Sunday, 27 April 2014

Archaeo-newswatch: Losing Constantine (Finding Hadrian)

Just like the Plantagenets, you wait years for a Roman emperor to turn up then several arrive all at once. This particular one, however, isn't an ancient artefact (and neither is it in the news as a 'new discovery'), but it has been considered newsworthy (albeit, perhaps, for all the wrong reasons).

York University have unveiled a new logo for 'Constantine College', due to open in September 2014, for public view, comment and consideration. Constantine (or Constantine 'the Great' to give him his full and rather modest title), the first emperor to accept and acknowledge Christianity (and not systematically persecute it), has a strong connection to the city of York, for it was here that his rise to power began in AD 306. Natural, then, that York University should choose him as a named character to provide a sense of identity for their college and, natural also you would think, that he should appear in a nice new logo:

According to York Vision (the UKs most awarded student newspaper), the University's Deputy Vice-Chancellor explained the thinking behind the logo to assembled journalists at a press conference: "that is our Constantine logo, the head of Constantine in the colours of Constantine" a purple letter C "wrapped around the portrait of the former emperor" and that's all very nice and good....

....except for the fact that the face in the logo quite clearly isn't that of Constantine. 

In fact, anyone Googling (other internet search engines are available) the name 'Constantine the Great' can straight away see that the single most obvious thing about Constantine, unlike the logo chosen for 'Constantine College', is that that every known portrait of the long-deceased emperor in marble or on coin is entirely deficient in beard.

It is the utter absence of a beard that appears to have defined the man, Constantine being the first emperor since Trajan, almost 200 years before his reign, to appear officially beardless. He had no beard, he is sans beard he never had a beard he is a man, in fact, without goatee, moustache or any other form of face-based hairy-ness

The face chosen as the logo for Constantine College by the (unnamed) design company is actually, and you can check this for yourselves by simply accessing Google (other search engines are available) and entering the search term 'Hadrian', that of another emperor entirely.

Here is Hadrian:

Here is the logo:



To make matters worse (for those who designed the image anyway), there is actually a lovely little statue of Constantine the Great in the Yorkshire Museum in York (in case no one has internet access or has, heaven forbid, never heard of 'Google'), which many academics consider to represent one of the earliest portraits of the man:

Again, the defining feature being a total absence of beard.

Of course (the heavily bearded) Hadrian was also an emperor with a deep personal connection to York, as he visited (and no doubt stayed) there for some time in around 121 AD, whilst thinking about building a nice ornamental stone feature at the northern-most limits of his empire, and that's fine - BUT if you're going to call an institution 'Constantine College' (in order to commemorate a man called 'Constantine'), then I guess you really ought to use a picture of Constantine (or make an image supposed to represent him at least have a passing resemblance), shouldn't you (otherwise what's the point)? If you're going for the beardy-look, and there's no reason why you shouldn't, why not simply call the new institution 'Hadrian College' (or perhaps the more alliterative 'Hadrian House')?

In fact that may actually prove cheaper than getting the logo redesigned....