Mark Bradley (Nottingham), ‘Antiquity’s Missing Noses’

Dr Mark Bradley will be speaking at the Effaced from History conference on April 1. To register and view the full program, visit the conference website. Mark has previously written a fantastic piece about missing classical noses for our blog.


Noses on the vast majority of ancient stone sculpture are missing. Some of them have inevitably broken off accidentally, but an overwhelming number of them have been deliberately targeted, and this wanton destruction of ancient portraits alludes to traditions of real-life facial mutilation that is evident across the ancient world from Homeric Greece, the Persian Empire, Classical and Hellenistic Greece, and Republican and Imperial Rome right through to the Byzantine period. Along with gouging out the eyes, slicing off the ears, cutting out the tongue and castration, dismemberment and other mutilations, nose-docking has been a widely recognized form of punishment not only in the classical world, but also in historical cultures across the globe. Across all these contexts, it has been a powerfully symbolic gesture associated with humiliation, visibility, exclusion, lost identity and pain, and has participated in discourses about politics, gender, race and slavery. This paper will examine the contribution made to this tradition by over a thousand years of evidence from Greco-Roman antiquity, the significance attributed to facial disfigurement in the ancient world, and its relationship to ideas about sensory deprivation and disempowerment.

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