10. Tales of Glory

10. Tales of Glory. Narratives of Roman Victory
Friday, 26 August 2022, Steigerzaal

Martina Meyr & Christof Flügel

Affiliation: Städtische Museen Rottweil, Germany

Affiliation of co-organiser: Landesstelle für die nichtstaatlichen Museen in Bayern, Germany

Session Abstract: Since the groundbreaking research of Paul Zanker and Tonio Hölscher it has been generally acknowledged, how deliberately chosen images influenced the public perception of political and military power in Rome. The “power of images” (Paul Zanker), however, soon entered the private realm and was subject of alterations regarding the “reading of these images”, as e.g. illustrated by middle Imperial Roman wedding rings with the dextrarum iunctio, a motif which had been originally limited to emphasize the unity of the army in times of Civil War. The significance of this symbol had changed, from public to private. Images of the triumphant rider, an image originally confined to the Emperor, were used in gemstones and on private funerary monuments.

Zanker’s and Hölscher’s ideas were, however, never extensively applied to the art and to small finds in the Roman provinces. Concentrating on the example of Roman victory and how this topic was communicated in Rome and at the Edge of Empire, we therefore explicitly welcome contributions from all fields of archaeology, including Classical and Roman Provincial Archaeology, as well as Numismatics, Epigraphy and Ancient History. Especially questions of how these images were used in the provinces and what mechanisms and means of distribution were used are of particular interest, but also papers on public rituals of victory in Rome and her provinces and on the “propaganda use” of the public realm will be appreciated.

Further Reading:

  • Breeze, D., 2016: They think it’s all over. The face of victory on the British frontier, Journal of Conflict Archaeology 11/1, 19-39. (http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15740773. 2016.1260817)
  • Hölscher, T., 1987: Römische Bildsprache als semantisches System, Heidelberg (Abhandlungen der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften, phil.-hist. Klasse 1987 Nr. 2).
  • Hölscher, 2018: Visual power in ancient Greece and Rome. Between art and social reality, Oakland 2018.
  • Zanker, P., 1988: The power of images in the age of Augustus, Michigan.
  • Zanker, P., 2008: Roman art, Los Angeles 2008.
Time Presenter (s) Presentation
9.00 Kai Topfer Visualizing Roman Power in the provinces – A look at common features and remarkable differences
9.20 Florian Groll The representation of Tiberius’ and Drusus’ Alpine campaigns
9.40 John Pearce Capricorn in Somerset: an Augustan image at the edge of empire
10.00 Michael den Hartog The Vynen Monument and Commemorating a Greater Victory


10.50 Martin Kemkes It’s all just propaganda? Victoria depictions and inscriptions on the Upper German-Raetian Limes
11.10 Julia Sophia Hanelt Victoria iubilata – Eine Gegenüberstellung der Votaprägungen anlässlich der Regierungsjubiläen des Gallienus und des Postumus
11.30 Monica Gui Bits and pieces of Rome’s glory in Dacia
11.50 Louisa Campbell Polychromy and Epigraphic Practice in the Provinces: a view from the Antonine Wall


13.30 Julie Machand & Joachim Le Bomin The painted iconographic programm of Deir el-Atrash fort: Roman control, protection and military presence in the Egyptian Eastern desert
13.50 Aura Piccioni “[…] divina et praesentia signa” (Veg. 2.6): Roman Imperial Bronze Statues from Raetia
14.10 Eva Steigberger My face and the Wolf song
14.30 David Breeze Commemorating the Dead


Visualizing Roman Power in the provinces – A look at common features and remarkable differences
Kai Töpfer, Heidelberg University

Images were an important medium of communication in Roman culture and as such ubiquitous, for instance in the form of public monuments, decorations on everyday objects or in private surroundings. The topics and motifs of these images were no less diverse than their possible uses. An unquestionably important and at the same time very ambivalent topic was the Roman rule and the military superiority of the Roman army. While related images from Rome and Italy, which consistently convey the perspective of the rulers, were a subject of intensive Research, the imagery in the provinces has been investigated less intensively and not comparatively. However, a closer look on such images shows that they differ significantly not only from the imagery in Rome but also from region to region. Therefore the main focus of my paper will be on the question whether these provincial images and the mentioned differences can be understood as an expression of a specific regional perspective on Roman rule. Important factors to be considered in this context are for instance the initiators and their social context as well as regional artistic and visual traditions. Taking these aspects into account, a few exemplary monuments from the eastern Mediterranean provinces and, in comparison, from the Germanic provinces will be examined more closely.

