Studia IV


The over one hundred portraits now in the Romanian public collections are to be divided in two classes: the portraits acquired abroad by their former owners and the portraits found in Romania; all these portraits, even of the Greeks, were made in Roman times. Naturally, a lecture is not a complete catalogue and consequently I shall limit my subject only to those important unpublished or bad published pieces which were identified as representing personages of ancient history and culture. From the first class I have chosen 5 portraits and from the second l7 pieces.

platon2aEpicurHerma  Platon-Epicur

1) Double marble herm with the heads of two philosophers, perhaps Platon and Epicur, unattested by Richter in this combination. The likeness of the portraits is approximative; it seems to be rather a generic garden herm, unfinished in the area of heads junction. Attic workshop of antonine period.

Lucius Antonius2) This is the single known portrait in the round of Lucius Antonius, Marcus' too ambitious brother, whose life and deeds were so well described by Cassius Dio (48, 4-16). Our identification is based only on coins, his profile being precisely imitated by Backer the counterfeiter, and agrees with the position of J.M.C.Toynbee (Roman Historical Portraits, pp. 58-59, fig. 79). This marble is marvelous worked, being perhaps one of the few original confessive heads we have from the last years of the republic. In the Pergam gymnasium he had a statue made by Menofilos (Bernoulli) to commemorate his quaestorship in Asia held about 50 B.C., under the proconsulate of Q. Minucius Thermus.
Trajan3) Marble head of Trajan, slightly inclined to the right, acquired and discovered in Rome at the beginning of this century. The main characteristic is the pressed mouth area of the figure. This peculiarity is also common to three pieces published by Gross and dated in the first years of the reign (the group of the first portrait): a head seen by the German scholar at an antiquarian in Rome (also inclined to the right, to remember Alexander the Great), the head in Liebieghaus (Frankfurt am Main) and the head in Palazzo Corsini al Prato - Florence (classed by Gross in the second group). Other similitudes can be invoked: the head in the von Aulock Collection in Istanbul (Jale Inan and Elisabeth Alföldi-Rosenbaum, Porträtplastik, No. 40, p1. 34), that in the stores of Vatican (No. 648), published by Kaschnitz-Weinberg, that colossal in the Museum of Sevilla (García y Bellido), that of a heroic statue, now lost, which was one of the first pieces of the Berlin Collection (Gerald Heres).

Gross proposed an insular workshop which migrated to Rome. He was perhaps not far from the right apprehension because male and female heads discovered in Cos and dated at the beginning of the second century (Luciano Laurenzi) are very similar to this trajanic head type in the same degree as those discovered at Afrodisias, now in the local museum, and covering the period from Claudius to Constantine (Jale Inan, Porträtplastik). It is clear that the workshop which migrated to Rome was one from Afrodisias and the coan pieces only a step to Italy.

antoniuspius4) Antoninus Pius; marble head discovered and acquired in Egypt, at the same time as Trajan's head from his collection. This piece is of Formia type (Wegner), illustrated by the portraits in Napoli (No. 60 31) and München (No. 337); this type was copied in provinces, especially in Egypt. The flattened face and rear part of the head is a characteristic of some workshops in northern Africa, together with the approaching of the eyes at the root of the nose. The line on the lower lip and the absence of the eyeball indicate perhaps a copy after a bronze posthumous apotheotic statue.

marcusaurelius5) Marble head of the young Marcus Aurelius from the same Sutzu' s collection, acquired abroad at the beginning of this century. The portrait is slightly over natural size and very similar to that in the Museum of the Roman Forum (No. 1211). Wegner dates this Roman bust in 147 A.D.

Apart few exceptions, the portraits found in Romania were made in local workshops, that is in Dobrudja (Scythia Minor) and Dacia.

Homer6) On the Black Sea dobrudjan coast was found a Homer's slightly over natural size marble head of Epimenides type (Gisela Richter), similar to that from Olbia, now in the Museum of History in Moscow (the hair without banderole, as the dobrudjan head). The eyes are opened as those of the head in the Boehringer Collection in Geneva, and the general expressiveness of the face is just that of the portrait in München. Perhaps it is a work of one of the local workshops of the second century A.D.

traian-7-color7) Also from the dobrudjan coast comes a marble head of Trajan, now in Severeanu Collection at Bucharest. The tip of the nose was badly restored. The face is that of an old, sick man with the general characteristics of Trajan. The obsolete carnation of the figure as a feature of Trajan's face in his last years is confirmed on one hand by the bronze medallion discovered at Ankara in 1948 and on the other by the bronze statue found at Xanten, east of Nijmagen, in 1955.


These two pieces were rejected by Gross as Trajan's likenesses, the single Trajantrajanic portrait in metal by him recognized being the bronze bust in Hanovra (Kestnermuseum). For Gross it was inconceivable a Trajan looking as an old and sick man, in spite of Plinius the Young's and Cassius Dio's testimonies and of the fact that two portraits, in Lateran and in Oslo, we find in his book, present a certain obsolete, fallen carnation, underlined by Raissa Calza. The Romanian portrait found in Dobrudja comes apparently from a microasiatic or insular workshop.


