Bv I 111 ans 111rial ion of jli jula ppa ivi I ly hii1 i i1 Li if l rcitti ji i if 1 lts

had seriously underestimated lewish feelings about image1, ul foreign gods (on-r occupying rulers) in the r hol> places,'h

Nevertheless, like fustin and 'liertullian, Joseph us look a conciliatory , 11 jpr<*iichh. 1 rsji 1 i1 1 ^ I bal the Jewish rri lj --.a I Id l-: eel or hi :-:i i h st^lues uf t be emperors was not based on hatred or even di&respect for Rome and its rulers, bul on an understanding that they be officially granted (be freedom to abide b> :heiro^n religious laws, He explains that although pious ]ewi eschewed the: making or veneration oi 1111 ages, lhey never -th i l c ss we re wil ling to offer sacrifice .1 :id prayers for the l- 111 pe n -r a nd his family, Htirthcrmore, although lew* had "contempt for a practice profitable to neilher i'i^lI nor mortal [the making of images of living crea tures J," they nonetheless offered perpetual sacrifices and prayers for l he emperor and his family.* The Talmud tells a story ul one partii .i!,n!v hoi) manh Rabbi Nahum bat Sintai who never in his life even Looked u| >on j lh i i n, because H H bore the i mage" (ol I he en -. | >e roii." I :i l- t .: 1 r is -tian polemicist Hippolytus offered similar testimony lo Jewish sensiti^ it> about imperial iniapes, panicularlj 00 coins.M

The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Book of Daniel provided a model for Jewish resistance to imperial images, and we have abundant textual evidence that Christians saw it as a type for their own resistance to religious persecution in the first three centuries c.Ep According to the story, when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon set up a gold statue and ordered that it he worshiped, these three refused and were thrown into the fiery furnace. Their miraculous survival demonstrated the power of their God and their own heroism in being willing to die rather than worship a vain idol. Christian interpreters made much of this story, seeing the three as figures of martyrdom— forced by imperial edicts, like many Christians, to choose between performing idolatrous acts or suffering torture and imprisonment, Cyprian praises the confessors (those who survived martyrdom) by comparing them to these biblical heroes: "For we can see that in your own case there have been put into action the words which these courageous and celebrated youths proclaimed before the king. They declared that for their part they were prepared to bum in the flames rather than to serve his gods or adore the idol that he had made; yet, they asserted, the God whom they worshiped (and whom we also worship) had the power to

F® 34. Dan el, three youths and "Mebuchadnezzan 41h cen-CE ChrEtan sarcophagus (■■vith detail insert). Musée de I'Aries Antique (Phûtû: Author).

Detail of Fig. 14.

..'-'■ACE AM.) PORTRAIT IN ROMAN (VLWHE AND RE L .! !ON

release lli-eaYi from the fiery furnace, and to rescue111l-i:i i;rom Mil- hands ofthc k:11tr. """' Thus the martyrs of Carthage were likened m the youths of iLibylon .1 nd were accorded highest hao. n ■ i s

A number of stents found in tarl\ Christian urt illustrate lliis story, making it a visual exhortation to resist idnlalry. A in I—century fresco in the R^man Catacomb of M-ircusand Marceltinus depicts 'he three '■ iu11:■- standing witll I ht king who [»lii:: ■, to .I I1 sl-I .i|.i-."li a column. Another fourth ceniu:} work, a relief carved on :he lid of a sarcophagus now in \iles, shows the three youths turning the if backs ■ ■ i - .i similar bust .in ¡¡T a railiL-r more ornate . olumn. Daniel appears mst to the rlghi i if this scene, j heroic nude ith his rathet tame lions on either side (fig. ,H). Neither irf these works ot art accurately illustrates the details of the biblical story. The statues are imi made to UtaV a.s if the) arc forty cubits high ,vilI made of :!■-■-1 as described in i he Bible. Instead, these tableaux appear to interpret ihe statue ai an image ot Nebuchadnezzar himself, IcMslinj- wry much like 3portra ii nf .i Roman emperor, set up for honor or i :i In the public square I he art has already Incorporated the current {or inst recently past) situation of ( hristians, who res sted pay iiiy honors 1[] images of ilie emperor alonjq '.villi i In im' til i he irndilional Worn,in gods.

