Refugees and Mass Migration to Istanbul in the Wake of World War I

Occasional Lecture @ Cezayir Toplanti Salonu


Judeans of the Babylonian Exile

Autumn Lecture @ SRII


1918: The Concept of the “New Life”and “Emancipated” Women in Turkey

Occasional Lecture @ Cezayir Toplanti Salonu


Water Management at Labraunda

Autumn Lecture @ SRII


The Colonnaded Streets of Roman Palestine

Autumn Lecture @ SRII


The Spanish Flu of 1918 and the Ottoman Empire

Occasional Lecture @ Cezayir Toplanti Salonu


The Second Great War

Occasional Lecture @ Cezayir Toplanti Salonu


Ottoman Cinema from 1917-1919

Occasional Lecture @ Cezayir Toplanti Salonu


RWI Lecture II: The Future of Human Rights in Europe

Autumn Lecture @ SRII


The Ottoman Economy in 1918

Occasional Lecture @ Cezayir Toplanti Salonu


Monumental inscriptions and their stories

Autumn Lecture @ SRII


Towards the Extreme: Black Metal Music in Turkey

Spring Lecture @ SRII


Labraunda Day

Seminar @ SRII


Anatolian Landscapes

Conference @ IFEA


Cisterns, Water Supply and Risk in the Greek World

Spring Lecture @ SRII


Public Space Mobilization and its Consequences

Seminar @ Bogazici University


Ideas, Persons, and Transfers: Russian-Turkish Interaction Between 1917 - 2017

Occasional Lecture @ Cezayir Toplanti Salonu


Romani Studies at SRII

Seminar @ SRII


Turkiye´de Kapital Cevirilerinin Macerasi

Occasional Lecture @ Cezayir Toplanti Salonu


Battleship Potemkin in History and in the Movie

Autumn Lecture @ Cezayir Salonu


Exile, Political and Economic Migration in the Ottoman Empire

Conference @ CEZAYIR Toplanti Salonu


Labraunda Day

Conference @ SRII


Transformations of public space

Seminar @ SRII


Ethnographic research on historical knowledge in Kyrgyzstan

Jarring Lecture @ Medelhavsmuseet, Stockholm


A City Altered by the Population Exchange

Conference @ Cezayir Toplanti Salonu


A Study on Existential Meaning- Making Coping with Cancer

Discussion Seminar @ SRII


Today Talks: Borders, Nations, Citizens

Seminar @ SRII


Ottoman Monuments in Kavala

Conference @ Cezayir Toplanti Salonu


Images of the Past - Kavala & Its Region

Conference @ Cezayir Toplanti Salonu


An Overview of the History of Kavala (end of the 14th c - 1912)

Conference @ Cezayir Toplanti Salonu


Old Oaks in Turkey – an unknown treasure

Autumn Lecture @ SRII


Syrien i Sverige

Conference @ Etnografiska muséet


Today Talks: Nomads & Wanderers

Autumn Lecture @ SRII


Today Talks: Crossing Borders

Autumn Lecture @ SRII


Beyond Rome

Conference @ Stockholm


Today Talks: Memory of Things

Autumn Lecture @ SRII


How Can Religion Contribute to Peace in Cyprus?

Spring Lecture @ SRII


Today Talks: Fact & Fiction

Seminar @ SRII


Labraunda Day

Conference @ SRII


SRII Seminar - Internet Suzerainty

Seminar @ SRII


Symbolic Aspects of Architecture

Conference @ SRII


Cultural Heritage in Times of Armed Conflicts

Autumn Lecture @ SRII


Today Talks - Ideas on the Roads

Seminar @ SRII


Turkey and Azerbaijan: One Religion - Two States?

Autumn Lecture @ SRII


Backwards into the Future: Erdogan´s New Turkey

Autumn Lecture @ SRII


Assessing Urban Expansion of Istanbul 2000-2013

Autumn Lecture @ SRII


SRII Seminar - Den Levande Kakelplattan

Seminar @ SRII


Today Talks - Personal Space & Invasion of Privacy

Autumn Lecture @ SRII


The Revival of Pagan Cult Sites in Late Antiquity

Spring Lecture @ SRII


IDP Business Meeting

Workshop @ SRII


Istanbul ´s Urban Heritage: Protection and Threats

Spring Lecture @ SRII


Swedish-Turkish Relations Today

Spring Lecture @ SRII


Today Talks -Modern Day Traditions

Seminar @ SRII


Today Talks - Technology and Education

Seminar @ SRII


Welcome Reception

Seminar @ SRII


Today Talks - Faith and Tolerance

Seminar @ SRII


Labraunda Day

Conference @ SRII


Today Talks - Gendered VS Queered Design

Seminar @ SRII


Rhetoric and Politics

Occasional Lecture @ SRII


Today Talks - LGBT; Why? When? Where?

