Leftists should read Marcus Aurelius

Emperor Marc Aurel: Image and model of an ideal of rulers - A contribution to the reception of antiquity

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2. The vita of Marc Aurel

3. On the reception history of the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius
3.1 Greek and Roman equestrian statues
3.2 The equestrian statue of Marc Aurel
3.3 History of reception
3.3.1 Reception history in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
3.3.2 Reception of the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius through art
3.3.3 Reception of Marc Aurel in monumental equestrian statues
3.4 Comparison of the mentioned equestrian statues
3.5 Possible motives for the sustainable reception of Marcus Aurelius

4. The cinematic reception of the ruling personality of Marcus Aurelius
4.1 Ancient themes in the cinema
4.2 On the historical accuracy of the antique films
4.3 The films The Fall of the Roman Empire and gladiator
4.3.1 The Fall of the Roman Empire by Anthony Mann (1964)
4.3.2 gladiator by Ridley Scott (2000)
4.4 Comparison of the movie characters
4.4.1 Appearance and film death of the emperor
4.4.2 The political figure of Marcus Aurelius
4.4.3 Personal aspects of the character
4.5 The function of the emperor's figure of Marcus Aurelius in the film

5. Summary



1 Introduction

Ancient and modern. Two terms that cover two periods of time that are far apart and yet sometimes merge into one another.

Since the Renaissance one has periodically dealt with antiquity. Whether Greek philosophy, Roman law or Roman-Christian religion, they form the basis of our culture.

Even on the American continent, ancient culture was used during the founding phase of the United States of America in the 18th century. Roman architecture was incorporated into state buildings such as the State Capitol and the Court House. Politics took Roman images: George Washington compared the motivation of the American military with that of the Roman army: fight for freedom. In the political picture program, Washington was even depicted in the Roman toga.[1] Wyke calls this American approach: "America’s rhetoric of romanitas"[2].

Antiquity remains a topical issue, as the development of new technical processes to deepen previous knowledge in archeology shows. Modern DNA methods provide very precise information about the age, gender and disease of human and animal skeletal finds. Computers, digital cameras and scanners make it easier to record data for mapping archaeological finds.[3]

Film and television in particular have recently turned back to antique fabrics. Film productions such as gladiator from 2000 as well Troy (2004), King Arthur (2004) and Alexander (2004).[4] Cinema is considered to be perhaps the most powerful reception medium of antiquity.[5]

The Greco-Roman mythology in particular apparently always offers television sufficient material for, for example, rather elaborate productions with admittedly very different quality.[6] Several TV productions have also dealt with specific topics from Roman history in recent years: Imperium Augustus (2003)[7] and Spartacus (2004).

The TV station ARTE broadcast the documentary in 2004 Spartacus - gladiator against Rome with a detailed report by the historian Marcus Junkelmann.[8]

Even computer games no longer stop at antiquity: Rome: Total War (2004) or Age of Empire (I.1996, II.1999) based on ancient themes are successful.

Since then, antiquity has been an abundant quarry for film, television and poster advertising. In this context, the last commercial from the Pepsi company should be remembered: The key scene takes place in a Roman arena. Due to the commotion caused by three female gladiators, a Pepsi box, which is offered to the emperor in the circus box, falls into the arena. The cans that have fallen out are picked up by the people streaming in in the arena. This is probably an ironic reinterpretation of what is also presented in some sandal films Panem-et-circenses -Topos.

The media in particular prove that antiquity is a topical issue again today. On the one hand, there are the monumental films from Hollywood. On the other hand, there are also new works on the reception of antiquity, especially in modern film, such as B. “Pontes II. Antiquity in Film” (2002) by Martin Korenjak or “Hollywood's Dream of Rome. 'Gladiator' and the tradition of monumental films ”(2003) by Marcus Junkelmann.[9]

“Pontes II” deals with the reception of antiquity in the medium of film. This volume provides a clear description of the topicality of antiquity. Anja Wieber's article deals with the embedding of ancient themes in film and their effect on the viewer using the example of film gladiator.

Above all, Junkelmann's work contains a detailed description of the genre of the Roman monumental film in terms of its type and historical image. The film gladiator used. There is also a comparison of the film gladiator with other historical films, such as B. The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964).[10]

There is no treatise that deals exclusively with the character of Marc Aurel in the film. The various aspects of Marc Aurel's reception in the film mostly result from the context of the content of the works listed above.

In recent years, research on antiquity has increasingly turned to the history of reception.[11] Due to the many areas in which antiquity flows, it has become an interdisciplinary field of work and thus also a point of reference for cultural studies. The reception of antiquity can show the extent to which history influences our thinking and acting today. It turns out that various aspects of post-ancient culture and life only become understandable through reception. On the other hand, it can also be used to clarify questions relating to ancient studies and develop new questions.

In the reception of antiquities, the way in which ancient content is received and how it is processed is examined more closely, whereby the result can be interpreted positively or negatively. It is also asked whether an ancient work is understood in the same way at all times or whether it is interpreted differently. In other words: "History is constantly being re-invented or found and the 'historical truth' can turn out very differently depending on the time, place and how [the] participants look at it, as can its reception in various disciplines."[12]

It is also about the question of why a certain historical personality is used to explain a historical event. In this case it is about the historical personality of the Roman emperor Marc Aurel, who last appeared in the historical film gladiator has experienced a new topicality again.

The present work is intended to make a contribution to demonstrating the relevance of antiquity and its importance for our culture today using the example of Marc Aurel's ruler.

The Roman emperor Marc Aurel is one of those historical personalities with whom one has repeatedly dealt not only in film but also in literature and the performing arts.

In gladiator he becomes a key figure in the plot of the film. As a 'good emperor' in contrast to Nero or Caligula, he was repeatedly received over the years in both ancient and modern literature.

