The Natalis Antinoi and the collegium of Diana and Antinous in Lanuvium

November 27 was the day when the Natalis Antinoi, the birthday of Antinous, was celebrated. Although the exact year of his birth is uncertain (c. 110-112 AD), an inscription found in scores of fragments in Lanuvio (Italy) attests November 27 (V a.d. Kalendas Decembres) as his date of birth.

The inscription of the collegium of Diana and Antinous in Lanuvium, 136 AD.

The inscription of the collegium of Diana and Antinous in Lanuvium, 136 AD.

The marble inscription (CIL 14.2112) was discovered in 1816 in the ruins of the ancient city of Lanuvium located in Latium in the Alban Hills, a short distance from the Appian Way. Lanuvium was the birthplace of Antoninus Pius and Commodus and a concentration of Imperial villas grew up within its neighborhood. Lanuvium is also known for its celebrated temple of Juno Sospita of which part of the sanctuary’s portico can still be seen (see images here). A fine equestrian group in marble was also unearthed in the city in the 1880s. The group of statues, dating to the 1st century BC, includes life-size torsos of Roman cavalrymen and horses, probably commissioned to commemorate the victory of Lucius Licinius Murena in the Second Mithridatic War. This collection of sculptures is now the highlight of the Leeds City Museum (see images here).

The Natalis Antinoi (birthday of Antinous) was celebrated in Lanuvium by a collegium (association) dedicated to Antinous and the goddess Diana. The Lanuvian collegium was a prominent burial association which, among other activities, provided burial for their deceased members. The lengthy inscription, the longest and most important of the Lanuvian inscriptions, was originally erected in the temple of Antinous (tetrastylum). It contained the rules and regulations (by-laws) of the Lanuvian worshippers (cultores) of Diana and Antinous with detailed provisions for burial. Such collegia were strictly regulated by local rules but also by the Roman Senate’s regulations.

31049025872_cf0d573403_kThe inscription, dated to 9 June 136 AD, consists of two columns of respectively thirty-three and thirty-two lines and one heading line stretching across the entire marble panel. It operated with the support of a wealthy patron whose name was Lucius Caesennius Rufus at the time of the consulship of Lucius Ceionius Commodus and Sextus Vettulenus Civica Pompeianus.

Headline:

[L(ucio)   Ceionio]   Commodo   Sex(to)   Vettuleno   Civica Pompeiano co(n)s(ulibus) a(nte) d(iem) V Idus Iun(ias)

Column 1:

The text opens with an account of the college’s assembly on 9 June 136 AD (a little more than two years after the drowning of Antinous in October 130 AD), during which L. Ceionius Commodus, who happened to be patron of the municipium of Lanuvium, offered the interests on 15,000 sesterces to provide annually 800 sesterces: 400 sesterces on the birthday of Diana on August 13 and 400 sesterces on the birthday of Antinous on November 27. These financial benefactions (liberalitas) enabled the collegium to honor Diana and Antinous and also to pay for the funerals of its members.

[Lanuvii in] templo Antinoi in quo L(ucius) Caesennius Rufus / [patronu]s municipi(i) conventum haberi iusserat per L(ucium) Pompeium / / [—]um q(uin)q(uennalem) cultorum Dianae et Antinoi pollicitus est se / [conl]aturum eis ex liberalitate sua HS XV m(ilium) n(ummum) usum die / [natal]is Dianae Idib(us) Aug(ustis) HS CCCC n(ummos) et die natalis Antinoi V K(alendas) / [Dec(embres)] HS CCCC n(ummos) et praecepit legem ab ipsis constitutam sub tetra/[stylo A]ntinoi parte interiori perscribi in verba infra scripta

Col.1

Col.1 4-10

Col. I 4-9

Col. I 4-9

The members of the college’s assembly met in the tetrastyle temple of Antinous where the members of the collegium were told to inscribe their by-laws so that all the town’s residents could read them.

