Roman Imperial Portraiture I

The Higher Inquiètude

Augustus and the Julio-Claudians

The official image of Augustus Caesar, replicated through the sculptural media of full-length statuary, portrait busts, reliefs, cameos, and coinage, sought to legitimate the new imperial form of government, to differentiate his regime from the previous political order, and to solidify the position of the gens iulia.

This was an not an exercise in branding. The creation of the portrait was an essential act of statecraft. Replicated and disseminated throughout the empire, the objects bearing the emperor’s image were, for the majority of the population, their only experience of the pater patriae. Given the fleeting nature of that experience, the embedded ideological information had to be conveyed in a concise and clear visual manner.

Augustus was a philhellene, who wished to be seen as the new Pericles ushering in a second golden age. His portrait unsurprisingly is overtly Greek in style and conception. Carved…

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