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Article

Thorsten Opper

Elaborate monument erected by Octavian (later Augustus) in 29–27 bc on the Preveza Peninsula in Western Greece, north of the present-day town of Preveza, overlooking Cape Actium, to commemorate his naval victory over Mark Antony at Actium in 31 bc. The nearby city of Nikopolis (Gr.: ‘city of victory’) was founded for the same purpose at about the same time.

According to the historian Dio Cassius (Roman History LI.i.3), after his victory Octavian laid a foundation of square stones on the spot where he had pitched his tent, which he then adorned with the captured ships’ rams. On this foundation, according to Dio, Octavian established an open-air shrine dedicated to Apollo. Suetonius (Augustus xviii.2) and Strabo (Geography VII.vii.6) corroborate this evidence, although the trophy itself (with the ships’ rams) was, according to Suetonius, dedicated to Poseidon and Mars, presumably for their help during the battle. The hill itself was, according to Strabo, sacred to Apollo, and therefore the shrine was dedicated to him....

Article

Thorsten Opper

Source of a group of Roman and Greek works of art, in particular a group of Greek bronze sculptures and statuettes. In 1900 sponge-divers discovered the remains of an ancient shipwreck in the sea off the Greek island of Antikythera. In one of the first operations of this kind, they salvaged some its cargo. A new investigation of the wreck site took place in 1976 and succeeded in recovering many further objects, as well as (still unpublished) remains of the hull. All the finds are now in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. The ship, which must have foundered in the second quarter of the 1st century bc, carried a mixed cargo of ‘antique’ and contemporary bronze and marble statuary, as well as luxury products such as bronze furniture attachments, rare and expensive types of glass, gold ingots etc. It also contained the so-called Antikythera Mechanism, an elaborate type of astrolabe....

Article

Thorsten Opper

(b Claudiopolis [Bithynion] c. ad 110; d Egypt, October ad 130).

Greek youth from north-western Asia Minor who became the companion and lover of the Roman emperor Hadrian (reg ad 117–138) until his mysterious death in the Nile in October ad 130. The bereaved emperor gave orders for Antinous to be deified as Antinous-Osiris and founded a new city, Antinoöpolis, close to the spot where Antinous had died. From there, his cult spread rapidly over the empire, especially the Greek-speaking areas, where festivals in his honour were established and an astounding number of images dedicated. Most remarkable (apart from preserved representations on coins, gems etc, and paintings attested in literary sources) were his sculptured portraits, frequently likened to gods of the Classical Pantheon, of which nearly 100 have survived—a number surpassed only by the portraits of the emperors Augustus and Hadrian. Their ubiquity and often high quality made them icons of ancient art, highly influential and frequently copied from the Renaissance onwards....

Article

Giovanna Tedeschi Grisanti

(Rome)

A three-vaulted structure, dedicated in AD 315, which stands between the Caelian and Palatine hills, on the triumphal way from the Circus Maximus to the Arch of Titus (see fig.). Inscriptions on both north and south faces of the arch (on the part of the attic storey above the central span and on the entablatures over the side openings) record that it was erected by the Roman people after the victory of Constantine over Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge (28 Oct AD 312) in gratitude for his first decade as emperor and as a votive offering for his second. Contemporary literary sources, however, make no mention of the arch, and the first extant reference to it is in the anonymous Carolingian Itinerary of Einsiedeln (Einsiedeln Abbey).

The Arch of Constantine faces north and south, and both of these longer sides are articulated by four Corinthian columns in yellow Numidian marble, with four pilasters and statues fronting the flat-topped attic storey. It is the largest triumphal arch to survive intact (h. 20 m, w. 25 m), with a central opening measuring 11.45×6.50 m and openings either side of 7.40×3.35 m. Its elevation is entirely of marble, except for the brick fill of the attic storey. Part of the material for its construction was, however, obtained from Flavian buildings. Even the sculptures vary in date. Among those of Constantine’s own period are the reliefs on the eight tall plinths for the columns. Those of the south façade depict Victories with trophies and barbarian prisoners, as do the two outer plinths of the north façade. The inner plinths flanking the central opening (north) depict Victories writing on shields, and further Victories bearing trophies appear with Genii of the Seasons in the spandrels of the central arch, while river gods occupy those of the side openings. The historical frieze running round most of the arch just above the side openings is also of Constantinian date. On the west side, six panels illustrate the ...

