Roman Imperial Statue Bases
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The study of Roman imperial statues has made remarkable strides in the last two decades. Yet the field's understandable focus on extant portraits has made it difficult to generalize accurately. Most notably, bronze was usually the material of choice, but its high scrap value meant that such statues were inevitably melted down, so that almost all surviving statues are of stone. By examining the much larger and more representative body of statue bases, Jakob Munk Hojte is here able to situate the statues themselves in context. This volume includes a catalogue of 2300 known statue bases from more than 800 sites within and without the Roman Empire. Moreover, since it covers a period of 250 years, it allows for the first time consistent geographic, chronological and commemorative patterns to emerge. Hojte finds among other things that imperial portrait statues are connected chiefly with urban centres; that they were raised continuously during a given reign, with a higher concentration a couple years after accession; that a primary purpose was often to advertise a donor's merits; and that they increased sixfold in frequency from Augustus to Hadrian, an increase attributable to community erections. Jakob Munk Hojte is post.doc. and research assistant at the Danish National Research Foundations Centre for Black Sea Studies.



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Jakob Munk Højte
Roman Imperial
Statue Bases
from Augustus to Commodus
Aarhus Univer sit y Press Aarhus Studies in

Mediterranean Antiquity


ASMA is a series which will be published approximately once a year by T e
Centre for the Study of Antiquity, University of Aarhus, Denmark.
T e Centre is a network of cooperating departments: Greek and Latin, Classical
Archaeology, History, and the Faculty of T eology. T e objective of the series
is to advance the interdisciplinary study of Antiquity by publishing articles,
e.g., conference papers, or independent monographs, which among other
things ref ect the current activities of the centre. JA KO B MUNK H Ø JTE





Acta Jutlandica LXXX:2

Humanities Series 78

Roman Imperial Statue Bases
© Jakob Munk Højte and Aarhus University Press 2005
Cover: Lotte Bruun Rasmussen
Photo: Jakob Munk Højte, Caserna dei Vigili, Ostia,

Statue bases on a podium in the sacellum.

Typeset with Trajan (cover) and Mignon (body)

ISBN 87 7934 906 4

Aarhus University Press

Langelandsgade 177

DK-8200 Aarhus N

Fax: (+45) 8942 5380

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Fax: (+1) 860 945 9468


T is book is an altered and revised version of my PhD dissertation defended at
the University of Aarhus in May 2001. Due to other obligations and a certain
fatigue and nausea at the thought of taking another swing at the larcorge pora
(they do tend to have a rather musty odour), the manuscript was put in the
drawer. Earlier this year it would remain hidden no longer. Over the
summer and during a stay in Rome in the autumn, the tedious task of checking
the entries in the catalogue and editing the text was carried out. Two major
changes have been made. First of all, the three separate papers that formed
part of the dissertation: Te Epigraphic Evidence Concerning Portrait Statues
of Hadrian’s Heir L. Aelius Caesar, Imperial Visits as Occasion for the Erection
of Portrait Statues?, and T e Statue Bases of Claudius. A Reassessment of T e
Portraiture of Claudius by M. Stuart have been published elsewhere, and
are therefore not included here (see bibliography). Tis meant that a good
number of cross-references had to be sorted out and text supplied where
necessary. Secondly, the catalogue of statue bases has been revised and updated.
A number of inscriptions included in the dissertation, as pointed out by the
assessment committee, demonstrably did not belong to statue bases, and have
consequently been excluded. In addition, a number of inscriptions that seemed
too uncertain to include have also been removed. On the other hand, more
material has been published in the intervening period. T e catalogue has been
updated to include the bases mentioned in Supplementum Epigraphicum
Graecum 2000 and L’Année épigraphique 2001. In the dissertation only a minimum
of information about the individual bases went on paper, while the bulk was
stored on a CD-ROM. Here I have chosen to include more information in
the printed text, which has resulted in a rather voluminous catalogue. It is
Preface · 5
my hope that the expanded format will improve its usefulness and encourage
others to make use of the collected data, which I believe holds potential far
beyond what has been covered in this book.
Since my interest in Roman imperial statue bases was frst aroused by reading
Meriwether Stuart’s dissertation from 1938 on the portraiture of Claudius,
which includes the f rst attempt at systematically compiling and analysing the
epigraphical evidence from statue bases, many friends and colleagues have
commented and made valuable suggestions that have greatly improved the
outcome. Some require particular mention: Ittai Gradel for inspiration and
rewarding discussions. His encouragement is one of the primary reasons why
the study has been brought to completion. Niels Hannestad and Lise Hanne -
stad, my supervisor, for valuable help and advice both during and a er f my
time as a PhD student. Niels’ interest in Roman sculpture and imperial por -
traiture in particular initially got me started on this project. Robert Fleischer,
my external supervisor, for making my much too short stay in Mainz pleasant
and rewarding. More importantly for his comments on the part of my original
project, which will unfortunately have to stay in the drawer for some time
yet, namely an unf nished study of the statue bases for the Hellenistic kings.
T e external members of the assessment committee Geza Alföldy and Jane
Fejfer, who gave precise criticism and good directions for both possible and
required improvements far beyond the call of duty. I have tried as best I could
to follow their recommendations. Finally and most dearly I want to thank my
family, who have tirelessly accompanied me on countless journeys in (o en f
futile) search of statue bases.
T e book was made possible by generous f nancial support from the Un-i
versity of Aarhus, the University of Aarhus Research Foundation, Elizabeth
Munksgaard Fonden, Landsdommer V. Gieses Legat, and the Danish Research
Council for Humanities.
Århus, December 2004
Jakob Munk Højte
6 · roman imperial statue bases

Preface ............................................................ 5

List of Figures and Tables .............................. 11

Introduction ................................................... 13

Types of Monuments ........................................ 19

Identifcation of statue bases 19

Te language of the inscriptions .................................... 25

Types of statue bas ................................................. e 27

Literary testimony for imperial statue bases and inscription....... s 40

Statue types and materials used for imperial statues ................ 43

T e cost of imperial statues ......................................... 52

Damnatio memoriae and the reuse of statue bases .................. 56

Dating the Inscriptions

from Imperial Statue Bases ............................. 65

Imperial nomenclature and honorif c titles ......................... 65

Other dating criteria ................................................ 70

Dating by negative evidence ........................................ 72

Reliability of the dating criteria ..................................... 74

Dating accuracy .................................................... 77

Dates chosen for dedicating imperial statues....................... 78

Contents · 7
The Applicability of the Evidence

of the Statue Bases to the Extant Portraits 81

The Geographical Distribution

of Imperial Portrait Statues .......................... 85

T e geographical distribution of extant imperial portraits.......... 86

T e geographibution of statue bases ....................... 88

T e number of sites and the number of bases per si ............... te 103

Context ............................................................. 109

Statues Dedicated Before and After a Reign 125

Pre-accessional dedications ......................................... 125

Posthumous dedications ............................................ 132

Occasions for Erecting Imperial Statues ....... 143

Accession ........................................................... 144

Jubilees (decennalia and vicennalia) ................................ 157

Imperial visits ...................................................... 159

Patterns of chronological distribution during a reign ............... 165

Dedicators of Roman Imperial Statues ........... 167

Statues dedicated by communities or their executive bodies ........ 168

Private dedicators ................................................... 171

Public or private?179

Corporations as dedicators ......................................... 181

Military units as dedicators182

Statue bases without dedicators ..................................... 184

Regional diferences and developments ............................. 185

Conclusion ...................................................... 189

Bibliography ................................................... 195

8 · roman imperial statue bases
. Catalogue ................................................... 215

Introduction to the Catalogue ..................... 217

What is included? .................................................. 217

Sorting system ...................................................... 218

Geography .......................................................... 218

Chronology ......................................................... 222

Distribution maps222

Histograms ......................................................... 222

Abbreviations and Bibliography
for Catalogue ................................................. 225

Catalogue of Statue Bases
Arranged According to Emperor ........................ 229

Augustus 229 · Tiberius 263 · Caligula 288 · Claudius 294 ·

Nero 319 · Galba 319 · Otho 330 · Vitellius 330 · Vespasian 330 ·

Titus 344 · Domitian 354 · Nerva 365 · Tra jan 373 · Hadrian 404 ·

Antoninus Pius 466 · Lucius Verus 509 · Marcus Aurelius 531 · Marcus

Aurelius or Lucius Verus 569 · Avidius Cassius 571 · Commodus 571
Statistical Analysis, Emperors (Tables SE -) 591

Augustus 591 · Tiberius 592 · Caligula 593 · Claudius 594 · Nero 595 ·
Galba · Otho · and Vitellius 596 · Vespasian 597 · Titus 508 ·
Domitian 509 · Nerva 600 · Trajan 601 · Hadrian 602 · Antoninus
Pius 603 · Lucius Verus 604 · Marcus Aurelius 605 · Commodus 606
Statistical Analysis, Geographical
(Tables SG -) ............................................... 607

Italy 607 · Northern provinces 609 · Gaul 611 · Spain 613 · Western

North Africa 615 · Greece 617 · Asia Minor 619 · Eastern provinces 621
Contents · 9

. Statistical Analysis, C omparative
(Tables SC -) ............................................... 623
Chronolo gical Distribu tion (histo grams)
(Figs. C -) .................................................... 633
Augustus 633 · Tiberius 633 · Caligula 634 · Claudius 634 ·
Nero 635 · Vespasian 635 · Titus 636 · Domitian 636 ·
Nerva 637 · Trajan 638 · Hadrian 638 · Antoninus Pius 639 ·
Lucius Verus 639 · Marcus Aurelius 640 · Commodus 641 ·
All emperors 642 · East-West comparison 642
Geo graphical Distribu tion (distribu tion maps)
(Figs. G -) ................................................... 643
Augustus 653 · Tiberius 644 · Caligula 645 · Claudius 46 ·
Nero 647 · Vespasian 648 · Titus 649 · Domitian 650 · Nerva 651 ·
Trajan 652 · Hadrian 653 · Antoninus Pius 654 · Lucius Verus 655 ·
Marcus Aurelius 656 · Commodus 657 · All emperors 658
10 · roman imperial statue bases
List of Figures and Tables

Fig. 1. Statue base in the National Museum in Athens with oval
depression for a marble statue.
Fig. 2. Base for a statue of Claudius (Claudius 87) in the Athenian
Fig. 3. Statue base for Trajan in Delphi (Trajan 110).
Fig. 4. Built-up bases in a building adjoining the forum in Lucus
Fig. 5. Marble slab from a built-up base for Trajan (Trajan 37) in
Lucus Feroniae.
Fig. 6. Statue base for Marcus Aurelius (Marcus Aurelius 20) from
Fig. 7. Exedra opposite the theatre in Emerita Augusta, with
statues of the imperial family placed in niches in the wall.
Fig. 8. Consoles carrying statues of Antoninus Pius, Marcus
Aurelius and Lucius Verus on the colonnaded street in Apamea
ad Orontem.
Fig. 9. Comparison between extant portraits and bases according
to region.
Fig. 10. Damnatio memoriae.
Fig. 11. T e number of bases per year in Italy.
Fig. 12. T e relative importance of the statue bases in Italy.
Fig. 13. T e relative importance of the statue bases in the northern
Fig. 14. T e relative importance of the statue bases in Gaul.
Fig. 15. T e relative importance of the states in Spain.
List of Figures and Tables · 11
Fig. 16. T e relative importance of the statue bases in western
North Africa.
Fig. 17. T e relative importance of the statue bases in Greece.
Fig. 18. T e number of bases per year in Asia Minor.
Fig. 19. T e relative importance of the statue bases in Asia
Fig. 20. T e number of sites according to region and the number
of bases per site.
Fig. 21. T e percentage of sites with statue bases according to
Fig. 22. T e number of sites in relation to the number of bases for
individual emperors.
Fig. 23. T e number of precisely dated bases according to year of
Fig. 24. Public and private dedicators.
Fig. 25. Map of the Roman Empire.
Tables SE 1-SE 48. Statistical analysis according to emperor.

Tables SG 1-SG 24. Statnalrding to region.

Tables SC 1-SC 24. Comparison between emperors and regions.

Figs. C 1-C 20. Chronological distribution. Histograms.

Figs. G 1-G 16. Geographical distribution. Distribution maps.

