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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Buildings


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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 p395  Appendix I

[image ALT: a very awkward drawing of a man on a horse. The horse is rather elegant, his left foot raised, ambling off to the right; the man is caricaturally drawn. He wears a short pleated skirt, a loose drapery about his shoulders that exposes a potbelly, and boots; he wears a sort of feather duster on his head, carries a cross-topped orb in his left, and waves at us with his right, which is disproportionate large. The word GLORIAE is written in above the horse's mane, and PERENNIS on the horse itself, below the mane; THEO is written on the horse's rump and DOSI on his right shoulder. It is a 15c drawing of the statue of Justinian in the Augusteum in Constantinople.]


The Equestrian Statue of Justinian​a in the Augustaeum
(Buildings, I.ii.5‑12)

A drawing of this statue, made at the behest of the traveller and antiquary Cyriacus of Ancona when the monument still existed in the early fifteenth century, is preserved in Budapest; it has been published and discussed most recently by G. Rodenwaldt in the Archäologischer Anzeiger, 1931, Sp. 331‑334 (the reproduction used as the frontispiece of the present volume was made from his illustration). Rodenwaldt sees, in the description of the statue as σχῆμα Ἀχίλλειον and in Procopius's comment that it represented the Emperor ἡρωϊκῶς, evidence of the interest in the antique conception of the Roman Empire which can be perceived in Justinian's legal policy and in his various efforts for the renovatio of the Imperium Romanum.​1 Justinian, however, can hardly, in Rodenwaldt's opinion, have actually been accustomed to wear the costume in which he was depicted.

There may be a question as to precisely what the significance of the statue may have been, beyond  p396 the interpretation of it which Procopius gives. Was the statue intended simply to shew the Emperor in the costume of Achilles, or was it designed to depict him in the character of Achilles? The word σχῆμα which Procopius uses would favour the second interpretation, though it could support the first also; but his use of this word might easily have been purely fortuitous, and the point cannot be pressed too far. There is also the question whether the representation of Justinian in this fashion reflects only the Emperor's own personal interest in antiquity, expressing itself in a conscious revival of ancient imperial symbolism, or whether the statue represents instead a particular expression of an official conception of the Emperor and his functions which was current at that time. It is always possible, of course, that the statue simply represents an artistic tradition, so that in this case it would be this tradition (possibly even the artist's choice) which was chiefly or solely responsible for the way in which the Emperor was depicted.

Without further knowledge it does not seem proper to adopt any one of these interpretations to the exclusion of the others. There happens to be evidence (unknown to Rodenwaldt) that at least on one occasion, half a century previously, an "Achilles costume" was actually worn, in rather unusual circumstances. The usurper Basiliscus, who reigned as Emperor for twenty months in A.D. 475‑476, was persuaded by his wife the Augusta Zenonis to give preferment and high office to her lover Armatus, a young fop who was the Emperor's nephew.​2 A  p397 historian of the time tells how this advancement elated the young man beyond all measure, so that he imagined himself to be a man of valour and rode about in the costume of Achilles.​3 This episode may or may not be taken to shew that the "costume of Achilles" was considered to be specifically an imperial dress; it is to be noted that the word used to describe it is σκευή, "dress," and not σχῆμα as in the case of Justinian. The incident certainly indicates that the costume was thought to be especially appropriate to a brave commander; our knowledge does not seem sufficient, however, to permit us to find in the episode a definitive explanation of Justinian's appearance in this manner in the statue.

The origin of the costume, the characteristic part of which seems to be the headdress, is not clear, though further evidence on this point may eventually come to light.​4 The evidence that an "Achilles costume" was worn by Armatus helps to eliminate a difficulty which Rodenwaldt encountered in this connection. The elder Pliny (Nat. Hist.XXXIV.18) states that "nude statues holding a spear, modelled after young men in the gymnasia, were called Achillean." Rodenwaldt thought it necessary  p398 to suppose that the term "Achillean" indicated that there was some connection between the nude statues described by Pliny and the armed costume described by Procopius, but he had to admit that it is difficult to see precisely what such a connection might be. The episode of Armatus now indicates that the passage in Pliny has nothing to do with the matter, and that the origin of the costume is to be sought elsewhere.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 On this aspect of Justinian's reign, see, in addition to Rodenwaldt's paper, F. Pringsheim, "Die archaistische Tendenz Justinians," Studi in onore di Pietro Bonfante (Milan, 1930), I, pp551‑587.

2 On the episode see J. B. Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire (London, 1923), I, p392.

3 His conduct is described by Suidas, s.v. Ἁρμάτιος.º The passage was formerly thought to represent a fragment of Malchus of Philadelphia, and is attributed to him in the Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, IV, p117; it now seems more likely that it comes from Candidus the Isaurian (see Bury, loc. cit., nn. 1‑2). The costume is mentioned as follows: καὶ τοσοῦτον αὐτοῦ ἥδε ἡ ἄλη ἐπεκράτει, ὡς σκευὴν ἀναλαμβάνειν Ἀχιλλέως, οὕτω τε περιβαίνειν εἰς ἵππον . . .

4 On the appearance of Roman emperors in the costumes of gods and heroes, reference may be made to A. Alföldi, "Insignien und Tracht der römischen Kaiser," Römische Mitteilungen, L 1935, pp105‑110.

Thayer's Note:

a If like me you're wondering why a depiction of Justinian should include the prominently placed word Theodosi — which is never pointed out in this appendix — we're not alone. It does in fact seem to be a depiction of Theodosius, although the story and detective work are considerably more involved than that bare statement would suggest: see Phyllis Williams Lehmann, "Theodosius or Justinian? A Renaissance Drawing of a Byzantine Rider", The Art Bulletin, XLI.39‑57 (1959).

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Page updated: 26 May 20