Date of Award

2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

History of Art

First Advisor

Ann Kuttner

Second Advisor

C. Brian Rose

Abstract

Several transitions mark Late Antiquity as a departure from the Roman world’s political, religious, economic, and social past. Among these was Constantine’s foundation of a “new Rome” at Constantinople. Without the emperor’s presence to underpin the city’s prominence, the aristocrats of Rome sought to reassert their political influence and proclaim their elite standing. My dissertation investigates the ways elites used competitive display to redefine a world without Rome as its sole center, recovering as its central case the now-lost fourth century CE “Basilica of Junius Bassus" on the Esquiline Hill. The apsidal hall was revetted with an eclectic set of marble panels, including a portrait of the patron in procession, a mythological scene of the rape of Hylas, Egyptianizing trompe l’oeil drapery, and animal combats in the arena. My project is the first comprehensive treatment of the hall, and calls on a variety of data sets (epigraphy, literary sources, Renaissance drawings, archaeological data) to place the hall in its social, historical, topographic, and art historical context and analyze the way one member of Rome’s late antique aristocracy built and used monuments and manipulated urban topography to evoke and re-shape honorific memory. This study refigures the hall through close looking and socio-historical contextualization, while asking how we can understand and reliably reconstruct a monument from the past with a rich but fragmentary material record.

Embargoed

Available to all on Saturday, September 11, 2021

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