Representations of War in Ancient Rome

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Overview

War suffused Roman life to a degree unparalleled in other ancient societies. Although the place of war in ancient Roman culture has been the subject of many studies, this book examines how Romans represented war, in both visual imagery and in literary accounts. Spanning a broad chronological range, from the mid-fourth century BC to the third century AD, the essays in this volume consider audience reception, the reconstruction of display contexts, as well as the language of images, which could be either explicit or allusive in representations of war. They also analyze the construction of the Romans' view of themselves, their past, and their future.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The reader who seeks to add to their understanding of Roman culture by flipping through the book will be amply rewarded, and historians who might take a dim view of the usefulness of art as a tool for interpreting Roman culture will find themselves repeatedly corrected...The work here demonstrates an ingenious use of art history to open a broad window on Roman society--a lot more of the history of Rome can be explained by the study of looted statues than one might think." -- Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"Anyone interested in Roman preoccupation with war...and the centrality of asserted military success in Roman culture and ideology will want a copy of this book." -- Choice

"Overall, on first glance, one might be tempted to relegate this volume to the realm of art history or classics. That would be a shame. Although several of the articles do have one foot firmly in those camps, and there is much here that may be a bit specialized, it is certainly useful for those with an interest in the ideology and representation of Roman imperialism and warfare." - Joseph Frechette, U.S. Army Center of Military History, H-NET

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521848176
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/2006
  • Pages: 382
  • Product dimensions: 7.24 (w) x 10.28 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

Sheila Dillon is Associate Professor of Art History at Duke University. She is the author of Ancient Greek Portrait Sculpture: Contexts, Styles and Subjects (Cambridge University Press, 2006).

Katherine E. Welch is Associate Professor of Fine Arts at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. She is the author of The Roman Amphitheater: From its Origins to the Colosseum (Cambridge University Press, 2006).

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Read an Excerpt


Cambridge University Press
978-0-521-84817-6 - Representations of War in Ancient Rome - Edited by Sheila Dillon and Katherine E. Welch
Excerpt



INTRODUCTION

Katherine E. Welch

Ennius: “Brave are the Romans as the sky is deep.”

Annalesfragment 470

WAR SUFFUSED ROMAN LIFE TO A DEGREE UNPARALLELED IN OTHER ANCIENT societies. Going to war nearly every year during the republican period, Rome conquered first its Latin neighbors and then – serially – the other peoples of Italy: Samnites, Etruscans, Greeks, and Gauls, to name a few. Rome proceeded to defeat Carthage and then toppled, one by one, the Hellenistic monarchies to the East. As Keith Hopkins has commented, no other preindustrial society had such a large percentage of its population actively engaged in warfare at any given time as did Rome during the Republic.1 War making in Rome during the republican period took on, it has been said, something of a pathological character. William V. Harris has pointed out that by the mid–second century B.C. Polybius could matter-of-factly explain to his Greek audience that it was customary for the Romans to use βία (violent force) for all purposes.2 The regularity of Roman warfare grew out of, and was supported by, a social ethosof intense competition, above all for military reputation.3

   Ancient historians have long been interested in Roman war in terms of the reconstruction of military history, strategies and army equipment, political propaganda, social history, and (recently) attitudes toward enemies, and the relationship between war and emotions.4 The reason for this interest on the part of historians is simple: most of the ancient texts that Roman historians consult are concerned with politics and war. Art historians, on the other hand, are only just beginning to address the importance of the topic of war in the diverse world of Roman images. Naturally enough, scenes such as those on the Columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius have received much attention.5 Some work has also been done on the representation of war through personifications, architecture and public space, and the representations of Rome’s enemies.6 But the diffuse, often nuanced ways in which Romans represented war – including the ideologies and rituals around war, its players, and its aftermath – have not been broadly considered in a wide variety of media. This is in part because, while some artifacts are obviously related to war, the connection of many others to war is less immediately obvious. For example, a battle scene on Trajan’s Column and a plundered statue of a Greek Muse in a Roman manubial temple are two very different types of artifact, but at certain times and for certain audiences they could both have the concept of conquest at the very core of their semiotic power. Another reason war has not been dealt with so much from the art-historical point of view could be the generally negative connotation that war has had (and still has in many circles) in our culture, because of its association with violence. In the Roman world, however, war had many positive associations. It provided occasions for the displays of bravery, opportunities for political advancement and the accumulation of wealth, the hope of a secure retirement with an accompanying plot of land, and finally the promise of loot (including not only material objects but human opportunties such as enslavement and rape). As the Roman world progressed toward empire, war increasingly provided a sense of personal and collective security, a way of ordering the world, a means of self-definition in relation to other cultures, a vehicle for the spread of civilization – and, above all, a sense that all was well.