12 · roman imperial statue bases

When the senate voted him [Didius Julianus] a statue of gold, he declined to
accept it, saying: “Give me a bronze one, so that it may last; for I observe that
the gold and silver statues of the emperors that ruled before me have been
destroyed, whereas the bronze ones remain.” In this he was mistaken, for it is
virtue that preserves the memory of rulers; and in fact the bronze statue that
was granted him was destroyed af er his own overthrow.
Dio Cass. 74.14.2a
In a short perspective the ref ections of Didius Julianus and Dio Cassius on
the preservation of one’s memory for posterity were to some extent correct.
Until AD 193, the year Didius Julianus for a brief period succeeded in bribing
his way to the purple by ofering a large sum of money to the praetorians, the
Roman Empire had witnessed a long period of stability. Since the murder of
Domitian in AD 96 the emperors, even if they were not equally liked, at least
had the privileges of choosing their own heir, dying of natural causes and being
elevated to divinity. T e murder of Commodus some months previously had
ended this era and once again brought the Empire to the verge of civil war. It
is not entirely clear whether Didius Julianus, in Dio’s rendering of the speech,
is supposed to be referring to the statues of his two immediate predecessors,
the unfortunate emperors Commodus and Pertinax, or to those of former
emperors in general; but being a virtuous ruler was apparently no guarantee
against having one’s statues made of precious metals ending up in the melting
pot, and such images generally seem to have had a rather short existence.1 Dio
1. Pekáry 1985, 66-67 and below p. 47.
Introduction · 13 Cassius and his audience, knowing the fate of Didius Julianus, could in hind -
sight of course see the folly of his argument. In a longer perspective, however,
it was not necessarily the kind of virtue advocated by Dio that would preserve
the memory of an emperor. Nero, who had been hated with good reason by
the senatorial aristocracy to which Dio belonged, seems to have been rather
popular in the late fourth century to judge from the frequency of his portrait
on the contorniats of the period.2
When it comes to the preservation of the memory of a ruler by means of
statues, which was evidently the intention of such monuments to judge from
the speech by Didius Julianus, neither bronze nor virtue has proven ef ective.
Instead, the single most important factor for preservation of portraits and
statues for posterity was whether they were made of stone. Bronze seems to
have been the preferred material for honorary statues in most parts of the
Roman Empire, but of the countless bronze statues of emperors made in
antiquity only a minute fraction have been preserved because their value as
commemorative monuments soon fell below the relatively high scrap value of
bronze.3 Consequently they were melted down for other uses, the same fate
that has overcome practically all portraits in precious metal. To a large extent
only bronze statues placed out of human reach by unusual conditions, like
those af orded by the eruption of Vesuvius or landslides like that in Boubon
(or statues lost at sea or in rivers during transport) have survived.4 T e scrap
value of marble statues was much lower, and they thus stood a larger chance of
survival, although lime kilns have taken their share of these too. T is process
of selection has profoundly inuenced tf he study of imperial portraits, which
naturally must begin with the preserved specimens i.e. the marble portraits.
T e issue of how these relate to those originally in existence has unfortunately
not received the attention it deserves. T e primary aim of nearly all studies
of imperial portraits has been to compile the genuine specimens, establish a
typology, and date the introduction of new portrait types.5 To this end the
numismatic evidence has proven especially useful, since the typology of the
coin portraits regularly corresponds to that of the portraits in the round, and
2. Mittag 1999, 128-133.
3. Lahusen & Formigli (2001), in their recent monograph on bronze portraits, include 45
portraits of emperors from the frst two centuries AD. In contrast, more than 1,000 mar -
ble portraits are known.
4. For the contexts in which bronze portraits have been, see Lahusen & Formigli 2001, 455 -
5. Pfanner 1989, 162; Rose 1997b, 108-120; Pollini 1987, 8-17. Tis approach is prevalent in
the series Das römische Herrscherbild and in most museum catalogues.
14 · roman imperial statue bases
the coin legends of en supply an exact date. Because of the strong focus on the
extant portraits, which of en have no archaeological context, and because of
the remarkable advances made within the f eld of portrait studies during the
last two generations, other archaeological, literary and epigraphical sources
related to the dedication of imperial statues have been relegated to a very
subordinate position in nearly all studies of imperial portraits. It is the aim
of this study of one of these documentary sources – namely the epigraphical
evidence from the statue bases6 – to compensate for this lack of research and
show that the study of statue bases is relevant if not crucial for the underst-and
ing of Roman imperial portrait statues.
In his signif cant study T e Epigraphic Habit in the Roman Empire, Ramsey
McMullen observed that “Papyri and ostraca from Roman Egypt survive in
sufcient numbers to invite statistical analysis and thus to teach us something
out of the numbers themselves that is not evident in the body of any single
text”.7 T is applies to the statue bases of Roman emperors as well. By them -
selves the inscriptions from each individual base yield information about the
specif c statue once placed on the base, but since these almost invariably have
been lost or moved beyond recovery of their original context, the immedi -
ate testimony has little direct value for the study of imperial portraits. Of the
limited number of portraits that have been found with their accompanying
inscriptions, only the relief from Ostia dated AD 160 showing Lucius Verus
in the portrait type, thought to have been created on his accession a year later,
has modif ed the chronology of an emperor’s portrait types during the period
under consideration here.8 By systematically compiling the statue bases and
using them as statistical data, however, they can reveal valuable information
about where imperial statues were erected, when, by whom and for what r-ea
son; questions that cannot be answered by studying the extant portraits.
6. T e term “statue base” will be applied below to all types of inscribed monuments intended
to carry a sculpted representation of the emperor, see p. 19. In the text, statue bases are
referred to as numbers in the catalogue.
7. MacMullen 1982, 234.
8. Fuhrmann 1939, 294-302 = (Lucius Verus 16). Other f rst and second century portraits of
emperors that have been found with accompanying inscriptions: Herculaneum (Tiberius
13 (theatre); Claudius 8 (basilica); Lanuvium (Claudius 9 uncertain); Misenum (Vespasian
8 [augusteum ]); Neúilly-le-Real (Augustus 75 [bronze bust]); Lepcis Magna (Augustus 114,
Tiberius 76, Claudius 73 [Temple of Roma and Augustus]); Olympia (Antoninus Pius 201,
Lucius Verus 108 [Nymphaeum of Herodes Atticus]); Aphrodisias (Claudius 115, Nero 40,
41, [Sebasteion]; Domitian 37 [theatre]); Boubon (Lucius Verus 113); Perge (Hadrian 373
uncertain); Philadelphia (Commodus 87 [relief ]); Cyrene (Tiberius 109 [Strategeion]).
Introduction · 15
T e epigraphical evidence from statue bases has been discussed before in
connection with imperial portraits. T e frst person to systematically compile
the statue bases for an emperor was Meriwether Stuart, who collected all the
documentary sources relating to statues of Claudius in 1938.9 Soon af erwards
followed studies along similar lines concerning the other Julio-Claudian em -
perors10 and the family of Augustus.11 T e statue bases of empresses have been
systematically compiled for Sabina12 and Julia Domna,13 and so have those
for the emperors from the mid-fourth century AD to the end of antiquity.14
Although the results of these studies were noteworthy, they have had limited
impact for two reasons. Firstly, a direct relationship between the chronological
distribution of the statue bases and that of the extant portraits has not been
established. Secondly, the studies have been too scattered chronologically to
ofer comparative evidence that could reveal any consistent patterns in fr-e
quency and geographical and chronological distribution of the statue bases.
It is characteristic that the recent works on the portraits of Augustus,15
Caligula,16 Hadrian17 and the Antonine princes18 that do include investigations
of the epigraphical evidence make limited use of it for questions relating to
the extant portraits. Other studies have dealt more or less thoroughly with
the statue bases relating to portraits in a certain setting or region. Examples
of these are the excursus in Inan and Rosenbaum’s study of the portraits from
Asia Minor,19 the regional studies of statue bases in Conventus Tarraconensis
and in Venetia et Histria,20 and recent works concerning Julio-Claudian statue
groups21 and imperial women in the Greek East.22
To overcome the obstacle of lack of comparative material, this study co -m
piles the imperial statue bases from a long continuous period. It includes all
the emperors from Augustus to Commodus, a period of approximately 250
9. Stuart 1938.
10. Stuart 1939, 601-617.
11. Hanson & Johnson 1946, 389-400.
12. Carandini 1969.
13. Fejfer 1985, 129-138.
14. Stichel 1982.
15. Boschung 1993a.
16. Boschung 1989.
17. Evers 1994.
18. Fittschen 1999.
19. Inan & Rosenbaum 1966, 42-53.
20. Alföldy 1979, 177-275; Alföldy 1984.
21. Rose 1997a; Boschung 2002a.
22. Hahn 1994.
16 · roman imperial statue basesyears that covers a large part of the principate including the second century
AD, when the production of portraits of emperors reached its height. T e
compiled corpus of statue bases comprises 2,300 monuments from nearly 800
dif erent sites throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. T e broad
chronological perspective of this large sample shows that the statue bases provide a
consistent and reliable picture of the geographical and chronological
distribution of imperial statues in antiquity which challenges previous assumptions
regarding the principles that governed the erection of imperial statues in a
number of ways.
Introduction · 17
Types of Monuments

