Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Three mosaic panels with bucolic scenes

This month’s masterpiece from Hadrian’s Villa is a series of heavily restored mosaic panels depicting bucolic scenes with animals.

The first panel depicts a rocky landscape with a flock of goats peacefully grazing by a stream. A standing bronze statue dressed in a long tunic is standing on a rock. It holds a bunch of grapes in its right hand and a thyrsus in his left hand. The statue is probably an image of the god Dionysos meant to evoke a sacro-idyllic landscape. Dionysus was also considered to be a god of fertility and there seems to be a human phallus represented on the tablet next to the statue. The phallus was a symbol of his power, the ability to create new life.

Mosaic panel depicting a landscape with goats and sheeps and a statue of Dionysus holding thyrsus, from the Sala a Tre Navate (Hall with three ailes) in the Imperial Villa at Hadrian's Villa, Vatican Museums (Sala degli Animali)

Mosaic panel depicting a rocky landscape with goats by a stream and a standing statue of Dionysus.

The second mosaic panel is very similar. It also depicts a group of five goats by a stream but the figure of the god is seated in a rustic sanctuary.

Mosaic panel depicting a rocky landscape with goats by a stream and a seated statue of Dionysus.

Mosaic panel depicting a rocky landscape with goats by a stream and a seated statue of Dionysus.

The third panel features a lion attacking a wild bull while another bull looks on with fear.

Mosaic depicting a rocky landscape with a lion attacking bull.

Mosaic depicting a rocky landscape with a lion attacking bull.

These panels formed part of the floor decoration of a building in the Imperial Palace complex known today as the Sala a Tre Navate (Hall with Three Aisles). It belongs to the second phase of construction (125 – 134 AD) of the Villa. The building consisted of a vestibule that led to a triclinium with two rows of columns and a small rectangular niche. This type of room was called  “oecus corinthius” by Vitruvius. It was a kind of colonnade with a vaulted ceiling in the central part and a smooth ceiling over the external ambulatory.

Sala a Tre Navate (Hall of Three Aisles), Imperial Palace complex.

Sala a Tre Navate (Hall of Three Aisles), Imperial Palace complex.

The vestibule contained the extraordinary emblema depicting a pair of centaurs being attacked by wild cats. (see full post here)

Pair of Centaurs Fighting Wild Cats Mosaic from Hadrian's Villa, c. 130 AD, Altes Museum Berlin © Carole Raddato

Pair of Centaurs Fighting Wild Cats Mosaic from Hadrian’s Villa, c. 130 AD.

Today the Centaur mosaic is in the Altes Museum in Berlin while the others are in the Musei Vaticani in Rome, in the rooms Gabinetto delle Maschere (Cabinet of Masks) and Sala degni Animali (Halls of the Animals).

Sources:

  • Greek and Roman Mosaics by Umberto Pappalardo (2012, Abbeville Press)
  • Hadrian’s Villa Guide by Adembri Benedetta (2004, Electa)
Posted in Hadrian's Villa, Italy, Mythology, Roman art, Roman Mosaic, Roman villa | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Hadrianic Tondi on the Arch of Constantine

The Arch of Constantine, dedicated on 25 July 315 AD, stands in Rome between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill, at what was once the beginning of the Via Triumphalis. As described on its attic inscription, it commemorates Constantine’s victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge on 28 October 312 AD over the tyrant Maxentius who had ruled Rome since 306 AD. It is one of the largest surviving Roman triumphal arches.

The North side of the Arch of Constantine, Rome.

The North side of the Arch of Constantine, Rome.

Standing 21 metre high and 25.6 m wide, the arch is heavily decorated with parts of older monuments. While the monument’s structure was carved specifically for Constantine, most of its decorative sculptures and reliefs can be traced to the times of Trajan, Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius.

The statues of Dacians on top were taken from the Forum of Trajan. The relief panels between the statues were created for Marcus Aurelius. The eight roundels (tondi) were from a single monument dedicated to Hadrian.

Color coding showing likely sources of spolia used in the arch: Red: Trajan Blue: Hadrian Green: Marcus Aurelius

Color coding showing spolia used in the Arch of Constantine (south side):
Red: Trajan
Blue: Hadrian
Green: Marcus Aurelius

The eight large medallion reliefs (tondi) of the Hadrianic period, all in white Luna marble, decorate the north and south sides of the Arch. Their uniform circular shape of about 2.40 meters in diametre and common theme indicate that they originally belonged to a now lost monument in honour of Hadrian (possibly a tetrapylon). The tondi are arranged in pairs, two pairs on each side above the lateral archway. They depict Hadrian, Antinous and other members of the court hunting wild animals and sacrificing to four different deities.

The first pair of roundels on the south side depicts Antinous, Hadrian, an attendant and a friend of the court (amicus principis) departing for the hunt (left tondo) and sacrificing to Silvanus,  the Roman god of the woods and wild (right tondo).

Tondi Adrianei on the Arch of Constantine, Southern side - left lateral, LEFT: Boar hunt, RIGHT: Sacrifice to Diana, Rome

Tondi Adrianei on the Arch of Constantine, Southern side – left lateral, LEFT: Departure for the hunt, RIGHT: Sacrifice to Silvanus

The first pair of roundels on the south side depicts a bear hunt (left tondo) and a sacrifice to the goddess of hunting Diana (right tondo).

Tondi adrianei on the Arch of Constantine, Southern side - left lateral, LEFT: Bear hunt, RIGHT: Sacrifice to Diana, Rome

Tondi Adrianei on the Arch of Constantine, Southern side – left lateral, LEFT: Bear hunt, RIGHT: Sacrifice to Diana

On the north side, the left pair depicts a boar hunt (left tondo) and a sacrifice to Apollo (right tondo). The figure on the top left of the boar hunt relief is clearly identified as Antinous while Hadrian, on horseback and about to strike the boar with a spear, was recarved to resemble the young Constantine. The recarved emperor in the sacrifice scene is likely to be Licinius or Constantius Chlorus.

Tondi Adrianei on the Arch of Constantine, Northern side - left lateral, LEFT: Boar hunt, RIGHT: Sacrifice to Apollo

Tondi Adrianei on the Arch of Constantine, Northern side – left lateral, LEFT: Boar hunt, RIGHT: Sacrifice to Apollo

On the north side, the right pair depicts a lion hunt (left tondo) and a sacrifice to Hercules (right tondo). The figure of Hadrian in the hunt scene was recut to resemble the young Constantine while in the sacrifice scene the recarved emperor is either Licinius or Constantius Chlorus. The figure on the left of the hunt tondo may show Antinous as he was shortly before his death; with the fist signs of a beard, meaning he was no longer a young man. These tondi are framed in purple-red porphyry. This framing is only extant on this side of the northern facade.

Tondi adrianei on the Arch of Constantine, Northern side - right lateral, LEFT: Lion hunt, RIGHT: Sacrifice to Hercules

Tondi adrianei on the Arch of Constantine, Northern side – right lateral, LEFT: Lion hunt, RIGHT: Sacrifice to Hercules

Hadrian was a tireless hunter. He spent most of his youth in Italica occupied with this activity and he continued hunting wherever he went as Emperor. These reliefs testified to his dedication to hunting as also stated in literary sources.

“He [Hadrian] is said to have been enthusiastic about hunting. Indeed, he broke his collar-bone at this pursuit and came near getting his leg maimed; and to a city that he founded in Mysia he gave the name of Hadrianotherae. However, he did not neglect any of the duties of his office because of this pastime.” Dio Cass. 69.10.2-4

In Mysia Hadrian even founded a new city which he named Hadrianotherae (‘Hadrian’s Hunting Grounds’) to commemorate a particularly successful bear hunt. The head and neck of a she-bear appears on coinage minted in Hadrianotherae.

