Search This Blog

Saturday, July 6, 2013

the bust of Julius Caesar is fake

The face of Julius Caesar? Come off it!

Bustcaesar_2 What do you do if you are an archaeologist and you find a nice Roman portrait bust in the bottom of a river?
The answer is simple. You go through every book of Roman portraits and coins until you find some famous figure in Roman history who looks vaguely likely your man. It is laborious and time-consuming. But the principles are simple – it’s like a game of snap.
Why bother? Because almost every newspaper in the western world will be interested in your find if you say confidently that it is Cleopatra or Nero or Julius Caesar (and even more interested if you say that this is the earliest statue or the only one really taken from life – which is also a useful cover-up for the fact that your statue doesn’t look quite like all the others supposed to represent the famous figure).
However beautiful or important your find, no newspaper will be searching you out, if you have only found Marcus Cornelius Nonentito.
There’s a long tradition to this game. Heinrich Schliemann tried to convince the world that he had gazed upon the face of Agamemnon. Almost every local archaeological society in England was certain that the tiny little Roman villa they were digging up was actually the governor’s residence – and they labelled the plans accordingly, “Governor’s wife’s bedroom” and so on.
Now we have the story of the only surviving statue of Julius Caesar to be sculpted from life dragged out of the river at Arles. Right? And it’s even convinced the excellent Charles Bremner.
Juliuscaesarcoin1aThis sculpture is, I should say, a very nice piece of work – and looks remarkably good for something that has been at the bottom of the Rhone for a couple of thousand years. There is, I suppose, a remote possibility that it does represent Julius Caesar, but no particular reason at all to think that it does – still less to think that it was done from life. (How do you compare something less than a centimetre with a bust of the better part of a metre?)
The game of art-historical snap is a risky business, and honestly you could find hundreds of Romans who, with the eye of faith, look pretty much like this. Besides – despite all you get told about the style of the portrait pinning it down to a few years – this style of portraiture lasted for centuries at Rome. There is nothing at all to suggest that it came from 49-46 BC.
The desperate archaeologist in this case has, of course, found a nice reason for imagining how a made-from-life portrait of Julius Caesar might have ended up at the bottom of the Rhone. It was chucked there after Caesar had been assassinated and so had fallen from favour.
Has he forgotten that that was the very moment when Caesar was turned into a god?
Well, he might respond, the burghers of southern France took a dim view of such flummery. Ok, so why did they throw that nice statue of Neptune, apparently found in the same haul, into the river too?
I’m afraid it’s “start again” time on the explanations for this one.


Eileen said...
and how do we even know that it wasnt thrown into the river 'yesterday'? the handling of the nasal-labial folds doesn't look very Roman to me. I read the article link. If a student used that sort of reasoning in an essay we all know what sort of grade he/she would receive !
rogueclassicist said...
the more i look at it, the more it actually looks like george bush than julius caesar ...
Looks like Johnny Ball to me!
Irene said...
He looks more like Claudius to me.
William McCain said...
I couldn't agree more. The minute I saw this story hit the 'net a couple days ago, I asked myself "Huh?"
This bust doesn't resemble any others associated with ol' Julius. And while it's true that none of the other busts can be said with certainty to have been sculpted during his lifetime, there's a remarkable consistency they all share: long face, receding hairline, aquiline nose, etc. This guy? None of the above.
How did they draw their conclusions? Was the name "Julius Caesar" inscribed on the bust? Was it next or attached to any other artifact that could be narrowed down to the supposed date?
The way the news articles all jumped on this and state "Caesar's Bust" unquestioningly or unequivocally is a real head-shaker. I realize that journalists aren't historians, but they shouldn't be so quick to rush something to print without taking a deep breath and asking a few more questions. And that's all I've got to say about that!
Mary said...
Eileen. Exactly. Now I dont know the full excavation history, so there MAY be reasons for thinking it ended up in the Rhone a very long time ago...but it is always hard knowing exatly when something entered a river.
kath said...
As you say, it's not a new phenomenon and I can't help thinking "I have gazed upon the face of Agamemnon" was a rather good line. Back in the 18th century, Alexander Pope, in his "Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot" was satirising wealthy collectors typified by Bufo, in whose library "a true Pindar stood without a head." Do you think (or know whether) Romans collected Greek statues of dodgy authenticity?
doggerel said...
Fabulous pictures, Mary. Worth a thousand words...
But why did people throw statues into rivers? They wouldn't just roll there, would they.
I think I might have just buried one in the garden, hoping to make some money after a regime change.
The Hadrian head we're going to see at the British Museum later this year was found in the Thames I believe.
Francis Prior has some interesting ideas about water being a threshold between life and death, anyone able to shed any more light?
Ed in USA said...
I don't think it is a 'portrait bust' either. It looks more like the separate carved head meant to be attached to a full-length statue.
Ed in Alexandria (in the USA, that is)
Mary said...
Ed you are absolutely right. I was being very sloppy. And to be fair (?) to the excavator, he does I think imagine it being tossed in the river AFTER being bashed off a full length sculpture.
RichardH said...
To William McCain:
They all get their information from Associated Press these days and have neither the time nor, apparently, the inclination to check their facts - at least according to a fairly recent article in the London Review of Books that I cannot now find.
To Eileen:
Agreed about the naso-labial folds, but they do appear to be replicated on the coin.
Eugene said...
Well, but it does certainly make for some rather pleasant coincidence – sive casu sive consilio deorum immortalium -- as I precisely, just now, happen to find myself translating most of his work for a University course. There, all of a sudden, out of the waters of time and the virtual ink of the Times, is the man’s face urging me on. Oh, why not?
Joan Arles said...
I think you are being a little unfair to "the excellent Charles Bremner", Mary. He did not say that he was convinced. He was just reporting the French claims, along with most of the other media today... Anyway, I live near Arles and it looks like old Jules to me.
Gina said...
Looks like Sid James to me....maybe it's really Mark Anthony?