Portrait statues in antiquity were almost invariably placed on some sort
of base that acted as a support for the statue, lif ing it of the ground or
creating an architectural setting for it. Te term statue base traditionally
describes a free-standing monument consisting of one or more square or
round blocks of stone suf ciently large to carry a statue, and erected for
this purpose alone. In the following, however, the term will be broadened
to signify any monument intended to carry a three-dimensional
representation of approximately life size and larger. Tis wider def nition may seem
awkward when applied to singular monuments, such as an arch or a niche
holding a statue, but it may prove useful in describing the function of the
variety of monuments, which all served the same purpose despite their dif -
ferent appearance.
Identifcation of statue bases
All the monuments compiled in the catalogue of imperial statue bases have
one common feature. Tey carry an inscription that identif es the emperor
whose statue was placed on the base. T is was, naturally, not a
requirement for a base, but merely the only means by which we can identify them
today. Imperial statues could be placed on uninscribed bases, but since
imperial portrait statues have only very rarely been found together with their
accompanying bases, these are practically impossible to identify. T e
inscriptions as a general rule follow the standardised pattern fotitulir
honoT ypes of Monuments · 19
rarii,23 allowing us with a high degree of probability to identify monuments
as statue bases from their inscriptions alone. Tis is useful because numer -
ous inscribed monuments are inadequately described in publications. In
particular, the editors of the early corpora of inscriptions generally showed
little or no interest in the physical form of the monuments on which the
texts were inscribed, or in the context in which they had been found; and
since many of the inscriptions have later disappeared, such information has
been irrevocably lost. Even if satisfactorily published, the state of preser- va
tion of the monument of en does not allow unambiguous identif cation as a
statue base from the physical properties alone; either because the inscription
has been removed from the monument and reused in another context, or
because only a fragment of the monument without any recognisable features
has survived.
In his study of the portraits of Claudius, Stuart established two criteria
for identifying statue bases: “One, whenever an inscription employs a dative
formula in Latin or an accusative in Greek and is cut on a stone reliably
described as a statue base or as part of an arch or other monumental pedestal,
there can be no doubt of the portrait character of the inscription. Two, wh-en
ever a description of the stone on which an inscription is cut is not available,
the dative case of the imperial name in Latin, or the accusative in Greek, is
presumptive proof of the portrait character of the inscription”.24 T e f rst
criterion encompasses approximately 1,300 inscriptions, or well over half of
the monuments in the catalogue. T is criterion is nearly foolproof. It should
be noted, however, that for lack of a common terminology for dif erent types
of monument, descriptions may be misleading. One example, emphasised by
Benjamin and Raubitschek, concerns a number of monuments from Athens
described as statue bases by the editors of Inscriptiones Graecae, which on
closer examination proved to be altars.25
915 inscriptions in the catalogue (40% of the total) have been identif ed
as being or pertaining to statue bases according to Stuart’s second criterion,
23. For Greek tituli honorarii, see Gerlach 1908; Larfeld 1914, 432-456; Klaf enbach 1966,
65-69. For Latin see Cagnat 1914; Kajanto 1971, 3-19. Tituli honorarii consist of two ele -
ments: the name of the honorand and the name of the dedicator. To this basic scheme
can be added a variety of information about the nature of the dedication, the date or the
dedicator’s reason or motivation for erecting the monument. For an interesting view of
the development of Latin honorifc inscriptions, see Salomies 1994, 63-106.
24. Stuart 1938, 13-14.
25. Benjamin & Raubitschek 1959, 65-85.
20 · roman imperial baseswhich as he himself pointed out is not unfailingly accurate.26 T ese inscriptions
fall in two groups. T e frst and largest consists of about 600 monuments that
lack description altogether, or are described in terms so vague as to preclude
determination of the type of monument involved. Ofen this is no longer
possible because of the present state of the monument; but in many instances,
especially with regard to the inscriptions in the older corpora, it is simple
negligence on the part of the editors. Te other group consists of inscriptions
cut on what is described as tabulae or plaques of stone. Tese may have been
deliberately sawn from a larger block of stone for secondary use, even for
display in museums as is the case for the inscriptions in the Lapidarium of
the Vatican Museum, but normally they were meant to be af xed to built-up
bases or otherwise non-monolithic structures. T e problem with the second
criterion is that monuments other than statue bases employ inscriptions that
follow exactly the same schema. Tis is especially pronounced for Latin in -
scriptions, where the dative case for the name of the emperor was used not
only for statue bases, but also for altars, milestones and building inscriptions.
Statue bases with Greek inscriptions can more easily be detected, because
to my knowledge no other types of monument use the accusative formula.
Whenever a reliable description of the stone is lacking, it is necessary to take
into consideration all the available information concerning dimensions, layout
of the inscription on the stone, size of the letters and content of the ins-crip
tion; and, based on comparison with other monuments identif ed as statue
bases, in each case to judge whether the monument could have served as a
statue base.27 T is method, of course, is open to mistakes, and a number of
entries in the catalogue undoubtedly should not have been included, while
some statue bases probably have been unjustly excluded. Given the number
of statue bases, however, this inaccuracy should not have any impact on the
conclusions drawn from the material unless the fgures involved are
exceedingly small, in which case caution at any rate should be taken.
Aberrant formulations
Whilst close to 90% of the inscriptions in the catalogue follow the standard
pattern for honorifc inscriptions described above, Stuart’s criteria do not take
26. Stuart 1938, 14.
27. For a discussion of the construction of statue bases, see Alföldy 1984 and Fabre, Mayer
& Rodà 1984, 11-21.
T ypes of Monuments · 21
into account the remaining 10% that belong either with certainty, or with a
high degree of probability, to monuments that served as statue bases but for
a variety of reasons employ aberrant formulations. Since these inscriptions
have not been discussed before in the general context of imperial statue bases,
it is necessary to present the various types and the reason for their inclusion
in the catalogue.
Te use of the dative case in Greek
T e commonest deviation from the standard formula for hono c rinif
scriptions on statue bases is the use of the dative case in Greek for the name
formula of the emperor. Te 135 examples of this can be divided into three
categories. Firstly, the form of the Greek inscriptions could be f avoured by
the Latin practice of using the dative case. Tis is most obvious in the
bilingual inscriptions, where both the Latin and Greek texts normally employ the
same case (p. 27). It is also frequently found among dedications with Greek
inscriptions erected in predominantly Latin-speaking areas in the West (An -
toninus Pius 10, 15; Marcus Aurelius 1, 2, 9), as well as in cities in the East
with a strong presence of Latin speakers. Secondly, buildings dedicated in the
name of the emperor in Greek inscriptions take the dative case, and
monuments that served as statue bases but whose physical form resembles that of
buildings, such as arches and city gates, therefore always follow the pattern
for building inscriptions and employ the dative case. One monument, an a-r
chitrave in Perge with an inscription for Claudius in the accusative case, was
long believed to pertain to an arch (Claudius 145).28 New excavations on the
site have shown that the arch according to the newly found inscription was
instead dedicated to Domitian and the deifed Vespasian and Titus (Vespa -
sian 70; Titus 61; Domitian 61). T e nature of the monument for Claudius
remains obscure. Even monuments that were much closer in form to statue
bases, and which served no other purpose, like the pillar on the Athenian
Agora originally constructed as a monument for Attalos II of Pergamum but
later re-dedicated to Tiberius (Tiberius 89),29 could employ the dative case.
Finally, the dative case could be used to give the dedication religious overtones
and connotations, since the dative case was generally reserved for statues of
28. Merkelbach & ahin 1988, 110, no. 10.
29. Vanderpool 1959, 86-90.
22 · roman imperial statue bases gods as distinguished from honorifc statues with inscriptions in the
accusative case.30 One particularly interesting example of this is found among the
statues erected in the temple consecrated to Vespasian in Kestros in Cilicia.
T e cult statue of Vespasian placed centrally against the back wall of the cella
stood on a base with an inscription in the dative case, as would be expected
for a cult statue (Vespasian 76). On both sides of the cult image stood statues
of his sons, and later those of successive emperors lined the side walls of the
cella; but unlike the original cult statue, all of these were accompanied by
inscriptions in the accusative case.
In only two instances do we f nd the infuence reversed in the form of
the accusative case used in Latin inscriptions (Augustus 194; Antoninus Pius
275). Both bases stem from the interior of Asia Minor, where neither Latin
nor Greek inscriptions had long traditions. T e inscription for Augustus from
Lystra is described as a pedestal, and although consecravit in l. 5-6 is unusual
for a statue base, it has parallels in Asia Minor (Antoninus Pius 217). T e other
inscription lacks description. Two further such monuments for Caracalla, Julia
Soaemias and Julia Mammaea, which beyond doubt served as statue bases,
are attested in Pergamum.31
T e use of the nominative case
T e name of the emperor in the nominative case could be used both in Latin
and in Greek as a label under a statue that formed part of a large ensemble
of statues with a common dedicatory inscription. An illustrative example is
the numerous bases in Eleusis, which may have been placed on the arches
outside the entrance to the sanctuary or, in analogy to the Nymphaeum of
Herodes Atticus in Olympia, could have been placed on the nymphaeum
identifed next to the southern arch (Hadrian 247; Marcus Aurelius 191).32
Other examples are the group of statue bases for deif ed emperors erected
in T ugga in the third century AD (Augustus 118; Vespasian 42-43; Tra -
jan 91; Hadrian 160; Marcus Aurelius 170), and the labels under the reliefs
placed between the columns in the two upper storeys on the two porticoes
30. Mitford 1947, 224; Veyne 1962, 49-98; Price 1984, 179.
31. Wiegand 1932, 54-55, no. 7 a-b.
32. Clinton (1989, 56-68) proposes two arches with imperial statues. Fittschen (1999, 122 -
126) suggests the nymphaeum as a possible location for the bases. For the nymphaeum at
Olympia, see Bol 1984.
T ypes of Monuments · 23
fanking the processional way from the propylon to the imperial temple in
Aphrodisias (Claudius 115; Nero 40, 41, and possibly 39). 22 further monu -
ments with the emperor’s name in the nominative have been included in
the catalogue. T ese have predominantly been described as statue bases or
arches (Trajan 72). T e exceptions are inscriptions with the name of Tiberius
in Aenona and Chalkis (Tiberius 48, 91), which entirely lack description.
T e portrait character of the latter is implied by the presence of an identical
monument for Gaius Caesar.33 It is not entirely clear why the nominative
case was chosen for these bases, but they may originally have belonged to
a group of bases such as the one in Eleusis. Naturally, the bases may have
supported objects other than statues of the emperors, and the emperor may
in fact have been the dedicator. Tis might be the case for three bases found
in the theatre in Lepcis Magna (Hadrian 149-151). Except for the base for
Tiberius in Iader (Tiberius 49), erected by the seventh and eleventh legions,
none of the statue bases with the name of the emperor in the nominative
case mention the name of the dedicator.
Te use of the ablative case
T e name of the emperor in the ablative case is frequently used in Latin
building inscriptions to indicate the date of construction, and this must be its
function in the inscription on the city gate erected by Sex. Iulius Frontinus in
Hierapolis (Domitian 54). Te gate, however, probably also carried a portrait
statue of Domitian. Te inexplicable use of the ablative case on a base for
Caligula in Narbonensis (Caligula 6) might be a simple spelling error.34 Four
inscriptions from Tamugadi that employ the ablative case have been included
in the catalogue (Antoninus Pius 145-147; Marcus Aurelius 131). All are de -
scribed as bases, and have been accepted as such by Zimmer in his study of
the statues bases from the forum of a Tmugadi.35 T e three inscriptions for
Antoninus Pius mention a paved street constructed from public funds, and
we cannot be absolutely certain that the statues placed on the bases were in
fact those of the emperor.
33. IG XII, 9, 940.
34. Caesare for Caesari in l. 1.
35. Zimmer & Wesch-Klein 1989, 78, no. T 21; 82-83, T 45.
24 · roman imperial statue bases v
Inscriptions with deviating compositions
T e inscriptions normally begin with the name of either the emperor or the
dedicator. T ere are, however, exceptions to this rule. T e most important are
the 38 Greek inscriptions headed by the formula ∆Agaqh` i tuchi. All except
one of these – a marble gable with a bust of Commodus that continues with
uJpe;r and the genitive case (Commodus 89)36 – otherwise follow the standard
pattern for honorary inscriptions. ÔUpe; r and the genitive case is found on six
further monuments all described as statue bases (Augustus 175; Tiberius 124,
134; Caligula 26; Vespasian 62). In these instances the bases most probably
carried imperial statues, but otherwise the formula most commonly appears
in building inscriptions on buildings dedicated on behalf of the emperor.37
Pro salute or the Greek equivalent uJpe;r swthria~ normally indicates altars,
but in a few cases the formulation was employed on arches (Hadrian 411;
Marcus Aurelius 133; Lucius Verus 83). One monument described as a base,
although it was more likely an altar, carried an inscription specifying that
the dedication consisted of both imagines and an ara (Marcus Aurelius 103;
Lucius Verus 69). T e altar probably carried the inscription, and the statues
stood in the immediate vicinity. In Stratonicaea an inscription begins by
stating the reason for the dedication – apparently that Hadrian had carried out a
successful hunt in the city’s territory (Hadrian 360). Other bases begin with
a dedication to a deity in the dative case: Aphrodite at Paphos (Tiberius 148 -
150) and Artemis at Ephesus (Trajan 144), or they are joint dedications to one
or more gods and the emperor (Hadrian 362; Antoninus Pius 105).
Te language of the inscriptions
Latin was the ofcial language of the administration of the Roman Empire.
However, thanks to its wide use, Greek attained a status almost equal to that
of Latin. Other languages were spoken in various parts of the Empire, and
some, like Neo-Punic, found their way into the epigraphical record of the
frst centuries AD. Hieroglyphs also continued to be used for religious wri-t
ings until late antiquity, but none of these languages are attested on imperial
36. Premerstein 1911, 45-48.
37. T is type is particularly common in Egypt. For example Milne 1905, no. 176.
T ypes of Monuments · 25 statue bases.38 Te epigraphical evidence shows that Latin was the predomi -
nant language, at least for writing on stone, north and west of a line running
approximately from the point on the Adriatic coast where the Via Egnatia
begins to the mouth of the Danube and in the landscapes west of Cyrenaica
in North Africa. Te province of Moesia Inferior is divided evenly between
Latin and Greek inscriptions.39
Statue bases with Latin inscriptions, a total of 1,309, completely
dominate in the western part of the Empire, and in addition 129 bases with Latin
inscriptions have been found in provinces where Greek or other languages
were otherwise more common. T ese bases are concentrated in two settings:
Roman colonies and areas with a strong military presence. In the province of
Iudaea, for example, four out ovf fe attested imperial statue bases are in Latin.
A military unit dedicated one in Samaria (Hadrian 408), and the decuriones
in Colonia Aelia Capitolina another (Antoninus Pius 288). Likewise, the other
provinces in the East had large percentages of statue bases with Latin
inscriptions: Syria (54%), Cappadocia (33%), Galatia (45%), and Aegyptus (23%).
Apart from these predominantly military dedications, we f nd statue bases
with Latin inscriptions in the provincial capitals of Ephesus and Gortyn, and
in the Caesarean and Augustan colonies: Alexandria Troas, Ancyra, Antiochia
en Pisidiae, Berytus, Knossos, Comana, Corinthus, Germa, Iconium, Lystra,
Olbasa, Parium, and Philippi. In many of these colonies, Latin was persist -
ently used for centuries afer the original inf ux of Latin colonists, at least for
ofcial documents.40 In Athens the colonies of Caesarea Antiochia and Iulia
Diensium (Hadrian 207, 208) employed Latin for their contribution to the
statues of Hadrian in the Olympieion. To complete the picture, we f nd statue
bases with Latin inscriptions in the civitas Stektorion in the province of Asia,
and in the municipium of Stobi in Macedonia.
T e use of Greek is almost completely conf ned to the area east of the
language division line. Of the 975 inscriptions in Greek, the only exceptions are
eleven bases in Rome and two more in Italy that were dedicated either by Greek
cities or in two instances by Greek individuals (Claudius 13; Titus 14).
38. Hieroglyphs are frequently found on statues and bases of the Ptolemaic kings (Stanwick
2002), and also appear in connection with reliefs depicting the emperor as pharaoh, for
example at Philae.
39. Marrou 1965, 377 shows a map with an indication of the approximate language bound -
40. Corinth serves as an example. Here the preferred language gradually changes from Latin
to Greek throughout the frst and second centuries AD (Kent 1966, 18-19). Among the
imperial statue bases, 14 of 17 inscriptions are in Latin.
26 · roman imperial statue bases
25 inscriptions, predominantly from Asia Minor and the northeastern
provinces, are bilingual. In most instances the Greek text is an exact translation
of a Latin original with the emperor’s name in the dative case in both Greek
and Latin.41 Only one inscription on a base found in Sagalassos (Claudius
146) translates the meaning of the text and employs the accusative case in the
Greek text. Other inscriptions use the Latin formula for the emperor’s name,
but have the name of the dedicator, usually a Greek city, in Greek alone or
in conjunction with a Latin translation.42 T is could indicate that the name
formula of the emperor in Latin was readily identaifble even for a
Greekspeaking audience,43 while the other elements had to be in Greek to ensure
Types of statue base
No typology exists for statue bases from the Roman imperial period like those
devised for the statue bases from the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic
periods.44 What follows is not an attempt to produce a typology for statue bases
41. Augustus 191; Tiberius 152; Caligula 20; Claudius 121; Nero 44, 52; Titus 53; Domitian
54 (ablative case in Latin), 57; Nerva 45; Trajan 175; Hadrian 84, 287, 288, 373; Antoni -
nus Pius 66, 67.
42. Augustus 6, 167; Tiberius 7; Hadrian 196, 217.
43. Basic knowledge of the imperial nomenclature in Latin could be learned from coins with
Latin inscriptions that circulated freely in all parts of the Empire. Even if only a f - rac
tion of the population in antiquity was truly literate, the number of people that could
read simple formulaic inscriptions must have been many times larger. Te content of the
inscriptions on imperial statue bases certainly had an audience, and could certainly be
understood by the peers of the dedicator, who o en usf e the bases for self-glo carif tion,
see Eck 1994, 650-662. On epigraphic literacy in general, see Harris 1983, 87-111; Harris
1989 and Franklin 1991, 77-98.
44. Bulle 1898; Jacob-Felsch 1969; Schmidt 1995. Bonneville’s (1984, 117-152) proposal for a
system to achieve a uniform description of primarily Latin epigraphical monuments divides
inscriptions on stone into 14 diferent categories, each with a number of subgroups. T is
typology focuses on the form of the monuments rather than their function, and the statue
bases in this study fall within four of the fourteen diferent categories. Type 4 “piédestaux”,
for example, only include monolithic bases and bases with a monolithic sha, eif ther
circular or polygonal with a moulded bottom and plinth. Built-up bases with af xed marble
slabs can be found under type 8 and 9 “Pierres et plaques moulurées et non moulurées”
which also include a broad range of other types of inscription. T e best discussion so far
of western Latin statue bases is that of Alföldy (1984, 23-35) concerning the bases from