Coin of Hadrian minted in Hadrianotherae, Mysia (117-138 AD)>

Coin of Hadrian minted in Hadrianotherae, Mysia (117-138 AD) – Courtesy of WildWinds.com

A poem, so-called the “Lion Hunt Poem” and composed by the Alexandrian poet Pankrates, celebrated a lion hunt by Hadrian and Antinous which took place in the Libyan desert in 130 AD (read it here). The Emperor is said to have saved Antinous’ life during the hunt. Finally, a medallion struck in 131–132 AD shows Hadrian on horseback hunting a lion and carrying the legend VIRTVTI AVGVSTI.

Revers of Medallion depicting Hadrian on horseback shooting a lion with a spear with the legend VIRTVTI AVGVSTI.

Revers of Medallion depicting Hadrian on horseback striking a lion with a spear with the legend VIRTVTI AVGVSTI.

In time of peace, the imagery of Hadrian’s hunts was used as an expression of power and as a demonstration of Hadrian’s virtues.

Sources:

  • M.T. Boatwright, Hadrian and the City of Rome, Princeton, p.190-202
  • A.R. Birley, Hadrian  the Restless Emperor, London – New York 1997, p.241
  • Thorsten Opper, Hadrian: Empire and Conflict, Harvard University Press 2008, p.173
Posted in Antinous, Hadrian, Italy, Roman art, Roman Portraiture, Rome | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

‘Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze’ exhibition in Jerusalem

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem held until the end of June 2016 an exhibition dedicated to Hadrian: ‘Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze’. The exhibition was curated by David Merovah (Curator of Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine Archaeology) and Rachel Caine Kreinin (Associate Curator) from the Israel Museum together with Thorsten Opper (Curator of the Department of Greece and Rome) from the British Museum. The exhibition concluded the Israel Museum’s celebrations of its 50th anniversary which was held throughout 2015.

Official website of the exhibition: http://www.imj.org.il/en/exhibitions/2016/hadrian/

Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum

Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum

Of the many bronze portraits of Hadrian that are known to have existed, only three have survived from antiquity. This significant exhibition brought together, for the first time, these three extant bronze portraits, marking a symbolic return of the Emperor to Jerusalem, whose last visit to the city was in 130 AD.

Of these three portraits, one belongs to the Israel Museum and was found in a Roman camp near in Tel Shalem (northern Israel) not far from Beit Shean, the ancient Scythopolis The second, found in the River Thames in 1834 and belonging to the British Museum, was probably made to commemorate Hadrian’s visit to Britain in 122 AD. The last portrait, on loan from the Louvre, came from Egypt or Asia Minor.

Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum

Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum

All three bronze heads were originally part of a full body statue of Hadrian intended to glorify the imperial authority in the provinces and to be venerated in dedicated shrines. These statues, which were sent throughout the provinces as a demonstration of Rome’s imperial power, possessed political as well as cultic significance.

The bronze head recovered from the River Thames in London, near the remains of an ancient bridge, belonged to a larger than life-size statue that may have been erected on the bridge itself or in a public space such as a forum. It may have been created to commemorate Hadrian’s visit to Britain in 122 AD. This portrait gives insight into Hadrian’s leadership and the use of the imperial image as propaganda.

Bronze head of Hadrian, recovered from the River Thames in London in 1834, on loan from the British Museum. Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum

Bronze head of Hadrian, recovered from the River Thames in London in 1834, on loan from the British Museum.
Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum

The Thames head differs from Hadrian’s official portrait types and was probably made in a local workshop. The artist might have used a two-dimensional model, possibly a coin. The eyes may originally have been enamelled.

Another significant exhibit connected to the province of Britannia was a coin commemorating Hadrian’s visit to Britain. The Emperor appears on horseback before a parade of soldiers. The inscription below reads EXERC(ITUS) BRITANNICUS, that is [The Roman] army of Britain.

Coin commemorating Hadrian's visit to Britain, on loan from the British Museum, Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum

Coin commemorating Hadrian’s visit to Britain, 128—138 AD, on loan from the British Museum, Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum

The wall he famously constructed in the north of England was used as the backdrop image to the Israel Museum’s statue so as to highlight the multifaceted and contradictory character of Hadrian. Hadrian is considered to be one of the most enlightened and important Roman rulers but he is also inextricably linked with the brutal suppression of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, for which he earned the sobriquet “the bone-grinder”, the destroyer of Judea.

Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum

Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum

The magnificent bust from Tel Shalem was the centerpiece of the exhibition and is considered the most lifelike of the three exhibited portraits. Unlike the London’s head, the Israel Museum’s bust is likely to have been crafted in Rome, probably using the official representation of the Emperor as a model.

Bronze statue of Hadrian, found at the Camp of the Sixth Roman Legion in Tel Shalem. Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum.

Bronze statue of Hadrian, found at the Camp of the Sixth Roman Legion in Tel Shalem.
Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum.

This remarkable statue was found by chance by an American tourist in Tel Shalem (Beth Shean Valley, Israel) on 25th July 1975 while searching for ancient coins with a metal detector. Tel Shalem was once occupied by a detachment of the Sixth Roman Legion (Legio VI Ferrata). The 50 fragments of this statue were found in a building which stood at the center of the camp, perhaps in the principia (the headquarters tent or building).

Bronze statue of Hadrian, found at the Camp of the Sixth Roman Legion in Tel Shalem. Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum.

Bronze statue of Hadrian, found at the Camp of the Sixth Roman Legion in Tel Shalem.
Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum.

The head, cast in one piece and found intact, is one of the finest extant portraits of the Emperor and is of a type popular in the provinces; the Rollockenfrisur type. Probably cast in an imperial workshop in Rome, the statue features the standardized likeness of the Emperor, down to the unique shape of his earlobe, a symptom of the heart disease that eventually caused his death.

The cuirass is decorated with an enigmatic depiction of six nude warriors. It has been suggested that the scene depicts a duel between Aeneas, wearing a Phrygian cap, and Turnus, the king of the Rutuli. The scene may be seen as an allegory of the triumph of Hadrian over the Bar Kokhba revolt.

Bronze statue of Hadrian, found at the Camp of the Sixth Roman Legion in Tel Shalem, detail of breastplate depicting a mythological battle. Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum.

Detail of breastplate depicting a mythological battle.
Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum.

The third bronze portrait of Hadrian came from an imposing, full-length, larger-than-life statue of the Emperor. The head was probably produced in the eastern part of the empire, perhaps in Asia Minor or Egypt. This portrait differs slightly from the Tel Shalem bronze and does not correspond to any of the imperial portrait types defined for Hadrian. The face is longer than usual, the eyes are wider than was customary and the hooked, crooked nose is unique.

Portrait head of Hadrian, provenance unknown, 117-138 AD, on loan from the Louvre Museum Paris. Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum.

Portrait head of Hadrian, provenance unknown, 117-138 AD, on loan from the Louvre Museum Paris.
Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum.

These characteristics were long thought to indicate that it was a posthumous portrait made to resemble the Hadrian’s successor, Antonius Pius. A more recent study questions this theory and prefers to see this Louvre head as a variant of the type developed in the first years of Hadrian’s reign, in the period 118-121 AD.

Portrait head of Hadrian, provenance unknown, 117-138 AD, on loan from the Louvre Museum Paris. Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum.

Portrait head of Hadrian, provenance unknown, 117-138 AD, on loan from the Louvre Museum Paris.
Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum.

Each portrait had its unique characteristics and differed slightly in their depiction of the Emperor. Two of them clearly depict a surprising anatomical detail, a deep diagonal crease in both earlobes. Such creases have been on observed on patients suffering from heart disease and medical studies have established a connection between earlobe creases and this condition.