Article

Kirk Ambrose

(b Moscow, May 7, 1903; d Paris, Jan 25, 1988).

Lithuanian art historian, scholar of folklore and Egyptology, and diplomat of Russian birth. Son of the celebrated Lithuanian Symbolist poet of the same name, Jurgis Baltrušaitis II studied under Henri(-Joseph) Focillon at the Sorbonne and earned the PhD in 1931. The concerns of his mentor are evident in La stylistique ornementale dans la sculpture romane (1931), which reprises and extends arguments for the ‘law of the frame’ in Romanesque sculpture. Accordingly, the shapes of architectural members, such as capitals and tympana, determined the articulation of sculptural forms. This theory could account for the genesis of a wide array of monumental carvings, from foliate capitals to narrative reliefs, but ultimately it had a rather limited impact on the field of Romanesque sculptural studies. In a scathing critique, Schapiro argued that Baltrušaitis’s book—and by implication Focillon’s methods—robbed Romanesque sculptors of agency and neglected the religious and expressive meanings of this art form....

Article

Dimitris Plantzos

An islet to the west of Paros and Antiparos in the centre of the Cyclades. It has been identified as ancient Prepesinthos, mentioned by Strabo (Geography X.v.3) and Pliny (Natural History vi.66). The archaeological remains of Despotikon were first explored in the late 19th century by pioneer Greek archaeologist Christos Tsountas, who excavated Early Cycladic (c. 3200–2000 bc) cemeteries at Livadi and Zoumbaria, and identified remains of a prehistoric settlement at the site of Chiromilos. Sixty more graves of the Early Cycladic period, as well as one of the Roman period, were discovered in the mid-20th century by the Greek Archaeological Service. Rescue excavations were initiated again in 1997, focused on the site at Mandra, where an extensive sanctuary dedicated to Apollo has been located. The excavation has yielded a great number of finds, many of which are of prime importance as to the interpretation of the site, its role in the Aegean and its relations with the Near East, from the Archaic to the Roman period....

Article

Dimitris Plantzos

Greek city situated at the foothills of Mt Olympus in northern Greece (district of Pieria), 14 km south of modern city of Katerini. It was an important Macedonian political and cultural centre from the Classical to the Roman periods (6th century bc–4th century ad). By the 6th century bc it seems that the Macedonians were gathering at Dion in order to honour the Olympian gods, chiefly Zeus; according to myth, Deukalion, the only man to survive the flood at the beginning of time, built an altar to Zeus as a sign of his salvation. His sons, Macedon and Magnes, lived in Pieria, near Olympus, and became the mythical ancestors of the Macedonians. The altar allegedly erected by Deukalion remained the centre of the cult life at Dion throughout its history.

King Archelaos of Macedon (c. 413–399 bc) organized athletic and dramatic contests in the framework of the religious celebrations, following the practice of the Greeks in the south, such as at the great sanctuaries of Olympia and Delphi. Philip II (...

Article

Dimitris Plantzos

[Satra]

Greek city situated on the island of Crete, by the north-west foothills of mount Psiloritis (anc. Ida), 30 km south-east of the present-day city of Rethymnon. It was a centre for Aegean and Greek culture from the Prehistoric to the Byzantine periods (4th millennium bc–7th century bc).

Ancient Eleutherna is a typical example of a Cretan polis (city) inhabited continuously from at least from the 9th century bc (the so-called ‘Dark Age’ of Greek history) to the late Roman and Byzantine period (6th–7th century bc). Even before that, archaeological finds suggest the existence of a continuous presence on the site from the late Neolithic (4th millennium bc) through to a flourishing Minoan site of the 3rd to 2nd millennia bc. Although later construction all but eliminated traces of prehistoric architecture, there is still significant evidence to confirm unbroken habitation. In historical times (9th century...

Article

Thorsten Opper

[now Torre Annunziata]

Roman settlement on the seaward slopes of Mt Vesuvius about five km north-west of Pompeii, in what is now Torre Annunziata. The name Oplontis is attested in the Tabula Peutingeriana, a 13th-century copy of an ancient map of the Roman Empire (Vienna, Österreich. Nbib., Cod. 324). Baths were discovered at the locality of Punta Oncino in 1834 while systematic excavations between 1964 and 1984 unearthed two villas and remains of a portico in the nearby area of Mascatelle.