The representation of Tiberius’ and Drusus’ Alpine campaigns
Florian Groll, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

The propagation of military victories was one of the most important elements of the Roman emperors’ self-representation. So far, modern scholarship has mainly focused on the construction of the ruler’s own military image, thereby neglecting the fact that especially during Augustus’ and Tiberius’ reigns other members of the imperial family were celebrated for their military exploits, as well. A close examination of the rhetorical and iconographical strategies, which were used to promote the military power of the imperial family, might contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of Roman imperial representation than the approaches which were solely focused on the emperors. My paper aims to tackle this desideratum by taking a closer look at the propagation of the Alpine campaigns of Tiberius and Drusus the Elder, Augustus’ stepsons, who subdued the mountain chain in a swift and coordinated operation in 15 BC. Their victory was celebrated in literary texts (Horace: Odes 4,4 and 4,14), coins (RIC I² 164a-165b), and architecture (the Tropaeum Alpium, a victory monument in Southern France). My paper will focus on Horace’s poems. First, I intend to examine which military qualities Horace attributes to Tiberius and Drusus; afterward, I will show how the poet links the two men’s military exploits to their stepfather Augustus to formulate a narrative of dynastic victoriousness. The military image of Tiberius and Drusus created in these odes will subsequently be compared to their depictions on the aforementioned coins from Lugdunum and the Tropaeum Alpium to get a comprehensive overview of the propagation of the Alpine victory both in the capital Rome and in the Gallic territories of the Empire.

Capricorn in Somerset: an Augustan image at the edge of empire
John Pearce, Dept of Classics, King’s College London

The discovery in 2012 of a copper-alloy figurine of Capricorn in north Somerset, south-west England, exemplifies the replication in the remotest provinces of images derived from the Augustan repertoire defined by Zanker. The figure serves as case study in investigating the mechanism by which such images might be replicated. Stylization of the figure’s details make it likely that it was made in north-west Europe, perhaps in Britain. Comparison with other representations of this motif shows that this Somerset zodiac figure is not easily paralleled in terms of medium or scale. Its likely votive purpose, as a single discrete image or a component of a larger ensemble, is advocated. Based on the context of its findspot, close to the mineral-rich Mendip hills, two scenarios are presented to explain the dissemination of this specific image, one ‘military’, the other ‘civilian’. The discovery was made near Charterhouse, a key centre for mineral extraction in the Mendips after AD 43. Here imperial interest and military involvement are attested in stamped lead ingots and an adjacent fort in the mid-first century AD. Drawing on other representations of Capricorn in text and image from military sites in Britain and beyond, a possible association with the sacellum of a garrison, perhaps comprising soldiers from the second legion Augusta, is proposed. North Somerset is also rich in temples, the most famous being the sanctuary of Sulis Minerva at Bath, where the influence of Augustan iconography on the temple pediment relief has long been argued. Surviving evidence from other temples in the same region shows Roman influence on images and writing as forms of religious devotion, perhaps centred on Bath as a centre of new practice. In this context Capricorn can be alternatively identified as an offering at a local shrine.

The Vynen Monument and Commemorating a Greater Victory
Michael den Hartog, Province of Noord Brabant, Cultural Heritage Programme

As Paul Zanker has shown, Augustus did much to create his image as a successful and victorious ruler. When they came to power, the Flavians followed Augustus’ example and initiated among others an extensive building programme. Victories make good propaganda. Ever since the end of the 1970s, when it was unearthed at Vynen near Xanten, a stone dedicated to Emperor Vespasian and his son Titus has been seen as part of a monument commemorating a triumph of Legio VI Victrix over the Batavians during their epic revolt. In contrast to the much celebrated Flavian capture of Jerusalem, Zangenberg sees the Vynen monument as the only tangible commemoration of their victory over the Batavians. The Vynen monument may seem an isolated find, but it is not alone in the world of Roman epigraphy and Flavian visual propaganda. The object dating to AD 72-73 can be seen as part of a series of building inscriptions along the Roman Limes from the river Rhine to the Euphrates in the honour of Vespasian and Titus. The Vynen inscription also names Aulus Marius Celsus, the governor of the military district of Germania Inferior. Building inscriptions are a means of propaganda for Roman emperors. What role did the stone play in Flavian propaganda as a whole and Flavian propaganda in Germania Inferior in particular? In the turbulent AD 68-70 period the Flavians routed their Vitellian adversaries and installed a new dynasty in Rome. Besides the restoration of fortifications after the Batavian revolt, a thorough restructuring of the legions along the Rhine Limes took place. What did this restructuring look like? What was Aulus Marius Celsus’ role? Coins are another means of propaganda. What kind of information can coinage from the legionary camp at Nijmegen add to the understanding of Flavian propaganda and the stone itself?

