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Sol. The sun in the art and religions of Rome

03 September 2009

PhD ceremony: S.E. Hijmans, 13.15 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Thesis: Sol. The sun in the art and religions of Rome

Promotor(s): prof. P.A.J. Attema, prof. mw. M. Kleibrink

Faculty: Arts

 

In the past two decades our understanding of the Roman sun god Sol has changed

dramatically. The nineteenth century view that revering the sun ran counter to Roman religious sensibilities has been abandoned. Roman solar cult was as old as Rome, and had an unbroken presence in the city. Our literary sources for this cult are scant, but we possess an abundant array of material culture sources. These are valuable because in Rome’s visually oriented society material culture had an important communicative function. “Reading” these sources is not straightforward. Many images in Roman art, for example, have derived meanings that are not immediately apparent. In the case of Sol, we find that many depictions of him do not represent the sun or sun god, but are used to denote eternity or the Roman ideal of imperial stability.

It is impossible to offer a thorough analysis of all Sol-related imagery in one book. After a historical and methodological introduction, and a catalogue and discussion of Sol-images, Hijmans’s book therefore offers only a limited number of case studies along the lines of the methodological and theoretical framework proposed. These include reassessments of the imperial radiate crown (not a divine, solar symbol), of Horace’s Carmen Saeculare (Sol and Luna define its main theme as aeternitas), the Christ-Sol mosaic in the Vatican necropolis (not Christ, just Sol), and the influence of solar cult on the emergence of Christmas (overstated).

 

Last modified:15 September 2017 3.38 p.m.
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