After citing the college’s date of creation, 1st January 133 AD, the senate’s approval and prayers for the emperor Hadrian and his family, the inscription states the rules (lex) of the association. The rules had to be read in their entirety before new members could enter the collegium so that later they “may not make a complain or leave a dispute” to their heirs. The association was composed only of men, freeborn, freedmen and slaves.

[quod fa]ust[um fe]lix salutareq(ue) sit Imp(eratori) Caesari Traiano Hadriano Aug(usto) totiusque / [do]mus [Aug(usti)] nobis [n]ostris collegioq(ue) nostro et bene adque(!) industrie contraxerimus ut /

Col. 1 12.

Col. 1 12.17

The by-laws determined membership’ subscriptions, monthly fees, fines for neglect of duties or misconduct, and the organisation procedure for members’ funerals (funus).

lexs collegi / [plac]uit universis ut quisquis in hoc collegium intrare voluerit dabit kapitulari nomine / HS C n(ummum) et vi[ni] boni amphoram item in menses sing(ulos) a(sses) V item placuit ut quisquis mensib(us) /

Each new member had to pay an entrance fee of 100 sesterces and an amphora of good wine as well as a monthly contribution of 5 asses. If the member was up-to-date with his monthly dues, when he died the association would pay his funeral expenses to the sum of 300 sesterces. However if he failed to pay his dues for six consecutive months he would “lose the money standing in his account for the funus“. Also, If a member died more than twenty Roman miles away from Lanuvium and his death was reported, the collegium would send members to take care of his funeral. If someone else took care of the funeral, the collegium was to pay this person the cost of the funeral.

Col. I 22-31

Col. I 22-31

Column 2:

Different rules applied for slave members who were denied burial by their masters. They had the right to a fictitious funeral (funus imaginarium) which involved the cremation of a wax figure (imago) on a pyre. Meanwhile, members who committed suicides lost the right to receive funeral honours.

Col. II 1-13

Col. II 1-13

The inscription continues by listing the dates of the six annual banquets organised by the collegium: the birthday of L. Caesennius Rufus’ father, on March 8, appears first among the birthday feasts listed, followed by the birthday of Antinous on November 27, of the goddess Diana on August 13, the birthday of Caesennius’s brother on August 20, his mother’s on September 12 and his own on December 14.

ordo cenarum VIII Id(us) Mar(tias) natali Caesenni [—] patris V Kal(endas) Dec(embres) nat(ali) Ant[inoi] / Idib(us) Aug(ustis) natali Dianae et collegi XIII K(alendas) Sept(embres) na[t(ali) Caes]enni Silvani fratr{a}is pr(idie) N[onas —] / natali Corneliae Proculae matris XIX K(alendas) Ian(uarias) na[tal(i) Cae]senni Rufi patr(oni) munic[ipii]

Each year a magistri (chairman) was chosen to preside the banquets and had to supply the food, namely four sardines, loaves of bread together with hot water and good wine. The quinquennalis (chief official) had to make sacrifices with wine and incense throughout his five years of service and provide the members with oil in the public baths twice a year on the birthdays of Diana and Antinous as well as an amphora of good wine for the banquets.

Col. II 14-21

Col. II 14-20

The inscriptions continues with the rules of conduct at banquets. Each act of misbehavior was punished with a fine suitable for the offense. For a member causing disturbance by moving seats, the fine was four sesterces. For “speaking abusively of another”, the fine was twelve sesterces. The largest fine amounted to twenty sesterces for the use of “abusive or insolent language to a quinquennalis (president)”.

30804864930_6429dd10b9_b

Col. II 2

Cult sites for Antinous, erections of statues and celebrations of festivals in his honor soon followed his death in late October of 130 AD. We also have record of the birthday of Antinous being celebrated in Egypt from a fragmentary papyrus from Oxyrhynchus (P.Oxy. 31 2553). The fragment, a part of a Calendar of Cult Offerings written in ancient Greek and dating to around 175 – 225 AD, mentions the birthday of Antinous with a description of three festivals held between the birthday of Antinous and the birthday of the deified Lucius Verus on December 15.