It’s all just propaganda? Victoria depictions and inscriptions on the Upper German-Raetian Limes
Martin Kemkes, Archäologisches Landesmuseum Baden-Württemberg

During the current excavations in the western fort of Öhringen in summer 2020, several statue fragments were found in the fort ditch in front of the south gate. Among them was a winged Victoria, which could have originally been part of the decoration of the fort gate. It most likely belonged to the official representational equipment of the fort and symbolized the absolute claim to victory and rule of the Roman army, but also of the entire Roman state. Depictions and inscriptions of the goddess Victoria are widespread along the Limes and in the hinterland. They are found, often in connection with Mars, not only in military contexts as evidence of Roman state and army religion, but also in civilian or private milieus. Apparently, the Roman goddess of victory in her Greco-Roman statue schemes was linked to local religious ideas in the course of an “Interpretatio Romana”. Based on the new find of the statue from Öhringen, the lecture will present the depictions and inscriptions of Victoria at the Upper German-Raetian Limes and discuss the complex appropriation processes of the goddess Victoria in the provinces of Upper Germany and Raetia.

Victoria iubilata – Eine Gegenüberstellung der Votaprägungen anlässlich der Regierungsjubiläen des Gallienus und des Postumus
Julia Sophia Hanelt, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Graduiertenkolleg 2304 “Byzanz und die euromediterranen Kriegskulturen”

Ab Antoninus Pius sind Gepräge, die aufgrund ihrer Gestaltung Bezug auf Regierungsjubiläen nehmen, fester Bestandteil der kaiserlichen Münzprogramme bis in frühbyzantinische Zeit. In der bisherigen Forschung standen die Votaprägungen vornehmlich als Datierungsinstrument für die eigentlichen Jubiläumsfeierlichkeiten im Fokus; ihre Ikonographie wurde bisher nur vereinzelt untersucht. Dabei ist ihre wechselvolle ikonographische Entwicklung ebenso Ausdruck der kaiserlichen Selbstdarstellung. So bedienen sie sich ebenfalls einer bildlichen Siegesterminologie, die die Jubiläen in einen direkten Zusammenhang mit der kaiserlichen Sieghaftigkeit stellt. Nach einer kurzen Einführung zu den Votaprägungen anlässlich der Regierungsjubiläen im Allgemeinen soll in meinem Vortrag die Ikonographie dieser Münzen, die explizit auf Regierungsjubiläen weisen, exemplarisch an den Prägungen des Kaisers Gallienus und seines usurpierenden Gegners und Gründers des Gallischen Sonderreiches Postumus im Fokus stehen. Hier wird insbesondere die Frage zu klären sein, inwiefern die unterschiedlichen Rahmenbedingungen ihrer Herrschaft Einfluss auf das ikonographische Narrativ der Jubiläumsprägungen hatten. Dabei spielt sowohl der Prägekontext der jeweiligen Münzen als auch das kulturelle Umfeld eine Rolle. Auch die Bedeutung der Intermedialität, also des Verhältnisses von Münzbild und -legende, soll aufgegriffen werden. Abschließend werden die Ergebnisse zusammengefasst und ein Ausblick auf die Weiterentwicklung der Votaprägungen anlässlich von Regierungsjubiläen präsentiert.

Bits and pieces of Rome’s glory in Dacia
Monica Gui, National Museum of Transylvanian History, Cluj-Napoca

Surely, the idea of Rome’s glory had to be instilled not only in the core of the Empire, but also in its periphery, not least in the military communities on the borders. Images were a powerful tool for its conceptualisation. In Dacia, due to its status of marginal and relatively short-lived Roman province, but probably mostly to modern causes, traces of more or less monumental imagery of this kind are conspicuously scarce. However, they are not altogether absent and allow a glimpse into how the idea of Rome’s victory was conceived and displayed. This very partial picture can be supplemented by similar, significant images recurring on more trivial objects, which are often ignored and/or considered self-evident. Large- and small-scale images were indeed complementary, some alluding more at targeted transmission, while others more at reception. The presentation will focus on a set of well-known symbols closely associated with this message and follow their expression in a variety of media. Questions such as inspiration, production and diffusion of image-bearing objects and monuments and the appropriation of these symbols will be addressed. It will be argued that in the particular context of Dacia’s military environment, the visual vocabulary was rather straightforward, even ‘iconic’ (i.e. immediately recognisable), generally lacking the complexities and nuances seen, for instance, in metropolitan architectural and artistic creations. Even at this basic level, the evidence suggests that it must have worked. Investigating how these tropes were potentially used, interpreted and combined (and by who) to articulate the narrative of Rome’s greatness and invincibility can reveal glimpses of the ideological landscape of the province and some of the factors that actively shaped it.

