Sample Art Paper on Differences in Governance in the Roman and Babylonian Empire artworks

Constantine’s Head Statue and the Steele of Hammurabi portray the differences in governance and the expressions of the rulership to the citizenry. These two artworks provide a glance at the type of distinctive forms of governance in two distant eras. These are namely during Hammurabi’s reign in the Babylonian dynasty, which was dated around from 1848 BCE to 1736 BCE, and the rule of Constantine the Prodigious of the Roman Empire, which was dated at around A.D. 325–370. The types of governance can be discerned through the artworks and the various symbols used in the creations. The type of governance in these different eras can be described as having distinct spiritual connotations to the law imposed on the people and alternatively secular or man-made implications to the laws that the people are governed by. Therefore the assertion can be made that different forms of governance impose their rule with spiritual and secular implications attached to the laws that are used to govern their citizenry.

A brief description of the two artworks concerning the subject and history is as such. First, the artwork of Constantine the Prodigious depicts a ruler who was Rome’s first emperor to become a Christian. His reign had a telling effect on the succeeding growth of the Roman and Byzantine world. By 325 A.D he was successful in reuniting the Roman Empire after defeating Licinius who was his last colleague from the eastern empire. He later aimed to construct an emerging dynasty and established Constantinople as his new capital, which he named after himself[1]. The second artwork is the Steele of Hammurabi. Hammurabi is a historical figure that was believed to have been a powerful political figure in his time. His time dated from 1848 BCE to 1736 BCE.  The period above coincides with that of Abraham who was a prominent biblical figure and whose time of existence was between 1812 BCE to 1637 BCE[2]. It is evident that behind the laws of every dynasty and empire that there was an underlying spiritual or secular agenda being forwarded to the populace. This idea is implied through the various symbols and imagery employed in the design of their artworks.

The statue of Constantine had a significant role in preserving the memory of Emperor Constantine throughout the succeeding generations of the world. This was achieved through the use of stone sculpture which was designed to endure the wear and tear of time while embodying the image of the ruler. In a classical sense, the freestanding and extensive effigies were some of the most esteemed and well-placed works of art1. They were chiseled to represent the embodiment of divine, mythological, and human entities, and their significance was passed on through the generations. In contrast, the Steele of Hammurabi was engraved with inscriptions both in the front and in the back. It was designed to serve as a medium to impart intellectual information that is the law referred to as the code of Hammurabi. It also served as a work of art. About the engraved image on its surface, it is seen that Hammurabi and Shamash (the god of the sun), are of the same size this could perhaps emphasize the importance and respect that Hammurabi and the laws inscribed on the sculpture demanded. Such an element of art is referred to as the hierarchical scale that aims to illustrate the relative importance of one element in comparison to another2. Therefore the deductions can be made that the difference in governance was such that in the two eras the rulers in question attempt to portray a divine image to their citizenry. However, the difference between the two eras is that some of the laws in these periods had secular and spiritual implications attached to them. The secular implications can be seen in the case of Constantine’s statue which had the purpose of preserving the image of the emperor throughout the generations, furthermore, it entailed creating the image of a benevolent leader similar to past leaders of the empire. The spiritual implications of the Steele of Hammurabi include that they were meant to deliver a law that had spiritual connotations aligned with them which in effect deified the image of the ruler, Hammurabi, through for instance in the Symbology of similar size between the ruler and the god, Shamash.

In terms of the iconology, regarding the Panofsky method, the technique, composition, volume, line, texture, degrees of realism, or idealization help in immortalizing the memory of Constantine. First, the description of the technique employed in the carving the head is an abstract and typically Constantinian style seen in the ultimate portraits of Roman statues. The other body parts were naturalistic which had the appearance of rough toes and protruding veins in the forearms which were achieved through the use of texture. This had the goal of making the sculpture more real, distinct, and ultimately natural. Second, the head had the purpose of bringing the transcendence of an Emperor who had a lofty demeanor that could be divine or extra-terrestrial. For instance, the large eyes that appeared to gaze into eternity from a face that is impersonal and rigid had helped in depicting this idea of a strong ruler who was not bound by the essence of mortality. This was achieved through the accurate application of degrees of realism that helped conjure this idea into reality[3]. Third, through the use of volume, composition, and line in the design of the facial features, a unique, distinctive image of the emperor was ultimately preserved through this sculpture. For example, the distinctively aquiline nasal ridge, the prominent chin, and the deep jaw had the function of mimicking the classical Roman portraiture which emphasized abstraction and symbolism which was far removed from the conception of personal detail. The sculpture of Constantine is immortalized as a timeless work that is of unapproachable grandiosity, similar to the effigy depicting a god. Despite this, the image had connections that were more close to that of a Christian deity[4]. There is also the element of the inclination of the lines engraved on the sculpture that may serve to show the artist’s intentions. The inscriptions are placed on a keenly structured horizontal grid. The use of horizontal and vertical lines is commonly placed all over the surface of this piece. These lines and the inclinations they imply are evident in the case of Shamash’s robe, Shamash’s beard, and the inherent designs used in the presentation of the seat.  The curvilinear lines can be seen in the depiction of the hats on both the figure of Hammurabi and Shamash. This is also evident in the case of the rays seen emerging from Shamash’s shoulder which suggests a divine nature attributed to the subject of the artwork. Horizontal lines can be seen in the art piece this achieves the presentation of a serious and grave reality that is aligned to the laws and their importance to the people it is given to. The various symbols and visual imagery serve to display Hammurabi as a ruler whose importance is one deemed worthy of the company and blessings of the divine and hence offer a suitable channel for delivering the code of Hammurabi. The multiple symbols and images employed in these pieces of art have the function of implying secular and spiritual/divine allusions to the ruler depicted through these artworks.

In conclusion, Constantine’s statue represents the culture that created it in that it helps showcase the form of leadership that was practiced in these cultures. Moreover, it paints a picture of the beliefs of the deification of the emperors during the tenure of these dynasties. The statue helps to portray how this culture emphasized the immortalization of their leaders and the exploits through various forms of art and literature. In contrast, the Steele of Hammurabi helps to depict the idea of spiritual links between the populaces’ adherence to keeping its statutes. It helps to exemplify how rulers used the beliefs of their citizenry to govern them in more effective ways that would consolidate their grasp of power.


  1. Constantine Head Statue

The artwork’s name is Constantine’s head statue. It was created around A.D. 325–370. Its size and dimensions are 95.3 × 58.4 × 67.3 cm. It is made of marble. The statue was initially located at the Basilica of Maxentius, which was located east of the Roman Forum alongside the Via Sacra.


  1. The Steele of Hammurabi


The artwork’s name is the Steel of Hammurabi. Its creation can be dated back to 1920-1750 BCE. The description of the sculpture’s size is 7.4 feet in length (Vertical, height). Its current location is at the Louvre, in Paris, France.


[1] Conway, A. E. “An Unrecognized Head of Constantine the Great.” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 25, no. 138 (1914): 346-49.


[2] Farkas, David S. “”In Search of the Biblical Hammurabi.”” Jewish Bible Quarterly 39, no. 3 (2011): 159-64. Accessed April 1, 2019.


[3] Holloway, R. Ross. “Constantine and the Christians.” In Constantine and Rome, 1-18. Yale University Press, 2004.