ters, and an oak sprig (fig. 10). Flowers, in addition to the acanthus, include poppies and roses. Foremost among the animals depicted are the great swans that top the candelabra- like acanthus plants. Early on scholars recognized the swan’s reference to Apollo. Since identification of gods and goddesses with birds was a popular practice in antiquity, this reference would not have been lost on the ordinary viewer. Viewers would have heard the

widely circulated stories about Augustus’s mother, Atia, being visited by the god, and some might have even believed that Apollo was his father. A second highly visible motif, repeated in the center of both north and south reliefs, was located right at the bottom of the giant acanthus leaf at the base of the “candelabra.”

A snake winds its way to a nest filled with tiny birds, one of them sounding the alarm

(fig. 11). It is unlikely that the ordinary viewer would have seen this vignette or other un- usual features of hybrid plants as a metaphor for Augustus’s struggle with Antony, as one

26

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FIGURE 10 Rome, Ara Pacis Augustae. Detail of exterior floral frieze. FIGURE 11 Rome, Ara

FIGURE 10

Rome, Ara Pacis Augustae. Detail of exterior floral frieze.

Rome, Ara Pacis Augustae. Detail of exterior floral frieze. FIGURE 11 Rome, Ara Pacis Augustae. Snake

FIGURE 11

Rome, Ara Pacis Augustae. Snake and bird’s nest.

scholar would have it; 19 more likely he would have understood it as a realistic vignette from the natural world, exciting in its own terms. It is worth stressing that much of Rome’s population at this time consisted of rural agricultural folk who had been driven from their land in the bloody civil wars of the first century b.c. Their education was minimal, and their commercial skills limited, yet they were free citizens of Italy, entitled to a vote and to a life in the city supported by doles of food and money. Many were illiterate; their “literature” was the lore about plants, birds, insects, and animals that they had learned on the farms. Many were also idle, living in a city where the only glimpses of greenery to be had were in the public spaces, in gardens and temple precincts. 20 I propose that for such Romans the “decorative” frieze would have been a magnet with much greater power than the processional or mythological panels; these are people who would have spent many an hour discussing the natural world and its inhabitants in front of these conspicuously placed and elegantly carved reminders of the natural world they knew so well and missed so much. The very artificiality of the frieze, especially the way the artist grafted foliage and flowers from diªerent plants into the acanthus, must have evoked comment. People might have brought their children there to play at finding all the creatures and identifying them. There were plenty hidden among the foliage: a scor- pion, lizards, birds, frogs, a butterfly, grasshoppers, cicadas, birds, snakes, a snail. Pop- ular beliefs and stories about each of these animals and insects—like those that scholars have gleaned from elite literature—would have been the stuª of the conversations be- tween parent and child, between one viewer and another. 21 It is possible that the artists of the Ara Pacis had orders to embellish the precinct wall with this extraordinary combination of flora and fauna precisely in order to give the com- mon people something to wonder at. This seems certain to me, especially considering that it was the only part of the altar complex always available for scrutiny, that it was clos- est to the viewers’ eye-levels, and that its content complemented that of other natural won- ders that Augustus set up in his city. It turned nature, symbolized by vine scrolls and an- imals, into marble—a tour-de-force of virtuoso stone carving. If its message seems modest and lacking in “propaganda,” it is because we are used to propaganda of a more obvious and bombastic sort—the kind that we have character- ized as “typically Roman:” temples to the imperial cult, triumphal arches, enormous build- ings of every sort. For an audience of ordinary people, possessing a system of beliefs and lore concerned with the phenomena of nature, the floral frieze must have been much more than fancy decoration. It was an expression of the very magic brought about by Au- gustus’s reign.

TRAJAN’S FORUM AND THE NEW IMPERIAL CITY

The jump from the Ara Pacis to the Forum of Trajan—like the Ara Pacis, a wonder in its time—is a big one. In the 122 years between the two monuments Rome had grown to

28

IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

FIGURE 12 Rome, plan of Imperial Fora. over one million inhabitants. 2 2 Under Trajan,

FIGURE 12

Rome, plan of Imperial Fora.

over one million inhabitants. 22 Under Trajan, too, the empire expanded to its largest ex- tent. Expansion of the city put increasing pressure on its infrastructure, especially in the period between Nero’s fire of a.d. 64 and Trajan’s dedication of the Forum and Basilica Ulpia in 112. How did Rome cope with becoming the largest city in the world—not to find an equal in population until late eighteenth-century London? The practical measures were many: engineers increased the water supply by building new aqueducts; the new harbor at Portus near the mouth of the Tiber greatly improved the supplies of food and goods to the city; and multifamily apartment buildings built of fire-proof concrete and brick replaced rickety wattle-and-daub tenements. Equally im- pressive were the city’s new public structures. In addition to the triumphal arches, tem- ples, and porticoes, architects constructed enormous buildings devoted to popular en- tertainment, often inventing new or hybrid forms. The Colosseum and Trajan’s baths are only two of the city’s many responses to the demand for “bread and circuses.” A series of grandiose imperial fora tripled the available area for people to carry on business, to hear court trials, and to promenade (fig. 12). The first of these, Augustus’s own forum, completed in 2 b.c., set a precedent for magnificence of decoration and complexity of message that it was a great challenge to surpass. Like the Ara Pacis, Augustus’s forum emphasized the emperor’s role as restorer of the Republic and its religious institutions—even while it borrowed forms from Peri- clean Athens to evoke a past Golden Age (fig. 13). The temple dedicated to Mars the Avenger (Ultor) commemorated Augustus’s vow to avenge the death of his adopted father, Julius Caesar, yet its imagery also joined Mars with Venus. Augustus claimed divine parentage through Aeneas, whose mother was Venus. The architect employed twin semicircular

AUGUSTUS’S AND TRAJAN’S MESSAGES

29

FIGURE 13
FIGURE 13

Rome, plan of Forum of Augustus with Zanker’s iconographical scheme.

forms, called hemicycles, to introduce variety into the rectangular plan. Descent from he- roes, both human and mythical, constituted the theme of the twin hemicycles, its niches filled with statues of great men and inscriptions describing their great deeds (elogia). If the Forum of Augustus emphasized traditional religion, heroic service to the Re- public, divine ancestry, and the Greek Golden Age, it was because the emperor wished to gain acceptance for his monarchy from a senate and people suspicious of kingship and hereditary dynasties. Trajan, riding the crest of the wave of success that raw imperial power had brought the city of Rome, had an entirely diªerent agenda. He wished to show the magnificent results of imperial warfare and to illustrate how and why the Roman army always won its wars. Until the recent publication of James Packer’s monumental study, the particulars of the imagery of the Forum and Basilica—both the architecture and its decoration—were quite vague. 23 Packer provides reconstructions based on measurement and scrutiny of all remaining elements of the buildings and their decoration. For the first time, we can begin to appreciate why of all the grand monuments of ancient Rome, ancient visitors considered the Forum of Trajan to be the best: an eighth wonder of the world. 24 What is more, we can begin to comprehend the meanings of this great Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art).

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IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

TRAJAN, THE DACIANS, AND THE ARMY IN THE FORUM AND COLUMN

If we put ourselves in the place of the thousands of people who visited the forum to work

as senators, lawyers, clerks, and librarians (and those who enjoyed listening to legal cases, shopping, loitering, and promenading there), we realize how the whole architectural complex—Forum, Basilica Ulpia, and Column—was designed to amaze. It is di‹cult to reconstruct the ancient viewer’s experience of the whole, since only the Column is still standing, yet today we have a better understanding of that experience thanks to Packer’s

earlier reconstructions and to the two later, computer-generated models that allow the viewer to “walk through” virtual-reality reconstructions. 25 As a viewer entered the Forum and progressed through its spaces toward the Column,

he or she experienced multiple configurations of Trajan’s power. 26 Everyone, from elite citizen to foreigner, saw a very basic message encoded throughout all the spaces in a re- curring tripartite formula: Trajan, the Dacians, and the army. The apex of this three-part iconographical scheme was, of course, Trajan himself (plate 1). The viewer understood Trajan’s triumph over the Dacians as he walked through the monumental entrance and saw the heroon, a shrine honoring Trajan, probably with

a tripartite entry that recalled the form of the triumphal arch. 27 The entryway initiated a “Trajan axis” running some 212 meters (695 feet) through the center of the forum. 28 At least three monumental statues of the princeps marked that axis: an equestrian statue, 29

a group with Trajan riding in triumph in a four-horse chariot placed on the porch of the

Basilica Ulpia, and—most dramatically—a statue on top of the Column that seemed to float above the basilica’s roof at a height of one hundred fifty Roman feet (44 m). 30 The great size of these statues, and their placement along the central axis of the huge com- plex, stressed Trajan’s predominant role throughout. Forum, Basilica, and Column each trumpeted Trajan’s importance in a diªerent way. The simple fact that the forum was the largest ever built in the imperial city showed that Trajan was more powerful even than Augustus, the first princeps. Few ancient viewers would have missed the formal similarities between the Forum of Augustus and that of Trajan. The visitor entered the Forum of Trajan from a space connected with the north flank of the Forum of Augustus, so that it was inevitable that he or she would compare the two in size. Moreover, the Forum of Trajan repeated the paired hemicycles of the Fo- rum of Augustus—twice. The architect located the first pair at the midpoint of the Fo- rum’s open space. The paired hemicycles, two huge cupping forms, expanded the Forum spaces to the viewer’s left and right. The architect incorporated the second pair of hemi- cycles into the short sides of the Basilica Ulpia, visual echoes that reminded the viewer of the first pair even while they achieved eªects of space and light quite diªerent from those of the first pair. In size, form, and lavishness of decoration the Basilica Ulpia also outstripped any mon- ument in Rome. At 25 by 76 meters (82 by 249 feet) in plan, and as high as 30 meters (98 feet) in elevation, the Basilica was easily the largest covered space that Rome had seen. 31

AUGUSTUS’S AND TRAJAN’S MESSAGES

31

An ancient viewer would have marveled at the lavish use of expensive marbles imported from the far reaches of the empire. Thanks to the careful work of Packer and others, we now have a notion of the rich play of color and light that aimed to astonish the first-time viewer. Yet today the most concrete way to imagine the grandeur and magnificence of the Fo- rum and Basilica, now sadly reduced, is by considering the third great marvel of the com- plex, the Column. In antiquity there was no clear view of the entire Column, as there is today. The architect enclosed it within a relatively small courtyard between the Greek and Latin libraries—almost certainly to dramatize its huge base and impressive height. The architect’s transformation of the honorary column into a gigantic monument with a stair- case carved out of its center was both a dazzling feat of engineering and a challenge to the viewer’s imagination. What would it be like to ascend that staircase and stand on the viewing platform with the emperor’s statue looming high above? Arguably, in the mind of the ancient viewer, the Column itself was an icon of imperial power without parallel. 32 And, in the only exception to the rule that no one, not even the emperor, could be buried within the sacred boundary of the city, Trajan’s ashes arrived in Rome in triumphal pro- cession and were buried in the base of the Column. 33 Huge three-dimensional images of Trajan dominated and guided a viewer as he or she progressed from the Forum, to the Basilica, to the Column. 34 On the Column itself Trajan appears fifty-nine times, as the commander-in-chief in the low reliefs that chron- icle the Dacian wars. Trajan was present in written form as well, his name and his titles figuring in numerous inscriptions throughout the complex; these redundantly spelled out, in great detail, his achievements and his honors. Representations of the enemy formed the second element of the iconographical triad. Two types of Dacians appeared. White marble statues, about 2.5 meters (8 feet) tall, ap- peared prominently high up in the upper (attic) level of the Forum’s east and west colon- nades, where they carried a cornice (fig. 14). 35 Larger statues of Dacians, about 3 meters (10 1 / 2 feet) tall, decorated the attic of the south facade of the Basilica, their bodies of white purple-veined marble from Asia Minor (pavonazetto), their hands and heads of white marble. 36 In the Forum, the cornices on the heads of the Dacians supported a second, upper, cornice that crowned the attic and carried inscribed pedestals with standards. Alternat- ing between the Dacian supporting figures on the right and left colonnades were some sixty portrait heads on shields (imagines clipeatae); the surviving ones are of emperors and empresses. 37 In the attic story of the Basilica’s front, alternating between the Dacian supporting figures, was another symbol of their defeat: reliefs of captured Dacian arms. The base of the Column of Trajan repeated this motif. 38 Horses and military standards topped the attics of the Basilica’s porches with the formula, “ex manubiis,” proclaiming that the spoils of the Dacian wars paid for all of this magnificence. 39 The third prominent element in the Forum’s iconographical scheme was the army. Names of legions and units that served heroically in the Dacian campaigns appeared con-

32

IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

FIGURE 14 Rome, Forum of Trajan, order of east colonnade, bay. spicuously, carved in huge

FIGURE 14

Rome, Forum of Trajan, order of east colonnade, bay.

spicuously, carved in huge letters on the parapet above the Dacians and the imagines cli- peatae. 40 It is significant that Trajan chose these big inscriptions—rather than, say, three- dimensional statues of soldiers—to represent the army. It is true that images of every as- pect of the army’s work, detailed so that one could identify the type of soldiers and perhaps even their units, took center stage on the great column. 41 But naming specific units in written form on the attic panels had a distinct purpose. A unit, such as a 1,000-man or 500-man cohort, was a collective whose eªective fighting entitled it to share in the final victory. A veteran who saw his unit’s name high up on the parapets, along with other honored divisions, remembered that success in war came from the obedience of every man in the unit to the chain of command—all the way up to Trajan himself. The unit’s name constituted an eªective synecdoche for the nonmilitary viewer as well; his civic work was like the unit’s military work, and he had to obey orders for it to be successful. This is only one of many examples that we will meet in this book where a viewer needed to possess some degree of literacy to receive a message aimed at him. We will fully discuss non-elite literacy in later chapters. One thing is certain: for both military and civic view- ers, the virtues of careful organization and intelligent command of all the army’s parts

AUGUSTUS’S AND TRAJAN’S MESSAGES

33

formed the compelling theme in these inscribed names and in the images of the army on the Column.

HOW TO READ THE COLUMN?

The tripartite iconography of Trajan, Dacians, and army set the stage for scrutiny of the Column itself. The Column, unlike the many Roman monuments that remained buried until the nineteenth century, has always been visible and available for study. 42 Scholars have thought of the Column’s helical frieze, with some 2,500 figures and 154 recogniza- ble scenes, primarily as a source of information about the Dacian wars. Only one line of Trajan’s own account of the two campaigns of 101–2 and 105–6 survives, and what re- mains of Dio Cassius’s history are two brief and confusing abstracts: Excerpta prepared in the tenth century and the Epitome produced by Xiphilinus in the eleventh century. 43 Little wonder that scholars over the centuries have tried to reconstruct the great wars from the Column’s reliefs. Unfortunately this project is doomed. In his 1927 monograph Karl Lehmann proved that the artist composed the Column’s reliefs by creating variations on six stock scenes, or topoi, generally repeated in the same order. 44 Although the end product looks like a continuous narrative, the same six scenes are repeated, with variations, throughout. 45 The army journeys, then builds, then the emperor prepares for battle by sacrificing, then he addresses the troops. The army battles. The sixth stock scene focuses on the enemy rather than on the Romans and their work: we see the Dacian barbarians, brought as prisoners or coming as ambassadors to Trajan. Although the stock scenes vary in length and de- tails, they are the building blocks of a narrative that has much more to do with the tech- niques of Greek and Roman epic poetry than with those of modern history. Yet this is not to say that the Column lacks references to specific events. We see, for instance, an image of the great bridge over the Danube that Apollodorus of Damascus built; 46 we see the submission of the Dacians at the end of the first campaign at their cap- ital, Sarmizegetusa; 47 at the top of the Column we see the conclusion of the second cam- paign, with Roman soldiers pursuing the Dacians’ leader, Decebalus; 48 we see Decebalus’s suicide, 49 and Roman soldiers displaying his severed head and right hand on a platter. 50 Yet even in all this detail the narrative is an epitomized one. 51 These specific scenes, like the stock scenes themselves, are key images that stand for narrative—a narrative we will never know fully from studying the visual representation. There is even an allegorical representation of the time between the two campaigns: halfway up the Column, after the scene of the submission of the Dacians at the end of the first campaign, the figure of Vic- tory writes the (temporary) triumph on a shield. 52 Stock scenes and salient details—if not the stuª of historical illustration—then what? What was the purpose of the imagery on the Column of Trajan? What messages did it have for its intended viewers? Furthermore, how did the ancient viewer see its imagery?