Joan Arles said...
And further to my earlier comment here, I see that Le Monde has published the statue as its front page picture today with the headline: Julius Caesar emerges from the Rhone.
I think some of your academic commentators are confusing scholarship with journalism. A reputed expert plus a French Culture Minister announce the finding of a likely bust of Julius Caesar. That makes news, especially since the bust is so unusual. If the media waited for everything to be authenticated in the good course of time, we would have very empty media.
Alan Myers said...
The head of Hadrian was on display in February-March at the fine Tullie House Museum in Carlisle, and has now travelled the length of the Wall to the fort and baths at Segedunum (Wallsend) just past Newcastle. It will be there until June.
This is the first time the head has left London since being found in the Thames.
George W said...
It is obviously George Bush! I think someone Gallic is trying to make a political point with this fake bust.
Liz Marlowe said...
It's the closeness and beadiness of his eyes that make him resemble George Bush, features he shares with the Tivoli General. I disagree with the suggestion that it was meant for insertion into a statue-body. There is too much shoulder and chest for that. Insertable heads have only a neck.
RichardH said...
SW FOSKA: Very many thanks. It made interesting reading!
Josephine said...
Bremner's articles says that the statue's date and identity has been "authenticated"; all the headlines announce this as the true face of JC. One researcher claimed he recognized it as JC "as soon as I saw it." Can anyone offer links to some REAL information?
Tom Putnam said...
I'm glad they have finally found a bust of
Marcus Cornelius Nonentito.
Irene said...
I wonder how they "authenticated" the date that narrowly confined.
Liz Marlowe said...
Re: the suggestions that this is a forgery:
1) the resemblance to GWB is, alas, not a reason to damn the work, since there is good precedent for these features (Tivoli General).
2) What exactly is the problem w the handling of the naso-labial lines? They look to me like many other republican examples. Perhaps their doubling here is unusual, but an unusual stylistic feature is, as we all know, not a reason to assume a forgery. This is always the case with ancient art, given the tiny fraction of it that has survived, and is doubly so when we are talking about provincial Roman works, where carving practices vary from region to region.
3) Forgeries tend to surface on the art market, where there is money to be made, not in rivers, where they are found by archaeologists and end up in state museums. I'm sure money was made on this find, but certainly not the millions it would have generated had it changed hands on the market.
Mary Jane said...
It may be the bust of Tiberius Claudius Nero, Caesar's quaestor and the actual founder of the colony. See my first comment here:
jean said...
Looks like actor Ian Holm to me
Jorg Andersen said...
You guys are all obviously great experts in a fine subject, but I suggest you stop sneering at journalists who simply report what the authorities are announcing. I landed here because I am an Austrian fan of Charles Bremner and read his article in the Times online newspaper. I don't see anything in his report that said he guaranteed the truth of what the French were claiming. It was just a subject that made news. I detect a whiff of snobbery from this post and the comments attached to it.

SW Foska said...
Jorg, Bremner writes that this is true, in a tone that seeks to assume authority. If he didn't check it out, fair game: & if he's a grown-up, I'm sure he can handle what is after all fairly light banter. Happens I spend considerable time most autumns teaching 19-year-olds to handle truth-claims - Bremner's is a good article to give them & take apart, armed with Prof. Beard's historico-critical strictures on gobbets, all grist to the mill of pedagogy ad ripas merseyii.
JC had an aquiline nose. This statuette resembles a pugilist.
Jackie said...
I understood that the joke was that Caesar meant hairy and Julius was bald - and embarrassed about it. This bust looks to have a pretty good head of hair.
S. Hammond said...
I think it a rather good example of how making an image "heroic" distorts a face while keeping certain identifiers. This has the hollow cheeks of Gaius Julius and all it takes is a small amount of moving the parameters of the face to make it resemble the better-known images. Lengthen the nasal area, widen the lower jaw, move the eyes apart a bit... voila. The coin tells us his nose was not really "Roman" so we can put that aside as another possible idealisation. He did not comb his hair forward at the temples, but then, who would?
I think it's Big Julie, the Don of his day. Certainly it's a very strong face, the kind of man who could lead armies, but might not be diplomatic enough to survive the aftermath in politics.
James said...
If this was deposited in the Republican era, why was it found in association with Imperial era sculptures? The terminus post quem of the deposit must be the mid-Empire if this is the latest datable find. The author is correct to be sceptical. Can someone can show a ritual practice of water-devotional sacrifice in the area? This sort of sacrifice is widespread in Romano-Celtic sites, eg. Bath. However these contain precious few large statues (none?), usually small devotions, votive offerings including small sculptures, curse tablets, coins, built up over time.
This looks like a hord terminus post quem late Imperial. Someone was scared and chucked the statues in the river.
Heresiarch said...
I agree that the new bust doesn't look much like Caesar. Which raises the obvious point, why did anyone think it was him? Is it just wishful thinking? I discovered this explanation from Michel L'Hour, the man in charge:
D'abord, il nous fallait sécuriser le site d'exploration afin d'éviter les pillages, explique Michel L'hour, le directeur du département. Ensuite, nous avons consulté les plus éminents spécialistes des statuaires antiques afin d'être certains qu'il s'agissait bien d'un portrait de Jules César. À l'unanimité, les chercheurs ont confirmé l'authenticité du portrait." D'autres détails ont pu être livrés, comme la datation, grâce à l'étude de la stylistique : "Ce buste grandeur nature est typique de la série des portraits réalistes d'époque républicaine, explique le conservateur du patrimoine. Les traits du visage sont durcis par l'âge, le front de César est gagné par un début de calvitie. Tout montre qu'il s'agit d'un portrait de l'empereur réalisé de son vivant."
Who were these "eminent specialists"? Why were they unanimous? It's all rather puzzling.
the reference:
Richard said...