This positive image is also confirmed in ancient historical research to this day: "perhaps the most beautiful figure in history" and "one of the best of men"[13] as well as "... a man severe to himself, indulgent to the imperfection of others, just and beneficent to all mankind."[14]

This ideal of the emperor manifests itself in the ancient sources. The Historia Augusta, for example, documents the admiration of the Roman population for Marcus Aurelius in the 4th century.[15]

One of the most cited and detailed works about Marc Aurel is Anthony Birley's “Marcus Aurelius. A Biography "[16]. With the newly revised edition from 2000, the work from 1966 is up-to-date again. It is an objective monograph in which Marc Aurel is viewed from all sides. The youth and upbringing as well as military aspects of the long war years are mentioned in detail.

Other new works on which my explanations are based are the biographies of Klaus Rosen (2004, 3rd edition) and Ute Schall (1991).[17]

With Rosen, Marc Aurel's image is defined by his philosophical work, the “self-contemplation”. It's about the philosopher who orders his life according to stoic principles. Rosen allows excerpts from the “self-contemplations” to flow into the text in many places.

Schall, on the other hand, paints the picture of a ruler who, despite all political and family crises, endeavors to fulfill his task for the good of all, as the last great emperor, who was also one of the most tragic rulers.

In the analysis of the Starwars Films, Martin Winkler draws an unusual comparison between Marc Aurel and Obi-Wan. Winkler concludes that both characters act as protector figures and they represent the highest human ambitions and the good and noble of humanity.[18]

The equestrian statue of Marc Aurel is one of the focal points of research. For many Romans it is still a symbol of their nation and history.

The broad monograph by Giorgio Accardo, which deals with the history of the equestrian image and its elaborate restoration, as well as Marc Aurel's literary aftermath, deserves special mention.[19]

When it came to the history of the reception of the equestrian statue, the main focus was Harald von Roques de Maumont's “Ancient Equestrian Statues” and Norberto Gramaccini's “Mirabilia. The afterlife of ancient statues before the Renaissance ”. Gramaccini also published an article that deals exclusively with the history of the reception of the equestrian image of Marcus Aurelius: "The reevaluation of antiquity: On the reception of Marcus Aurelius in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance".[20]

First, the person Marc Aurel is briefly introduced. The biography clarifies the main focuses of life and family aspects. The focus is on the emperor's political career. The personal data of the ruler provide the basis for a better understanding of the reception of Marcus Aurelius as a political figure and its symbolic meaning, especially in the film. But even the literary legacy of the emperor remains incomprehensible without knowledge of these biographical data.

The completeness of Marc Aurel as a person also includes his “self-contemplations”, which is why they are mentioned here, but only insofar as they perhaps seem to reflect the real circumstances of his life and reign. What is certain is that he is to be counted among the late Stoic philosophers mainly because of the "self-contemplation".[21]

In a further chapter, the history of the reception of the equestrian statue of Marc Aurel is discussed in more detail. The statue on Capitol Square in Rome is one of the most important ancient originals of the performing arts and is considered a model for all equestrian statues that followed it.[22]

Another essential subject of the work is the reception of antiquity in film. After a brief introduction to the subject, the explanations relate to the comparison of the films gladiator and The Fall of the Roman Empire. The question is why and how the character Marc Aurel was used.

Finally, all knowledge gained about the reception of Marcus Aurelius is summarized and an overall impression of the representation of the ruler personality Marc Aurel is formulated.

2. The vita of Marc Aurel

The Scriptores Historiae Augustae are used for the following brief biographical presentation of the emperor Marc Aurel.[23]

These emperor biographies are viewed as particularly critical in research.[24] Nevertheless, in my opinion, this source is one of the most common, as several ancient and modern reports are based on it.

The scientific discussion regarding SHA fills an entire area of ​​research. It is unclear when they were written and whether they were written by one or more authors. In addition, historically they are not a very reliable source. In inconclusive sections of the SHA, it appears that the author added fictional information.[25]

The writings of the historians Cassius Dio and Herodian, the correspondence of Marcus Aurelius with his teacher M. Cornelius Fronto, the “self-meditation” of the emperor and ancient collections of laws (for example the digests and the Codex Justinianus) provide further information on written source research.[26]

Right at the beginning of the vita, Marc Aurel is characterized by the biographer as a philosopher. Family history follows.[27]

Marc Aurel was born in Rome on April 26, 121 AD.[28] His family was of Spanish origin. His imperial career manifested itself relatively early. It was Hadrian's wish that Antoninus Pius adopted the then 16-year-old. He later married him to his daughter Faustina.

The author states that Marc Aurel was more appalled than pleased about this adoption.[29]

According to SHA, Marc Aurel had a serious character from early childhood. He was taught by the most experienced teachers of the time.[30] The author gives a detailed list here.

When he was about twelve years old, his love for philosophy emerged. He lived and dressed like a Stoic by wearing simple clothes, sleeping on the floor and studying the philosophical writings of the Stoa.[31]

In 139, Marcus Aurelius was appointed Caesar. He took over his first consular at the age of 18, together with Antoninus Pius, who had exercised the imperial office since Hadrian's death in 138.

During the reign of Antoninus Pius, a close relationship developed between the two. In the total of 23 years, Marc Aurel and Antoninus Pius were only separated for two nights.[32]

When he took office in 161, Marc Aurel also granted his adoptive brother Lucius Verus the dignity of emperor.[33] Until the death of Lucius Verus in 169, both ruled equally. This is the first documented double principle for the Roman Empire.