   Since the nineteenth century, art historians have been searching for that elusive “certain something” that makes Roman art Roman. In fact, many of the aspects of Roman art that make it distinctive and different from the art of the Greek world (Rome’s culturally authoritative model) may be traced to a particular Roman concern: warfare. This is nowhere better illustrated than in the art of the Republic, a period of great artistic innovation, when most Roman artifacts and monuments saw their genesis, and when Rome’s self-image took shape as it first entered the world stage. War was at the heart of much of what we think of as typical in Roman art, as I will try to show.

   Roman war and imperialism during the Republic – particularly the question of whether it was offensive or defensive – has been the subject of intense debate among historians.7 As early as 396 B.C., when Rome penetrated Etruria and sacked Veii, the southernmost important Etruscan city, an aggressive military sensibility was already at work. And certainly by 328 when Rome violated a treaty with the Samnites, crossed the Liris River that divided Latium from Campania, and planted a military colony there (Fregellae), foreign policy was openly offensive. When did this war mentality originate? It is difficult to say, but visual culture can help to answer this question. As Tonio Hölscher has recently written, “A large part of the relevance of war in history lies in mentally constructed behavior and perceptions. In this respect, images are a highly revealing form of historical evidence: whether they conform to or complement written texts, they constitute an autonomous world of visual experience.”8

   An important catalyst for offensive imperialism may have come in 387 B.C. when Rome suffered a catastrophic and unexpected sack by the Gauls. Because of the sack, Rome decided to defend its city with a massive wall: the so-called Servian Wall.9 Previous monuments in Rome had been made of locally available capellaccio tufa. The new wall, however, was made of a different kind of tufa, grotta oscura. Ironically, the availability of this new building material for Rome’s “defense” was in fact the result of Roman aggression: the tufa was quarried at the now subjugated city of Veii, site of Rome’s first major foreign military conquest. The Servian Wall’s ashlar blocks constituted, in a sense, a trophy, analogous to the beaks wrested from captured enemy ships and fastened onto the public speaking platform (the Rostra).10 Constructed in the very latest international style and encompassing far more territory than was actually needed, inhabited, or built up in Rome at the time, the Servian Wall was a self-conscious statement of great things to come, both at home and abroad.

   In a seminal article Tonio Hölscher showed that the beginning of what is a distinctively Roman art (as opposed to Etruscan or Greek art) was closely linked to political developments in the fourth century.11 With the end of the patrician monopoly over power and with the formation of a patrician-plebeian nobility, there ensued a period of fierce competition for public office. This in turn precipitated great expansion of, and innovation in, the artistic sphere. What might be explored further is the fact that, because by the fourth century war had become so central to Roman society and because success in war was the best way to achieve election to high office, the artistic manifestations of this political competition had almost invariably to do with war.