The exhibition was an opportunity to shed light on how these portraits were manufactured in antiquity. As was typical for large-scale bronze statuary, these bronzes were fashioned using the lost-wax casting technique. The ingenious ancient technique is beautifully illustrated in a video made to accompany the exhibition that combined stop motion and 2D animation. The animators visited a bronze casting workshop and collaborated with the curator and the restoration department of the museum. The head used in the film was a plaster replica of the original Hadrian’s bronze statue found in Tel-Shalem.

The exhibition also presented the two parts of an inscription that adorned a monumental arch dedicated to Hadrian by the 10th Legion stationed in Jerusalem during his visit in 130 AD. The two part were joined together for the first time since antiquity.

Latin inscription dedicated by the Tenth Fretensis Legion in honour of Hadrian, 130 AD, from Jerusalem, Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum

Latin inscription dedicated by the Tenth Fretensis Legion in honour of Hadrian, 130 AD, from Jerusalem.

The first fragment of the inscription was unearthed in 1903 and has been preserved by the Franciscan Studium Biblicum in Jerusalem.

Fragment of an imperial inscription in Latin from Aelia Capitolina dedicated to Hadrian, on display in the courtyard of Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum, Jerusalem

Fragment of an imperial inscription in Latin from Aelia Capitolina dedicated to Hadrian by the Franciscan Studium Biblicum.

The second fragment was discovered in 2014 during excavations near the Damascus Gate, in the Old City of Jerusalem, by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Latin inscription dedicated to Hadrian found in Jerusalem, it was incorporated in secondary use around the opening of a deep cistern © Carole Raddato

Fragment of a Latin inscription dedicated to Hadrian found in 2014 Jerusalem. It was incorporated in secondary use around the opening of a deep cistern.

Putting the two slabs together, the complete inscription reads (translation by Avner Ecker and Hannah Cotton of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem):

 ”To the Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, son of the deified Traianus Parthicus, grandson of the deified Nerva, high priest, invested with the tribunician power for the fourteen time, consul for the third time, father of the country [dedicated by] the Tenth Legion Fretensis (second hand) Antoniniana”

The word “Antoniniana” was added later on, during the reign of emperor Caracalla, proving that the original monument and inscription survived at least 100 years.

Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum

Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum

The other exhibits on show were found in caves in the Judaean Desert where some of the Jewish rebels hid in an unsuccessful attempt to evade Hadrian’s legions. They locked their houses and sought refuge in the desert until it was safe to go back home. Among the objects found in the caves and put on show were sandals, iron house keys, a knife, and a letter written by Bar Kokhba himselft to this subordinates.

Artefacts from the Bar Kochba caves in the Judean Desert. Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum.

Artefacts from the Bar Kochba caves in the Judean Desert.
Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum.

The caves were excavated in the 1960s. Alongside remains of human skeletons, they revealed a host of archaeological treasures, many of them are part of the Israel Museum’s permanent collection. Due to the arid climate, organic finds such as textiles, documents written on papyrus, garment and shoes, fruits, olive pits and grain kernels were also preserved.

House keys made of iron and wood found in the Cave of Letters in the Judean Desert, 132-138 AD. Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum

House keys made of iron and wood found in the Cave of Letters in the Judean Desert, 132-138 AD.
Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum

A unique source of information about the Bar Kokhba Revolt are the letters written on papyrus in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Most were written by Bar Kokhba himself and addressed to his subordinates. The texts show their author as a skilled commander who was often harsh and ruthless.

Letter in Aramaic written by Bar Kokhba to his subordonates, 132-135 AD. Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum.

Letter in Aramaic written by Bar Kokhba to his subordonates, 132-135 AD.
Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze, Israel Museum.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank David Mevorah, the curator of the exhibition, for the guiding tour he kindly gave me. This exhibition was of particular interest to me as it was a unique opportunity to see the only three surviving bronze portraits of Hadrian all at once.

Photo: Peter Lanyi

David Mevorah, accompanied to his associate curator Rachel Caine Kreinin, giving me a guided tour of the exhibition.
Photo: Peter Lanyi

The inscription also had a very special meaning for me since I was in Jerusalem in October 2014 when the newly discovered fragment was presented to the public for the first time. I was told that the fragments would go separate ways again once the exhibition was over, making this trip to Jerusalem the only opportunity to see the inscription as it was 1900 years ago.

Here I am in front of the Latin inscription dedicated to Hadrian reveiled in Jerusalem on Wednesday 20th October, it was incorporated in secondary use around the opening of a deep cistern © Carole Raddato

Me in front of the Latin inscription dedicated to Hadrian unveiled in Jerusalem on Wednesday 20th October

 

Posted in Britannia, Epigraphy, Exhibition, Hadrian, Hadrian portrait, Israel, Judaea | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Introducing my new website: Following Hadrian Photography

I am happy to announce the launch of my new website Following Hadrian Photography which can be viewed at www.followinghadrianphotography.com/.

FHP

My goal with this new website is to further expand the content of my Following Hadrian blog. Having now visited more than 500 archaeological sites and museums and having accumulated around 90,000 pictures, I needed a new platform to create and share more content.

With my Hadrian 1900 project starting next year, I intend to reserve this blog for Hadrian related content while I will use the new website to cover all the other places I have visited. The focus is on photography rather than text. Each publication includes a short description of the archaeological site or museum and a portfolio of some of my best shots.

I have kept the navigation of the site easy and simple by organising the content by country. The main menu at the top of the site shows all the countries already covered. Under each country you will see a drop-down menu of all the archaeological sites featured within the selected country. If you click on the country’s name, a map of all the archaeological sites visited in the selected country will appear (look here for Turkey). The website will always be a work in progress and new archaeological sites and museums will be added on a regular basis.

Over the last weeks I have been busy adding new content, especially from Israel since I travelled there just a week ago. My next destination will be Albania at the beginning of July so expect an Albanian section soon.

I hope you enjoy the new website. If you like it, I encourage you to enter your email address at the bottom of the home page and to follow my website in order to receive notifications of new content by email.

Posted in Photography | Tagged | 8 Comments

Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Imperial portraits of Hadrian’s successors

This month’s sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa are portraits of Roman emperors and empresses who rose to power after Hadrian.

After the death of Hadrian in 138 AD, the villa was occasionally used by his various successors. Busts of the emperors Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus, Septimius Severus and Caracalla have been found on the premises of the Villa.

Portrait of Antoninus Pius, from Hadrian's Villa, c. 161 AD. Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

Portrait of Antoninus Pius, from Hadrian’s Villa, c. 161 AD.
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

Colossal portrait of Faustina the Elder (wife of Antoninus Pius), from the Pantanello at Hadrian's Villa, 138-140 AD. Vatican Museums, Rome

Colossal portrait of Faustina the Elder (wife of Antoninus Pius), from the Pantanello at Hadrian’s Villa, 138-140 AD.
Vatican Museums, Rome

Portrait of Marcus Aurelius, from Hadrian's Villa, 160-169 AD. Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

Portrait of Marcus Aurelius, from Hadrian’s Villa, 160-169 AD.
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

Portrait of empress Faustina the Younger (daughter of Antoninus Pius and wife of Marcus Aurelius). Musei Capitolini, Rome

Portrait of empress Faustina the Younger (daughter of Antoninus Pius and wife of Marcus Aurelius).
Musei Capitolini, Rome

Portrait of Bruttia Crispina, wife of Commodus, from Hadrian's Villa, c. 178 AD. Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

Portrait of Bruttia Crispina, wife of Commodus, from Hadrian’s Villa, c. 178 AD.
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

Portrait of Caracalla, from Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli. Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

Portrait of Caracalla, from Hadrian’s Villa.
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

Two more imperial portraits are on display in the Antiquarium of the Canopus at Hadrian’s Villa. Since photography is not permitted in the museum, I do not have any images for them. However you can see the portrait of Septimius Severus here and of his wife Julia Domna here. The portrait of Lucius Verus is on display in the Hermitage in St Petersburg.

