Late antiquity= the synthesis and transformation of a variety of artistic and cultural
traditions. Blend of cultures/ traditions competing to make an identity statement during
this period of transition.
Head of Constantine= Roman emperor decided christianity should be legal, adopts it as
the state’s religion in the third century. Shows Constantine as a God. Roman. Presented
as a classical Roman god in a basilica.
Emperor Justinian in San Vitale is shown in a mosaic at the altar.
Late antiquity= 3rd century CE to 7th century CE. Happened in the Roman empire, and
wider Mediterranean (basically everywhere).
Key Cultural and religious developments:
● The gradual shift from religious plurality ato monotheism (pagan religion to
● Adoption of christianity as the imperial religion
Key historical issue for the period:
● Coexistence of innovation and originality, with continuity looking back to many
● Greek and Roman
● Egypt, mesopotamia, persia, semitic, African, etc. (melting pot)
Constantine the Great
● One of four tetrarchs of Roman empire (co ruler)
● Battle of Milvian Bridge 312. Sees sign from God, conquers under protection from
● Edict of Milan 312. Edict of toleration for Christians, beginning to tolerate
● Chi-rho= first two letters of Christ’s name in Greek. Symbol for christ. On
Constantine’s sword which protected him, reinforced faith.
● Constantine doesn't convert to Christianity until on his deathbed.
● Traditional cult statue in Basilica of Maxentius. Cured illness, blessed safe
● Plan: large, rectangular, columned building with an apse
● Apse: semicircular element of the building. Directs attention to important
elements of building (statues, altars, etc.)
● Function: audience hall for judges and emperors
● Assemblies, meetings, etc. (multipurpose room). Plan= diagram that shows the view from above, it tells us about spatial relationships
Reconstruction= a hypothetical representation of what the building looked like, this one
is cut away that shows us the superstructure (everything above the ground).
Dura Europos= frontier town in Syria. A crossroads; extremely religious, many
languages, ethnicities, etc. Abandoned in 256 CE.
Old testament second commandment “No false idols. But the Dura Europos synagogue
has many images/ idols on the walls.
Synagogue and temple:
temple= place of priestly offering and sacrifice within a limited precinct containing the
presence of God. Have wall paintings, prophets, old testament narratives.
Located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
Store from old testament, Samuel anointing David wall painting in Dura Europos
● Figural imagery
● Hieratic scale ( most important figure bigger)
● Frontal poses
● Flat and linear style
● Greco-Roman garb (but Jewish men). Conveys status. Fusion,
● No shading or volume.
● Shows cultural interaction by borrowing figural imagery, clothing, context, etc
from neighboring cultures.
Christian meeting houses (Dura Europos is one).
Houses converted to religious meeting places. Include meeting areas, baptiste's,
We have found so few of these because:
Most christians did not modify their houses that we can see today.
Meanwhile back in Rome…
● Subterranean burial chambers
● Jewish, Christian, “pagan” imagery all jumbled together.
● Salvation stories depicted, religiou