   This is clear, as Hölscher has shown, in the transformation during the republican period of the center of Rome (the Forum and the Capitol) into a landscape of individual military self-advertisements, in a way that was unparalleled in the Greek world.12 In addition to adorning the Rostra with the beaks of his captured ships, the plebeian C. Maenius (cos. in 338 B.C. and victor in the great naval battle at Antium) had set up nearby a column supporting a portrait statue of himself,13 in emulation of Greek models. The plebeian C. Duilius (cos. 260 and naval victor in Sicily) responded by “improving” upon the Greek model used by Maenius by having a column monument set up with a statue of himself, but now adding the captured rostra of Carthaginian ships to the column shaft (hence the Rostrated Column, an original Roman type of monument).14 Not to be outdone, the patrician M. Aemilius Paullus (cos. 255 and another victor in the First Punic War) responded with a rostrated column with a statue of himself, located now not in the Forum but high up on the Capitol itself (a more elevated display setting).15 Already here we have the seeds of the Roman military cult of the individual, a competitive cult that came into its own during the late Republic.

   Beyond this, in the middle republican period Roman generals began to build their own manubial temples, vowed on the battlefield to deities of their choice (often related somehow to war) and paid for ex manubiis, by the proceeds of war. The area in and around the triumphal route – from its beginnings in the Campus Martius in the Circus Flaminius, through the Porta Triumphalis, where the triumph entered the pomerium (sacred boundary of the city), and along the Sacred Way leading toward the Forum – was gradually lined with manubial temples. As the surviving temples in the Forum Holitorium and the Area Sacra di Largo Argentina demonstrate, the temples were tightly packed, one directly upon the next.16 As time went on, every temple began to be designed with an ever more original architectural iconography,17 each vying for the viewer’s attention and thus vividly evoking a specific general’s victory in perpetuity.

   Notably, what little relief sculpture survives from the republican period has for the most part to do with war. Greeks had tended to represent battle scenes in allegorical terms (for example, the Great Altar at Pergamon represents battles of the Attalids with Gauls through the guise of the Olympians fighting Giants).18 Realistic battle scenes (thereby heightened in their depiction) are known, however, in Roman relief sculpture at least from the early-mid second century B.C., with the Fregellae friezes and the pillar monument of Aemilius Paullus at Delphi (in both of which, Macedonians and Romans are recognizable by their distinctive shields).19 On reliefs of the republican period the representation of war could be explicit, or – on the so-called altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus (the “Paris-Munich Reliefs”) – it could be tangential, in the depiction of the census (the purpose of which was to determine who was eligible for the army), or allegorical, as in the marine cortege (which symbolically celebrated a naval victory).20 War could also be depicted iconically, for example in the so-called San Omobono reliefs (“Reliefs from the Piazza della Consolazione”).21 These depict shields, trophies, captured armor, heads of Roma, and Victories. As with some of the Fregellae friezes, the elements are arranged in a “styleless” style with little overlapping of figural decoration, inspired in their arrangement perhaps by the way in which looted weapons and armor had been hung up for generations on the facades of Roman houses (and/or by the way that looted weapons were nailed to the back walls of Greek stoas).22 These reliefs may have been commissioned by Sulla for a base that supported a statue group depicting the surrender to Sulla of Jugurtha, and the monument may have stood on the Capitol. In this case it could have been a response to the Trophies of Marius (Sulla’s onetime rival), which also stood on the Capitol and commemorated Marius᾽ victories in Africa and Germany.23 Not by coincidence, most such republican reliefs appear to have functioned as cladding for the bases of victory monuments that were located along or near the triumphal route.