The i liarij^e of Christianity's status under ( .m11a111 ii■ aftes ted the character or' the imperial cult only superficially. < onstantine, like his predecessors- was proclaimed a divus aftet liis \I11, and cair.s and medals were minted showing him ascending into heaven in a chariot, being received by the hand of God. H hristian subjects granted this distinction:, interpreting it as a claim that Constantine was especially guided by, and in a pri\ileged relation to, their (iod. In life. (Constantine had fashioned himself as the thirteenth apostle, convening and presid ingover the lirsi ecumenical council .:.i \icaea in M5 o.e.; after his death, he was honored as a saint and buried in lhe i hureh of the Apos lien. Mis plirtriiil^, whether lin coins. nr staincs, visually expressed his saii ■ I y chrac tcr." \za \rdi ;itc: his :i n I ■ unbi-ised bk>gi a piler Lusebius:

Hiw deeply hii soul ivji ■■ i-^.l by the power of divini Kaleh may be uildfrsikuHl :i■ ■:n [hedrcutrlsLante Lhai lie direeled hii likeness H>lie Humped on the n^Lliti Loin hiJ cht empire wich ibe^y^ uplifted ;L\ in ihi fHi^uir mi prjyuT ti.:■ tlnd; and this money bee a nit current 1 hrnuf,hnuI [he Rumjn ™ ulil. H i\ ptiM m il iilsu j! full kngth wjs placed uve r 1 he en1 rn ne-e gJtei yi Lhf p^liiein in wm( t¡1 (he ey^s uprjuwd Cru heaven, jnd 1 he hands ¿nospread ds if in punier.-1

In this way, ( onstant nes biographer flatteringly portrays the emperoi i _ l - r only a.s pious, but also as a heaven I) inspired .in:, divinely legiti-jini"■■■.! ruler.

Although Constantine ordered sacrifices to the imperial images to cease, in other respects ihe rote oI imperial portraits remained very i 11 l i. h r he 5.1 me. .i & m« I i-i v n g thc ptl-m.1 nce 111 rhe pe rst i n h i msel1. I hl-mkof the emperne paralleL<¡ thaí oía saiint iti cjimstian 11.1 ¡ l ¡ >.< ■ l . which iiKxiicaltjí may Itave been a dearti stparatiori from dmnity than the di:'-fe rente between a JiVíjí and .i ifcui in ihe previous era. And from lIli point onh ihe empenurí tmage could be equated with [he image oí the saint. As Cien Bowersock expía in 5

A.ny reli^lu-us institution |ihc imper i.il ,. i. that laitrd uver four tiundrcd vea re and <uu]d uitommudatí U>lh pagans and : hrislians wat noC " Unmi: vitíiliiy. Ii endured ííj long teta use i su««dft' in making muliiludes uf til-izens Ln tji-fLunp iniioni L-.. I dotií ¡rn the püwtrlhji : ■i 11. I ihefri. h JílI nul, mus! of ilí-duralLun, rwpond to (hust dcsptule human aniirtirs ov( i síilvwion if i- - <itxt world ..--.I .i -.=-..-.=- i: thi- one; butaikasi ii kpLa !>.< 'iii.iii üeíjcii t'rom tteling helpLeítt jnd .ik■.-■ L Ln ¡i I.k-.- .--.s íiyiwíI.*

longaftcrtheelevation ot Constantineand í hristianity'stransition trorn .i persccutcd ^ mIr to an imperially sanetioned onen Christian the ologrians refeieneed r!n_- mediatos funetion of lIlc imperial image tu L-iplaír th-c cc|ualiiy ni nalunes within thcTriniry, Athanasius, speaking of the ¡dentity of natures hetween lI-.c: I athe* and the Sr>n in his Thirú Discoitne against tht ArjüP(ín explained the pa&sage troin the Cospel of }oh nh" Tht <ine vi ho 11 .t -- vce i : LI ic So i i has sccn [ he Fa( her" (John H by analí>gy tn the image of lI:l- emperor:

