Today (April 21) is the traditional date given for the founding of Rome. According to Roman mythology, the founders were Romulus and Remus, twin brothers and sons of the god Mars and Rhea Silvia. The twins were then abandoned by their parents as babies (because of a prophecy that they would overthrow their great-uncle Amulius)… Continue reading Happy birthday, Roma!
Did I make a great discovery in the Ludovisi collection of Roman antiquities?
While in Rome at the beginning of November, Corey Brennan (Associate Professor of Classics at Rutgers University), who generously invited me to stay at the American Academy of Rome, brought me to the Casino of the Villa Ludovisi (also known as Villa Aurora) for a private tour of the property, established in the 16th century by Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte and later bought by Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi. I was very excited to hear about the great work Brennan had done in the Villa with the collaboration of Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi who resides there. I was also of course very excited to get to see the only Caravaggio ceiling ever painted.
Never would have I imagined that I was about to make the discovery (still to be confirmed by experts) of an unnoticed sculptural head of Hadrian’s intended successor Lucius Aelius Caesar. The bust had been universally identified as “Marcus Aurelius” since 1880 (or maybe even 1633). But immediately after entering the Villa, I noticed the bust and thought, “wow, it’s Aelius Caesar!” Then Brennan told me that the bust was supposed to be Marcus Aurelius, and I immediately replied “It’s not Marcus Aurelius”, “I think it’s Lucius Aelius Caesar”.
However, this discovery now requires much study from experts to secure the identification of this Boncompagni Ludovisi bust as that of Lucius Aelius Caesar.
The Sala Aurora of the Casino Aurora, with frescoes by Guercino and Agostino Tassi (1621). The bust in question is in the niche at far left. Photo: David Neal Brennan
By ADBL editor Corey Brennan with Carole Raddato
Picture this. On a bright November 2019 morning, ancient history enthusiast Carole Raddato made her first visit to Rome’s Casino Aurora, to meet with HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi. Raddato was on the lookout for new items to add to her ambitious Following Hadriantravel and photography project, as well as to see the Casino Aurora’s famed Caravaggio ceiling painting ‘Giove, Nettuno e Plutone‘.
No sooner had Raddato entered the vestibule of the Casino Aurora that she spotted, 10 meters away in an oval niche above the principal door of the main sala, a fine bust of a bearded Roman.
“Lucius Aelius Caesar”, she immediately thought.
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Learn about how Hadrian created the Pantheon as we know it today from the ruins of previous temples built by Marcus Agrippa and Domitian. A guest post by Context Travel Tours. Hadrian - the great unifier of the Roman Empire, the admirer of Athens, the architect, the poet, the visionary. As one of Rome’s most… Continue reading Guest post: How Hadrian helped rebuild the Pantheon
One thousand nine hundred years ago, Hadrian celebrated his 43rd birthday in Rome, the first he spent in the capital as emperor. To mark the occasion, the emperor put on a gladiatorial show which lasted for six successive days. As reported by Dio Cassius and the Historia Augusta, many wild animals were slaughtered, including one… Continue reading 24 January AD 119 – Hadrian celebrates his 43rd birthday in Rome with gladiatorial games (#Hadrian1900)
One thousand nine hundred years ago, Hadrian celebrated the new year (year 872 Ab urbe condita) in Rome as consul for the third time (COS III) and appointed Publius Dasumius Rusticus as ordinary consul. Rusticus is known only from his consulship and the reason why he received this prestigious honour is not known. It may… Continue reading January AD 119 – Hadrian inaugurates the new year in Rome (#Hadrian1900)
Upon his return to Rome (see previous post here), Hadrian’s first task was to regain the people’s favours after the killing of four ex-consuls who were accused of plotting against him. To boost his popularity and win over public opinion in Rome, the new princeps introduced a number of important financial reforms such as distributing largesses and remitting… Continue reading The early reforms and economic policies of Hadrian (#Hadrian1900)
After a long journey travelling from Antioch, through Asia Minor and the Danube provinces, Hadrian finally arrived in Rome on 9 July AD 118, almost a year after his accession to the throne following the death of Trajan in Cilicia. His arrival (adventus) in the capital was celebrated by the Arval Brethren with solemn sacrifices… Continue reading 9 July AD 118 – Hadrian enters Rome (#Hadrian1900)
In 2014, Rome celebrated the bimillenary of the death of Emperor Augustus who took his last breath aged 75 in his villa in the town of Nola in AD 14. To commemorate this important milestone, the Italian capital launched a series of special events, including the opening of the Villa di Livia in Prima Porta and… Continue reading The Acts of the Arval Brethren of AD 118 (#Hadrian1900)
2017 was a very special year for me as the year marked the 1900th anniversary of the accession of Hadrian to the imperial throne and the start of my Hadrian 1900 project. I travelled to 9 countries, visited 57 new archaeological sites, 21 new archaeological museums and attended 4 exhibitions. Here’s an overview of my… Continue reading My 2017 travel round-up
While Hadrian was visiting the province of Egypt in late AD 130, his favourite, 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 sources of information about… Continue reading The Obelisk of Antinous