   The honorific arch ( fornix) is another example of a Roman monument that originated in the republican period because of the need on the part of elite Romans to represent personal achievement in war. In the republican period, honorific arches – which functioned as huge statue bases – all spanned or were located close to the via Triumphalis.24 The earliest arches we know of were three, set up in a single year (196) by a single man, L. Stertinius, upon his return from Spain: two in the Forum Boarium and one in the Circus Maximus. Livy mentions that the arches contained signa aurata: gilded bronze statues.25 In 190, Scipio Africanus responded by erecting an arch up on the more prestigious Clivus Capitolinus, which Livy says supported nine gilded bronze statues and a pair of horses.26 The statues were probably standing portrait statues of the triumphator and his family, as suggested by the evidence of the later Fornix Fabianus.27 Indeed, in 120 B.C. Q. Fabius Maximus Allobrogicus erected the Fornix Fabianus, spanning the Sacred Way near the Forum, and we know from inscriptions (dating from a restoration in the sixties B.C.) that at least three portrait statues stood on top of it: that of Fabius Allobrogicus himself and those of his ancestors L. Aemilius Paullus and Scipio Africanus the Elder. Notably, none of these republican arches were erected in conjunction with an actual triumph (Stertinius did not even seek a triumph, either because he knew he would not be granted one or because his loot from Spain would not have compared in splendor to most other plunder coming into Rome from the Greek world and carried in triumphs). The genesis of the free-standing republican arch (a uniquely Roman type of monument with a great future ahead of it28) seems, then, to have been connected with a desire for alternative forms of military self-advertisement, in lieu of a formal triumph or a manubial temple filled with plundered art.

   The practice of open self-commemoration seems to have begun on Roman coinage (on coin reverses) after the passing in 139 of the lex Gabinia (which provided for secret ballot in elections for the first time). As political stakes heightened aspiring officials became more daring in their selection of images on coins. Moneyers were now allowed considerable freedom in their selection of images on coins.29 Not surprisingly, many of the images they chose had strong military themes. For example, a coin of 116 has a helmeted head of Roma on the obverse and on the reverse a horseman brandishing a sword in his left hand and wielding a severed head by means of a hook, in place of his missing right hand. The moneyer was one M. Sergius Silus, and the reverse type portrays his grandfather (praetor in 197), who in his youth had famously and valiantly fought left-handed after losing his right hand in battle.30 Such graphically violent iconography would never be found on a Greek coin (Hellenistic coinage had horsemen and armed warriors but in noncombative poses). Here again is a clear cultural difference between Rome and Greece in the visual sphere, one that is rooted in the real practices of war, to which we now briefly turn.

   Compared to what we know of the Greek world, republican Rome had a particularly brutal and efficient army culture. During downtime Roman soldiers were kept busy by constructing whole castra (army camps), even if they were only needed for a single night.31 They were allowed occasional entertainments in the form of watching “uplifting” gladiatorial fights (gladiators accompanied the legions).32 Soldier discipline was extremely harsh. During the republican period decimation was a regular practice: if soldiers misbehaved or were cowardly, one out of ten legionaries were arbitrarily selected and killed (the soldiers themselves were forced to cudgel their comrades to death).33 Scipio Africanus᾽ practice of instilling fear in his soldiers in Spain during the Second Punic War reveals how army discipline was conducted during the pivotal period of the beginning of Rome’s greatest overseas expansion:

[Scipio] ordered the lictors to divide the crowd into two parts, and when they did so, the senators dragged the guilty leaders into the middle of the assembly. When they cried out and called their comrades to their aid, everyone who uttered a word was killed by the tribunes. The rest of the crowd, seeing that the assembly was surrounded by armed men, remained in sullen silence. Then Scipio caused the unfortunate men to be dragged into the middle of the crowd, to be beaten with rods, those who had cried out for help being beaten hardest, after which he ordered that their necks should be pegged to the ground and later their heads cut off. He gave pardons to the rest among this number. In this way the mutiny in Scipio’s camp [in Spain] was put down.34

   Roman sacking practices were an exquisite combination of frenzied brutality on the part of soldiers and careful orchestration from the commanders above, in a manner that Polybius (writing for a Greek audience) thought distinctive and therefore worthy of note.35 When sacking cities, Romans often killed the adult males and sold the women and children into slavery, as Greeks sometimes did as well. But Romans also frequently killed every living thing they encountered. As Polybius recounts, when the above-mentioned Scipio Africanus sacked New Carthage in Spain, he gave orders that his soldiers should kill everyone they met, sparing no one. On that occasion, men, women, and children were killed and raped, the limbs of animals were gratuitously hacked off, and dogs were sliced in two.36 This was not an isolated incident: as Polybius explains to his Greek audience, “The purpose of this custom, I suppose, is to strike terror.” Once a city had been taken, special items of value (even sacred objects from sanctuaries, as would not have been the cases in Greek battles) were sought out, collected, and reserved for the generals, their legates, and centurions. After the carnage in New Carthage, the soldiers waited patiently until the order came from Scipio allowing them to commence general looting, taking anything that appealed to their greed and appetites. The disciplinary tactics of Scipio Africanus in Spain had evidently served their purpose, for commander and soldier alike.