T ypes of Monuments · 27 of the Roman imperial period, being rather intended as an introduction to the
variety of dif erent types of base that were used for imperial statues, together
with an evaluation of their frequency. Given the strict hierarchy that existed
for dedications with regard to placement in towns, materials used and mon-u
ment size, it is reasonable to expect that statue bases for emperors deviated in
a number of respects from those erected for persons of lower social standing,
and a typology for imperial statue bases does not necessarily apply to statue
bases in general or vice versa.
Bases for life-size standing statues
By far the most frequent type employed is a free-standing base for a life-size
standing (or sitting) statue. T ese could be constructed in a variety of ways.
T e simplest consisted of a square or cylindrical45 monolithic block of marble
or sandstone46, on which the plinth of the statue was attached for marble st -at
ues (Fig. 1). Bronze statues were normally fastened directly into sockets on top
of the base (Fig. 2). Some form of moulding was o en caf rved at the top and
bottom of the base (front page). T e mouldings were very frequently carved
separately and fastened with dowels to a monolithic shaf, in which case we are
unfortunately o en f lef with nothing but the shaf , and no means of determin -
ing the material of the statue (Fig. 3).47 Te same is true of orthostat bases in
the Hellenistic tradition, which were still used in the Roman period in Greece
and Asia Minor. T e second large group of bases consists of built-up cores to
which marble slabs were fastened (Figs. 4-5). Unless the slab with the dedica -
tory inscription is found in situ or with great certainty can be associated with
→ Venetia et Histria. Here a dif erentiation between bases and altars with similar
inscriptions is achieved on the basis of the cuttings on top of the monuments, and slabs from
built-up bases are identif ed by their dimensions and the layout of the inscription.
45. T e catalogue includes approximately 60 cylindrical bases. T is form was particularly
popular in Asia Minor and in Achaea, where round bases had a long tradition, but they
are also found in Southern Spain and in North Africa. Polygonal base shas tfhat are
common in late antiquity have only been attested in one instance for imperial statue bases
from the fst two centuries AD (Commodus 96).
46. T e choice of stone naturally depends largely on what was available locally. Granite is
reported in Spain (Titus 25; Lucius Verus 59) and in Egypt (Caligula 28). In Syria basalt
was used (Lucius Verus 135; Commodus 108).
47. For a number of drawings of the impressions on tops of base shas wi f thout the top
moulding, see Alföldy 1984, 167-169.
28 · roman imperial statue bases
Fig. 1. Statue base in the National Museum in Athens with oval depression for the plinth
of a marble statue (Author’s photo).
Fig. 2. Base for a statue of Claudius (Claudius 87) in the Athenian Agora with typical
traces from a bronze statue (Author’s photo).
Types of Monuments · 29
a base-like structure, identif cation of the type of monument to a large extent
rests on the formulation and layout of the inscription. However, the dimen -
sions of the slab with the inscription oefn correspond to those of the front of
the base, i.e. tall and narrow unlike building inscriptions, which are generally
wider than they are tall.48 Obviously built-up bases were far more susceptible
to damage than monolithic ones, and the slabs are ofen rather fragmentary.
Not all built-up bases were covered with marble slabs. Sometimes bronze sheets
were used instead. In areas with a dearth of stone suitable for cutting insc-rip
tions, this would be a particularly attractive solution, but the use may have been
more widespread as shown by its occurrence in Rome on a base for Tiberius
dedicated by the Aenatores tubicines liticines cornicines Romani (Tiberius 1).
Because of the high scrap value of bronze, very few of these monuments have
survived. Bronze sheets pertaining to imperial statue bases have been found in
Augustomagus in Lugdunensis (Claudius 47),49 Fodinae in Baetica (Nerva 19),
and Herculaneum (Claudius 8). Other less durable media for inscriptions may
have existed as well – inscriptions painted on stucco, for example. However, in
Pompeii and Herculaneum, where such inscriptions have been found in great
numbers, none were painted on statue bases.50
In Italy built-up bases covered with stone slabs seem to have been more
common than elsewhere judging from the large number of monuments found
here described merely as tabulae. T ese bases are generally taller than they
are wide, but depending on the setting, they may also be low and squat, such
as the bases on the podium in the Caserma dei Vigili in Ostia (front page).
T e height of the bases in Italy and the western provinces generally ranges
from 0.80 to 1.40 m. T e tallest complete bases for a standing statue in Italy, a
base in Puteoli (Marcus Aurelius 35), measures 1.74 m, while there are more
examples of signif cantly taller bases in western North Africa. A pair of bases
for statues of Marcus Aurelius and the deif ed Lucius Verus erected in the
basilica in Cuicul (Marcus Aurelius 99; Lucius Verus 67) measure about 2.40
m. Bases over 2.00 metres tall are an exception, however.
48. Of course this is only a general rule. Built-up bases had the same variety of form as other
bases, and in addition the plaque with the inscription did not necessarily cover the
entire front of the base. Even busts could stand on built-up bases, as shown by th nd oe f f
a bust of Cato in Volubilis (Lahusen & Formigli 2001, 42-44). T is bronze bust with an
inscription on its lower part stood on a tall, very narrow brick base that originally must
have been covered in plaster.
49. Piganiol 1959, 450-457; Boon 1980, 117-152.
50. For inscriptions on bronze plaques, see France-Lanord 1960; Eck 1997, 195-207. For the
unlikelihood of monumental inscriptions on wood, see Eck 1998, 203-217.
30 · roman imperial statue bases
Fig. 3. Statue
base for Trajan
in Delphi
(Trajan 110)
separately sculpted
top and
bottom (Author’s
In the Greek East relatively few bases of the built-up type exist.51 Instead,
orthostat bases seem to have been used to save expencive building material,
especially for large monuments. Troughout the period two dif erent formats
of base were in use: the taller narrow type common in the West (Fig. 3), and
a much lower type with a height of between 40 and 65 cm (Fig. 2). Although
there are a few monuments with a height above 2 m in Asia Minor (Augustus
51. Examples are attested in Pergamum (Trajan 168), Ephesus (Nerva 33) and in Corinth
(Nerva 25); all places with a strong Italian presence.
T ypes of Monuments · 31
Fig. 4. Build-up bases in a building (Augusteum?) adjoining the forum in Lucus Feroniae
(Author’s photo).
182; Antoninus Pius 263; Marcus Aurelius 248; Lucius Verus 118; Commodus
104), the tall and narrow bases tend to be slightly lower than those encoun -
tered in the West. Common for all statue bases used for approximately life-size
statues is that their width generally ranges from 50 to 75 cm. Most bases are
square, but ofen material and transport costs could be lowered by making
the bases slightly rectangular.
T e letter size varies according to the language used. Of the 658 monuments
described as statue bases with Greek inscriptions, only eight contain letters
taller than 7 cm, and on 85% the letters range between 2 and 5 cm. While
Greek bases almost always employ a homogeneous letter size throughout the
inscription (Fig. 2-3), bases with Latin inscriptions ofen use very dif erent
letter sizes to emphasise important elements in the inscription, typically the
32 · roman imperial statue bases
Fig. 5. 10 cm. thick marble slab from the front of a build-up base for Trajan (Trajan 37)
from the Augusteum? in Lucus Feroniae (Author’s photo).
names of the emperor and the dedicator (Fig. 6). Te less signif cant elements
of the inscriptions are normally written with letters of approximately 4 to 5
cm; the name of the emperor normally appears in letters 6 to 8 cm high.
T ypes of Monuments · 33
Fig. 6. Statue base for Marcus Aurelius (Marcus Aurelius 20) from Fidenae, now in
Museo Nazionale Romano, with varying letter sizes for the dif erent parts of the
inscription (Author’s photo).
34 · roman imperial statue bases
Equestrian statue bases
Equestrian statues ranked above standing statues in the hierarchy of honours,52
and their majestic size and the fact that they could be viewed from all sides
made them ideally suited to def ne and dominate open spaces like fora. T e
equestrian statues in the Forum of Augustus and of Trajan and the Forum
Romanum serve as excellent examples of this. Tus equestrian statues would
seem an obvious medium for representations of the emperor. However, only
17 statue bases for equestrian statues of the emperors of the frst and second
centuries AD have been identifed.53 In one instance, the inscription mentions
that the statue was an equestrian statue (Marcus Aurelius 135), but otherwise
the size and especially the depth of the base or the marks of hooves on top
of the base are the only criteria for iden catif tion. T is of course means that
if only the part of a monument with the inscription has been preserved, it is
not normally possible to identify it as an equestrian base, and we must ex -
pect the actual number of such bases to be somewhat higher than the extant
examples indicate. It is worth pointing out that the percentage of statues for
emperors among the equestrian statues does not exceed the percentage of
imperial statues among standing statues.54
T ere are three types of equestrian base. One consists of a built-up core on
which marble or limestone slabs are afxed. Bases of this type were preferred
in the West, for example the two bases in the forum in Veleia (Claudius 27;
Vespasian 14). In the East the Hellenistic tradition for orthostat bases
constructed from several blocks continued (Tiberius 99), but equestrian statues
with the horse standing on its hind legs only could also be placed on a single
block (Claudius 94). Apart from this last example, which is rather shallow, the
depths of the extant examples range from 1.44 m (Claudius 119) to 3.78 m
(Antoninus Pius 110), the widths being from 0.60 m to 2.00 m.55 Like equestrian
statues in general, the majority of the imperial equestrian statue bases belong
52. Cic. Phil. 9.13.
53. Augustus 52 (uncertain), 105, 192; Tiberius 71, 99, 101, 130; Claudius 27, 63 (uncertain),
94, 119; Vespasian 14; Trajan 62 (uncertain); Hadrian 114 (uncertain); Antoninus Pius
110; Marcus Aurelius 135; Commodus 99 (uncertain). For equestrian statues, see Berge -
mann 1990; 1992, 315-324.
54. Less than one-quarter of the epigraphical material relating to equestrian statues of the
imperial period concerns statues of the imperial family (Bergemann 1990, 119-155). In
Venetia and Histria, imperial statues made up 20% of the total (Alföldy 1984, 36-38), and
in the forum in Cuicul more than 60% (Zimmer & Wesch-Klein 1989, 53).
55. For the size of equestrian monuments, see also Bergemann 1990, 119.
T ypes of Monuments · 35 to the Julio-Claudian period (65%). Af er the reign of Claudius we only have
six examples, so the decline in the number of equestrian statues did not result
from this honour becoming a prerogative of the emperor, although er t afhe
second century AD hardly any examples of non-imperial equestrian statues are
known.56 T ey seem to have gone out of use for other reasons.
At the eastern end of the forum in T amugadi, seven extremely large statue
bases made of orthostat blocks have been identi edf . T e largest, a monument
for Antoninus Pius (Antoninus Pius 148), has a width of no less than 6.25 m
and a depth of 3.90 m, and another for Marcus Aurelius (Marcus Aurelius
131) a width of 4.10 m. Zimmer proposes reasonably that the bases carried
quadrigae. In Hierapolis a recently published inscription on a base constructed
of at least four blocks mentions the erection of a a{rma, which in this
connection can only mean that the statue of the emperor stood in a quadriga. While
such statue groups certainly stood on many arches, the bases in T amugadi
and Hierapolis are to my knowledge the only certainly identifed bases for
Arches, columns and pillars
According to Pliny the Elder, the function of columns and arches was to el -
evate the statue of the honorand above other mortals.58 While columns are
rare – included in the catalogue are only the well-known columns of Trajan
and Antoninus Pius (Trajan 13; Antoninus Pius 17); a third column in Rome
still to be seen today, that of Marcus Aurelius, does not have its base with the
inscription preserved59 – triumphal and honorary arches and other types of
gate and portal imitating the architecture of the triumphal arch are prolif c
in all parts of the Empire.60 Most of (if not all) the arches dedicated to the
56. Bergemann 1990, 3, n. 22.
57. Bergemann 1988, 115-128.
58. Pliny, HN 34.27: “Columnarum ratio erat attolli super ceteros mortales, quod et arcus
signif cant novicio invento”.
59. Columns as statue bases have been discussed most recently by Jordan-Ruwe (1995). See
also Settis 1988 and Vogel 1973.
60. T e catalogue of Kähler (1939, 373-493) is still the most complete collection of Roman
arches. De Maria (1988) updates and expands the Italian evidence, see also the review by
Kleiner 1989b, 195-206. Other recent works on arches include Pensa et al. 1979; Kleiner
1985; Pfanner 1983; Hesberg 1992, 277-293; Wallace-Hadrill 1990, 143-181; Eck & Foer -
ster 1999, 294-313; Kader 1996; Küpper-Böhm 1996; Roehmer 1997.
36 · roman imperial statue bases
emperor seem to have carried some form of sculptural representation of the
emperor, and thus fall under the defnition of statue bases. Unlike most other
arches, the one example of an arch where the presence of a statue of the
emperor is disputed, the arch of Hadrian in Athens, does not carry a dedication
to the emperor but instead a statement about the two sections of the city that
the arch separates, and is thus excluded from the catalogue.61 Most of the
106 statues from 86 arches in the catalogue have been identif ed by
association with f nds of architectural fragments. 20 of the inscriptions pertaining to
arches specify that the object was an arch. Six inscriptions also mention the
statue placed on top.62 To the 86 identifed arches should perhaps be added
a small number of inscriptions described as lintels, architraves and epistyles
that might have belonged to arches.
Pillars were a favoured form of pedestal for statues of kings during the
Hellenistic period, but they seem to have fallen out of use during the imperial
period, and we know of no new pillars constructed for statues of emperors.
However, existing pillars could be reused for imperial statues, like the pillar
in front of the Stoa of Attalus II in Athens, which was supplied during the
reign of Tiberius with a new inscription and possibly a new or re-modelled
quadriga on top.63
Statues in architectural settings
Many imperial statues were placed in an architectural setting. Sometimes they
stood on separately worked bases, as can be observed on the Nymphaeum
of Herodes Atticus in Olympia (Antoninus Pius 201; Lucius Verus 108), the
Nymphaeum Traiani in Ephesus (Nerva 35; Trajan 143), or in the scenae frons
of the theatre in Aphrodisias (Domitian 37). Statues that stood in niches, on
the other hand, were accompanied by an inscription on a marble plaque af xed
61. Adams 1989, 10-16; Post 1999, 179.
62. Arch and statue mentioned in the inscription: Trajan 86; Hadrian 142 (statue and
quadriga); Antoninus Pius 109, 179; Marcus Aurelius 132, 152. Arch but not statue mentioned
in the inscription: Augustus 164; Tiberius 116, 79 (inscription on what is described as a
lintel. T e inscription concerns the dedication a forum, a paved area, an altar of Augustus,
a temple of Saturn and an arch. It seems reasonable to associate the inscription with the
arch); Claudius 74, 75, 117; Vespasian 56; Hadrian 121, 147, 152; Marcus Aurelius 133,
152, 156; Lucius Verus 83, 91.
63. Tiberius 93. See, Vanderpool 1959, 86-90.
T ypes of Monuments · 37 Fig. 7. Exedra opposite the theatre in Emerita Augusta with statues of the imperial
family placed in niches in the wall. T e fastening for the inscribed plaques are visible below
the statues (Trillmich, W. et al. 1993. Hispania Antiqua . Mainz, taf. 49c).
under the niche. An excellent example of such an arrangement of imperial
statues has been preserved in the theatre complex in Emerita. In a small room
attached to the peristyle opposite the theatre, seven statues were placed in
38 · roman imperial statue bases
niches.64 None of the dedicatory inscriptions are extant, but their positions
below the niches can still clearly be discerned (Fig. 7). T e posthumous
inscription for Vespasian in Misenum that was reused from a Domitianic dedication
(Vespasian 8; Domitian 5) almost certainly belonged under the niche that
held a nude statue of Vespasian in the back wall of the meeting house of the
Augustales.65 T e inscription measures 30 by 93 cm, and its portrait character
would thus not be immediately recognisable if it had not been found near the
statue. T e same can be said of the 143 cm wide inscription for Tiberius from
the theatre in Herculaneum (Tiberius 13), which may have been fastened to
the wall under the bronze statue of Tiberius found there. In the South Bath in
Perge, two wide panels found in thape odyterium were fastened below niches
that held statues of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus (Marcus Aurelius 238;
Commodus 95).66 One could suspect that many of the monuments described
as tabulae whose measurements do not comply with the average size of statue
bases may have been placed under niches holding statues.
Other types of monument
In Cilicia and Syria there was a local tradition for placing statues on consoles
high above the ground along the colonnaded streets that were a common
feature in the area. Even though this position ofen rendered the inscriptions
virtually unreadable, they still comply with the standard pattern for honorary
inscriptions. Consoles with imperial statues are known in Olba (Tiberius 145),
Pompeiopolis (Augustus 196, 197; Hadrian 401; Commodus 105), Palmyra
(Hadrian 407), and Apamea ad Orontem (Antoninus Pius 282; Marcus Au -
relius 251; Lucius Verus 134) (Fig. 8).
Reliefs with portraits of emperors accompanied by dedicatory inscriptions
have been included when the dedication concerns the emperor portrayed.
T ese are the reliefs from thsee basteion in Aphrodisias (Claudius 115; Nero
40, 41), the fragmented relief with a portrait of Lucius Verus in Ostia
(Antoninus Pius 36; Marcus Aurelius 27; Lucius Verus 16), and the pediment with a
portrait of Commodus in Philadelphia (Commodus 89).
Generally the object of the dedicatory inscriptions in the catalogue is the
