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Between Elite Style and Mass Appeal: the Nondescript Imperial Women of the Roman High Empire
February 25, 2019
Lincoln, NE United States
Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
AIA Society: Lincoln/Omaha
Lecturer: Eve D'Ambra
The Roman imperial women of the High Empire (from the late first through mid-second centuries C.E.) recede from view in the ancient written sources. The emperors’ wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters typically only appear in historical accounts to be summarily praised or castigated. Yet a rich archaeological record (inscriptions, coins, statuary) is only beginning to be appraised (or re-appraised) by scholars interested in the “soft” power of the court women, the family dynamics of the imperial house, and the imperial women’s traditional roles in religion and patronage. Portrait sculpture and coins, however, offer evidence of the visibility of the women at the top of society. This lecture surveys the portraits of imperial women from the Flavians through Hadrian to consider how their images stood apart or remained indistinct from those of the cohort of Roman women, and what this signifies about their roles.