Frescoes on the ceiling of one of the rooms of the West Substructures of the Canopus dating from Septimius Severus’ reign have also been found. These further attest the use of the Villa as an Imperial residence at least until the Severan dynasty in the early 3rd century.

Sources:

  • Adembri, Benedetta, “Hadrian’s Villa”, Martellago (Venice): Mondadori Electa S.p.A. , 2005
  • Franceschini, Marina De “Function and meaning of Hadrian’s Villa”, Soprintendenza Archeologica del Lazio, 2005 <http://www.villa-adriana.net/&gt;
Posted in Hadrian's Villa, Roman Portraiture | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Marguerite Yourcenar and Hadrian in Bavay (France)

The Forum Antique de Bavay, located in northern France, is currently hosting a small exhibition devoted to the book Mémoires d’Hadrien (Memoirs of Hadrian). 

The exhibition sheds light on the genesis of Mémoires d’Hadrien and presents archaeological objects and ancient texts. It provides insight into the meticulous work behind Marguerite Yourcenar’s historic novel, compiling postcards and photographs of works and places relating to her subject, studying all the ancient sources with a passionate and serious enthusiasm. On display are books, manuscript, statuary, portrait busts, coins as well as different artefacts from the time of Hadrian and the Antonines. Fifty works are on loan from the Louvre, the British Museum, Hadrian’s Villa, the Museum Ingres in Montauban, the Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon and the Musée Saint-Raymond in Toulouse. It is the first exhibition in France about Mémoires d’Hadrien.

The story between Hadrian and Marguerite Yourcenar is a long and fascinating one which lasted some 36 years before Mémoires d’Hadrien finally got published. It begins in 1915 when Yourcenar, as a 12 year old girl,  visits the British Museum and sees for the first time the bronze head of Hadrian which had been recovered from the River Tames. A poem, ‘L’Apparition’, probably written when she was 16, features a statue of Antinous in the gardens at Tivoli. But it was not before her visit to Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli in 1924 that the young Marguerite, who was 21 years old at the time, decided to write about the emperor Hadrian.

Marguerite Yourcenar in the ruins of Hadrian's Villa in 1924.

Marguerite Yourcenar in the ruins of Hadrian’s Villa in 1924.

The writing Mémoires d’Hadrien was not going to be an easy task. Two years after her visit to Tivoli, Yourcenar wrote a dialogue entitled ‘Antinoos’ and submitted it to the publisher Fasquelle. The manuscript was rejected by Fasquelle and destroyed by the author. She resumed her historical researches between 1934 and 1937 while on a trip to the United States. She undertook extensive reading in the libraries of Yale University in order to expand her knowledge of classical antiquity. It was at this time that she started writing the first lines of the manuscript, including the opening scene of the novel when Hadrian’s visit to his physician Hermogenes. When WWII broke out in 1939, she exiled herself to the United States, armed only with some notes made at Yale, a map of the Roman Empire at Trajan’s death and a postcard of the bronze head of Antinous from the Archaeological Museum in Florence. She entered a long period of uncertainty and abandoned her literary ambitions going as far as burning all her notes. Yet fate would dictate otherwise.

Renaissance copy of a bronze head of Antinous, probably executed at the time of Cosimo I before 1574, National Archaeological Museum of Florence, Italy

Renaissance copy of a bronze head of Antinous, probably executed at the time of Cosimo I before 1574, National Archaeological Museum of Florence, Italy

On a cold day in January 1949, Youcernar, now aged 46, received a trunk from Switzerland full of personal effects she had left in Europe. The trunk contained lots of family papers, old letters and an accumulation of correspondence with people she had forgotten, most of which ended up in the fireplace. While throwing the letters mechanically into fire, she came upon some pages that started with the line “Mon cher Marc” (My dear Mark). Youcernar recounts in her “Reflections on the Composition of Memoirs of Hadrian”: “I could not recall the name at all. It was several minutes before I remembered that Mark stood here for Marcus Aurelius, and that I had in hand a fragment of the lost manuscript. From that moment there was no question but that this book must be taken up again, whatever the cost”.

This extraordinary chance event marked the beginning of the rewriting of Mémoires d’Hadrien which was finally completed and published in 1951. The novel took the form of a lengthy letter written by the aged and ill Emperor Hadrian to the 17-year-old but already thoughtful Marcus Aurelius. As the book opens, Hadrian is sixty and dying. His life, he says, seems to him “a shapeless mass,” but in this memoir he will try to make some sense of it. To this day the book ranks as one of the finest historical novels ever written and is considered to be among the 100 greatest books of all time.

Cover of the original edition published by Plon in 1951.

“Nothing is slower than the true birth of a man.”

― Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian

Memoirs of Hadrian has been translated into all the major wold languages.

Memoirs of Hadrian has been translated into all the major wold languages.

Through the works exhibited, Hadrian is presented as the philhellene, the builder of many cities, the poet, the political, the hunter, the traveller who spent most of his reign visiting the provinces and the lover. It is with the first page of Memoirs of Hadrian that we enter the exhibition.

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The creation lab

The exhibition is divided into five thematic sections. The first section is devoted to the research and archives of Marguerite Yourcenar. We find ourselves immersed in her office and discover the intensive study done by the author. On display in this section are workbooks in which she amassed documents and photographs related of Hadrian as well as annotated manuscripts.

Marguerite Yourcenar’s studio in her house in Northeast Harbor, Maine (USA) Exhibition: Marguerite Yourcenar et l’empereur Hadrien, une réécriture de l’Antiquité – Bavay

Marguerite Yourcenar’s studio in her house in Northeast Harbor, Maine (USA)
Exhibition: Marguerite Yourcenar et l’empereur Hadrien, une réécriture de l’Antiquité – Bavay

In the notes appended to the novel, Yourcenar mentions the reading she did prior to painting the emperor’s portrait: “The same night I re-opened two to of the volumes which had also just returned to me, remnants of a library in large part lost. One was Dio Cassius in Henri Estienne’s beautiful printing, and the other a volume of an ordinary edition of Historia Augusta, the two principal sources of Hadrian’s life, purchased at the time that I was intending to write this book.”

The power, the Imperial House, the legacy

The second section introduces the visitor to Hadrian’s family and to a man anxious to make his mark on history. Portrait busts of Trajan, his adopted father, of his wife Sabina and of Marcus Aurelius, his adopted grandson, are displayed alongside a portrait of Hadrian from Carthage, a copy of the bronze head from the River Thames and a cameo with portraits of Trajan and his wife Plotina.

“Officially a Roman emperor is said to be born in Rome, but it was in Italica that I was born; it was upon that dry but fertile country that I later superposed so many regions of the world.”

― Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian

“To build is to elaborate with earth, to put a human mark upon a landscape, modifying it forever thereby; […]”

― Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian

Hadrian’s great building projects across the empire are perhaps his most enduring legacy; his grand circular mausoleum located on the right bank of the Tiber in Rome, the wall that still snakes across northern England, his vast villa at Tivoli and the Pantheon, one of the best-preserved and most beautiful of all classical buildings.

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“My military successes might have earned me enmity from a lesser man than Trajan. But courage was the only language which he grasped at once; it works straight to his heart.”

― Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian

At the age of 14, Hadrian entered the military in Italica. However, he was more interested in going hunting and enjoying other civilian luxuries. Trajan took him back to Rome and Hadrian entered public service in preparation for a senatorial carrier. He began to follow the traditional career of a Roman senator, advancing through a conventional series of posts. A statue base set up in 112 AD in the Theatre of Dionysus in Athens commemorates his whole senatorial career. Hadrian held the Athenian archonship in 111-112 AD and this was the occasion for the setting up of the monument. The career enumerated confirms the description of Hadrian’s career given in the beginning of the Historia Augusta.

