The project investigates a vital but hitherto largely neglected source to the political, religious and cultural history of the Late Roman and Early Byzantine empire: the systematic representation of victory, empire, immortality and eternity through the Roman goddess of victory, Victoria, in the period’s visual culture.
Originally intimately connected with the empire-building of the Romans, Victoria subsequently came to be identified with the emperor’s victoriousness (Victoria Augusta, Victoria Imperatoria), a concept propagated through triumphal monuments and coins across the growing empire in the first three centuries of our era. In late antiquity, Victoria’s image becomes simultaneously more pervasive and diversified, where new types are created to convey the symbolic values and universal relevance of victory in a new age. Apart from her given place in the triumphal art and architecture of the emperors and in the visual programmes of the arena, she is now a regular feature on funerary monuments and in the commemorative art of state officials, and she is assimilated into the art of the new, Christian state religion, where she is gradually transformed into an angel. The expansion of Victoria’s visual presence in late antiquity would in the first instance reflect the intensified victory cult that is now tied to the emperor; a cult which suffuses public society and culture, and becomes systematically associated with Christian formulations of victory, power and immortality, in collective as well as individual terms.
The project represents the first systematic attempt to describe, from the rich visual source material, the nature, development and wider significance of Victoria as she appeared in the ultimate phase of her subsistence as a Roman deity and personification. By analysing Victoria’s image and the patterns by which it was conceived and employed (expanded, adapted) to make it fit significatively into a spectrum of different contexts in late antiquity, it aims to contribute towards a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding than has hitherto been conveyed of her rôle in the historical and cultural construction of victory during the last transformative centuries of the Roman Empire and into the Middel Ages.