With the beginning of his rule, the long period of peace that had begun in 117 ended.[34] The crisis began in the same year with a catastrophic flooding of the Tiber with subsequent famine and the declaration of war by the Parthian king Vologaeses III.[35] In addition, a war threatened to break out in Britain and the chats had invaded Germania and Raetia.[36]

Lucius Verus was sent to the east, while Marc Aurel stayed in Rome and took care of the affairs of state. He established registry offices in Rome and the provinces and demanded that births and deaths be reported immediately.[37] Incidentally, the biographer emphasizes the emperor's great respect for the Senate.[38]

The SHA also provide information that Marc Aurel paid special attention to the administration of justice. The annual court days were increased to 230.[39] Cassius Dio also emphasizes this commitment in the administration of justice.[40]

The Parthian War in the east of the empire was almost over when the Marcomannic War broke out in the north in 166/67. The imperial strategists had tried to delay him, but they only partially succeeded.[41] Alongside this new war, the people suffered from a devastating plague.[42]

Marc Aurel and Lucius Verus set out for the north together.[43] After crossing the Alps, Marc Aurel gave in to Lucius Verus' urging and sent him back to Rome. Marc Aurel accompanied him to Altinum. Lucius Verus died of a stroke while sitting next to his brother in the car.

The biographer adds the rumor about the death of Lucius Verus, which Marcus Aurelius accuses of killing his brother. Allegedly he is said to have cut off a piece of pork belly with a knife, one side of which was prepared with poison, and handed it to him.[44]

But despite all the vices of Lucius Verus, Marc Aurel did him all honor.[45] He let him be deified, honored him with offerings and divided the estate fairly.[46]

The public auction of imperial treasures is also mentioned.[47] Marc Aurel wanted to use it to improve the finances that had been reduced by the war (and the plague).

The SHA further reports that after the end of the war, Marcus planned to establish the provinces of Marcomannia and Sarmatia.[48] He had to give up this project, however, because the usurper Avidius Cassius led an uprising in the east in 175.

Again, the biographer emphasizes the indulgent behavior of Marcus Aurelius. Strict measures against Avidius Cassius and his accomplices were not initiated. He even had the severed head that had been brought to him buried with honor.[49] Cassius Dio also attests to the mild and sensible handling of this incident.[50]

In addition, Marcus Aurelius had his son Commodus come to publicly demonstrate his strength and legitimize his successor.[51] Marc Aurel had previously had his son Commodus Caesar and imperator call out.Both together celebrate the triumph over the first marcomann war.[52]

In the second marcomann war (177-180) he was accompanied by Commodus. The biographer reports on the negative behavior of Commodus and on Marc Aurel's policy of conquest.[53]

During this war, Marcus Aurelius died in the military headquarters after being ill for seven days. The SHA do not provide any specific information about the cause of death or the place of death. It is only mentioned that the emperor refused to eat and drink in order to bring about the death more quickly.[54]

Cassius Dio is convinced that Marc Aurel did not die of natural causes. The doctors are said to have caused the death to do Commodus a favor.[55]

All in all, the biographer paints a positive and in part idealized picture of the emperor. The emperor's gentleness, reason and generosity are emphasized as character virtues.[56]

Still in the 4th century[57] his portrait stood next to the penates in the domestic sanctuary.[58] The biographer thus manifests the late antique admiration and admiration for the emperor Marc Aurel.

It is essential that the government and the personality of Marcus Aurelius made a lasting impression. All later rulers were measured by his rule.[59]

3. On the reception history of the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius

The equestrian monument of Marc Aurel is the only completely incomplete antique equestrian statue and became the model for all subsequent equestrian statues.[60] A brief description of the still image is followed by a comparison with some selected equestrian statues from later times, from which certain criteria can be derived for an overall picture of the reception of this monument.[61] It is of interest why there has been such an intensive reception of the model until the last century.

3.1 Greek and Roman equestrian statues

In Europe, the beginnings of equestrian statues lie in ancient Greece. The first proven monumental free sculptures are from the 6th century BC. Assigned to Chr.[62] The pre-Roman equestrian statues are characterized by different epoch-specific features.

The archaic epoch includes the 6th century BC. And the 5th century BC In this epoch the illustration of a calmly standing horse is common. The person pictured came from the ruling upper class. Proven archaeological finds show the tyrant or family members. The artistic design is carried out with just a few details and personal characteristics of the depicted are disregarded. The installation of such statues seems to have a sacred background in the tyranny, as they were found in temple complexes.[63]

The art form of equestrian statues is not continued in the democratic order, because it was not considered democratic enough due to its origin in tyranny.[64] Only the found Alexander statuettes document the revival of this mode of representation. Probably in miniature form they reflect the emergence of monumental equestrian statues.[65] Thus, Alexander statuettes would also be the regular and area-wide that began Adoration of rulers in the form of equestrian statues.

It is uncertain whether the statues from this period are tied to a sacred site or whether some of them are already being used in public places. The shift from sacred to public display can only be proven in Hellenism.

In the Hellenistic era, the sculptures were not only placed in sacred places, but also in public places. Kings and princes had their military successes immortalized in the form of equestrian statues.

The Hellenistic art form of equestrian images differs significantly from the archaic one. The posture of the horse is no longer standing and calm, but rather the horse is shown in a jumping and galloping mode. The sculptures show a detailed reproduction through to personal facial features as well as an energetic movement. Bronze, partly gold-plated, was now also used as a material.[66]

The depiction of the explosive Hellenistic equestrian image is continued in the Roman Republic.[67] The Hellenistic type of equestrian statue is adopted without any further additions, which means that it was also considered a military distinction in the republic.[68] The group of people to whom this honor was now due increased, but at least the rank of proconsul or legate was a condition.

Still as an honor for military deeds - but no longer dedicated to the goddess in sacred places, but in memory of the person himself - they were now set up in public places. Due to the rapid political rise of the Roman Republic and the pronounced ancestral cult of the Roman patricians, countless equestrian statues were created, of which only representations on coins have survived to this day.[69]

According to Junkelmann, the majority of late republican equestrian paintings showed the rider on a levadating horse. The only original example are the fragments of the cavalry group from Lanuvium near Rome. Maumont dates the seven marble equestrian images to the year 60 BC. Chr.[70] The riders are again shown on horses that explode and dressed in officer's armor.