Honorary inscription in Latin and Greek set up in the Theatre of Dionysus in Athens in 112 AD.

The war, peace, the frontiers

Yourcenar, like Hadrian, had a passion for travel and mainly lived abroad, especially in Greece and Italy. In this third section it is the statesman that we discover through his travels across the Empire but also through his strict military discipline and frontier policy. Hadrian was determined to consolidate the Roman Empire’s borders, in the North as well as in the South.

“What was important was that someone should be in opposition to the policy of conquest, envisaging its consequences and the final aim, and should prepare himself, if possible, to repair its errors.”

― Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian

In the summer of 128 AD, while staying in the legionary base of Lambaesis in the province of Africa (modern-day Algeria), Hadrian observed the soldiers from the Legio III Augusta exercising. After observing each unit, he addressed several groups of soldiers in a speech (aldocutio). A substantial part of the speeches he delivered has survived (see here).

I had to point out to the officers only one slight error, a group of horses left without cover during a feigned attack on open ground; my prefect Cornelianus satisfied me in every respect.

― Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian

In Britannia, Hadrian ordered the construction of a 117 kilometre long wall which led to the production of “souvenir” objects in the likeness of the small enamelled bronze cup (patera) from Amiens.

The Amiens Patera, a bronze bowl with a single long handle found at Amiens. Exhibition: Marguerite Yourcenar et l’empereur Hadrien, une réécriture de l’Antiquité – Bavay (France)

The Amiens Patera, a bronze bowl with a single long handle found at Amiens.
Exhibition: Marguerite Yourcenar et l’empereur Hadrien, une réécriture de l’Antiquité – Bavay

The Amiens Patera, is a bronze bowl with a single long handle found in 1979 in Amiens, France (a stopping place for Roman soldiers). It features a representation of Hadrian’s Wall and a list of several Roman forts. The six forts listed on the Amiens Patera are Maia, Aballava, Uxelodunum, Camboglanna, Banna and Aesica.

“Plotinopolis, Hadrianopolis, Antinoopolis, Hadrianotherae. … I have multiplied these human beehives as much as possible. Plumber and mason, engineer and architect preside at the births of cities […].”

― Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian

No other Roman emperor travelled as much as Hadrian. He was famed for his endless journeys around the empire and devoted at least half of his reign to the inspection of the provinces. He founded new cities like Plotinopolis in Thrace (named in honour of Trajan’s Empress, Plotina) or Antinoopolis in Egypt (named in honour of Antinous). He also refounded Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina in Judea, the first step towards the Bar Kokbah Jewish revolt. There were several cities named Hadrianopolis, including the modern towns of Edirne, Mersin and Niksar (Turkey) and Dropull (Albania).

Inscription in honour of Sextus Cornelius Dexter, prefect of the Syrian fleet, (CIL VIII 8934)

Inscription in honour of Sextus Cornelius Dexter, prefect of the Syrian fleet (praefectus classis Syriacae). He was honored by Hadrian during the Jewish Revolt (CIL VIII 8934).
Photo (C) Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Hervé Lewandowski

The aesthete, the hunter

Hadrian was a great patron of the arts and he especially valued reading. He is reported to have preferred older, more archaic authors; Cato, Ennius and Caelius Antipater rather than Cicero, Virgil and Sallust (Historia Augusta, Hadrian 16.6).

“Poetry transformed me: initiation into death itself will not carry me farther along into another world than does a dusk of Virgil. In later years I came to prefer the roughness of Ennius, so close to the sacred origins of our race, or Lucretius’ bitter wisdom; or to Homer’s noble ease the homely parsimony of Hesiod.”

― Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian

Hadrian wrote an autobiography which was probably in the form of letters to his adopted son and successor Antoninus Pius. Unfortunately this is now lost except for a short excerpt on a papyrus fragment from Egypt. Hadrian also wrote poetry in both Latin and Greek like his poem Animula.

The west facade in Pentelic marble with columns of Karystos marble of the Library of Hadrian, Athens

The west facade of the Library of Hadrian in Athens.

“A new project long occupied me, and has not ceased to do so, namely, the construction of the Odeon, a model library provided with halls for courses and lectures to serve as a center of Greek culture in Rome. I made it less splendid than the new library at Ephesus, built three or four years before, and gave it less grace and elegance than the library of Athens, but I intend to make this foundation a close second to, if not the equal of, the Museum of Alexandria […].”

― Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian

“My hunts in Tuscany have helped me as emperor to judge the courage or the resources of high officials; I have chosen or eliminated more than one statesman in this way. In later years, in Bithynia and Cappadocia, I made the great drives for game a pretext for festival, a kind of autumnal triumph in the woods of Asia. But the companion of my last hunts died young, and my taste for these violent pleasures has greatly abated since his departure.”

― Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian

Hadrian was a passionate and excessive hunter. He spent most of his youth in Italica occupied with this pursuit and he continued hunting wherever he went as Emperor. The tondi reused in the Arch of Constantine testified to his devotion to hunting or the creation of the city Hadrianoutherai (Hadrian’s Hunts) in Asia Minor where he had killed a she-bear. Hadrian loved his horse, the gallant Borysthenes whom he honoured with an epigraph for the grave he had built for him. In time of peace, the imagery of Hadrian’s hunts was used as an expression of power and as a demonstration of Hadrian’s virtues.

Hadrianic roundel (tondo) on the Arch of Constantine depicting a bear hunt, Southern side - left lateral, Rome

Hadrianic roundel (tondo) on the Arch of Constantine depicting a bear hunt.

The Antinous cult

The exhibition ends with the love story between the emperor and the beautiful young boy from Bithynia. A magnificent colossal bust from the Louvre, the Antinous Mondragone, one of Yourcenar’s favourite images of Antinous, is exhibited alongside a marble head from the Musée Ingres.

Marguerite Yourcenar et l’empereur Hadrien, une réécriture de l’Antiquité

Marguerite Yourcenar et l’empereur Hadrien, une réécriture de l’Antiquité

“[…] we felt, nevertheless, that we had gone back into that heroic world where lovers die for each other.”

― Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian

Head of Antinous that would have been part of a colossal statue with a wooden torso and marble extremities (acrolithic cult statue).

Head of Antinous that would have been part of a colossal statue with a wooden torso and marble extremities (acrolithic cult statue).

Antinous was likely introduced to Hadrian in 123 AD, before being taken to Italy for a higher education. He had become the favourite of Hadrian by 128 AD, when he was taken on a tour of the Empire as part of Hadrian’s personal retinue. Antinous accompanied Hadrian during his attendance of the annual Eleusinian Mysteries in Athens, and was with him when he killed the fierce Marousian lion in the Libyan Desert (a poem by the Alexandrian Greek Pankrates describes in epic detail the hunt). The Emperor is said to have saved Antinous’ life during the hunt.

Little is known of Antinous’ life, but Marguerite Yourcenar imagined a shy and reserved Antinous. She described him as provincial and ill-at-ease amongst the imperial court but totally devoted to his lover.

Marble head of Antinous, Musée Ingres, Montauban (France).

Following his death in the Nile in October 130 AD, Hadrian deified Antinous and founded and organised a cult devoted to his worship that spread throughout the Empire. Hadrian founded the city of Antinopolis close to Antinous’ place of death, which became a cultic centre for the worship of Osiris-Antinous. 

“Antinoopolis, dearest of all, born on the site of sorrow, is confined to a narrow band of arid soil between the river and the cliffs.”

― Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian

“Little soul, gentle and drifting, guest and companion of my body, now you will dwell below in pallid places, stark and bare; there you will abandon your play of yore. But one moment still, let us gaze together on these familiar shores, on these objects which doubtless we shall not see again….Let us try, if we can, to enter into death with open eyes…”

― Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian

Visitor information:

The exhibition “Marguerite Yourcenar et l’empereur Hadrien, une réécriture de l’Antiquité” runs until 30 August 2016 at the Forum Antique de Bavay.

