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Michael Squire: The Emperor's New Clothes: Embodying ambiguity in the Prima Porta Augustus

Monday, April 22
5:15 pm – 7:00 pm
Building 110, Room 112
Join us at 5:00pm for light refreshments.
This lecture will re-examine one of the most iconic images of Rome's first emperor: the statue of Augustus from Prima Porta, discovered 150 years ago this week (on 20th April 1863). Much has been written about the iconography of the statue's breastplate, the relationship with other Augustan portrait 'types', and above all about date, archaeological context and prototype. By contrast, my lecture will examine the ambiguities of the Prima Porta breastplate in order to rethink the 'power of images in the age of Augustus': the ambivalence of this body-costume, I argue, goes hand in hand with a larger set of artistic, cultural and political ambiguities about Augustus and the imperial system which he embodies.

Michael Squire is Lecturer in Classics at King's College London, and currently on sabbatical at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. His books include Image and Text in Graeco-Roman Antiquity (Cambridge University Press, 2009), The Art of the Body: Antiquity and its Legacy (Oxford University Press, 2011) and The Iliad in a Nutshell: Visualizing Epic on the Tabulae Iliacae (Oxford University Press, 2011).