The style of the Hellenistic equestrian statue lasted approximately into the 1st century AD in the Roman Empire. In Rome itself, the image type of the horse walking calmly (representative rider type) developed. In addition, in Rome during the imperial era, it is only the emperor himself who is allowed to be represented in an equestrian statue.[71]

The revaluation of the meaning of an equestrian statue was now complete. Up until then, it had mostly been a sacred place where a statue was placed. It was no longer the equestrian statue in honor of a goddess in a temple in Delphi or Olympia, but the statue of the emperor in a public square (forum), accessible above all to the people and visible to everyone.[72]

The equestrian statues were made of gilded bronze during the imperial era. It was no longer a equestrianthat was depicted, but one Ruler sitting on a horse like on a throne.[73] The addition of weapons was mostly dispensed with. The emperor was depicted in the general's coat with the hand of greeting. Most of the attested equestrian statues of the empire attest to this representative type of equestrian statue. The representative rider type symbolizes sublimity and dignity.

Of the lost equestrian statues of the Roman emperors, such as Augustus, Nero or Caligula, only images still exist on coins. The equestrian statue of Trajan is also secured by coins.[74] It corresponds to the imperial type of the calm posture of the horse. The emperor is depicted in military uniform. Useful for propaganda, it represents simplicity and dignity. Thus it can be interpreted as a direct model of the Marc Aurel equestrian monument.

3.2 The equestrian statue of Marc Aurel

The equestrian statue of Marc Aurel belongs to the genre of representative equestrian images. If you compare it with the Hellenistic models, this can be considered a plastic masterpiece.[75]

Today the statue stands on Capitol Square in Rome, where, although it was not originally conceived for a central installation, it fits well into the modern plaza as a monument that overlooks everything.[76]

The huge impression that the picture has on the viewer is explained by its size. It measures 3.87 m in length and 4.24 m in height, which means about one and a half times the life size of the horse, whereby the emperor is shown proportionally much too tall. Rider and horse were cast separately from bronze and gilded.[77]

The reserved-looking, majestic pose is created by the interplay of gestures and facial expressions of the emperor. Marc Aurel sits leaning forward a little. He is aimed directly at the viewer. The right arm is stretched out wide and formulates a gesture of greeting or blessing. The “gesture of the ruler with which he turns to the people or to his soldiers [gesture of adlocutio ]“[78]. The emperor's gaze and the horse's head follow the outstretched, pointing arm. The left arm holds the reins and presumably a statue of Victoria.[79]

The emperor sits very relaxed on the horse. Although Marcus Aurelius is depicted as ruler, his riding skills are irrelevant here. Although it is a military monument, it is believed to be in front of the barracks[80] stood, but in the foreground is its representative function. The horse no longer serves as evidence of military ability, but as a means of exalting the rider, as a throne.[81]

Marc Aurel wears a wide, short-sleeved tunic that matches the cingulum militare is belted, and above it the purple one paludamentumthat through the fibula is held together on the right shoulder.[82] The complicated routing and knotting of the straps indicates the high rank of the wearer. It is the general costume that was worn on non-warlike occasions. Except for the ring on the ring finger of the left hand, there is no jewelry. Which was probably also a consequence of his philosophical attitude, since stoicism taught humility.

"The portrait lacks any expression of energy and claim to power."[83], says Raimund Wünsche. Except for forehead wrinkles and suggested dark circles, the artist's face was hardly worked out. The narrow mouth, the forehead wrinkles and the half-open eyes make it look thoughtful.[84] The almost immobile face gives the impression of calm and imperturbability, but also of detachment. It is precisely this detachment that others have criticized him for.[85]

Joseph Brodsky refers to the similarity to Antoninus Pius and Commodus, which emerges through the curly hair, the beard and the face. However, he concedes that it could also have corresponded to the fashion of the time or that the sculptor had the intention of creating an image of the perfect ruler.[86]

The horse's body looks compact and heavy. The legs are relatively slender, but still hold the animal's powerful body.[87] The horse's gait, the “gathered” trot and the posture of the head (“dry” head) indicate a high degree of dressage and a noble parentage.[88] The posture of the horse symbolizes calm and security, which in turn is defined by the identity of the emperor.

The fixed saddle as we know it today was only invented in the Middle Ages.[89] This is a saddlecloth. Three thick layers of leather with border decorations in zigzag, staircase and crescent shape serve as padding. Stirrups have not yet been used.

According to Elfriede Knauer, the picture shows anatomical errors, which only become apparent when the equestrian picture is viewed on the ground.[90] There is a fixed height and viewing position at which the anatomical irregularities make sense. If these errors correspond to conscious ancient planning, the possible list can be defined in more detail.

An erection on a triumphal arch would therefore be unlikely, since one would only have seen the strong horse's body from below and the disproportion would make no sense.

Knauer considers a base "about twice the height of a man" to be suitable.[91] The long neck, the too large upper body, an overly long, flat arm and the absence of both thighs in the emperor only match proportionally when one approaches the rider from the left and accepts his greeting. The proportions of rider and horse are also harmonized from this point of view.

3.3 History of reception

The time and place of the first installation of the equestrian statue are unfortunately not proven by sources. It may have been around A.D. 173[92] Other years are also being considered; so 147, 164, and 166 AD. De Maumont discusses the year 147 AD, accordingly immediately or shortly after Marcus Aurelius took office as co-regent. He rejects Wegner's conjecture, who connects the list with the assumption of the winner's title Armenicus in AD 164.[93]

Anthony Birley mentions the year 166 AD. Knauer also tends towards this, who bases her assumption on convincing arguments. According to your assumption, the picture must have been created in the first half of the sixties of the 2nd century.[94] There is even the opinion that the equestrian statue was only erected by his son Commodus after the death of Marcus Aurelius. This thesis is based on the similarity of the face shape of the equestrian statue with portraits of Commodus.[95]

The original location of the equestrian image cannot be found in the ancient sources. Presumably the bronze rider was on the parade ground, the Campus caelimontanus, in front of the barracks of the emperor's mounted group.[96] Or also right in front of the emperor's villa, so Gramaccini's assumption.[97] Birley also does not rule out the possibility that the equestrian image could have stood on a triumphal arch.[98]

Finally, the statement can be made that the equestrian statue was most likely on the Caelius hill in Rome, about southwest of the Roman Forum. Because both points of view indicated by science (imperial villa and parade ground) are geographically located at roughly the same place.