   While slaughter and execution were practiced in the Greek world in a military context, we hear little of torture or mutilation.37 By contrast, in republican Rome, prisoners of war, slaves, and noncitizen criminals were routinely tortured in public by crucifixion, fire branding, or mauling by wild beasts.38 As W. V. Harris has commented concerning the Romans in this period, “few other [ancient peoples] are known to have displayed such an extreme degree of ferocity in war while reaching such a high level of political culture.”39

   By contrast, the behavior of the Greeks in taking cities during sacking does not appear to have been as ferocious; nor did they plunder sanctuaries; and their concern for human lives seems to have been more complex. Greeks might kill the adult male population and sell the women and children into slavery (as they did during the Peloponnesian War, in the case of Melos). But this was not always the case. In that same war during the famous debate on the fate of Mytilene, the Athenians argued at length about political expediency versus justice of killing the adult males of that city. A ship approaching Lesbos from Athens bearing the news of the Athenians’ decision to kill the adult males was narrowly overtaken by another one bearing a message to reprieve the order, on the grounds that it was cruel (ὠμός).40

   As Rome tightened its control over the Greek world during the course of the second century B.C., Greeks strategically responded with the institution of a cult of Roma, which is attested to by inscriptions.41 A word similar to Roma already existed in Greek: ῥώμη, which means “force” (a curious coincidence). Soon, Roma came to be represented on Roman coins. Roma was depicted, of course, as a female figure (a standard Greek convention for the representation of cities). What kind of female figure? Naturally enough, she was represented as a warrior goddess, like an Amazon wearing a helmet.42 When the manubial Temple of Honos and Virtus was dedicated by M. Claudius Marcellus in 205 B.C., the cult of Virtus (“military courage” or – perhaps better translated – “aggressive manliness”43) was officially instituted in Rome. The personification of Virtus began to appear in the seventies B.C. on Roman coins, minted naturally enough by Marcellus’ descendants. Not by coincidence, Virtus is also a helmeted figure and is nearly identical to Roma in iconography (except for the more erect rendering of the feathers in her helmet).44 Which personification came first, the goddess Roma or the goddess Virtus? Since the figure of Virtus on the coins of the first century B.C. is no doubt a representation of the original cult statue of the late third century B.C. in Marcellus’ temple, it seems likely that Virtus was first, and when an iconography for Roma was needed, Virtus provided the obvious model. No stronger statement – the iconographic equation of Roma with Virtus – could have been made about how the Romans conceived of themselves. Indeed, by the imperial period the two figures – Roma and Virtus – are visually indistinguishable in art and difficult if not impossible to tell apart, except sometimes by pose (seated, moving).

   A military self-consciousness in Roman coinage is palpable, however, long before the late republican period. Rome’s very earliest coins depict Mars, or the double-headed Janus (god of doorways), on the obverse and a ship’s prow on the reverse.45 Mars is military, and the ship’s prow is an obvious reference to naval victory. But what is the message of Janus? Much has been made of the liminal nature of this god,46 but there is a less lofty explanation for the prominence on coins of Janus. Janus᾽ temple was located at the most conspicuous intersection (“doorway”) in Rome, where the major public artery of the city (the Argiletum) issued into the Forum at the foot of the Curia (meeting place of the Senate) and Comitium (meeting place of the People). Because during the Republic the doors of Janus’ temple were always kept open in times of war,47 Janus’ cult statue was visible all the time to all Romans. By contrast, most cult statues were visible to the public only once or so a year on the feast day of the divinity in question. The doors of Janus᾽ temple were – remarkably – closed on only two occasions during the entire republican period (five centuries).48 Janus᾽ statue was therefore a perpetual and hortatory reminder that Rome was currently at war: hence the god’s prominence on republican coinage.