P.Oxy.XXXI 2553 Calendar of Cult Offerings

P.Oxy.XXXI 2553
Fragment of a Calendar of Cult Offerings mentioning Antinous’ birthday

The Lanuvian inscription can now be seen and read in the Baths of Diocletian in Rome.

The inscription of the collegium of Diana and Antinous in Lanuvium, 136 AD, National Museum of Rome, Baths of Diocletian, Rome

The inscription of the collegium of Diana and Antinous in Lanuvium, 136 AD, National Museum of Rome, Baths of Diocletian, Rome

Sources:

  • Andreas Bendlin – Associations, funerals, sociality, and Roman law: the collegium of Diana and Antinous in Lanuvium (CIL 14.2112) reconsidered in: M. Öhler (ed.), Aposteldekret und antikes Vereinswesen: Gemeinschaft und ihre Ordnung (WUNT I 280, Tübingen 2011), 207-296
  • Text in Latin – CIL XIV, n. 2112 (Epigraphik Datenbank Clauss/Slaby). LEX COLLEGII FUNERATICII LANUVINI – Regulations of a collegium funeraticium
  • Lanuvium – Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854)
  • Papyri.info Heidelberger Gesamtverzeichnis der griechischen Papyrusurkunden Ägyptens
  • Oxyrhynchus Online – P.Oxy.XXXI 2553
  • P.J. SIJPESTEIJN, “A New Document Concerning Hadrian’s Visit to Egypt,”
    Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte Bd. 18, H. 1 (Jan., 1969), pp. 109-118
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Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Fragment of a marble panel with Dionysiac subjects

This month’s sculpture from Hadrian’s Villa is a fragment of a dark grey marble panel with depictions of a centaur and a herm of Hercules.

Fragment of a marble panel with depiction of a musician centaur with thyrsus and drum and a herm of Herakles (Dionysiac subjects).

Fragment of a marble panel with depiction of a musician centaur and a herm of Herakles (Dionysiac subjects).

Formerly the property of the duke Braschi in Tivoli, the relief was acquired by the National Roman Museum in 1913 from Giorgio Sangiorgi, a well-known antiques dealer whose gallery was in the Palazzo Borghese in Rome. Today the relief is housed in the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme in Rome.

Reconstructed from three different fragments, this relief belonged to a frieze of which six other fragments are known and kept in the Vatican Museums and in a private collection. The frieze was organised into figured metopes with mythological scenes whilst the empty metopes between them were completed with inlays of marbles in different colours or with a plaque made of a different material.

The Palazzo Massimo fragment is beautifully decorated with a Centaur and a herm of Hercules. In the left metope, a young musician centaur, crowned with pine, rides towards the left. He carries a tympanum in one hand and the Bacchic thyrsus in the other.

Detail of the left metope showing a musician centaur.

Detail of the left metope showing a musician centaur.

In the right metope, of which the lower part is missing, stands a herm of the young Hercules in his lionskin, crowned with vine-leaves. Next to the herm lies a sacrificial tripod covered with offerings of flowers and fruits and a palm branch.

Detail of the right metope showing a herm of Hercules.

Detail of the right metope showing a herm of Hercules.

Depictions of Hercules and musician centaurs often appears in Dionysian scenes on Roman sarcophagi of the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.

The upper part of the relief is adorned with a vegetal frieze in which cupids are shown hunting. The lower part of the relief is decorated with marine scenes where a wolf, a horse, a wild-boar and a lion are represented as sea monsters.

Detail of the upper part of the marble relief with cupids hunting.

Detail of the upper part of the marble relief with cupids hunting.

