Ancient History

(Prof. Dr. Marietta Horster)

Semper Vincimus

Depictions on coins of individual members and group representations of the imperial family were apparently perceived as an adequate means of signalling the stability and permanence of the dynasty. This PhD thesis will investigate to what extent and with what rhetorical and iconographic strategies the staged victoriousness of the individual ruler was integrated into a dynastic concept. For this purpose, various testimonies (literature, coins and reliefs) for dynasties of the 1st to 5th centuries will be examined and the analysis of the different strategies should be correlated with the respective foreign political threat scenarios.


Of Soldiers and Mercenaries

Unlike in the Greek and Hellenistic contexts, the narratives of the Roman imperial era rarely differentiated between the enlisting of citizens or mercenaries, who are distinguished more by motivation than pay. Despite a degree of flexibility, the changes imposed upon the system, from grand strategy to the individual soldier, were very real and the representation of fighting troops in texts also changed. Which performances were actually rewarded? Which characteristics were attributed to the soldiers depending on author, genre, time and context? Was there a difference in speaking of men as soldiers for Christ and/or for their (secular) fellowship? Closely related to these questions is the speech and representation of fighting and fighting as a constitutive part of masculinity, which in individual cases can also be integrated with different models of conceptualising the enemy, including those of gender transgression, ancestry and religious identity.


God, Gods and Battle

At the end of the Peloponnesian War, Xenophon portrayed the victorious Spartans as particularly god-fearing: sacrifices were made before each battle, the gods were consulted before any confrontation, and the gods became involved in the war crimes of other soldiers. What role does the will of the gods play in the description of wars and battles in historiographical representation? How was this tradition, rooted in epic and drama, which Xenophon developed further as a historiography, continued in Greek-language historiography, until it was reinterpreted in Eusebius’ rendering of Constantine's vision before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge? The miles Christi is here framed in a new question, which promises a revised look at the soldier’s “value” to the community.


Fortress Construction in Narrative Sources

Building descriptions in no way follow a given structure in ancient and Byzantine times. E.g., in Procopius’ The Buildings, the description of Antioch covers many pages, while that of Alexandria is only brief. Church buildings occupy the largest part in the first book, while fortress constructions are in the foreground in subsequent books. This can depend on prototypes, preferences, or the richness of variations, among other things. Fortress buildings, like temples or churches, seem to play a special role in literary creation in uncertain times. The focus of the study will therefore be on the upswing in fortress building in the narrative sources and the relationship between their literary composition on the one hand and their real architectural development on the other.