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Byzantine art term paper

"Another aspect of the iconography of the David Plates that has been over interpreted as imperial is the group of a basket flanked by two bags, which appears in the exergue of the presentation and marriage plates. The bags are tied at the neck, and the basket is shown full of small, round objects resembling coins. Weitzmann was the first to suggest that these items are taken from the representation of the sparsio (the scattering of money among the people) on the late antique ivory consular diptychs. Wander follows his argument when he suggests that they are meant to represent the reward offered by Saul to the slayer of Goliath, but in the process he misunderstands the imagery of the consular diptychs. He describes sparsio as "the money distributed to the Roman populace at the imperial games" (emphasis added), and goes on to say that on diptychs, "sparsio carries associations of victory and regal munificence." However, the games depicted on the consular diptychs are not necessarily imperial; they are those hosted by the consul--who might or might not be the emperor--on taking office. It was the major financial obligation of the office to fund these games, their prizes, and the accompanying largesse to the populace who attended. Diptychs frequently represent the money given at the games to commemorate this munificence on the part of the consul, and it is more common to find non-imperial than imperial consuls commemorating their own munificence in this way. Although the Codex Calendar of 354 shows Constantius II as consul with a stream of coins flowing from his hand, there are no surviving diptychs that represent the emperor thus.36 The consuls on the diptychs in their official robes, presiding over the games from a dais, and framed with an architectural pediment are a reminder that the iconography of late antique ceremonial--as used in the presentation and marriage plates-was not restricted to an imperial context. Ceremonial was a feature of official life in late antiquity and early Byzantium which achieved its most elaborate forms in the imperial court but was not restricted to it. The ceremonial iconography of the David Plates does not seem to provide sufficient basis for a strong imperial reading of them, since such imagery could, as we have seen, have non-imperial secular sources."

"The principal discovery at Dura was a frescoed wall with a row of figures--two priests and the family of a certain Conon for whom the work was done--dating from the second half of the first century A.D. Standing within an architectural frame, these resurrected personages stare out at the spectator with the same frontality which stiffens the pose of Greek saints in mosaics executed a thousand years later. The principle of rhythm in arrangement, the rich emotional play of color, has here orientalized Hellenistic style in quite the same fashion as in the mosaics of Ravenna, whose decorative quality in these respects was emphasized in the preceding chapter. It is no wonder that Dr. Breasted, the first archaeologist to examine and publish the frescoes of Dura, called them "Oriental forerunners of Byzantine painting." They are, indeed, our earliest example of the transformation that Asia gradually brought about in Graeco-Roman art, a transformation whose early phase, as at Dura, was nothing more than the re-statement in Asiatic terms of Greek notions about the representation of nature. This transformation was later hastened by the fundamental shift of content in Near Eastern art from Greek naturalism to the immaterialism of Christianity."

"When in the early days of Rome's history, the kingship had been overthrown, the royal prerogative was partitioned amongst many magistrates, while their tenure of power was in most cases shared with a colleague and limited to a brief period. Under the Empire the imperium of many of these magistrates was recalled, and the authority of each was placed in the hands of a single citizen; after some hesitation this cumulation of powers became the subject of a life-long grant. The Princeps controlled the army and those provinces which needed military protection; elsewhere the republican magistrates retained their old rights. Augustus might honestly seek to make the senate an active partner in the work of administration, but the senate refused to play its part, and reluctantly the Emperor was forced to assume new duties: thus the imperial burden grew. When Tiberius retired in weariness to Capri, it was realized that the organs of the old republican state were no longer equal to the increased strain: as soon as the Emperor refused to shoulder the load, confusion resulted."