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I recently visited the impressive Hall of Emperors section in the Capitoline museum in Rome. I had assumed that it would display busts of all the emperors of Rome, but in reality it was obvious that a number of them were missing.

Discounting emperors who reigned for less than a year does anyone know if busts or statues exist for all the Roman emperors. I'm particularly interested in seeing examples of Aurelian (whose busts I've seen so far look suspiciously similar to busts of his successor Probus) and Majorian.

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Do full statues count, or just busts? Also, how strict is the "less than a year"? – American Luke Jul 6 '13 at 22:30
Full statues or bust. Essentially an artwork with recognizable facial features, i.e. something more than a roman coin. "Less than a year" means just that. – Karlth Jul 6 '13 at 23:22

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

After going through every Roman Emperor, I found only six who served over a year and did not have a bust or statue in known existence. Here is the list:

My basic methodology for finding this list was

  1. Open every emperor Wiki page who served over one year and hope Chrome doesn't crash

  2. Close every tab with a bust or statue of the emperor present

  3. Google the remaining twenty or so

  4. Advanced search the remaining dozen-ish

And I arrived at these six here.

This is hardly a doctoral thesis, so if anyone finds a bust or statue of one of these men, just remove him from the list and leave a comment explaining where you found the statue/bust.

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Honorious: and Gratian: Joannes wasn't actually an emperor was he? – Karlth Jul 7 '13 at 15:16
Valentinian III: – Karlth Jul 7 '13 at 15:20
I'm pretty amazed to see that no statue of Aurelian exists, especially considering his reputation during and after his rule. – Karlth Jul 7 '13 at 15:22
Whether or not Joannes was an emperor depends on who you ask. Wikipedia listed him with the other emperors, so he I put him in there to be on the safe side. – American Luke Jul 7 '13 at 17:07
That bust of Aurelian is usually attributed to be of his predecessor Claudius II ( (also it makes him look suspiciously like Probus: and… ) – Karlth Jul 8 '13 at 15:51

I checked on this a while back myself. Aurelian is easily the most significant emperor for whom we do not have a confirmed bust which, like you, I was really disappointed to learn. When you consider he was around for a half a decade, "Restored the World", initiated a great many building projects, and even involved himself in religious matters, it's strange that no bust or statue remains. For now, though, we'll simply have to make due with the portraits we find on his coins.

Otherwise, we have busts even for the majority of emperors whose reign lasted mere months. It's really not until the last string of puppet emperors in the west that a lack of busts becomes the norm rather than the exception... For some, especially Glycerius/Olybrius etc, even their coins are incredibly rare, and as the quality of coins had seriously declined by this point we really have little to no sense of what these late emperors looked like. There may be written descriptions of some of their appearances, but I cannot recall having come across any and, given the sources for that stretch, it's exceedingly unlikely that they'd be very accurate.

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Good answer; a great answer would include citations to permit us to learn more. – Mark C. Wallace Oct 5 at 12:39

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