34

IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

All viewers knew that it was a wondrous invention, a helical frieze winding twenty-three times around the Column that told the story of Trajan’s two campaigns against the Da- cians. Yet when we begin to question how exactly an ancient visitor would have gone about trying to view that “history,” problems arise (plate 2). The Column itself was 100 Roman feet (29.8 m) high, and it stood on a podium that was 5.4 meters (17 1 / 2 feet) in height. 53 The ancient visitor emerging from the basilica into the small courtyard that contained it (24.8 × 18.3 m, or 80 1 / 2 × 59 1 / 2 feet) had a maximum of only 6 meters (19 1 / 2 feet) to view the base of the Column and the shaft. 54 The distance from the doors of either library to the base was only 9 meters (29 feet). What could a viewer actually see? There are two doorways from the Basilica Ulpia, each oª-axis with the Column and opening onto the colonnade around it. The viewer could read the dedicatory inscription and inspect the relief of captured Dacian arms that decorated the base. Walking around the Column, he could understand that there was a narrative, and could determine from the composition of the reliefs that it read from left to right. But he would not have been able to examine the reliefs in detail because of the excessive foreshortening of the spirals as he craned his neck upwards. It is unclear whether there were viewing terraces located on a second level, on the loggias of the libraries and the Basilica Ulpia, and it is highly unlikely that there was a terrace or balcony area in front of the Temple of the Divine Trajan. 55 At most, these higher vantage points would have allowed the viewer, at a distance of perhaps 9 meters (about 30 feet) from the ground and 6 meters (about 20 feet) from the Column, to scrutinize another three or four wind- ings closely. Even so, it would not have been possible to circle the Column from these hypothetical terraces. The ancient viewer did have one distinct advantage, however, for the relief was painted in realistic colors, and bronze weapons—today gone—would have completed the gestures of now empty-handed fighters. He could distinguish key players by matching up the colors of their distinctive dress: Trajan, Decebalus, the legionaries, and so on. Memory of both verbal and visual accounts would have also helped the contemporary spectator. Viewers of the Column—at least in the years immediately following the great conflict—would have had in their minds the stories of the campaigns of the war, narrated by storytellers and veterans, and read in Trajan’s own commentary. Visual accounts might include the triumphal paintings that soldiers carried in procession when Trajan celebrated the final victory, put on display in a public space after the celebration. 56 Gauer has pro- posed that there was a scale model of the Column, with detailed rendering of its reliefs, on view nearby. 57 I believe—but cannot prove—that Romans in Trajan’s time could have seen a copy of the Column’s reliefs at full scale, on display temporarily in the Basilica Ulpia itself or permanently in one of the many porticoes where Roman generals and em- perors had displayed art for over three centuries. But even with these aids, the experience of viewing the helical frieze on the Column itself was diªerent from that of hearing or reading the narrative—or even seeing it in ground-level replicas.

AUGUSTUS’S AND TRAJAN’S MESSAGES

35

VERTICAL READING

Scholars have convincingly argued that the artist planned for vertical reading patterns so that the viewer did not have to circle the Column. Instead of reading the helical frieze from right to left, as one reads lines of text, viewers scanned the Column from bottom to top while standing at one of the four sides of the plaza that contained it. 58 The Column is the most important axis-marker in the plan of the forum, and it has four distinct sides. The window slits that light the spiral staircase inside the column acknowledge these four sides: the architect centered them over the midpoints of the faces of the square base. The south side was the principal one, marked by the doorway into the Column base. Behind the door, within a special chamber to the north side of the pedestal, rested the ashes of Trajan and his wife Plotina. 59 The north side faced the front of the Temple of the Divine Trajan, both the expression of Trajan’s apotheosis and the end of the Forum’s long axis. East and west of the Column were the Greek and Latin libraries. From these four princi- pal viewing points, the ancient viewer could engage in reading correspondences between scenes and figures, his eye moving up and down the Column’s shaft. Both Brilliant and Settis illustrate how vertical reading would have created units of meaning for the ancient viewer. Brilliant proposes that following the helical frieze con- tinuously (an impossibility in fact) was an “annalistic” treatment, and that reading it in terms of Lehmann’s six repeated stock scenes was an “iconic” mode, but that recogniz- ing the relationships among vertical groups, with several windings together making a unit of meaning, was an “imagistic” code. 60 Settis expands upon Brilliant’s observations, pro- viding a complex menu of viewing possibilities. 61 Whether one agrees with either scholar’s proposed groupings in all their details, they emphasize how essential it is to consider the viewer’s activity in the act of “reading.” Unfortunately, despite the sophistication of their analysis, neither scholar questions who that viewer was: again the viewer is the omni- scient scholar. Burkhard Fehr is the only scholar to date to ask questions about the reception of the Column’s message by a specific group, in this case the noncombatant elites in Rome. 62 In “The Military as Visual Motif: Political Function and Group-specific Perception of the Forum and Column of Trajan,” he proposes that the special stress that the artist places on the careful organization and coordination of the army’s activities constituted a pointed message for a civilian audience, especially the senators and equestrians (equites). The artist devoted exceptional attention to spelling out the hierarchies within the Roman chain of command and to showing how Trajan commanded all the army’s personnel—from the elite praetorian guards all the way down to the most exotic and un-Roman barbarian troops. He depicts Trajan as the omnipresent First Leader (princeps), overseeing every detail of the campaigns: we see him marching with the troops, supervising the building of gar- risons, propitiating the gods with sacrifices, rousing his troops to fight, commanding the battles, and receiving barbarian delegations. Trajan represents the epitome of the most important Roman virtues: he exhibits virtus (manly courage), pietas (piety), clementia

36

IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

(clemency toward the enemy). In Fehr’s interpretation, these images of Trajan as able ad- ministrator and pious citizen had a pointed meaning for elite viewers: the Column’s em- phasis on clear organizational hierarchies was a metaphor for the organization of the Ro- man state. The Column’s message was that civic society should work like—and be as eªective as—Trajan’s military. I would like to pursue similar questions of reception by focusing on several diªerent kinds of viewers, all of them non-elite.

FINDING YOURSELF AND THE OTHER ON THE COLUMN OF TRAJAN

We have seen how the imagery of the Forum and Basilica set out a relationship among Trajan, the Dacians, and the army. We find this same relationship on the Column, where the artist gives to all three faces, bodies, costumes, and a script. In his visual realization he elaborates the identities of a great number of non-Romans—not just the Dacians and their allies but also the noncitizen members of the Army. I believe that the Column’s em- phasis on the non-Roman people on both sides of the war addressed a particular audi- ence in Rome, that of citizens of foreign communities (called peregrini), slaves, and for- mer slaves. 63 For them, the story on the Column was an account of the Roman system of conquest, colonization, and Romanization that they had experienced firsthand. Several historical observations are particularly relevant to understanding the reactions of non-elite viewers to the Column’s imagery. The Dacians, although barbarians in name, were representatives of a highly developed power. Their gold and silver mines produced great wealth. They were skilled warriors: they had successfully fought the Romans under Domitian (a.d. 85–89). 64 The Dacians willingly accepted Roman deserters—many of them specialists in building defenses and war machines. The Dacians also added to their might by striking alliances with other tribes of the region. Theirs was a stratified society, with Decebalus and the other nobles (called pileati because they wore conical hats) at the top, the comati, or shaggy-haired warriors, in the middle, and slaves at the bottom. The artist of the Column took some care to depict the Dacian hierarchy, including in his purview a variety of Dacian people—from high-ranking men, women, and children to the near-sav- age. Although the artist looked to models in Hellenistic art for some body types and com- positions, he does not present the Dacians as generic barbarians. It is true that the artist omits their armor (although captured Dacian armor appears on the Column’s base and in the Forum’s friezes), and he often shows them running from Roman pursuers, but he also communicates their valor. 65 Their fearless actions, such as the nobles’ mass-suicide within a besieged and doomed garrison, also come through clearly. 66 Finally, and most importantly for our purposes, the final fall of Dacia brought—in addition to tremendous wealth in silver and gold—50,000 Dacian slaves to Rome. 67 This was the last massive influx of slaves into the city. Because the paradigm of Black slavery, established in Europe and the Americas in the modern period, predominates in contemporary Euro-American constructions of slavery, it is important to stress that the majority of Roman slaves were Caucasian. Persons of all

AUGUSTUS’S AND TRAJAN’S MESSAGES

37

ethnicities could be—and were—slaves. Slaves coming from the great centers of Hel- lenistic culture, like Alexandria, Pergamon, and Athens, continued their professions in Rome. They served as teachers, scribes, secretaries, engineers, architects, and doctors. Slaves ran the businesses of their elite owners, who shrank from commerce. The prom- ise of freedom provided slaves the incentive for productivity: they could buy their free- dom or have it awarded for good service. 68 One cannot think of the system of Roman slavery without attending to the in-between status of freed slaves. Freedmen and freedwomen designated their status by the term li- bertini or liberti, abbreviated as l. or lib. in tomb inscriptions. Freedpersons still owed alle- giance to their former masters and often continued to oversee their masters’ commercial enterprises. But they were free to marry. Most importantly, although slaves became Ro- man citizens upon manumission, their civic privileges were limited. But their children would be freeborn and thus could claim the same rights as other freeborn citizens, in- cluding holding public o‹ces and priesthoods. 69 Parallel to the process of Roman slaves moving up in society through gaining free- dom was the process of becoming a Roman citizen through service in the army. The Ro- man army in Trajan’s time consisted of about 350,000 men. Of these, probably 140,000 were legionaries, several thousand praetorians, and about 200,000 auxiliaries. 70 Although only Roman citizens could serve in the legions and praetorian guard, the auxiliaries did not possess Roman citizenship. The Romans enrolled auxiliaries from among the for- mer barbarians living within conquered territories (peregrini). Further down in the army’s hierarchy were the symmachiarii. The term means “those who fight with” the army, and in the Dacian wars there is at least one named unit of symmachiarii (Asturum), recog- nizable on the Column because the men fight barechested. 71 For all of these non-Roman fighters the prize to be won—in addition to the meager pay—was Roman citizenship. 72 For the foreigner, slave, or former slave looking at the Column of Trajan, the abundant images of outsiders—both Dacians and non-Roman soldiers—constituted a visual digest of the steps such a person took from being outside the Roman system to being part of it. Just as he carefully diªerentiated among the Dacians and delineated their social hier- archies, the artist represented in remarkable detail the dress, weapons, fighting styles, and even the physiognomies of each component of Trajan’s army. Estimates place the num- ber of soldiers who crossed the Danube with Trajan into Dacian territories around 50,000, with a like number poised to protect garrisons on the river’s right bank. But for our in- vestigation the most interesting fact about the great war is this: men who were not Ro- man citizens did most of the fighting. As Rossi points out, there are twenty major battle scenes represented on the Column. The auxiliaries take part in nineteen of them, the le- gionaries and/or praetorians are to be found in seven, while auxilia and symmachiarii fight alone in twelve. Division of the labor of warfare is clearcut: legionaries build fortifications, handle provisioning and moving troops, and operate long-distance weapons such as the ballista, a crossbow with a range of 500 yards. 73 But in the fray of battle we see the non-Roman soldiers: the auxiliaries with their light

38

IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

armor and oval shields; symmachiarii, barechested and fighting with clubs; 74 the light cavalry from Mauretania (modern-day Morocco) in North Africa, with their corkscrew curls; 75 Syrian archers with conical helmets and long dresses; 76 and slingshot fighters from Spain. 77 In addition to their distinctive dress and weapons, the auxiliaries and irregular soldiers retain barbarous traits: only auxiliaries, for example, bring back bloody enemy heads to show to Trajan. 78 Trajan—as the bulk of the evidence indicates—was the patron of the Column, overseeing its imagery in some manner—perhaps quite directly. 79 He wanted to make it clear what a prominent role non-Romans took in winning the victory, and that the Dacians were worthy opponents. Why? For all viewers, the images of non-Romans helping the Romans suggested that Ro- man power was so great that it organized even barbarians. 80 But for the non-elites who looked at the Column, its message was more pointed. It told the outsider—foreigner, slave, and even ex-slave—that the non-Romans were fighting the war both to serve Trajan, the best prince of all, and to become full-fledged Romans. For a man serving in the auxil- iaries or even as a symmachiarius, the greatest prize was to win honors and even citi- zenship. Twenty-five years’ service—or exceptional valor—brought these non-Romans citizenship. 81 Rossi points out that of the seventy-six units of auxilia (both alae of cavalry and cohortes of infantry) that served in the Dacian Wars, seventeen have the title “of Ro- man citizens” (civium Romanorum) on their unit’s name. 82 The inscriptions in the attic stories of the Forum may have even demonstrated this process of gaining citizenship through valor with the abbreviation c. R. There is yet another parallel between the military model and the civic model of work- ing one’s way up: it seems likely that the east apse of the Basilica Ulpia was the Atrium Libertatis (Hall of Freedom), where the ceremony of giving slaves their freedom took place. 83 Viewers who had received their freedom in the Basilica must have felt a special a‹nity for the image on the Column showing Trajan himself awarding money (and per- haps citizenship) to courageous outsider soldiers. This scene, called the dona militaria, shows an auxiliary soldier kneeling at the emperor’s feet and kissing his hand; a second soldier departs carrying a sack of booty on his shoulder (fig. 15). 84 Finally, beyond these two ways of becoming fully Roman—manumission from slav- ery and service in the army—there was the process of being conquered and annexed to the Empire. This is the action that the Romans finally take against the Dacians. At the top of the Column, after Decebalus’s suicide, we see Roman soldiers destroying Dacian towns and forcing their inhabitants to relocate at new settlements outside of Dacia. 85 For a peregrinus, these images of dislocation and forced Romanization may have represented both the tyranny of colonial practice and the eªective erasure of his or her culture. Just as the barbarian serving in the army would gradually give up native dress and religion, so Roman conquerors did everything possible to “civilize” the natives of a region. Pointedly, after the failed first campaign of the Dacian wars, the artist devotes consid- erable space to representing the army’s progress through Dalmatia—already Romanized— where the emperor sacrifices to the acclaim of the Romanized population in a Roman-

AUGUSTUS’S AND TRAJAN’S MESSAGES

39

FIGURE 15 Rome, Column of Trajan, XLII–XLV. Dona militaria. style walled city with beautifully rendered

FIGURE 15

Rome, Column of Trajan, XLII–XLV. Dona militaria.

style walled city with beautifully rendered temple and theater. 86 In the further reaches of Dalmatia, the Romans appear in fortified towns where local deities have merged with the Roman pantheon. As Trajan advances into Dacia he once again sacrifices at an altar sur- rounded by a mixed population. The men, women, and children—in both Roman and Dacian-looking dress—acclaim their emperor. 87 In contrast, the desperate vanquished Dacians in the Column’s last windings were the raw material that Trajan would make into new Romans. Many of the viewers, themselves fully assimilated foreigners, must have remembered this process of Romanization from their own experiences. The largely positive emphasis on the non-Roman, the Other, within the complex of Forum, Basilica, and Column leads one to suspect that Trajan was trying to compensate for the negative side of the story. In fact, in Rome it was becoming more di‹cult for freed- men to move up in society, partly because Trajan himself helped to establish the legal dis- tinctions between the upper orders (the honestiores) and the lower (the humiliores) that we discussed in the Introduction. 88 No matter how wealthy they became, freedmen remained humiliores, and suªered greater penalties than the honestiores in every aspect of civic

40

IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

life, from payment of taxes to penal actions. 89 This de facto suppression of the freedmen class enhanced the opportunities of freeborn “new men” (novi homines) from the provinces to gain political clout at Rome. Trajan himself was a new man from Italica in the province of Baetica, near modern Seville, Spain. 90 In mapping out the concept of self-improvement through Romanization, Trajan’s Forum, Basilica, and Column proclaimed a benevolence that masked the hard realities for outsiders—especially the non-elite functionaries—the slave and freedmen lawyers, doctors, architects, engineers, surveyors, and teachers who would have frequented the Forum and especially the libraries flanking the Column. 91 Tra- jan’s complex projected a success story, where the Emperor’s virtues and the army’s obe- dience to the rules brought about victory through hard and persistent work.

