The Lost Cameo, the Vanished Statue of the Emperor and Constantine as a New Alexander

Piotr Ł. Grotowski

The Pontifical University of John Paul II, Cracow , Poland

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to propose a reinterpretation of the meaning of the lost colossus of Constantine the Great from the Forum of his name in Constantinople, in the light of the iconography of the emperor on the cameo from the cathedral in the Pomeranian town of Cammin. Although the gem was lost during the last war, it is known to us thanks to archival photographs and the plaster cast housed at Göttingen University. On this basis, Gerda Bruns associated the jewel with the statue of Constantine on the porphyry column in the New Rome, and her identification has since been widely accepted by the scholarly milieu. In recent years one has been able to observe growing popularity of this interpretation among researchers, who however refrain in their studies from pointing to the consequences of such a reconstruction of the statue’s form.

            The author of this paper points out that Constantine purposefully chose the iconographical type of Alexander-ktistes as a model for his own representation in order to allude to his great predecessor and the founder of a number of cities which bore his name. The iconography of the statue became then a part of the programme of the celebrations arranged on the occasion of the dedication of Constantinople, in which numerous references to Alexander played the key role. This new understanding of the colossus, placing its significance within the frames of political propaganda, better matches the actual historical circumstances and the ruler’s attitude towards Christendom than traditional interpretations which recognised the statue as Helios or Apollo, and thus introduced an incoherence — difficult to explain — in Constantine’s attitude towards the new religion. This cumbersome question, which baffled the inquisitive minds already in the Constantinople of the Byzantine era, will be considered unsubstantial if we correctly interpret the monument on the Forum solely in the political and propagandistic context.

Keywords:

Constantine the Great, Alexander Macedon, Cammin, cameo, Constantinople

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Grotowski, P. Ł. (2022). The Lost Cameo, the Vanished Statue of the Emperor and Constantine as a New Alexander. Vox Patrum, 84, 141–178. https://doi.org/10.31743/vp.14119

Piotr Ł. Grotowski  oxygenium@poczta.fm
The Pontifical University of John Paul II, Cracow https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8710-3499



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