The Roman Consular Diptych
and other ivory graphics of the Roman civilization 


In Late Antiquity, a consular diptych was a type of diptych intended as a de-luxe commemorative object. A consular diptych was commissioned by a 'consul ordinarius' to mark his entry to that post, and was distributed as a commemorative reward to those who had supported his candidature or might support him in future.

A diptych is any object with two flat plates attached at a hinge. In particular the standard notebook and school exercise book of the ancient world was the diptych consisting of a pair of such plates that were wax tablets, with on their inside faces a recessed space filled with wax. This took writing made with a pointed stylus. When the notes were no longer needed the wax could be slightly heated and then smoothed to allow reuse. Ordinary versions had wooden frames, but luxury ones were made in more expensive materials.


The Barberini ivory is a Byzantine ivory leaf from an imperial diptych dating from Late Antiquity, now in the Louvre in Paris. It represents the emperor as triumphant victor. It is generally dated from the first half of the 6th century and is attributed to an imperial workshop in Constantinople, while the emperor is usually identified as Justinian, or possibly Anastasius I or Zeno.


the consulship for the year 517.

Anastasius wearing the robes and insignia of a Roman consul. On his right hand, he holds a staff with the aquila, and on his right, the cloth that was dropped to signal the start of the Hippodrome races. From his consular diptych, 517.


the Empress consort of Zeno and Anastasius I

Ariadne was a daughter of Leo I and Verina. Her mother was a sister of Basiliscus. She remained married to Zeno to his death The widowed Augusta was able to choose his successor for the throne and a second husband for herself


short-lived revival of traditional religion

Symmachi and Nicomachi, two aristocratic Roman families prominent represents some kind of alliance between them conscious effort to refer back to the glories of days gone by, days when the Empire was great about 400AD


Late Antiquity

.Ivory carving Decorative Art Diptychs

Although the style of the diptych clearly emulates this high Classical style, careful examination of the conception of details justifies the characterization of these works as classicizing rather than classical.

While Senatorial families like the Nicomachi and Symmachi were trying to preserve their pagan heritage, other Senatorial families were becoming converted to Christianity. While accepting the new religion, these patrons still wanted to hold onto the Classical tradition. An ivory panel showing the Holy Women at the Tomb and the Ascension of Christ shows how the Christian subject matter has been converted to the style and conventions of the Classical tradition:

Pagan Practices


The Symmachi–Nicomachi diptych is a Late Antique ivory diptych dating to the late fourth or early fifth century[1] whose panels depict scenes of ritual pagan religious practices. Both its style and its content reflect a short-lived revival of traditional Roman religion and Classicism at a time when the Roman world was increasingly turning to Christianity and rejecting the Classical tradition.

The diptych takes its name from the inscriptions “Nicomachorum” and Symmachorum,” references to two prominent Senatorial families. It was commissioned by the family of Q. Aurelius Symmachus, “one of the paladins of the pagan cause in the last quarter of the fourth century”

Aelia Ariadne


Ariadne, the wife of the Byzantine emperors Zeno (reigned 474 – 491) and Anastasius I (reigned 491 – 518). She died in 515 AD. Clad in richly decorated robes, the empress sits enthroned under a shell-shaped canopy flanked by two eagles. The throne with its pillows, the exaltation of the depicted figure. In her left hand the empress holds a globe surmounted by a cross, while her right hand is raised in a gesture of blessing. Ariadne is wearing an embroidered chlamys (short mantle) Her head is adorned with the characteristic crown with twoknobs (cornula), a pearl diadem and ear-rings with attached hanging chains, so-called pendilia. The trapezium-shaped inset on the chlamys is decorated with a heavily worn bust.

Consular Diptych


Flavius Anastasius taking the office of consul AD 517. Anastasius is shown with a sceptre in his left and the 'mappa circensis', with which he gave the signal for the games to begin, in his right. He wears a 'trabea', a sumptuous ceremonial costume, above the bust are, right to left, the Empress Ariadne, the Emperor Anastasius I and the other consul or Pompeius, The sides of the throne show two 'Gorgoneia' and personifications of Rome and Constantinople. The figures in the lower section lead horses, with a boy at the bottom left, and to their right is the head of an elderly man with a crab attached to his nose.