Seminar @ SRII


Today Talks - Istanbul, city of migrants

Seminar @ SRII


The 2014 Jarring Lecture

Jarring Lecture @ SRII



Conference @ SRII


In Science (Alone) We Trust?

Autumn Lecture @ SRII


New Religiosities and Science

Workshop @ Workshop @ Orient-Institut Istanbul


Summer school 2014

Master's Course @ SRII


Klassisk arabiska: Modersmål eller orakelmål?

Discussion Seminar @ SRII


Nationhood and Citizenship in Turkish Friday Sermons

Spring Lecture @ SRII


Edebiyat Atölyesi

Workshop @ SRII


Polygonal columns in ancient Greek architecture

Discussion Seminar @ SRII


International Relations in Historical Perspective

Spring Lecture @ SRII


Today Talks - Türkiye´de Kadin Üzerine:

Autumn Lecture @ SRII


Literary History

Spring Lecture @ SRII


Gendered Violence as Legal Constructions:

Seminar @ Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul


Today Talks - Today´s Public Space

Seminar @ SRII


Alevi Identity Revisited

Spring Lecture @ Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul


Research Seminar

Seminar @ Istanbul Institute


Imperial rulership and universal hierarchies in Early Byzantine art

Occasional Lecture @ British Institute of Archaelogy at Ankara


The Central Asian Migrant Experience in Turkey and Russia

Workshop @ Department of Sociology, Bogaziçi University


Türk Edebiyati Üzerine Bir Sohbet

Seminar @ srii


Mobility,Acculturation and Identity Formation

Autumn Lecture @ SRII


Critical Area/Regional Studies

Workshop @ Malmö University


Labraunda Day

Workshop @ Swedish research institite in Istanbul


Images of Power and Violence

Workshop @ SRII


Post-Soviet Central Asia in a New Eurasia Discourse

Occasional Lecture @ Gediz University,Izmir


Litterär Salong - Drabbad av Rumi

Seminar @ SRII


Vad händer egentligen i Turkiet?

Seminar @ SFII - Stockholm


The SRII Eastern Turkey Seminar 2013

Seminar @ South-eastern Turkey



Workshop @ SRII

For past events, see Events

Virtue, status, immortality: functions and meanings of architectural motifs in the art of the Late Roman and Early Byzantine era (c. 180-700).

Head of project: Dr Cecilia Olovsdotter 

The project, which has been conducted as part of a three-year senior research fellowship at the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul (SRII), investigates the applications and meanings of a widely diffused but hitherto scarcely studied phenomenon of Late Roman and Early Byzantine art: architectural motifs. The category includes the arch, the portal, the gabled front, the fastigium (palatial or ceremonial front), the aedicule, the baldachin and other domed structures, arcades and niche arcades, and numerous variants and conflations of these, as well as more complex configurations of the city and cityscape type, and its primary function is to lend monumentalising and symbolically charged frames to figures and scenes in images. The majority of architectural motifs can be traced to the beginnings of Roman art, where they chiefly occur in commemorative contexts, and to Middle-Eastern, East-Hellenistic and Etruscan architecture and funerary culture, but it is in the increasingly abstracted and symbolic art of late antiquity that they develop into a rich and diversified motif category with near universal applicability. Architectural motifs now appear in palatial and church interiors, on triumphal and sepulchral monuments, in commemorative and ceremonial works in silver, ivory and wood, in illuminated manuscripts such as calendars and gospels, and in a variety of objects of personal use such as costumes, jewellery caskets and pilgrim souvenirs. At the same time they become more complex and symbolladen, and tend to accumulate other symbolic motifs, offering structures on which to arrange them in meaningful patterns.

