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CHAPTER TWELVE. Reliefs, Public and Private

Katja Moede

Subject Religion
Classics » Ancient Religion
Ancient History » Roman History

Key-Topics image, ritual, sources

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405129435.2007.00014.x


Rituals and cultic events are among the predominant themes of Roman art, which amply reflects religious contents and their symbolism ( Ryberg 1955 ; Fless 1995 ; Siebert 1999 ; Moede 2004 ). Various ways to treat the pictorial subject occur. It is either symbolized by both sacrificial implements and animals, or the actual ritual itself is portrayed as processions or sacrifices ( Ryberg 1955 ; Ronke 1987 ; Fless 1995 ). Yet the question arises how many of those rituals performed in reality and attested by our sources are actually represented in art. In order to give an answer at the end of this chapter I shall first demonstrate the scope of public and private representations of rituals. Monuments or groups of monuments will be confronted with the respective ritual as reconstructed from written sources. From a thorough comparison of ritual sequences as they were performed to their actual representation, it will emerge which elements are significant in an iconographic sense and have been judged characteristics of a ritual for the purpose of representation. At the beginning of the principate there was a notable increase of representations with a religious content. Yet historical reliefs in general multiplied with the advent of the empire and its change of political conditions. Moreover it was Augustus who resuscitated a plethora of priesthoods, cults, and rituals at Rome and for ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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