Engraved Gems and Propaganda in the Roman Republic and under Augustus [Hardback]

Paweł Gołyźniak(Author)

ISBN: 9781789695397 | Published by: Archaeopress Archaeology | Series: Archaeopress Roman Archaeology | Volume: 65 | Year of Publication: 2020 | 618p, H11.5 x W8, Fully illustrated catalogue containing 1,015 figures (in color)
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Engraved Gems and Propaganda in the Roman Republic and under Augustus


Engraved Gems and Propaganda in the Roman Republic and under Augustus deals with small, but highly captivating and stimulating artwork – engraved gemstones. Although in antiquity intaglios and cameos had multiple applications (seals, jewellery or amulets), the images engraved upon them are snapshots of people's beliefs, ideologies, and everyday occupations. They cast light on the self-advertising and propaganda actions performed by Roman political leaders, especially Octavian/Augustus, their factions and other people engaged in the politics and social life of the past.

Gems can show both general trends (the specific showpieces like State Cameos) as well as the individual and private acts of being involved in politics and social affairs, mainly through a subtle display of political allegiances, since they were objects of strictly personal use. They enable us to analyse and learn about Roman propaganda and various social behaviours from a completely different angle than coins, sculpture or literature.

The miniaturism of ancient gems is in inverse proportion to their cultural significance. This book presents an evolutionary model of the use of engraved gems from self-presentation (3rd-2nd century BC) to personal branding and propaganda purposes in the Roman Republic and under Augustus (until 14 AD). The specific characteristics of engraved gems, their strictly private character and the whole array of devices appearing on them are examined in respect to their potential propagandistic value and usefulness in social life.

The wide scope of this analysis provides a comprehensive picture covering many aspects of Roman propaganda and a critical survey of the overinterpretations of this term in regard to the glyptic art. The aim is the incorporation of this class of archaeological artefacts into the well-established studies of Roman propaganda, as well as the Roman society in general, brought about by discussion of the interconnections with ancient literary sources as well as other categories of Roman art and craftsmanship, notably coins but also sculpture and relief.

Table of Contents

Foreword and acknowledgments

Part I Introduction

1. Preface

2. State of research

3. Aims, methodology and structure

Part II Theory

4. Self-presentation and propaganda – definitions and characteristics

4.1. Definitions of ‘self-presentation’ and ‘propaganda’

4.2. Propaganda and persuasion

4.3. Propaganda and public opinion

4.4. Propaganda as a form of communication

4.5. Forms of propaganda

4.6. Tools and techniques of propaganda

4.7. The effectiveness of propaganda

5. Roman propaganda on engraved gems – general introduction

5.1. Anticipated areas of propaganda on engraved gems

5.2. Problems with studying propaganda in ancient times with emphasis on engraved gems

Part III Evidence

6. Beginnings (3rd-2nd centuries BC)

6.1. Etruscan and Italic tradition (self-presentation)

6.2. Hellenistic influences

6.3. Roman tradition (family symbols, personal branding, commemoration, state propaganda)

7. Early 1st century BC

7.1. Lucius Cornelius Sulla

7.2. Gaius Marius

7.3. Lucius Licinius Lucullus

7.4. Other politicians

8. Civil War: Pompey the Great, Julius Caesar and contemporaries

8.1. Pompey the Great

8.2. Julius Caesar

8.3. Less significant politicians and women from the times of the Civil War

9. Post-Caesarian and Liberators’ Civil Wars (from death of Caesar to Octavian’s sole rule: 44-27 BC)

9.1. The Pompeians

9.2. The Republicans

9.3. The Caesarians

9.4. Less significant politicians

9.5. Women and their propaganda significance on engraved gems

10. Augustus (27 BC-AD 14)

10.1. Collecting

10.2. Gem engravers working for Augustus

10.3. The final seal of Augustus

10.4. Portraits – personal branding induction and manifestation of loyalty

10.5. Commemoration and State Cameos

10.6. Divine and mythological references

10.7. Mythological Foundations of the New Rome

10.8. Promotion of peace and prosperity

10.9. Luxury objects (State Cameos, cameo vessels etc.) and religious propaganda

10.10. Promotion of family and successors

Divus Augustus

Part IV Summary and conclusions

11. Provenance, provenience, production and distribution of propaganda gems

12. Statistics

13. Summary and conclusions:

13.1. Use of gems in triumphs

13.2. Collecting

13.3. Employment of gem engravers

13.4. Seals

13.5. Personal branding and self-promotion

13.6. Induction and manifestation of loyalty and support

13.7. Use of heritage

13.8. Promotion of family and oneself through

13.9. Promotion of faction

13.10. Commemoration

13.11. Religious, divine and mythological references

13.12. Political symbols and promotion of abstract ideas (
ordo rerum, Pax Augusta and aurea aetas)

13.13. Luxury objects: State Cameos – carved vessels – works in the round

13.14. Final remarks

Part V Catalogue, figures, bibliography and indices



Figure credits



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