In the center of Dacia Superior, Apulum (Alba Iulia) was the residence town of the Roman governor of the province. Its economic and cultural importance is reflected in a lot of imperial portraits discovered as well in the civilian settlement and in military castra. The different quality of these pieces pleads for the existence of several workshops, from the artisanal to more experienced ones. The limestone was the common material of the first, the marble that of the skilled sculptors.

Antoninus Pius8) We are impressed by an apotheotic limestone head of Antoninus Pius, slightly over life-size, with its lifted eyes - head which was realized for a statue of a good emperors gallery in a praetorium.

marcusaurelius9) As well by a crude head of Marcus Aurelius, in the same material, with laurel crown and of little size (16 cm). The emperor reorganized the military defence of Dacia, putting this province together with Moesia Superior under the same leadership of a legatus Augusti pro praetore of consular rank - in the person of Marcus Claudius Fronto, legatus Augusti pro praetore trium Daciarum et Moesiae Superioris simul.

Marcus Aurelius has promoted Apulum municipium and soon after colonia, establishing here the camp of the XIII-th Legion Gemina. A passage from Historia Augusta, (Marcus Antoninus, 18) testifies his posthumous popularity, comparable only to that of Septimius Severus: „all the people of every age, condition or rank wanted to have his portrait in their houses if material situation allowed it."

pertinax15-fPertinax10) The very short reign of Pertinax was commemorated at Apulum, most probably under Septimius Severus, by a marble life-size statue in lorica and paludamentum. The portrait is similar to the bust in the Vatican Rotonda and to a head quite unknown, I have seen many years ago in Albertinum, at Dresda. The reason of this statue's erection at Apulum is the fact that Pertinax was between 177-178 governor of Dacia; an inscription on a brick found at Romula-Malva and published by Tudor, mentions the meeting in that city of Dacia Inferior of Pertinax, travelling to Apulum, and C. Arrius Antoninus, the former governor of the province, by the way of his new post in Dalmatia.

Septimius Severus11-12) Two limestone heads, with laurel crown, of Septimius Severus (less probably Caracalla), one slightly over life-size, the other a little under natural dimensions, represent the activity of the local artisans, this time coming from northern Africa (Leptis Magna, perhaps) together with many officials of african origin, among them the emperor's brother, Publius Septimius Geta, governor of Dacia at the beginning of Severus' reign. Under Severus Dacia knows a large reorganization and Apulum itself is doubled by another city, municipium Septimium Apulense, very soon promoted to the rank of colonia. The both upmentioned heads have the typical features of some northern african portraits: the flattened rearhead and the approached eyes at the root of the nose.
Iulia Domna13) Iulia Domna, in a herm bust of limestone, throws a fresh look at the capacity of those artisanal workshops to interpret in their own manner the grammar of a well known figure who became even a symbol of an empress on the provincial engraved gems and cameos. The archetype of this crude portrait must be the early colossal head in Vatican, where Iulia Domna wears still the head dress of Didia Clara. The half opened mouth and the large eyes send to a hellenic variant of the earliest portraits at Vatican and Ostia, diffused especially in the eastern Greek world. In those times at Apulum lived not only orientals, but also a large lot of Greeks whose inscriptions in their own language are gathered today in the local Museum.
Caracallacaracalab14) Little marble busts or statuettes of the emperors were widespread in military backgrounds; an eloquent example is that head of Caracalla found also at Apulum. It measures only 6.5 cm. In spite of the childish face with beard, the profile is that of a young man. There are two pieces very similar to this portrait: a young little head found in Aedes principiorum at Novae (Bulgaria) and a portrait acquired in 1895 at Istanbul for the Philadelphia University Museum (Jale Inan, Elisabeth Alföldi Rosenbaum, Porträtplastik, No. 71, p1. 63). In its very simple performance this head is a masterpiece, announcing the future mad tyrant this child will become.