A free foreigner from the Danube region viewing the Column’s imagery would have

recognized the people—perhaps his former neighbors—and would have recalled his own experiences of the imposition of Roman military and civic order. He may have either ap- plauded or detested the way the Column translated the conquest into heroic, monumental

form. As a person who had left his “barbarian” homeland for the Romans’ capital city, he may have enjoyed its grand public spaces, its complex civic order, and its systems of pub- lic assistance for the working and unemployed poor. Or he may have rankled at the way the Column celebrated Rome’s inflexible cultural imperialism.

If our viewer was still a slave, the imagery of the Column, Basilica, and Forum may

have held out the promise of freedom. Nevertheless it constituted a warning that Roman virtues, rather than Dacian or other “barbarian” virtues, were the ones to cultivate. If he was already free, the imagery laid out—in military terms—the steps to greater prestige and glory through service to the princeps. A recently freed slave, thinking on his hard- won status, would have understood the parallels to the path he had taken and the dreams he might have for his children.

Trajan’s forum marked both a high point and a fault line in the Empire. Although his suc- cessor, Hadrian, put a stop to further expansion of the Empire, it became increasingly di‹cult to control barbarian incursions, with the result that Marcus Aurelius (161–180) spent most of his rule fighting barbarians in the north. By the time of Marcus Aurelius’s death it was clear that the good old days were not to return. In the following chapter we look at new visual strategies for projecting the emperor’s numinous power—and the sup- posed harmony within Roman society—to ordinary viewers.

AUGUSTUS’S AND TRAJAN’S MESSAGES

41

2

THE ALL-SEEING EMPEROR AND ORDINARY VIEWERS

MARCUS AURELIUS AND CONSTANTINE

To communicate their intended messages to non-elites, the Ara Pacis and the Column of Trajan had to show the emperor participating in Roman religion and military service. On the Ara Pacis, Augustus appears not as omnipotent, divinized emperor but as high- priest of the Roman state religion, as pontifex maximus. Similarly, Trajan is the high mil- itary commander, not the divine Trajan he becomes after his death. If most viewers rec- ognized and embraced the fiction of the emperor as first citizen, it was because they could still believe in social mobility. With endless war, economic instability, and natural disas- ters plaguing the empire during the second half of the second century, such sanguine faith in the future became increasingly fragile. New representations of the emperor’s re- lationship with his subjects had to address the changed social order. No monument bet- ter encodes these changes than the Column of Marcus Aurelius.

COMMUNICATING THE EMPEROR’S POWER AND TRANSCENDENCE:

THE COLUMN OF MARCUS AURELIUS

Rome saw momentous changes in the eighty years separating the dedication of the Col- umn of Trajan and the completion of its “twin,”the Column celebrating Marcus Aurelius’s victories over a host of trans-Danubian barbarians. Trajan’s Column shows its viewers— both elite and non-elite—how to achieve success: it preaches the virtues of military or-

ganization, right handling of the barbarian enemy, and the proper steps to becoming an insider to Roman culture. Even though closely modeled on the Column of Trajan, the Column of Marcus Aurelius presents no such recipes for success. In place of the balance of forces—emperor, barbarian, and army—that rationalizes warfare through its visual organization, the Column of Marcus Aurelius isolates and elevates the emperor. It is his transcendent power that brings victory: power over his army that makes it invincible against the ghastly barbarian enemy—and, by extension, his power that sustains Rome itself. How did the artist, working with the Column of Trajan as a model, create this new image? The artist both pared down details and employed remarkable new formal devices to increase legibility. This unknown—and sadly underrated—master was one of the major exponents of the new visual language that modern art history calls the Late Antique. 1 Many of his devices have to do with composition: he reduced the number of windings from twenty-three to twenty to allow a slight increase in their height; he placed fewer figures in his compositions, and he eliminated complex details of landscape and architecture. Other devices have to do with style: he made the relief deeper, with ample use of the run- ning and stationary drill to create dramatic detachment of light from shadow—this in contrast to the even modeling and fussy detail on Trajan’s Column. His most striking device is the so-called frontal composition. 2 If in looking at the Col- umn of Trajan, we seem to be watching the unfolding of a story within its own space— “out there”—it is because the artist emphasizes the landscape setting, and consistently combines profile views with the figures’ left-to-right movement. Not so with the Column of Marcus Aurelius; the artist emphasizes figures rather than their setting, and he con- stantly interrupts left-to-right reading patterns with eye-catching frontal compositions. Two symmetrical groups will meet at a center point, as in the macabre scene of Marco- manni forced to behead their own countrymen (fig. 16). Most frequently, it is Marcus Aurelius who is in the center of a symmetrical grouping, represented frontally or in three- quarters view, so that he looks out at you. This constitutes, in contrast to the predomi- nantly profile rendering of Trajan and his soldiers, direct address to the viewer and a rup- ture of the “annalistic” reading of the helical frieze. These are the formal means that connect image with viewer in such a forceful new way. What new content does this new style serve? The answer to this question lies in the element of the Column of Marcus Aurelius that diverges the most from its predecessor—its base. Unfortunately, it is also the element that is the hardest to analyze, for it has suªered the greatest damage. Because two-thirds of the base lies buried, its original profile and configuration, as well as the relation of the column to surrounding buildings, is still conjectural. The original doorway opening into the base lies 2.65 meters (8 1 / 2 feet) below the modern piazza. Yet the other ancient build- ings and streets around the column were 3 meters (10 feet) lower than this entrance. In his comparative study of the Column of Trajan and the Column of Marcus Aurelius, Giu- seppe Gatti concluded that the two columns, although nearly identical in their proportions,

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43

FIGURE 16 Rome, Column of Marcus Aurelius, LXI. Marcomanni beheading their countrymen. FIGURE 17 Rome,

FIGURE 16

Rome, Column of Marcus Aurelius, LXI. Marcomanni beheading their countrymen.

Marcus Aurelius, LXI. Marcomanni beheading their countrymen. FIGURE 17 Rome, Column of Marcus Aurelius, base. Detail

FIGURE 17

Rome, Column of Marcus Aurelius, base. Detail of engraving by Vico, 1540.

had quite diªerent eªects on the viewer. Whereas the Column of Trajan occupied a small and enclosed space, that of Marcus Aurelius dominated all the buildings of the Cam- pus Martius, so that a viewer traveling along the via Flaminia would have seen the bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius at its top, nearly 50 meters (about 163 feet) above. 3 On the one hand, it is di‹cult to assess the eªect that the Column’s higher elevation had on the viewer—other than making the reliefs that wind around it harder to read from the ground. The eªect of the big figural relief on the base, on the other hand, contrasts strikingly with the representation of piled-up arms that covers the base of the Column of Trajan. We can reconstruct part of the imagery on the base of the Column of Marcus Aure- lius using drawings and prints made before 1589, when Domenico Fontana, at the order of Pope Sixtus V, shaved oª all remaining relief decoration. 4 Francisco d’Ollanda’s draw- ing of 1539–40 shows the north side, decorated with the figures of four equally spaced victories who stand with swagged garlands between them. 5 Scholars assume that the artist repeated this subject on the west and south sides of the base. Enea Vico’s engraving, ex- ecuted around 1540, gives us a view of the principal frieze that faced the via Flaminia. 6 Here the artist employed the same kind of frontal composition that appears repeatedly in the helical frieze—although on a much larger scale (fig. 17). Its purpose was to artic- ulate the relationship between Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, his son and heir to the throne. Commodus, in fact, did not appear in the reliefs above. 7 Two figures dominate the center of the relief, and they balance each other in pose. The man on the right, dressed in a cuirass partially covered by a cloak, looks out at the viewer while extending his right arm toward the man on the left, who wears a body-cuirass and turns toward a group of two kneeling barbarians guarded by two standing Roman sol- diers. Becatti convincingly identified the pair as Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, and proposed that the smaller figure at the center who looks toward Commodus and the bar- barians might be Pompeianus, the emperor’s right-hand man who accompanied him throughout the long campaigns. 8 Commodus’s dramatic gesture of delivering the captive barbarians to Marcus Aurelius asserts his key role in both the war and the victory. By plac- ing himself in this large relief, the most conspicuous and legible on the Column, Com- modus made the Column a victory monument that advertised his close relation with his heroic father. The composition itself is not new. It is a stock scene of submission (submissio) that an ancient viewer would have recognized because it appeared everywhere: on coins, in re- liefs, and in statuary groups. Since it is likely that Commodus himself commissioned the Column, the role he gave himself on its base constituted wishful thinking. 9 After Mar- cus died in the field in 180, Commodus—no soldier like his father—hastily concluded the burdensome warfare by buying oª the Marcomanni and Sarmatians. 10 Commodus manipulated history not only by highlighting his role in the barbarians’ submission, but also by using Trajan’s Column as a model. The Column of Marcus Aurelius is one of

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45

history’s great examples of compensatory appropriation or, perhaps better put, acclamation by association. It is not hard to understand that Commodus wished the Column to proclaim absolute victory over rude and worthless barbarians: for a whole gen- eration Rome had suªered the barbarian crisis, years of plague, and repeated threats of economic collapse. Nor is the artist’s framing of Marcus Aurelius as a godlike philosopher- emperor di‹cult to comprehend, given Commodus’s need to establish his father as a god. Yet why, in view of the Column of Trajan’s optimistic messages for the peregrinus, slave, and ex-slave, and even for foreigners along the Danube, does the Column of Mar- cus Aurelius remove so many nuances? The barbarians become generic, suªering, sav- age creatures; the army homogeneous and robot-like; the emperor a commander, yes, but one with numinous powers who stares out at the viewers as often as he looks at his men. If we consider the Column’s setting, we see that it is a monument to dynasty. Trajan did not adopt his successor, Hadrian—unless on his deathbed. Unlike Augustus, who made his burial place—and even his forum—a statement about the foundation and con- tinuation of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Trajan made no proclamation of a blood dynasty. His plans for succession were unclear at the time of his premature death, since he had not named an heir. Although he planned from the beginning to be buried in the base of his Column, the column itself constitutes a statement of but one of the accomplishments of his reign. 11 By contrast, everything about the setting of the Column of Marcus Aure- lius conveys the notion of dynasty. It connects visually and physically with a group of mon- uments erected by the Antonines, starting with Hadrian’s Mausoleum, to the west, and the Temple of the Deified Hadrian, to the south, and continuing with the nearby cremation- sanctuary (ustrinum) and column of Antoninus Pius and Faustina (fig. 18). 12 Paradoxically, both Hadrian and Antoninus Pius had to adopt their heirs, their own male children having died, so that Commodus was the only bloodline Antonine. It is clear that the Column was of utmost importance in advertising his lineage. He placed the Col- umn within the precinct honoring the deceased members of the Antonine dynasty, thereby using it to align himself with his father’s valor and, by association, with that of Trajan. Furthermore, Commodus appeared in the Column’s most conspicuous position, in the submission scene that adorned its base, facing the via Flaminia. These messages of vic- tory, piety, and dynastic succession addressed all viewers, elite and non-elite alike. But in the end, Commodus proved to be the weakest of the Antonines. Angry at his excesses, his advisers had him strangled by a champion wrestler on 31 December 192. Analysis of what the artist (and therefore Commodus, the patron) chose to include and exclude from the menu oªered by the Column of Trajan allows us to pinpoint the Col- umn’s messages to the non-elite viewer. In content the Column of Marcus Aurelius is even less a historical record than that of Trajan. The artist copied many scenes from the Column of Trajan directly, even retaining their relative places in the windings: the army’s march across a pontoon bridge at the beginning of the frieze; the figure of Victory writ- ing on a shield halfway up—facing the via Flamina just as in the submission scene on the base; the legionaries assaulting a barbarian gate in the tortoise (testudo) formation,

46

IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

Mausoleum of Augustus N Ustrinum of Augustus Sundial of Augustus Ara Pacis Obelisk of Augustus
Mausoleum
of Augustus
N
Ustrinum
of Augustus
Sundial
of Augustus
Ara Pacis
Obelisk
of Augustus
Column of
Antoninus
Ustrinum of
Pius
Marcus Aurelius
VIA
FLAMINIA
DEL CORSO/ VIA
Ustrinum of
Column of
Antoninus Pius
Marcus Aurelius
VIA
DI
RIPETTA

VIA RECTA

FIGURE 18

Rome, plan of area around Column of Marcus Aurelius.

their shields interwoven to cover the top and sides of a walking wedge. The six stock scenes appear as well, with the diªerence that the artist has pared the scenes of building down to just two, 13 in contrast to the nineteen on the Column of Trajan (where the artist even provides an elaborate scene of Dacians building fortifications). 14 The only stock scenes to appear in equal numbers on both columns are those of battles and of barbarian en- voys. Unique to the Column are two “miracles.” The artist pictured two natural catastro- phes that the Romans took to be miracles: lightning striking and destroying an enemy siege engine, 15 and a violent rainstorm in the land of the Quadii that devastated the en- emy while providing much-needed water for the Romans. 16

READING PATTERNS, THE ART OF COMPARISON, AND RHETORICAL ADDRESS

Fundamental to the practice of art history is the slide comparison; Heinrich Wöl›in’s use of lantern-slide comparisons to illustrate his lectures at the turn of the century was

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47

FIGURE 19 Rome, Column of Trajan, CXXXVI–CXXXVII. Adlocutio with “horseshoe” composition. FIGURE 20 Rome, Column

FIGURE 19

Rome, Column of Trajan, CXXXVI–CXXXVII. Adlocutio with “horseshoe” composition.

Adlocutio with “horseshoe” composition. FIGURE 20 Rome, Column of Marcus Aurelius, IX. Adlocutio

FIGURE 20

Rome, Column of Marcus Aurelius, IX. Adlocutio with “horseshoe” composition.

perhaps the founding moment of the modern discipline. 17 Visual comparison of two similar but distinct artworks is a pedagogical technique that facilitates discussion of for- mal and stylistic diªerences, period style, dating, and even the flow of iconographical mod- els. Seen from the perspective of the discipline of art history, the two columns are a ready- made slide lecture, and much of the art-historical literature treats them as such. We assume, perhaps, that the ancient Roman viewer saw the same similarities and diªer- ences as we do, but unless Commodus arranged an exhibition with images of the two columns’ reliefs arranged side-by-side at ground level, the ancient viewer had nothing like our photographic comparisons. Furthermore, he or she was not an art historian, but a person with a diªerent set of cultural practices, who had specific ideas about im- itation and oratory. For someone who had regularly viewed the Column of Trajan over a period of many years, seeing the Column of Marcus Aurelius, freshly freed of its scaªolding, would have been like seeing an old friend in new or unusual clothes. The shape and size were right; so were the dominant features. Yet the details were diªerent. Vertical sweeps of the im- agery would have assured the viewer that essential scenes were there: the scenes copied directly from the Column of Trajan, such as the initial Danube crossing, the Victory halfway up, the testudo, and so on. He would have identified the stock scenes easily, perhaps not- ing how the artist had nearly edited out scenes of building while increasing the brutality of the battle scenes. But what would have stood out most in comparing the two columns were the new frontal compositions featuring the emperor, framed symmetrically and look- ing out. Trajan never looks out at the viewer—not even in those scenes of adlocutio where his soldiers group around him in a horseshoe formation, so that we look over the shoulders of the ones closest to us (fig. 19). Trajan’s head may be in three-quarter’s view, but he is still clearly speaking to his soldiers: he is not addressing us, the viewers. The ancient viewer would have noticed that Marcus Aurelius, in contrast to Trajan, was addressing him or her—even in the scenes of address to the soldiers. Marcus, like the orator speak- ing from the rostra in the Forum, casts his gaze and directs his gestures toward the viewer (fig. 20). Habits of vertical reading that the viewer had formed in sorting out the imagery on the older Column would have found distinct—even dramatic—reinforcement on the new one. The symmetrical compositions with matching elements to either side of the central figure of Marcus Aurelius (his clothing probably of a distinctive color) emphasized the vertical axis traced by the viewer’s eye moving up and down the column’s side; such com- positions were far more direct in the Column of Marcus Aurelius than in the Column of Trajan. By depicting the emperor’s face frontally, looking out at the viewer, the artist was setting up visual oratory. Marcus Aurelius directly addressed the viewer in the plaza be- low. The emperor, now deceased and deified, was stepping out of the historical past to speak to him or her in the present.

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FIGURE 21 Rome, Column of Marcus Aurelius, LXVII. Soldiers on the march. ABSTRACTION, EMPATHY, AND

FIGURE 21

Rome, Column of Marcus Aurelius, LXVII. Soldiers on the march.

ABSTRACTION, EMPATHY, AND TRANSCENDENT LEADERSHIP

It seems likely that four generations after the completion of the Column of Trajan, when the events and places of the Dacian wars had receded from collective memory, ancient viewers must have found many of the scenes and details on the Column of Trajan di‹cult to decipher. There was less detail to speculate about on the new Column. Its simpler, less cluttered scenes, rendered in frontal compositions with deep chiaroscuro, encouraged the viewer to see them as symbolic condensations rather than specific elements of a lin- ear history or narrative. Soldiers are no longer individuals, striking varied, naturalistic poses. When they march, they march as a unit: the artist simplifies their movement through conspicuous repeti- tion to make them as one (fig. 21). When they kill, they kill e‹ciently; in contrast to the Column of Trajan, there are no dramatic battles of uncertain outcome. Furthermore, there is much less space for barbarians, whether in battle or scenes portraying envoys. In con- trast to the Column of Trajan’s eªorts to portray the Dacians as complex and noble op- ponents, the artist of the Column of Marcus Aurelius eliminates signs of the enemy’s hi- erarchical organization, building achievements, and way of life.

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IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

FIGURE 22 Rome, Column of Marcus Aurelius, LXVIII–LXIX. Execution of barbarians. FIGURE 23 Rome, Column

FIGURE 22

Rome, Column of Marcus Aurelius, LXVIII–LXIX. Execution of barbarians.

FIGURE 23

Rome, Column of Marcus Aurelius, LXXIX. Pursuit of barbarian women.

of Marcus Aurelius, LXXIX. Pursuit of barbarian women. What is new are images of the horrors

What is new are images of the horrors of war: the stabbing of barbarians with spears, the pursuit of a fleeing barbarian woman with child, and gruesome mass decapitation (figs. 22 and 23; see also fig. 16). The artist of the Column of Marcus Aurelius strives for expressive eªects rather than classical balance by making his figures plunge headlong into battle, grimace pathetically, and die brutally—not posing them prettily like the dead on the Column of Trajan. Often, like Marcus Aurelius, barbarians look directly out of the action at the viewer, as if to plead for mercy from the spectator. These pathetic figures might have reminded Roman viewers of the amphitheater, where vanquished gladiators pleaded for their lives with similar gestures.

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FIGURE 24

Rome, Column of Marcus Aurelius, CI. Messenger arriving.

24 Rome, Column of Marcus Aurelius, CI. Messenger arriving. The message to the elite is relatively

The message to the elite is relatively simple: the emperor is invincible and his army an e‹cient fighting machine even against a wild and savage threat. The outcome is— and always will be—victory. For the foreigner, slave, and freedman the picture is much less optimistic, for the imagery on the Column of Marcus Aurelius oªers no pattern for progress through the ranks in its depiction of either barbarians or army. It oªers, instead, the barbarian as monster, freak, and nonhuman, incapable of redemption by Romaniza- tion. Nor does the representation of the army emphasize the diversity of its makeup; much more important, in this time of crisis, to represent the army as a monolithic fighting ma- chine that will protect the city and its inhabitants. The emperor’s agency, too, has changed. If the Column of Trajan conveys a message of social order—and an ordered moving through the ranks—to achieve Romanness, it is because of Trajan’s constant engagement in details of organization. By presenting him always in profile view, looking into the unfolding action, the artist emphasizes Trajan’s executive role. By showing Marcus Aurelius in frontal view, the artist suggests that the emperor, although engaged in action, does not need to be engaged—whether he is ad- dressing his troops, performing a sacrifice, or observing a messenger entering camp (fig. 24). How would the foreigner, slave, and freedman have understood this visual rep- resentation of Marcus’s power? On the one hand, the contemporary viewer may have known that Marcus Aurelius was a Stoic, who proclaimed his Stoic way of life in his Meditations. 18 On the Column his actions demonstrate Stoic virtues, along with the virtues of pietas (respect for the gods) and clementia (clemency), especially evident in Marcus’s relationship to the two miracu-

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IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

lous events depicted: the lightning bolt that destroys the enemy’s siege engine and the wondrous rain in the land of the Quadii. 19 Seen in this light, the Column is an exemplum virtutis (model of virtue) for the common person. The emperor looks out at the non-elite viewer in the same way that he looks out at his army, and his exhortation to both is the same: obey and act together for the common good. Even while Marcus Aurelius is ad- dressing his troops he is addressing you; just as they achieve victory against savage non- Roman forces through unquestioning obedience, so should you stay in your place and obey. You are part of a civilian order, and like the army, you are a cog in the machinery of Rome. Only by obedience to the emperor and the state will you achieve the virtuous life and a dignified death, and be remembered after death. On the other hand, Commodus, as the patron of the Column, may have pushed the artist to make Marcus Aurelius’s power seem to be that of a god. His power is spiritual— divine even—a power beyond the moderate limits of Marcus’s Stoic beliefs. Perhaps the ordinary viewer saw this divinity in the way the artist framed Marcus frontally, in isola- tion, and usually in nonmilitary garb. His gaze met the viewer’s—especially viewers like foreigners and slaves who might question his authority—as an icon of power, strength, and invincibility. Marcus Aurelius did not win wars, like Trajan, through careful atten- tion to administrative duties, through rational planning and action; he won because he was a god.

SEPTIMIUS SEVERUS, THE AGE OF CRISIS, AND DIOCLETIAN’S NEW STATE ORDER

The Column of Marcus Aurelius is the visual expression of the profound changes in the empire that Commodus’s disastrous reign exacerbated: by the time Septimius Severus took control of the chaos in Rome, the tide had definitively turned against the time-hon- ored systems of dynasty, army, and empire. Septimius, son of an equestrian, was born in Leptis Magna in North Africa. At the time of Commodus’s assassination, he was gover- nor of Upper Pannonia and commander of the largest army on the Danube. On April 13, 193, his troops proclaimed him emperor. Once his claim was secure, he “joined” the An- tonine dynasty by proclaiming his posthumous adoption by Marcus Aurelius, a fiction meant to cover the fact that he did not inherit the throne—he took it by military force. 20 Septimius then founded his own dynasty, arranging for his sons, Caracalla and Geta, to succeed him as co-emperors. (Caracalla then murdered his brother to become sole ruler.) In 203 Septimius erected two arches to commemorate his great victory over the Parthi- ans, one in the Roman Forum, the other in his native city. The arch in Rome established new formal and iconographical conventions that proclaimed the full-blown Late Antique— the Change in Style come to fruition. 21 It was also the primary model for Rome’s last tri- umphal arch, that of Constantine, completed 112 years later. 22 Of its many stylistic and compositional innovations, the most important for this investigation of the non-elite viewer’s reception was the artists’ new conception of the human figure, especially in the

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FIGURE 25 Rome, Arch of Septimius Severus, Roman Forum, southwest panel. Adlocutio. four relief panels

FIGURE 25

Rome, Arch of Septimius Severus, Roman Forum, southwest panel. Adlocutio.

four relief panels that told the story of the Parthian wars. One artist in particular, the “Se- veran Master,” completely rejected the proportional system inherited from Hellenistic art that prescribed figures eight or nine heads high. 23 The “new” man was much shorter and stockier—six or seven heads high. Deep furrows made by the running drill created black outlines separating one figure from the next, yet the overall impression was of blocks of individuals acting as one. Instead of using variations in facial and figural types to distin- guish one man from another, the artist repeated the same type to convey the men’s col- lective action as a single unit. 24 If on the Column of Marcus Aurelius the artist sacrificed the individuality of the sol- dier and the barbarian for eªects of unified action and reaction, he still articulated diªer- ence in pose and demeanor. Looking at the soldiers listening to Septimius’s harangue on the Arch, however, a viewer found little diªerentiation; the soldiers constitute a homo- geneous block, all equally intent on the emperor’s words (fig. 25). This momentous change in visual representation finds its fullest expression on the Arch of Constantine. The great hiatus in state-sponsored art and architecture in Rome between the murder of Caracalla in 217 and Diocletian’s accession in 284 reflects the focus on the provinces and away from Rome during the so-called age of the soldier emperors. Many of these em- perors did not reign long enough to commission new monuments for the city of Rome. For all practical purposes, during this period it was the army who proclaimed and de- posed emperors, not the Senate and certainly not the Roman people. Between Caracalla

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IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

FIGURE 26 Venice, St. Mark’s Basilica. Tetrarchs. and Diocletian there were fully twenty-two claimants to

FIGURE 26

Venice, St. Mark’s Basilica. Tetrarchs.

and Diocletian there were fully twenty-two claimants to the throne, some with reigns as short as a month, and often with several rival emperors claiming the throne at the same time. 25 Diocletian decentralized power and put it where it would do the most good. Rome, al- though still the capital, was no longer the sole seat of imperial power. Four rulers, or te- trarchs, each with his own capital, divided the empire’s defense and administration. An Augustus of the West, based in Milan, shared power equally with an Augustus of the East, headquartered in Nicomedia (present-day Iznik across the straits of the Bosporus from Istanbul). Another set of twin rulers, called Caesares, oversaw the farther reaches of the empire: one at modern-day Trier in Germany and the other stationed at Thessalonica, in northern Greece. 26 Images of the tetrarchs, looking for all the world like two sets of iden- tical twins visually cemented in reciprocal embrace, reinforced the central ideology: that the Augusti held equal power as the senior rulers and, like them, the Caesares shared equal power as junior rulers—and that they were happy about the fact (fig. 26). At the twenty- year anniversary of the Augusti’s reigns, they were to abdicate peacefully, allowing the Caesares to become Augusti: the new Augusti would then appoint new Caesares. This

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four-part division of territory and power, coupled with a ladder-of-succession system, ad- dressed the need to defend the empire from strategically located capitals; it also improved control over the army, a force of over 400,000 men—many of whom had never set foot in Italy, let alone in Rome. The cost to individuals of Diocletian’s reforms was great. To control headlong inflation, he established maximum prices for goods and services. 27 He tied men and women to their land and to their professions in an eªort to stabilize production and discourage flight to the cities, where many lived on the dole. The new system of taxation-in-kind addressed the pay and supply of the army. 28 L’Orange characterizes Diocletian’s reforms as the es- tablishment of the Dominate in place of the Principate: if the old emperors followed Au- gustus in declaring themselves simply “first citizen,” or princeps, Diocletian and his co- Augustus, Maximian, were definitively the domini: lords and masters. 29 The harmony projected by both textual and visual representations of the tetrarchs masked conflict, and although Diocletian’s scheduled abdication after twenty years’ co- rule saw a bloodless change of regime, the tetrarchy was doomed. In the years of turmoil between 303 and 312 that culminated in Constantine wresting full power from his rivals, all the inhabitants of the empire accepted the fact that life would never be as it had been in the good old days. 30 They eulogized the “Good Emperors”—Augustus, Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius—as embodiments of what they had lost. The Arch of Constantine— even more than the Column of Marcus Aurelius—systematically appropriated the rep- resentations of these Good Emperors even while forging powerful visual codes to illus- trate the new order. Its messages to the non-elite were clear and unequivocal.

THE GOOD EMPERORS AND CONSTANTINE

If Commodus, in creating the Column of Marcus Aurelius in the likeness of Trajan’s, forged a set of comparisons to demonstrate that the two men were alike in their victories and virtues, Constantine created such far-ranging comparisons between himself and for- mer emperors that they surpassed his own images on his Arch in number and in size. 31 Clearly he wanted to create a monument where his presence became so understated that his identity merged with that of his illustrious predecessors. The form of his arch follows that of the Arch of Septimius Severus in the Roman Forum (fig. 27). 32 But rather than using an existing monument’s form and type of relief decoration, as Commodus did, Con- stantine actually removed sculpture from various monuments of the Good Emperors— Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius—and incorporated them into his Arch. The sculp- ture he took included relief panels and single statues, and although he had sculptors recarve some of the heads of his illustrious predecessors to resemble himself and his co-regent Licinius, the contemporary viewer would have realized from their style alone that they belonged to former ages. 33 Constantine’s artist did everything possible to diªerentiate his own work from the spo- lia (the scholarly term for art appropriated from existing monuments and reused). 34 The

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IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

FIGURE 27 Rome, Arch of Constantine, view from north. Constantinian decorative program (with the exception

FIGURE 27

Rome, Arch of Constantine, view from north.

Constantinian decorative program (with the exception of the two round reliefs on the Arch’s short east and west sides) does not fit in with the spolia but rather stands out by reason of its diªerences in size, style, and position on the Arch. 35 Scholars have debated Con- stantine’s motives in commissioning this strange monument—always di‹cult to explain because of its contrasts. It is a well-made, gigantic structure, yet they have called its con- temporary decoration everything from “degenerate” to “the fulfillment of Late Antique style.” 36 Many attribute Constantine’s use of spolia to his haste to complete the monu- ment, whereas others emphasize the propaganda value of such use. 37 I would like to step back for a moment from these art-historical controversies to try to establish what mean- ings this new monument in Rome’s center might have had for the contemporary, non- elite viewer. Constantine chose an important site for his arch that provided a new entryway expe- rience to the Roman Forum even while defining a new set of relationships with existing monuments (fig. 28). 38 In Constantine’s version of the facts, the triumph that the arch

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FIGURE 28 Rome, plan with path from Arch of Constantine to Arch of Septimius Severus.

