Sacred Founders: Women, Men, and Gods in the Discourse of Imperial Founding, Rome through Early Byzantium

Sacred Founders: Women, Men, and Gods in the Discourse of Imperial Founding, Rome through Early Byzantium

Language: English

Pages: 464

ISBN: 0520284011

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Diliana Angelova argues that from the time of Augustus through early Byzantium, a discourse of “sacred founders”—articulated in artwork, literature, imperial honors, and the built environment—helped legitimize the authority of the emperor and his family. The discourse coalesced around the central idea, bound to a myth of origins, that imperial men and women were sacred founders of the land, mirror images of the empire’s divine founders. When Constantine and his formidable mother Helena established a new capital for the Roman Empire, they initiated the Christian transformation of this discourse by brilliantly reformulating the founding myth. Over time, this transformation empowered imperial women, strengthened the cult of the Virgin Mary, fueled contests between church and state, and provoked an arresting synthesis of imperial and Christian art. Sacred Founders presents a bold interpretive framework that unearths deep continuities between the ancient and medieval worlds, recovers a forgotten transformation in female imperial power, and offers a striking reinterpretation of early Christian art.

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Giver.”74 Theodoret thus interprets Flaccilla’s actions, however incongruous with her rank, as an offering of thanks to God for her dignified position, echoing Eusebius’s explanation of Constantine’s subordinate position to God. If the bishops focused in their writings on imperial piety, they may have done so partly because their office constrained them from making broader comments. Piety was the bishops’ domain; their office allowed them to assess it, especially in texts such as funerary

offer to you, O Christ, what is yours from what is yours. May you accept it benevolently, O Son and Word of God who became incarnated and were crucified for us. Keep us in your true faith, and increase and protect this empire that you have entrusted to us for your glory, with the intercession of the holy Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary.”13 The sovereigns, in other words, presented to God a gift for having appointed them his representatives in the task of increasing the glory of the Christian

Classics Ethereal Library (, the New Advent website (, and the Tertullian project ( For names, I have followed overall the Latin conventions in the transliteration of personal pronouns. But I have relaxed this convention for both the Greek and Latin place names for locations in Constantinople. Generally, abbreviations or names and works of ancient authors follow the Oxford Classical Dictionary (OCD). Dates, unless indicated

(tooled). Photo credit: Roman Provincial Coinage Online, no. 9692, the Ashmolean Museum, at By contrast, the dedication from the base for a statue of Agrippina the Younger, the mother of Nero, implies a specific favor. It celebrates her as euergetis tou damou (benefactor of the people [of Kos]).129 Similarly, a marble base in Mytilene (Lesbos) proclaims Julia I as euergetis on account of her service and goodwill toward the city.130 Antonia Minor, Statilia Messalina,

mansions, but what data there are indicate that these aristocratic residences resembled the imperial palaces, both in the facilities they featured and in the development of the urban space around them. A single domus and its closely related buildings, then, took up a significant portion of the city.35 Analysis of the archeological remains of the Roman quarter near Termini suggests that those who owned the mansions uncovered there also held the adjacent commercial property, including a bath, and

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