Leaf from Consular Diptych of Flavius Anastasius
“The consul is shown holding the mappa circensis, a ceremonial cloth with which he gave the signal for the games to begin. Sences
from the games are shown below. Traces of writing on the reverse indicate that the diptych was adapted for Christian use, to record the names of saints and those for whom prayers were to be said.”
Byzantium was the center of production of ivories like this. This one, made perhaps in the 10th century AD, has eventually made its way to the Cathedral of Veroli, in central Italy. There are 43 such caskets from the period surviving, decorated with scenes of classical mythology, illustrating what was perhaps a fashion for classical antiquity in 1oth century Byzantium. The scenes’ references aren’t very clear: there is Bacchus riding a chariot pulled by lions (rather than panthers); and elements of the stories of Europa, Iphigenia, and Bellorophon; put together, says Kenneth Clark, with little understanding of the original significance.
To paraphrase a great philosopher: if it looks good, it is good [and damn the meaning].