Art, Art History and Design, School of


First Advisor

Michael C. Hoff

Date of this Version



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Art History, Under the Supervision of Professor Michael C. Hoff. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2023

Copyright © 2023 William Reeves Smith


From the legendary foresight of Augustus, to the scandalous escapades of Nero and Commodus to even the philosopher emperor, Marcus Aurelius, much has been written. This thesis does not concern itself with the deeds of emperors, but rather their funerals. Imperial funerals in some ways were quite similar to their Republican era antecedents. They differed in spectacular ways. This thesis investigates the spectacle evident in imperial funerals and argues that their inclusion is not to honor the deceased but rather cement their place in the cultural memory of Rome by means of this performance. In addition, it examines the role of the successor in the funeral proceedings. The prominent display of the proposed successor in addition to the apotheosis later in the ceremony validates him as the heir of a god and therefore worthy to rule. By using ancient literary, archaeological and monumental sources, this thesis hopes to prove these assertions in a hope to contextualize the spectacular events that have been well documented in scholarly work for the past decades. Death is the fate all men share, but some were simply more splendid and spectacular!

Advisor: Michael C. Hoff