Herakles on the Edge: how do objects depicting the figure of Herakles inform our understanding of artistic choices and identity during the expansion of the Roman Empire?
thesisposted on 01.02.2019, 10:03 by Jane Lois Ainsworth
This research interrogates the dynamics and discrepant experiences of Sicilian communities in the centuries before and after its conquest by Rome, by contextualising the choices made in representing the frequently occurring image of Herakles. Investigation of the object biographies of these representations in Chapter 3 reveals the influence of groups and institutions within communities which are overlooked by modern processes of cataloguing, collecting and connoisseurship analysed in Chapters 1 and 2. Focus here on one theme of representation, one object and one site through case studies problematises the assumptions made by these processes about the relative importance of global and local trends. In Chapter 4, interrogation of objects bearing theatrical representations of Herakles demonstrates the importance of festivals involving dramatic performances in eastern and southern Sicily; challenging assumptions about the use of such objects as evidence of a developmental progression of theatre ‘Between Greece and Rome’. It questions the value of aesthetic judgment of uncontextualized, idealised renderings of selected images. Chapter 5 establishes the importance of considering the entire object, discussing clay sealing strips from Selinunte bearing the seal impression of Herakles, used by individuals and civic authority operating within the Carthaginian eparchy; and highlights the limitations of cataloguing systems based on mythological types. The site of Morgantina reveals in Chapter 6 the changing dynamics of the groups, institutions, and global trends influencing a community which came under different powers between 370-170 BC. Close study of contextualised biographies of objects bearing Herakles’ image, through comparison of the three case studies, reveals the potential for greater understanding of cultural change in light of the dynamics underlying the artistic choices and identities of individuals. These dynamics, crucial to modern understanding of the realities of ancient power, can be profoundly affected by decisions made in the post-depositional cataloguing, publication, and display of objects.