This review article goes back on my presentation at the first Hippolytus-statue workshop held 2021 September in Leuven, which set the stage for the two days intensive work on lively discussions around the statue. The review and print preps went on lightspeed, so a big thank for both, the editors of Louvain Studies as well as for the excellent support at Peeters. The paper is open access, so you can download it for instance by clicking here.
Strictly speaking, the ‘Hippolytus-statue’ should not exist. This free-standing and full-size sculpture of a bearded philosopher bearing Christian inscriptions is not only one of the very few of its kind, but also was created in a period when Christian authors like Tertullian (c.200 CE) fulminated against statues. But not only its origins are mysterious. Roughly 500 years after its rediscovery, it is still disputed who the statue is meant to represent and in what context it was displayed. By offering a chronological review, this essay aims to shed light on the various scholarly attempts of constructing a suitable identity for largely scattered evidence. The combination of two distinct but intertwined research lines, analysis of the statue and discussions about the person and oeuvre of Hippolytus opens an illuminating perspective. It illustrates how shifting interpretations of Hippolytus shifted the identity of this static object several times and how the changing identity of the statue challenged the discussions about person and oeuvre. The contribution concludes by pointing out problems of past attempts and makes suggestions for future avenues.