and wt may pcTceiw I:: ■■ .il oiilt ilic :lln-.ii.il ■■:: empercudí

i 111l,l* Fú[ Ln che miage el [he en pemr ii the ¡hape jn J knm of 111 l- emperrar, jnd in tht emperor lí :lu- sha|>t whinh i.t Ln iht iniag«. I < <i ilic likencsí ' 'f ih:-rmptror in the mapc i51. ■■:■.;.. I kj that a penson wtio .<-■<:.- iln- imape,scei in ii rtie ..■:: ■ | -i--111; .lmíI 1 he oní Sf« [hv emperoT. reicusgiiites thai it is he wbo is in the imape. . . . Accurdiriply ihc une whc woiships the image-, in r. wítr-shipi the empmír atsoL fwr ihe imaj^e is his form ant! appearance.

I i.U".^1 im<:. in lii-, Ireatino on th^- I íoLt ^pirit. H.l>-lI ofCííSírca the .m.iluLT the empcrór^ ima^e to iílüslrale his ptoof ihai (he First and Second fíersonsdü noteomtitute two different godi:

Ftir the $<w is in tt^- I n I i-. i sud th* Failier is in iht Swn; ¿intt suth as is tht

.i 11:. \ ..lIi is the ffhrmcj, jnd ílllIi i-, ¡a ih:- I l Ii i, ih:- l..:i, i: .m.. I

herrín is (he Unity. Si> (hat iccüfdinE to th^1 dirtinclion v Y Etrsons, both are i.jhc and ojie, ajid JL£L>rdLn¿ irt tht LñmmuJiiiy "I ndi u r^.t, úiitr. Hyw, 111 = - --.. : ■ onc and n-netane ttiíic nol two ii.uU: Hecauu: wr sprak ot a ti ng., and oí rhc fcing's imaiíf. ■■ ■ ■ ■ I niM of Iwo kinji, Tht1 maiesiy is not cloven ii' nor the glory divided. I'tie ¡overcignCy ind authontv. ■ 'ver js !■■■ one, and so ihu i.laiol i>gy asíribed by us is noi pl ural t>ui one^ betause 11 u- hene i iiai>) ti> i]ie iouse pas^H on to ihc pr< ■ k>t y pe.

IMAtt AND PORTRAIT IN ROMAN iULTV/RE A|Mt> RfcLlClON

i lis la Hi observation wuuld oih* Jay lie critically in. |-> nl.iiil to the I biological justification for veneraling saints' icons, ol course. Basil con-lJuij-LBs his Cuniparisoil by pointing out iEh :■.i -i■. flaw VVhcrcah :In-imperial portrait is .in image only b\ \ irtue nt its being an imitation, the Slih l ^ ihe actual nature of ilie Failiei and ilius is in fall communion vi ii It : i l" i iD^lh^Mtl.*

According to the record, four hinulied years later I7S7 i:.r.j at the conclusion of the Seventh Ecumenical i ouncil the

function nt icons was fin ally pronounced as an important precept of orthodoxy» a one-time iconoclast bishop Theodosius of Animontim, confessed his faith and asked to he reinstated as an orthodox believer, Insisting he now had no theological objection to :he veneration of ike portraits of s£ini>, he explained his change of heart as I lie result of his noting a common practice:' For if the people go forth w ith lights and incense to nnvl lIle'/ciwrldjie ,i:hJ imjjie* ol i hi- Fmperorh when they arc sent cities ot i ural disli ..iv they honoj surely not the tablet covered over with wa^bul the Emperoi lii:iKL-li Theodosius nay have been influenced by the per--uasive arguments ^■ I Tliendore lhe Studite»wbo ..Iitil in exile during (he reign of [he ast k'umv I.l-1 emperors and who c i i ed hot h h ,l- 11 a ml A l ha nasi 11 s 1 ci I his \ erv el flit i. With the |> assa^c o1 nine and assurance that the emperor wai himself iChristian, any remaining st n: pies about offering honor to his images had dis.ip-peared, and he could he seen as mortal representative ■ ■ I the heavenly King. The rituals associated with the old Roman emperor l.mi had survived the transition to i hristianily und were incorpor.-iicil into fSyvan-tine couei ceremonial.'1

