Re-use in
the Roman world and beyond

Re-purposing materials in order to adapt them to a new use was a widespread practice in the Roman world, both in construction and the artistic production of effigies and portraits.

The reworked portraits, especially those portraying the emperor, offer particularly interesting evidence. The fall into disgrace of an emperor was one of the most frequent causes of the decision to erase the traces for posterity (damnatio memoriae), leading to the removal of all his depictions from public places upon his death. After time, whenever economic reasons called for ready for use artefacts, any items that had escaped destruction were reused for new portraits by reworking the facial features. In the Middle Ages, the reuse of more ancient artefacts became widespread and characterized the relationship between medieval Christianity and the ancient pagan culture.

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