statue of the emperor. However, a few inscriptions recording the dedication
64. Fuchs 1987, 167-169.
65. Franciscis 1991.
66. IGSK 54, 148-149.
T ypes of Monuments · 39 v
of buildings have been included – either because statues were closely ass-o
ciated with the building in question, or because a statue of the emperor is
mentioned in the inscription together with the structure dedicated. To the
frst category belong two monuments described as aediculae with statues of
Vespasian and his two sons in Side67 and Lamos in Cilicia68 (Vespasian 72,
77). To the second belong a macellum in Tolocaesarea in which the statue of
Hadrian evidently had a prominent position since it is mentioned before the
building in the inscription (Hadrian 362),69 and two temples with statues in
Uzaae and Volubilis (Trajan 92; Antoninus Pius 102). Finally the horrea in
Myra with busts of Hadrian and Sabina inserted over the inscription (Hadrian
371) and the Tropaeum Augusti (Augustus 80) have been included, although
it is not absolutely certain that the second monument actually carried a
representation of Augustus.70
Literary testimony for imperial statue bases and inscriptions
While imperial statues are mentioned frequently in the literary sources,71 there
are far fewer references to statue bases and their inscriptions.72 Among the
few examples that we do have, there is a wide variety of monument types. T e
smallest is a bust of the young Octavian with an inscription in iron letters
naming him T urinus, seen by Suetonus;73 the largest the colossus of Nero in his
Golden House,74 which was later changed into a statue of Sol before being r -e
vamped as Commodus in the guise of Heracles. At least in this last instance an
inscription following the normal pattern for dedicatory inscriptions must have
67. Mansel 1962, 198-208.
68. Bean and Mitford 1970, 208-209.
69. Hadrian 366: ajnevªsº⁄thsan Tolokaisareªi~ ⁄ ton andriavntºa kai to ªbaq⁄ron kai to;
mºakevllon ek⁄ªtw`n th~ kºwmh~ porwn.` T e most probable reconstruction, but of course
other objects than a statue could come into question.
70. Lamboglia 1938.
71. Lahusen 1984, 61-91, 111-120.
72. For inscriptions in literary sources, see Stein 1931.
73. Suet. Aug. 7.1, with comments by Gross 1980, 126-34. A pair of bronze busts of Augus -
tus and Livia with inscriptions engraved on the bases (Augustus 75) have been found in
Neuilly-le-Réal, now in Paris, Louvre Br 28 & 29.
74. Bergmann 1994.
40 · roman imperial statue bases J
Fig. 8. Two of the originally three consoles carrying statues of Antoninus Pius, Marcus
Aurelius, and Lucius Verus on the colonnaded street in Apamea ad Orontem (Antoninus
Pius 282; Marcus Aurelius 255) (Author’s photo).
been present, since Commodus, according to Herodian, had the title Germani -
cus replaced by the number of his victories as a gladiator.75 Another lost
monument known through literary sources and coins is the columna rostrata of
Octavian in the Forum Romanum, crowned by a golden statue voted by the senate
af er his victory over Sex. Pompeius in 36 BC. T e base carried an inscription,
part of which is repeated by Appian.76 To the ancient spectator, the statue and
base constituted a single inseparable entity; and like statues, which have of en
75. Hdn. 1.15.9: “ … upogravya~ thi basei autou` a}~ eiwvqasi basilika~ kai patrwia~ anti;
de; Germanikou monomacou~ ciliou~ nikhsanto~”. Similarly in SHA Comm. 17.10: “…
ac suum imposuit et titulum more solito subscripsit, ita ut illum Gladiatorium et Ef
eminatum non praetermitteret”.
T ypes of Monuments · 41
only been recorded because of their exceptional size or material costs, inscri-p
tions have been handed down because of their unusual content or their
remarkable af erlife. Of particular interest is the inscription from a triumphal statue
of Domitian, mentioned by Suetonius,77 which was torn of in a storm and fell
into a nearby grave shortly before the death of the emperor. Even though the
story is most probably an invention, it illustrates that to a contemporary Roman
audience it was not an unfamiliar phenomenon for inscriptions to fall o their f
bases – the point of the anecdote being where the inscription eventually ended
up. Evidently the base must have been built up and covered with plaques, in this
case most likely of bronze, since marble plaques would hardly have been ca -r
ried away by a storm however thin they may have been cut. Another example of
removal of an inscription is a base for a statue of Augustus on the Capitol that
was struck by lightning in AD 14, damaging the inscription and leaving only
aesari for Caesari, which meant god in Etruscan.78 Te missing C supposedly
indicated the time of his death 100 days later. Other references are to the co-n
tent of inscriptions on statues in general. Inscriptions from statues of Galba, for
example, evidently postulated a family relation to Q. Catulus,79 although this
cannot be conf rmed in the epigraphical record. Statues of Titus with
inscriptions, again according to Suetonius,80 were erected in great numbers during his
term as military tribune in Germania and Britannia. T is has not been
confrmed archaeologically either. T e only extant inscription from a statue base
mentioned in the literary sources is the one from the Tropaeum Augusti near
Nicaea, which Pliny the Elder reproduced in full (Augustus 80).81
76. App. B Civ. 5.130: “ej pigrafh;n ecousa, oti æthn eirhvnhn estasiasmevnhn ek pollou`
sunevsthse kata te ghn kai qalassan”. See also Jordan-Ruwe 1995, 64-66. T e phrase
by land and sea occurs in inscriptions for Sextus’ father Pompeius Magnus in the East
(see Amela Valverde 2001, 87-102), for example on statue bases in Mytilene ( IG XII, 2,
202) and in Miletupolis (IGSK 26, 24), and we fnd it in other inscriptions for Augus -
tus (Augustus 175: pash~ gh~ kai qalassh~ epovpthn, 200: to; n pash~ gh~ kai pash~
qalavssh~ arconta, 180, 187). T e phrase is used once on a base for Tiberius, but then
disappears until the reign of Trajan.
77. Suet. Dom. 15.2: “E basi statuae triumphalis titulus excussus vi procellae in monimentum
proximum decidit”.
78. Suet. Aug. 97.2 and Dio Cass. 56.29.4. For a similar incident, this time concerning a Greek
inscription, see Dio Cass. 76.11.2.
79. Suet. Galb. 2.
80. Suet. Tit. 4.1.
81. Lamboglia 1938. Pliny HN. 3.136-137.
42 · roman imperial statue bases Statue types and materials used for imperial statues
Imperial images were transmitted using almost any material imaginable.
Owing to poor conditions for preservation of organic materials in most
areas of the Roman Empire, painted images – one of the commonest types
of portrait in antiquity – have been lost almost entirely. No painted images
of the emperors under consideration have been preserved. Te style may be
glimpsed from the example in Berlin showing Septimius Severus with his
wife and children.82 Te emperor’s portrait appeared on the obverse of the
majority of the coins in circulation in the Empire. It could also be found on
ceramics83 and silverware,84 lamps,85 cameos86 and medallions, and in the
military the standards carried their portraits, as did the weaponry in some
instances.87 Buildings and commemorative monuments carried reliefs
showing the exploits of the emperor,88 or had decorative elements with imperial
portraits like imagines clipeatae.89 Portraits in the round range in size from
miniature portraits90 and other transportable images91 to busts and life-size
statues, or portraits of truly colossal proportions.92
T e portraits of the emperor that were accompanied by inscribed bases
represent only a fraction of these diferent representations, namely the life-size
or larger standing, sitting or riding statue. Tere are three basic types: statues
of the emperor wearing the toga ( togata) or with his head covered by the toga
(togata velato capite) in his capacity of pontifex maximus, cuirassed statues
(loricata) stressing the aspects of the emperor as general, and nude or
seminude statues of the emperor in a heroic pose or in the guise of a god.93
82. McCann 1968, 79-80. See also Euzennat 1994, 111-115; Blanck 1969b.
83. Facsády 1996, 21-25.
84. T e Boscoreale Cup with a portrait of the triumphant Tiberius, Héron de Villefosse 1899.
85. Buchholz 1961, 173-187.
86. Megow 1987.
87. Exhibition Catalogue Berlin 1988, 558-560, no. 383-386. Among these “T e sword of T -i
berius” in the British Museum, inv. no. PS 107808.
88. Bonanno 1976.
89. Winkes 1969; Winkes 1999, 91-95; Budde 1965, 103-117.
90. Schneider 1976; Jucker 1964, 81-92.
91. Blanck 1971, 90-93.
92. Kreikenbom 1992. On the largest statue in antiquity – the Colossus of Nero, see Bergmann
93. For the use of statue types in general, see Wegner 1939, 285-287 and Niemeyer 1968, 14-20.
Togate statues: Goette 1990. Cuirassed statues: Stemmer 1978. Heroic statues: Maderma
T ypes of Monuments · 43
Statues mentioned in the inscriptions from statue bases
In the original context it was normally quite obvious what the object of the
dedication was, and consequently this information was superuofus in the tory inscription. If, however, the dedicator wished to specify the co - n
ditions under which the dedication took place, or if the inscription was not
placed immediately below the statue, the object could f nd its way into the
inscription. Against this background, we should not expect the examples to
constitute a representative selection of the monuments in existence.
Since the statue bases under discussion for the most part carried life-size
standing statues, it is not surprising that the most commonly used term in the
Latin inscriptions is statua, which roughly translates to statue.94 In a few of the
43 occurrences, the type of statue dedicated is described in more detail. A statua
triumphalis of Trajan was erected in Olvera in Baetica (Trajan 68), and a statue
of Hadrian is specif ed as being seven foot tall (Hadrian 115). One inscription
mentions an equestrian statue (Marcus Aurelius 135) erected in connection
with the building of the basilica in Tugga, four others mention statues placed
on arches (Hadrian 142; Antoninus Pius 109, 179; Marcus Aurelius 132). In
T ugga, Nanneia Instania Fida dedicated two colossal statues (Marcus Aure -
lius 169; Lucius Verus 97). A newly elected sevir dedicated statuae sacrae of
Antoninus Pius and his two sons because of the honour of oce af nd out of
gratitude for the city’s new aqueduct (Antoninus Pius 95; Marcus Aurelius 92;
Lucius Verus 61). T ree times we hear of statues that needed repair (Claudius
60; Tiberius 78 [ aedem et statuas corruptas]; Marcus Aurelius 16 [vetustate cor -
ruptis]). Imago was used to denote a wide range of dif erent types of portrait.95
In the ten instances where the word is mentioned on statue bases, however, the
meaning seems to be bust or statuette, f ve of which were made of silver (Trajan
92; Hadrian 123; Antoninus Pius 65; Marcus Aurelius 66, Lucius Verus 38). A
diminutive base (0.145 x 0.255 x 0.21 m) mentions an aedicula with an imago
of Nero (Nero 3). If this image was placed on the base, it must have been a bust
or a statuette. Another inscription, evidently from an altar dedicated to the
wellbeing (pro salute) of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus (Marcus Aurelius
103, Lucius Verus 69), mentions that the dedicated objects included both the
altar and imagines. Since there was more than one imago, those of the emperors
seem more probable than personif cations of Salus. T ese inscriptions imply
94. For Latin and Greek terminology for various types of portrait, see Roux 1962, 366-380;
Daut 1975; Letta 1978, 3-19; Price 1984, 176-180.
95. Daut 1975.
44 · roman imperial statue bases v
that imago, at least when used on imperial statue bases, of en referred to re-li
gious objects. One inscription refers to statues as signa (Augustus 51; Tiberius
38) placed in a temple. Because the marble slab on which this inscription is cut
has three separate dedications to Augustus, Gaius Caesar and Lucius Caesar
(with later additions of Tiberius and Agrippa Posthumus), it was most
probably afxed to a large base carrying the statues. Two terms for statue frequently
found in the literary sources, simulacrum and ef gies, are not attested on the
statue bases in the catalogue.96
T e two commonest Greek terms for statues, ajndria~ and a[galma, both
denote life-size statues. Te distinction between them seems to be one of co-n
text and function rather than one of type or material∆Andriav~. , the slightly
more frequent term (12 examples),97 refers to hono c rifstatues, whereas
a[galma (known in eight inscriptions)98 has generally been interpreted as
meaning cult statue. Unfortunately the contexts of nearly all these bases have
been lost, but the frequent use of the dative case in inscriptions referring to
ajgavlmata supports the notion. However, the dative case was not restricted to
cult statues – as seen from its use on a base for a ajn ndriav~ in Lyktos (Trajan
131). Eijkw`n, the vaguest term applied to imperial images, like imago denotes
a likeness. It is only mentioned in one inscription (Trajan 188) for an image,
probably a bust or miniature representation that was part of a larger dedica -
tion of fouru fted columns, an iron door, three craters and three kantharoi.
Bronze or marble
T e vast majority of the extant portraits of emperors are made of marble is . T
does not ref ect the situation in antiquity – marble portraits have simply
survived better than metal ones. During the Hellenistic period marble generally
seems to have been used for statues of deities, while honorc stifatues were
far more ofen made of bronze.99 From this it has been inferred that marble
96. Plenty of examples in Lahusen 1984, 61-91.
97. Augustus 168; Claudius 131; Nero 32; Vespasian 18; Titus 18; Nerva 34; Trajan 131; Hadrian
273, 341, 362; Antoninus Pius 212, 260.
98. Tiberius 148; Trajan 197; Hadrian 267, 425; Antoninus Pius 14, 298; Marcus Aurelius 9;
Commodus 93.
99. Discussion by Tuchelt 1979, 70-90. Tuchelt (1979, 76) found that 26 out of 30 bases for
promagistrates in the province of Asia erected during the last century BC carried bronze
statues. T is tendency is conf rmed by the evidence from Kos collected by Höghammer
1993, 68-70.
T ypes of Monuments · 45
was the more valuable material, and that honorif c statues in marble, because
of their afnities with cult statues, also had religious signif cance.100
According to Lahusen the distinctive meaning of marble statues continued into the
Roman period, and in his opinion this could explain why so many portraits
of the imperial family in marble still exist compared with portraits of private
individuals. T e former could be erected in public, whereas the latter were
presumably only erected in private houses and villas “wo es für das
Material und die Form der Bildnisrepräsentation keine Einschränkungen gab”.101
Countless examples prove the incorrectness of this assumption, of course, and
during the Roman period there does not seem to have been any connection
between the function of an image and its material. Both marble and bronze
could evidently be used for public honori c fstatues.
We can obtain an idea of the frequency of lost bronze statues by close
study of the statue bases. By investigating the marks on the top of fully p- re
served statue bases, it is ofen possible to discern what type of material the
statue that stood on the base was made of.102 Bases for marble statues so-me
times have a large round, oval or square depression into which the plinth of
the statue could be lowered. T e plinth of the statue could also be placed on
top of the base, like the statue of Hadrian in the library in the Asklepieion
in Pergamum, in which case detection is rendered more dif cult. Bases for
bronze statues, on the other hand, have “footprints” on top or two to four
dowel holes for fastening the feet of the statue (Fig. 2). Unfortunately very few
publications of inscriptions record this type of information, and in order to
obtain reliable f gures for the marble/bronze ratio all bases would have to be
re-examined. T e only systematic investigation of the issue within the imp-e
rial period is that of Alföldy for the statues from Venetia et Histria,103 which
showed that bronze statues were slightly more common than marble ones in
this area. However, the percentage of bases where anything def nite could be
determined about the material of the statues was rather small, and as pointed
out by the author, the choice of material may have varied depending on the
rank of the honorand. A small sample of statue bases on Kos shows that the
100. Tuchelt 1979, 79-86. On the other hand, Smith (1988, 3) remarks about the portraits of
the Hellenistic kings that: “Our surviving portraits are mostly lower-grade works in mar -
ble, ofen very generalised in character.”
101. Lahusen 1992, 192.
102. For illustrations of the dif erent traces lef by marble and bronze statues, see Alföldy 1984,
103. Alföldy 1984, 37.
46 · roman imperial statue bases preference for bronze statues extended into the Roman period,104 and in the
fora in Cuicul and Tamugadi bronze statues predominate from the second
to the fourth century.105
Another indicator of the frequency of bronze statues in an area is the ratio
between extant portraits and statue bases. Since bases survive regardless of
the material used for the statues, the ratio between extant bases and portraits
should change with the preference for marble or bronze statuary. In Italy
there are about the same number of portraits as bases (Fig. 9), and in the
northwestern and Hispanic provinces the ratio is two bases for each extant
portrait. In Greece and North Africa the ratios are 5:1 and 7:1 respectively,
and Asia Minor and the northeastern provinces top the list with around ten
bases for each extant portrait. Although this by no means constitutes a very
precise measurement, it indicates that large dif erences in the choice of material
prevailed within the Empire. In the East the Hellenistic tradition for bronze
honorif c statues seems to have continued unchanged, while in the West and
in Italy in particular marble was more popular.106
Statues in precious metals
T ere is an extensive body of literature drawing on a large number of ancient
literary sources on the topic of imperial statues in precious metals.107 T e
questions of whether statues in silver and gold were a prerogative of the emperor,
and whether they implied divine properties and had religious connotations,
which has occupied much of the discussion, need not detain us here since
the statue bases of er no new insight regarding this question. Instead we can
consider their frequency among the honorifc statues, as well as considering
which emperors had this type of monuments dedicated, who erected them
and where.
Unlike the ample literary evidence, the archaeological evidence is rather
scarce. Hardly any examples of imperial statues in precious metals have sur -
104. Höghammer 1993, 68-70.

