Affiliation: Vassar College
Eve D’Ambra is the Agnes Rindge of Claflin Professor of Art History at Vassar College, and she holds her degrees from the University of Arizona, the University of California, Los Angeles (MA) and Yale University (PhD). Her fields of specialization are Roman sculpture and portraiture, as well as Roman art, architecture, and urbanism in the capital and the provinces. Her publications include Roman Women (2007, part of the series The Cambridge Introduction to Roman Civilization), and Beauty and the Roman Portrait in the High Empire (in progress).
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.