Augustus; Tiberius; Caligula; Claudius; Nero. 🖼️ Print available here.

Appearance of The Principate [Pt. I]

27 BC–68 AD: The Julio-Claudian dynasty

Using the neural-net tool Artbreeder, Photoshop and historical references, I have created photoreal depictions of Roman Emperors. Scroll down to see each emperor.

Augustus (v1): ↖️ The Prima Porta (CC BY-SA 2.5); ↗️ Pergamum Museum (CC BY-SA 4.0); ↙️ Labicana; ↘️ British Museum
Augustus (v2): Aged. Hair appears slightly darker. Same bust references.

Augustus

27 BC — 19 AD (Died age 75 — Natural Causes)

  • Hair: light brown, fair, blondish “subflavum“ (Suet. Aug. 77)(Via Cocci)
  • Eyes: “clear, bright eyes” (Suetonius) bluish grey glauci(Pliny XI, 54) (Via Cocci)
  • Skin: “His complexion was between dark and fair” (Suetonius) ‘dark skin’ in an ancient context is not believed to be a statement of racial heritage (via Walton et al.)
  • Other: “His teeth were wide apart, small, and ill-kept … his eyebrows met. His ears were of moderate size, and his nose projected a little at the top and then bent ever so slightly inward. His complexion was between dark and fair.” (Suetonius)
  • Height: “He was short of stature, although Julius Marathus, his freedman and keeper of his records, says that he was five feet and nine inches (just under 5 ft. 7 in., or 1.70 meters, in modern height measurements), but this was concealed by the fine proportion and symmetry of his figure, and was noticeable only by comparison with some taller person standing beside him…” (Suetonius)
Tiberius: ↖️ Carlsberg Glyptotek; ↗️ Royal Ontario Museum; ↙️Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli ↘️ Museo Nazionale Napoli; Also: “The Lansdowne”

Tiberius

14–37 (Died aged 75 — Probably natural causes, possibly assassinated by Caligula or praetorian prefect)

  • Hair: “full and worn so long behind. ;bald in later life.” (via Canter)
  • Eyes:
  • Skin: “face handsome but often, especially in later years, full of pimples and sores” (via Canter)
  • Other:
  • Height: “height somewhat above average; broad of shoulders and chest, and evenly proportioned in all other members of the body” (via Canter)
Caligula (v1): Met Gallery Also: New Carlsberg Gylototek
Caligula (v2): Previously used bust with greatest craftsmanship (↙️ Met Gallery), now depiction weighted to bust with most disfigurement. ↖️ Louvre bust as primary reference. ↗️ New Carlsberg Gylototek for skin tone. Asymetrical eye consistent with ↘️ Museum of Rome bust.
Caligula (v2.1): No longer referencing Met Gallery bust. Depiction weighted to busts with asymetrical eyes ↖️ Louvre; ↙️ Worchester Art Gallery; ↘️ Museum of Rome bust. ↗️ New Carlsberg Gylototek for skin tone and hair colour.

Caligula

37–41 (Died age 28 — Assassinated in a conspiracy involving senators and Praetorian Guards)

  • Hair: blonde beard (and hair). Originally referenced text (Sueutonius, 52), was a description of Caligula’s habits of dressing up as a woman which was against the roman moral (Mos Maiorum) (via Cocci) “head misshapen, eyes and temples sunken; hair thin, with crown of head bald; hair and beard worn long for a time after death of his sister. neck covered with bristles and rest of the body hairy;” (via Canter)
  • Eyes: “eyes staring and with a glare savage enough to torture.” (via Canter)
  • Skin:
  • Height: “Tall, ill proportioned, an object of derision; neck and legs very thin; feet enormous” (via Canter)
Claudius: ↖️ Naples National Archaeological Museum; ↗️ Vatican Museum; ↙️ Museum Chiaramonti (51–54 AD); ↘️ National Archaeological Museum of Spain

Claudius

41–54 (Died age 63 — Probably poisoned by his wife Agrippina the Younger, in favour of her son Nero, possibly natural causes)

  • Hair: white hair (“canitieque pulchra” — Suet. Cl. 30 ) (via Cocci)
  • Eyes: “eyes at corners bloodshot. Health so precarious during childhood and early manhood that both mind and body were impaired, but generally in good health after he became emperor” (via Canter)
  • Skin:
  • Other: “neck thick set” (via Canter)
  • Height: “Tall, but not slender” (via Canter)
Nero (v1): ↖️ Musei Capitolini Rome; ↗️ Glyptothek Munich; ↙️ Uffizi Gallery, Florence; ↘️ Peter Paul Rubens
Nero (v2): Neck-beard hair on ↖️ Musei Capitolini Rome bust was incorrectly registering as a strong jawline. this has been fixed.

Nero

54–68 (Died age 30 — Committed suicide after being declared a public enemy by the Senate)

  • Hair: light brown, fair, blondish (“subflavum” — Suet. Nero 51) (via Cocci) “hair fair” (via Canter)
  • Eyes: grey eyes (“oculis caesis — Suet. Nero 51) (via Cocci) “eyes gray and dull; shortsighted and wont to contract brows, in order to recognize near objects the better” (via Canter)
  • Skin: “skin freckled and repulsive” (via Canter)
  • Other: “abdomen prominent. Health good.” (via Canter)
  • Height: “Stature a little below average; face agreeable rather than attractive” (via Canter)

Design | Cinematography | Criticism