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Document Details :
Title: Imagining Power
Subtitle: Reality Gaps in the Roman Empire
Author(s): HEKSTER, Olivier
Volume: 86 Date: 2011
This article reflects on some of the problems inherent in the study of imperial (self)presentation. It argues that Roman emperors had to bridge the gap between the reality of emperorship and its perception by different layers of society. Augustus solved the problem by putting forward a multi-faceted imperial persona, to whom different audiences could relate differently. This plurality characterised ‘normal’ images of power in the first two centuries of the Roman Empire. Exception to the rule was imagery of those rulers who expressly aimed to legitimate themselves through clear but controversial visual programmes. This resulted in inflexible imagery, and antagonistic reactions. The problems which the Roman Empire faced in the third century widened the ‘gap’ between imperial image and daily reality, and changed the dynamics through which Roman ideology was formulated.