City as Stage and Art as Statecraft

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:
City as Stage and Art as Statecraft

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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Gifts were a mainstay of Roman and Sasanian diplomacy from at least the time of Constantine the Great and Šāpūr II and formed an integral part of all exchanges. Portable and precious, like ivory and silk, silver plates with figurative imagery were probably one of the staple elements of diplomatic gift exchanges. In a diplomatic context, the images on silver plates had a special significance that was relevant to the conversation between Rome and Sasanian Iran. Most of the royal hunters in silk imagery date to late in the dynasty's history and persisted in this medium in later Byzantine, Central Asian, and even Chinese and Japanese silks. The precious textiles served as important mediators of royal power. The space and the activities of the hippodrome were central to displays of power in both cultures, either as an adaptation of indigenous customs in the case of the Romans or in outright appropriation in the case of the Sasanians. Holidays and feasts also occupied an important position in the symbolic display of both courts.

Keywords: Rome; Sasanian Iran; diplomacy; gift exchanges; silver plates; royal hunters; textiles; holidays; feasts; hippodrome

Chapter.  12444 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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