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Graphic Signs of Authority in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, 300-900$
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Ildar Garipzanov

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198815013

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198815013.001.0001

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Christograms as Signs of Authority in the Late Roman Empire

Christograms as Signs of Authority in the Late Roman Empire

Chapter:
(p.50) 2 Christograms as Signs of Authority in the Late Roman Empire
Source:
Graphic Signs of Authority in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, 300-900
Author(s):

Ildar Garipzanov

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198815013.003.0003

The first section tests the main interpretations of Lactantius’ passage on Constantine’s victorious sign in 312 against existing graphic evidence from the 310s and early 320s, and consequently supports the interpretation of Lactantius’ description as a rhetorical device invented or modified by the Christian narrator. The next two sections support the argument that the perception of the chi-rho as Constantine’s triumphant sign became entrenched in courtly culture and public mentalities from the mid-320s onwards, and trace the diachronic change of the chi-rho from its paramount importance as an imperial sign of authority under the Constantinian dynasty to its hierarchic usage alongside the tau-rho and cross in the Theodosian period. The final section presents a contextualized discussion of the encolpion of Empress Maria and mosaics from several early baptisteries, illustrating the paradigmatic importance the chi-rho and tau-rho for early Christian graphicacy around the turn of the fifth century.

Keywords:   chi-rho, tau-rho, labarum, Constantinian dynasty, Theodosian dynasty, Lactantius, Eusebius, encolpion of Maria, carmina figurata

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