Portraits of power: the representations of imperial women in the Byzantine Empire

Wainwright, Lauren A. (2020). Portraits of power: the representations of imperial women in the Byzantine Empire. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Through an analysis of physical depictions and literary records, this thesis explored what messages the representations of Byzantine empresses conveyed. It showed that, though embedded in tradition, the representation of the empress was not fixed. Instead, it changed and adapted over the long chronological span of the Byzantine Empire, as a consistently visible fixture of imperial hierarchy.

The thesis first tracked the transformation from the indistinguishable elite Roman woman, to the distinctive imperial costume and the creation of the office of the empress. Concurrently tracing iconographical changes revolving around Christianity and imperial triumph motifs, mixed with entrenched idealisations of motherhood and security, the Late Antique model of imperial rule developed into the presentation of the emperor and the empress as the imperial unit. This broadens out from the Middle Byzantine period, where the office of the empress is used to legitimise and reaffirm dynastic portrayals, as well as their roles within regencies, sole rule, and the legitimisation of emperors.

The visible, political action of patronage is also explored, underlined as a key role of the office, alongside competitive agency. Together with portraiture, the office of the empress was a recognisable, imperial ‘brand’ that constructed a narrative of imperial power.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology (CAHA)
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DE The Mediterranean Region. The Greco-Roman World
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/11102


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