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Volume 6, 2008

Perspectives Latines et Byzantines

Francesco Paparella
Pages 101-124

Immagine mimetica e immagine simbolica. Il valore delle agalmata tra Tarda-antichità e Alto Medioevo

The expression "image" is characterized, starting with the Greek language, by a certain ambiguity, since it can point to an iconic sign or to an allegoric-figurative sign. However it is possible to find out in the history of ancient thought an acceptation of "image" where these features are both present, that is agalma whose first meaning in the lexicon of classic Greek is "sacred image". Neoplatonism particularly uses this expression as one of the key term of its doctrine about the methods through which it is possible to reveal the divine. Agalma in that way was conceived as an iconic sign (a statue or a mimetic figure) whose morphological elements are the vehicle of allegoric meanings; these meanings then are able to refer to transcendent realities. So the capacity to reveal the God's nature is attributed to iconic image that becomes a sign no longer bound exclusively to material dimension (as it has been described, for instance, by Augustine and other late ancient and medieval thinkers).