FIGURE 28

Rome, plan with path from Arch of Constantine to Arch of Septimius Severus.

path from Arch of Constantine to Arch of Septimius Severus. celebrated was his “liberation” of Rome

celebrated was his “liberation” of Rome from Maxentius, a usurper who controlled the city until Constantine defeated him at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge on 28 October 312. The arch spans a most important road, the Triumphal Way (via Triumphalis) leading from the Circus Maximus (recently restored by Constantine) to the Forum. Along this route the Ro- man people had seen the great triumphal processions of the past. (The Triumphal Way eventually connects with the main artery to the south, the via Appia, and also marks the point where four city districts, or regiones, meet.) Entering the city center along the path of the triumph on this road and approaching the arch from the south, a viewer would have noticed how the arch framed views of the 100-foot Colossus of Sol (the Sun God), axially aligned with the center of the arch. As Mark Wilson Jones has pointed out, Con- stantine identified himself with Sol Invictus (Omnipotent, or Unconquered, Sun) before his move toward the god of the Christians, also identified with the Sun in the cult of Christ- Helios. 39 As the viewer passed through the arch, the Colosseum came into full unob- structed view. Perhaps people recalled that a Good Emperor, Vespasian, had built the Colos- seum on the site of the lake that was the centerpiece of Nero’s infamous urban villa, the Golden House. In building the Colosseum there Vespasian returned the center of the city to the people while creating a monumental amphitheater for their entertainment. When the viewer turned left, another enormous building by a Good Emperor, Hadrian’s temple to Venus and Roma, loomed from above its high podium. Maxentius had recently rebuilt it, and Constantine had installed a shrine to his family, the second gens Flavia, in the east cella of the temple of Venus and Roma. 40 Behind it, farther to the west and now dominating the Forum, was the basilica begun by Maxentius and finished by Con- stantine; its high cross vaults may have been visible to a viewer turning west toward the Forum. Ahead, the Arch of Titus marked the entrance to the Sacred Way. Standing under the vault of the Arch of Titus, the viewer saw the Sacred Way descending into the Forum; the terminus of this view was the speaker’s platform or rostra; behind it was the Arch of Sep- timius Severus, twin to the Arch of Constantine. In between Septimius’s arch and the

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IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

FIGURE 29 Rome, Arch of Constantine. Oratio. rostra rose a recent monument celebrating the Tetrarchy:

FIGURE 29

Rome, Arch of Constantine. Oratio.

rostra rose a recent monument celebrating the Tetrarchy: five monumental columns serv- ing as pedestals for statues of Jupiter and the four tetrarchs. 41 Together, the rostra, the five-column monument, and the Arch of Septimius Severus constituted the ideological and physical focus of the Roman Forum. 42 And this is exactly where Constantine’s artist placed the emperor in the small frieze that runs around the arch just below the attic level (fig. 29). In that panel, the image of Constantine speaking from the rostra becomes the axis of the Forum—larger than life and greater than the monuments around him. He be- comes, as it were, the center of Rome’s monumental center.

NARRATIVE FLOW VERSUS HIERATIC STASIS IN THE SMALL FRIEZE

Considered as a whole, this small Constantinian frieze girdling the arch is arguably the mouse that roared. Whereas decipherment of the relationships among the subjects of the spolia—all enormous in scale and covering the arch at every level and on all of its sides— would have required the viewer to be well versed in imperial history, the Constantinian narrative is easy to read. It is sequential, it presents contemporary events, and it relates to the viewer’s own walk from outside the Forum to inside it. It is also the only contem- porary narrative of Constantine’s deeds to be found on the arch. Someone approaching the arch from the south would first scan the big elements: the inscription, the monumental figures atop the attic and at the pedestals, and the large re-

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lief panels. Aside from the inscription, none of these oªered a story that connected with the viewer’s knowledge of the events that led to the arch’s creation; so it is likely that her eyes would have sought out the little girdling frieze. 43 For one thing, this “miniature” frieze was a feature common on most triumphal arches, usually picturing the triumphal pro- cession. 44 For another, only in this relief would the viewer have recognized figures wear- ing contemporary dress and carved in the modern style. Two main events in the story of Constantine’s takeover appear on the south side of the arch—the side a viewer coming into the city would have seen first. To the left is the Siege of Verona; to the right the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (figs. 30 and 31). The viewer would have noticed that these two events formed part of a narrative, and that the event on the left happened before the one on the right. Logic demanded that farther to the left—on the west side of the arch—he would find an earlier event. There, in fact, a curious viewer would find the beginning of Constantine’s story. He sets out from Milan to retake Italy and thereby establish himself—the legitimate ruler—as emperor in the capital. Con- stantine is conspicuous by his absence here; his proper place would have been ahead of the standard-bearers (signiferi) and curved-horn players (cornicines) at the right of the re- lief. The fighters follow in the right half: robot-like infantry on the march, holding shields and lances (fig. 32). The supply train takes up the left half of the relief. As in the scenes of marching on the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius, much of the interest for a viewer is in the anecdotal details of this profectio (setting out), including a camel, a diminu- tive groom crouching down beside a horseman, and a wagon coming through the arch of a tower. The viewer, returning to the south side, would then see the next chronological event, the siege of the city of Verona. The artist has made the siege into a fait accompli rather than a match of equal opponents, using several strategies to emphasize Constantine. The emperor dominates the left half of the relief; his is the only figure to take up the full height of the frieze; soldiers all holding the same round shields frame him right and left; and a Victory flies along the upper left to crown him. The city of Verona, in contrast, is tiny, complete with two little soldiers silhouetted against its walls. One falls to the ground, the other rushes to the right. Above Verona’s walls appear the upper bodies of the men de- fending the city. In the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, the artist separated Constantine from the battle, placing him at the left and at full height (only his foot remains) with the goddess Roma on his left and Victory—this time frontally represented—at his right. Beneath Constan- tine is the River god Tiber. Constantine, we assume, looked out at the viewer from this framework of gods, while in the rest of the relief, his soldiers mercilessly slaughter Max- entius’s army. Again the artist separated Constantine’s men from those of Maxentius with a clear visual device. Constantine’s soldiers stand in the upper half of the relief and deal death blows to the enemy in the lower half, reduced to a chaos of helpless bodies swirling in the river.

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IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

FIGURE 30 Rome, Arch of Constantine. Siege of Verona. FIGURE 31 Rome, Arch of Constantine.

FIGURE 30

Rome, Arch of Constantine. Siege of Verona.

FIGURE 30 Rome, Arch of Constantine. Siege of Verona. FIGURE 31 Rome, Arch of Constantine. Battle

FIGURE 31

Rome, Arch of Constantine. Battle of Milvian Bridge.

FIGURE 32 Rome, Arch of Constantine. Profectio. FIGURE 33 Rome, Arch of Constantine. Ingressus.

FIGURE 32

Rome, Arch of Constantine. Profectio.

FIGURE 32 Rome, Arch of Constantine. Profectio. FIGURE 33 Rome, Arch of Constantine. Ingressus.

FIGURE 33

Rome, Arch of Constantine. Ingressus.

Following the logic of left-to-right reading, the artist completed this sequential narra- tive with the final march into Rome—the ingressus—on the arch’s east side (fig. 33). The ancient viewer now understood how the narrative worked, and as she walked along, look- ing up, she may have felt she was joining in Constantine’s victorious entry. (The same device of pairing the depicted movement of the triumphal procession with the spectator’s walk through the arch had been used 220 years before in the triumphal friezes for the Arch of Titus.) The artist framed the narrative with an arch at either end, perhaps the arch over the via Lata on the right and that over the via Flaminia on the left. Once again Constantine occupies the left end of the relief, larger than the other figures and riding in a chariot that looks for all the world like a throne on wheels. At the head of the proces- sion soldiers marching in two tiers hold their spears in front; the resulting pattern, like repeating arrowheads, emphasizes their resolute movement to the right—a compositional strategy we have already seen on the Column of Marcus Aurelius (compare fig. 21). But both the composition and the message of the narrative change once the soldiers— and the viewer—reach their goal. Standing and looking up at the arch’s north facade, the viewer saw that it was not just Constantine, his army, and their adversaries who acted in history. Both reliefs, to left and right, also pictured the viewer—especially the non-elite viewer—as the end beneficiary of Constantine’s eªorts. More than any imperial monu- ment in the history of Roman art, these two reliefs put the ordinary person into the lime- light. They also put him into his place, and in their visual language, this place was per- manent and suprahistorical. If the compositions of the reliefs on the arch’s other three sides emphasized a sequential narrative by making figures move from left to right, and encouraged the viewer to circle in that direction, both friezes on the north side stopped left-to-right reading with axially symmetrical, static compositions. As we have seen, with the relief of the left (north) side, the viewer has arrived at the rostra in the forum, where she would have stood to listen to the emperor’s oratio, or speech to the assembled people (see fig. 29). She joins the crowd of ordinary people ranged at the bottom of the relief below the rostra—men, women, and children. Although a viewer would have understood that the relief depicted a specific mo- ment in time, its message was also symbolic and eternal. The processional friezes on the north and south sides of the Ara Pacis also included men, women, and children, but they were elites, and the families depicted were members of Augustus’s family. On the Arch of Constantine a viewer saw generic families of the lower strata. If the Ara Pacis reliefs projected the stability of Augustus’s dynasty, the message of the oratio relief was the sta- bility of all society. Constantine stands, larger than life—even larger than the seated statues of two of the Good Emperors, Marcus Aurelius to the viewer’s left and Hadrian to the right. 45 Schol- arly consensus restores the figure of Constantine, although damaged, to share some of the features of the colossal seated image that originally formed the axial focus of his great Basilica in the Roman Forum. 46 Like the statues of the Good Emperors, Constantine looks out, eyes fixed in an otherworldly stare, directly addressing the viewer. Constantine has

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the power to part the crowd, and the artist has demonstrated this power by displacing the listeners to right and left of the rostra rather than representing them in front of it, where they would have actually stood. He even has the power to part the buildings to his left and right, for the arcades of the Basilica Julia and the Basilica Aemilia extend laterally (rather than in foreshortened perspective). 47 Constantine’s magistrates, one size smaller than he is, partake of the same answering, or paratactic, left-right symmetry. All of this to give you, the onlooker, a direct view of the center of the composition, the center of your uni- verse: Constantine. Several scholars go so far as to characterize Constantine, on the ba- sis of contemporary panegyric texts, as God-Emperor, now dominus (lord) rather than prin- ceps, his expression that of divina maiestas (divine majesty). 48 Paradoxes abound. Although the composition gives viewers of all social strata direct eye contact, as it were, with Constantine, it also insists on the distinctions between the upper and lower strata. The medium-size men stand on the rostra flanking the emperor. They are the elites and they wear the toga; they share the sacrosanct space of the rostra with Constantine and the statues of the Good Emperors. The non-elites, dressed in tu- nics, occupy the space below; they are the smallest in stature and lowest in social status. Comparison of this relief to the frontal representations of Marcus Aurelius on his Col- umn underscores how much has changed in the representation of the emperor’s power between 193 and 315 (see fig. 24). It was with such frontally composed scenes on the Col- umn that the artist broke the left-to-right reading pattern of the narrative to emphasize the emperor’s address to the viewer. Symmetry in figural and architectural framing em- phasized a rupture of the historical flow to fix the emperor in timeless contact with the viewer looking up at him. Yet the viewer is always outside the historical narrative—never portrayed on the Column like the soldiers or barbarians who look at Marcus, but included only by the implication of the emperor’s frontal pose and outward gaze. 49 With the oratio relief on the Arch of Constantine the artist takes the much bolder step of representing the onlookers. In so doing he instructs the viewer in the rules of proper viewership: everyone must stand in his or her place and gaze in the proper direction. The Good Emperors are Constantine’s models: as they look out at the viewers, so does he. The elites up on the rostra turn to look at Constantine, who is both the axis of the composi- tion and the center of their world. Down below the plebs do the same, yet they are liter- ally the little people—men and women with their children, all showing the viewer how to act in the presence of the godlike emperor. Through composition, the relative size of figures, and the figures’ gestures, the oratio relief instructs all the people in proper be- havior. The visual representation encodes the social order. The right-hand relief, showing Constantine giving out money to the people of Rome (the liberalitas), drives home the messages of one’s proper social role with devices even more obvious than those of the oratio (fig. 34). Once again it is Constantine who marks the axis and who looks out at the viewer in direct address. In this scene the people gather not to hear him speak but to collect their coins—the gift of money that is the concrete benefit of Constantine’s victory. Like so many emperors before, he buys the allegiance of

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IMPERIAL REPRESENTATION OF NON-ELITES

FIGURE 34 Rome, Arch of Constantine. Liberalitas. the people of Rome with money, but here

FIGURE 34

Rome, Arch of Constantine. Liberalitas.

the people of Rome with money, but here for the first time the ancient viewer saw just how much he was worth in comparison with others. Once again the artist has employed

a hierarchical, axially symmetrical composition with the emperor at the center, larger than

everyone else. He has also emphasized the upper and lower halves of the visual field by placing the higher magistrates who give out money to the ordinary people within four compartments. These o‹cials follow the emperor’s example and mimic his gestures, but on a smaller scale. Whereas Constantine uses a large, twelve-slotted coin scooper to give

a larger gift to the elites, they employ small, six-slotted scoopers for the smaller dole al-

lotted to people of the lower stratum. Gestures of the recipients, like those of the givers, repeat mechanically. Each man—elite and non-elite—looks up with hands covered in the folds of his garment to receive his dole—with a gesture of respect and gratitude. 50

FRAMING THE EMPEROR IN LATE ANTIQUITY

In the fourth century and later, both art and ceremony increasingly removed the emperor from the realm of ordinary people. 51 The oratio and liberalitas reliefs are only the begin- ning of a new kind of visual representation that abandons the realism that had charac- terized imperial monuments from the Ara Pacis to the Arch of Septimius Severus. In these earlier artworks artists used Hellenistic conventions of style and composition to

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demonstrate that the emperor was first citizen, carrying out his duties like other men. Beginning with the Arch of Constantine, artists will seek out forms that emphasize, in- stead, the emperor’s transcendence and divinity. In addition to making him bigger than everyone else and posing him frontally, artists will frame the emperor with symmetri- cally placed figures and within pavilions of various sorts—all with the goal of singling him out from the rest of humankind. 52 And instead of seeking to show the diversity of the emperor’s subjects, artists make them look alike: assembly-line citizens. Representations that separated the ruler from the ruled in such strict hierarchies gave visual form to new models of behavior for both elites and non-elites. One wonders whether they were just wishful thinking—didactic documents meant to instruct the emperor’s sub- jects in proper reverential behavior even while his control was slipping. Such considera- tions are beyond the scope of this book, but an art that so blatantly rejects the realism of earlier imperial representations serves to remind us that even those older, “realistic” im- perial monuments had agendas that had little to do with recording historical events or facts. Despite their seeming documentary or historical character, the Ara Pacis, Column of Trajan, and Column of Marcus Aurelius resist straightforward narrative reading pre- cisely because they had other messages to convey. Their messages were polyvalent and depended to a great degree on who was looking at them. If in the north friezes of the Arch of Constantine the artist uses obvious visual devices to separate elites from non-elites, on earlier imperial monuments such separation was implicit but no less intended. On the Arch of Constantine the visual separation of ruler from the various ranks of the ruled baldly articulates the channels of access to the ab- solute, divine monarch. In place of the first citizen, the princeps, the viewer finds the em- peror as lord and god. Yet as we have seen, even the monument that attempted the great- est inclusion of the non-elite, the Column of Trajan, clearly diªerentiated the social orders to articulate distinct messages to senator and freedwoman, to equestrian and slave. Con- stantine’s arch simplifies and codifies social diªerences, oªering a clear formula for the success through unswerving allegiance to the power that apportions and protects one’s social rank. If success in Trajan’s time meant upward mobility, by the fourth century the message was to stay put and let the emperor take care of you. The Constantinian reliefs pledge stability. In exchange for undivided loyalty, you will be part of an eternal order sta- bilized by divine right and the emperor’s beneficence. Inscriptions on the arch add nuance to the visual messages of the Constantinian friezes. Although by now it should be clear that Constantine was the patron, the inscriptions name him as the recipient of the Senate’s beneficence. The phrases Liberatori urbis (To the lib- erator of Rome) and Fundatori quietis (To the founder of tranquility) appear in the Tra- janic reliefs of the central passage, and the main inscription reads: “To the emperor Fla- vius Constantine the Great, Augustus, pious and fortunate, the Senate and the Roman People have dedicated this arch, resplendent with triumphs, since by divine inspiration and greatness of spirit he avenged the state on the tyrant and all his faction with his army, once and forever, in just battle.” 53 Scholars have argued variously that the divinity who

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inspired Constantine (in the phrase “by divine inspiration,” instinctu divinitatis) was Chris- tian, pagan, or even Constantine himself. Yet the interpretation that makes the most sense is that Constantine controlled the textual message in the same way that he aimed the ar- chitecture, the spolia, and the contemporary relief sculpture at a constituency that included both pagans and Christians. For the arch to succeed in solidifying his power, the pagan viewer had to think of Constantine as a new Good Emperor, restoring the old order; the Christian viewer had to see him as taking his inspiration from their divinity while creat- ing a new order. The inscription is deliberately indeterminate, so that the divine inspi- ration is pagan for a pagan viewer, Christian for a Christian viewer. As Wilson Jones notes:

“Constantine may have leaned toward the Christian’s God, but his was syncretic, inclu- sive faith, as typical for its time as it was later to become unthinkable.” 54 In both its vi- sual and textual representations, the arch is a monument that looks both to the past and to the future.