Polychromy and Epigraphic Practice in the Provinces: a view from the Antonine Wall
Louisa Campbell, University of Glasgow

Unique inscribed reliefs from the Antonine Wall, commonly referred to as Distance Sculptures, provide an exceptional lens through which to view epigraphic and propaganda practices on the edge of Empire. These monuments performed a pivotal role in projecting and maintaining Imperial power over the region and this paper will discuss how recent non-invasive analysis revealed previously invisible pigments that once brought these iconic sculptures to life for both Roman and non-Roman audiences. Vibrant colour imbued the inscribed text, iconography and decorative details with an incredibly powerful additional layer of meaning and a restricted palette of pigments was evidently prescriptively applied to different features making their intended messages widely accessible. However, elemental and mineral fingerprinting of pigment compounds confirms selectivity in the way Roman artisans achieved their desired effects on the Distance Sculptures by applying alternatives that were probably more readily available to them on the frontier. Attempts to reconstruct polychromy on plaster cast replicas have encouraged contemporary audiences to re-imagine and re-engage with Classical statuary they have previously been conditioned to see in pristine white marble, but these representations commonly lack authenticity. This paper demonstrates how emerging analytical and digital technologies now combine to permit more realistic digital reconstructions and interpretive explorations of the impact and performance of these unique monuments in their original, colourful, condition.

The painted iconographic programm of Deir el-Atrash fort: Roman control, protection and military presence in the Egyptian Eastern desert
Julie Marchand, Mission archéologique française du désert Oriental; HiSoMA et ASM, CNRS & Joachim Le Bomin, MAFDO; HiSoMA et ASM, CNRS

In January 2020, within the framework of the French Archaeological mission in the Egyptian Eastern Desert (MAFDO), a unique painting of its kind was discovered in Deir el-Atrash fort, build along the desert road that connects Qena in the Nile Valley to ‘Abu Sha’ar on the Red Sea. This praesidium, excavated and studied by the speakers, is the nearest hydreuma located a few stations before the famous Porphyrites quarries. The coloured scenes extend over nearly 2.4 linear meters on the eastern tower of the fort entrance and on the curtain wall and are dated to the Antonine period. The program includes a rider (hero equitans, perhaps Heron, or a draconarius?) and at least three dromedaries led by a camel driver, identified as a dromedarius or a man in charge of supplies. This unique and well-preserved example of figurative scenes painted on the walls of an Egyptian Eastern desert fortress offers a glimpse of a program presented at the entrance of a military device, which clearly symbolizes Rome’s mark and control over the margins of the Empire. After the presentation of the archaeological remains and the painting, the speakers will attempt to highlight all the aspects and questions that are associated with this discovery.

“[…] divina et praesentia signa” (Veg. 2.6): Roman Imperial Bronze Statues from Raetia
Aura Piccioni, KU Eichstätt-Ingolstadt

That iconography was strictly connected with imperial propaganda is not a news to anyone, as especially works like those of Zanker demonstrated, particularly for the Augustan Age. Of course, such propaganda also invested the provinces, where the images of the emperors were ubiquitous and to be considered as their “divina et praesentia signa” (Veg. 2.6). Some recent results from diverse projects on the Roman Limes brought in new data. In the last few years an interest surrounding the bronze statues, or at least their fragments, coming from the Rhine-Danube Limes, reached in fact its peak, and culminated in a broad project, to which many institutions cooperated (http://grossbronzenamlimes.de/). A part of this major project was later interrupted, and then resumed by my new research on Raetia, which has been developed during the biennium 2019-2021 at the KU Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, with the generous funding by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung and the support of various German institutions and scholars. In Raetia ubiquitous traces of imperial propaganda have been found, as the high number of bronze fragments coming from this province contributes to demonstrate. Bronze statues fragments discovered, for instance, in Künzing, Weißenburg i. B. and in Rainau-Dalkingen, as well as other settlements along the Limes, shed new light on the ways this propaganda was spread, bringing to the conclusion that not only iconographical symbolism, but also the exposition contexts of the original statues attributed ‘power’ and ‘victory’ to their meaning. Their destruction became, then, even more significant. The paper at hand aims precisely to investigate the narratives of imperial power and world conquest in Raetia between the 1st and the 3rd c. AD.

“My face and the Wolf song”
Eva Steigberger, Monuments Authority Austria

The Roman Army was and is considered to be one of the key players in transporting Roman glory into the Empire. Roman military equipment not only serves the purpose of protecting and fighting, it shows Rome’s Might and Power and is supposed to put fear into their enemy. Roman equites, as known, were an impressive sight, dressed in shiny armour telling tales of Roman virtus. A new face mask from Carnuntum with its other finds and the Ribchester helmet are fine examples of the exquisite technique, the care and the love for the equipment, which converts the bearer into the ideal victorious hero of battle sent by the Emperor.

Commemorating the Dead
David Breeze

War memorials and representations of victory at the Edge of Empires This presentation will compare and contrast how the Roman Empire and the British Empire commemorated victory and defeat in monuments. Particular monuments will include Adamklissi and the Antonine Wall, and memorials erected in the 19th century after continental and colonial wars as well as the First World War.