chapter  3
4 Pages

Imperial Reliefs

The Romans and the peoples who inhabited their empire were addicted to relief sculptures, because they were interested in compositions and subjects, more so, in fact, than in the details of the human body., There were quite a lot of relief sculptures at Palmyra, and more still at Aphrodisias, notably in the Sebasteion, a monumental zone dedicated to the cult of Augustus (in Greek, Sebastos) and his deified successors.1 Some of these reliefs at Aphrodisias were mythological and backward-looking, since the Aphrodisians often went back to the mythical past, but certain of their other reliefs adopted a directly imperial subject-matter. Thus there were reliefs of Augustus himself, nude, accepting the bounties of the earth and command of the sea, and of

other Julio-Claudian emperors, princes and princesses, crowning trophies and conquering nations. . . . Fortunately several of the imperial panels were identified by inscriptions. . . . Thus one showed Claudius overwhelming Britannia, another Nero conquering Armenia, and a third Rome receiving the bounties of the earth (Ge). The Nero relief, as well as a few other ones, betrayed intentional damage, including erasure of the emperor's name, obviously signs of damnatio memoriae [official posthumous condemnation].