This investigation of how elites represented non-elites on imperial monuments under- scores how over time o‹cial art increasingly addressed ordinary people in terms of their proper social roles. Although they are conspicuous by their absence on the Ara Pacis, or- dinary people—or military and barbarian stand-ins for them—appear within the didac- tic framework of Trajan’s forum, basilica, and column. The Column of Marcus Aurelius abandons instructing through analogy in favor of the emperor’s direct address to the non- elite viewer—a ploy that finds its logical fulfillment in Constantine’s Arch. As we will see in parts 2 and 3, when a non-elite person pays for art, the focus shifts from instructing the viewer in proper social roles to telling the viewer about him- or herself. Articulating one’s own identity—often an identity more complex than that dictated by the State—is the recurring theme of art paid for by non-elite Romans.

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PART 2

NON-ELITES IN THE PUBLIC SPHERE

Ancient Romans embraced the notion of life in public to a much greater degree than we do. We tend to worship and bury our dead in buildings or areas separated from the tra‹c of everyday life. Yet even in modern Euro-American societies, opinions diªer about what events belong behind closed doors and what might go on in public spaces. There is an enormous diªerence between the “life in the piazza” that characterizes countries bordering the Mediterranean and the enclosed, indoor mentality of the northern European coun- tries. Climate is not the only determining factor: tradition, temperament, and patterns of social organization come into play as well. Some scholars would even see the ancient Ro- man model still operative in the formation of the Mediterranean attitude toward life in public. There is a semantic problem as well. We understand the word “public” largely in re- lation to our highly developed sense of its opposite. In ancient Roman times we would be hard put to find spaces that corresponded in any way to our notions of privacy. Public processions and rituals advertised a person’s religious practices; most business transac- tions took place in noisy forums; the audience was as much a part of the show as the ac- tors on the stage; and tombs vied with each other for the public’s attention. For the elite as well as the non-elite, who you were depended on how people perceived you in public spaces. Everyone noted your dress, your walk, your gestures, and your speech—and from

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House of Gavius Rufus
N N
4 2 2
3 3
REG. VII
REG. VII
REG.REG. VIIVII
V V
V
1313 13
2 2
EE
House of the Baker
6 6
1111 11
1212 12
1 1
1212 12
W W
W
1 1
1111 11
FF
House of the Figured Capitals
X X
X
1 1
9 9
6 6
U U
U
8 8
GG
Suburban Baths
7 7
1111 11
M
M M
7 7
Q Q
Q
9 9
1010 10
6 6
9 9
S S
S
1515 15
7 7
1414 14
4 4
1414 14
8 8
1313 13
1515 15
1616 16
4 4
1717 17
T T
T
GGGG
GG
GG
7 7
P
P P
5 5
1010 10
REG. I
REG. I
REG.REG. II
8 8
REG. VIII
REG. VIII
REG.REG. VIIIVIII
Z
Z Z
3 3
1818 18
2020 20
1 1
1919 19
2222 22
2121 21
AAAA
AA
AA
3 3
6 6
BBBB
BB
BB
2 2
2 2
2323 23
2424 24
0 50 100
200m
Y Y
Y
2525 25
2 2
5 5
7 7
1 1
REGIO VIII
Y
Palaestra
REGIO I
Z
Temple of Isis
Temple of Venus
P House of Riot in the Amphitheater
REGIO IX (central Pompeii)
AA
Q House of the Sarno Lararium
U House of Epidius Sabinus
BB
Theater
R House of Sutoria Primigenia
V House of the Chaste Lovers
S House of the Ephebe
W Shop of the Procession to Cybele
T House of the Menander
X Shop of Verecundus
MAP 1

Pompeii. Plan showing spaces discussed in parts 2 and 3. Buildings are located by Regio numbers (I, II, III, etc.) and Insula numbers (1, 2, 3, etc.). A third number indicates the location of the doorway to the building in the Insula. For example, I, 13, 2 (House of Sutoria Primigenia) is located in Regio I, Insula 13, and entered at doorway 2.

R E B I T F O T H P A N T I E
R
E
B
I
T
F
O
T H
P A
N T
I E
N C
A
Forum of the Corporations (II, 7)
Hall of the Grain
Measurers (I, 19)
Caupona of the
Seven Sages
(III, 10)
Theater
(II, 7)
Necropolis of the
Ostia Road
Forica
(latrine)
(I, 12)
Necropolis on the
Laurentine Road
0
50
100
150
200
250m

MAP 2

Ostia. Plan showing spaces discussed in part 2.

these markers understood your place in society. Given the importance of such external signs of status, it is little wonder that visual representation in the public sphere was so important for non-elite Romans. Considering the wealth of art in the public sphere and the large range of activities that it complements or comments on, I have been quite selective. I have chosen works of art where the archaeological evidence or inscriptions tell us who the patron was, and whose placement tells us who would have seen them. I have also favored representations that deviate from elite/imperial models. They show, above all, that non-elites (like the elites) were passionate about self-representation, but that they invented images that veered away from standard themes. These paintings and sculptures reveal how ordinary Romans identified with their gods, their work, their games, their families, and their friends. These works of art also reveal a much more complex range of religious, social, and cultural in- teractions than we might expect in a highly stratified society.

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3

EVERYMAN, EVERYWOMAN, AND THE GODS

For those of us living in the secular states that characterize contemporary Euro-American culture, it is di‹cult to imagine how pervasive religious worship was in the everyday lives of ancient Romans. We have succeeded in cordoning oª religion from the world of work— and from most social interactions as well. We might attend church, synagogue, or mosque, but rarely—especially among the Christian majority—do we invoke God in our places of work, or even in daily rituals in our homes. We incorporate buildings for wor- ship into the fabric of our cities—large and small—but with few exceptions worship oc- curs behind those buildings’ closed doors, not in public, municipally owned spaces. A glance at the plan of second-century Ostia, with an estimated population of 40,000, reveals how much space religious buildings took up—and how much of that space merges with the realms of civic administration, business, and entertainment (fig. 35). Ostia’s the- ater, for instance, boasts a huge rectangular portico, similar to the one attached to the the- ater at Pompeii (fig. 36). But the temple in the center of the portico at Ostia indicates that it was not just a space for theatergoers to promenade: religious worship took place there. What is more, mosaic images in the spaces of the portico’s double colonnade tell us that numerous companies (corporationes) had their o‹ces there. Taken together, theater, por- tico, o‹ces, and temple constitute a busy, multiuse space where work, leisure, and wor- ship all intermingled.

FIGURE 35 Ostia. Plan showing spaces for business, entertainment, and worship. FIGURE 36 Ostia. Theater,

FIGURE 35

Ostia. Plan showing spaces for business, entertainment, and worship.

showing spaces for business, entertainment, and worship. FIGURE 36 Ostia. Theater, Forum of the Corporations, and

FIGURE 36

Ostia. Theater, Forum of the Corporations, and Temple (II, 7, 2–5), reconstruction.

It is worth underscoring that the separation of church and state—an important prin- ciple of many modern states—simply made no sense to the ancient Romans. The em- peror was the chief priest of the Roman state religion, the pontifex maximus, and an elite man’s political career included a series of priesthoods and ministries just as important to his prestige and advancement as his military and civic duties. 1 The limited religious o‹ces available to the non-elite Roman were equally coveted ways of gaining social standing. Since our purpose is to uncover attitudes and practices that reveal the culture of non- elite Romans, we will pass over the rich documentation of Roman state religion in favor of humbler visual representations that celebrate in the public domain ordinary people’s devotion to the gods. 2 The materials for this study are modest ones. Although non-elite visual representations have some formal and iconographic similarities with monuments commissioned by the emperor, senators, and decurions, most of them tend to simplify form in order to communicate their messages directly. These reliefs and wall paintings are all the more remarkable, because along with the standard imagery borrowed from the elite monuments, they include details that reveal the identities and religious practices of ordinary men and women.

PICTURING PIETAS IN THE HOME

In order to understand the patterns behind non-elite representations of worship in the public realm, we have to consider how ordinary people set up shrines for daily rituals in their houses. Worship of the gods belonged just as much in the domestic sphere as it did in the public realm. Every Roman house, whether the villa of a wealthy woman or a poor man’s tenement, had at least one shrine (lararium) honoring the protective deities of the house and its owner. A good standard example is the large lararium in the servants’ atrium of the House of the Vettii at Pompeii (a.d. 62–79; fig. 37), for it represents the key ele- ments of domestic worship. The central image is the Genius (guardian spirit) of the pater- familias, or head of the household, sacrificing on an altar. The two Lares flank him. They wear kilts and hold a rhyton (horn-shaped wine vessel) in one hand while carrying a pail (situla) in the other. 3 A serpent, his body describing S-curves, approaches to take the oªer- ings from the altar. Such snakes, called agathodaemones (good spirits) and often depicted in male-female pairs, appear frequently in lararium paintings; they have a long history in Greek and Roman art as protectors of a place. 4 Every day—throughout the empire— heads of households sacrificed cakes, fruits, and wine at similar shrines in their homes. Their hope was to appease the protective spirits: the Lares who guarded the house, the paterfamilias’s Genius, and another set of domestic protector-deities, the Penates. 5 Study of lararia at Pompeii and elsewhere demonstrates the stability of domestic worship throughout the imperial period. 6 Domestic shrines that veer from the standard ones like that in the House of the Vet- tii often carry a great deal of information about the religious attitudes and practices of non-elite Romans. Although painted with much less care, the scene decorating the lara-

EVERYMAN, EVERYWOMAN, AND THE GODS

75

FIGURE 37 Pompeii, House of the Vettii (VI, 15, 1). Lararium. FIGURE 38 Pompeii, plan

FIGURE 37

Pompeii, House of the Vettii (VI, 15, 1). Lararium.

FIGURE 38

Pompeii, plan of House of Sutoria Primigenia (I, 13, 2).

38 Pompeii, plan of House of Sutoria Primigenia (I, 13, 2). rium in the House of

rium in the House of Sutoria Primigenia (I, 13, 2) at Pompeii provides a particularly eloquent testimony to the importance of religion in the household (fig. 38). 7 This is a relatively modest house, and the paintings—executed in Pompeii’s last two decades—decorate a tiny kitchen. Someone entering the kitchen (17 on the plan) would see a representation of the whole household, or familia, attending a sacrifice (figs. 39, 40). Large figures of the Lares frame the scene. Next in size are the figures of the Genius, accompanied by the

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NON-ELITES IN THE PUBLIC SPHERE

FIGURE 39 Pompeii, House of Sutoria Primigenia, room 17, north and east walls. FIGURE 40

FIGURE 39

Pompeii, House of Sutoria Primigenia, room 17, north and east walls.

House of Sutoria Primigenia, room 17, north and east walls. FIGURE 40 Pompeii, House of Sutoria

FIGURE 40

Pompeii, House of Sutoria Primigenia, room 17, east wall, detail.

Juno, or guardian spirit of the woman of the house, both standing at an altar at the left. Just to the left of the altar the tibicen plays the tibia (double oboe). Only the Genius wears the toga; because he is sacrificing, he has pulled its edge over his head (capite velato). The Juno wears the proper garment of the Roman matron, the stola. All thirteen persons to the right face outwards frontally and wear white tunics with short sleeves, and all hold their arms and hands in the same attitude—the right arm held to the chest and the left resting at the waist. An exception is the first person at the left in the front row standing near the Genius: he must be the camillus (attendant). Beneath this scene of the whole fa- milia assembled for a sacrifice to the Lares is a frieze showing a man with two pack-mules leading a bull with a rope—probably the painter’s attempt at a landscape genre-scene. The niche for the lararium proper is on the north, or left-hand wall, surrounded by paintings of foodstuªs: skewers with eel and pieces of meat, a ham, the head of a pig, and hanging sausages. At the bottom a serpent approaches the round altar. 8 Unlike the fancy lararium in the House of the Vettii, where the Vettii brothers instructed the artist to represent only the standard figures and elements, here Sutoria Primigenia (if she was the owner) ordered a complex composition. Most interesting for our purposes is the representation of the familia at worship. Was it intended to encourage piety among the slaves who gathered in this space to oªer sacrifice? Or did it constitute wishful think- ing, since the kitchen is scarcely large enough to accommodate such a large gathering? Perhaps the scene records a special sacrifice of thanksgiving or celebration. Although it is impossible to determine the patron’s purpose in representing the assembled familia in such a humble space, both its specificity and its elaborateness distinguish it from stan- dard lararium paintings.

WORSHIP AND WORK IN THE HOUSE OF THE SARNO LARARIUM

The House of the Sarno Lararium in its small size and unusual layout belongs to a group of modest dwellings for Pompeii’s poorer ranks (fig. 41). In place of the usual atrium, with a central skylight and a cistern head (impluvium) beneath, the builder used nearly half the available lot space—and this measures only 162 square meters (about 9 × 18 m)— for a fully roofed atrium that extends across the full width of the space. To exploit the space vertically, he constructed a stairway in the atrium leading to the second-floor rooms over the front of the house; the stairway also gave access—via a wooden balcony—to the rooms over the back half of the house. Such a concentrated use of the available space sig- nals both the humble status of the owner and the relatively high price of land within Pom- peii. Excavators have found houses constructed like the House of the Sarno Lararium throughout region I, including whole rows of them along the west side of insula 11 and along the north side of insula 12. 9 To compensate for the cramped and relatively dark living quarters of his house, the owner commissioned an artist to create an elaborate lararium for the modest garden space at the very back of his house (9 on the plan). Placed at the center of the south wall, it is

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NON-ELITES IN THE PUBLIC SPHERE

FIGURE 41 Pompeii, plan of House of the Sarno Lararium (I, 14, 7). the terminus

FIGURE 41

Pompeii, plan of House of the Sarno Lararium (I, 14, 7).

the terminus of the house’s long axis, running from the deep entry at 1, through the atrium, and through the corridor at 6. Obviously the owner conceived the lararium as the focus of the view from the street, imitating a common feature in the finer houses at Pompeii and Herculaneum. The lararium diverges from the standard imagery to represent activities on the Sarno River that reflected the owner’s world of work (fig. 42). It stands upon a cement podium surrounded by a canal that must have been filled with water. Red ocher pigment colors the entire construction, inside and out, and yellow ocher outlines its divisions and serves as the dominant color to delineate figures. Mariette de Vos has identified a workshop, ac- tive in Pompeii’s last decades and working in this neighborhood at Pompeii, that regu- larly employed this economical but showy decoration. 10 We find the Genius at the back of a deep vaulted enclosure, standing on a plant-cov- ered base and in the act of pouring a libation on a round altar; he holds a cornucopia over

his left shoulder. The artist filled the lower walls of the enclosure’s sides with more green plants on a red ground, and he decorated the vault with white rosettes. The Lares, miss- ing from the painting, were present in three-dimensional form. When the excavators un- covered the lararium, they found two statues of Lares, along with a lamp and a bowl, un- der the shelter of the niche. These objects, all in bronze, must have been the treasures of this modest household (fig. 43). In response to the patron’s desire to make his little lararium special, the painter made it do double duty, both as a shrine and as a poor man’s version of the elaborate mosaic fountains that grace so many of the wealthier houses at Pompeii and Herculaneum. 11 He substituted a picture of running water for the real thing, and he set the lararium inside

a shallow canal. For his image of water he chose the Sarno River. The river’s personification for the most part follows standard river-god iconography: he is a bearded figure who leans on a tall rocky outcropping, his head turned to the viewer. He wears a red garment with

a bright blue mantle. Under the river god’s left arm a vessel, lying on its side, pours out water to create the river. On the river are two men in a boat, laden with unidentifiable

EVERYMAN, EVERYWOMAN, AND THE GODS

79

FIGURE 42

Pompeii, House of the Sarno Lararium, the lararium.