105. Zimmer & Wesch-Klein 1989, 54-84.

106. T e same tendency can be seen for the 130 attested Julio-Claudian statue groups collected

by Rose (1997a). Among the western examples more than 50% are attested by sculptural
evidence, while the f gure for the statue groups in the eastern part of the Empire is only
107. Most importantly Scott 1931, 101-123; Pekáry 1968, 144-148; Pekáry 1985, 66-80; Lahusen
1978, 385-395; Lahusen 1999a, 251-266; Lahusen & Formigli 2001, 505-524.
T ypes of Monuments · 47 Fig. 9. T e number of extant approximately life size or larger imperial portraits (before
1slash) and the number of statue bases (afer slash) according to region. Notice that while
the numbers are approximately even in Italy, there are far more bases than portraits in
most other regions.
Emperor Italy North- Gaul Spain North Greece Asia East
ern Africa Minor
2 Augustus 77/69 0/7 10/11 13/22 6/11 19/40 14/41 8/2
3 Tiberius -/47 -/3 -/8 -/14 -/7 -/30 -/41 -/1
4 Caligula 14/2 2/0 1/9 2/0 2/0 3/6 3/10 0/1
5 Claudius 28/38 1/7 2/11 4/10 2/10 6/31 2/46 1/1
6 Vespasian 19/17 1/3 1/1 2/8 4/14 1/9 1/26 0/3
7 Titus 23/17 0/2 0/0 1/7 2/14 1/8 1/16 1/2
8 Nerva 14/12 0/5 0/1 0/2 0/3 0/7 0/18 0/1
9 Trajan 60-70/41 3/14 3/3 6/10 2/24 8/45 3/57 3/11
10 Hadrian 93/75 2/24 3/2 4/15 8/52 16/124 10/115 10/11
11 Antoninus Pius ca. 40/65 0/15 3/1 7/18 5/82 6/31 3/70 1/10
12 Lucius Verus 59/38 0/10 1/3 3/13 17/36 7/10 4/22 2/7
13 Marcus Aurelius ca. 70/66 4/16 2/2 5/9 8/84 8/31 5/42 9/10
14 Commodus ca. 20/17 2/5 0/0 0/5 1/36 4/13 4/31 1/4
1 T is is by no means an all inclusive illustration of the geographical distribution of the extant im-p
rial portraits, and neither do the f gures lend themselves for comparison between dif erent emperors.

Since the chart was built on the works of others its accuracy depends entirely on these. Note that the

date of publication ef ects the number of known portraits. A more correct chart of the geographical

distribution could naturally be worked out by consulting the publication of each individual portrait.

T is would, however, require a considerable ef ort. In the most recent studies cited, Evers for Hadrian

and Boschung for Augustus and Caligula, great ef ort has been exerted to identify the provenience of

as many portraits as possible, and these therefore ofer the most reliable evidence for the geographical

distribution of the portraits.

2 Boschung 1993a, 227-230. ▶
vived until the present108, and most probably had a very short lifespan.109 T ose
that have survived, although we would expect them to be the most
outstanding examples of Roman art, are of rather mediocre quality at best, and also
seem to deviate from the ofcial portrait types in marble. Te evidence from
108. From the period in question, the imperial portraits in precious metal are: a gold bust
found in Aventicum, most probably a likeness of Marcus Aurelius (Jucker 1981c, 5-17;
Witchel in Stemmer 1995, 257-262; Lahusen 2002, 46-65). Silver portraits have been at -
tributed to Galba (Die Silberbüste des Kaisers Galba 1995), and Lucius Verus (Bendinelli
1937) (from Marengo, now in Torino Mus).
109. Statues could even be melted down during an emperor’s lifetime (Tac. Ann. 3.70.1). Note
also IGSK 11, 1, 25, on the reuse of old imperial portraits in Ephesus.
48 · roman imperial statue bases
3 No complete fgures exist for all the portraits of Tiberius. However, a list of 25 specimens of Typus
Kopenhagen NCG 623 can be found in Fittschen & Zanker 1985, no. 10. 9 of these derive from Italy,
9 from other parts of the empire, notably 4 portraits from Egypt, and 7 with no known provenience.
Fittschen & Zanker 1985, no. 12, also lists 23 specimens of Typus Berlin-Neapel-Sorrent of which at
least 15 have provenience in Italy. Only the portraits in Toulouse, Tripolis and Carthage have def nitely
been found outside Italy. Boschung 1990, 365-367. and Boschung 1993b, 56-58 lists a total of approxi -
mately 90 portraits of Tiberius.
4 Boschung 1989.
5 Based on the 54 portraits appearing in Fittschen (1973, 55-58, cat. no. 17). Updated f gures will appear
in Massner, forthcoming. Massner has kindly informed me that she has found approximately 80 life
size portraits of Claudius in the round.
6 Daltorp, Hausmann and Wegner 1966 and Bergmann and Zanker 1981, 332-349.
7 Daltorp, Hausmann and Wegner 1966, Fittschen 1977, 63-67, cat. no. 21, and Bergmann and Zanker
1981, 332-349.
8 Bergmann & Zanker (1981, 380-403) believed 14 life size portraits of Nerva in the round to be in ex -
istence. Of these only two or three were new creations while the others were reworked – mostly from
portraits of Domitian. Most if not all the portraits seem to derive from Italy.
9 Gross 1940. Balty (1977/1978, 45-61) enumerates a total of 120 portraits but his catalogue does not
always include precise information about provenience.
10 Evers 1994.
11 Wegner 1979, 96-123. Many of the entries lack precise information about provenience. Very of en the
location of the museum gives a good indication of th nd spe f ot, especially in the case of local mus-e
ums, but for the large European and North American collections, whose portraits to a very large extent
was bought in Italy, this method is useless and the proportion of portraits from Italy may therefore be
even higher. T e portraits from the old Italian collections have been counted as having been found in
12 Wegner 1980, 38-66. See also note 11. Fittschen (1999) suggests that 11 of the 17 known portraits of
Lucius Verus erected prior to AD 161 come from Italy. For the distribution of the portraits of the fourth
portrait type, see Fittschen and Zanker 1985, 79-81.
13 Wegner 1979, 139-181. See also note 11. Fittschen (1999) suggests that 44 of 61 portraits of Marcus
Aurelius with known provenience erected prior to AD 161 come from Italy. T e remaining portraits
have been found in the Eastern provinces 4, North Africa 3, in the Northern provinces 4, Asia Minor
2, Spain 2, Greece 2.
14 Wegner 1980, 76-181. See also note 11. Note also Fittschen 1999 for the portraits prior to AD 180.
T irteen portraits of Typus Capitol are known. Eleven have been found in Italy.
the statue bases is somewhat richer, but it does not seem that they were as
common in antiquity as the volume of ancient literary references and modern
scholarship devoted to them would suggest. T is may well be a result of the
tendency of ancient authors to give prominence to the unusual at the expense
of the ordinary. Of course the nine inscriptions from statue bases mentioning
thirteen portraits are a poor representation of the statues in precious metal
once in existence, since our only way of knowing whether statues were made
of gold or silver is if the material is specifed in the inscription. T e purpose
of mentioning the material in the inscription was not to state the obvious, but
to denote the weight of the metal used for the statue or bust. T is
measurement seems to have been of some importance, and occurs invariably except
T ypes of Monuments · 49
when the statue is referred to indirectly (Trajan 92).110 We may therefore have
a fairly representative segment of the inscribed statue bases for statues in p - re
cious metals permanently afxed in one place. Transportable images, on the
other hand, such as busts and statuettes in gold and silver used by the army
and as cult objects, seldom had accompanying inscriptions and consequently
do not appear in the epigraphical evidence.111
Imperial statues in gold referred to in inscriptions from statue bases are
for the most part found in Rome. T is could explain their
overrepresentation in the literary sources, which to a large extent concern circumstances in
the capital. In Rome, Gaius Geminius Atticus dedicated an image of Tiberius
weighing 5 pounds of gold and 5 pounds of silver (Tiberius 8). Te base is
described as small, and probably carried a bust of the emperor. A centurion
of the third Augusta, Gaius Papirius Aequos, spent 10 pounds of gold on gilt
statues or busts of Vespasian and his two sons (Vespasian 3; Titus 1; Domitian
1). Outside Rome we hear of a statue of Titus in Conimbriga erected by the
province for which 10 pounds of gold was used (Titus 23). T e fact that the
provinces of southern Spain erected statues in gold naturally refects the rich
deposits found there.
Silver statues seem to have been more common – even outside Rome. T e
largest amount of metal used that we know of from the inscriptions is 300
pounds of silver for a statue of Claudius in Minturnae (Claudius 10). Un-for
tunately, the identity of the dedicator of this statue is unknown. For a statue of
Tiberius in Teate Marrucinorum, a centurion of the sixth Ferrata bequeathed
10 5/12 pounds of silver according to his will and testament (Tiberius 31), and
in Rome Marcus Petronius Sura, a procurator, joined his two sons in spending
just over fve pounds of silver on an image of Hadrian (Hadrian 11). From
Bosa on Sardinia there is a dedication of small silver busts of Antoninus Pius
and his family paid for by Q. Rutilius V[- - -] according to a decree of the
decuriones (Antoninus Pius 65, Marcus Aurelius 66, Lucius Verus 38). T ese
busts may have belonged in an augusteum.112 Finally, an imperial temple or
shrine with a silver image of Trajan of unspecifed weight was dedicated by
a newly appointed f amen in Uzaae (Trajan 92). In Hippo Regius a duumvir
quinquennalis, in addition to a promised silver statue perhaps of the emperor,
110. Note also that Domitian set a minimum weight for the statues of himself in gold and
silver erected on the Capitol, Suet. Dom. 13.2: “Statuas sibi in Capitolio non nisi aureas et
argenteas poni permisit ac ponderis certi”.
111. Blanck 1971, 90-93.
112. L. 1: “[Imagines in Augusteo] has” is however, a restoration.
113. Scott 1931, 123.
50 · roman imperial statue bases made an of ering of at least two smaller silver images of Hadrian with golden
crowns (Hadrian 123).
Even though this sample of thirteen statues is rather small, it gives a co -
herent picture of the use of statues in precious metals. Apart from the statue
of Claudius in Minturnae, the amounts of metal referred to in the inscr- ip
tions are quite small, 3 to 10 pounds (enough for a bust or perhaps to plate
a bronze statue). Even the 300 pounds or close to 100 kg of silver used in
Minturnae would hardly sufce for a life-size statue. Geographically Rome
and Italy dominate, and with the exception of the statues erected by the two
provinces on the Iberian Peninsula, they are all private dedications. It would
seem, therefore, that the choice of erecting statues in precious metal was a
result of personal devotion on the part of the dedicator rather than being the
obligation of communities.
Portraits in precious metals could be powerful symbols with connotations
of monarchy and divinity, and almost every emperor felt obliged to formulate
a policy regarding this type of portrait.113 Several emperors renounced them
altogether, and most at least placed restrictions on their use. T e exceptions
were Caligula, Nero, Domitian, Commodus and Caracalla, who according to
the ancient authors actively promoted the erection of such images in a variety
of contexts.114 T e evidence of the statue bases on this point contradicts the
literary sources. Domitian is the only one of these notorious emperors that
we f nd among the statue bases, but the image in question was erected during
the reign of his father years before he developed autocratic tendencies. It is
true that our record of their statue bases has been diminished because of their
“damnatio memoriae” (pp. 56-62), but still we should expect at least some evi -
dence if the extent of the practice paralleled the literary accounts.115 Instead
we f nd statues of Tiberius, who according to the literary sources observed a
very restrictive policy with regard to his images – including those in precious
metals116 – the otherwise miserly Vespasian,117 and Trajan, who according to
Pliny forbade images in silver and gold.118 T e truth of the matter is probably
that the emperor had rather limited control of and interest in placing restri-c
tions on what was practised outside the public sphere in Rome. When asked
directly for permission, some emperors saw it as an opportunity to display
114. Scott 1931, 123.