I think that what can happen with these "plus éminents spécialistes" is that Prof. X has a theory, as it might be the identification of the subject of a portrait, and bounces up to another professor, full of excitement, and runs it past him. If Prof. Y believes that it is complete hogwash he will say "well, of course you might be right, but I wouldn't like to bet on it; have you considered factors a, b and c?" If, as might be the case here, Prof. Y believes that the theory is dubious, while not complete hogwash, he will probably say "What a brilliant idea! Quite probably you are right, though I suppose that a sceptic might want to be convinced on point a" or something like that.
Why? Well, Prof. X is full of the joys of spring and the exhilaration of discovery, and Prof. Y doesn't want to rain on his parade. And he knows that he hasn't spent as much time thinking about it as Prof. X has, and is likely to be disinclined to disagree with somebody who has done the donkey work when he hasn't.
I think the same thing happens with papyri. Prof A thinks he can read something, and asks Prof B for a second opinion. Prof B has a quick look, and says "I think you may well be right". When Prof A advocates his theory to somebody else at the pub, he says that Prof B agreed with him: but Prof B didn't really agree, he just made encouraging noises...
If you are an eminent specialist and not being named, you are not putting your own reputation on the line, and may well prefer to be polite and encouraging. What counts is whether somebody agrees with you in print with their name at the bottom of the article...
All best,
Oliver NIcholson said...
Richard's eirenic explanation of professorial psychology reminds me of a friend's explanation of the notorious (and often misquoted) observation of Bishop Jenkins of Durham that the Resurrection was 'not just a conjuring trick with old bones'. The bishop was previously a professor; "the trouble is", said my friend. "he thinks that the Gentlemen of the Press are bright undergraduates who need stimulating".
Michael Bulley said...
After reading this piece, I tore open the plastic wrapping from today's just delivered Le Monde. The subheading says: "C'est le seul buste connu de César réalisé de son vivant", annonce Luc Long. What worries me about M.Long is that when someone asks him at a party what he does for a living, he has to say "I am the principal heritage curator at the department of subaquatic and undersea research of the Ministry of Culture."
Richard said...
"Eirenic"? Perhaps - I expect I have been lucky in my experience of professors...
dearieme said...
'Course it's not Julius Caesar, it's another chap with the same name.
PL said...
Eirenic or not, Richard's scenarios look absolutely life-like.
Tony Francis said...
The Wiki article on Julius Caesar is changing by the hour. There is a battle going on by someone posting this statute as "the last known image of Caesar", while others are taking it down. The Cambridge Professor has taken on the unwitting role of being the sole voice of doubt as to its authenticity (according to Wiki):
It seems the whole matter could be simplified by using computer photoscanners to look at known statues of Caesar, and comparing bone structure with the one in question:
If the bone struture is similar: case closed, (coming to an irenic end). If it isn't: case open, (continuing a non-irenic discussion).
ribbet said...
There is a lot to say about the identicality of the frogs. Thanks Michael. If you kiss me, I'll turn into a beautiful princess, or even the Queen.
Michael Bulley said...
I think it must be a bust of Julius Caesar. Here is my reasoning. When he went to Arles, Caesar would have used the French version of his name, Jules César (we can be certain of this because there is a Hôtel Jules César in Arles). It is also a fact that Caesar was no good at photography. So, although they were willing to help him in his war against Pompey, the people of Arles refused to compromise the quality of the prestigious Arles annual summer photography festival by accepting Caesar's photos, which were mostly holiday snaps of soldiers in Germany ("This is an artistic festival. We don't display people's photographs just because they're celebrities," said one of organisers after Caesar's fifth attempt to get himself included). When Caesar finally left Arles, after being victorious against Pompey, he decided to get his revenge on the town, and shortly afterwards a rude message was found carved on one of the bases of the large iron arch at the entrance to the railway station. "Arles suce - J", it said (Arles sucks - J). It didn't take long for the citizens of Arles to work out who J was, since the message was obviously an anagram of Jules César. All the evidence points therefore to the likelihood that the bust is, in fact, of Caesar, lopped off one of his statues by the angry people of Arles and chucked in the river.
I think the Sid James comparison the best. How can one not see the obvious low-life attributes of this personnage. The French Minister of Culture incidentally is a novellist and playwrite noted for her imagination.
leon farster said...
this is not the face of a man that an army would follow.
Dion Per Sona said...
I find the portrait bears several traits attributed to Julius Caesar. An uncommonly rounded, even bulbous head (Caesarian birth, the first), the little forelock which Tacitus has him nervously finger; the downturned mouth, though not as realistically cruel and ruthless as the telling portrait in the Ancona Municipal museum, is suggested. Those ears: low slung and of criminal appearance, like himself. The comparatively small jawbone. In all he does look like a man capable of slicing open a living womb to seize the prophesied prize: "a man not born of woman", the one who was to secure the Julian dynasty. Or is this episode merely a Christic interpolation? Or gossip supplied by Hadrian?
We've been confused by flattering facsimilies; this bust sticks to certain facts.

David said...
I don't think it looks like Ciaran Hinds at all!
Jane said...
On the other hand, it bears a striking resemblance (in the sawn-off part, at least) to the bust of Caesar which appeared on Doctor Who this evening.
The Doctor must have found it ahead of time and put it back in the river.
Tony Francis said...
Compare these images of five statues of Julius Caesar:
Notice the nose is different in the second statue from the first site. As best I can tell from measuring the images, none of the major axes are the same as in the so-called "oldest statue". In other words, the face is too fat, the eyes are to close together, and as previously mentioned, the labial folds are too prominent. The French say this was done after Caesar's death. Maybe it was just some schlep in the village who seemed to look like Caesar, so far as anyone could recall. Or maybe it was just some schlep no one remembers now.
Eugene said...
Per deos immortales! Come to think of it, why hasn't anyone published a profile photo of this specimen? I mean, even mug shots are done front and profile. What are they hiding? Cherchez la forme, n'est-ce pas?
Xjy said...
