The 4 Major Periods in Ancient Rome:
  1. REPUBLIC 509 - 27 BCE
  2. EARLY EMPIRE 27 BCE - 96 CE
  3. HIGH EMPIRE 96-192 CE
  4. LATE EMPIRE 192 – 476 CE <<<<<

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LATE EMPIRE 192 – 476 CE [284 total]

Severan Dynasty
Septimius Severus 193 – 211 CE
Caracalla 211 – 217 CE
Alexander Severus 222 – 235 CE

Diocletian 284 – 305 CE
  • The Tetrarchy (Rule of Four) 293 – 305/312 CE
  • Constantine I 312 – 337 CE
  • Death of Romulus Augustus (last emperor in the West) 476 CE

LATE EMPIRE - important terms
  • ruthless rulers
  • the beginning of the end
  • demise of Classicism in art; beginning of the "Middle Age" ideals
  • the Tetrarchy
  • Constantine's Christianity

  • A tumultuous period of conflict followed Commodus' death

Septimius Severus

  • African born general, Septimius Severus adopted self to Antonine line (to legitimize his rule)
  • his portraits include full hair & beard
  • many in marble and bronze of himself, his wife & 2 sons -- Caracalla & Geta
  • married to Syrian Julia, sons succeeded as co-emperors in 211
  • this (below) is the only surviving imperial family portrait from antiquity (although not the only one ever made).

Portrait of Septimius Severus & Family
  • Caracalla / Geta - dysfunctional sons (here, depicted as young kids)
  • more on the 'dysfunction' later...

Chariot Procession (from Arch of Septimius Severus)
203 CE - Lepcis Magna (modern-day Libya)
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  • Severan's hometown = Lepcis Magna (modern-day Libya)
  • imperial funds used to make modern harbor, new forum, basilica, arch & other monuments
  • this is a frieze from the Arch of Septimius Severus (which has been highly reconstructed today)
  • no sense of rushing motion (c/c Spoils of Jerusalem from the Arch of Titus)
  • Severus & his two sons - detached and face viewer (despite the depiction of the chariot & horsemen moving from left to right)
  • 2nd row - no connection with ground; elevated to be seen more clearly
  • these characteristics, including frontality & floating figures
    • are new to Roman state art (high class / imperial art)
    • but, will have a long afterlife in images of Christ & saints in Late Antique & Medieval Art time styles / periods

Portrait of Caracalla
211-217 CE
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  • suspicious nature / disposition
  • short hair, close-cropped beard
  • knotted brow
  • looks as if his head is about to turn; suspecting danger from behind (there's a reason for that... see below)

Portrait of Septimius Severus & Family << Let's look again

  • Caracalla, in the year 212 CE:
    • murdered his brother, Geta (possibly w/ help of mother)
    • he then...
      • made decree to abolish every reference of Geta (instating a damnatio memoriae)
      • decree to massacring Geta's followers
      • ordered the death of Geta's wife
  • Caracalla - ruled alone, until assassinated by his successor in 217 CE (a mere 6 years of rule)
  • What does this work testify to?
    1. the power / importance of the damnatio memoriae
    2. the long arm of the Roman authority throughout the lands

Plan of the Baths of Caracalla
ca. 212-216 CE
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  • statistic: in 354 CE, Rome had 952 baths
  • Septimius had begun public works project w/ new baths
  • Caracalla completed & inaugurated them
  • educational & recreational center, built w/ imperial funds to gain public favor
  • everyone was allowed use
  • barrel, groin, domical vaults; walls up to 140 feet high
  • various features: landscaped gardens, lecture halls, swimming pools, gardens, stadium, libraries (2), painting gallery, auditorium, & baths
  • different baths for different temperatures: cold, warm, and hot baths (frigidarium, tepidarium, caldarium)
  • entire complex could accommodate 1600 bathers >> equivalent to a modern-day health spa!
  • main building covered 5 acres; complex covered 50 acres
  • once featured a large 10 foot tall copy of Lysippos's Herakles sculpture
  • water sourced from aqueducts
  • heating from furnaces stoked by slaves; hot air was circulated through hollow floors & walls
  • symmetrical on central axis
  • caldarium
    • so large; could seat hundreds
    • dome almost as large as Pantheon; drum much taller
  • reconstruction of central hall: Light through groin vaults
  • rooms lavishly decorated (stuccoed vaults, mosaic floors, marble veneer walls, colossal statuary)

Overhead view of remains of Caracalla's Baths
  • Vaults collapsed long ago; Now Italian opera performed in the open air

Relevant links:

The Soldier Emperors
  • Severan Dynasty - ended with Alexander murdered (235 CE).
  • next 1/2 Century - tumultuous, emperors murdered in few years or months.
  • no ambitious architectural projects
  • era of soldier-emperor (as empire unraveling); under Aurelian made defensive wall circuit for capital.
  • coins produced in great quantities
  • current emperor - portrait, statues and busts set up to assert authority.
  • the "3rd Century portrait busts" among most moving for emotional content

Portrait of Trajan Decius
249-251 CE
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  • ruled for 2 years (when this portrait was made)
  • known for persecution of Christians
  • old man with bags under eyes
  • eyes glance away nervously (rather than engage the viewer)
  • lines in forehead & around mouth
  • all signs of anxiety, an insecure, weary soul

Heroic Portrait of Trebonianus Gallus
251-253 CE
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  • successor of Trajan Decius
  • heroic nudity
  • physique - not Greek!
  • wrestler with massive legs & swollen trunk
  • proportioned body given way to brute force

Battle of Romans (Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus)
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  • bought by Cardinal Ludovisi
  • therefore, this is an example that by the 3rd Century, imperial families also burying their deceased
  • depicting Battle between Romans & Goths
  • Romans over barbarians, identifiable by hair and beards, fallen, dying or beaten at bottom
  • writhing figures across whole ground = rejection of Classical perspective
  • central horseman:
    • one of Trajan-Decius's sons (stands out)
    • bareheaded, open right hand to show he has no weapon
    • boasting he is fearless and assured of victory
  • oriental mystery religions; forehead carved with emblem of Mithras (Persian god of light, truth and victory over death).

Sarcophagus of Philosopher
ca. 270-280 CE
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  • philosophy - provided solace to many (in light of the huge insecurities during these times)
  • the deceased
    • centrally located
    • frontal (facing outwardly)
    • enthroned
    • holding an open scroll
    • depicted as a learned intellectual
    • flanked by two (2) women
      • profile (facing sideways)
      • may represent muses
  • others individuals (also shown in profile) - depicted as Greek heroes, philosophers, students or maybe even Roman generals
  • this type of composition / schema - depicting a "wise man" - became popular in Christian burials (Christ flanked by apostles)

Q: Who was Diocletian and how did he attempt to restore order in the Late Empire?

Diocletian's rule:
  • Diocletian becomes emperor in 284 CE
  • shared power with rivals, establishing Tetrarchy (rule by 4) in 293 CE
  • becoming Augustus of East, was also Augustus of West, and 2 Caesars whose allegiance cemented by marriage to their daughters. Caesars subordinate, but on Augustus death or retirement, would replace. 2 w/beards Augustus, others Caesars, embrace for imperial unity. Ruled w/out strife until his retirement in 305 CE, government collapsed, but eastern/western spheres survived and persisted through middle ages, making Latin West and Byzantine Empire of East

The Four Tetrarchs
ca. 305 CE
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Q: Explain how power, order and lost individuality were expressed in the art of the Late Empire, especially the portraits of the Four Tetrarchs.
  • the tetrarchs were shown together on coins & in-the-round, alike
  • this particular work was originally located in Constantinople (now, St. Mark's in Venice)
  • large eyes show mediators between gods and men
  • two pairs of porphyry (purple marble, extremely hard Egyptian stone reserved for imperial portraits) in SW corner of San Marco in Venice
  • all identically clad, each holds sheathed sword in left hand, right embraces
  • large heads on squat bodies; emotionless
  • human figure depicted in iconic terms; naturalism & individuality of the past = gone here
  • again, a deliberate rejection of Classicism

Relevant links:
  • Website that attempts to summarize (or make more simplistic) the Roman Tetrarchy - link

Palace of Diocletian (illustration, model)
ca. 298-306 CE - Split, Croatia
Screen shot 2012-10-21 at 9.57.16 PM.pngScreen shot 2012-10-21 at 9.57.32 PM.png
  • returned to birthplace and had palace built when he abdicated
  • basically, a well-fortified suburban palace
  • like a forum - but self-contained by tall walls & watchtowers
  • gave emperor sense of security during insecure times
  • covers about 10 acres in area
  • there are 2 main avenues which intersect at center
  • forum of city at this location
  • on one side: Temple of Jupiter
  • on the other: Diocletian's mausoleum (large domed tomb)
    • towered above everything else
    • its model become popular mausoleum in EC times (& for EC churches as well - especially for the Byzantine church in the East)
    • today - the tomb is actually being used as a church
  • peristyle court: colonnade supports, arcuated entablature (embraced in Middle Ages)
  • columnar porch has arch within pediment. Went to see people coming to pay homage.
  • note: Diocletian prompted the last & cruelest persecution of Christians
    • in 303 CE - decreed Christians lose all privileges as citizens
    • churches destroyed, scriptures burned