The exact provenance of the relief within Hadrian’s Villa is not known but it might have come from the area of the Serapeum. It certainly decorated the lower or middle part of the wall of a room in the Villa. The complex has yielded many sculptures made of dark grey marble (bigio morato). Bigio morato was employed for high-quality statues of figures that required exceptional polishing like the so called Furietti Centaurs, the famous pair of centaurs in the Capitoline Museums.

Bibliography:

  • J. Charles-Gaffiot & H. Lavagne, Hadrien : trésors d’une villa impériale, Electa, Milan, 1999, p.194.
  • P. Pensabene, Fregio in marmo nero da Villa Adriana, Archaeologia Classica, XXVIII, 1976, p.125-160.
Posted in Hadrian's Villa, Roman art | Leave a comment

The Obelisk of Antinous

While Hadrian was visiting the province of Egypt in late 130 AD, his favorite Antinous drowned mysteriously in the Nile River. This tragic event led to the creation of a new divinity: Osirantinous, or Antinous as a manifestation of Osiris, the god who died and was reborn. One of our best primary sources for information about the new deity Osirantinous and the founding of Antinopolis, the new city created by Hadrian near the spot of Antinous’ death, is an obelisk found in Rome outside Porta Maggiore at the end of the 16th century. The Aswan pink granite obelisk, which now stands in the Pincian Hill Gardens, was commissioned by Hadrian after 130 AD to honour the deceased Antinous.

The Obelisk of Antinous (aslo known as the Pincian Obelisk or Barberini Obelisk) in its current location on the Pincian Hill in Rome.

The Obelisk of Antinous (aslo known as the Pincian Obelisk or Barberini Obelisk) in its current location on the Pincian Hill in Rome.

The obelisk was found in three pieces by the Saccocci brothers in their vineyards in 1570 and was later bought by Cardinal Francesco Barberini in 1632. It was then known as the Barberini Obelisk. Donna Cornelia Barberini-Colonna, a descendant of the Cardinal,  donated it to Pope Clement XIV in 1773 who moved it to the Cortile della Pigna in the Vatican. In 1822 it was erected on the Pincian hill by Pope Pius VII where it still stands. Since then it has been known as the Obelisco Pinciano.

The obelisk of Veranus, Rome. Engraving from Joannes Blaeu (1633).

“Obeliscus olim Veranus”, Rome. Engraving from Joannes Blaeu (1633). This engraving depicts the four sides of the obelisk of Antinous. In the background the obelisk is lying broken in three pieces in the court of the Palazzo Barberini in Rome.

In the 3rd century AD, the area of Porta Maggiore along the Aqua Claudia was the site of an estate that belonged to the emperor Elagabalus. In the 1950s, excavations near the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme revealed the structures of a vast private Hippodrome known as the Circus Varianus.

The remains of the Circus Varianus near the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome.

The remains of the Circus Varianus near the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome.

The construction of the circus possibly started around the time of Caracalla who was fond of chariot races. Its original length is thought to have been greater than that of the Circus Maximus (about 640 meters) but the race-track was later shortened by Elagabalus who inherited the estate. It is now generally agreed that the obelisk of Antinous was unearthed in the Circus and that Elagabalus brought it here in order to decorate the spina (the middle strip).

Roma: 1627. Folio, handcolored engraving (28 x 20.5 cm) by Giacomo Lauro (1550-1605) from Antiquae urbis splendor - See more at: http://www.borgantiquarian.com/pages/books/384/print-lauro-roman-colosseum/gladiatorial-combat-in-the-colosseum#sthash.5HLoUs1I.dpuf

Imaginative reconstruction of the Circus Varianus – Hippodromus Aureliani Imp., handcolored engraving by Giacomo Lauro (1550-1605) from Antiquae urbis splendor

Scholars are divided over where the obelisk may have stood originally. It was long thought to have been brought to Rome from Antinopolis in Egypt in the 1st half of the 3rd century AD.  However, new archaeological research and an inscription on the obelisk implying that it stood in the  “garden owned by the Prince of Rome” suggest that it may have been erected at the Antinoeion at Hadrian’s villa. The recent excavations at the imperial villa have uncovered the remains of a temple complex devoted to Antinous which consisted of two small tetrastyle temples (with four columns) facing each other in front of a semi-circular colonnaded exedra. A square (3 x 3 m) concrete foundation located exactly between the two temples is thought to have supported an obelisk.

