Velum: The Use of Curtains in the Palace of Late Roman Emperors
Istituto Svedese di Studi Classici a Roma
Via Omero, 14
5 May 2022
Curtains are a characteristic element of Byzantine court ceremonial. In particular, they serve to ‘reveal’ the sovereign during an audience ritual. The origin of the ceremonial use of curtains is generally traced back to the Roman Empire, where it would have developed from the first century onwards, acquiring a coherent form at the latest with Constantine. In this paper we will reconsider the evidence in order to clarify the mechanisms that led to transforming objects of common and secular use into powerful symbols, which were functional for a representation of power that played with a measured alternation between visibility and invisibility, access and concealment of the sovereign. It is also argued that this process developed later than generally believed.