The Sandal-Binder Aphrodite, a witty variation on Praxiteles’ Aphrodite of Knidos, is one of the most frequently reproduced sculptural types in Greco-Roman art. Created in a variety of materials throughout the Mediterranean, extant versions of this iconography show the goddess in the act of tying (or possibly untying) her sandal. Although a large number of these works of art date between the first and fourth century CE, most studies on the Sandal-Binder have approached it primarily as an expression of Hellenistic Greek artistic trends. The present study shifts our attention away from the cultural milieu of the Sandal-Binder’s creation to that of its reception. Two well-preserved examples—one from a house in Pompeii and the other from London—attest to the process of translating or adapting this sensual image of Aphrodite to a Roman ideological framework. In both cases, it is through the language of body adornment that this transformation is achieved: while the example from Pompeii (a marble statuette adorned with gold paint) shows the goddess wearing contemporary jewelry and clothing, the diminutive silver figurine from London is part of a fashionable hairpin that points to the dissemination of imperial hairstyles in Rome’s remotest province. By calling attention to their design and function, this essay highlights the complex polysemy of Roman Sandal-Binders and the powerful messages they communicated to a diverse audience of viewers both at the heart of the empire and in the provinces.

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