It is also possible that the statue was subsequently put into storage. This would explain why she was spared the Byzantines' spoil robbery and why the sources are silent about her.

3.3.1 Reception history in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

There is no evidence of the equestrian statue from the 4th to the 8th century.[99] The history of reception from the 8th century "reflects on the one hand political history, on the other hand cultural history and there the change in the understanding of antiquity from the 8th to the 15th century"[100]. At first glance, the history of reception can be divided chronologically into three phases:

(1) The Middle Ages (up to the 14th century): The various functions and designations of Marcus Aurelius were shaped by political power structures.
(2) Early humanism (14th century): The transformation of the image of antiquity by the early Italian humanists into a positive view of antiquity. (In contrast to the medieval negative image of antiquity.) The received ancient virtues are taken over into the humanistic image of society.
(3) Fine arts (15th century): Reception of the equestrian image by artists from the Upper Italian humanist courts.[101]

These three stages are followed and the development of equestrian images up to modern times is also examined.

For the assumption that the rider stood on the parade field, the facts cited by Knauer prove to be decisive. Remains of the barracks of the above-mentioned elite unit were found under the Lateran Basilica.[102] The place of the rider on the Lateran, in front of the basilica, has been documented by sources since the 10th century.[103]

The further reception is shaped by the legend of the Constantinian donation in the 8th century. It is through them that the new identification of the equestrian statue is established.[104] The "Constantinian donation" legitimized the papacy's secular claim to rule. Emperor Constantine is said to have transferred imperial power to the Roman Church when he left for Byzantium.[105] The Lateran Palace and, among other things, the equestrian statue, which is now used as a symbolic insignia of imperial power caballus Constantini went down in history. Beyond the central symbol of imperial power, it is now also known as the "key work of the church reform of the 8th century"[106] interpreted. Today the "Constantinian Donation" is officially considered a forgery.[107]

In the 10th century the rider of Constantine in Rome became the place of jurisdiction. In 966, for example, the city prefect Peter was hung by his hair on a horse.[108] Another example underpins the thesis of the Aurelian equestrian image as a symbol of judgment: In 985 the body of the antipope Boniface VII was thrown on the Lateran in front of the horse "Constantine".[109]

The Church seemed to justify punishing its opponents by the iconography of the equestrian statue. The alliance between the Church and the Emperor created by the "Donation of Constantine" allowed the Church to punish its own enemies, just as Constantine had done with his enemies.

As a symbol of the first Roman-Christian emperor and as a symbol of the church's claim to power, Marc Aurel survived as "Constantine" until his rediscovery in the 14th century. During this time the “Constantinian” rider functioned symbolically again and again as the plaything of the political powers of the time: the Senate, the Pope and the Emperor.

The naming as Konstantin was causally responsible for the equestrian statue as caballus Constantini survived the turmoil of the Middle Ages almost undamaged.[110]

In the 11th century it was also interpreted as "Theodoric", probably because the German emperors were also looking for an iconographic connection to the Roman Empire and the Church.[111]

In the Middle Ages there was not only the papal and imperial interpretation of the statue as Constantine and Theodoric. A communal interpretation of the rider was added in the 12th century.The mirabilia[112], so-called city guides, tell the legend of a knight who is said to have saved Rome from the attack of an oriental king. Disguised as a farmer, he was able to capture the enemy king by this ruse. As the savior of Rome, he was then honored with the equestrian monument.

This story reflects the political situation of the 12th century. The reinterpreted equestrian image reflects the papal opposition, which had set up an antipope in 1143.[113] The newly formed political group came together from the city patriciate and the Roman plebs. Both depicted as the knight and the peasant with equal importance in the equestrian statue.

A similar, but politically modified legend describes Magister Gregorius in 1220.[114] The basic story is the same, but this is a Christian knight who now bears the name Quintus Curtius. Gregorius' story is defined by a "theological-didactic undertone"[115]. It was also Magister Gregorius who assigned the different designations of Marc Aurel to social and political groups:

“The pilgrims (i.e. the Germans) regard the rider as Theodoric, the people (i.e. the outdated tradition) as Constantine; 'The cardinals and clerics of the Roman Curia call him either Marcus or Quintus Quiritus'. "[116]

In medieval sources, a strange dwarf figure has been mentioned under the left horse hoof of the picture since the 12th century.[117] It is questionable whether the figure that was interpreted as a barbarian or an enemy king was an ancient depiction or a medieval addition.[118]

Such images have come down to us from the imperial era. The motif of the fighting and victorious emperor appears on the coins of Trajan. A fallen enemy is pierced with a lance under the hooves of the charging horse. However, since the representative type of the quietly striding horse prevailed in the imperial era, this seems to have been more of an isolated case.[119]

Such an allegorical interpretation, however, seems unfounded to me, since the statue is indeed a military memorial, but a barbarian ridden under the raised left forefoot of the horse would hardly have corresponded to the symbol of an emperor of peace intended by Marcus Aurelius himself.[120] Especially since such a representation in connection with the adlocution gesture cannot be found on the traditional ancient coin images.[121] If such a crouching figure actually existed, as indicated by medieval sources, it was probably a medieval addition which, as a triumphant motif for the viewer, may have added another possibility of interpretation to the statue.

With this addition, "Konstantin" or "Theodoric" are determined as omnipotent rulers, as victor over their enemies. The drawing by the Roman artist Pisanello[122], after 1431-32, shows Marc Aurel without an additional figure under the horse's hooves. Here you can see the supports that were attached to strengthen it and that must have been added to the sculpture during the Middle Ages. Also on the fresco by the Italian painter Filippino Lippi[123] from 1488-1490 no figure is shown, but the supports attached at that time prove it. The fresco shows the equestrian statue in front of the Lateran Church. The figure must have been removed before the 15th century as it is no longer mentioned.

