The Afterlife of Greek and Roman Sculpture: Late Antique Responses and Practices

December 1, 2020
The Afterlife of Greek and Roman Sculpture: Late Antique Responses and Practices

For centuries, statuary décor was a main characteristic of anycity, sanctuary, or villa in the Roman world. However, from thethird century CE onward, the prevalence of statues across the RomanEmpire declined dramatically. By the end of the sixth century,statues were no longer a defining characteristic of the imperiallandscape. Further, changing religious practices cast pagansculpture in a threatening light. Statuary production ceased, andextant statuary was either harvested for use in construction orabandoned in place.The Afterlife of Greek and Roman Sculpture is the firstvolume to approach systematically the antique destruction and reuseof statuary, investigating key responses to statuary across mostregions of the Roman world.The volume opens with a discussion of the complexity of thearchaeological record and a preliminary chronology of the fate ofstatues across both the eastern and western imperial landscape.Contributors to the volume address questions of definition,identification, and interpretation for particular treatments ofstatuary, including metal statuary and the systematic reuse ofvilla materials. They consider factors such as earthquake damage,late antique views on civic versus "private" uses of art, urbanconstruction, and deeper causes underlying the end of the statuaryhabit, including a new explanation for the decline of imperialportraiture.The themes explored resonate with contemporary concerns relatedto urban decline, as evident in post-industrial cities, and thedestruction of cultural heritage, such as in the Middle East.