The Roman Forum of Bavay is open everyday from 9am to 12pm and from 2pm to 6pm.

Closing: Wednesday and Saturday morning and bank holidays (1st January, 1st May, 1st and 11th November and 25th December).

Annual closing: 1st fortnight of September and 2nd half of January.

All admission tickets include admission to the permanent collection, the archaeological site and the temporary exhibition. A virtual tour of the Forum is also included.

Prices: full 5€; reduced 3€; free for children “under 18”.

Official website: www.forumantique.lenord.fr

Antique Forum of Bavay

Antique Forum of Bavay

Reference:

  • Exhibition catalogue: Marguerite Yourcenar et l’empereur Hadrien : Une réecriture de l’Antiquité (in French – buy it on Amazon)

Exhibition catalogue

Other sources:

Posted in Antinous, Exhibition, Hadrian, Marguerite Yourcenar | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Headless statue of Athena

This month’s sculpture from Hadrian’s Villa is a headless statue of Athena of the Vescovali-Arezzo Type and made of Luna marble.

Headless statue of Athena of a Vescovali-Arezzo Type (modelled on a bronze prototype of the 4th century BC, from the portico of the pecile at Hadrian's Villa, 138 - 150 AD, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

Headless statue of Athena of a Vescovali-Arezzo Type, from Hadrian’s Villa, 138 – 150 AD, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

The goddess is depicted wrapped in a himation (cloak). She wears her aegis bordered with small snakes over the shoulders. She stands with her left hand resting on her hip and would have carried a spear in her (lost) right hand.

In the Homeric corpus, the aegis was Zeus’ magical breastplate (or shield) which he lent to his daughter Athena in honor of her role in principled warfare. In most accounts, it was described as a goat-skin construction bearing a Gorgon’s head at its center.

Headless statue of Athena of a Vescovali-Arezzo Type (modelled on a bronze prototype of the 4th century BC, from the portico of the pecile at Hadrian's Villa, 138 - 150 AD, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

Headless statue of Athena of a Vescovali-Arezzo Type, from Hadrian’s Villa, 138 – 150 AD, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

The statue was presumably made according to a Greek model attributed to Praxiteles’ workshop. A large number of Roman copies have survived and one complete figure of this type can be seen in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (see image here). Two other near complete copies are housed in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (see here) as well as in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (see image here). On the basis of the arrangement and treatment of the drapery and the attitude of the figure (the hand resting on the hip), all these Roman replicas have been connected with one of the figures carved in relief on a pedestal from Mantineia in the Greek Peloponnese.

Relief slab from a pedestal, three Muses holding musical instruments and scrolls, found in Mantineia, it formed the revetment of a pedestal for the statues of the Delian trinity (Leto, Apollo & Artemis), c. 340 BC, National Archaeological Museum of Athens

Relief slab from a pedestal, three Muses holding musical instruments and scrolls, found in Mantineia, it formed the revetment of a pedestal for the statues of the Delian trinity (Leto, Apollo & Artemis), c. 340 BC, National Archaeological Museum of Athens

The marble slab above is part of a series of three slabs found in Mantineia in 1887 by the French School at Athens (École française d’Athènes). At the time of the discovery, the French archaeologist Gustave Fougères made a connection between Pausanias’ report of Praxiteles making statues of Leto, Apollo, and Artemis for the Temple of Leto at Mantineia and the marble slabs. In his ‘Description of Greece’ (8.9.1), Pausanias noted that images of Muses decorated the pedestal of this cult statue group. On this basis, it has been assumed that the reliefs were contemporary to Praxiteles’ work and were probably carved by one of the great sculptor’s pupils.

The statue of Athena from Hadrian’s Villa was found in 1913/14 during excavations in the great dining hall (triclinium) of the Three Exedras and is dated to the mid-second century AD (after Hadrian, the villa was occasionally used by his various successors). It was on display in the villa paired with a second statue of the same type, now in the Antiquarium at Hadrian’s Villa (see image here).

This statue is on display at the National Roman Museum – Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome.

References:

  • Joachim Raeder, Die statuarische Ausstattung der Villa Hadriana bei Tivoli (Peter Lang: Frankfurt am Main, Bern: 1963) 31.
  • W. Amelung, Die Basis des Praxiteles aus Mantinea (Munich 1895)
  • Gustave Fougères, « Bas-reliefs de Mantinée. Apollon et les Muses », Bulletin de correspondance hellénique (1888) XII, p. 105-128, pl. I, II et III (see here)
Posted in Hadrian's Villa, Italy, Museum, Roman art | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Felix dies natalis, Roma!

The she-wolf feeding the twins Romulus and Remus, the most famous image associated with the founding of Rome © Carole Raddato

The she-wolf feeding the twins Romulus and Remus, the most famous image associated with the founding of Rome
© Carole Raddato

Today (21st April) is the traditional date given for the founding of Rome. According to Roman mythology, the founders were Romulus and Remus, twin brothers and supposed sons of the god Mars and the priestess Rhea Silvia. The twins were then abandoned by their parents as babies (because of a prophecy that they would overthrow their great-uncle Amulius), but were saved by a she-wolf who nursed them. Romulus killed his brother after a vicious quarrel and went on to establish a city which he named after himself.

Although the original date given by Roman historians for the founding of Rome varied between 758 and 728 BC, the official date was set as 753 BC. Archaeologists have traced evidences of villages on the Palatine Hill dating back to around the 9th century BC.

The ancient Romans celebrated the founding of their city every April 21st in the festival of Palilia. This festival was originally aimed at cleansing both sheep and shepherds in honour of Pales, the goddess of shepherds, but was later associated with the founding or Rome. The connection between these two characters of the festival is evident as the founders of the city, Romulus and Remus, grew up to be shepherds like their adoptive father.

Representation of the lupercal: Romulus and Remus fed by a she-wolf, surrounded by representations of the Tiber and the Palatine © Carole Raddato

Representation of the lupercal: Romulus and Remus fed by a she-wolf, surrounded by representations of the Tiber and the Palatine
© Carole Raddato

This panel comes from a sacrificial altar dedicated to the divine couple of Mars and Venus found at Ostia (Italy). This side of the altar shows a scene with the she-wolf nursing Romulus and Remus, a personification of the river Tiber, and two fleeing shepherds, probably Faustulus, adoptive father of the twins and his brother Faustinus. On the left is the personification of the Palatine, also dressed as a shepherd. The eagle of Jupiter, symbolically hovering over the sacred grotto of the Lupercal, indicates that the events are unfolding under divine auspices.

Representation of the lupercal: Romulus and Remus fed by a she-wolf, surrounded by representations of the Tiber and the Palatine © Carole Raddato

Detail of representation of the lupercal: Romulus and Remus fed by a she-wolf, surrounded by representations of the Tiber and the Palatine
© Carole Raddato

The altar carries various inscriptions. One of the inscription tells us that the altar was later used as a pedestal for a bronze statue of the god Silvanus. The consuls mentioned in the text inscribed securely date the inscription to October 1st, 124 AD. In this period Hadrian promoted renewed interest in themes related to the origins of Rome.

Gold Aureus of Hadrian struck in 121 AD to commemorate games held on April 21, A.D.121 to mark the 874th birthday of the city of Rome (courtesy of Stack's Bowers)

Gold Aureus of Hadrian struck to commemorate games held on April 21, 121 AD to mark the 874th birthday of the city of Rome
(courtesy of Stack’s Bowers)

This aureus of Hadrian was struck in 121 AD to commemorate the circus games that marked the 874th birthday of the city of Rome. The reverse of the coin depicts the Genius of the Circus Maximus with the legend “ANN. DCCCLXXIIII NAT. VRB. P. CIR. CON.” meaning that in the 874th year, circus games were for the first time instituted (Circenses constituta) for the natalis urbis romae (birthday of the city).