View of the remains of the Antinoeion at Hadrian's Villa.

View of the remains of the Antinoeion at Hadrian’s Villa. The foundation remains made it possible to reconstruct the plan with reasonable precision.

Hypothetical reconstruction of the Temple complex. ggg

Hypothetical reconstruction of the Temple complex.
Z. Mari and S. Sgalambro, « The Antinoeion of Hadrian’s Villa : Interpretation and Architectural Reconstruction », American Journal of Archaeology 111, 2007, p. 85

The excavators of the Antinoeion, Zaccaria Mari and Sergio Sgalambro, speculate that the Pincian obelisk was originally erected on the square base in the centre of the complex. The hieroglyphic inscriptions on the obelisk seem to indicate that the obelisk marked the actual tomb of Antinous which led Mari and Sgalambro to suggest that the Antonioeion was the location of the tomb housing his remains. For them the term “garden” mentioned on the obelisk clearly means Hadrian’s Villa. A number of pieces of Egyptian-style sculptures were found at the Antinoeion during the excavations in 2002 inluding Egyptianizing architectural fragments and a small head with pharaonic headgear (see image here). Other statues, found earlier, probably came from the Antinoeion, like the Antinous-Osiris (now in the Vatican) as well as the Harpocrates (now in the Capitoline Museums).

In the mid-17th and 18th century, 15 Egyptian-style black marble statues of deities and priests were also unearthed (6 are in the Vatican Museums) as well as two telamons in red granite (colossal male figures used as columns – now in the Vatican Museums). They were all previously assigned to the so-called Serapeum, the monumental triclinium at the end of the Canopus.

Egyptianizing sculptures from the Antinoeion at Hadrian's Villa, 131-138 AD.

Egyptianizing sculptures from the Antinoeion at Hadrian’s Villa, 131-138 AD. Now in the Gregorian Egyptian Museum, Vatican.

It has also been suggested that the Obelisk stood on the Palatine Hill in Rome in the Gardens of Adonis (Horti Adonaea, near the temple of Elagabalus) on the site of the present Vigna Barberini. Another hypothesis by the French Egyptologist Jean-Claude Grenier places it in the Horti Domitiae in which Hadrian erected his mausoleum. His theory is based on the research conducted by G. di Vita-Evrard (1) who claimed that the Horti Domitiae belonged to the mother of Hadrian, and not to Domitia, the wife of Domitian. For Grenier, it would be reasonable to believe that Hadrian erected the obelisk on the Roman estate which he inherited from his mother. The “garden owned by the Prince of Rome” mentioned on the obelisk could, according to Grenier, be the Horti Domitiae and not Hadrian’s Villa. In addition, Grenier translates the preposition “of ” with “in” thus translating it to “garden owned by the Prince in Rome”. Clearly its location depends on the accurate rendering of the hieroglyphics.

The Obelisk of Antinous.

The Obelisk of Antinous.

The four faces of the obelisk are covered with reliefs and hieroglyphs. The reference to Hadrian’s wife Sabina being alive on the eastern face of the obelisk shows that it dates from between Antinous’ death in 130 AD and Sabina’s some time in 136 or early 137. “The bulls and their cows breed lustily and produce their offspring for him [Hadrian], to gladden his heart and that of his great and beloved royal consort, the Lady of Both Lands (Upper and Lower Egypt) [Queen of Egypt] and the cities, Sabina, who lives, is safe and in health, the Augusta who lives forever”.