FIGURE 42 Pompeii, House of the Sarno Lararium, the lararium. goods. Near the boat’s prow is

goods. Near the boat’s prow is a little bridge, with two packmules behind it. In the upper half of this scene the artist has painted a line for three figures to stand on. The two men at the left wear short tunics: one carries a big basket, while the other gestures to the right, where another large basket rests on the ground. A third figure, distinguished from all the others by his long garment with a light blue edge, looks out at the viewer even as he ges- tures to the scene at the far right. Here two small figures are weighing similar baskets that hang from the arms of an enormous scale. Despite his modest talents, the artist has succeeded in conveying the story of work on and about the river. We know from the geographer Strabo that Pompeii had a harbor on the Sarno that served neighboring inland towns. 12 Because the eruption of Vesuvius completely changed the river’s course and covered all evidence for it, we do not know where that harbor lay. 13 Scholars have also debated the contents of the boat and the basket. Maiuri, citing a passage from Columella, believed they contained onions grown in the region. 14 What is certain is that the patron must be the man in the long garment who stands in the center of these activities of weighing and transporting his product. Although paint losses make it di‹cult to distinguish portrait traits, the six men surrounding him may

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NON-ELITES IN THE PUBLIC SPHERE

FIGURE 43 Pompeii, House of the Sarno Lararium, the lararium. Excavation photo. be his slaves.

FIGURE 43

Pompeii, House of the Sarno Lararium, the lararium. Excavation photo.

be his slaves. If so, they formed the servile part of his familia and would have taken a cer- tain pride in seeing themselves with their owner every day as they stood behind him to sacrifice to his Genius and the Lares in the little garden. 15

STREET-CORNER RELIGION: THE VICOMAGISTRI

Just as Lares guarded the Roman house and its occupants, so they guarded the very streets of the city. Minor o‹cials called vicomagistri (that is administrators of the city ward or vi- cus) erected altars to the Lares of the crossroads (Lares compitales) within the neighbor- hood under their care. 16 The parallels with domestic lararia and their rituals are particu- larly telling in a stone altar from the vicus Aesculeti in Rome, since it shows the vicomagistri sacrificing not only to the Lares, but to the Genius of Augustus as well (H 1.05 m, W 0.66 m; fig. 44). 17 It was Augustus himself who divided Rome into regions subdivided into vici, beginning 8–7 b.c. 18 The vicomagistri’s responsibilities included keep- ing watch over tra‹c, crime, and fires—and sacrificing to the Lares and to the Genius of the emperor. In the o‹ce of vicomagister, religion and civic duty merged.

EVERYMAN, EVERYWOMAN, AND THE GODS

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FIGURE 44

Rome, Altar of the Vicomagistri of the Vicus Aesculeti.

44 Rome, Altar of the Vicomagistri of the Vicus Aesculeti. Who were the vicomagistri? Analysis of

Who were the vicomagistri? Analysis of the imagery and inscriptions on the altar, now in Rome’s Centrale di Montemartini museum, provides several clues. The four figures wear togas, indicating that they are citizens, either freeborn or freedmen. Since they are in the act of sacrificing, they have drawn an edge of the toga over their heads. This was a powerful image for the contemporary viewer, for it was a visual signifier of the virtue of pietas, or piety, that Augustus promoted. As part of his program to revive the old state re- ligion, Augustus had artists multiply images of himself, togate, head covered (capite ve- lato), throughout the city and the empire. 19 The emperor wished to stress his role as chief priest (pontifex maximus) of the Roman state religion. As we have seen, his only ap- pearance on the Ara Pacis shows him in this guise (see fig. 5). The vicomagistri also wear laurel crowns. The motif of the laurel is a central one in Augustus’s visual repre- sentations, and here it also distinguishes the images of the Lares depicted on the altar’s two sides from ordinary domestic Lares: each carries a large laurel branch in his hand (fig. 45). 20 Yet the vicomagistri are not senators or equestrians belonging to elite priestly colleges, like those represented on the Ara Pacis. They are non-elite residents of the ward, most likely freeborn or former slaves, who in return for their work of watching over the neigh-

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FIGURE 45 Rome, Altar of the Vicus Aesculeti, right side. Lar. borhood’s security have won

FIGURE 45

Rome, Altar of the Vicus Aesculeti, right side. Lar.

borhood’s security have won the privilege of parading their status before their neighbors, accompanied by two lictors. 21 In the relief the artist has alluded to this honor by showing one lictor, carved in low relief at the altar’s left edge. Lictors, too, appear on the Ara Pacis, identified by the fasces (iron rods bound together) that they carry. The tibia player, essen- tial to this ceremony, occupies the center, between the four vicomagistri. He assumes a nearly frontal pose. Clearly this modest relief crows a bit in its imitation of important state religious cere- mony, considering that the vicomagistri’s duties were local and discrete. The vicomagistri instructed the artist to give them the greatest—and equal—prominence, so he arranged them symmetrically on either side of the altar, their arms all outstretched to sacrifice. In the right hand of the man on the left is a patera; although it obscures his partner’s hand, it is doubtful that the man next to him held a patera as well. The forefinger and thumb of the man on the right hold a grain of incense, and again his arm and hand obscure that of his fellow vicomagister. If the surfaces of the relief were less damaged, we could as- certain whether the artist tried to diªerentiate each o‹cial’s face—but otherwise, the im- age is one of solidarity and equal sharing of duties. A special aspect of this sacrifice—and its earliest visual representation—is the oªer-

EVERYMAN, EVERYWOMAN, AND THE GODS

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ing of a bull to the Genius of Augustus. 22 As we have seen, pigs are the proper oªering to the Lares, as is well attested in domestic settings. A viewer would immediately iden- tify the bull in the relief with the emperor. The sacrifice carried out by the vicomagistri was much more expensive and complex than the one a paterfamilias o‹ciated over in his home. We imagine a crowd of people from the vicus watching the proceedings and eagerly anticipating a feast with abundant roasted meat. To accommodate the animals and the barechested men (the victimarii ) who handled

and killed them, the artist has reduced all four in size. 23 The victimarii also crouch down in front of the altar to keep the view of the all-important vicomagistri clear. The victimarius on the left carries the sacrificial mallet for stunning the animals (malleus) over his left shoulder. He wears only a kilt, visible behind the leash he uses to restrain the pig, and seems to be half-kneeling. 24 His partner, only his laurel-wreathed head and right shoul- der and chest visible, must be kneeling. The refinement of the carving and the artist’s at- tention to the composition as a whole helps to mask these figures’ illogical poses. Just as the images on the altar overstate the importance of the four vicomagistri and their o‹cial duties, so do the inscriptions. The altar’s dedication to the Lares of Augus- tus appears above the scene of sacrifice on the altar’s molding: LARIB[us] AUGUST[is]— to the Augustan Lares. Beneath it are the partially preserved names of two of the magistri; the names of the other two appear on the sides of the altar, above the figures of the Lares holding laurel branches. 25 The last line of the inscription, just above the heads of the four vicomagistri, is MAG[istri] · VICI · ANNI · NONI, telling all that they dedicated the al- tar in the ninth year since Augustus established the o‹ce of the vicomagistri (a.d. 2). 26

· L · L · SALVIUS,” (on the right side) and

“P · CLODIUS · P · L” (on the left side) preserve the letter L, placed after the abbreviation of their former master’s name, indicating that the magister is a former slave. (The first L in the right-hand inscription is the abbreviation for Lucii, telling the reader that Salvius is the freedman of Lucius; the P before the L in the second inscription means that P. Clodius is the freedman of Publius.) 27 In some cases the ward o‹cials are slaves. A case in point is the modest altar from the vicus Statae Matris, found on the Caelian hill in 1906. It commemorates the sixth year of the establishment of the cult, and bears the names of the four o‹cials (called mi- nistri rather than magistri). All of them are still slaves, demonstrating how important en- listing the piety and loyalty of the slaves in Rome must have been to Augustus. 28 One can imagine the competition for the rank of vicomagister within Rome’s crowded popular wards, where it was di‹cult for anyone to gain the public visibility and social im- portance that were such significant measures of a man’s personal distinction (gloria). Giu- seppe Gatti, who excavated the altar of the vicus Aesculeti at a depth of 8 meters (25 feet) under the present via Arenula, remarks that—miraculously—the altar had stayed put since its dedication, for he found it still resting on its original travertine base with the inscrip- tion [ma]G[i]STRI VICI AESCLETI ANNI VIIII. 29 In addition to repeating the year of its constitution, this inscription names one of the 265 vici established by Augustus. 30 Yet the

It is significant that two of the names, “[l

]S

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FIGURE 46 Pompeii, plan of Shop of the Carpenters’ Procession (VI, 7, 8–12). inscription also

FIGURE 46

Pompeii, plan of Shop of the Carpenters’ Procession (VI, 7,

8–12).

inscription also betrays the patrons’ ignorance, and that of the man who carved it, for the name of their vicus is spelled incorrectly: “Aescleti” for “Aesculeti.” Either they failed to notice—or if they did, they allowed the error to pass. If the altar of the magistri of the vicus Aesculeti, despite its modest execution, seemed familiar to the ancient viewer, it is because it imitated elite monuments of the state reli- gion. Although most of the deities invoked on the two shop facades at Pompeii that we will now consider were also familiar ones, they appear in compositions that are much more complex than that of the altar in Rome. The patrons at Pompeii had diªerent pur- poses that begin to emerge when we consider where the images appear and who would have looked at them.

MERGING RELIGION AND WORK: THE CARPENTERS’ PROCESSION

The paintings that decorated the facade of a shop at VI, 7, 8–11 provide a mixture of im- ages that only make sense when we consider the owner’s profession. 31 The shop occu- pied a busy street corner north of the forum, located diagonally across from a little tav- ern, the Caupona on the Street of Mercury (see p. 135). Although only one important fragment of the painted imagery survives, removed to the Naples Museum soon after ex- cavation in 1827, written descriptions allow us to imagine the facade’s original composi- tion. What emerges is a fascinating profile of how religious belief, coupled with a con- cern to ensure protection from harm, merged in the workplace. The owner wanted to proclaim his identity as a carpenter and at the same time to invoke the deities who safe- guarded his craft. There are several entrances to the structure, a workshop with a living area (fig. 46). In the doorway at 9 a viewer found Mercury and Fortuna facing each other on the door jambs. A watercolor executed shortly after excavation shows the image of Mercury that graced the left (south) jamb, with his standard attributes of wand (caduceus), money bag, helmet,

EVERYMAN, EVERYWOMAN, AND THE GODS

85

and winged shoes, approaching the snake wound round Apollo’s omphalos—allusions to Apollo’s sanctuary at Delphi. 32 Opposite this image of Mercury, on the right (north) door jamb, were the attributes of the goddess Fortuna: a golden cornucopia above a blue globe. 33 The owner was, as it were, doubling his luck, since Mercury was the god who made tradesmen and shopkeepers prosper; Fortuna brought wealth and prosperity as well. Com- plementing these deities in the passageway itself was an image of Minerva on the exte- rior facade to the left of the doorway at 9. The artist depicted her, armed with shield and spear, in the act of oªering a libation on an altar; a young girl with her hand on the altar assists Minerva. 34 Although these paintings of protective deities are long gone, the fragment now in the Naples museum pictures the carpenters themselves honoring their patron goddess. They or their servants carry a statue of Minerva, set upon a base, on a bier or ferculum (plate 3). 35 All that remains of her figure, in the far left edge of the fragmentary painting, are the edges of her red dress, her spear, and her shield, leaning against her left leg. 36 The ferculum rides in procession on the shoulders of four men (the last, like the figure of Minerva, mostly destroyed). The ferculum bearers wear greenish tunics hiked up under their belts to leave their legs free. To help with the weight they hold canes in their right hands while holding the ferculum’s spindly handles with their left. Although at first glance the artist’s rendering of the men seems perfectly logical, if we look at the poles on their shoulders, we realize that the first and third man are out of place. They should be on the left side of the ferculum, not on the same plane as the second and fourth man. What is more, they should be resting the poles on their right shoulders. Even though the per- spective of the ferculum poles demands that the first and third man be smaller and that the structure overlap them, the artist simply repeated the same figure four times with mi- nor variations. The ferculum itself supports an open structure with gabled roof that gives us a rare glimpse of the type of images that devotees carried in religious processions. One possi- ble occasion for such a procession would be the Quinquatria, held in honor of Minerva. 37 Garlands of flowers, ribbons, and vessels cover the posts, gable, and eaves of the pavil- ion. Beneath its protection diminutive figures act in tableaus calculated to honor, in equal measure, both the carpenters and their protective deities. All the figures must be statues in the round, sculpted from a lightweight material such as wood—not paintings on wood or canvas framed within the little building. Although paintings would have been much easier to execute, only three-dimensional images would have been visible to all viewers. 38 At the back of the pavilion, next to the statue of Minerva, a man is planing a board. A much larger board, supported, it seems, only by a thin board on edge, juts up diagonally even while it supports one of two men operating a large saw. The man on the board bends to his task while his partner, on the ground, reciprocates his pull on the saw. Both men wear only brief kilts around their hips. Much larger than the three carpenters—matching the scale of the statue of Minerva— is the figure of a standing man wearing the quintessential worker’s garment, the exomis

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a short tunic covering one shoulder. He looks down at the body of a naked man on the

ground. Scholars have debated the meaning of this image since its discovery, for although the figure’s dress, bald head, and attribute of a compass in his right hand identify him as Daedalus, the carpenter-deity with magical powers, it is not clear who the figure on the ground is. The most likely explanation is that this group is a unique representation of Daedalus contemplating the dead body of his nephew Perdix. 39 A bizarre detail sup- ports this interpretation. A huge spike punctures the figure’s head from ear to ear. Daedalus has just killed Perdix, but in a way that finds no parallel in ancient literature. Perdix is an unusually clever boy who invented both the saw and the compass. In Ovid’s account, Daedalus in his jealousy flung the boy from the acropolis, but Minerva caught him in midair and made him into a bird, the perdix or partridge. 40 No such rescue saved Perdix in the Pompeian tableau, yet Daedalus appears a second time, just opposite the procession image on the other door jamb. The painting was in poor condition at the time of its discovery and has since disappeared, but its function as a pendant to the image of Daedalus on the ferculum is clear: the painting represented the god making his most fa- mous wonder, the wooden cow that Pasiphae ordered, to allow her to satisfy her lust for Jupiter, who had appeared to her in the form of a beautiful bull. The scene of Daedalus carrying out Pasiphae’s commission shows the god’s great skill,

a hint to the customer who could expect similar expertise as she ordered some less ex- traordinary wooden fabrication. Even so, everyone knew that the outcome of the actual union between Pasiphae and Jupiter was a monster, the Minotaur. When the scene ap- pears in a grand reception space of the House of the Vettii, it fits with two other pictures

on the same theme of mortal liaisons with the gods. 41 But here, most likely, a viewer would recognize the myth—but think “carpenter” rather than feel the need to plumb its pro- founder meanings. What then, of the image, up on the ferculum itself, of Daedalus as a

murderer?

In the context of the religious procession, Daedalus’s act speaks not so much about

murder but about protection of his craft from usurpers who would attempt to better him.

It is worth remembering that Minerva—the carpenter’s other protector deity—had a sim-

ilar rival in Arachne, whom the goddess turned into a spider for daring to challenge her weaving skills. 42 No one can upstage the gods. In the eyes of the carpenters, Daedalus’s superiority over Perdix, like Minerva’s over Arachne, makes him worthy of worship. There may be another message in Daedalus’s harsh vengeance: just as no one challenges the god, so no one should challenge the carpenters themselves. Standing as he does at the head of the procession and over the body of his rival, Daedalus proclaims his supreme power over the carpenter’s skill.

