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Balzotti, Jonathan Mark, and Richard Benjamin Crosby

Fall 2014, 44:4, pages 323-342

Diocletian’s Victory Column: Megethos and the Rhetoric of Spectacular Disruption

Abstract: This essay explores how the powerful system of cultural references in the architecture of Alexandria is disrupted by Roman visual rhetoric. Specifically, the essay closely analyzes Diocletian’s Victory Column, a monument to the third-century Roman ruler who put down an Alexandrian uprising. The authors argue that Rome employed a visual rhetoric of spectacular disruption as a means to insert itself into the city’s historical identity even after its siege created widespread disease and starvation. The essay builds on the substantial scholarship on public memory by describing a kind of rhetoric that poses a political, existential challenge to a reigning cultural identity. As rhetorical scholars continue to study public memory and the persuasive powers of designed space, the concept of megethos appears to be uniquely and increasingly relevant.