The Lure of the Other and the Limits of the Past

Matthew P. Canepa

in The Two Eyes of the Earth

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780520257276
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944572 | DOI:
The Lure of the Other and the Limits of the Past

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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From a scattered and fragmentary body of evidence, a picture emerges of how an international language of kingship began to arise from the Roman and Sasanian empires' originally hostile and competitive appraisals of each other in the third century. The two realms' third-century expressions of kingship and triumph arose from long and complex histories. In the age of Severus Alexander, the Romans looked back on several hundred years of continuous triumphal ritual, art, and architecture. Although a new dynasty, the Sasanians appropriated their first expressions of triumph from a long-established repertoire developed by their erstwhile Arsacid overlords, which itself drew at least indirect inspiration from an equally venerable history of Hellenistic and Achaemenid precedents. Ultimately, despite the continuing influence—and physical presence—of these august lineages, contemporary concerns engendered a new dynamic in Roman and Sasanian triumphal art. This chapter focuses on the figure of the “Eastern barbarian” in the Roman and Sasanian empires, how they preserved and manipulated cultural memory, and the ritual and visual techniques that they used to shape the past.

Keywords: Romans; Sasanians; kingship; Severus Alexander; ritual; triumphal art; architecture; Eastern barbarian; cultural memory

Chapter.  8261 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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