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Arte Romana

Arte Romana

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Published by Ester Vigilanti

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Published by: Ester Vigilanti on Jan 08, 2013
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02/17/2013

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The Museum’s well-preserved bronze portrait of a
small boy, perhaps four years old, is a vivid example
of an accurately depicted child. The head is lifesized,
and is worked for insertion into a herm (tapering
pillar or column) of wood or stone. The child has a
plump round face, large eyes, and a small mouth with
thin lips. Still intact are the inlaid silver “whites”
and copper irises that would have given the eyes of

the burnished bust a vividly lifelike quality. The boy’s
slightly protruding ears, as well as his hairstyle, with
locks brushed forward over the brow, curled over the
ears, and left tousled on top, are similar to those of
members of the Julio-Claudian imperial family.
This resemblance, as well as the quality of the
workmanship, have led some scholars to suggest that
this portrait represents Nero, the last emperor of
that dynasty, as a small child. Nero, unlike any of
his predecessors, had five o cial portrait types that
documented important dates in his life, and there are
extant several images of him in his earliest portrait
type. However, he was already thirteen years old when
he was adopted by his great-uncle/stepfather, the
emperor Claudius, and this is clearly a much younger
child. Perhaps it represents a child whose parents were
admirers of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and wished
the portrait of their child to re ect that allegiance.
In the absence of an inscription, the identity of the
Museum’s fine bust remains uncertain.

155

daily life in ancient rome

discussion questions

s Describe the facial features of the little boy in

this portrait. Do you think he looks like a real
little boy? Why or why not? What mood do you
think he is in?

sHow old do you think the child represented in

this portrait is?Why?

sDo you think that this child was an important

member of his family? Why or why not?

s Compare this bust with the bronze portrait statue

of an aristocratic boy illustrated in Art of the Classical
World
, no. 405. Which boy do you think is older?
Why? Compare their features and hairstyles. Do
you think they might be related? Why or why not?

sDo you have any portraits of yourself? Who has

made them? What materials are they made of?
What purposes do they serve?

157

daily life in ancient rome

32.Diploma for a sailor from Trajan’s

fleet at Misenum

Roman, Mid-Imperial, Trajanic, a.d. 113–114

Bronze; overall: 3 x 2 x in.

(7.8 x 7 x 0.2 cm)

Rogers Fund, 1923 (23.160.52)

points to consider

s The Roman navy was first developed in the later

Republic, and it proved crucial for the main-
tenance of the substantial imperial territories
amassed by the end of the first century a.d.

s Originally only Roman citizens of means could

serve in the armed forces. Later, however, in
order to get enough soldiers and sailors, men
were recruited from the imperial territories, and
they served as auxilia. Upon honorable discharge
at the end of a twenty-five-year term of service,
they were awarded Roman citizenship with its
benefits of protection under Roman law, voting
rights, and the legitimization of their marriage
and children.

s Such a discharged auxiliary received a bronze

diploma comprising two sheets of bronze
that could be hung up for display, confirming
his formal discharge and bestowing on him
Roman citizenship.

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