Friday, April 6, 2012

Augustus or Julius Caesar? Ostia head another puzzle

Lately, I've been working on images I took of the Roman remains of the ancient port of Ostia.  I went to the official website of the archaeological site of Ostia to look through their images to help me identify some of the sculptures I photographed there and stumbled across an image of a head labeled as Augustus:


The notes accompanying the image says it was found on the Street of the Vigiles, the firefighters and watchmen of the city.  I realize Augustus is credited with establishing the vigiles in 6 CE after levying a 4% tax on the sale of slaves to fund the new force.  But this portrait head looks more like heads I have seen of Julius Caesar rather than Augustus.  I realize the damage to the frontal part of the forehead makes it difficult to determine the hairline but the hair appears much more sparse and combed forward rather than Augustus' thick locks almost always depicted in a slightly longer, more casual style:

Augustus as Pontifex Maximus photographed
at the Palazzo Massimo in Rome by Mary Harrsch.

I wish I knew if there was any accompanying epigraphic evidence discovered with the head.

I also noticed a portrait head of Hadrian found in a lime kiln:

Head of the Emperor Hadrian found in a lime kiln
 in the Caseggiato del Serapide in Ostia.


It pains me to think of all of the exquisite sculpture that was unceremoniously rendered down to make plaster in the Middle Ages.  What a tragic loss to our cultural heritage!


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