Theses Doctoral

The Journey to the Underworld: Topography, Landscape, and Divine Inhabitants of the Roman Hades

Casagrande-Kim, Roberta

The purpose of this dissertation is to analyze the ways the Roman Underworld was visualized, outlining the possible mental maps of the chthonic realm that constituted the main reference for the literary works and funerary monuments that were created in Rome and Ostia between the end of the first century BCE and the end of the third century CE. While we have no preserved ancient map of Hades, the artists decorating Roman monuments with otherworldly images, mainly tombs or sarcophagi, repeatedly employed specific natural or architectural elements that were reminiscent of the written descriptions and inspired by the widespread cultural and religious tradition and that highlighted the relations between the human souls, the chthonic divinities, and the space they share.

When visualizing the Underworld, the Romans performed an act of mental spatial construction where all landscapes and topographical elements were drawn from a pool of geographical entities that constituted an integral part of their spatial shared knowledge, and where the memorable features that comprised historical, mythological, or religious associations were transformed into primary landmarks of communal value. These chthonic landmarks constituted the backdrop for mythological scenes, guided the viewer in the unfolding of the narrative of the journey to the Underworld, and reassured him on his postmortem fate.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Thesis Advisors
Brilliant, Richard
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 11, 2012