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A Time to Regender: The Transformation of Roman Time

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At the end of the first century A.D., at the height of the Roman empire, a new abstract deity of eternal time, Aeternitas, appeared. This first discrete personification of abstract time was initially a female image represented on official coins and monuments, but in A.D. 121, a new male personification of eternal time appeared in imperial, state sponsored art. Both male and female depictions of eternal time were accompanied by a rich array of attributes that connected eternity, immortality, and earthly prosperity. This change in the image of time occurred simultaneously with tremendous changes in Roman culture: the creation of universal time keeping, the creation of elaborate beliefs in the afterlife, and transformations in Romans' expectations of life, lead to the embodiment of an ideal of eternity in the personification Aeternitas, and explain the radical transformations in her/his iconography. It is through a study of the representation of time that we identify a profound reenvisioning of the nature of time in Western thought, when human temporal and metaphysical experiences of time were expanded, laying the foundation for the successful spread of the Christian conceptions of eternal blissful time after the apocalypse.


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