Late antiquity saw a decline in the quantity and quality of production of marble sculpture, even in Greece and Asia Minor, where the tradition of public portraits started, and also where it lasted the longest. This ancient tradition of cities honouring benefactors with public statues diminished but persisted in the 5th century AD, and then ended with portraits of imperial officials and emperors. The carving of marble then continued for architectural elements alone into the Byzantine era. Yet the last statue bases still warmly praise the naturalism of the new works, and the offices of the honorands, even as their proportions appear more awkward, and their material of manufacture clearly reused. Literary sources testify to the positive political significance of statues when put up, and the negative reaction when torn down. Yet in the 6th century most statues of officials and emperors were torn down, reused for building material or discarded. While cult statues bear the brunt of Christian zeal in texts, just as many human portraits were marked with crosses or thrown down wells. This seminar looks at some new examples of recently excavated or studied portraits from Greece It suggests that contrasts between literary sources and archaeological evidence show a clear transition in political uses of portraits throughout late antiquity.

About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

Event details

  • The seminars take place at 4pm, in the Michie Building (09), Room 536
  • Seminars are also on Zoom. Send an email to Duncan Keenan-Jones ( for the link.
  • Upcoming seminars can be found here.
  • Please be aware that we are still operating under Covid-19 regulations during public events. Masks are no longer required at UQ locations - however, UQ strongly encourages mask wearing when physical distancing is not possible. UQ strongly encourages all campus attendees to be up to date with vaccinations. And finally, those who are feeling unwell, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the previous 7 days or have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 7 days, are asked not to attend this seminar.
  • For those attending in person, if you would like to join us for drinks and/or dinner afterwards at UQ’s St. Lucy's from 5:15 pm, please RSVP by email to Duncan Keenan-Jones ( by 9am on the day of the seminar.
  • Please also contact Duncan Keenan-Jones should you have questions about the event.

The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for can be found at