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Museum of Classical Archaeology Databases

Primaporta Augustus

Full length statue of the first Roman Emperor.

After the battle of Actium in 31 BCE Rome became an empire with Augustus, formerly Octavian, at its head. The style of his early portraits from that time was superseded with a new style around 20 BCE: smoother, more idealised features, a stronger neck and the hairstyle of an athlete. The Primaporta Augustus set the tone for this new style, triumphant but artificial.

The Primaporta statue has the body of the Doryphoros of Polykleitos, the pose of a magnanimous yet authoritative statesman, and the uniform of the military leader, imperator. His breastplate is pure propaganda; it is used as a stage on which victory scenes are played out, though the details have been interpreted in different ways.

It is thought that the statue is an almost contemporary copy of a bronze original. The right hand is a restoration

Location of Original: 

Rome, Vatican 2290


Robert Cook bequest. Purchased from the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, 20 February 2003


Kleiner: Roman Sculpture, 63 & 67

15 CE

Found in the villa of Livia (Augustus’s wife) at Primaporta near Rome in 1863

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