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‘Sidamara’ sarcophagus from Seleucia/Silifke (Mersin), Turkey (detail); Istanbul Arkeoloji Müzesi. Photo: C. Olovsdotter

Architectural motifs constitute a prominent and systematically applied component of late antique art, yet no comprehensive or structural analysis has been undertaken until now. The theoretical foundation of the present study is the a priori assumption that every type of figurative motif is a carrier of meaning and thus relevant, sometimes vital, for a full understanding of the image of which it is part, and that its presence and form (type, conformation) are the results of conscious, qualified and purposeful choices on the part of the commissioners and/or artists of the artwork within its context. Whether representational, symbolic or a combination of the two, an architectural motif and the manner in which it has been rendered – type, form, placement, etc. – are in various ways and degrees intended to reflect, modify, specify and enforce the content of the image’s main motif/s, and thus to offer suggestions as to how that image should be understood in its context, what values, ideas and beliefs are being conveyed through it. Using the iconological (contextual) method of analysis, the application patterns (thematic correlations, intercontextual migrations, Christian adaptations, etc.) of architectural motifs in late antique visual culture are explored with the aim of revealing the mechanisms and motives – historical, religious, social – behind their intensified use, and behind the symbolisation of art in general, in the deeply transformative last phase of the Roman Empire. More particularly, the project study seeks to elucidate, from a new and somewhat unusual angle, the perhaps single most important function or objective of visual expression within Roman and Early Byzantine culture: to formulate, (re-)confirm and perpetuate ideas about public worth, success and status, with the associated notions of victory, power, immortality and cyclic (cosmic) regeneration.

The main publication resulting from the project is the monograph Virtue, status, immortality: functions and meanings of architectural motifs in the art of the Late Roman and Early Byzantine era (c. 180-700) (forthcoming). After an introductory section where the occurrence and evolution of architectural motifs within ancient (Near-Eastern, Greek, Etruscan, Roman) art tradition are outlined, the repertory and distribution patterns – typological, material, contextual, geographical – of architectural motifs in late-antique visual culture are examined. The subsequent iconographical analyses deal with the relationship between physical (built, ’real’) and pictorial architecture, the tectonic functions of architecture in late-antique image composition, context- and value-related application of architectural mouldings, the repertory of symbolic motifs with which the architectural motifs are regularly combined, and colour. In the interpretive section of the study, the results of the foregoing analyses are synthesised under thematic headings that describe a successive progression from concrete, worldly and temporal to abstract, cosmic and transcendental in the applications and meanings of architectural motifs in late antique art, whereas the concluding discussion is concerned with the universal themes and underlying concepts, the ’world-views’, that inspired the development and proliferation of architectural imagery in late antiquity.

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 Lead sarcophagus from Baabda, Lebanon (detail); Istanbul Arkeoloji Müzesi. Photo: C. Olovsdotter 

Apart from the monograph, the project has, in various ways and under various thematic headings, generated a number of articles, lectures and conference and workshop papers, and the international conference Symbolism and abstraction in Late Antique and Early Byzantine art (c. 300-700) held at the SRII in May 2013 as well as the workshop To represent and to narrate in Byzantine art co-organised with Dr. Ivana Jevtic (Koç Üniversitesi) at the SRII in March 2014 were directly related to the research on architectural imagery and symbolism in Late Roman and Early Byzantine visual culture undertaken within the project.  

Publications related to the project:

Olovsdotter, C., ‘Representing consulship: on the conception and meanings of the consular diptychs’, Opuscula 4, 2011, 99-124.

Olovsdotter, C., ‘Anastasius’ I consuls: ordinary consulship and imperial power in the consular diptychs from Constantinople’, Valör. Konstvetenskapliga studier 1-2, 2012, 33-47.

Olovsdotter, C., Virtue, status, immortality: on the functions and meanings of architectural motifs in Late Roman and Early Byzantine imagery (c. 180-600) (forthcoming).

Olovsdotter, C. ed., Symbolism and abstraction in late antique and Byzantine art (c. 300-700): proceedings of the international conference held at the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, 9-10 May 2013 (forthcoming).

Olovsdotter, C. ’Architecture and the spheres of the universe’, in C. Olovsdotter, ed., Symbolism and abstraction in late antique and Byzantine art (c. 300-700): proceedings of the international conference held at the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, 9-10 May 2013 (forthcoming).

Olovsdotter, C., ‘Kejsarmakt och stat i tidigbysantinsk tid: konsulardiptykerna från Konstantinopel’, Dragomanen. Årsskrift för Svenska Forskningsinstitutet i Istanbul 13, 2011, 46-53.

Olovsdotter, C., ‘Arkitektursymbolik i senromersk och tidigbysantinsk bildkonst’, Dragomanen. Årsskrift för Svenska Forskningsinstitutet i Istanbul 14, 2012, 157-166. 

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