The Images of the

Even though the attacks launched againsi idolatry by Christian theologian- from ?au\ i-.- At ha nasi us would suggest that the adherents to con venlkmal Greco-Kon^m religions were confirmed idol worshipers, surviving doc u men is actually show that lI:l- intellectually inclined of the ancient world were ambivalent aboul the myths» rituals, and idols o! ti c tradilional cult. Although lhe polytheism of Roman I ate \ntk|uity embraced many yod.h and had inenrporated oi absorbed many of ihe varied Iocj' or foreign de iies, ihe edutated ■, lasses tended toward i kind ol enlightened tleismh interpreting the nuFlhs as poetic alleges lies aild esc hewing overly matet ialistic beliefs that localized or lijnited divinity i ■ ■ j p.irticular-i.liLie .ii image. Nevertheless in order that they might remain favorable, lhe gods still received l-■. ■.:: ^^:i and prayerful peti lions from I he devntees. Fur this purpose, ihcir images, carvcd and p ii ntedi were produced i n i m p ressive qu antities, ra ngi ng fro m the highest n I ci rms to t he c rudesl .l i u I m nsi mundane. lem pies as well ai ma r-kL-t-. wL*iL* filled with 11l:11i>f rhl- gods; shrines and altars in public spaces, Street corners* shops,, and private homes were well supplied Kl"1-rçiicrLtations of the gods simply everywhere, as Christian teachers reluctantly noted, and -.ince they were almost impossible 1» avoid, c hristians were urged lo avert their eyes, nr blow or spit on them." Some ot these 1111 ages were by famous sculptors, but more often were knock off copies of famous statues, ( ountlcss others were simply made from molds. paintings, portable images, and mosaics Lils<> decorated the 11 ■ 111 of those %^-Jni could afford them.

Dio Chrysostom, .l first century orator and philosopher, listed artis tic representations i^l the goiin at imil' 1 r four ur five sources foi human conception nf ihç divine (along with the innate understanding and Il^I^l- gained from poets, lawgivers, and philosophers), To him, skilled craftspeople who made statues or likenesses, whether in stone, wood, metal, wax, or paint and lu- listed many of the greatest artists known m him), gave thçir patrons "ample and varied conception ut iIk divine" b^ producing all sorts of figures of different gods, in .1 variety of poses Dio pointed out, however, that .in kins were reticent about unL' thing— iln.-y shied away from innovations, preferring to jd h e i e the images described by the poets ,uil1 to maintain some consistency with one another in their representations. Nn ¿i rbiL-k-ss. he added, a few had dared to contribute their own ideas and thus became 1 il e poets' rivals <1> well fellow craftsmen—primarily "Lit of positive impulse to honor the divine bei 11 gs and to win their favor,™

fhe artist's partieular contribution im the work of making an image of a god i r 11 j; ; i [ make it truer than a simple cop) 01 imitation lu a .1 n dard figure, at least in the view of some exponents, According to his 1 li 1 rd - ççn t ury b i 1í^r.a pher E51 l i I ■ i '■t r ,l h i -,, Apollonius m I I la objected lm lile Egyptians' representation oí their gods os animals or birds. Such things seemed tm him irrational and indecent, ,111 d he thought that by doing ibi> ihL' Egyptians showed lIi.iL they ridiculed rather than believed in the gods, Iiis Egyptian companion, offended by his viewt sarcastically skApollonius how artists kkü Phidias or Praxiteles could k iuiw how ill l' id s .lpplli rl'd had 1 :i l-v go ne up to heaven to mhi k e t h^-iniii^es thL-y reproduced i:i their sculpture nr was there some other means by which they produced their figures of the gods?—foi what besides imitation llujIl] be: a hasis foi such representation? Apollonius answers that Lli,irtist"s imagination is ,l subtle thing,1 pregnant with wisdom and geniu-s" and that work incorporating this imagination fa i superioi to -¡nid more awe inspiring thiiii any mere imitation or copy, "for imitation can only create as its handiwork what i: has seen, bul imagination equaJly what it h-h not seem tor it will conceive of its ideal '.vi[h reference to the reality. and í:iííl.lií<>]i is often baffled by i<nr ror, Inn imagination by nothing; for it marches undismayed to the goal which it has itself laid down." '