In the same year, while celebrating the Parilia festival, Hadrian founded a new temple dedicated to Venus, the divine ancestress of the Roman people, and to Roma herself. The temple was to stand on the north side of the Sacred Way on a great podium, stretching from just beyond the Arch of Titus and almost as far as the Colosseum. The two goddesses would be placed back to back with one cella facing toward the Colosseum, the other facing towards the Forum. As Dio Cassius tells us, Hadrian himself seems to have personally designed the temple. However, construction of the temple did not begin until 125 AD.

Temple of Venus and Roma, Upper Via Sacra, Rome

Temple of Venus and Roma, Upper Via Sacra, Rome
© Carole Raddato

Having dedicated the temple, Hadrian changed the name of the Parilia festival to Romaia (the Natalis Urbis Romae) and associated the new Temple to the celebrations of the birthday of Rome. In addition Hadrian retraced the sacred boundary of the pomerium, the original line ploughed by Romulus around the walls of the original city. In doing so, Hadrian renewed the festival of Parilia in associating himself with Romulus.

One other coin minted in Rome in the year 121 proclaimed a new Golden Age (saeculum aureum).

HADRIAN, Gold Aureus (7.09 gms), Rome Mint, 121 AD.

HADRIAN, Gold Aureus “Saeculum Aureum” Rome Mint, 121 AD.
(courtesy of Stack’s Bowers)

This gold aureus featured on the reverse the Genius of the golden age “Saeculum Aureum” holding the zodiac and the phoenix on a globe, suggesting rebirth and renewal. Through this type of coin, Hadrian aimed at bringing the empire to its pinnacle while emphasising the power of Rome within the vast empire.

Links and further reading:

Sources:

  • Boatwright, M.T. (1987) Hadrian and the City of Rome, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, pp. 121-122
  • Birley, Anthony R. (1997) Hadrian: The Restless Emperor, London and New York: Routledge, pp. 112
  • Marie-Henriette Quet (2004). L’aureus au zodiaque d’Hadrien, première image de l’éternité cyclique dans l’idéologie et l’imaginaire temporel romains – Revue numismatique  Volume 6 Numéro 160 pp. 119-154 (link)
Posted in Hadrian, Rome, SPQR | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The cuirassed statue of Hadrian from Ancyra’s theatre (Ankara, Turkey)

Hadrian and his travels have often served as the guiding thread for my travels. However my recent trip to Turkey had a different focus, the Hittite civilization, with one of the highlight being a visit to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. After dazzling at the magnificent artifacts on display on the main floor of the museum I found out that there was also a section dedicated to the Roman period in Ancyra which featured, to my big surprise, parts of a statue of Hadrian.

Ancyra was the capital of the Roman province of Galatia, located in the highlands of central Anatolia (modern central Turkey). A Hittite settlement in the Bronze Age, Ancyra was later populated by Phrygians, Mysians, Persians, Greeks, and even Gauls from the Tectosages tribe. The latter, who had come all the way from what is now southern France, gave their name to the province. Ancyra became the capital of the Roman Province of Galatia in 25 BC. The Greek name for the city was Ankyra, which meant « anchor », and is still recognizable in its modern form “Ankara”. The anchor became the symbol of the city and most of the coins from Ancyra have an anchor on them. The city minted coins of Nero, Nerva, Trajan, Antoninus Pius, Lucius Verus, Commodus and Caracalla, while one of the magistrates of the city, a certain Julius Saturninus, minted coins to honour Antinous. Like many cities of the eastern Roman empire, Ancyra enjoyed a period of considerable prosperity under Hadrian and became a major military base.

The most important Roman monument of Ancyra is the Monumentum Ancyranum (the Temple of Augustus and Rome) which contains the official record of the Acts of Augustus, known as the Res Gestae Divi Augusti, an inscription cut in marble on the walls of this temple (see images here). This temple made Ancyra the neokoros (Temple Warden) of the Imperial Cult in Galatia.

Another monument of importance is the Roman theatre of Ancyra which is located on the northwest cliff of the Ankara Castle, southeast of the Temple of Augustus and Rome and the Roman Baths. It was first discovered in 1982 and rescue excavations began in 1983 by the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museum. The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations continued the excavations until 1986.

The Roman Theatre of Ancyra, 2nd half of the 1st century AD - beg of the 2nd century AD, Ankara

The Roman Theatre of Ancyra, beginning of the 2nd century AD, Ankara

The excavations uncovered a considerable portion of a typical Roman theatre dated back to early 1st century AD and 2nd century AD by different scholars. The remains of the theatre consist of the foundations of the cavea, the orchestra and part of its floor pavement, the lower part of the scaenae frons and stage building as well as two vaulted parados. Built on a natural slope of the hill, the theatre is approximately 50 x 43.5 metres across while the orchestra is about 13 metres in diametre. During the Byzantine Era, the theatre was transformed into a pool which was used to stage water games. It is believed to have hosted between 3,000 and 5,000 people, a capacity typical of the small theatre typology among the theatres in Anatolia (like the ones at the Asclepeion of Pergamon and at Rhodiapolis).

The Roman Theatre of Ancyra, beginning of the 2nd century AD, Ankara

The Roman Theatre of Ancyra, beginning of the 2nd century AD, Ankara

The excavations also revealed a number of sculptural pieces that once adorned the stage building of the theatre. The finds include a high-quality female head in coloured marble, a large fragment of a nude statue carrying an armour, a colossal head of Silenus with wreath in high relief as well as fragments of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian.

Finds from the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

Finds from the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

A total of 26 fragments were discovered but only a few are exhibited in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in a section of the museum dedicated to the finds from the theatre.

Fragments of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian found in the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

Fragments of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian found in the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

The fragment of the top part of the head helped to identify the statue on account of the hairstyle. Hadrian’s hair is styled in luxurious curls and waves running from the back of his head to his forehead.

Top part of the head of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian found in the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

Forehead and upper parts of hair of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian found in the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

This portrait of Hadrian is likely to belong to the “Imperatori 32” type, one of the six sculptural types attributed to the extant corpus of Hadrian portraits by M. Wegner, a German specialist on Roman portraiture (a seventh type was added later on). Approximately 160 portraits of Hadrian have survived, and the “Imperatori 32” type was a type popular in Italy and in the provinces. The restrained carving of the forehead endows Hadrian with a youthful and idealised appearance.

Based on the reconstruction drawing (M. Türkmen – C. Zoroğlu) photographed at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, the statue depicted Hadrian dressed in a cuirass and a short tunic under a military cloak (paludamentum) drapped over his left shoulder and falling down vertically over his left arm. The cuirass was decorated with the gorgoneion as well as two griffins confronting each other and partly covered by a cingulum, a military belt wrapped around the waist and tied at the front in a elaborate knot. His left hand was probably holding a spear. Next to his left leg, a tree trunk acted as support.

The other fragments of the statue include the lower front of the breastplate, a part of the shoulder belt and rivet, a part of the head of the gorgoneion, decorative pieces of the pteruge (the bottom of the breastplate), a part of the right and left leg, a part of right arm, as well as parts of the paludamentum.

Fragments of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian found in the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

Fragment of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian found in the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

Fragments of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian found in the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

Fragments of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian found in the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

Fragments of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian found in the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

Fragments of a cuirassed statue of Hadrian found in the Roman theatre of Ancyra (Ankara), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

The “Imperatori 32” type is connected with Hadrian’s becoming Pater Patriae (Father of the Fatherland) in 127-128 AD. The dating corresponds with the creation of a festival in Ancyra called the mystikos agon (mystic contest) for the worship of Dionysus. Hadrian as “neos Dionysos” (new Dionysus) was included in the ceremonies jointly with the god. He may have appointed the first agonothete (superintendent) of this mystic festival who was a prominent and wealthy Ancyran citizen called Ulpius Aelius Pompeianus. The erection of a statue of Hadrian in the theatre of Ancyra may be linked to the Dionysus festival.

