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Grant number: FA-58274-15

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John Pollini
University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA 90089-0012)

Destruction, Mutilation, and Repurposing of Classical Images in Late Antiquity

Images can exert an extraordinary power, especially when believed by their beholders to be in some way alive or to embody a superhuman force. My project focuses in a new and comprehensive way on previously little examined or even detected archaeological evidence for the mutilation, destruction, or repurposing of both sacred and unconsecrated images of the polytheistic peoples of the former Roman Empire in the 4th to 7th centuries, when overt forms of polytheistic religions had been largely eliminated in the new Christian Empire. Ancient literary and epigraphic sources provide a framework for the interpretation of the material evidence, which ranges from “high art” to humble artifacts. Through exploring the range of attitudes toward these images and the nature of violence directed against them, I believe that a better understanding can be achieved of how individuals and groups may respond to images as objects for adoration or defilement, depending on the religious and societal milieu.

Project fields:
Archaeology; Classical History; Classics

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2016 – 12/31/2016