115. Dio Cass. 67.8.1.

116. S u et. Tib. 26. Tac. Ann. 3.18.2.

117. S u et. Vesp. 23.3.

118. Plin. Paneg. 52.

T ypes of Monuments · 51
modestia. T e image of emperors wanting excessive amounts of statues in gold
and silver is nothing but a topos exemplifying the bad emperor.
T e cost of imperial statues
Duncan-Jones, in his study of prices and price-levels in North Africa and
Italy, presents a large number of inscriptions mentioning the cost of erecting
statues.119 A large percentage of these pertain to imperial statues.120 T e study
suf ers, unfortunately, from the evidently wrong assumption that where no -th
ing else is specif ed in the inscription a marble statue was probably present.121
Until the material included in Duncan-Jones’ study has been re-examined for
traces lef by the statues on top of the bases, I would be inclined to think that
the opposite was the case (pp. 45-47). T e evidence from Cuicul and T
amugadi collected by Zimmer certainly shows a preference for bronze.122 One of
the exceptions, a base from Cuicul for a marble statue of the deif ed Marcus
Aurelius (Marcus Aurelius 100), mentions a price of 7,000 sesterces.123 In
three further instances where the cost is noted in the inscription, we know
the material of the statue. Two bases in Cuicul carried bronze statues of M -ar
cus Aurelius (Marcus Aurelius 99) and Lucius Verus (Lucius Verus 67), the
frst costing 3,000 sesterces and the other slightly more, and in T amugadi a
base for a bronze statue of Antoninus Pius (Antoninus Pius 140) mentions
a price of 5,000 sesterces. Tese few examples where the price and material
of the statue can both be determined with certainty, together with the base
for Marcus Aurelius from Tuburbo Maius, where a bronze statue costing
just over 2,000 sesterces is mentioned in the inscription, indicate that marble
statues were the more expensive of the two, but the sample is rather small to
be of wider signif cance.
Oliver’s attempt at calculating the price of a bronze statue from its metallic
value plus the wage of a bronze-worker as specifed in Diocletian’s Edict on
119. Duncan-Jones 1982, 78-79, no. 77-212. T e North African material is particularly prolif c.
T e Italian, on the other hand, is more restricted and generally refers to the weight of the
statues instead of the cost.
120. Of the approximately 130 inscriptions in the catalogue, 35 mention the price of statues
of the imperial family.
121. Duncan-Jones 1982, 94.
122. Zimmer & Wesch-Klein 1989, 54-84.
123. Zesch-Klein 1989, 69, no. C66.
52 · roman imperial statue bases Maximum Prices is highly problematic, although he achieves a result within
the normal price range found in the inscriptions.124 Apart from the fact that
he calculates the cost of the material for the bronze statue in question (a
headless statue in the Cleveland Museum of Art said to be Marcus Aurelius)
from the weight of a sesterce, whose purchasing power during the Empire was
not justif ed by its metal value, it is highly questionable whether the cost of
manufacturing set at 8% of the value of the metal in Diocletian’s edict applies
to a second century AD sculpture workshop as well.125
In the catalogue there are 24 inscriptions (1% of the total) which mention
the cost of the statue expressed in sesterces.126 However, with one exception
these examples are limited chronologically and geographically to
second-century North Africa. During this period it became customary in this region to
note the summa honoraria paid for holding ofce in dedicatory inscriptions.
Consequently, there is a fairly large amount of statistical material available
concerning the price level of statues in North Africa. But there is great un -
certainty as to how this relates to other regions of the Empire, or to the cost
of statues during the f rst century. T e prices mentioned are relatively
homogeneous, but this might very well have been caused by the similarity in the
type of funding.127 On the other hand, it matches the general price-level of
other types of statue in Duncan-Jones’ study,128 although there may be a few
more examples at the very expensive end. Most fall within the range of 2,000
124. Oliver 1996, 146-147.