   Looming over the Temple of Janus was the Curia whose side walls were adorned with the triumphal paintings that generals had carried in their triumphal processions, at least from the third century on, when, the sources tell us, the defeat of the Carthaginians by M. Valerius Massala (cos. 263) was represented in a painting that was hung there.49 Not by coincidence, the earliest extant Roman wall painting – the familiar Esquiline Historical Fragment50 – is just such a work of art. The painting, which depicts scenes of battle and negotiations in the field between Rome and probably Samnites, is believed to date to the third century B.C., and it may pertain to victories of Q. Fabius Rullianus, triumphator in the Second Samnite War. In the same period, L. Papirius Cursor hung his captured Samnite shields along the north side of the Roman Forum,51 and the central space of the Forum square became the regular site of gladiatorial games: orchestrated enactments of infantry battle, often in the republican period featuring fights to the death of prisoners of war (the munus sine missione: gladiatorial combat with no hope of reprieve for the fallen combatant).52 Such games, which were held in the elevated and sacred context of the aristocratic funeral, were thought to promote military discipline among young men.53 Junior Roman politicians (usually aediles) used the money they had won in their military victories to sponsor such gladiatorial shows and also to an extent ludi: circus events and stage plays, the latter both based on Greek prototypes. Munificent gestures such as these will have garnered public acclaim and votes. However, even as Rome was busily adopting Greek cults (Magna Mater) and Greek types of drama (New Comedy), they also developed an original Roman type of play, the praetexta, which commemorated a Roman general’s military successes. A revealing line from a praetexta has survived. It is probably from Ennius’ play, the Ambracia, which celebrated M. Fulvius Nobilior’s siege of the seat of the kingdom of Pyrrhus in the early second century: “Brave are the Romans as the sky is deep.”54

   Two final major categories of Roman art production in the republican period need to be mentioned, ones not immediately associated with war: portrait and decorative sculpture. Greek portraits of the Hellenistic period could be quite varied, depending on the type of person represented. With varying degrees of apparent age, the portraits could emphasize placid, youthful beauty (in the case of ephebes), dynamic inspiration (royal figures), or thoughtfulness and inner concentration (bearded orators and philosophers). By contrast, Roman portraiture of the republican period is characterized by a visual template of remarkable sameness, distinguished in large part by its representation of battle-hardened, aging, beardless men, with wrinkles, sometimes with facial scars, with closely shaved or balding heads, and intensely lifelike, forward gazes.55 What separates republican portraiture from even the best quality Hellenistic portraiture is that – within a relatively narrow range of visual options – each Roman portrait includes minutely differentiated, realistic-looking physiognomic details. Each portrait could thus successfully compete for the viewer’s attention by conveying the immediate effect of powerful individual presence. This peculiarly realistic-looking Roman type of portraiture seems to have been an expression of the competitive ethos of military glory straining hard against collective senatorial expectations of equal power sharing among the elite.

   We turn now to the decorative statues of Greek mythological, divine, or genre subject matter, which were manufactured for the burgeoning Roman villa market in the early first century B.C. and later. The villa provided a relaxing atmosphere of joie de vivre for wealthy Romans when they were away from town, and the statuary decoration in villas contributed to this ambiance. But even this kind of statuary seems originally to have been connected with a war mentality, since it had first been brought to Rome as plunder and was displayed then not only in manubial temples but also in Roman houses.56 High-class Greek statuary in bronze and marble only began to be brought to Rome on a large scale as war booty by M. Claudius Marcellus in 212 B.C.57 But even earlier in the third century, Furius Camillus’s triumph over Volsinii was notable for containing 2,000 miniature statues, many of which were set up in a manubial temple in the precinct of the Area Sacra di San Omobono,58 with the following dedicatory inscription: “Furius Camillus took [them] from Volsinii.”59 Such formulaic inscriptions are found throughout the second century B.C., when the great generals were busy dedicating looted statues in Rome and the towns of Italy.60 Pithy, unceremonious, and mentioning only the general’s name and the place he had conquered (rather than the deity to whom the statues were dedicated, the subject matter of the statue, or the artist), these inscriptions had little to do with art in our sense and much to do with individual military self-commemoration.