A"!1 POftTHAJT IN ftOMAN fULTUM AND ntLtdlON

Although l li ubiquity ^r such images suggests that they were h Men merely commonplace objects or domestic decoration mnre than Focal points ol deep religious piety- what all these widely varying images of the l:i!.- had in commun was their superficial recoin inability. The viewer should be able to identify the god in the image, at least from a-i tain characteristic attributes (details of garb, props, hair or heard style, and so forth). Images were the necessar) props for the cult of a god, without Lu'iri!^ the actual frieus il—representing IIle gtïd.H hut n^l actually identical with them i si net to many replicas existed ). I he almost countless little altars, shrines, ot dedicatory Inscriptions that .ire Mil; l' ', i .1111 demonstrate the v. idespread and deeply enlrenched hubiL-H ■■! Roman poly theism. Such things were undoubtedly pat t of one La 11111 .l i ident ty and expressions of a kind of loc il, civic, or national pr -.lu that was exemplified to some estent in thi gods one worshiped. Significant csceplions to ihis conventional perception ol ¡l-- existed, of course—the statue ot Artemis in Ephesus, for instance, or the niysteri ol --black stone ]4.i-il ;îf blagabalus which seem to have had more pov» erful hold on the imagination of theii devotees.

However, traditional polytheisls might also he wary too mueh superstition in regard to such things Plutarch, for onet expressed con I em pi far persons who made divine image* in t he likenesses uf human beings ami dressed them up and worshiped them. ' V..Lily three bun-drcd years later (at the end of the fourth century), Emperor lulian was dclermined 11:.it people should distinguish lielween ihe images aïul the gods themselves, just as they should distinguish between the i.i:ageof ille emperor and the emj>eror himself- Mill. Idecl ares, I !ie i111age- had

-i powet ful funct and the attraction that they held ^ as based on ihe degree of affection that ihe viewer had tor the model;

E-or our father^ eitabllshed majrcF. \ id altari, arJ The nuintenanec nf undying firt\ Jul i,1 griier;illy sp-f^king everything nTllli yirl. Js syrrthuli hi J i -, pre-s enec '.nt the <lI -. mil chat ■»: mu iega i J \u.eh ihingi ai i^di, but char wc nuy worship the ^ods throuph them. . . . Fui i us4 as thnse who mata offer!nps to [tie statues ol th.i emperors, who j;e in need nt nothing, nevertheless induce Ktjodwill tow-ards ihemiclvc!. : hereby, so 1oo those whu make otïerinjçs to the iinageio" ili.- gods (though ¡he gods need nothing) dn nevïrthelesA thereby persuade them to he Ip a.nd to care tor them .. I !■!ereft■ ri. when we look a1

I", I!!,.II.:1- Lhl ' I"il .'.-•, I - . I-'I MS II.. 1 h ¡lit- ill-". .11-' >14111^, £]e VVLHIlL, I'll!

neither let us think itiey are ihe themselves; and indeed, we do no1 say that t he --■.■ ■ ll-cs of i he .-■■..-..-■■-■■ - ., * l ■ ■ ■ ■ : oi ■. I .li : ■ I snïne ■ - ■ : hïon>i', hut st ¡11 leis do ¥c say ihey are the emperors themselves. lit- i ien <vho love- the

L"TII pu Î41T -'.-IlL..-'. - llh Tit ET [Ile :' 11 11 I-" " « " I S SlJlLLf, ,1 : : lI 11 II. I ■ ' : - ItlS M h M

de gh ts tn his son's --i.il ■.. e. ,ind he who loves his father delights ta see his father's statue. I ; follows that the one who loves the y- ni s deliphts to on the images of I tie god;* and their likt-iiL-sses^ and should I eel reverence and shudder W|th a#e of tin- t>ods who look kick from the itiiiccn world.'*

