Coates-Stephens, Robert

British School at Rome

Research Title: A Comparative Study of the Statue Landscape of Rome and Constantinople in the Early Middle Ages

Dr.Coates-Stephens has been Cary Fellow at the British School at Rome since 2002, where he directs undergraduate and graduate teaching in the topography and archaeology of the ancient city. The broader aim of his project at ANAMED is to understand the impact of ancient art on the medieval imagination, by analyzing the recorded perception of antique sculpture displayed in the post-classical urban environment. During the 6th–12th centuries free-standing statues were hardly produced in the Mediterranean, yet ancient cities remained populated with ancient sculpture. How did the inhabitants react to these ghosts of a vanished culture? Only in Rome and Constantinople may we seek definitive answers, thanks to the survival of contemporary texts and the statues themselves, and only a comparative approach can yield informative links and unforeseen resonances. Not since 1411 has such a study been essayed, when Manuel Chrysoloras, the last great orator of Byzantium, mournfully tried to explain why so few statues had survived in Constantinople, when so many still adorned Rome. The project in Istanbul, which engages with the ““Environment and Society““ research theme, will allow the completion of a monograph on ancient sculpture and the medieval imagination and initiate a focused study of the afterlife of the statue world in Constantinople-Istanbul, whereby the shifting topographical resonances of statue and place in Old and New Rome will be explored through contemporary perceptions.