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A Small Bronze Mutilated Head of Gaius Caligula- J

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Joe Geranio View Drop Down
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    Posted: 21 Mar 2011 at 9:14pm

A Small Bronze Mutilated Head of Gaius Caligula- Joe Geranio

Damnatio Memoriae and Found in Tiber River

There is a small bronze mutilated cuirassed portrait of Gaius Caligula that was clearly mutilated as a result of an angry soldier or citizen in the years 37-41 A.D.  This portrait is in private hands and unfortunatley I had to scan it from a book and this photo is for educational use only.  There of course was no official "damnatio memoriae" of Caligula but none the less many portraits especially the smaller ones were intenionally mutilated or defaced, its a shame I could not have examined this portrait at a musuem or a gallery.  obviously D. Boschung( die bildnisse des Caligula, 1989) was able to obtain these rare photos and therefore the scan is shown in the best quality I could muster up.   The main damage is done directly to the face and is quite aggressive, you can see the deep screwdriver type nicks in the front facial area.  Although we guess as whether the damnatio was done intentionally to an emperor or princeps , there is no doubt this was deliberate and without much love for the princeps.  This portrait was found in the Tiber river in Rome.   It gives us a rare glimpse into how the population was feeling about Caligula in the early empire.  The thing I find most fascinating is in the short reign of Caligula (37-41) either coins that have been defaced or portraits such as these show us exactly in a small span of history what a huge role numismatics and portrait study has made a difference in verification of Roman history.    His uncle and successor, Claudius, had his statues and portraits removed from public view. Many were reworked as portraits of Augustus or of Claudius. It also seems that smaller, personal images of Caligula were deliberately thrown away after his murder; several have been recovered from the River Tiber in Rome.

Dahmen, K. 2001. Untersuchungen zu Form und Funktion kleinformatiger Porträts der römischen Kaiserzeit. Munster: Scriptorium, p. 159, no. 44, pl. 44.
Varner, Eric R. ed. 2000. From Caligula To Constantine : Tyranny & Transformation in Roman Portraiture. Atlanta : Michael C. Carlos Museum, p. 102-3, no. 8.

  Geranio, Joe.

  • Title:
      Portraits of Caligula : the seated figure? / Joe Geranio.
  • Host Publication:
      In: The Celator Vol. 21, no. 9 (Sep 2007), p. 6-26 : ill.
  • Year:


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