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Icons Throughout The Ages Essay

1105 words - 5 pages

The definition of an icon has changed over time, but in the Byzantine Empire during the period of 726-843 BC the iconoclasts held a distinct idea of what negated an icon. Some referred to it as, “an object of devotion when its quickness is being negated” (Dimmick 26). In this sense, people thought that the objects were alive, when in fact the icon was an inanimate object. Others thought it held otherworldly characteristics, “a version of the duplicity of all human [artifacts], which inevitably overstate their capacity to shed blessing” (Dimmick 26). The idea of making a pilgrimage to the holy land became very important in church society. Often times, people would bring back objects that they thought possessed the power to bless people when they touched or prayed to them. For example, they thought the objects came from a saint, "these relics were either the body of the holy person, or an object or place that had been in contact with that body, or a secondary material that had been brought into contact with an object empowered by that body" (Barber 36). The bodies of saints were highly prized, along with objects that the saints may have touched in their lifetime. These objects gave people hope in uncertain times. People would often distinguish themselves with these images, “the subject organizes its identity by identifying with an image of itself and using this ‘self-image’ to recognize and compare itself with similars” (Dimmick 27). Ultimately, this led to the people having fantasies to the icons having a likeness to images that they could recognize in their day-to-day lives. People who mourned lost ones also sought out images, “the image’s status as image is the source of its ability to demystify as well as memorialize the hold of the lost object on the mourning subject” (Dimmick 39). In this sense, icons represented those who had passed away, but they still sought to hold onto a tangible substance of the figure the icon symbolized.
As long as icons exist in the world to symbolize figures, leaders will use them as a tool to abuse others with their power. This idea ran rampant in polytheistic societies. In Egyptian societies, the pharaohs would declare themselves gods on earth. Meanwhile, the people would have to create statues of them to serve as icons after they died. These icons would then be placed in their tombs for their ka to recognize themselves, and in their temples for the people to worship them with offerings. Roman emperors played a similar role in regards to their divine nature through icons. Often times, roman emperors would be declared gods after they had died. From there, busts and coins would be made to celebrate their divinity, and the emperors would be shown in an eternal youthful state. Since the people never really saw their rulers this façade was easy to accomplish, “those are no [true] gods whom the common people worship…. They were formerly kings, who on account of their royal memory subsequently began to be adored by their...

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