Museum, Nerva–Antonine dynasty, Roman Portraiture, Rome

The Nerva-Antonines in Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

The National Roman Museum Palazzo Massimo alle Terme in Rome houses one of the world’s most important collections of Greek and Roman art. On the four floors of the museum, sculptures, frescoes and mosaics, coins and jewels document the evolution of the Roman artistic culture from the late Republican age through Late Antiquity. In the rooms of the first floor are displayed numerous portraits of the members of the Nerva-Antonine dynasty.


The Nervan dynasty consisted of four emperors who ruled from 96 AD to 138 AD. These Emperors were Nerva, Trajan and Hadrian. The Antonine dynasty consisted of four emperors, ruling from 132 to 192 AD. These Emperors were Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus and Commodus.

Imperial portraiture of men and women in the early to mid 2nd century reflected increasing austerity and interest in the Greeks. The portraiture of Nerva and Trajan displayed a militaristic look whilst Hadrian changed Roman portrait style to reflect Greek styles. This style was kept by his successors Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. Imperial women set the style and fashion for elite hairstyles. The styles of Trajan’s wife Plotina and his niece Matidia demonstrate a simplified abstract vertical form based on the earlier curly, extravagant Flavian style. Both Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius’ wives chose to follow their respective husband’s choice of style, and are depicted with hairstyles that derive from Greece. (Source: Boundless: The Nervan-Antonines)

  • Nerva (ruled 96 – 98 AD)
  • Trajan (ruled 98 – 117 AD)
Trajan as Hercules-Silvanus.
  • Empress Plotina, wife of Trajan
Bust of Pompeia Plotina, from the Baths of Neptune at Ostia, 110-120 AD.
  • Hadrian (ruled 117 – 138 AD)
Fragmentary bust of Hadrian, from the area of Santa Bibiana at Termini station, ca. 117-120 AD.
  • Empress Sabina, wife of Hadrian
Bust of Sabina found on the Via Appia, 134-136 AD.
Sabina, found near near Vittorio Emanuele II, 136-138 AD.
  • Antinous, favorite of Hadrian
Head of Antinous, probably as Priest of Attis, found in Ostia, Campo della Magna Mater, in the spring of 1869.
  • Antoninus Pius (ruled 138 – 161 AD)
Marble statue of Antoninus Pius found in Terracina (Italy).
  • Marcus Aurelius (ruled 161 – 180 AD)
Marcus Aurelius, from Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa), 160-169 AD.
  • Empress Faustina the Younger, wife of Marcus Aurelius
Faustina the Younger, 160 AD.
  • Lucius Verus (ruled 161 – 169 AD)
  • Commodus (ruled 177 – 192 AD)
  • Lucilla,  daughter of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina the Younger
second daughter and third child of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Roman Empress Faustina the Younger.
  • Empress Crispina, wife of Commodus


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