Raising on a Shield: Origin and Afterlife of a Coronation Ceremony

Teitler, Hans
March 2002
International Journal of the Classical Tradition;Spring2002, Vol. 8 Issue 4, p501
Academic Journal
This article deals with 'raising on a shield' both as a historical phenomenon and as subject of artistic representation. Originally Germanic, the ritual is for the first time attested in Tacitus, in a passage about Brinno, the chief of the Cananefates who cooperated with "Claudius" Civilis during the Batavian revolt. Next comes Julian, nicknamed the Apostate, who, raised on a shield by his Gallic and Germanic soldiers, was the first Roman emperor to undergo this ritual, witness Ammianus Marcellinus and Libanius. After Julian, the 'raising on a shield' soon became part and parcel of the Byzantine coronation ceremony (literary sources and illustrations in mediaeval manuscripts testify to its existence), but the ritual is also attested for Ostrogoths and Franks--the depiction of the raising on a shield of Frankish kings by Gregory of Tours would seem to be the ultimate source of inspiration for French medallists and cartoonists. Tacitus' Brinno is more than once raised on a shield by Dutch painters in the sixteenth and seventeenth century.


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