Hadrian passed through the city of Ancyra with his army on his way back to Rome in October 117 AD soon after he had been proclaimed emperor in Antioch. It may be on this occasion that Hadrian first allowed himself to be worshipped as the new Dionysus. One inscription from Ancyra testifies to Hadrian’s association with the mystic festival in the form of a honorific decree dated to 128 – 129 AD (IGR 3.209). The decree, inscribed on the pedestal made for a statue of Ulpius Aelius Pompeianus, included Hadrian as neos Dionysus in the ceremonies in Ancyra jointly with the god. It is now displayed in the Open Air Museum of the Roman Baths (see images here).

Decree of of the Association of Performing Artists dating to the reign of Hadrian (AD 117-138) in honour of Ulpius Aelius Pompeianus (public domain)

Decree of of the Association of Performing Artists dating to the reign of Hadrian (AD 117-138) in honour of Ulpius Aelius Pompeianus
(public domain)

In addition, one other inscription records that one of the benefactors of the festival should be honoured with two gilded shield-mounted images. One such image was discovered in Ankara in 1947 during foundation excavations in the district of Ulus, west of the theatre. These portraits, mounted on a round bronze shield (imago clipeata), were usually erected in civic buildings or public areas. This rare find can be seen in the Roman gallery of the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.

Round todo with bust of Ulpius Aelius Pompeianus, the Agonothetes of the sacred games of Ancyra, Hadrianic period (117-138 AD), discovered in 1950s during foundation excavations in Ankara, Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

Round todo with bust of Ulpius Aelius Pompeianus, the Agonothetes of the sacred games of Ancyra, Hadrianic period (117-138 AD), discovered in 1950s during foundation excavations in Ankara, Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

The bust was previously identified as a portrayal of the emperor Trajan, but recent epigraphic research conducted by Prof. Dr. Stephen Mitchell had made it possible to link one of the portraits mentioned in the second decree of the Artists’ association to one of the benefactors of the mystikos agon. Accordingly, Prof. Dr. Stephen Mitchell identify the round tondo bust as a portrait either of Ulpius Aelius Pompeianus, or of an anonymous benefactor of about the same period.

The statue of Hadrian from Ancyra is one of six cuirassed statues of the emperor that have been found across Anatolia. Two come from Perge, one from Troy, another one comes from Tlos and finally one headless statue comes from Aphrodisias.

Hadrian Statue from Troia IX (BC 85 AD 450), found in the Odeon, Troy (Ilium), Canakkale Museum Turkey

Hadrian Statue from Troia IX (BC 85 AD 450), found in the Odeon, Troy (Ilium), Canakkale Museum Turkey

My Hadrian1900 project will bring me back to Ankara in October 2017. I will be following the Ancyra – Nicea route that Hadrian took on his way to Rome as the new Emperor (the so-called Pilgrim’s Road connecting Byzantium to Antiochia). It will be the occasion to write more about Hadrian’s connections with Ancyra.

Sources & references:

  • Evers, Cécile. 1994. Les portraits d’Hadrien typologie et ateliers. Bruxelles: Académie royale de Belgique.
  • Candemir Zoroğlu. 2014. The Cuirassed Statue of Hadrian at Ankyra Theatre. Ankara University, Journal of the Archaeology Department.
  • Stephen Mitchell. 2014. The Trajanic Tondo from Roman Ankara: In Search of the Identity of a Roman Masterpiece. Ankara Araştırmaları Dergisi – Journal of Ankara Studies. (read pdf here)
  • Mary T. Boatwright. 2000. Hadrian and the Cities of the Roman Empire. Princeton University Press. pp. 101
  • Mitchell, S., French, D. 2012: The Greek and Latin Inscriptions of Ankara (Ancyra) Vol. 1: From Augustus to the end of the third century AD. Munich
  • Epigraphic database for ancient Asia Minor http://www.epigraphik.uni-hamburg.de/database
Posted in Archaeology Travel, Asia Minor, Epigraphy, Galatia, Hadrian, Museum, Turkey | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: The Lansdowne Relief

This month’s sculpture from Hadrian’s Villa is a dark grey limestone relief decorated with mythological scenes.

The relief was unearthed in 1769 during excavations undertook by the art dealer and archaeologist Gavin Hamilton who sold it to Lord Lansdowne. The latter was an avid collector of antiquities who owned a fine collection of classical sculptures until most of it was sold and dispersed in 1930 (including the Lansdowne Antinous, the Lansdowne Amazon and the Lansdowne Hercules).

The Lansdowne relief, found at Hadrian's Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The Lansdowne relief, found at Hadrian’s Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Today the Lansdowne Relief is displayed in the Greek and Roman Gallery of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England. It is the Department of Antiquity’s newest acquisition, although it has been on loan to the Museum since 2004 and on display since 2010.

The Relief is beautifully decorated with scenes from Greek mythology, all of which are connected to the sea. The first scene depicts Odysseus and the sirens. Odysseus was curious as to what the Sirens would sing to him and, following Circe’s instructions, plugged his men’s ears with beeswax and had them bind him to the mast of the ship.

The Lansdowne relief, detail depicting Odysseus and the Sirens, found at Hadrian's Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The Lansdowne relief, detail depicting Odysseus and the Sirens, found at Hadrian’s Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The second scene, in the middle of the relief, depicts the wine god Dionysos fleeing the Tyrrhenian pirates after being kidnapped and taken aboard their boat. The pirates, who promised to take him to Naxos sailed to Asia instead, intending to sell him into slavery. In anger Dionysos filled their vessel with vines and wild animals, and when the pirates jumped into the sea he transformed them into dolphins.

The Lansdowne relief, detail of Dionysos on a boat fleeing pirates, found at Hadrian's Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The Lansdowne relief, detail of Dionysos on a boat fleeing pirates, found at Hadrian’s Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The third scene depicts the Argonauts sailing past the rapacious Stymphalian birds. The Stymphalian Birds were a flock of man-eating birds which haunted Lake Stymphalis in Arcadia. Heracles defeated them as his sixth labour, using first a pair of krotala (clappers, similar to modern castanets) to frighten and drive them away with the noise, then shooting them down with a bow and arrows or with a slingshot. The surviving birds were forced to take refuge on the island of Aretias (modern-day Giresun Island on the southeastern coast of the Black Sea), where they later faced the Argonauts. The birds were frightened away by the sound of the Argonauts’ swords clanging on shields.

The Lansdowne relief, detail with scene depicting the Argonauts with the man-eating Stymphalian birds, found at Hadrian's Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The Lansdowne relief, detail with scene depicting the Argonauts with the man-eating Stymphalian birds, found at Hadrian’s Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Framing the relief are friezes showing scenes of hunting, sea creatures and figures emerging from garlands and leaves. It is possible that small statuettes stood in the empty niches which are now empty.

The Lansdowne relief, detail of the frieze showing scenes of hunting, found at Hadrian's Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The Lansdowne relief, detail of the frieze showing scenes of hunting, found at Hadrian’s Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The Lansdowne relief, detail of the frieze showing sea creatures, found at Hadrian's Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The Lansdowne relief, detail of the frieze showing sea creatures, found at Hadrian’s Villa, 120-138 AD, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The relief was found in an area of Hadrian’s villa known as the Pantanello (little swamp). The discoveries at the Pantanello were considerable and many sculptures and architectural fragments are now in major international collections including a colossal head of Hercules and two busts of Hadrian.

Read more about this relief here.

Posted in Hadrian's Villa, Museum, Mythology, Roman art, Roman villa | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments