Art History Department
Distinguished Alumni Speaker
Dr. Tuna Sare Ağtürk
Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Turkey
“Uncovering an Imperial Complex in Nicomedia, Diocletian’s Lost Capital”
Ancient Nicomedia, which emerged as the most important capital of the eastern Roman Empire in the late 3rd century CE, now lies below the modern industrial city of İzmit in Turkey. This paper will present the results of the Çukurbağ Archaeological Project (granted by TÜ̈BİTAK) conducting archaeological and scientific research on a new series of painted architectural reliefs from a monumental imperial complex found in the heart of modern İzmit.
Rescue excavations conducted by the Kocaeli Archaeology Museum in 2001 and 2009 revealed more than thirty-five sculpted relief panels along with numerous fragments forming a continuous frieze. It represents an astonishing combination of imperial and mythological scenes with extensively preserved ancient paint on them, and its importance is hard to overstate. The Late Roman Empire in the east now has a defining monument to set beside and in striking counterpoint to the Arch of Constantine in the west, in Rome.
The frieze and the complex it decorates appear to date from the time of Diocletian's and Maximian’s “diarchy” (286-293 CE). They thus are the only known examples of their kind in Asia Minor, and an early example of Tetrarchic complexes known from elsewhere in the Roman Empire. The well-preserved coloration of the reliefs illuminates multiple aspects of the art of this period, including the color-coded costumes of the new imperial administration.
Tuna Şare Ağtürk is an associate professor of classical archaeology and art history at Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University in Turkey. Specializing in the art and archaeology of Asia Minor, she has extensively published on ancient dress and identity and on marble, ivory, and terracotta sculpture from Asia Minor. Professor Şare Ağtürk currently serves as the 2018-19 Hilles Bush Fellow at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.