Villa A is a grand residence with origins in the 1st century bc and extended in the Claudian period (mid-1st century ad). It is also known as Villa of Poppaea, after Poppaea Sabina, second wife of the Roman emperor Nero (an amphora inscribed with the name of one of her freedmen was found on the site). The villa was empty and undergoing restoration work at the time of the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in ...

Article

David Hemsoll

revised by Eve D’Ambra

(Rome)

One of Rome’s hills and site of the official imperial residence until the 4th century AD. The hill itself is roughly rectangular with steeply sloping sides and is situated at the centre of the city overlooking the valley of the Forum Romanum to the north-east, with its slightly lower north-western extension, sometimes called the Germalus, rising sharply from near the Tiber. In Roman times the Palatine (Lat. Palatium) was thought to have been the site of the citadel of the legendary king Evander and of the original walled city founded by Romulus; it was certainly inhabited in remote antiquity: the remains of three huts discovered at the western corner date back to the 8th century BC. From around the beginning of the 2nd century BC it became one of the city’s most fashionable districts and was the setting of a number of well-appointed houses belonging to wealthy patricians. Residents during the 1st century BC included Cicero, Mark Antony, and the future emperor Augustus (...

Article

Eve D’Ambra

[Silene]

Roman villa in Libya. The élite of the great city of Leptis Magna built villas along the Tripolitanian coast, and the Villa Sileen, near the village of Khums(Qums) is an excellent example of this type of domestic architecture in North Africa. Discovered in 1974, the villa was inhabited in the 2nd century ...

Article

Eve D’Ambra

Roman Spain consisted of the entire Iberian peninsula, both modern Spain and Portugal. As it is twice as large as Italy, Hispania was viewed as a remote subcontinent with the Pyrenees guarding passage to Europe and the Straits of Gibraltar beckoning to Africa. Its geography, therefore, played a significant role in its historical development, especially in its early contact with Rome during the Punic wars. The landscape exhibits variety in features, such as a high central plateau bounded on three sides by mountain ranges, a narrow coastal plain bordering the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic seaboard. With a climate ranging from Mediterranean to subdesert conditions, agriculture provided a livelihood for its inhabitants (wheat, olives and grapes being the most important products). Its wealth of resources also included metals (gold, silver, iron, copper, lead) that were mined, and the harvest of the sea (especially for the making of garum, a fish sauce considered a delicacy by the Romans)....

Article

In its most general sense, spolia (pl., from Lat. spolium: ‘plunder’) denotes all artifacts re-employed in secondary contexts, from building blocks reused in a wall to pagan gems mounted on a Christian reliquary. It is a matter of debate whether this broad application of the term is justified, or whether it should be restricted to the relatively small subset of reused objects that were taken or ‘stripped’ (like spoils) from their original context, rather than found, purchased, inherited or otherwise acquired by non-violent means. It is likewise debated when the use of spolia should be considered meaningful, if at all. Arnold Esch defined five possible motives for using spolia: convenience, profanation, Christianization, political legitimation and aesthetic attraction. Michael Greenhalgh has argued for reducing the motives to three (at least with regard to marble): pragmatism, aesthetics and ideology; while Finbarr Barry Flood cautioned against reductive interpretations generated by any taxonomy, insisting that reused objects are mutable in meaning and capable of multiple interpretations during their life cycle....

Article

Ann Kuttner

(Rome)

Ann Kuttner

Monument in the Forum of Trajan (see Imperial Fora ), covered in relief carving, which was dedicated 18 May AD 113. The inscription over its door (Corp. Inscr. Lat., vi, 960) indicates that it commemorated Trajan’s accomplishment in excavating the Quirinal Hill and building his forum and markets, which are visible (through 43 windows) from the inner stair and crowning platform. Eight blocks form the base (26.83 sq. m, h. 5.37 m), entered by a door in the south-east face; its chamber received Trajan’s ash-urn at his death in AD 117 (Dio: Roman History XLVIII.xvi.3); if Titus’ ashes (d AD 81) were in the attic of the Arch of Titus, intramural burial had precedent. The Tuscan Doric column held a colossal bronze Trajan c. 5.5 m tall, of which the head (now lost) was 694 mm; coins of AD 113 show a heroic nude, a spear in the right hand. The 29.78 m Luna marble shaft (17 drums, each 1.44 m high with diameters tapering from 3.83 m to 3.66 m) made with the capital a ...