125. Doyle 1976, 96.

126. T e inscriptions mentioning prices are: Hadrian 123 (17,000 sesterces for silver statues

with golden crowns); Hadrian 142 (42,600 sesterces for an arch with a quadriga); Hadrian
156 (5,525 sesterces for statues of Hadrian and L. Aelius Caesar); Hadrian 165 (2,400 ses -
terces); Antoninus Pius 46 (4,000 sesterces); Antoninus Pius 109 (30,000 sesterces for an
arch with three statues); Antoninus Pius 115 (6,000 sesterces); Antoninus Pius 154=Lucius
Verus 86 (10,407 sesterces spent on two statues. An additional silver bust of Faustina only
cost 1,593 sesterces); Antoninus Pius 140 (5,000 sesterces); Marcus Aurelius 99 (3,000
sesterces); Marcus Aurelius 101 (12,000 sesterces); Marcus Aurelius 126 (5,000 sesterces);
Marcus Aurelius 157 (38,000 for two statues, either both of Marcus Aurelius or one of
Marcus Aurelius and one of Lucius Verus); Marcus Aurelius 164 (8,000 sesterces); Marcus
Aurelius 166 (2,000 sesterces); Marcus Aurelius 100 (7,000 sesterces); Marcus Aurelius
169 and Lucius Verus 97 (15,000 sesterces for each of two colossal statues); Lucius Verus
95 (3,000 sesterces); Lucius Verus 67 (3,000 sesterces); Commodus 37 (10,000 sesterces);
Commodus 49 (2,000 sesterces).
127. T e few examples of prices for statues that were not erected fsum or ma honoraria were
signif cantly higher than the average (Hadrian 123; Antoninus Pius 109; Marcus Aurelius
101, 157).
128. Duncan-Jones 1982, 78-79.
T ypes of Monuments · 53
to 8,000 sesterces, with the lowest price being 2,000 (Marcus Aurelius 166;
Commodus 49) and the highest being 38,000 sesterces for two statues (Mar -
cus Aurelius 147). T e only price of an imperial statue base known outside
Africa – 4,000 sesterces for a statue of Antoninus Pius in Fagifulae in Regio
IV (Antoninus Pius 46) – is slightly below the average in North Africa. Arches
naturally cost considerably more. T e three examples with imperial statues
(Marcus Aurelius 152; Hadrian 142; Antoninus Pius 109) cost 120,000, 42,600
and 30,000 sesterces respectively. T e latter two were cheap compared with
the prices paid for other arches in North Africa.129
On the evidence available at present, we must conclude that we are
unable to diferentiate between prices for marble and bronze statues – and that
therefore we have no means of determining which was considered the more
valuable. In addition, we should expect considerable regional dif erences in
the price levels for statues. Te price of marble statues would depend on the
availability of marble and the amount of transport involved in dedicating a
statue at a certain location. Furthermore, we have reason to believe that the
price of marble statues fell throughout the period from the la rte fst century
BC to the second century AD. It certainly became easier to obtain larger blocks
of marble suitable for making life-size statues, as shown by the drop in the
number of statues pieced together from more than one block.130 T ere were
many other contributing factors: the re-organisation of the quarries under
imperial administration, the beginning of full-scale operations in the C-ar
rara quarries, and safer, more efcient transport at sea being the most impo-r
tant of these. Furthermore, the higher e ciencf y gained by mass production
probably resulted in a lower price for each individual piece. T e material for
bronze statues was costlier than marble but easier to transport and involved
less labour, but how this af ected the price over time is extremely dif cult to
Dedicating a small statue or a bust in precious metals need not have been
more costly than dedicating a statue in bronze or marble. From a base in
Cillium (Antoninus Pius 154; Lucius Verus 86) we know that 12,000 sesterces
were spent on statues of Antoninus Pius and Lucius Verus and a silver bust of
Faustina. Furthermore, the inscription specif es that the two statues together
cost 10,407 sesterces, which lef only 1,593 sesterces for the silver bust, well
below the average price of a life-size marble statue. Otherwise the prices of
129. Duncan-Jones 1982, 91.
130. Claridge 1988, 139-152.
54 · roman imperial statue bases statues in precious metals are expressed in terms of weight. Duncan-Jones
suggests, on the basis of a few inscriptions for which both the cost and the
weight of an object is known, that manufacture constituted roughly 50% of
the total cost.131 It is curious, however, that the dedicators, who in inscriptions
for statues in bronze and marble oen stf ate the amount spent on the
dedication down to the last sesterce, should choose to mention a f gure that bore
only a slight relation to the actual outlay. So I think that the cost of imperial
portraits in gold and silver was generally relatively close to their bullion value
– or alternatively that the cost of manufacture was taken out of the amount of
metal supplied for the portrait. Te dedications of imperial portraits in pr-e
cious metals range from the humble to the extravagant. An inscription from
a statue base for a duumvir in Beneventum relates that he had dedicated a
silver quadriga with a statue of Hadrian weighing 1,567 pounds of silver (a-p
prox. 512 kg).132 T e bullion value alone exceeded 700,000 sesterces. T e cost
of the golden images of Vespasian, Titus and Domitian in Rome weighing 10
pounds was more than 40,000 sesterces (Vespasian 3, Titus 1, Domitian 1),
which was indeed a substantial donation for a centurion whose pay was
probably in the vicinity of 20,000 sesterces a year.133 Smaller silver images, like the
one of Hadrian dedicated by a procurator in Rome (Hadrian 11) at a bullion
value of approximately 2,500 sesterces, or those of the family of Antoninus
Pius in Bosa (Antoninus Pius 65), must have been af ordable compared with
bronze or marble statues.134
Imperial statues can be considered a luxury commodity. However, with a
general price level of between 3,000 and 8,000 sesterces (sometimes less) for
an imperial statue suitable for public display in provincial towns in North
Africa in the second century AD, honouring the emperor with a statue was
not a privilege reserved purely for a small, exceedingly wealthy aristocracy.
Compared to other types of munu, liks e outlays for the construction of temples
and public buildings,135 erecting an imperial statue was a relatively cheap way
131. Duncan-Jones 1982, 126. Martial (3.62) mentions a price of 5,000 sesterces for a pound
of worked silver. Here manufacture would account for about 90% of the cost. A similar
calculation for a marble statue indicates that manufacture consumed approximately 9%
of the total cost.
132. CIL IX, 1619.
133. Brunt 1950, 71.
134. Numerous similar images weighing one or two pounds are listed in an inventory from a
collegia in Ostia ( AE 1940, 62).
135. Duncan-Jones 1982, 90-92, 107-108, no. 324-341 (individual sums paid in honour of of -
f ce), 108-110 (summae honorariae).
T ypes of Monuments · 55 of showing benef cence towards the city and thereby also having one’s own
name preserved for posterity.136
Damnatio memoriae and the reuse of statue bases
During the frst and second centuries AD, imperial statues were, as a general
rule, only changed or demolished if the emperor had been deposed.137 T is
fate befell no less than eight of the nineteen emperors included in this in -ves
tigation: Caligula, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Domitian, Avidius Cassius,
and Commodus. Following their deaths, their statues and the monuments
inscribed with their names were destroyed either spontaneously or by decree
of the Senate.138 Modern scholarship has coined the term “damnatio memo -
riae” for all such incidents, but the legal and practical aspects of the pheno -m
enon dif ered from case to case.139 Of cially sanctioned destruction of statues
seems to have occurred only afer the murder of Domitian and Commodus.
It has always been common knowledge that bronze statues and portraits
were melted down and reused.140 T e consequence for imperial portraiture
136. F o r t h e s e lf-g lo r if cation of the dedicator on statue bases for others, see Eck 1994, 650-662.
137. Naturally, there were exceptions to this rule. Granius Marcellus had charges brought against
him for having exchanged the head of a statue of Augustus with that of Tiberius (Suet.
Tib. 58.1; Tac. Ann. 1.74.3: “in statua amputato capite Augusti ef giem Tiberii inditam”.
Note the choice of terms used), and a silver bust of Tiberius was melted down while he
was still alive (Tac. Ann. 3.70.1). T ere exist at least two portraits of emperors not suf
ering damnatio memoriae that were re-worked within a century of their erection: a portrait
statue of Tiberius in the basilica in Veleia re-cut to Vespasian (Rose 1997a, 124), and a
portrait of Octavian now in the Vatican re-cut to a young Nero (Jucker 1981b, 284-295).
For examples of statue bases, see below pp. 63-64.
138. L i t e r a r y e v idence for the removal of imperial statues: Claudius prevented the senate
from of cially banning the images of Caligula (Dio Cass. 60.4.5-6), but had his statues
removed at night (Dio Cass. 60.4.5 & 60.22.3). Nero (Suet. Nero 49.2). Antonius Primus
and Domitian restored statues of Galba in Germania and Rome in AD 69 (Tac. Hist. 3.7
& 4.40). Images of Vitellius were torn down in military camps, for example in the camp
of the feet in Ravenna (Tac. Hist. 3.13). Later they were reinstated for a brief period in
Germania (Tac. Hist. 4.37). Domitian (Suet. Dom. 23). Commodus (SHA Com. 20.4).
139. V i t t in g h o f 1939; Rollin 1979, 151-174; Pekáry 1985, 134-142; Varner 1993, 2004.
140. Statues of Sejanus ended up as “pipkins, basins, frying-pans and slap-pails” (Juv.
10.5864), but ofen a mere change of heads was all that was required, for instance in the bronze
equestrian statue of Nerva from Misenum (Franciscis 1991) and the naked bronze statue
of Septimius Severus in the museum in Nicosia (McCann 1968, 133-134, no. 11).
56 · roman imperial statue bases
in marble was not fully realised until a quarter of a century ago, when it was
pointed out that a large number of portraits, especially those of the Flavian
emperors and Nerva, had in fact been re-cut from those of their deposed
predecessors. T is explains the curious inconsistencies in the iconography of
these emperors.141 While the portraits have been closely scrutinised for signs
of re-working over the past years, no one has so far given any thought to the
epigraphical evidence from the statue bases,142 even though it o erfs valuable
information about the aferlife of monuments and the level of ecti ef veness
of of cial damnatio memoriae.
Two things could be done to monuments to obliterate the memory of a
deposed emperor. Either they could be removed and destroyed, or they could
be transformed into monuments honouring other emperors. Both these
options can be observed in portraits as well as in statue bases. Generally, there
are slightly more fragmented inscriptions and poorly preserved monuments
for the emperors who suf ered damnatio memoriae. So the logical
conclusion must be that at least some of these fragmented monuments had been
subject to deliberate destruction shortly af er the emperor’s death. However,
it is well-nigh impossible to determine the exact time of destruction of each
individual inscription, and monuments could have been removed without
inficting damage to the inscriptions. In fact, inscriptions taken down and
reused as fll or building material may feasibly have had a greater chance of
survival than those exposed to weathering over the centuries. Altered
inscriptions lend themselves more easily to detection, especially if only parts of the
inscription have been changed. Even if the inscription was completely removed
and another put in its place, it is usually possible to discover faint traces of
the former inscription.143
Ten of the 28 extant statue bases for Caligula show signs of destruction
or reuse. Most of these had large parts of their inscriptions containing the
141. Jucker 1981b, 236-316; Bergmann and Zanker 1981, 317-412. Previously Blanck (1969a)
had discussed the general practice of re-using monuments.
142. Blanck (1969a) includes very few examples of reuse of imperial statue bases. Pekáry (1985,
134-142) consulted the index of ILS and ascertained that inscriptions for emperors who
suf ered damnatio memoriae have in fact been preserved despite the fact that they should
have been destroyed. Varner (2004) includes sporadic information about the reuse of im -
perial statue bases.
143. A recently re-examined inscription for Domitian from Puteoli (Domitian 8) ofers a very
interesting example of a nearly completely eradicated inscription that can in fact be r- e
stored in full on close examination.
T ypes of Monuments · 57 name of Caligula removed (Caligula 2, 7, 12, 13, 14, 15). Fragments of one
inscription were found in a well in a house in Spoletium (Caligula 1), where
it probably ended up shortly afer Caligula had been murdered. T e
inscription for Caligula on the scenae frons in the theatre in T era (Caligula 17)
was completely removed and another for Vespasian inscribed in its place. Its
existence can only be inferred from the survival of the inscriptions hono- ur
ing the parents of Caligula, Antonia as Hestia Boulaia and Germanicus as
Zeus Boulaios, f anking it.144 T e block may well have been lef blank in the
intervening period. More curious is the existence of a base for Caligula from
Syene in Egypt (Caligula 28) with its inscription intact that was later reused
as a base for a statue of Trajan (Trajan 205). Perhaps the base had been placed
so that the former inscribed surface faced a walle pa. T rtial removal of lines
one and two in an inscription from Didyma (Caligula 21) seems to have been
an attempt to change the dedication to one for his father Germanicus. T is
practice was later carried out with greater success with monuments for Nero,
Domitian and Commodus.
T e simple removal of the word Nevrwn made it possible to change the
Greek inscriptions for Nero into dedications honouring Claudius,145 and this
proved an attractive solution in eight instances (Nero 36, 40, 41, 42, 45-47, 55).
It seems likely that this involved a change of the head of the statue as well, but
we cannot tell with certainty. On one statue base the inscription was changed
to the name of Augustus (Nero 23). Similarly, monuments for Domitian could
be altered in a variety of ways. By removing the name Domitian from inscr-ip
tions dedicated before the death of Vespasian, these could pass as dedications
for Titus (Domitian 27, 38 and perhaps 1146). In several inscriptions both the
name Domitian and the victory title Germanicus, which was clearly identi -
fed very closely with the deposed emperor, have been erased. T is leaves a
generic imperial formula of Aujtokrav twr Kai`sar Sebastov~ that could imply
Augustus, Vespasian, Titus or his successors Nerva and Trajan (Domitian 41,
58, 59). Either Nerva or Trajan was certainly intended by the removal of the
144. IG XII, 3, suppl., 1393-1394. Rose 1997a, 160-161.
145. Monuments altered in this way have not been included in the catalogue of statue bases
under the emperor to whom the inscription was changed, unless new inscriptions were
146. Since the name of Titus already appears in this inscription from Rome, it was more likely
a matter of removing Domitani ’s name. However, this was not done very thoroughly since
princeps iuventutis was lef untouched.
58 · roman imperial statue bases name of Domitian in an inscription in Lilybaeum (Domitian 14). Further
dedications in Athens (Domitian 29), Idyma (Domitian 55) and particularly
Ephesus (Domitian 42-53) were changed to Vespasian. Another base seems
simply to have been destroyed (Domitian 60). T e commonest modif cation
of statue bases for Commodus is the removal of the name Commodus and
the epithet Felix, in which case the honorand could pass as Marcus Aurelius
(Commodus 17, 91, 100, 102, 106, 107). Two of these bases (Commodus 106,
107) had a rather peculiar history. Originally funerary cippi of the fourth
century BC, they were changed to accommodate statues of Commodus and
placed in the parodoi in the theatre in Salamis. Upon his death the name of
Commodus was removed, so the inscriptions could be taken to concern the
deifed Marcus. Finally, a century later, they were turned and supplied with
new inscriptions for Constantius Chlorus and Gallerius. An attempt at
changing an inscription in Rome (Commodus 1) from Commodus to Lucius Verus
did not turn out very successfully because of the obvious problem of t lihe
We cannot be absolutely certain that the monuments whose inscriptions
had been partially removed were actually reused as bases for other emperors,
but the care exercised in removing only the elements specif cally referring to
the deposed emperor indicates that this was indeed the intention.
It is interesting that while portraits were predominantly re-cut, or
transformed by other means to portray the successor or a member of the new
ruling family,147 the exact opposite can be observed from the inscriptions on
the statue bases. T e vast majority of these were altered to honour the father
of the deposed emperor. Reuse of a base for an immediate successor can only
been observed in three instances. In T ugga an arch originally intended to
honour Caligula was dedicated to Claudius instead in the frst year of his reign
(Claudius 75), and in Lilybaeum a base for Domitian af er his death seems to
have accommodated a statue of either Nerva or Trajan (Domitian 14). Finally,
a monument for Domitian in Histria (Domitian 15) with a Greek inscription
in the dative case was turned over and supplied with an inscription for Nerva
in the accusative case (Nerva 13). T is contradiction between the evidence of
the portraits and the statue bases may stem from regional diferences in the
reaction to damnatio memoriae. With few exceptions, the imperial portraits
of the frst and second centuries AD that show signs of re-working originate
147. Varner (2004) enumerates 23 portraits reworked to former emperors, while 98 portraits
were changed to a successor or a later emperor.
T ypes of Monuments · 59
in the West.148 Here existing inscriptions on statue bases seldom reveal
alterations intended to bring them in accordance with the nomenclature of other
emperors. Instead, they seem to have been destroyed or otherwise removed
from view. For example, the plaque under the statue of the deif ed Vespasian in
the meeting place of the Augustales in Misenum carries the name of Domitian
on the reverse side (Vespasian 9). T e inscriptions from the Greek East, on
the other hand, lend themselves much more readily to alterations because of
their shorter form and frequent omission of thliae ftion. Since bronze was the
preferred material in the East, we unfortunately do not possess any examples
of portraits altered to previous emperors. Another possibility, of course, is
that the statue remained unaltered, and that it was simply taken to represent
whoever the inscription honoured.
Damnatio memoriae was not observed with equal enthusiasm everywhere,
as the statue of Domitian with its original base found in the theatre of A -ph
rodisias clearly shows (Domitian 37). According to the excavator, this statue
was still standing on view well into the third century.149 By comparing the
number of extant bases for emperors who sufered damnation with those of
other emperors of the same period, we can obtain an idea of the ef
ectiveness with which damnatio memoriae was carried out. Naturally, we can only
say anything defnite about the number of monuments that were completely
obliterated, since the extant monuments may well have been removed from
view as a result of the changed political situation.
T e low number of extant bases for Nero, Domitian, and Commodus can
easily be attributed to damnatio memoriae (Fig. 10). T ese emperors only
have approximately one-third as many bases per year as their predecessor. If
we assume that the number of dedications stayed constant, or perhaps rose
slightly to match the general trend throughout the f rst one and a half
centuries of the principate, then about two-thirds of the original bases must have
been completely obliterated. T e evidence for Domitian from the reign of
Vespasian is particularly interesting because the number of extant bases can
be compared directly with the number for Titus. From this period we have
13 bases for Domitian and 35 for Titus. Domitian had def nitely not been
promoted nearly as much as his older brother during the reign of Vespasian,
148. Varner (2004) includes only 12 portraits with provenience in the Greek East out of a total
of approximately 130 reworked portraits (cat.nos. 1.5, 1.22, 1.23, 1.33, 2.6, 2.15, 2.32, 2.37,
2.62, 4.3, 5.22, 6.7).
149. Erim 1973, 135-142. For continued display in general, see Varner (2004), 42-44 (Caligula),
79-81 (Nero), 134 (Domitian).
60 · roman imperial statue bases
-30 -20 -10 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 130 140 150 160 170 180 190
Fig. 10. T e number of extant statue bases per year of reign. T e lower bars for the
emperors Caligula (37-41), Nero (54-68), Domitian (81-96) and Commodus (180-192)
indicate the number of bases per year that do not show signs of alteration or destruction.
and the number of his statues and consequently statue bases around the Em -
pire was undoubtedly lower. T us the rate of destruction could have been no
higher than two-thirds, probably less. T is ratio in turn indicates that during
his own reign Domitian did not have more statues erected than his
predecessors, even though the literary sources declare the opposite. But then “bad”
emperors were always characterised as wanting excessive numbers of statues
erected, particularly those made of precious metals and those in temples.150
T e situation for Caligula is somewhat dif erent, since there are actually more
extant bases per year of his reign than per year of Tiberius, but short reigns
sometimes produce a higher frequency of statues because the accession could
give impetus to the erection of more statues, and the frequency is still s-ig
nifcantly lower than for his successor Claudius. If, however, we subtract the
altered bases and those that show signs of destruction, the fgure for Caligula
compares with f gures for Nero, Domitian, and Commodus (Fig. 10). It would
seem, therefore, that complete obliteration of monuments for Caligula was
not as common as it became later for Nero and Domitian. T e statue bases
150. Dio Cass. 67.8.1: “ kai; tosauta autwi eyhfivsqh wste pa` san olivgou dein thn
oikoumevnhn thn up auto;n ousan eikovnwn autou` kai ajndriavntwn kai ajrgurw`n kai crusw`n
T ypes of Monuments · 61
Bases/year for Commodus have survived in slightly larger numbers than bases for the
deposed emperors of the frst century AD. T is may be explained in part by
his rehabilitation three years af er his death, when Septimius Severus claimed
to have been adopted by Marcus Aurelius. T e f ctitious adoption made
Commodus the brother of the reigning emperor, a fact that was heavily propagated
through the erection of statues of the deif ed Commodus (pp. 138-139). T e
policy may also have involved the re-erection of dismantled monuments, and
it may have prevented the destruction of others. Tus, statues of Commodus
may not have been such an unusual sight afer his death. Statues of Caligula,
Nero and Domitian were rarer, although some evidently escaped destruction
and remained on view long af er they ought to have been removed.
While the efectiveness of damnatio memoriae varied from one emperor
to another, there do not seem to be any consistent geographical dif erences
in its observation. Statue bases for Caligula are certainly underrepresented in
Italy (Table SG 1 & Fig. G 3), but the f gure is subject to uncertainty because
of the limited statistical material, and a similar tendency cannot be observed
for Nero and Domitian. In Asia Minor a relatively large number of statue bases
have been identifed for all the emperors who suf ered damnatio memoriae
(Table SG 19). However, many of these monuments have only been preserved
because they were altered to accommodate statues of other emperors. Neither
do we f nd any discrepancy among the dedicators of the remaining bases for
deposed emperors and those for other emperors (Tables SC 7, 10, 11), and
consequently both publicly and privately erected monuments must have suf -
fered damnatio memoriae equally.
Reuse of older monuments as statue bases for imperial statues
T e reuse of old statue bases was not an uncommon phenomenon in
antiquity,151 particularly in sanctuaries where the accumulation of statues would
cramp the limited space available. Statue bases for imperial statues, however,
relatively seldom show signs of previous use, perhaps because the dedicator
would be less inclined to save money on a prestigious object like an imperial
statue. A few examples do exist. On the Acropolis in Athens, a third century BC
monument later served as a base for statues of Augustus, Drusus the Younger
and Tiberius (Augustus 130; Tiberius 88). In the sanctuary of Aphrodite in
151. B l a n c k 1969a.
62 · roman imperial statue bases Paphos, where a large number of statues had been dedicated during the He-l
lenistic period, we f nd statue bases for Tiberius and Caligula (Tiberius 148,
150; Caligula 27) with earlier Hellenistic inscriptions, one of which had fo-r
merly served as a base for a statue of Ptolemy V Epiphanes. A fourth-century
equestrian base was reused for a statue of Claudius in Delphi (Claudius 94),
and in Side the Side branch of the ecumenical synod of Artists of Dionysos
erected his statue on a three-hundred-year-old base (Claudius 148). Bean
wonders why such a solution was chosen at a time of general prosperity,152 but
the f nancial benef t may not have been the primary motivation for reusing
this old monument. Again on Cyprus a statue base in Kourion, originally sup -
porting a statue of a second-century BC governor of the island, was later used
for a statue of Nero (Nero 55). Trajan’s statue was placed on a Hellenistic base
on Kos (Trajan 153), and a base for a statue of Antigonos Gonatas of around
272 BC erected in Epidauros four hundred years later was used as a base for
a statue of Hadrian (Hadrian 250). Finally, on Crete a base for a statue of the
Spartan king Areus was changed to honour Augustus (Augustus 158).
Reuse of imperial statue bases
Few imperial statue bases from the frst and second centuries AD show signs
of secondary usage as statue bases except in case of damnatio memoriae. If
they were reused it was primarily as building material at a signif cantly later
date, when the practice of erecting honorary statues had largely vanished.153
Apart from the two bases in the theatre in Salamis mentioned above, there is
a base in Tegea that may have been a statue base for Antoninus Pius (Antoni -
nus Pius 204), later reused as a base for a statue of a M. Aurelius Agathokles,
whose name implies a date af er the Constitutio Antoniniana of AD 212, and
a base in Carthago for Marcus Aurelius (Marcus Aurelius 145) was altered
to support a statue of Constantine the Great. In Tugga a cycle of statues
of deifed emperors was erected in the Forum in the early part of the third
century AD. For some reason, some if not all of the inscriptions were cut on
existing imperial statue bases. A dedication to Antoninus Pius (Antoninus
Pius 175) was replaced by one to Augustus (Augustus 118), and another to
152. Bean 1965, 47, no. 147.

153. Imperial statues largely disappear during the early part of the f f h century AD, see Stichel

1982 and Smith 1985, 209-221.
T ypes of Monuments · 63 Marcus Aurelius (Marcus Aurelius 43) was changed to Vespasian (Vespasian
42). Whether the remaining three bases in the group for Trajan (Trajan 91),
Hadrian (Hadrian 160) and Marcus Aurelius (Marcus Aurelius 170) were also
reused older imperial statue bases is not noted in their publication. In Tanagra
a base for Augustus (Augustus 149) later carried a statue of Vespasian’s wife
Flavia Domitilla in the guise of Tyche.
64 · roman imperial statue bases
Dating the Inscriptions

from Imperial Statue Bases

One of the principal reasons for studying the inscriptions from imperial
statues is that unlike the extant portraits, these can ofen be dated with great
accuracy – enabling us not only to determine when individual monuments
were dedicated, but also to determine the chronology of dedications during
the reign of an emperor.
In the following the dif erent types of information by which inscriptions
can be dated will be discussed. It was not always a conscious choice of the
dedicator to date monuments, and ofen when a system of dating was intended
it is incomprehensible to us, for instance any mention of the eponymous
magistrates of a city. Still, most inscriptions contain several dif erent pieces of
information that can date a monument more or less precisely. Furthermore,
some important aspects such as the reliability of the information supplied
in the inscriptions, and whether the dated evidence is representative of the
material, will be discussed.
Imperial nomenclature and honorif c titles
T e most important criterion for dating inscriptions is imperial nomenclature
including the name, of ces and honorif c titles of the emperor in question.154
Roman ofces were as a general rule limited in time. T e title conferred on
154. For a discussion of imperial nomenclature and titles with relevant literature, see Kienast
1996, 1-58; Syme 1958; Deininger 1972; Alföldy 1991.
Dating the Inscriptions · 65

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