Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
This thesis examines imperial representations of clementia from the time of Augustus to Marcus Aurelius. Since there is, to my knowledge, no study devoted exclusively to the examination of clemency's appearance in the material culture, it is meant to round out the study of the virtue's place in the Roman world by examining its depiction on the imperial monuments. With each consideration of a clemency scene, the thesis has three aims. 1) To set up the socio-political and historical context of the era and how the scene is reflective of or in response to that. 2) To examine the iconography in detail and to compare and contrast the scene to earlier or contemporary representations of clemency. 3) To consider the intent behind the production of the scene and intended viewer reaction. The study finds that an emperor used clemency to strengthen his position and to gain support from the people and the elite. It was also an opportunity to show the superiority and might of Rome, while depicting the enemy as defeated and begging for mercy. Moreover, the study reveals that the basic components of a clemency scene remain the same, but that the mood changes from calm and peaceful to more chaotic and violent with each emperor. Finally, the study shows that the clementia scene was meant exclusively for a Roman audience, evidenced by its absence on monuments outside of Rome. The viewer was intended to take away messages of Roman superiority, the inferiority of the barbarians, and of an emperor who was an able ruler and a capable military commander. Therefore, not only does this thesis round out the study of clemency's place in the Roman world, it also contributes to our understanding of the ways in which imperial monuments reflect the ideas and attitudes of the emperors.
Vahl, Jessica, "Imperial Representations of Clementia: from Augustus to Marcus Aurelius" (2007). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5324.
McMaster University Library