As early as the 6th century, the Roman governor Cassiodorus criticized the state of Rome's cultural assets. They would lie around defenseless and would be exposed to popular attack.[124] It can be assumed that the equestrian statue of Marc Aurel was also affected.

But since the 14th century it must have been in an extremely desolate condition. The pillory services and the countless pilgrims have left their mark on the monument. For the year 1347 it is reported that Cola di Rienzo let wine and water flow from the horse's nostrils to celebrate his accolade as a popular amusement.[125] The appalling condition repeatedly gave rise to renovation work.[126]

With another legend, the monument was rededicated in the 14th century. Another story explained the origins of the rider on the Lateran. This new version was about a peasant who was knighted. It is about the Rome of Constantine, which was inferior to its enemies after a battle.[127] A farmer then called back the fleeing people and successfully led them in the newly fanned battle. He was said to have ridden on the ownerless horse of Constantine.

The legend of gran Villano, the great farmer, describes Gramaccini as the "broadest and most popular version of Marcus Aurelius"[128]. Probably for the reason that the people declared the rider to be their national hero.[129] And in a sense, it is the people's ideas that would last the longest. This explains why the name of the equestrian statue as Constantine was still common among the people until the late 16th century.[130]

Since the 15th century, antiquity was de-demonized during the Renaissance. Pre-Christian ancient values ​​were rediscovered by the humanists and used to interpret their epoch. In a wider sense, a new image of man emerged. How strongly humanism accepted antiquity and its culture for the formation of a new image of man is also shown by the fundamental resumption of Roman law, which was to become the basis of a European legal culture.

Humanism changed the view of the equestrian statue. Since the position of the Roman Church had gradually consolidated, the function of the 'Constantinian' rider as a symbol of church power was slowly lost. Art, in particular, began to grapple with the work again. Questions were asked about the real identity of the Lateran rider. Caused by humanistic antiquity research, archaeological means began to reinterpret the historical past.[131] The ancient coin portraits were used for interpretation, so it became clear that it could hardly have been about Constantine. Even in the mirabilia, the chapter on the Lateran rider opens with the sentence that it is Not about Constantine.[132]


[1] Wyke 2001, p. 126.

[2] Ibid.

[3] For modern methods in archeology, see Renfrew / Bahn, Araeology: Theories, Methods and Practice, London 20003.

[4] For more information, see: www.boxofficemojo.com, October 23, 2005.

[5] See Korenjak 2001, p. 8. For further aspects of visual history, see Sorlin 2001, p. 26.

[6] TV adaptations: Jason and the Argonauts (2000), The Odyssey (1997); see Wieber 2002b, p. 13. TV series: Hercules (1995-1999) and Xena (1995-2002); see Kehne 2004, p. 427.

[7] German title: My father the emperor; German first broadcast January 6, 2004; see IMDB (International Movie Data Base: http://www.imdb.com).

[8] The documentation was broadcast on ARTE on November 13, 2004. However, since it was produced in 2002, it can be assumed that this was partly due to Ridley Scotts gladiator took place. (Spartacus - gladiator against Rome, Documentation, Germany 2002, ZDF, by: G. Klein). See Arte TV, (December 28, 2004).

[9] Korenjak 2002; Junkelmann 2004.

[10] Further relevant publications on the subject of antiquity and film: Landy 2001; Eigler 2002. Eigler's work contains, among other things, the article "On sandals through the millennia - an introduction to the topic of" Antiquity and Film "by Anja Wieber, which is a detailed introduction to the subject of antiquity in film (pp. 4-40).

[11] See Korenjak 2001, p. 7; Korenjak 2002, p. 7.

[12] Wieber 2004a, p. 1.

[13] Arnold 1962, p. 140.

[14] Edward Gibbon, quoted in Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 8.

[15] SHA, MA, 18.5-6.

[16] Birley 2004.

[17] Schall 1991; Roses 2004.

[18] Winkler 2001, p. 280f. "The hero’s fatherly teacher in Starwars is Obi-Wan Kenobi. He is first the living and then the spiritual embodiment of the force, a quasi-religious philosophy of the distinction between right and wrong and of the meaning of life in the universe. "

[19] Accardo 1990. The article by Regine Knauer also deals with the equestrian image of Marc Aurel. She particularly deals with the translation and reception in the Middle Ages as well as technical details such as size and workmanship. The term “translatio” refers to the relocation of a tab image (quoted from Hinz 2002, p. 650). Knauer 1979, pp. 304-346.

[20] Maumont 1958. Gramaccini 1985; Gramaccini 1996.

[21] Brandner 2001, p. 477.

[22] See Knauer 1979, p. 315; Junkelmann 1990, p. 207.

[23] In the following abbreviated as SHA.

[24] Lambrechts 1979, pp. 25-57, provide an informative and critical treatise on this subject.

[25] Among other things, the research questions revolve around the significance of the SHA for the history of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, as it is often the only source in this regard. Behrwald 2005. Eichenberg also defines the SHA as authoritative sources for the emperors from Domitian and Trajan. Eichenberg 1998, p. 118.

[26] For the entire source situation see Birley 2004, pp. 226-231.

[27] SHA, MA, Jan.

[28] The annual data used in this chapter are taken from the Birley edition. Birley 2004.

[29] SHA, MA, 5.4.

[30] A special relationship developed with his rhetoric teacher Fronto.

[31] For the philosophical aspects see SHA, MA, 2-3.

[32] SHA, MA, 7.2. In the first book of “Self-Contemplation” he devotes a long section to his adoptive father. Above all, he performs his admirable qualities and thus manifests him as his role model. SB 1, 16.

[33] Strictly speaking, at Marcus Aurel's request, the Senate had bestowed the imperial titles and powers on Lucius Verus. Rosen 2004, p. 63.

[34] See Birley 1979, p. 474.

