Bronze statue of Hadrian from the legionary camp at Tel Shalem (Judaea), Israel Museum

A magnificent bronze statue of Hadrian, now on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, 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, 117–138 AD, Israel Museum, Jerusalem © Carole Raddato

Bronze statue of Hadrian, found at the Camp of the Sixth Roman Legion in Tel Shalem, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
© Carole Raddato

This remarkable statue was apparently used for the ritual worship of the emperor. Evidence suggests that it may have been erected in AD 132-133 to commemorate Hadrian’s personal involvement in suppressing the Bar Kokhba revolt or that it may have been set up in AD 135 to celebrate the conclusion of Hadrian’s reorganisation of Judaea into a new province named Syria-Palestina.

The statue probably portrays Hadrian in the pose of the supreme military commander greeting his troops (adlocutio) or as a conqueror stepping on a defeated enemy (a head of a youth was found next to the statue), though it’s far from certain that the head and the cuirass originally belong together.  Nevertheless, the Jerusalem bust is one of the finest bronze portraits to survive from antiquity. Only a few of this type of statues have been preserved in bronze, most of the surviving ones were made of marble. Hence the importance of this statue, which is further enhanced by its high quality of execution.

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, Greece or in Asia Minor, 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.

Bronze statue of Hadrian, found at the Camp of the Sixth Roman Legion in Tel Shalem, detail of the head, Israel Museum, Jerusalem © Carole Raddato

Bronze statue of Hadrian, found at the Camp of the Sixth Roman Legion in Tel Shalem, detail of the head, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
© Carole Raddato

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 breathplate depicting a mythological battle, 117–138 AD, Israel Museum, Jerusalem © Carole Raddato

Bronze statue of Hadrian, found at the Camp of the Sixth Roman Legion in Tel Shalem, detail of breastplate depicting a mythological battle, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
© Carole Raddato

As is very common with cuirassed statue decoration, the torso wears a cingulum, a military belt wrapped around the waist and tied at the front in a elaborate knot (also commonly referred to as the Hercules’ knot). A paladumentum, or military cloak, falls over his shoulders.

Bronze statue of Hadrian, detail of the military belt (cingulum), found at the Camp of the Sixth Roman Legion in Tel Shalem, Israel Museum, Jerusalem © Carole Raddato

Bronze statue of Hadrian, detail of the military belt (cingulum), found at the Camp of the Sixth Roman Legion in Tel Shalem, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
© Carole Raddato

About a year and a half after the discovery of the statue, a monumental inscription dedicated to Hadrian was discovered near the camp. The inscription had been part of a triumphal arch built in AD 136 in honour of the emperor. My next blog post will be about this arch, the largest ever found in Israel.

Sources:

  • G. Foerster, A Cuirassed Statue of Hadrian, IMN 16 (1980) 107-110* G. Foerster, A Cuirassed Bronze Statue of Hadrian, Atiqot (English Version) 17 (1985), pp. 139-157
  • RA Gergel, The Tel Shalem Hadrian Reconsidered , American Journal of Archaeology , Vol. 95, No. 2. (Apr., 1991), pp. 231-251
  • The Israel Museum, Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2005 (museum link)
Bronze statue of Hadrian, found at the Camp of the Sixth Roman Legion in Tel Shalem, 117–138 AD, Israel Museum, Jerusalem © Carole Raddato

Bronze statue of Hadrian, found at the Camp of the Sixth Roman Legion in Tel Shalem, 117–138 AD, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
© Carole Raddato

 

About followinghadrian

I came, I saw, I photographed... follow me in the footsteps of Hadrian!
This entry was posted in Hadrian, Hadrian portrait, Israel, Judaea, Museum, Photography, Roman Army, Roman Portraiture and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Bronze statue of Hadrian from the legionary camp at Tel Shalem (Judaea), Israel Museum

  1. Pingback: Bronze statue of Hadrian from the legionary cam...

  2. Pingback: The inscription dedicated to Hadrian from the Tel Shalem arch | FOLLOWING HADRIAN

  3. Pingback: Bronze statue of Hadrian from the legionary cam...

  4. this must be one of the best bronze statues of anyone, let alone Hadrian. Incredible! Always wonder how something as significant as this would originally have become buried and forgotten…

    Like

  5. Reblogged this on The World of Caroline Ludovici and commented:
    A beautiful bronze of Hadrian discovered by a tourist…

    Like

  6. Craig says:

    “…a duel between Aeneas, wearing a Phrygian cap, and Turnus, the king of the Turuli.” Turnus’ tribe was the Rutuli; I believe that you inverted your letters here when typing the article.

    Like

  7. Pingback: Around the Archaeology Blog-o-sphere Digest #9 | Doug's Archaeology

  8. Pingback: ‘Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze’ exhibition in Jerusalem | FOLLOWING HADRIAN

  9. Pingback: The emperor’s armour: Bronze statue of Hadrian from the legionary camp at Tel Shalem (Judaea), Israel Museum | Delving into History _ Periklis Deligiannis

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