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The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in the Kingdoms of Pontus and Kommagene during the Roman Conquest

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image of Iran and the Caucasus

In 72-69 B.C., L. Lucullus successively captured the most important urban centres of the kingdom of Pontus, and Tigranocerta in Armenia. His army also operated in the kingdom of Commagene und in Upper Mesopotamia. Lucullus’ military campaign was continued by Pompey. We come across incidental information about the scale of robbery and destruction committed by the Roman army (the statue of Autolycus by Sthennis in Sinope, the temple of Ma in Comana, the secret archives of Mithradates VI, the Roman library of Lucullus, the treasures of Darius the Achaemenid). Some objects of the plundered art appeared in public at the triumphal shows of wealth in Rome, which was perfunctorily documented by Pliny the Elder, Appianus of Alexandria and Plutarch (63 and 61 B.C.). Artworks were also acquired by functionaries of the occupying administration from urban communities and private persons through extortion and blackmail. The Roman lawyers and intellectuals worked out a set of skilful legal formulas to justify and legalise the plunder of cultural goods (ius belli, monumentum imperatoris, ornamentum urbis). Cicero, Livy and Plutarch never condemn the robbery of artworks and libraries if they were committed in the name of the Roman state. The fragmentary evidence testifies to the once flourishing literary circles of the kingdoms of Pontus and Commagene (Methrodorus of Scepsis, Athenion, the anonymous authors of inscriptions from Commagene, the epitaphs of the Bosporan kingdom).

Affiliations: 1: Jan Kochanowski University


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