Adoration of the Magi


The Adoration of the Magi: the Virgin is seated frontally holding the Christ child in her lap; behind her on the left is an angel carrying a cross-staff, while the three Magi dressed in trousers, chlamyses and Phrygian caps present their offerings with veiled hands; below this, the Nativity: the Virgin lies on a mattress at left; at the right is the child lying in a manger flanked by the ox and ass and with the star of Bethlehem above; in front of the manger Salome extends her withered hand to the child.

On the back of the panel is a prayer written in a 12th century Greek hand.

Height: 21.7 cm Width: 12.4 cm Depth: 1.2 cm

Symmachorum diptych


One of the last great commissions of pagan art in Rome Unidentified Roman Emperor becoming a god after his death. Two eagles, representing his soul, fly out of the funeral pyre. Above this, the emperor is carried towards heaven by figures signifying the wind. He is welcomed by five gods or ancestors, watched by the sun god Helios.

The monogram at the top represents the Symmachi, a prominent Roman family who petitioned Emperor Gratian (AD 375-383) for the freedom of pagan worship.

Rome, 402 AD

Archangel ivory


Byzantine ivory diptych leaf, about AD 525-550 This is one of the largest surviving ivories from the Byzantine Empire. It comes from a hinged two-leaf diptych possibly used as a writing tablet, and shows an Archangel holding an orb and sceptre. The style of his drapery is classical, but the Christian subject matter is Byzantine. The ivory’s extraordinary size and ragraph quality suggest that it was an imperial commission, perhaps by Justinian l AD 527-565

Consul Basil, valve


The Consul Basil, valve from a diptych, 480 AD, ivory. Italy, 5th century. Florence, Museo Nazionale Del Bargello (Bargello National Museum).

Hero Bellerophon


The other panel shows the Greek hero Bellerophon killing the monstrous Chimera. This pagan myth was often used as an allegory for Christ’s triumph over evil.

Ivory Casket


Ivory casket earliest These carvings are among the known depictions of the events surrounding Christ’s death and resurrection. In the first panel, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate condemns Christ, who carries the cross to his place of execution.

2nd Pannel


The second panel shows Judas committing suicide after betraying Christ, followed by the Crucifixion.

4th Pannel


and the final scene shows him resurrected amongst his apostles. The four panels once formed a small casket which may have held holy relics or consecrated bread.

3rd Pannel


Christ’s empty tomb lies open in the third panel,

Rufius Gennadius Probus Orestes


Consular Diptych of Rufius Gennadius Probus Orestes, one of the Western consuls in 530. The consul is represented on both leaves seated on a curule seat, holding in one hand the mappa circensis (with which he gave the signal for the games to begin), in the other a sceptre. A female figure, a personification of Constantinople with a disk and staff flanks the consul to his right; to his left stands a female personification of Rome holding the fasces. Clipeate portraits of Amalasuntha and her son Athalaric whom the consul served are above the inscription, flanking the cross. Below,in the lower part of the panel, two barefooted youths pour out sacks of coins, with ingots and silver laurel leaves.

A Roman aristocrat. He was appointed consul for the year 530,On 17 December 546 Orestes was in Rome when the Ostrogothic King Totila captured the city. Orestes, Anicius Olybrius and Anicius Maximus consuls , and other patricii sought refuge in Old St. Peter's Basilica. He afterwards joined a group of refugees who followed the Byzantine army as far as Portus. The following year, when some Byzantine soldiers were patrolling in Campania and encountered captured senators, who were freed and afterward sent to Sicily, he was left behind due to a lack of horses. Orestes was still a prisoner of the Visigoths when Narses conquered Rome in 552; the senators were preparing to return to Rome, but, enraged by the death of Totila, the Goths who guarded them killed them all.

The monogram at the top represents the Symmachi, a prominent Roman family who petitioned Emperor Gratian (AD 375-383) for the freedom of pagan worship.