Zaccaria Mari and Sergio Sgalambro tell us that the obelisk was certainly carved in Italy because of both its structural characteristics and the style of its hieroglyphics. Indeed, due to the confused phrasing of the hieroglyphs, there have been various interpretations of the hieroglyph text which was translated from a text written in Latin or Greek into Egyptian hieroglyphs, a language that was long dead by Hadrian’s time.

The obelisk hails Antinous as Osirantinous, the Reborn and Everlasting. Like Osiris, Antinous was believed to have been reborn from the waters of the Nile and, although dead and buried in a tomb (the presence of which was probably marked by the obelisk), Antinous will live on forever.

Statue of Antinous as Osiris, from Canopus (Egypt). Photo taken at the 'Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt' exhibition in Paris in 2015.

Statue of Antinous as Osiris, from Canopus (Egypt).
Photo taken at the ‘Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt’ exhibition in Paris in 2015.

The obelisk provides important information about Antinous, the new city Antinopolis, the temple of Antinous and his cult. It has a dedication on each side, one of which is in honour of Hadrian (east side). The other three sides are essentially devoted to Antinous as the new deity Osirantinous who is depicted before Thoth, Amun, and an indiscernible Egyptian deity (north, south and west sides).

East face relief.

East side relief. Pharaoh Hadrian facing Ra-Horakhty.

The east side relief depicts the Pharaoh Hadrian carrying an offering (missing) in his right hand to a seated falcon-headed god. The god is crowned with a sun-disk headdress and holds the scepter in his right hand and the ankh in his left side. He is Ra-Horakhty. Horus was a god of the sky, and Ra was the god of the sun. Thus, Ra-Horakhty was thought of as the god of the rising sun.

Cartouche of Hadrian.

Cartouche of Hadrian.

In the text below the relief, Antinous, blissfully happy in his apotheosis, requests the demiurge Ra-Hor-Akhty to reward Hadrian for what he has done for him by giving the Emperor and his wife Sabina a long and prosperous reign. Hadrian is referred to as “the ruler of every country” and a “lord of both lands ruling over both upper and lower Egypt. Hadrian’s wife gets a mention too and is referred to as the Queen of both countries.

Cartouche of Sabina.

Cartouche of Sabina.

Sabina accompanied Hadrian and Antinous on their tour of Egypt and proof is given to us through a commemorative graffiti carved on the colossal statue of Memnon in Thebes by the poetess Balbilla, an attendant of Empress Sabina.

“How desirable is the praise, which is made to (?) Osirantinoos, the justified. His heart rejoices greatly when he has recognized his own form, when he was reborn and saw his father Har-[achte]. He [praises him?] and says: Praise to you, Har-achte, the highest of the Gods! You who listen to the prayers of the Gods, of men, of the transfigured ones and of the dead. Hear (also) the entreaties that I entrust to you. Give recompense for that which your beloved son has done for me, your son (Hadrian) the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, who founded a doctrine in the temples with which the gods are pleased for all men, [Hadrian ] [the beloved of the Nile and the Gods], the Lord of Diadems who lives, is safe and healthy, who lives forever [just like the Sun] [in] a fresh beautiful youthful age, while he is a possessor of fortune (?), the ruler of every country […] Bulls and their cows join together happily (and) they produce much, which they bear for him, in order to gladden his heart and that of the great royal lady beloved by him, the queen of both countries, Sabina, who lives, is safe and healthy, Augusta, who lives forever… and the (Nile), the father of the Gods, impregnates the fields for them, and makes for them a great ocean at its time in order to flood both lands.”

North face relief (Antinous facing an indiscernible Egyptian deity).

South side relief. Antinous facing an indiscernible Egyptian deity.

The south face relief depicts Antinous facing a god whose image is erased. Antinous is adorned with the Shuti Crown composed of two tall feathers with a sun disk placed on ram’s horns, a rounded cap wrapping his hair, a false beard, broad Usekh collar and a long kilt.

