The Attributes of the Emperor: a gradual transformation (379-711)

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This thesis quantitatively analyzes the transformation of visual representations of imperial attributes in various late Roman and Byzantine mediums between 379 and 711 with a twofold objective: to reconstruct the gradual transformation of imperial attributes on numismatic self-representations in this time period and to indicate the relation between various visual representations of imperial attributes. Imperial attributes functioned as important iconographic conventions making imperial imagery recognizable to its beholders. The imperial attributes of the emperors that reigned between 379 and 711 gradually transformed from the traditional Roman symbols into Byzantine Christian symbols. Key moments of change will be identified, like the introduction of the Globus Cruciger in 538 during the reign of Justinian I. The Christian innovations in the numismatic iconography were important since they lasted for centuries, creating a new Christian imperial image that was imitated by many medieval and early-modern courts in Europe. Simultaneously, some traditional attributes did not disappear but were still struck on specific coins for a particular audience or purpose. The same could be said for the non-numismatic representations, as these were often subject to a very specific context either in content, location, or audience. In that respect, it seems better to speak of a set of various imperial images each with its own function and target audience rather than ‘the imperial image’.
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