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Claudius, Master of Land and Sea Panel

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Claudius, Master of Land and Sea Panel
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Photo Comments

On this panel the god Claudius [Roman Emperor AD 41-54] strides forward in a divine epiphany, drapery billowing around his head—as is typical of the depiction of deities at Aphrodisias.  He receives a cornucopia with fruits of the earth from a figure emerging from the ground [lower left], and a ship's steering oar from a marine tritoness with fish-legs [lower right].  The idea is clear: the god=emperor guarantees the prosperity of land and sea.  The relief is a remarkable local visualization — elevated and panegyrical — of the emperor's role as universal savior and divine protector. (from the description of the panel in the Museum of Aphrodisias).

The Sebasteion was a complex of structures that served as a municipal imperial cult sanctuary.  It was dedicated to Aphrodite, the main deity of Aphrodisias, and to the "gods Sebastoi"—that is to the "August Ones," namely Julius Caesar and his successors.  Local elite persons built it to solidify their ties with Rome.  Its construction began during the reign of Tiberius and continued into the reign of Nero.