THE GREAT MOTHER AND VENUS ON MAIN STREET

If the imagery on the carpenter’s shop yields up its meanings, it is because we can know

the relationships between the gods honored there and the purpose of the shop. It is more

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FIGURE 47 Pompeii, Shop of the Procession to Cybele (IX, 7, 1). View of ensemble

FIGURE 47

Pompeii, Shop of the Procession to Cybele (IX, 7, 1). View of ensemble in 1911.

di‹cult to understand the complex painting on a shop facade along Pompeii’s main east- west street (called by excavators the Street of Abundance), for it celebrates the owner’s observance of a foreign cult—and this without reference to the work or sales activities of the shop (fig. 47). 43 In fact, the shop’s purpose remains a mystery, since the excavator, Vittorio Spinazzola, was unable to excavate beyond the facade. When he discovered its remarkable paintings in 1912, they were largely intact and visible. 44 Today little remains. Excavation photos establish that there were several parts to the representation. Along the top of the facade, beneath a balcony, the artist painted the heads of the four planetary gods: Sol (the Sun), Jupiter, Mercury, and Luna (the Moon). The four heads, conceived as a decoration for the architrave that opens over the shop, gaze toward the center of the composition: Sol and Jupiter to the viewer’s left, Mercury and Luna to the right. Simply rendered, each has easily recognizable attributes: Sol has the radiate crown and the whip to spur the horses that pull the chariot of the sun; Jupiter is bearded, with a scepter at his left shoulder; Mercury wears the winged hat, and his caduceus appears over his left shoulder as well; the crescent moon appears behind Luna’s head, and she has a whip at her right shoulder. Scholars have attempted to explain these four divinities in various ways—none of them entirely satisfying. Each stands for a day of the week, and if read from right to left we have

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the sequence: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday—but why not the other three days? In my own view, their importance lies not so much in their relation to days of the week as in the way they set up a cosmos, on high, above the shop’s entrance and in relation to the images of the gods below. The Sun and the Moon, whose courses through the sky tra- versed the Roman conception of the universe, frame Jupiter, father of the gods. Mercury, as we will see, has special significance in a commercial space. The patron, in commis- sioning this cosmic architrave with its immediately recognizable images, seems to be pay- ing homage to standard Roman religion in a general way above so that he can represent his specific—and nonstandard—religious practices below. He grounds his cosmos of work, as it were, in the large cosmos. Beneath, to the left of the shop opening, in a white-ground square (1.50 × 1.50 m) above

a high red socle, appears the corpulent image of Pompeian Venus (Venus Pompeiana),

principal deity of the city. When Sulla conquered Pompeii of the Samnites and made it into a Roman colony in 80 b.c., he named it Colonia Cornelia Veneria Pompeianorum— prominently citing his own gens name, Cornelius, along with the name of the goddess he so venerated. Venus, heavily bejeweled, wears a thick purple tunic that falls to the tips of her toes. Over that she wears a mantle of the same color and fabric; it has gold-

embroidered edges, and it covers both arms and falls in an overskirt below her knees. The goddess holds a scepter and rudder in her left hand. The artist put little Cupid up on

a high round base: he flourishes his left wing while holding a large round mirror for the

goddess. Twin cupids fly toward the goddess, one bearing a fillet for her head, the other the palm of victory. Spinazzola contends that the images of both Cupid and Venus represented statues well known to Pompeians—the very statues that they venerated in the Temple of the Pom- peian Venus near the forum, made of wood so that they could be carried in procession. The artist carefully recorded all the details of the goddess’s appearance; after all, the god- dess’s jewelry and clothing were gifts from devotees who dressed the cult statue as an act of piety. 45 Although it is impossible to confirm Spinazzola’s hypothesis from details of the painting itself, the representation facing the statue of Venus and Cupid on the right side of the shop’s entrance supports his argument. Here the artist represented a second statue of a maternal deity, and this time there can be no doubt that it is a wooden statue used in processions like those we saw in the paint- ing of the carpenters’ procession, for it still rests upon its ferculum (figs. 48 and 49). She is not a Roman goddess but an import from Phrygia in Asia: Cybele, also known as the Great Mother of the Gods (Magna Mater Deum). The four bearers have just set the fer- culum down. The statue is about twice life-size, set oª by a high, pointed green backdrop covered with red stars. Cybele wears a white tunic that shows only at the neck and at her feet. Over that, she wears a dress of deep purple, worn in the manner of a Greek chiton. A mantle, draped like the Greek himation, falls nearly to the ground, leaving only the edges of her

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FIGURE 48 Pompeii, Shop of the Procession to Cybele. Procession to Cybele. FIGURE 49 Pompeii,

FIGURE 48

Pompeii, Shop of the Procession to Cybele. Procession to Cybele.

Shop of the Procession to Cybele. Procession to Cybele. FIGURE 49 Pompeii, Shop of the Procession

FIGURE 49

Pompeii, Shop of the Procession to Cybele. Drawing of Procession to Cybele, with figures numbered.

white tunic and her sandaled feet visible. She wears a crown in the shape of city walls— the so-called mural crown—symbol of her role as protector of the city. In her left hand she holds a long golden branch with thin leaves at the top and a golden patera in her right. In the crook made by her left arm is a round object, the tympanum (tambourine) that is one of Cybele’s frequent attributes, like the two little lions at her feet—symbols

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of her status as Mistress over the Animals. Di‹cult to see is another of her attributes, the “net of prophecy” covering the area between her knees and the bottom of her dress. This net belongs to a group of oracular divinities also including Dionysus, Apollo, and Artemis-Hecate. 46 In fact, the artist included one of these oracular divinities, Dionysus, in a novel way. He inserted a marble bust of the god in a niche at the left (probably robbed from another building). Dionysus’s form is that of a herm rendered in the archaic style of the sixth cen- tury b.c., with heavy beard and a crown of ivy. Dionysus, too, although entering the Ro- man pantheon from that of the Greeks, is a god of Asian origin, and his cult shares many features—especially the disorderly and ecstatic procession (thiasus)—with that of the Great Mother. Although the arrangement of the painting and the bust of Dionysus honors both deities, the subject of the painting is the devotees of Cybele, who have paraded her im- age through the streets, and who now, gathered around the priest and his assistants, pre- pare to sacrifice in her honor. The artist varied the ages and expressions of the four men who have just set down the ferculum (figures 13–16). All wear long white tunics partly covered by long red bibs that hang from shoulders to knees. 47 The men still hold the canes that they used to help bear the statue’s weight, and they have placed the ferculum in three-quarter view so that the statue surveys the proceedings: the goddess looks toward the niche of Dionysus and to the representation of Venus’s statue on the other side of the building’s facade. 48 As in the Rome Vicomagistri relief, the patron has instructed the artist to rank the figures in order of importance. The painter represents that pecking order by calling at- tention to the figures’ relative size, position, and clothing. In the front are the three prin- cipal actors, all wearing ample white tunics draped like himations and decorated with red stripes (clavi). The o‹ciating priest (11) holds both hands out. In his right hand he holds a little green twig and an object that may be an oil lamp or flask, and in his left a gold pa- tera. The man to the left of the priest (9) who turns to him must be his assistant, and al- though paint losses make it impossible to know what he held in his right hand, raised over his left shoulder is the sacred cista, the reliquary containing the objects sacred to Cybele’s cult, identified by its red cylindrical lid. To the left of the cista-carrier is the tibi- cen (6) turning his double flutes in the direction of Dionysus in his niche. Immediately behind the celebrant are two women who stand out a bit from the oth- ers (10 and 12). Figure 12 wears a vegetal crown and a robe the color of Cybele’s, and she carries special attributes: a branch in her right hand and a patera in her left. Spinazzola identifies her as the first priestess of Cybele. 49 Her companion (10) also wears a green dress and a vegetal crown on her head. She stands on the other side of the celebrant and looks intently at the cista; she may be the second priestess of the Pompeian cult. 50 Oth- ers among the women hold vessels or play musical instruments. Immediately to the left of the cista-bearer is a woman in a dark dress also looking at the cista (8). Although paint losses have obliterated the object that she held, the excavator tells us that it was a yellow basket for oªerings, making her the canephora (basket bearer). 51 To the left of the tibicen

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is a woman (4) who wears a gold dress trimmed with red stripes. She turns to the right, looking at the tibicen, and holds two objects: a large-mouthed vase suspended from three chains in her right hand and a tympanum, hanging from a cord, in her left. This tympanum is the only idle instrument in what must have been a noisy event. The artist amplifies the tibicen’s volume, as it were, by representing five others playing in- struments. Just behind and slightly to the left of the tibicen’s head we see the round form of a tympanum, held in the outstretched arms of a man who looks toward the woman playing the cymbals (3). She holds the brass-colored cymbals in her right hand, raised up at the elbow at the same angle as the pediment over Dionysus’s niche. For some reason, the artist depicted two of the musicians at half the size of the others and at the left of Dionysus. Perhaps he meant them to be children. They both wear tunics, and Spinazzola was able to identify their instruments: the one at the far left plays the syrinx (panpipes), the other the cymbals. The patron packed this painting with information about the Cybele statue’s appear- ance and what her priests and followers did to honor her—and connected this repre- sentation with images of both Dionysus and Venus Pompeiana. How would a contem- porary viewer have understood this representation, and what might her response have been? Cybele’s cult was already quite ancient in Roman times, for it originated in the area of modern-day Turkey in the second millennium b.c. Worship of Cybele spread to Greece in the first millennium, where devotees of deities similar to Cybele eagerly embraced her and connected her with their local gods and goddesses. Particularly interesting in con- nection with our painting is the venerability of associating Cybele with Dionysus and with Aphrodite in Attica. The Greeks linked her beloved partner, Attis, with the god Adonis. 52 This process of Cybele’s assimilation within the practices of Greek religion, called syn- cretism, also embraced the fascinating music of her cult. Plato mentions the “Phrygian harmony,” seemingly a combination of percussion instruments with the double flutes (diauloi) that had a powerful eªect on those who heard it. 53 The Roman Senate, at the suggestion of the Sibylline prophets, invited Cybele to Rome in 204 b.c.: the Sibylline books suggested that Magna Mater would bring victory over Hannibal as the Second Punic War (218–201 b.c.) dragged on. King Attalos of Pergamon permitted the holiest relic of the Great Mother, the meteorite worshipped at her sanctu- ary in Pessinus, to come to Rome, where it took its place in the Temple of Victory on the Palatine. In 194 b.c. the Senate instituted a festival in her honor, held every April 4–6, called the Ludi Matris Magnae, and they dedicated a temple to the goddess nearby. 54 Even so, in the two hundred and fifty ensuing years the Romans struggled with the unruly and illegal aspects of the cult, until the emperor Claudius o‹cially permitted cit- izens to become its priests in a.d. 50. Senators and lawyers repeatedly called for bans on cult practices, such as the noisy, exuberant, and licentious dancing and music that ac- companied Cybele’s processions and rites—and above all the practice of self-castration by priests of the cult, the Galli. 55 The Galli entered Rome along with the sacred meteorite from Pessinus; their self-castration imitated that of the goddess’s beloved, Attis, who made

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himself a eunuch in devotion to Cybele. 56 It took Rome several hundred years to accept priests who compromised their legal identity as men by becoming eunuchs. Epigraphic evidence shows that even the head priests, the Archigalli, were ex-slaves well into the third century a.d. 57 Equally di‹cult for elite Roman men was the attraction that Cybele’s cult had for women. Traditional state religion allowed women quite minimal roles: one thinks of the elite women remaining virgins to become Vestals, and those who appear as priestesses of Venus, like Eumachia and Mamia at Pompeii. Even in Greek times, the frenzied women followers of Dionysus threatened the men, a threat with terrible consequences in Euripides’ Bacchae. Our humble street-front painting is an important indicator of non-elite women’s par- ticipation in the very public, showy, and noisy cult of Cybele. For one thing, the patron instructed the artist to represent six women—two of them possibly priestesses—among the entourage of sixteen. For another, the representation underscores Cybele’s alliance with two Roman deities who were especially important to women—Dionysus and the lo- cal Roman maternal deity, Venus Pompeiana. It was not only the cult of Cybele that attracted many women as devotees. The wor- ship of the Egyptian goddess Isis also allowed women to take part in the cult and to be- come priestesses—an attractive exception to the general exclusion of women from o‹cial roles in the Roman state religion. Although excavations have yet to unearth a sanctuary to the cult of Cybele at Pompeii, inscriptions and visual representations from Pompeii and Herculaneum document the importance the cult of Isis for women. 58 As with the cult of Cybele, the inclusion of women as both devotees and priestesses constituted one of the reasons for the spread of Isiac religion within Roman Italy. 59 It is significant that the only sanctuary to be fully restored from the damage of the earthquake of a.d. 62 was that of Isis. A former slave, Numerius Popidius Ampliatus, and his wife, Cornelia Celsa, rebuilt the Temple of Isis at Pompeii with their own money. They attributed the rebuild- ing to their six-year-old son, Numerius Popidius Celsinus, to pave the way for his politi- cal career, since the father, a freedman, was not eligible. 60 Within the complex decorative program of the Iseum, the patrons included at least one image of a priestess of Isis in the paintings of the portico. 61 Women—and non-elite women at that—could play important roles in the worship of these imported, maternal deities. This shop facade represents an unusually specific commission. The only really stock images are the heads of the four planetary deities that span the entryway. All the rest are custom-made, with the patron instructing the artist to represent specific aspects of Venus and Dionysus, and even to depict a particular moment when priests, priestesses and devo- tees of Cybele gather. The unique nature of this iconographical program leads back to a patron who was a special devotee of Cybele; it seems likely that he was the priest (11) whom we see carrying out the rites in honor of the goddess. If so, did he also require the artist to represent members of his family, perhaps even his wife, among the women priests and devotees in the painting?

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Although we cannot know the identities of Cybele’s followers in the painting, its im-

portance lies in the way it proclaims the patron’s religious beliefs outside the sanctuary. Spinazzola, justly proud of his discovery but unable to excavate further, believed that the space behind the building’s facade was a religious site somehow related directly to the cult of Cybele and her followers. His identification seems unlikely, since the paintings take their place among the many shop signs and electoral slogans that crowded facades all along the Street of Abundance. If it was a shop, as seems likely, the only evidence for what it manufactured or sold comes indirectly, from an electoral slogan painted on its fa- cade, along with the religious imagery we have looked at. The most prominent slogan

(“The Quactiliarii recommend [someone] for election”).

Quactiliarii (usually spelled coactiliarii) were felt-makers; inscriptions show that there were many felt-makers at Pompeii. 62 Some scholars have even suggested that the heavy robes dressing the statues of Venus and Cybele are made of felt—a subliminal advertisement of the quactiliarii’s product. 63 Whatever product the shopowner and his wife may have sold in the shop, it was their desire to demonstrate to all who passed by what their goddess and her devotees looked like that motivated them to commission this highly detailed representation. Advertis- ing their religious identities as devotees of Cybele seems to have been more important than announcing what they sold in their shop. What is more, if the shopowner and his wife were priests of the cult, the viewer would have recognized their likenesses in the painting. The painting was a way of showing the rank they had attained through their priesthoods.

reads: Quactiliari [sic] rogant

If these street-side decorations seem unconventional to us, it is because the patrons wanted

to articulate in them their own religious beliefs and their hopes for their favorite gods’ blessings. Unlike the numerous and well-studied representations of the Roman state re- ligion, or even the large sanctuaries of foreign cults—like that of Isis at Pompeii or Cy- bele at Ostia—these are modest commissions tailored to the wishes of a single individ- ual. Because they were expensive, big temples and their many adornments required wealthy patrons; their imagery followed traditions—both artistic ones and those dictated by priests.

Elite patrons hired great architects and artists to glorify their favorite deities—usually in order to fulfill a vow made to the god or goddess in exchange for a favor granted. Ancient literature tells us both about the works of art in these dazzling sanctuaries and about the responses of elite viewers to what they saw. Here, in Pompeii, we get instead the expression of modest shopowners honoring their preferred gods. There for all to see—the people who passed by and tarried to look, and those who entered their workspaces—were representations of religious processions and

a mix of images of their gods that followed no particular artistic tradition. They were fresh, improvised, and anything but standard.

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