Areobindus Dagalaiphus Areobindus


His origins are unknown, although his name suggests he belonged to an aristocratic Roman families of Decii and of the Anicii:

One of the consular diptychs of Areobindus Dagalaiphus Areobindus, consul in 506, showing him in an imago clipeata

Flavius Areobindus Dagalaiphus Areobindus, commonly simply Areobindus or Ariovindus was an East Roman Byzantine general and politician. The scion of a distinguished line, In May 503, at the head of 12,000 men, he was based at Dara to keep watch at the Persian stronghold of Nisibis and the army of Shah Kavadh I, while Patricius and Hypatius, with the bulk of the army, besieged Amida. There he repelled an attack by a Persian army coming from Singara and pushed them up to Nisibis. Eventually however he was compelled to withdraw when the Persians received reinforcements.The onset of winter and the approach of Roman reinforcements forced the Persian ruler to withdraw.

,In 512, he was living in Constantinople in retirement. At the time, the open advocation of miaphysite doctrines by Emperor Anastasius had caused great anger among the city’s mostly Chalcedonian population. At one point, according to the chroniclers, the city populace took up the cry “Areobindus for emperor” and marched to the house of his wife, Anicia Juliana, to proclaim him. Areobindus however, unwilling to take part in a usurpation, had fled the house and gone into hiding. Nothing further is known of him.

last surviving example Diptych of Justin, consul in 540


Diptych of Justin, Germanus was an East Roman (Byzantine) general, one of the leading commanders of Emperor Justinian I. Germanus was Emperor Justinian's cousin, and a member of the ruling dynasty. He held commands in Thrace, North Africa, and the East against Persia, and was slated to command the final Byzantine expedition against the Ostrogoths. Having married into the Gothic Amal royal line through his second wife Matasuntha and a distinguished service record, at the time of his sudden death, he was considered the probable heir to Emperor Justinian, beaten to the throne by his cousin, Justin II, who exiled him to Egypt, where he was murdered.

The Ivory pyxis box


Christian rituals been Various objects would have used during Byzantine church services, many of them crafted gold from luxury materials like silver, and ivory. The ivory pyxis once had a lockable lid and was perhaps used to hold sacramental bread. Its carvings refer to Biblical tale of Daniel in the lions’ den.

A cylindrical box from the classical world


Box, pyxis; ivory; oval, cut from the solid, with provision for a hinge and lock; sides carved with scenes representing the martyrdom and sanctuary of St Menas; St Menas stands beneath an arch, hands raised in the attitude of an orans, and with nimbus; on each side of the sanctuary is the head of a recumbent camel; from each direction approach two worshippers.
On the other side the jugement and execution by the romans

Casket of a saint of the early Christian Church Thecia


Nulla St Paul addresses Thecla: Stoning of St Paul. Roman ivory panel 430 AD

The virtuous and noble Thecla stands within a walled and turreted compound listening attentively to St Paul as he reads from a scroll.The story of Thecla is found in the apocryphal ‘Acts of St Paul and Thecla’. After listening to his discourses, she became a follower.Thecla herself had a widespread following in the Eastern Orthodox church. The second scene, divided from the first by a wall, shows St Paul anxiously raising a hand to protect himself from the standing figure who is in the act of raising a rock to throw.

Ivory panels from a casket, Roman 5th century.

The Barberini Ivory


The Barberini ivory is a Byzantine ivory leaf from an imperial diptych dating from Late Antiquity, now in the Louvre in Paris. It represents the emperor as triumphant victor. It is generally dated from the first half of the 6th century and is attributed to an imperial workshop in Constantinople, while the emperor is usually identified as Justinian, or possibly Anastasius I or Zeno.

Although it is not a consular diptych, it shares many features of their decorative schemes. The emperor is accompanied in the main panel by a conquered barbarian in trousers at left, a crouching allegorical figure, probably representing territory conquered or reconquered, who holds his foot in thanks or submission, and an angel or victory, crowning the emperor with the traditional palm of victory (which is now lost). Although the barbarian is partly hidden by the emperor’s huge spear, this does not pierce him, and he seems more astonished and over-awed than combative. Above, Christ, with a fashionable curled hair-style, is flanked by two more angels in the style of pagan victory figures; he reigns above, while the emperor represents him below on earth. In the bottom panel barbarians from West (left, in trousers) and East (right, with ivory tusks, a tiger and a small elephant) bring tribute, which includes wild animals. The figure in the left panel, representing a soldier, carries a statuette of Victory; his counterpart on the right is lost.


Consular Diptychs and other ivory graphics
FROM MUSEUMS: LOUVRE, FLORENCE, british museum, v & a london,