Rome, ivory statue of emperor found

Ivory image of emperor ConstantineANSA press agency reports:

November 17th, 2005

Italian archaeologists have unveiled the latest major find to emerge from the Roman forum – an ivory statue of an emperor, probably Marcus Aurelius or Septimius Severus.

The bust is unique – there are no other examples of statues like this made in ivory.

Very few ancient Roman ivory objects have survived to the present day because ivory is a biodegradable material.

Those that have not withered away over the last 2,000 years are mostly tomb decorations and small plaques.

The archaeologists found the statue at the Forum’s Templum Pacis (Temple of Peace), which they started excavating last December.

The emperor is depicted in ‘Greek philosopher’ pose, wearing a tunic with his right hand raised and his head slightly inclined.

This has led experts to believe it may be Marcus Aurelius (emperor 161-180 AD), author of a famous philosophical work, Meditations.

The other likely candidate is Septimius Severus (193-211 AD), a prudent but ruthless ruler who came from the North African city of Leptis Magna (in present day Libya).

The bust is 25cm tall and blackened by fire damage.

This may have occurred during the 192 AD blaze that devastated the Templum Pacis.

Emperor Vespasian (69-79 AD) built the temple in 72 AD to house the spoils from the suppression of the First Jewish Revolt by his son Titus – later emperor 79-81 AD – along with Greek masterpieces collected by Nero [see also here] (54-68 AD).

After the 192 AD fire, described by Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus, the temple was restored by Septimius Severus.

The excavation of the site has also uncovered a beautiful, multi-coloured marble floor and parts of the temple’s enormous columns.

The ivory-statue coup comes shortly after another jackpot find – a huge marble head of Emperor Constantine (305-337 AD) discovered in July at Trajan’s Forum.

The 60cm-high head, which was found in good condition, showed Constantine in stylised glory, at the time of his triumphant entry into Rome after beating rival Emperor Maxentius [see also here] at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (312 AD).

It was probably sculpted between 312 and 325 AD.

See also on the fall of the Roman empire.

8 thoughts on “Rome, ivory statue of emperor found

  1. Roman emperors on trial
    Nero, Tiberius up for murder, immorality, death of Christ
    (ANSA) – Rome, July 13 – Rome is putting two Ancient Roman emperors on trial this summer for dark deeds including immorality, arson, persecuting Christians and killing Jesus Christ.

    In the mock open-air trials at the famed Basilica of Maxentius, actors playing Nero and Tiberius will face historic charges that have brought them ill fame.

    The main indictment against Rome’s third emperor Nero (37-68 AD) is that he caused the great fire that devastated the city in 64 AD – and then blamed it on the Christians.

    He’ll also be asked to answer for the murders of his mother and wife and lax morality that started to eat away at the upstanding state.

    His immediate predecessor Tiberius (42 BC-37 AD), the adopted son of Augustus, faces a rap sheet saying he undermined what was left of the Roman Constitution and later stomped off to seclusion on Capri leaving his lieutenant Sejanus to run wild back in Rome.

    Then there was the undeniable fact that Christ was crucified on his watch.

    Both emperors are expected to claim they were framed and slandered by biased historians.

    Tiberius is also likely to plead a mitigating circumstance familiar to watchers of today’s court TV – his actions and inactions were caused by an untreated depression, probably the result of childhood trauma inflicted by his charismatic stepfather and domineering mother Livia.

    Each night from July 18 to 22, a 12-strong jury selected from among the audience at the Roman ruins will decide how Nero should be judged.

    Tiberius’s historical reputation will be weighed by similar juries on the nights of July 25 through 29.

    The trials have been scripted by playwright Vladimir Polchi and popular writer and journalist Corrado Augias.

    “We documented all the possible texts, classic and modern, from Tacitus and Plutarch to modern Russian novelist Mikhail Bulgakov, who wrote extensively about the early emperors,” Augias said.

    This summer will be the second time Nero has been put on trial.

    He was convicted more often than not during last year’s Emperors In The Dock series, which proved highly popular with the summer crowds here.

    Juries were more lenient with his illustrious co-defendant Julius Caesar, the war hero and dictator who detractors say dealt the death blow to the old Roman Republic.


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