Justinian, who would be the greatest emperor of the early Byzantine period, presented this handsome ivory panel (one of two forming a diptych, see acc. no. 17.190.53) to a member of the Roman Senate announcing his election as consul. The title, now largely honorific, was once that of supreme magistrate of the Roman Republic. Once hinged together with the names of the other consuls inscribed in wax on the interior, the panels were probably presented as an invitation to the great public games that new consuls hosted in Constantinople’s hippodrome (stadium). The elegantly carved classical motifs focused attention on the inscriptions written in Latin, still the official language of the Empire.
Inscription: [continuous across the top]: FL[avius] PETRVS SABBAT[ius]IVSTIN[ianus] V[ir] I[n]L[ustris] / COM[es] MAG[ister] EQQ[uitum] ET P[editum] PRAES[entalis] ET C[onsul] ORD[inarius]; [continuous in the central medallions]: MVNERA PARVA QVIDEM PRETIO SED HONORIBVS ALMA / PATRIBVS ISTA MEIS OFFERO CONS[ul] EGO
Aymard, Le Puy; Sigismond Bardac, Paris; J. Pierpont Morgan, London and New York (from 1909)
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