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Meroë Augustus

This head once formed part of a statue of the Roman emperor Augustus. At the battle of Actium in 31 BCE he captured Egypt, and shortly afterwards bronze statues were erected there, not only in commemoration but also to emphasise his political power.

These only lasted a few years however, before they were stolen by raiders from Meroë higher up the Nile valley, to where this head was taken and placed under the steps of a native temple. The head, having been hacked from its statue, was buried there deliberately — beneath the feet of its captors — as an insult to the invading Roman emperor.

On the original of this idealised bronze portrait the eyes are made of inlaid glass and stone

Location of Original: 

London, British Museum


Purchased from the British Museum in 1922


Walters, HB: British Museum Select Bronzes, pl. LXI
Smith (ed.): Marbles and Bronzes in the British Museum (1914), pl. 45
Bosanquet: Liverpool Annals of Archaeology, IV (1912), pls. 12-16
Walker: Greek and Roman Portraits, 62, & pl.VI
Burn: Greek and Roman Art (1991), 182

27-25 BCE

Found at Meroë in Sudan. Acquired by the BM in 1911

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