Tetrarchs, corner of facade, San Marco

305 C. E.
porphyry, about 4' 3" H

In 293 Diocletian established a tetrarchy with himself as the Eastern ruler (Augustus of the East) and Maximian as ruler of the West. Each had a caesar, a vice-ruler, who was his heir. This political solution and attempt to retain order in the Roman Empire failed after Diocletian retired in 305. Carved in porphyry, a hard purple stone used primarily for imperial objects, these four emperors symbolize the equality of their rule. No individualized features are represented; they are dressed identically, even to their swords, and they are of equal height. Their embraces also indicate their unity. The staring eyes, squatty forms, and absract quality are characteristic of much late Roman sculpture, where symbolism is more important than realism and individuality.

Corner of the facade of San Marco with Tetrarchs

The Porta della Carta, an earlier grand entrance to the Doge's Palace, is to the right.

See also the colossal head of Constantine.

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