Morphogrammata / The lettered Art of Optatian

Figuring Cultural Transformations in the Age of Constantine

Michael Squire, Johannes Wienand (Hrsg.)

Wilhelm Fink Verlag (Paderborn), 1. Aufl. 2017, 548 Seiten, 65 s/w u. 20 farb. Abb., 1 s/w Tab., Franz. Broschur

This volume explores one of the most complex, multifaceted and momentous of all western cultural transformations: the refashioning of the Roman principate under the emperor Constantine in the early fourth century AD. It does so through the kaleidoscopic lens of one of antiquity’s most fascinating (and maligned) artists, Publilius Optatianus Porfyrius. Optatian’s experiments with word and image are little known among classicists. But, as contributors to this volume argue, his ‘morphogrammatic’ creations uniquely reflect, figure and shape the cultural dynamics of the fourth century. 


This is the first edited book dedicated to Optatian’s picture-poems and their various historical contexts. By bringing together different disciplinary perspectives (including ancient history, classical philology, art history, theology, philosophy and media studies), the volume demonstrates how Optatian gave form to the various political, intellectual and cultural currents of his age. At the same time, contributors champion Optatian as a uniquely creative artist – and one who anticipated some of our most pressing literary critical, art historical and philosophical concerns today.