Public Statues and Cancel Culture from the Ancient Roman Perspective
In the Roman world, a culture of honorific statues flourished as perhaps in no other moment in history. Government and civic organizations repaid important citizens with public images whose locations the authorities and patrons considered carefully. Manufacturing businesses and lucrative trade to procure materials, especially the stone, developed to meet this demand. For example, over 300 extant marble portrait heads of the Emperor Augustus survive. The ancient Romans engaged in a long and thoughtful discussion with the monuments that they beheld all around them. In this dialogue a modern viewer recognizes historical examples that resemble the world today with its competing desires to erect monuments and to destroy them, all the while questioning the values they represent.
Julia Lenaghan is currently a Research Fellow in the Department of Cultures and Civilizations at the University of Verona, Italy, working on the Roman Emperor Seen from the Provinces (RESP) project. She holds a Ph.D. in Classical Archaeology from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University and a B.A. in Classical Languages from Princeton University. Her specialty is sculpture, from ancient Greece to Late Antiquity. Her publications range from contributions on Roman portraiture to plaster casts of the 18th and 19th centuries. She has previously worked at the Cast Gallery at the Ashmolean Museum, on the Last Statues of Antiquity Project at the University of Oxford, at the Royal Academy of Arts in London on its plaster cast collection, with Cliveden Conservation on the handling of sculptural pastiches, and for the Museum for Classical Art of Mougins. Her interests and research have been shaped by her long participation in the joint Oxford and New York University excavations at Aphrodisias.