Well, it's such an unflattering job with those close-set eyes, the louring expression, and the threatening attitude, that Julius would never ever have approved it if it was done live in his presence. Not a chance. No way he was going to meet posterity, or even the present as an ugly ruthless bastard if he could help it. The sculptor would have got the chop. Maybe it's Tiberius on a bad day, beefed up a bit, and not likely to be seen by Himself disporting with the minnows in Capri.
Looks like the Classical version of an urban legend is being born.
I ask you, Julius Caesar as Sid James??!
Perhaps not so much eirenic, that post, as ironic...
Nicholas Wibberley said...
It appears, like most portrait sculpture of the time, devoid of any efforts to beautify or idealise. What age would you say the man was when this was made? JC was 51 when he crossed the Rubicon. Any time after that one might expect a portrait to bear iconographic elements. Indeed, in his case, perhaps before. To me, being fancifully subjective, this man doesn’t look like a warrior or a conqueror, more like a fairly successful moneylender or trader, a respected member of the community, a family man with wife and son and a dozen or so household slaves.
rogueclassicist said...
I don't think snobbery enters into things ... journalists will readily question claims of politicians and others -- including archaeologists -- but didn't in this case. For an example of such questioning, see, e.g., the recent claims about finding the Queen of Sheba's palace in Ethiopia:
Tony Francis said...
It can be argued with some validity that this isn't the last statue of J. Caesar, but rather the first known image of Homer Simpson:
Now, the only question to be resolved is: Does Homer Simpson look like J. Caesar? Also: wouldn't a stone bust in a river for 2000 years be expected to have washed downstream an indeterminable distance?
rogueclassicist said...
What would be more interesting (I think) than the identification of the statue (if such is possible) is if they'd connect this statue (and the others) to the pontoon bridge that was a feature of Arelate ... did folks trot these statues out on the bridge and toss them? Did they fall off a carriage going over the bridge?
The most informative comment has been made by Mary Jane concerning Tiberius Claudius Nero; in following this suggestion I noticed a certain similarity with some sculptures of Claudius (first pointed out by Irene in just the fourth coment below) -also called Tiberius Claudius Nero plus other names, altogether too complex to verify right now:
This would not rule out the former TCN as the subject of the statue, if he was the emperor's grandfather
But it also happens that Claudius was born in Lyon (Lugdunum), also on the Rhone like Arles -which fits in with TF's suggestion that the sculpture could have flowed some distance downstream.
But apart from the subject in question Mary's post is interesting because of what it raises about the extent to which archaeology may or may not be an exact science: how, for instance they can number so many strata of settlement on a hillside when the lay person might see nothing in particular; how they can postulate an entire complex edifice, with various phases of construction, destruction, reconstruction, enlargement, where the lay person sees only a maze of low walls and lines of foundation-stones....
Then there's the issue of how to go about using archaeology's conclusions for the purpose of writing history. Some of the evidence is of the kind that literary-based historians would instinctively be comfortable with, as it consists of the written word (inscriptions, coins, diplomas) and is clearly published. But other evidence derives from those apects of the discipline which are indeed highly exact and technological: aerial photography that reveals the ancient allotment of land; minutely detailed studies of the residues of seeds and pollen, and many other forms of evidence besides.
All this might be of use, for instance, in reconstructing the patterns of ancient migration and settlement, but it's difficult to see how a historian might integrate it all into a comprehensive overview: the published results may have been archived away in obscure specialist publications, and the evidence itself may be exceedingly abstruse and complex to interpret.
If anyone has views or experience to share on the matter, I believe it would be of help to most of us here.
F.Gamberini said...
Allow me to add my signature to my post "The most informative comment..."
With apologies,
SW Foska said...
Maybe F. Gamberini didn't actually write the anonymously posted comments, he just thought they seemed quite nice and wanted to lay claim to them.
SMITH said...
To Tony Francis. This is a sculpture by an artist - not a photograph - and one can't reasonably expect sculptures or even paintings to adhere to precise measurements or proportions of individuals. You are arranging your argument to fit your prejudice.
Mary, my immediate reaction on seeing the photograph of the sculpture was that it showed a clear family resemblance to sculptures I had seen of Augustus who was Julius' great nephew. Also, people's faces change and sag as they age. This bust is clearly of a tired, weary man and not the tight-jawed,fierce, confident man of previous years and sculptures.
Why not simply say that it may be Julius Caesar.
Tony Francis said...
Dear SMITH: We have at least five sculptures of J. Caesar showing a narrow faced individual. All the statues have more or less the same facial dimensions. Either the artists copied each other (possibly after Caesar's death) or based their work on what he looked like in life. An archeologist fishes a bust of a fat faced man, with prominent nasal labial folds out of a river and proclaims it to be J. Caesar. Based on what? It doesn't match any other example of statues of Caesar. We are told it looks like a profile on a coin. Does it? The coin is of a narrow faced individual, and looks more like the thin faced statues. Are there markings on the statue telling us who it is? If it was in the river for 2000 years (another fact we don't know), it is predictable it would have flowed some distance from where it was tossed in. Maybe it is a fake. Who knows? At Wichita Sate U., they had a really impressive display of "Apatosaurus" vertebrae. I asked the lady geology professor how they knew they were Apatosaurus, and not say, Diplodocus. She told me they had been found in a pit in Utah with other Apatosausus bones. That seemed a good explanation to me. But a week later, the display was gone. That told me they weren't too sure about it. I could find a rusty metal slab in my backyard, and claim it is a sword from Coronado. But that doesn't make it so.
Apatosaurus (nee: Brontosaurus) at Yale had the wrong skull (a Camarasaurus) for over 70 years.
The statue may be J. Caesar, but not based on what we have been told about it.
Tony Francis said...
One thing is for sure: by creating controversy over this unidentified statue, its value in the bidding market has been increased astronomically.
Tony Francis said...
