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Octavius


Octavius © J.-F. Peiré
Octavius © J.-F. Peiré
This head is one of the two most ancient portraits of Octavius, grand-nephew and heir of Julius Cesar.

Octavius will be at the origin of the transformation of the old Roman Republic into an imperial regime. He will thus change his name to Augustus which was formerly just an epithet. This sobriquet conferred to him by the senate with a divine connotation contributed to the making of the image he wished to portray, an image of eminence, grandeur, and authority.
The man represented here visibly seeks to show his military and political power. He is young, and his long slanting bangs call forth images of the man of action in portraits of Alexander the Great. At this point in his life, Octavius has just revenged the death of his adoptive father Julius Cesar. 

If one observes the right-sided profile closely, one sees that the effigy has been reworked. In earlier times, Octavius was represented veiled with a toga on his head. The head was covered during religious ceremonies; consequently, the sculpture could have been linked to the ceremony in about 36-35 BCE for the founding of Bezier, the location of its discovery. This inauguration was attributed to Octavius who is consequently depicted as a great priest. After 27 Common Era, when Octavius had become Augustus and emperor, his portrait in Beziers’s forum no longer needed to be covered; henceforth, he appears as the founder of a dynasty and not as the creator of a colonial city. The back of the head is maladroitly chiseled again at this time to depict hair and give the new emperor an image that is no longer simply religious but now civil and political.

Over the years, his portrait joins those of different members of his family little by little through marriages, births, and deaths of successive heirs.
The series exceptionally delineates the majority of one Roman family, the Julio-Claudians.
Marble portrait of Octavius, the future Augustus.

Discovered in Beziers (Herault) in 1844.
 
36-35 BCE.
Inv. Ra 341.
Lu 838 fois

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