Words and Images

This exhibit is part of the Southeastern Europe Digital Documentation Project (SEEDD). It aims to survey three artifacts from the ancient city of Tomis, modern Constanța, in Romania, with the idea of deriving from them some insights about the society and culture of this city during the Late Antique period. The larger question this project aims to answer is “what do these objects tell us about Late Antique Tomis?”

The city of Tomis[1] is invested with a special interest because it was there where the poet Ovid was sent into exile by Emperor Augustus in the year 8 AD. The objects to be analyzed are three inscribed gravestones that date from the late 2nd to the early 3rd century AD. These are the Tombstone of Ulpia Aurelia Valeria, the Tombstone of Timocrates and the Tombstone of Abaskantos. They were discovered in situ in what was the province of Moesia Inferior during the Later Roman Empire.

This survey’s methodology engages in an analysis where the iconography and inscriptions of the gravestones are scrutinized together as two aspects that complement each other because one assumption of this study is that inscriptions may be of great assistance in the determination of the iconographic and biographic elements represented in the funerary stelae under consideration[2].

The previous paragraph mentions what is ultimately this survey’s goal: to illuminate, even with a modest light, the life of the peoples depicted in the inscriptions engraved in the tombstones analyzed here. Rather than illuminations about the macrohistory of Late Antique Tomis this study aims at obtaining a glimpse into the microhistory of the peoples whose life and times were led under the rule of the Later Roman Empire in the coastal city of Tomis.

[1] “Tomis was founded together with Histria and Kallatis during the Greek colonization process at the West Pont in the 7th-6th century BC.” (Buzoianu and Barbulescu 287) For a complete discussion of Tomis' historical development see “Tomis” in the volume Ancient Greek Colonies in the Black Sea 2, Volume I edited by Dimitrios V. Grammenos and Elias K. Petropoulos.

[2] I am following the methodology employed by Nora Dimitrova in her article Inscriptions and Iconography in the Monuments of the Thracian Rider where she states: “The monuments of the so-called Thracian rider present an extreme case of the relationship between epigraphy and art: the inscriptions are the only certain way to clarify the iconography, identity, and cult of the Thracian horseman. Moreover, the inscriptions frequently provide the only reliable evidence to determine the type of monument (votive or funerary), since in many instances the findspots it of little help—most reliefs are found in a secondary context, and their function is unclear.” (Dimitrova 209)

Words and Images