Apprently even Michelangelo produced a phony "ancient" work of art that he passed off on the Pope:
There is so much fake art, there is a secondary market for it:
And let us not forget Andy Warhol who tried to collect money from the sale of forgeries of his own work.
F.Gamberini said...
Augustus too was a good suggestion. But, looking again, I seem to notice that Augustus, Claudius, and Caesar seem to have a more pronounced cupid’s bow than this portrait, so far as can be judged from the photograph.
It’s hard to tell the age of the man portrayed here, as against the accepted Caesar; the elder Tiberius Claudius Nero actually died at a slightly earlier age than C. I’ll go for TCN (tentatively) or some local notable, whether from Arles or further upstream.
I’ve done a quick count of the opinions so far expressed:
JC: 7
TCN: 2
M. Antony: 1
Augustus: 1
Tiberius: 1
Claudius: 2
other: 21

Mary Jane said...
1. Concerning the reassessment by Mr. Gamberini:
a) AUGUSTUS had a very specific imperial iconography, so specific that some scholars regularly mix up e.g. Augustus and Gaius Caesar (20 BC - AD 4). One main characteristic was that Augustus only allowed youthful portraits of himself, even when he was an old man. There are only very few "realistic" images of him, e.g. this one (I think it's called the Alculdia-type), which shows him as Gaius Octavius, but was made some years after Julius Caesar's death:
Augustus surely would not have allowed an unflattering old-age image of him, considering also that the imperial, hellenized iconography, which he introduced in Rome, was very distinct from Republican aesthetics, which were far more realistic. There seems to be only one image of an older Augustus, but this is disputed afaik, which is easy btw because the bust is not in very good shape:
b) CLAUDIUS in the official iconography had far more dignified features than the Arles bust, and he was also depicted in an imperial fashion, not republican.
c) MARCUS ANTONIUS also looks quite different:
…but not as different from the Arles-bust as Augustus or Claudius. In Antonius' case we could also explain the deposition of the bust, which could have happened, when Antonius turned against Octavian before Actium and became something of a persona non grata in the west. This is unlikely for several reasons (see below). Furthermore Antonius was flamen Divi Iulii. And would the soldiers and veterans in the colony, who worshipped Divus Iulius, have thrown away the statue/bust of the highpriest of their cult? Not very likely.
d) TIBERIUS has completely different features than the Arles-bust:
He is clearly Livia's son:
But he was also the son of the aforementioned Tiberius Claudius Nero. If the Arles bust shows TCN, his son, the later emperor Tiberius, didn't have much of his features (if any).
e) JULIUS CAESAR has been ruled out for several reasons, the primary one being that the Tusculum-bust, which clearly shows Caesar vivo, doesn't look like the Arles-bust at all.
f) So TIBERIUS CLAUDIUS NERO, father of the emperor Tiberius, is still in the race. But we don't have any images of him to compare the bust with, so it can only remain tentative and speculative, based on the indirect evidence that he was in Arles in 46 BC (unlike Caesar!) and founded the colony on Caesar's orders. So we can't be sure, and it might as well be a local politician of some sort from the late Republic or before the Principate (judging from the "Republican" style of the bust). But he must have been a very important man, because they kept his bust in the colony until it was thrown away in the 3rd century (see below). Alternatively it could have been a statue from a private household.
2. Concerning Mary Beard's argument here:
"The desperate archaeologist in this case has, of course, found a nice reason for imagining how a made-from-life portrait of Julius Caesar might have ended up at the bottom of the Rhone. It was chucked there after Caesar had been assassinated and so had fallen from favour. Has he forgotten that that was the very moment when Caesar was turned into a god? Well, he might respond, the burghers of southern France took a dim view of such flummery."
a) "Has he forgotten that that was the very moment when Caesar was turned into a god?"
This is true, as it is shown on this coin here (on the right):
…which depicts Caesar's resurrectio on the pyre during his funeral. (The interpretation as "Sulla's Dream" has been largely refuted.)
But the fact that Caesar became god (the Senate had decreed this anyway) and that the Pseudo-Marius immediately established an impromptu cult in Rome, didn't hinder some group of people in Rome (probably the Anti-Caesarians) to destroy Caesar's statues, as Appianus (BC 3.1.9) clearly proves. So we can deduce that whereever there were Anti-Caesarians, it is probable that some of Caesar's statues could have been destroyed or disposed of. But were there Anti-Caesarians in a Caesarian colony like Arles? A colony where the soldiers and veterans worshipped their imperator even before his official apotheosis? So your argument is not correct in general for all of Rome, but I would support that your argument is correct for Arles. (And only that is important here.)
But since the Arles-bust is probably not Caesar, we should rather think about why someone would have thrown away the bust of another person? Nathan T. Elkins makes a clear argument for the 3rd century as the terminus post quem, if the dating of the Neptune-statue by the French authorities is correct (comment No. 7):
The statues were probably thrown away during that time, so then the discarding can't have anything to do with Caesar's assassination anyway. What could be the reasons? The barbarian invasions? Maybe. Maybe not. Or rather the Christianization of the empire? Neptune was a "pagan" god, and would have been thrown away. Marsyas would have been thrown away, because his legend includes the "pagan" god Apollo. Tiberius Claudius Nero, the founder of the colony, would have received some form of worship, alongside the colony's pater Divus Iulius. You need statues or altars for such a cult. Christians would not have allowed the cult of the founder of the colony, and would also have thrown away his statue/bust.
b) "Well, he might respond, the burghers of southern France took a dim view of such flummery."
That would be a non-scientific argument, because the cult of Divus Iulius, especially in the castrae and colonies of Caesar and Augustus, was a fullfledged religion. Some of Caesar's honors in the city of Rome (and maybe also in Greece) were flattery (and maybe even flummery), in the years that led up to his death. But following his death, especially following 42 BC (the year of his apotheosis), a true empire-wide cult was established, and it is well-known that the cult was very prominent in this province: Gallia Narbonensis. (This was brought up by one user in the Wikipedia-discussion, who seems to have read the blogs: he also mentioned Tiberius Claudius Nero.) I don't know the user's source, but in any case Fishwick et al. have shown that the cult was popular there. So I think that no sane person can throw in the argument that the citizens of southern France (who were Roman citizens!) would have taken a dim view of Caesar's cult. Especially not his soldiers and veterans.
