Distant displays of power: Understanding cross-cultural interaction among the elites of Rome, Sasanian Iran, and Sui-Tang China

Matthew P. Canepa

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

This article analyzes the cultural processes of competitive interactions that unfolded among elites across Eurasia in late antiquity. I focus on the briefly interlocking empires of Rome, Sasanian Persia and Sui-Tang China and analyze the conditions that inspired emperors, client kings, and mercantile elites to incorporate aspects of another elite's visual and ritual material. I consider three types of late antique elite exchange: The first deals with those rare instances where the elites of major powers engaged in a close, direct, and sustained interaction, for example, between Rome and Sasanian Iran. The second situation deals with the use of aristocratic visual cultures by relatively distant civilizations, often in new and unexpected ways, such as took place between Sasanian Iran and Sui-Tang China. Parallel to these grand imperial exchanges, I consider the situation of those peoples such as the Laz, Huns, or Sogdians who stood in between these great empires. I offer a theoretical terminology with which to analyze the dynamics behind the movement of ideas, motifs, and practices between elites who were fascinated as well as often disquieted by one another's cultural material. I explore how this dialogue animated the appropriated material and eventually created new and increasingly intertwined visions of power across late antique military frontiers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-154
Number of pages34
JournalArs Orientalis
Volume38
StatePublished - 2010

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