Book Series Studies in Classical Archaeology, vol. 12

The Painted Tetrarchic Reliefs of Nicomedia

Uncovering the Colourful Life of Diocletian’s Forgotten Capital

Tuna Şare Ağtürk

  • Pages: xx + 200 p.
  • Size:216 x 280 mm
  • Illustrations:7 b/w, 255 col., 1 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English, Turkish
  • Publication Year:2021

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59478-1
  • Paperback
  • Available

2023 recipient of the James R. Wiseman Book Award of the Archaeological Institute of America.

This book presents the very first discussion of an astonishing group of painted Roman reliefs discovered from an imperial complex, at the centre of Diocletian’s empire at Nicomedia.


“Si tratta, dunque, di un libro bellissimo, addirittura straordinario, che esamina in maniera approfondita un complesso di enorme rilevanza e che viene ad accrescere la nostra conoscenza dell’arte tetrarchica, specialmente della sua prima fase. Ritengo che esso non dovrebbe mancare nella biblioteca di chi si interessa di storia dell’arte antica o dell’Asia Minore, ma anche di iconografia.” (Maurizio Buora, dans HISTARA, 23/05/2023)

“It is to the resounding credit of Şare Ağtürk that she has produced such a rich study, which has inspired observations and suggestions for future research. This volume showcases a truly exceptional and ground-breaking series of finds, but additionally, Şare Ağtürk has provided a well written and beautifully illustrated study, whose analyses have injected exciting new possibilities into research on Roman art, Asia Minor, late antique emperorship and the Tetrarchy. This volume will be a necessary reference for every one of these areas of study. I look forward to the publication of the architectural elements and free-standing statues also found in the Çukurbağ neighbourhood.” (Byron Waldron, in Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2024.02.37)


Tuna Şare Ağtürk is a professor of Classical art and archaeology at Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University. Currently continuing her research as the European Commission’s Marie Curie Fellow at the University of Oxford, she has been directing the Çukurbağ Archaeological Project in Nicomedia since 2015. She is also the recipient of several grants and awards including those from the Scientific and Technological Council of Turkey and the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study at Harvard University.


This ground-breaking volume offers the first publication of a major new monument of Roman power in Asia Minor: sixty-six painted marble frieze panels from the city of Nicomedia with an excellent archaeological and architectural context from the Tetrarchic period. During the rule of Diocletian, Nicomedia was the centre of the Late Roman Empire in the east, and the reliefs of the frieze, which decorate an imperial complex built at this time, represent an astonishing combination of imperial, mythological, and agonistic scenes. The reliefs found in Nicomedia fill an important gap in our knowledge between the Severan and Constantinian periods, and provide the East Roman Empire with a defining monument that can be set beside — and in striking counterpoint to — the Arch of Constantine in Rome. Published here in full colour and fully documented, the Nicomedia Frieze is, in this hugely important scholarly monograph, brought to the public for the very first time.



Chapter 1. Introduction: Nicomedia, Archaeology, and History

Chapter 2. Technique, Style, and Colour

Chapter 3. Iconography and Interpretation I: Imperial Depictions: Emperors in War and Triumph

Chapter 4. Iconography and Interpretation II: Mythological Depictions: Eponymous Heroes of Nicomedia

Chapter 5. Iconography and Interpretation III: Agonistic Depictions: Games and Festivals of the ‘New’ Imperial Capital

Chapter 6. Conclusion and Turkish Summary (Türkçe Özet)

Chapter 7. The Reliefs: A Catalogue

Appendix I: Catalogue of the Smaller Relief Fragments
Appendix II: Concordance of Catalogue and Inventory Numbers