Mary Jane said...
There is now a video by France 3, where you can see more of the bust:
The interesting thing is that although the neck is still comparatively short and broad, you can clearly make out the typical long wrinkles on the upper part of the neck on one side, which we know from Caesar's depictions on coins and from the Tusculum-Caesar.
Could this maybe be a posthumous clementia-statue of Caesar, on which e.g. the Torlonia-Caesar was based? Maybe a copy of the one that Marcus Antonius placed on the rostra?
But the rest of the features still doesn't really add up.
Tony Francis said...
After watching the French video, I am softening my position. The statue does look a little like J. Caesar. But there are more questions raised by the video. Were these fragments just lying around in a bunch in close proximity to the cement bridge or pier work? If so, why didn't some workman find them? Why weren't they covered in mud? In general faces tend to get thinner between the ages of 50 and 60.
An exception may be with cigarette smokers (see photos):
Alcohol makes the face thinner. I am still a doubter, just less so.
Mary Jane said...
@Tony Francis
Totally correct. We also know that Caesar suffered from failing health at the end of his life. (Cicero, I think, wrote that he probably wouldn't have returned alive from the war against Parthia.) Caesar tried to fight his epilepsy with a strict diet, and some of the dictator-coins clearly show his face not as naturally thin but as emaciated. So while the Tusculum-Caesar might originate from this later period (e.g. 45 BC), a younger, more hairy and "well-fed" Caesar might be seen in the bust from Arles, but dated rather not to 46 BC, but at the latest 48 BC, when he was there on his campaign against Massilia. (This could be a possible explanation, if this is Caesar. But we can't be sure.)
PS (a note to the moderator): I had also submitted a longer post on Mr. Gamberini's reassessment. This was incorrectly labeled as spam, but submitted for moderator-review anyway. Please look into your spam folder to retrieve the message. Thank you.
Tony Francis said...
The idea that all these artifacts were found in close proximity after being in a large river stretches credibility. In the US Civil War, two ships went down in the James River. People knew where these were for the last 150 years. yet there was great difficulty in locating them, presumably because they had drifted, and been covered with mud.
I knew I kid from Ohio in the US Army who used to walk around the rivers. He found all sorts of stone axes and bones, some weighing more than 20 pounds that had been washed up on river banks. I found a petrified bone in my garden in Salina, KS. It took a while, but I finally figured out it was a human male distal radius (arm bone). You can see the arthritis on the joint surface. It had washed in from somewhere.

cat, ARLES said...
As an archaeologist myself, I respond to these doubts with a shrug. How are we to know better than the archaeologists who found it? It goes either way. Half the artefacts labelled "ritual use" in museums had nothing to do with ritual...archaeology is all about interpretation.
it does seem, on the whole, to fit the hypothesis...that it is probably ceasar.
That "probably" is as best we can do...anyone who thinks archaeology is about 100% proof doesnt understand the job.
Analysing articles written by journalists and looking for scientific reasoning is a little unrealistic as an expectation.
Seems a shame to pour cold water on the exciting discovery just for the sake of being a clever cynic...? No?
Time (and lots of lab work) will tell.
By the way...the big river you talk about is visible from where I'm sitting at the computer. It's entirely possible they lay there for years. Come for a coffee and we'll take a walk across the bridge and I'll show you!
Tony Francis said...
CAT, Arles: I don't think anyone is being a cynic just for the pleasure of being a cynic. We have to ask the question: Is archeology a science or a metaphysic? We are told to reject religion because "someone said it was so." Yet we are told to believe archeologists "because someone said it was so." Same applies to astrophysics, quantum mechanics, and all the other sciences. If archeologists had credibility,we might believe them. Unfortunately, these artifacts have a tendency to end up on auction blocks going for 2 million euros as the "last known portrait of Caesar." Is this the result of a clever marketing campaign drawing attention to a statute that might otherwise languish in the warehouse of a museum, with a value of a few hundred euros? With this marble bust, the commercilization is completed. It has gotten all the attention necessary to draw a big price. Personally, I don't care if some fool pays a fortune for this statute. However, establishing authenticity of ancient art has a poor history, and is fraught with many pitfalls. Look at the story of the famous Greek bronze horse at the Met Museum in NYC. It was displayed in Encyclopaedia Britannica as a great piece of art. In 1968, it was declared a fake. Now it has been rehabilitated.
Who are we to believe? I say, enjoy the art for the sake of its existence. The statue, whether it is J. Caesar or not is interesting. Is a phony work of art created by Michelangelo, and passed as something ancient, of more or less value?
As for your offer of coffee: I would be thrilled to join you. But in the interest of global warming, I am eschewing air travel. So for now, I will just have to drink my coffee in the US. Thanks for the offer, though. I would love to take you up on it.
F.Gamberini said...
Thank you, Cat: hearing from an archaeologist is just what I wanted.
But I would really like you to be a bit more specific, both about the nature of archaeology and your reasons for feeling that it is probably Caesar.
Here's my new, "specific" attempt. Having seen the video (and many thanks again to Mary Jane for pointing it out) I too would agree with TF that the it looks a little like JC; this is true mostly of the left side of the face (when the sculpture is first seen lying on the riverbed), whereas the photograph here is angled slightly more towards the other side.
But frontally the following details don't seem to match:
1. the ears protrude too much;
2. the frown is too strong and the brow too thick;
3. the nostrils are too wide;
4. the mouth too straight and not sufficiently shaped.
Of course, it's interpretation, as you say; I suggest we take it as a starting pont for further discussuion.

Nicholas Wibberley said...
I may be missing something, but why does this have to be an emperor? There isn’t enough of it to prove, or even suggest, that it is. On the other hand there were two relatively calm social periods, the reign of Claudius and that of the early Flavians when portraits were much made for established members of local societies. There were even basic, off the shelf, body models. Aside from iconographic images, which this is not, Roman portrait sculpture tended to aim at realism, just look, among many others, at the bust of Pompey in the Copenhagen museum. Why might this not have come from a private villa, a forum, or even a baths, and simply be the image of a man whose identity is lost to the oblivion Fate grants most of mankind.
Richard said...
I suspect that Tony F is mistaken, and that if this has been excavated by the French national archaeological authorities it will go to a museum (whether national or local) and as such will not ever have a price determined by sale in an auction or wherever.
As such, in purely commercial terms, all that French state-employed archaeologists are doing by increasing its potential sale value is to add to the relevant museum's insurance premiums.
Prestige of the museum and of the individual archaeologists in question is another matter.
All best,
Tony Francis said...
Making up a good story is the same thing as merchandizing. If the statue stays in a museum, it is the gift that keeps on giving in terms of tourists who will come to see it in perpetuity, purchasing meals at restuarants and buying plastic crap at the museum. If it is the last head of Caesar, more will come than if it just some schmo from the village. So it is even better than selling it for 2 million euros, especially if you are a socialist. What is more compelling: "We found this interesting arrowhead."; or "We found this interesting arrowhead which was shot by a party of Native Americans, who while pursuing a herd of buffalo, were attacked by another warring party, fighting for territorial rights...."

Georg said...
One more competent voice speaking against the identification with Caesar:,ra16m1/wissen/special/67/174544/index.html/wissen/artikel/74/176540/article.html
Lord Truth said...
From Lord Truth, 28th May, 2---
I recently received the following letter from my old friend Hercule Poirot and in view of its importance in this matter I feel it should be made public.
My Dear Friend,
I 'av been reading the enormous number of comments concerning this discovery and am surprised that no one-no one-including the esteemed lady professor, has made ,what to me is the most instantly obvious observation concerning it.
I ask you,mesdames et messieurs to look carefully at this portrait bust and ask yourselves one simple question.
If I had a face like that,would I want it immortalised in stone for all time?
Would my wife-colleagues-friends,on passing it each time they came to dinner look on it reverently and say in hushed tones 'What a great -noble-handsome-sensitive man your husband-senator etc. was'?
The answer mes amis is clearly ,No!
Indeed ,knowing Roman humour as we do the chances are that it would produce guffaws of laughter of the kind that would be produced if one day Mr Sid James had casually mentioned he was thinking of having his portait painted.
'Itlooks like the gargoyle on the kitchen roof'-'Wheres the spout?,'
Only if-only if -mes amis ,the person depicted was so immensley,so enormously important that they agreed-indeed that it was demanded of them-that they must be portrayed for all time for history as similarly as your Oliver Cromwell indicated,warts and naso labials and all....
This can therefore only be a bust of a very very very great man.And I am sure that my friends in the various French archeology departments with their computerised facio-cranial measurements etc will have confirmed that this is indeed Julius Caesar
Some people have protested that no soldier would follow a man with such a face,but messieurs,the extreme depth of those naso labials indicates a man of great endurance and ruthlessness ,as Caesar was known to be-indeed put an officers cap on him and he instantly brings to life someof the most determined and ruthless German generals of WW2.
But what of Caesars wit and sensitivity? Alas ,that is precisely why this bust is so embarrassing to its model .Frozen in stone it cannot show those softer human feelings Caesar was said to possess...
As far as the intense anger at the French shown in these comments ,I 'av some sympathy.The British do feel they have a close relationship with this man.
He is in a way,the father of their nation.After all,until 'e invade it,no one 'ad 'eard of the place.
Finally may I suggest to the commenters,perhaps, a little less all night raving and a lttle more use of those little grey cells.
Your Friend Hercule Poirot
Mary Jane said...
Concerning this link:,ra16m1/wissen/special/67/174544/index.html/wissen/artikel/74/176540/article.html
Paul Zanker is without doubt a renowned expert on the subject, but not all of his views may necessarily be correct. I support his obvious assessment that the Arles-bust is not Caesar, but why the Tusculum-Caesar is definitely supposed to be a zeitgesicht, and not a direct portrait, is incomprehensible. That's only a theory, which he needs to but cannot prove. The fact that the Tusculum-Caesar closely resembles the coin portraits from Caesar's lifetime, rather speaks against this being a zeitgesicht. And although the Tusculum-Caesar spawned several copies (e.g. the Corinth-Caesar), these copies (in unison with Divus-Iulius-coins) often rejuvenized Caesar's features. So in the article Zanker errs, when he says that the "aged Caesar" definitely and markedly resembled a zeitgesicht after his death.
Mary Jane said...
@ Lord Truth:
You write or quote: "Frozen in stone it cannot show those softer human feelings Caesar was said to possess..."
I then have to ask you (in all seriousness) why so many statues of Caesar show so much emotion and so many of his feelings (including the softer ones): the Tusculum with the wit, the openness, aristocracy, friendly reserve and irony… the Torlonia with the clementia, benevolence, sensitivity and warmness… the Corinth with the sadness and tragedy… the Thasos-type as the proud, hellenized Divus Iulius… others like the Campo Santo, the Velleia or the Rieti as the potent warrior and idealized imperator… the Farnese/Naples as the great ruler (but obviously based on the Tusculum)… the Capitol Caesar with clementia also, but including a mixture of imperium and an almost meditative sapientia?
The Arles-bust does not reflect a single, tiny attribute of at least one of those many Caesar-statues and busts. Not one… and that's a fact. So the only sane answer can be that the bust from Arles is not Caesar, under no admissable circumstances. You can try as many "computerized facio-cranial measurements" as you like, it will not change the fact that the Arles-bust has nothing to do with the Caesar from the known written sources, coins, busts, statues and inscriptions.