Cult images were equally important for the ancient and traditional Roman gods (for examples Jupiter luno, Mars, and Minerva) as for imported or regional deities like Mithras, Cybele, and Dea Caelestis, who tended to have a more self-selected group of devotees or provincial transplants. They played a key role in the religious revivals (and political propaganda) of particular emperors, such as Augustus, who associated his family with Venus and himself as a special favorite of Apollo. These cult images of gods had generally recognizable appearances, even when their identities were conflated fas in A polio/Sol/Helios). Jupiter* for instance, was presented as the supreme ruling god (a mature potent male), with full dark beard and abundant hair. He was usually pictured as enthroned and holding a scepter or other props of the ruler of heaven, with an eagle at his feet. Depending 011 their rank or authority» other male gods might have a similar appearance. Neptune and Ascle-pius also appear with full beards and heads of hair as do Mars and Hades, Gods associated with Jupiter (Zeus), such as Liber or 5erapts> Were given very similar facial features but with their own distinctive attributes (in Serapis's case, the smaU grain measuring basket or modius on his head; fig. 35). Mars, on the other hand, was sometimes shown in full military dress including an ornate breastplate (twtfss), while at other times appeared nude except for his military cloak, quiver strap, and helmet; the nude depictions are rare, although some exceptions exist (tor example, the Jupiter Column at Mainz), Artistic rep resent a-

F^g. 3S. Busts cf Roman God^, now in the British Museum. London {Photo; Author).

tions of this group of gods intended to project dominion, authority> and an uncontested right to rule and to judge.

Another group was made up of the younger male gods (such as Apollo/Sol, Hermes, the seniidivine Hercules, and sometimes Mars), gods associated with the mystery cults (Dionysus, Mithras, and Orpheus), or heroes (such as Mel eager, Hercules, and Adonis). Members of this group were often shown as youths with flowing locks and beardless (or nearly beardless) faces, although they could also be shown as mature figures with beards and older body types (especially Dionysus and Hercules), While Jupiter and the older gods of the Pantheon were usually shown bare-chested but drapedn these younger gods often appeared nude, with almost pubescent bodies. This is especially true, for example, of Dionysus and Apollo (fig. 36). Mithras and Orpheus wore typical clothing identifying them as "eastern" in origin (see fig. 69, p. 149) while Hercules—although nude—was usually bearded and was more ruggedly masculine. These gods, on the boundary between youth and maturity and even, in some cases on the boundary between female and male, projected sensuality and could be poly inorphic. They were the mediators between the upper and lower worlds, managing the transition from life to death or bringing messages from heaven or Hades, Sol/Helios was also a kind of mediator, riding his chariot over the heavens to turn night into day.

Given the familiarity of the traditional images, foreign gods and heroes who were introduced to the Roman pantheon often entered by means of conflation with known deities, f up iter was conflated with the senior gods of other nations (such as Sabazios or Serapis), just as the younger gods were often linked with one another Apollo was variously associated with Helios and Sol> for example. Their representations then borrowed the facial types, postures, or sometimes attributes from one another. According to J.ucian, Heracles was transformed into Heracles Ogmios by the Celts, who kept his general garb and equipment (lion's skin and club, bow and quiver) but transformed his physical appearance, from that of a young hero to a balding old man, and gave him a very dark complexion.*

Although often confused with one another, the female gods were most easily recognized by details of their attire, headdresses, props, or other attributes. Diana was nearly always equipped with a bow and quiver, and she, like Apollo, was associated with one of the celestial deities (Luna). Athena wore a quite recognisable helmet. Isis generally was shown with particular Egyptian accoutrements, including her special riittle (iiiiruwi). She was sometimes shown with the child Horus on hei lap and a bared breast to feed him, an image often asserted to be the prototype of the Virgin Mary with child (fig. 37).il Venus (also known by her Greek name, Aphrodite) was almost always at least partially nude, draped so as to accentuate her physical beauty, while Juno was usually presented as

Fig. 36. Dian^us vwlh panther Ai^haeologjtiil Museum or the Phlegincan Fidds* 1st cen.c.E. Roman reconstruction of Greek original, Castello d Baja (Photo: Airth or).
Fig. 37. Harpocrates on the lap of his, wall uainting from house ¡n Karanis. iow in Cairo (Photo; George R.Swain, by permission of the Kelsey Museum Anci vies, the University "iiqhi^an).

modes), and matronly. Reclining Telliis (Larth) holds her cornucopia, which makes her difficult to distinguish from Ceres, Italia, or evert Pax, as she appears on the Ai a Pads in Rome (fig. 38). There were other female personifications too: Pietas, Salust Fortuna> and Concordia each had a particular prop or attribute to identity her, Winged Victory held out her crown. In a similar way, Roma became the personification of the state and received temples and cult, usually in conjunction with the emperor. Such personifications were adapted by the Christian church to represent virtues of its own (faith, hope, or charity), or even the church (Ecclesia) "herselfT just ¿is the later Madonna iconography borrows from the various representations of both virgin and mother goddesses (Persephone and J si s, for example). The practice of adding necessary identifying attributes of traditional gods and goddesses was clearly carried over into Lhe images of the saints from the fifth century onward®2

The function of the actual images of the gods can be di flicult to spec-ify and, indeed, was subject to a variety of interpretations, Like the portrait of the emperor, images of the gods served a kind of representative role- They did not entrap the spirit of the deity in a particular place or statue but rather mediated a presence that was understood to be in many different places simultaneously. At the same time, the image of the god was a central aspect of the religion, since this was the way that devotees recognized the presence of the god and were called to reverence. To venerate a divine image was actually to exhibit a pious respect (if not actual devotion) to its model. And yet the power and efficacy of these objects continued as an open question well into the era when polytheism was waning, after the death of julian the Apostate, For instance, in City of God, Augustine cites a debate between Hermes Trismegistus (the "thrice holy") and Asclepius about the nature and operation of divine images that suggests the question was still a live one at the beginning of the fifth century.

In this document, Hermes contrasts the gods created by the Supreme Deity with images made by human hands but acknowledges (according to Augustine) that human artisans had a technique for attaching immortal spirits (or demons) to material bodies, Jn this way "the visible ond tangible idols arc in some way the bodies of gods* certain spirits have been induced to take up their abode in them and have the power either to do harm, or satisfy many of the wants of those who offer them divine honors and obedient worship." Yet> even so, this is only an imitation of divinity, and Hermes predicts a time when all images will finally be destroyed as "delusional and pernicious" Augustine interprets Hermes' words as referring to the arrival of Christianity, which then casts the debate as an example of pre-Christian prophecy.53

Taking advantage of divine images3 power, the emperors, their wives, children, mothers, and even favorites sometimes were depicted in the guise of one of the gods, a tradition that may have begun with the representations of Alexander as Zeus, Augustus appeared enthroned with the goddess Roma, his portrait bearing some of Jupiter's attributes but holding an augur's staff rather than a thunderbolt, J lis wife, Livia, appeared in the guise of several goddesses, including Ceres and Magna Mater. Her representation as Ceres Augusta in the theater aL Leptis Magna is a famous example." Nero (like several subsequent emperors) identified himself with Helios or Apollo and had himself represented with a radiate halo.4-' Hadrian's lover Antinous was variously portrayed as Bacchus, Apollo, and Silvanus, the god of the forest,** At the end of the

Fi* 38.TeUs (Mother Earth) from the Ara Paris Augustae,. Rome I ttf. (Photo: Author).

Fig, 39 Corn modus as Hsrcules 91- 92 C.E, Museo del Palazzo dei Conservatori. Rome Photo; Author), second century, Commodus appeared with the lion's skin and club of I lercules in a famous bust found on the Esquiline and now in the Museo del Palazzo dei Conservator, perhaps modeled after an earlier such representation of Domitian (fig. 39).47 His mother, who appears in many portraits, has been identified as the face upon the figure of Venus in a modestly draped group sculpture of Venus and Mars (her husband, Marcus Aurelius, appearing as Mars)."3 Julia Domna, the mother of Caracalla and G eta, was portrayed, just as Li via had been earlier in the guise of the protective mother and fertility goddess Ceres (or Demeter) or given the attributes of Juno and Is is.** In most cases, such representations did not intend to identify the mortal ruler as a particular immortal god (ideus)t but to associate the one with the other, and to give the imperial personage quasi-divine status (divinitas). The intention was to legitimize their earthly authority by associating it with immortal divinity. At the same time, adopting the iconogi aphic aspects or attributes of the gods imparted a sense that these particular character traits belonged likewise to the ruling individual. In some cases, the emperor even adopted the halo of the gods for himself.90

Like most of the earlier emperors, the first Tetrarchs—Diocletian, Maximian, Constantius Chlorus, and Galerius—were associated In their portraiture with the gods, in their particular case with Jupiter and Hercules according to their senior rank as Augustus or junior rank as Caesar, an identification that was reflected oil the iconography of their coinage (fig. 40). Claiming to be in some sense human representatives of these dei lies, they adopted Lhe divine names into their own and in so doing reaffirmed Roman religion, repudiating the quasi-monotheistic cult of the Unconquered Sun instituted by Diocletian's predecessor, Aurelian. The distinction between Jupiter and Hercules was significant with regard to the division of authority and role among the four rulers,} up iter is the ruler and judge who si Is upon his throne in majesty while Hercules is the active agent, known for his wondrous deeds. Such distinctions came to play a rule in the iconography of Christ, whose facia] features suggest that he plays both roles—on the one hand as the enthroned ruler* and on the other as the active and incarnate agent of the Divine Trinity.*1

However, when Constantine I ascended to power and began to consolidate his rule, the divine patron was So], This may have been a way for him to signal a break with Lhe Tetranchy The critical moment for this adoption (or conversion) was reported to be ii vision that Constantine had while visiting a sanctuary of Apollo in Gaul. - Since the worship of the Sun already held an official position and significant following, when Constantine had his vision of the cross (or chi rho) and "converted" to the Christian faith, he may have conveniently confused the Christian God and Sol, or perhaps allowed a certain ambiguity between their respective symbolism. In this respect, Constantine tried a different approach from I hat of the earlier Roman emperor, Elagabalus (218—222 ex.), who also tried to establish the worship of the Syrian god of the sun under the Roman name "Sol Invictus" but who identified Inmsdf with the god, rather than taking that god as his personal patron. In any case, images of Sol, shown as a youthful nude god wearing a cape and radiate crown (or halo), remained on the coin reverses of Constantine until the mid 320s (fig. 41}. Later, during the last of the revivals of polytheism, Julian the Apostate made similar attempts to promulgate the worship of Sol, whom lie associated not only with Mithras (into whose cult he had been initiated) but also with the language of Neoplatonism and even echoes of Christian teaching (his former but renounced faith). King Helios, as he calls him, is the Son and Image of the Idea of the Good and coexistent with the Good from eternity.p:"

The religious and social culture in which Christianity emerged and developed understood viewing images of heroes, deceased family members, emperors, and gods as an essential part of one's engagement with these persons or beings and with their personal patronage and authority, The center of one's gaze, specifically, was the face—the access point for this subject-object relationship. Whatever its degree of "likeness," the face mediated the representative or real presence of the model as no other part of the body (or being) might allow. The portrait thus had a distinct function, more than a didactic, memorial, or even inspirational one. It also offered a mode of encounter or experience of theophany not available in the same manner through a narrative image. God was apparent in events and deeds but now even more so in the holy face itself

For these reasons, external appearance was more than mere illusion, more than a record of a transitory and superficial exterior. It was a way to establish a connection between realmss whether of the dead and the living, the royal and the lay, or the mortal and the immortal. It became a

Fig 40. Gold coifit (aurei) showing Diocletian and Ma* nnian (obverses') with Jupiter and Hercules on their respective reverses, minted in Tne«;2M c£, (Photo: Courtesy of the Amcneari Numismatic Society).

visual manifestation of a presence. But while the portrait opened lines of communication between these realms» it also created and nurtured actual relationships between beings that otherwise could not exist in the same space or time, even if that was a relationship of worship given and received. And while both traditional philosophers and Christian theologians strenuously argued against the presumption that likeness could be achieved by a work of artistic imitation, people never ceased to make images of the immortal. The need to LlseeJ1 as well as to imagine, even if only symbolically or partially, was essentia] to the human and so to the religious experience, The power of such images (and their religious function) was why early Christians avoided portraits as such, even while they made other kinds of visual art (narrative and symbolic imagery). The portrait represented the danger (and potential) that was known to apply to the images of the gods in polytheism» And, as if in a concerted effort to distinguish themselves from the religious practices, beliefs, or values of the surrounding culture, Christians at first avoided this particular kind of iconography. In time, the image won. Its place was too well established and its attraction too real to resist.

Fig. 41 .Three Goiistantiman coins with slightly c liferent reverse "types, minted n Ticinum, 316 C.E. (Photo: Courte5/ of the American Numismatic Society)-
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