Beyond the Boundaries of Fantasia: An ancient imagining of the future of leadership

Spirits in the Material World

Uncovering ancient leadership from material remains

Texts are not the only sources that can tell us about leadership in the ancient world. In fact, what archaeologists call “material culture” can sometimes provide a different, even contradictory, perspective on an ancient leader. Consider, for example, how "Money Talks" about the emperor Augustus. After we define some of our terms and consider how material culture as a source can differ from written sources, we will look at some prominent examples of ancient leadership on display. First we will look at an image of the Macedonian Greek conqueror, Alexander the Great, then at the Hellenistic rulers who sought to emulate his "look." Finally, we will look at the emperor Augustus, who will prepare us to "read" the images of the column of the first-century CE Roman emperor, Trajan. Trajan is a remarkable example of a leader we can get to know both from architectural remains and from the literature and correspondence about his reign (see "Getting to Know You").

Here are three important terms you will encounter in this module:

Iconography: pictorial material relating to or illustrating a subject; 2) the traditional or conventional images or symbols associated with a subject and especially a religious or legendary subject; 3) the imagery or symbolism of a work of art, an artist, or a body of art (Merriam-Webster)

Iconology: The study of visual imagery and its symbolism and interpretation, esp. in social or political terms

Material Culture: The material remains of a past society, including artifacts (man made) and ecofacts (biological). Examples from the ancient world include architecture, pottery, sculpture, grave monuments, temples, coins, wall paintings, mosaics, and more.

Listening for Leadership

Possible Group Activity

This page has paths:

Contents of this path:

This page references: