Concepts of Egypt in Augustan Rome: Two case studies of cameo glass from The British Museum

M. E. J. J. Van Aerde

Research on the visual language of Augustan Rome is mainly focused on Greek influences, but Egypt likewise played an important role in Augustus’ propaganda programme and subsequently in the development of material culture in both the public and private spheres of the city of Rome. Roman cameo glass constitutes an interesting and so far underexplored example of this process. By examining two case studies of cameo glass with Egyptian decorative elements from the collection of The British Museum, this paper explores how Egyptian elements were incorporated in and became an integral part of the material culture of Augustan Rome. The first case study looks at one specific cameo glass fragment; here Egypt is evoked through the fusion of Egyptian stylistic and thematic elements with Greek stylistic components and Roman materials, and seems intended to convey a certain concept of Egypt that could be recognised as such within its Roman context. The second case study explores how the arrival of an obelisk from Egypt in Rome initiated the proliferation of different visual concepts of that Egyptian monument throughout the material culture of Augustan Rome, varying from actual copies of the monolith to its portrayal as part of the Circus Maximus on gemstones and cameo glass vessels of Roman manufacture.

Concepts of Egypt in Augustan Rome: Two case studies of cameo glass from The British Museum

To reference this article we suggest:

Van Aerde, M. E. J. J. 2013. Concepts of Egypt in Augustan Rome: Two case studies of cameo glass from The British Museum. BMSAES 20: 1–23. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/online_journals/bmsaes/issue_20/van_aerde.aspx

Contact the author

m.e.j.j.van.aerde@arch.leidenuniv.nl