South side of the Pincian Obelisk.

South side of the Pincian Obelisk.

The text below gives important information about the foundation of Antinopolis and the appearance of the Temple of Antinous; “[Antinoos] who is there (i.e. deceased), and who rests in this place, which is in the field of the lands (?) of the master (?) of…. of Rome, has been recognized as (?) a God in the divine places of Egypt. Temples have been founded for him, he has been adored as a god by the prophets and priests of Upper and Lower Egypt, and by the inhabitants of Egypt, all of them as there are. A city is named after his name…”. Antinopolis is described as a city populated by the “‘troops’ of the Greeks of the Two Lands and those who are in the temples of Egypt come here from their own places and are given cultivated land to make their life good beyond measure”. The text also describes his temple erected in this city which was “built of good white stone, surrounded by statues of the gods … and by numerous columns, made as they used to be made by our forefathers and also as they were made by the Greeks.”.

West side relief. Antinous facing Amon.

West side relief. Antinous facing Thot.

The west face relief depict Antinous approaching the Egyptian underworld god Thoth. The ibis-headed god, crowned with a sun disk, holds in his left hand the sceptre and raises the ankh with his right hand.

Cartouche of Antinous.

Cartouche of Antinous.

The text below evokes the man that was Antinous, his death decided by the gods and the funerary rites that followed; “Osirantinoos, the justified– he became a youth with a beautiful face that delighted the eyes…strength with clever (?) heart like one with strong arms he received an order of the Gods at the time of his passing. All uses of the hours of Osiris were repeated in him, including all of his passing. All uses of the hours of Osiris were repeated to him, including all his work as a mystery; his writings circulated, while the whole land was in…and…and…Such a thing has not earlier been done to this day- and similarly his altars, his temples, and his titles, and he breathed the breath of life.”

North face relief.

North face relief. Antinous facing Amun.

The north side relief depicts Antinous, dressed in traditional Egyptian clothing, facing the god Amun while the text below describes the games held in honor of Antinous in the city that bears his name.

“Antinoos, who is there (i.e., deceased) …a festival place (?) has been made in this city in Egypt, which is named for him, for the strong (youths) who are in this and, and for the rowing crews and for the… of the whole country and likewise for all the persons who are (?) with (?) the God Thoth, while there are prizes for them and crowns of flowers for their heads; they reward with every good thing. They place on his alters, they bring… daily which as daily (?) offerings (?).

North side of the Pincian Obelisk.

North side of the Pincian Obelisk.

All translations were from Boatwright’s Hadrian and the City of Rome (who used the translations of Erman “Die Religion der Agypter”,1934) and Birley’s Hadrian: The Restless Emperor.

(1) Ginette Di Vita-Evrard, « Le testament dit “de Dasumius” : testateur et bénéficiaires », Actas del coloquio internacional AEIGL, Epigrafia Juridica Romana, Pamplona, 1987, Pampelune, 1989, pp. 159-174.

Sources:

  • Alfred Grimm, Dieter Kessler, Hugo Meyer: Der Obelisk des Antinoos. Eine kommentierte Edition. Fink, München 1994
  • J.-Cl. Grenier, L’Osiris Antinoos, CENIMI, Montpellier, 2008. (pdf)
  • Z. Mari and S. Sgalambro, «The Antinoeion of Hadrian’s Villa: Interpretation and Architectural Reconstruction»,  American Journal of Archaeology  111,  2007,  p. 83 – 104 (pdf)
  • Birley, Anthony. Hadrian: The Restless Emperor. London, UK: Routledge, 1997.
  • Boatwright, Mary T. Hadrian and the City of Rome. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.
  • The Digital Hadrian’s Villa Project – Antinoeion
Posted in Antinous, Epigraphy, Hadrian, Hadrian's Villa, Rome | 4 Comments

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 , , , , | 5 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:

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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)
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