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Colossus of Constantine - Historic Background of Roman Imperial Period

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colossus of Constantine

Roman portrait art, the foundation of later Western tradition of portraiture, was also the fullest and most complex development of the idea of portraiture in the ancient world . Indeed, Ancient Roman bequeathed tons of great monuments and sculptures. Among them, however, Colossus of Constantine has significant feature due to historical, political and religious background in Late Roman Imperial period.

Historic background of Roman Imperial Period

Rome was not always ruled by emperors. For hundreds of years there was a republic. But the republic collapsed in the chaos of civil wars both before and after Julius Caesar's death, when various generals fought for sole power. Order was finally restored when Julius Caesar's adopted son, Octavian (later called Augustus), was left as the only survivor of the warlords. A brilliant politician, he reformed the state and restored the Roman world to peace. He was in fact the sole ruler, with the power of the army to back him up, but he knew that Romans hated the idea of kingship. His clever solution was to proclaim the restoration of the old republic, with himself simply as first citizen, but the "new republic" was just for show. Augustus became, in fact, the first emperor, and when he died in A.D 14, he passed the new throne to his adopted son Tiberius. Rome was to be ruled by emperors for the next 400 years .

Constantine the Great

Constantine was the first Christian emperor in Late Roman Imperial Period, and his reign had a profound effect on the subsequent development of the Roman, and later Byzantine, world. Constantine's reign marked a distinct shift away from the administrative system set up by the emperor Diocletian in 293 A.D., which saw the division of the empire into four territories each governed by one of four imperial partners. Although Diocletian's intent had been to permanently do away with dynastic succession, Constantine's aim was to establish a new dynasty and to found a new capital, named Constantinople after himself. He also succeeded in reunifying the empire with the defeat of the last of his former tetrarchic colleagues, the Eastern emperor Licinius

Constantine's victory over Maxentius in 312 made him master of Rome, and he set out to underline his legitimacy by a programme of new building in the old capital. Maxentius had strengthened his support in the city by presenting himself as a Roman emperor with Roman interests at heart- not a distant ruler in one of the new imperial capitals of Trier or Nicomedia. Constantine was keen to show he was just as good a Roman as his predecessor . Although the court and administration no longer resided at Rome, Constantine was careful not to neglect the old imperial city and adorned it with many new secular and Christian buildings. The most famous of these is the triumphal arch, the Arch of Constantine, which still stands near the Colosseum. This work contains reused material from earlier monuments, a practice that was not only economical but probably also intended to shed reflected glory on the emperor by associating his reign in a very direct and practical way with that of famous "good" emperors from the past. This desire to link himself to his revered predecessors greatly influenced Constantine's official portraiture, and contributed to the revival of certain classicizing features that had been absent from imperial portraiture for over a century

Roman Portraiture Sculpture

To understand Colossal of Constantine, we need to know how Roman sculptures had developed. In the Republic, public sculpture included honorific portrait statues of political officials or military commanders erected by the order of their peers in the Senate. These statues were typically erected to celebrate a noted military achievement, usually in connection with an official triumph, or to commemorate some worthy political achievement, such as the drafting of a treaty.

The express mention of the subject's family history reflects the great influence that family history had on a Roman's political career. The Romans believed that ancestry was the best indicator of a man's ability, and so if you were the descendant of great military commanders, then you, too, had the potential to be one as well. The intense political rivalry of the late Republican period gave special meaning to the display of one's lineage and therefore necessitated its emphasis, manifested in such traditions as the cursus, wax imagines, and funerary processions, as an essential factor for success.

With the establishment of the principate system under Augustus, the imperial family and its circle soon came to monopolize official public statuary. Official imperial portrait types were principally displayed in sebasteia, or temples of the imperial cult, and were carefully designed to project specific ideas about the emperor, his family, and his authority. These sculptures were extremely useful as propaganda tools intended to support the legitimacy of the emperor's powers. Two of the most influential, and most widely disseminated, media for imperial portraits were coins and sculpture, and official types laden with propagandistic connotation were dispersed throughout the empire to announce and identify the imperial authority .

Indeed, Roman emperors were aware of the important role architectural and sculptural monuments played in establishing their power. A coherent language of art reflecting the different functions of the Emperor was developed to express this authority. This begins with Augustus Caesar, the first Roman Emperor. As the first Roman emperor, Augustus exerted an enormous impact on the visual language of Roman art in Early Imperial period. The



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