This paper aims to explore the role played by the bronze Serpent Column, also known as ‘Delphic Tripod’, in the context of the Hippodrome, the core of the public life in the late-Antique, Byzantine and Ottoman Capital of Constantinople/Istanbul. Although its original three snake-heads are mutilated, the column is still visible today between the obelisks of Constantine VII and Theodosius, and continues to serve a focal role among the display of public ornaments of the site. It is likely that its ‘sacred’ nature—originally linked with pagan cults—functioned in the construction of the urban image of the new imperial capital established by Constantine as one of its eye-catching, symbolic, and even ‘talismanic’ objects. An image that—like its founder—fluctuated between the values of the traditional Roman imperial paganism and spreading Christianity, as it is well exemplified by the mixed set of relics and palladia buried by Constantine under the porphyry column in his forum. The Serpent Column’s role as urban palladium is suggested by Byzantine and Ottoman literary and visual sources. But one has take into account also the possibility of a superimposed Christian symbolism, as happened to other pagan statues in the same public space. In fact, could the Serpent Column have been a reminder of the Brazen Serpent of Moses, especially during the Iconoclastic controversy, when, together with the Mandylion of Edessa, the scriptural serpent had been one of the main arguments in the defense of the cult of sacred images?
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