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The fate of statues: a contextualised study of sculpture in Late Antique Cyprus

PANAYIDES, PANAYIOTIS (2016) The fate of statues: a contextualised study of sculpture in Late Antique Cyprus. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 03 June 2021.

Abstract

The consideration of the fate of statuary during Late Antiquity (fourth to seventh centuries) is a key element for a nuanced understanding of the processes of de-structuration of the Roman world and its transformation to the Christian Byzantine Empire. The evidence of broken or discarded statues has frequently been associated with destructive responses of the Christian communities to the pagan past of their cities. It is only recently that regional studies have prompted a rethinking of the fate of statuary, by accommodating the issue within the context of the development of urban areas in Late Antiquity. Focusing on three important Cypriot cities (Nea Paphos, Salamis, Kourion), this research constitutes the first comprehensive investigation of the sculptural environment of a Roman province in late antique times. By collating all the published and unpublished evidence for the first time, it interprets the function, changing uses, and fate of statues within their local context.

The first chapter discusses the contribution of the study of statuary and its fate to the ongoing debate about the evolvement of late antique urbanism and the demise of the ‘classical’ cities. Instead of repeating historical events, the next chapter focuses on a number of social, religious, and economic developments, which affected the material landscape of the Cypriot cities. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 analyse exhaustively the statuary landscape of late antique Cyprus. The aim is to re-site the statuary in its physical and social context and evaluate its significance. The chapters investigate the relation between find locations and display settings, and relate the condition and treatment of statues to the changing functions and audiences of the buildings.

The findings revealed that statuary, predominantly mythological in subject, was scarcely a conflict point between the pagan and Christian communities of the island. In fact, it is suggested that up to the mid-sixth century, mythological statues remained integrally woven into the fabric of urban monumentality, and were identified as physical constituents of the island’s cultural heritage or objects promoting the wealth and status of their owners. Their fate was always determined by economic considerations, rather than driven by religious controversies. Deliberate mutilations on statues in Salamis and Kourion suggest that a modus vivendi between the pagan and Christian communities was reached, possibly as early as the late fourth century. Destructive responses to statuary post-dated the seventh century and may be associated with recycling activities and building projects that took place in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The concluding chapter of the thesis recapitulates the evidence; the aim is to identify common trends and sketch a chronological evolution of the Cypriot statuary landscape in Late Antiquity, by following the changing attitudes of the communities towards their sculptural legacy.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:sculpture; statuary; statues; late antiquity; roman empire; cyprus; paganism; christianity; cities; towns; archaeology; iconography; religious violence; urbanism; mythological sculpture; Salamis; Kourion; Nea Paphos; Paphos; Epiphanius
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Archaeology, Department of
Thesis Date:2016
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:06 Jun 2016 09:14

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