Personifications and the Ancient Viewer: The Case of the Hadrianeum 'Nations'

Hughes, Jessica (2009). Personifications and the Ancient Viewer: The Case of the Hadrianeum 'Nations'. Art History, 32(1) pp. 1–20.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8365.2008.00646.x

Abstract

This article represents an initial exploration of how allegorical figures were made and viewed in Classical antiquity. It focuses on a well-known series of personifications which decorated a second-century CE temple complex in the heart of Rome. Previous studies of these sculpted reliefs have engaged in lively debate about which nations are represented, without ever reflecting on the processes by which the group has been designed and made. Here I replace the individual personifications back within the context of the group, and demonstrate that even the most cosmopolitan ancient viewer would found the interpretation of these images problematic. This reading is shown to have wider implications, both for how the Roman world was conceptualised in and through these images, and for the construction of social hierarchies within the city of Rome itself.

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