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Historical and Religious Memory in the Ancient World$
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Beate Dignas and R. R. R. Smith

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199572069

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572069.001.0001

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Defacing the Gods at Aphrodisias

Defacing the Gods at Aphrodisias

(p.283) 13 Defacing the Gods at Aphrodisias
Historical and Religious Memory in the Ancient World

R.R.R. Smith

Oxford University Press

The cities of the late antique Mediterranean were full of monumental images of the Olympian gods. This chapter is a case study of the Christian adjustments made to the display of marble reliefs in the Julio–Claudian Sebasteion at Aphrodisias. This was a great repository of the city's collective memory, and the process of negotiation about what in contemporary Christian thinking constituted a provocation or a danger that required action can be followed here in unusual detail. A dozen reliefs were systematically and visibly defaced. They are evidence of a ‘hard’ response: violent assault that is left meticulously represented in the erased image. But set in the context of the whole monument and seventy other reliefs that were not defaced, the negotiation can be seen to have been more complex, the attitudes more nuanced. As much as possible of a great city monument was left untouched, indeed was carefully maintained.

Keywords:   Aphrodisias, collective memory, defacing, late antique, monument, reliefs, Sebasteion

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