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date: 20 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Monumental reliefs, also known as “historical” or “state” reliefs, adorned an unprecedented range of public buildings in the Roman empire. Introduced during the Republic, produced mainly under the Principate in Rome, and rarely used as a marker of Roman affiliation in the provinces, monumental reliefs became one of the most distinctive forms of Roman sculpture. Although scholars originally concentrated on the supposed historicity of the events depicted, recent semiotic approaches contextualize the reliefs’ imagery and explore intended messages. Scholarship also has moved beyond merely identifying historical iconography to examining broader categories of imagery across multiple reliefs. Challenges for the study of monumental reliefs include lack of archaeological context, ambiguity in dating and identification, and the reuse (both ancient and modern) of reliefs. Despite a long history of study, opportunities for innovative work remain, including database-driven quantitative approaches, re-evaluations of understudied provincial monuments, and scrutiny of polychromy and topographic contexts.

Keywords: historical reliefs, state reliefs, reuse, representations of architecture, methodology, style, iconography, Ara Pacis Augustae, Valle-Medici, Ara Pietatis, Arch of Titus, Trajan’s Column

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