Severus Alexander15) A natural size marble head of Severus Alexander in the first years of his reign is a skilled work of the Roman sculptors in Apulum. The beardless figure of the emperor is to be dated before that in Louvre (with a shade of barbula, cf. Felletti-Maj) and after the beardless head in Fulda (Helga von Heintze), which was dated between 223 and 225.
Iulia MammaeaIulia Mammaea16) A very damaged head of bronze goldened statue of his mother Iulia Mammaea was found in the Roman bath at Drobeta, on the Danube, in Dacia Inferior. Generally the bronze statues in Dacia Inferior come from southern workshops of Thracia or Greece, meantime those found in Dacia Superior were imported from the north Italy or Noricum.
Gallienus17) But hard times were coming for Dacia; waves of migrators attacked its northern frontier. Instability and wars were the common train of this province. However from Apulum we have a last imperial portrait, a marble head of little dimensions (19 cm), reworked, but still speaking about the good taste and classicism of „gallienic renaissance". I am not sure if it represents Gallienus in a local version, very young; in every case this piece must be compared to the anonymous head at Fulda (dated by Helga von Heintze between 250-260), to that colossal in the Glyptothek Ny Carlsberg, considered by Poulsen as a boundary between Roman and Byzantine art, and to the bronze head discovered at Sami, in Greece, also said to be of an anonymous.
Carinus18) From the standpoint of structure very similar to the precedent piece from Apulum is the marble head found at Ostrov, in the Danube, during the summer of 1978, that is in Dobrudja (Scythia Minor). I suppose it represents Carinus; surely it is a local imperial portrait at the beginning of a new series of imperial portraits worked at Durostorum after Aurelian has retired Roman legions and administration from Dacia. The frontier of the empire was now again on the Danube. Actually, the explanation of the presence of a large number of artisanal imperial portraits in the frontier areas is that of imperial propaganda in military backgrounds and in civilian settlements formed by veterani. More or less the same situation is to be found around all the boundaries of the Roman state. Britannia is perhaps the richest province in artisanal imperial portraits. As concerns the head from Ostrov, worked in the near ancient Durostorum (a renowned sculptural center of Scythia Minor), its type is that of Conservatori Museum in Rome and of Chiaramonti Museum in Vatican.
Two apparently different heads represent the same imperial personage: Diocletianus; the both pieces were found and worked in ancient Dobrudja.
19) The marble head of a life size statue discovered at Valul lui Traian (Trajan's vallum) is remarkable by the pronounced asymmetry of the face: the right eye is higher than the left. This characteristic is attested by the colossal head from Ostia and by that in Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek (R. Calza).
The beardless face is that of the togate statue in the Roman Villa Doria Pamphili (very much disputed). H.P. L'Orange, Delbrück and Poulsen recognised Diocletianus in the upmentioned monument - as Pontifex Maximus. This statue would have been a piece of a rich series of likenesses erected to commemorate the event of the emperor's first visit in Rome as triumphator and jubilator (in 303), occasioned by the celebration of his vicennalia.

20) The upper part of a marble colossal beardless head discovered in the large Mosaic building at Tomis; it is similar to the portrait in Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek, but without the facial asymmetry and the suggested beard. Marianne Bergmann (Studien, p. 160, pl. 46/6) believes that the head is similar to that of Constantius Chlorus on the Roman Arch of Constantine, but a portrait discovered at Demir Kapija (Stenae - Jugoslavia) is more similar to the tomitan piece than to the proposed parallel on the Constantine Arch.
From the time of the Tetrarchie, the workshops in the eastern part of the empire change the origin of their models: Italy and no more Greece is the source of inspiration for official portraits.
Fausta21) We meet this new direction also in a female limestone head found at Durostorum. The head dress is that of the first quarter of the IV-th century; the beauty and majesty of the figure, together with the lack of the eyeball are all characteristic of an apotheotic imperial portrait. This is Flavia Maxima Fausta (292-326), the wife of Constantine the Great, mother of his two sons: Constantius II, Constans and two daughters, Constantina and Helena III. She was killed by the emperor in a boiling bath under accusation of adultery with Crispus (put to death, too), his elder son from the concubine Minervina. There are two portraits of Fausta: the head in Louvre and the "pudicitia" statue in Ostia Museum. The both pieces are consonant with the head from Durostorum. The choosing of „pudicitia" ostian type for the statue made at Durostorum is a constant allusion to the innocence of this unfortunate empress put to death as a result of christian intrigues.
Under Constantine the Great the Danubian frontier was thrown northern the river in order to defend against the barbarians a large area limited by the so-called today „Brazda lui Novac" (Novac's slice, vallum). Constantine has constructed even a large, solid wood bridge over the Danube, at Sucidava.
Constantinus II22) The recent Roman control of the area which partly was that of the former Dacia Inferior, explains the presence of an imperial marble head at Cioroiu Nou (military station of Aquae, at 20 km from the Danube, reused by the constantinian army) more than a half century after Aurelian has abandoned the Danubian province. This head can be fruitfully compared to the so-called Constantine II-nd's portrait in Palazzo Drago, Rome and to the colossal one in the courtyard of Palazzo dei Conservatori. Our identification is based on historical reasons. Constantine II has crossed the Danube in 332 to help Sarmatians attacked by the Visigoths who were by him defeated in a single battle and obliged to make peace with the Empire.

Immediately after this punishment he opened a new campaign, this time against another group of Sarmatians, settled in the today Banat (east of Aquae), and forced a great number (over 300000) to establish themselves in the south of the Danube, that is in the Empire. In such circumstances the presence of a likeness of Constantinus II (and only of him) at Aquae is fully justified.
I hope this short choice of Roman portraits from Romania was sufficient to demonstrate the strong romanisation of this province which was under the authority of the Empire only 165 years.