[35] The specification refers to Birley. See Birley 2004, pp. 44/45, 120f. Whereby Rosen dates the “spring” flood to the year 162. Rosen 2004, p. 70. In the case of Christ and Rosen, the Parthians do not declare war until 162. Christ 1992, p. 334; Rosen 2004, p. 150.

[36] SHA, MA, 6.5-6.

[37] SHA, MA, 9.8-9.

[38] SHA, MA, 10.1-4.

[39] SHA, MA, 10.11-12. Birley divides Marcel Aurel's legal work into three parts. The manumissio of slaves, the appointment of guardians of orphans and minors and the appointment of decuriones for the communal affairs of the provinces. Birley 2004, p. 133.

[40] CD, 71.6.1.

[41] SHA, MA, 12.13.

[42] SHA, MA, 13.3. It is believed that Lucius Verus and the returning army brought the plague with them from the east. Christ calls it one of the greatest epidemics of antiquity. Christ 1992, p. 336. The war losses and the plague have greatly minimized the Roman population. See Birley 2004, pp. 149ff.

[43] See SHA, MA, 14.

[44] SHA, MA, 15.4-5.

[45] On the negative qualities of Lucius Verus, see SHA, MA, 16,3-4. A comparison of positive and negative properties, as it is processed in the cinema, can already be seen in the ancient histories. The truth of the matter remains controversial.

[46] SHA, MA, 15.3; 20.2-6.

[47] SHA, MA, 17.5-8.

[48] SHA, MA, 24.5-6.

[49] SHA, MA, 24.7; 25.2-8.

[50] CD, 72.26-28.

[51] See Christ 1992, pp. 342f.

[52] SHA, MA, 16.1-2.

[53] This statement by the SHA is controversial in research. An interesting treatise on the political intentions of Marcus Aurelius concerning the northern areas has been published by Bannert. Bannert 1979. Birley meanwhile gives a good insight into the entire foreign and border policy of Marcus Aurelius. Birley 1979.

[54] SHA, MA, 28.2-3. Research has failed to determine the exact cause of death. The plague or cancer would be conceivable, since he had long been plagued with pain in his chest and stomach. Birley and Junkelmann give Sirmium as the most likely striving location. Birley 2004, p. 210; Junkelmann 2004, p. 397, note 544.

[55] CD, 71.33.

[56] SHA, MA, 12.1.

[57] The 4th century is defined as the supposed time of origin of the SHA. See Behrwald 2005.

[58] SHA, MA, 18.6.

[59] See Alföldy 1973, p. 353.

[60] See Hinz, Reiterstandbild, pp. 650-653; Diehl 1931, p. 42; Junkelmann 1990, p. 207; Maumont 1958, p. 55.

[61] Basically Maumont 1958; Knauer 1979; Gramaccini 1985. The investigation also looks at the location of the respective equestrian statues. A distinction is made between sacred and profane installation sites. The monuments that were erected in or near sanctuaries or that were used to crown graves are considered to be sacred. Profane monuments, on the other hand, are those that were erected in public places such as gardens or plazas and streets. The sacred monument function only plays a role in the history of the creation of the equestrian statues. The subject of this work is rather the profane types of monuments, as they are used to compare them to Marcus Aurelius.

[62] The rider Rampin, found in Athens, is dated to the 6th century BC. Dated BC, it is considered in research to be the oldest equestrian statue in the world. Maumont 1958, p. 7. See also Vomm 1979, p. 12.

[63] See Maumont 1958, pp. 8, 11f.

[64] Ibid., P. 14.

[65] Ibid., P. 22ff.

[66] See ibid., P. 34ff.

[67] See Vomm 1979, p. 13.

[68] However, it is not without exception a military honor, in some cases the people were also honored for political merits or generous donations. See Vomm 1979, p. 13.

[69] Junkelmann cites Cicero here, who spoke of entire squadrons of gilded horsemen in public places. Cicero, quoted in Junkelmann 1990, p. 201.

[70] It is believed that the consul of the year 62 BC was here. BC, Licinius Murena and his family members were depicted. Maumont 1958, p. 45. See also Junkelmann 1990, p. 201.

[71] Equestrian images with a busting horse appear only in the provinces. At the same time as the images of the emperors in Rome, the equestrian monuments of Roman knights developed in the provinces. See Maumont 1958, pp. 79-95. A comprehensive study of the imperial equestrian statues was published by Bergemann. Bergemann 1990.

[72] See Bergemann 1990, p. 16.

[73] Bergemann speaks here of propaganda self-expression. Bergemann 1990, p. 28ff.

[74] For the following see Maumont 1958, p. 52f.

[75] This statement relates to the technical and stylistic quality of the work.

[76] In 1997 a bronze copy was placed on Capitol Square. After an extensive restoration, the original is now in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. Further reading on restoration: Accardo 1990.

[77] See Knauer 1979, pp. 307, 332.

[78] Maumont turns away from the interpretation of the forgiving or blessing gesture and describes it as the "gesture of the ruler with which he turns to the people or to his soldiers." Maumont 1958, p. 57; See also Knauer 1979, p. 316.

[79] When asked what Marc Aurel could have been holding in his left hand, research assumes a statue of Victoria. A Victoria figure is likely as it underlines the symbolism of the almighty emperor. Wish, on the other hand, suspects that it was a scroll. See Knauer 1979, p. 316; Wish 1990, p. 60. Bergemann, on the other hand, points out that no traces of mechanical fastening or remnants of lead encapsulation can be found. From this he concludes that there was no object in Aurel's left hand. Bergemann 1990, pp. 106f.

[80] These were the barracks of the emperor's mounted group, who Castra priora Equuitum Singularium, north of today's Piazza S. Giovanni. See Knauer 1979, p. 308.

[81] See Schaeffer 1931, p. 26ff. The non-existent equestrian connection between horse and rider is thus explained in the symbolism of Marc Aurel: "An emperor does not act, he governs and represents." Knauer 1979, p. 334.

[82]Paludamentum = purple rider's coat; cingulum militare = wide fabric belt; Fibula = coat clasp. See Knauer 1979, p. 332.

[83] Wishes 1990, p. 62.

[84] See Brodsky 1995, p. 280; Schaeffer 1931, p. 28; Knauer 1979, p. 336.

[85] Rosen 2004, p. 138. "Obviously, he often had to put up with the reproach that the Stoa made its followers insensitive to their fellow men and was therefore unsuitable as a philosophy for those in power."

[86] A merger of Antoninus Pius and Marc Aurel. Brodsky 1995, p. 281.

[87] Presumably an Andalusian stallion is shown here. See Maumont 1958, p. 57.

[88] See Knauer 1979, pp. 333f.

[89] Wishes 1990, p. 61.

[90] For the following see Knauer 1979

[91] Knauer 1979, p. 335.

[92] See Gramaccini 1985, p. 51.

[93] Wegner, quoted in Maumont, p. 58. Maumont's attempt at explanation is interesting. In his opinion, it is unlikely that there was no equestrian image of the emperor in Rome, although there were already images in the provinces (unfortunately he does not give a source).

[94] Knauer gained her knowledge by comparing the Marc Aurel statue with coins and other portrait sculptures. She dates it to the first half of the sixties of the second century. Knauer 1979, p. 336.See also Birley 2004, p. 266.

[95] See wishes 1990, p. 76; Bergemann 1990, p. 107f.

[96] See Knauer 1979, p. 308; Birley 2004, p. 266.

[97] Gramaccini 1996, p. 145.

[98] Birley 2004, p. 266.

[99] See Gramaccini 1996, p. 145.

[100] Gramaccini 1985, p. 53.

[101] Ibid.

[102] Knauer 1979, p. 308.

[103] The court sources of the 10th century are mentioned here by Gramaccini. From them it appears that 966 the caballus Constantini served the city prefect Peter as a pillory. He is referring to Hirschfeld, The Judiciary of the City of Rome from the 8th to the 12th Century, essentially based on urban Roman documents, in: Archive for Document Research, IV, 1912, p. 474f.

[104] Rather, it was the symbolic legitimation for which Marc Aurel was used. He was received in a new role, as Emperor Constantine. The image of Constantine was symbolically valid as a confirmation of the new political value of the church (interpreted from the "Donation of Constantine").

[105] Even the mirabilia devote a chapter to this topic. Mirabilia Urbis Romae: Church Marvels. Of the Conversion of Constantine. Mirabilia, p. 122f.

[106] Gramaccini 1985, p. 54.

[107] See Baumstark 1990, p. 80; Gramaccini 1985, p. 54.

[108] Liber Pontificalis, ed. von Duchesne, 1886-92, reprint Paris 1955, 2, 525, quoted in Knauer 1979, p. 309.

[109] Ibid. Liber Pontificalis 2, 259.

[110] See Gramaccini 1985, p. 51.

[111] Ibid., P. 57.

[112] Chapter in the Mirabilia: Where the Horse was made, that is called Constantine’s. Mirabilia, pp. 42-45.

(1) Mirabilia Urbis Romae: a city guide from 1143. “The 'Mirabilia' are a curious mixture of traditional, quite useful topographical notes and fairytale miracle stories.” (Knauer 1979, p. 310). The mirabilia were used until the 17th century. Miedema refers to the canon Benedictus de Sancto Petro as the possible author. In 1143 he wrote “Liber Polypictus”. Miedema 1996, p. 2f.
(2) Graphia Aureae Urbis Romae: 1150-1160. Ibid. P. 256
(3) Narracio de Mirabilius Urbis Romae: Guide to the ancient monuments: written in 1220 by the English scholar Magister Gregorius. See Gramaccini 1985, p. 57.

[113] See Gramaccini 1985, p. 58.

[114] Ibid., P. 58ff.

[115] Ibid., P. 60.

[116] Ibid., P. 59.

[117] Mirabilia from 1143, cited in Gramaccini 1985, p. 55f.

[118] Bergemann is of the opinion that the barbarian is of ancient origin. According to him, this is also the predominant research view. Bergemann 1990, p. 107.

[119] See Maumont 1958, pp. 50-53. Maumont suspects that they were images from the Greek East, since the genus of the blasting horse had its origin in Hellenism.

[120] This is evidenced by ancient written sources, such as the letters to Fronto and the “self-contemplations”.

[121] See Knauer 1979, p. 335.

[122] The drawing is attributed to Pisanello or another Milanese artist from Pisanello's circle. It is dated to the time of his stay in Rome and his activity (frescoing) for the Lateran Church 1431-32. See Baumstark 1990, p. 82; Gramaccini 1985, pp. 70f.

[123] Detail from the fresco with the triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas, S. Maria sopra Minerva, Capella Carafa, Rome.

[124] See Gramaccini 1996, pp. 50f.

[125] See Baumstark 1990, p. 81f; Knauer 1979, p. 311.

[126] Pope Paul II (1466, 1467, 1468), Pope Sixtus IV (1473, 1474). See Gramaccini 1985, p. 70.

[127] Rome in the time of Constantine was besieged by the enemy king Dinasar. The Romans were inferior to the enemy and even Constantine lost his horse. However, the farmer led the Romans into a second successful battle while riding on Constantine's horse. Thereupon he was called to the imperial court as a knight of honor and honored with a bronze equestrian statue. (Legend written by Fioravante) Cf. Gramaccini 1985, p. 65.

[128] Ibid., P. 65.

[129] Gramaccini 1996, p. 152.

[130] See Knauer 1979, p. 312

[131] Ibid., Pp. 311f.

[132] "There is at the Lateran a certain brazen horse, that is called Constantine's Horse; but it is not so, for whoever will know the truth thereof, let him read it here. " Although this statement relates to the legend of the knight mentioned above, at the same time it is a doubt about the authenticity of "Constantine". Mirabilia, p. 42.

End of excerpt from 98 pages