Georg said...
Another interesting article by a German speaking expert on Roman portraits, this time an interview:
Chris Hallworth said...
Indeed i agree with the author here. Every archaeologist will appreciate the beauty of this piece - although i must agree this idea of it having been thrown into a river is dubious. This ramble about it being Ceasar is only for the press and we need not accept it as such to admire the find. I Think it is a shame that the press have used this interpretation - I don't think it helps the image of archaeology in teh public mind nor does it promote better understanding of the field.
Alexander Jablánczy said...
I asked my wife without mentioning anything about it is this a sculpture of JC fished out of the river at Arles? Of course she said.
Actually Arelatum. Why? She wouldn't discuss her reasons she said it's obvious. Why? Because that's what he looked like, that's all.
Me as a humble portraitist would be more mundane and picky. Count the number of deep creases between the two eyebrows TWO do other sculptures match? Count the number and fatness of the horizontal deep forehead furrows do they match?
Look at the weird gap in the outer ear lobe at the top does it match?
These features are unchangeable whereas as we know from El Greco astigmatism and distortion or Botero fatness thinness square vs oblong head vs moon face are stylistic or ocular distortions and as such not determinative. Reminds me of Shakespeare's Canadian portrait which is atypical but the wood panel matches the date as well as the paint. A forgery would copy the well known exact features so ironically an authentic piece would be atypical.
The atypicality of this bust is the strongest argument in its favour.
For head shape I agree that it's more like Claudius, or Nero, but the head tilt, why obviously it's Alexander.
But all Frenchmen and all Brits must hang their heads in shame, the authenticity of an object depends on its national appurtenance??? Ridiculous. Here the Germans come off rather better they are actually unsure. But we havent heard from those who might actually know what they are talking about the Italians of course. Americans I would ignore.
Then a bit of reality check. Do we know if sculptors worked with a live model in front of them or with dozens of charcoal sketches made from life from various angles or did they work from memory without any model or did they have a clay or terracotta model before their eyes which was made from a live model. Which was it?
Now the truth. Caesar later returned to Arelatum summoned the sculptor and sculpture was displeased about the poor likeness
and was about to punish him when the poor fellow suggested he throw it in the river as a sacrifice to the river god for crossing the Rubicon. QED.
PS All artists sculptors portraitists vary in style technique execution skill and ingrained feature imprint. Which is why no two will be clones.
Alexander Jablánczy said...
I tried to collect all of Caesars statues sculptures portraits but got nowhere. They all have different lighting so the shadows are different consequently the structures depths of grooves folds are not commensurable. Then the sizes are unknown and the frontality and heighth of the photos are also varied and not consistent nor uniform. So there is nothing to compare.
Whether it might be Caesar without proper comparable photos is unanswerable.
But one can study the sculpture itself and the results are astonishing. This is simply the most incompetent amateurish
unsuccessful portrait sculpture of all time. If you draw a line across each double feature or merely hold up a ruler the results are unbelievably incompetent.
Obviously the sculptor drew a horizontal line or rather a line normal to the tilt of the head across the two eyes and the corners of the lips and got the eyes and the mouth into parallel planes. Then the horrors begin. Not the alae nasi but the nares tilt one way. The ears tilt the opposite way. Not just by one or two but fifteen to thirty degrees compared to each other nose to ears but also to the mouth and eyes. So the separate constituents of the head are all in different non parallel planes which is anatomically impossible. That no one has noticed this glaring odd
incompetence is curious.
As far as the identity. Why it's obvious, it's Euclid. This is a demonstration head to show that parallel lines do not meet ie the line of the mouth and the eyes but non parallel lines do meet ie the line of the ears and the nose.
So I was right whoever this was it was probably done by a pupil or a drunk senile blind sculptor or a modern forger who didnt know about strict plan lines more or less like Leonardo drawing parallels and arcs on a head of the Virgin which was traditional sculptors and painters method since Greek times. Otherwise you get this crazy dance of the nose ears mouth eyes all in random directions and sizes.
Or the sculpror had a family where the cutest one was uglier than Quasimodo or more deformed.
Ironically all these bad error make this such a vivid expressive sculpture and the distortions of incompetence alive.
Brenda O'Hern Six said...
Each and every one of you is wrong. It's Mel Gibson.
doug l said...
As I understand it, the creation of these sculptures during this period of Roman history was a function of public art and not art in the sense of an artist's interpretation, and as such the sculptors were artisans of the kind that the roman culture exemplified; precision seeking craftsmen who used devices to replicate their models very exactly. I also undertand that when it came to portraiture for the heads of noble families, there were sculptures that were intended to be very realistic and included all the flaws that every human has, and these were different by degrees from the ones meant for public display. This purported bust of Ceasar seems to be one that has been indealized and accurate. It's puzzling but even more puzzling would be the question of "who if not ceasar" would have a portrait bust of such quality produced. Perhaps at some time in the future other public portraits of Ceasar will come to light and a more definitive appraisal can be made. In the mean time the amount of interest this discovery has generated, as well as the excellent production of the recent dramatic series on television, has been a boon and one well worth appreciating for both its artistic merits and its drawing attention to the constants of history where republics become empires; a theme we seem to be witnessing today with some variation. How will Obama's, or Thatcher, or Bush or Churchill be viewed in two thousand year's time?
John Yohalem said in reply to Michael Bulley...
Michael Bulley has entirely convinced me. Case closed.
celebrity oops said...
What a freaky face!
Marco said...
Tu quoque Brute !!
Brian Keith O'Hara said...
The opposite question, how do we know the Tusculum portrait is contemporary. What is more intriguing, why do the portraits look substantially different from each other. The Naples Portrait is the most interesting, it communicates a sense of power.
Julius Caesar said in reply to Eileen...
On a more general note, where does the 'wickedly subversive' come from, as in the 'wickedly subversive Mary Beard.' Really? If only. Who writes this stuff?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive