Cultivating legitimacy: how the Julio-Claudians used their Trans-Tiberum Horti to secure dynastic power

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Date

2023

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Arts & Architecture

Abstract

This paper will argue how the Julio-Claudians, then later the Flavian and early 2nd- century emperors, used the Trans-Tiberum imperial horti as sites for cultivating greater statues for themselves in several ways. These emperors had to navigate a unique challenge in terms of their leadership status. Emperors could not be kings nor gods outright, and they had to maintain the pre-established "traditions of the ancestors," which affected nearly every aspect of Roman everyday life and could not be openly changed. This meant that the first emperors, the Julio- Claudians, were on unsteady terrain in terms of how to establish and exercise their authority over the Roman people in life, and how they could ensure they would be well-remembered after death. While Emperor Augustus, the first Julio-Claudian emperor, established the tradition of using built monuments and topographical associations to achieve these goals, overtime, as the position of the emperor became more firmly established, subsequent Julio-Claudian emperors needed to come up with new, but equally subtle, strategies in order to assert their status, authority, and legacy. In addition to their locations near important sites, the Julio-Claudians, and then later emperors, had more freedom and ability within these imperial horti, that they owned, to more easily invoke numerous Republican-era traditions that subtly allowed them associations with figures or beings of great power. This paper will demonstrate, through various mediums of evidence, how these imperial horti were convergences of pleasure gardens and sacred groves in that they drew upon copious traditions associated with these spaces, as well as demonstrate how other Republican-era traditions concerning fluidity or strictness of boundaries, public and private spaces, topographical associations, symbolism in built forms, environmental manipulation, and controlled public reception were applied to these horti. All of these factors will demonstrate how these imperial horti were unique "stages" in which the emperors could perform suggestive transformations in order to try and wedge closer to a higher status, thus creating unique opportunities to legitimize the status of the emperor in numerous ways that could not be achieved through the use of any other single type of space in the Roman world.

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