  • After tetrarchs / Diocletian's leadership = conflict for 20 years, ending in one-man ruler
  • Constantine the Great = the 1st Christian Roman Ruler
  • Son of Constantius Chlorus (Caesar of the West)
  • Invaded Italy in 312, defeated and killed chief rival Maxentius.
  • In early life - worshipped Hercules and Sol Invictus (sun god).
  • Visited Grand Temple of the Sun and had 1st vision (pagan).
  • During battle of Milvian Bridge (against Max), he had 2nd vision of lighted cross in sky, heard words “on this sign you shall conquer”.
  • Ordered shields and standards inscribed with "XP"; then showed gratitude by ending persecutions.
  • 313 CE -- with Licinius, co-emperor in east; issued Edict of Milan - ending persecution of Christians.
  • Two eventually became foes; 324 Constant defeated and executed Licinius.
  • Constantine became unchallenged ruler - founded few Rome; named Constantinople in former Byzantium.
  • 325 -- Christianity became official Roman religion. Decline of paganism accelerated, Christian churches in Constantinople in great numbers, Constant baptized on deathbed (normal at time: erase sins just before death).
  • According to scholars: transfer seat of power from Rome to Constantinople and est Christianity as official religion mark beginning of Middle ages.
  • Constantinian art = transition of classical to medieval. Erected public baths, basilica leading into Roman Forum, great arch commemorating successes, patron of city’s 1st churches, including St. Peters. Const made church rich, handed out huge endowments and authorized bishops to draw on imperial funds for reparation from persecution, established wealth of the church. Gave Christian community in Rome imperial palace for Bishop and piece of land to build church on, San Giovanni in Lateran.
  • Within 1 1/2 C from 330 and declaration of Christian God, city grew from 20,000 to 1/2 million. Processional way through town 25 - yards wide, flanked by marble porticoes. Through triumphal arch to circular forum with column with bronze statue of Const w/rays coming from head like Helios. More columns, one w/statue of Const, one w/cross of vision, 3rd of mother Helena (later canonized St. Helen) and relief of 4 tetrarchs, looted in 1204 to St. Marks.

Arch of Constantine
312-315 CE
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Q: How does the Arch of Constantine reflect Imperial Rome?
Q: Explain reasons for the reuse of some statues and the creation of new art for the Arch of Constantine?
Q: How does the Arch of Constantine serve as a transition to the medieval style [mixing old classical motifs / style in reliefs]?
  • triple passageway beside Colosseum
  • victory over Maxentius
  • largest to be erected in capitol in nearly 1 century
  • reuse:
    • much of the sculpture taken from earlier monuments (Trajan, Hadrian, & Marcus Aurelius)
    • refashioned to Constantine's features, adding labels.
  • Why the reuse?
    • signaling a decline in creativity and skill?
    • selected to associate with “good emperors”?
    • maybe just plain, good old Roman efficiency?
  • medallions from Arch of Constantine:
    • removed from Hadrians: head recarved
    • 2 roundels (boar hunt & sacrifice to Apollo)
  • Constantine giving public oration.
  • no movement, flattened space (*)
  • poses repeated (*)
  • oversize heads, fits as many bodies as possible, 2nd row just heads (*)
  • Constantine in center (only one facing forward) missing head. Shows he is central (*)
  • 2 others seated and forward are Hadrian & Marcus Aurelius
  • (*) = characteristics that remind us of previous conventions for depicting information or general ideas (think Egyptians, Sumerians); visual shorthand aimed at communication, not so much increased aesthetic appeal.

Distribution of Largess (frieze from Arch of Constantine)
312-315 CE
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  • elevated above enthroned, majestic presence
  • mechanical & repeated stances; gestures like puppets
  • very shallow

Portrait of Constantine
315-320 CE
Screen shot 2012-10-21 at 9.58.27 PM.pngScreen shot 2012-10-21 at 9.58.43 PM.png
  • fragments of what was originally a 30 foot enthroned statue -- they are colossal!
  • permanent emperor stand-in
  • built on wooden frame
  • carved of marble w/bronze drapery
  • resuscitates eternally youthful head of state.
  • the head alone = 8.5 feet tall
  • hand, knee, elbow, and foot survive
  • semi-nude, seated, modeled on images of Jupiter
  • held orb in extended left hand (symbol of global power)
  • right hand held cross-scepter, became Christian symbol; had to change Basilica Nova by adding 2nd entrance and giant apse: commissioned statue for it so he could sit.
  • note that the proportions are less classical here
    • more important to show someone less physically perfect (more of the heavens)?
    • decay in the arts?

Basilica Nova
ca. 315 CE
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Q: Explain why this basilica is considered the "New Basilica".
Q: What changes did Constantine instate upon this building when he assumed complete power / control?
Q: How is this basilica different from those we studied in the past (i.e. Basilica Ulpia)?
Q: Most importantly, what significance did basilica model serve for future use in the Roman (& European) world?

Aula Palatina
Early 4th Century CE - Trier, Germany
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Q: How did the Aula Palatina differ from High Empire buildings such as the Pantheon?

Coins bearing image of Constantine
L - 307 CE << >> R - ca 315 CE
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Q: Here are 2 coins -- one from Constantine's early reign; the other closer to the time of his death. How do the depictions differ (if at all)? If different, what can this tell us about the context in which they were fashioned / used?


Other questions (Late Empire)
Q: Briefly describe the decline of Roman power in the Late Empire period and why it occurred.
Q: What were the cultural influences that brought about changes in Roman art and architecture in the Late Empire period?
Q: How would you describe the Late Antique style?