Saturday, February 9, 2013

Visualizing Statues in the Late Antique Roman Forum

Visualizing Statues in the Late Antique Roman Forum
During late antiquity, the statues populating urban public space forged a distinct local identity for each city in the Roman empire.  Nowhere did the prestige lent by statuary resonate with historical memories more clearly than in Rome itself, where imperial portrait statues predominated in the Roman Forum.  “Visualizing Statues in the Late Antique Roman Forum” showcases the results of research investigating the political connotations of restitution as expressed in both statuary displays and imperial rituals during the fourth and fifth centuries CE.  Statues governed perceptions of the architecture and the public areas of the Forum, which now can best be noted through a virtual environment that reconstructs the built context for open-air installations.  A crucial factor to consider involved the rare occasions on which emperors visited Rome during the fourth century CE, when rulers mostly resided in other capitals.  Ritual ceremonies such as jubilees, triumphs, and honorific events were all celebrated in Rome on significant but rare occasions.  Formal panegyrics read aloud in praise of emperors correlate with the terminology of praise in inscriptions written on the bases that supported statues.  The digital models featured in this web site functioned initially as an environment in which research was conducted on the correlations between rituals and statues.  The same visualization serves now as the platform in which to display the results featured in this web site.

The research conducted for “Visualizing Statues in the Late Antique Roman Forum” was pursued with generous funding provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).  The inspiration can be traced back to the digital models of the architecture in the Roman Forum created by a team led by Diane Favro and Bernard Frischer beginning in 1997.  After the completion of the “Digital Roman Forum” in 2005 that provided online access to the highly detailed digital models, the NEH supported a Summer Institute at UCLA entitled “Models of Ancient Rome” taught by Favro together with Sander Goldberg and Chris Johanson.  One outcome of the seminar was a series of discussions about ways to continue the research on the Roman Forum by focusing on the experiential issues raised by statues and the ritual use of public space during late antiquity.  Through the Fellowships at Digital Humanities Centers program, the NEH funded Gregor Kalas’s year-long research at UCLA’s Experiential Technologies Center to pursue this research in collaboration with Favro and Johanson.

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