   By the late Republic, military prowess had become a self-conscious aspect of Rome’s image of itself, as evidenced by Marius᾽ famous rhetorical speech to the Roman people in which he criticizes the nobility for their effeminacy and boasts of his own battle scars.61 By the Augustan period, when Virgil wrote Book 6 of the Aeneid, this military self-image had become a matter of nostalgia.62 When the old Republic gave way to a disguised monarchy, the concept of peace (the pax Romana) became a central aspect of Roman ideology and imperialism, and imperial victory became a justification of empire. The Ara Pacis Augustae and the Flavian Temple of Peace (which contained a cult statue of Pax) are illustrative of this ideology.63 In the Forum of Augustus, war was represented symbolically with the caryatids on the attic of the porticoes. In the high imperial period, however, the representations of such personifications became more explicit, for example, with the Dacian prisoners that were placed on the attic of Trajan’s Forum and the highly individuated personifications of provinces that decorated the portico surrounding the Hadrianeum.64 This was a reflection not only of the waning of the importance of Pax in imperial ideology but also of the increasingly open autocratic behavior practiced by the emperors during the second century, as opposed to the early imperial period when the emperor still had to maintain the fiction that the Republic had been restored and the opinions of senators actually mattered.65

   When during the high imperial period the ideology of Pax became less relevant, the repertoire of representation of war on state reliefs was greatly expanded, evidently in a single reign, that of Trajan. On the Column of Trajan, prosaic scenes of war making are innovatively combined with the elegant allegorical figure of Venus-Victoria inscribing a shield.66 Trajan’s Column features scenes of the emperor supervising the waging of war as he really would have done; the Great Trajanic Frieze shows the emperor himself riding into battle (as he would not actually have done) in an elevated Hellenistic formulation; and the Arch of Trajan represents the emperor, in the company of allegories and divinities, reorganizing the world after his successful completion of the Dacian wars.67 These three types of imperial representation can be seen as visual analogues of three different literary genres: the commentarii (military diaries, such as those composed by Trajan himself); narrations of battle in epic poetry; and the imperial panegyric.68 The traditional genre of triumphal painting (with its multitude of figures and bird’s-eye visual perspective) was now translated into the permanent medium of relief sculpture not only on Trajan’s Column but also in a more self-consciously retrograde way on the individual panels – brightly painted – of the Arch of Septimius Severus, located close to the Curia, where actual such paintings had been hung for centuries.69





© Cambridge University Press
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Table of Contents

Introduction Katherine E. Welch; 1. The transformation of victory into power: from event to structure Tonio Holscher; 2. Siege narrative in Livy: representation and reality Jonathan P. Roth; 3. Roman aesthetics and the spoils of Syracuse Myles McDonnell; 4. Domi Militiaeque: Roman domestic aesthetics and war booty in the Republic Katherine E. Welch; 5. The origins of the Roman Scaenae Frons and the architecture of triumphal games in the second century B.C. Laura S. Klar; 6. The bringer of victory: imagery and institutions at the advent of empire Michael Koortbojian; 7. Conquest and desire: Roman Victoria in public and provincial sculpture Rachel Kousser; 8. Women on the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius and the visual language of Roman victory Sheila Dillon; 9. Battle imagery and politics on the Severan arch in the Roman Forum Susann Lusnia; 10. Readings in the narrative literature of Roman courage William V. Harris.
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