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Decoration and Display in Rome's Imperial ThermaeMessages of Power and their Popular Reception at the Baths of Caracalla$
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Maryl B. Gensheimer

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190614782

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190614782.001.0001

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The Role of Iconographical Programs at the Baths of Caracalla

The Role of Iconographical Programs at the Baths of Caracalla

(p.78) 3 The Role of Iconographical Programs at the Baths of Caracalla
Decoration and Display in Rome's Imperial Thermae

Maryl B. Gensheimer

Oxford University Press

To query the sociopolitical rationale that may have prompted the emperor Caracalla to endow such a monumental bathing facility, Chapter 3 addresses the iconographical trends that mark distinctive emphases within the larger body of the Baths’ decorative program. Particular attention is paid to representations of Hercules, Bacchus, and other divinities and personifications associated with the emperor, as well as Homeric and other mythological exempla that are likewise an allusion to imperial largess. Similarly, the historical reliefs from the palaestrae and the honorific portrait statues of the imperial family displayed within the Baths are also scrutinized for their insights into the self-aggrandizing strategies of their eponymous benefactor. Together, the chapter’s discussion reveals both the obvious and subtler meanings underlying certain iconographical choices and uses those observations to recover the original motivations of the imperial patron.

Keywords:   baths, Caracalla, iconography, Hercules, mythological sculpture, historical reliefs, portrait statues, intention, reception

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