An interpretation of the Frescoes of the Hypogeum of the Aurelii in Rome.

John Bradley

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The thesis looks at the frescoes in a single monument of the third century AD in Rome known as the Hypogeum of the Aurelii. The images contained within these frescoes are varied and highly unusual in the canon of Roman art. As a consequence they have attracted a considerable amount of interest in the century since their discovery. Many of the theories submitted to explain these images do not provide, however, a satisfactory or holistic explanation. Indeed, upon close examination what has been 'seen' by some scholars has proved not to exist and evidence put forward in support of their theories has at times been selective and anachronistic.

Recent restoration of the hypogeum of the Aurelii provides an opportunity to review the evidence and posit a comprehensive interpretation of all the images in the monument. In the process of unravelling the mystery of this tomb I have taken a multi-disciplinary approach exploring many aspects of Roman life other than the religious or funerary spheres that have been the main constituency of previous work. The consequent interpretation put forward here serves, not only as an object lesson in the importance and utility of, 'going back to basics' but also examines the evidence in the context of their known social status i.e. they were freedmen. The result is a better understanding of the tomb's commissioners which shall inform future discussion on social organisation, including the role of women, the exercise of manumission, dining practice and linguistics in addition to funerary habits in the decades prior to the official recognition of Christianity less than a century later.

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Kamash, Zena, Supervisor
Award date1 Nov 2017
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017

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