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Political Face of Late Roman Empresses

Title: The Political Face of Late Roman Empresses: Christian Symbols on Coins from the Late Fourth and Early Fifth Centuries.
Name(s): Langa, Lesley A., author
Gerson, Paula, professor co-directing thesis
Jones, Lynn, professor co-directing thesis
Stone, David, committee member
Department of Art History, degree granting department
Florida State University, degree granting institution
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2006
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: This thesis examines the issues of gender roles and political influence of Roman empresses in the late fourth and early fifth centuries. Three Late Antique empresses-Flaccilla (r. 383-386 CE), Eudoxia (r.400-404 CE), and Galla Placidia (r.421-450 CE)-sought to affirm their political roles as Augustae, Christians, and dynasts through issuing coinage. In this thesis, coins are the primary medium of political expression, through elements such as the inscriptions of titles on the obverse and pictorial personifications and descriptive inscriptions on the reverse. Reverse images, such as the personification of Victory and the laurel wreath of victory, communicated the messages of dynastic continuity and religious legitimacy for these Late Antique empresses. Both messages came to the fore as avenues through which the Theodosian emperors and empresses could establish themselves as political and religious heirs to the Constantinian dynasty. The imagery on the coins issued during the reigns of Flaccilla, Eudoxia, and Galla Placidia reflected the efforts of these Theodosian empresses to assert their ownership of a political identity that was linked with one another and linked with the first recorded Christian Roman empress, Helena. I argue in this thesis that, regardless of whether Helena was Christian, Eusebius' textual account of her provided Late Antique empresses with a model of expected behavior for a Christian empress. Helena's coins also provided a pictorial representation of a Roman consort later used by the Theodosian empresses. The reverse imagery of Helena's coins, though secular, reappeared on the coins of Late Antique empresses. In order to establish their influence over religion in the Eastern and Western empires, Flaccilla, Eudoxia, and Galla Placidia combined the imagery from Helena's coins with Christian symbols employed in the reverse imagery of coins of emperors from the Constantinian and post-Constantinian years. The secular imagery on Helena's coins was refashioned by the Theodosian empresses to include the Chi-Rho or cross, and thereby expressed the potency of religious and dynastic legitimacy for the Theodosian empresses. This thesis presents a study of the propagandistic meaning of the imagery in order to discover what relationships existed between pagan and Christian imagery, the offices of the Augustus and Augusta, and the Eastern and Western empires in the Late Antique period
Identifier: FSU_migr_etd-3289 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Thesis submitted to the Department of Art History in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Art.
Degree Awarded: Fall Semester, 2006.
Date of Defense: October 31, 2006.
Keywords: Chi-Rho symbols, Galla Placidia, Eudoxia, Flaccilla, Theodosian Empresses, Coins, Late Roman, Early Byzantine
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory Committee: Paula Gerson, Professor Co-Directing Thesis; Lynn Jones, Professor Co-Directing Thesis; David Stone, Committee Member.
Subject(s): Arts
Persistent Link to This Record:
Owner Institution: FSU

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Langa, L. A. (2006). The Political Face of Late Roman Empresses: Christian Symbols on Coins from the Late Fourth and Early Fifth Centuries. Retrieved from