Nerva; Trajan; Hadrian; Antoninus Pius; Lucius Verus; Marcus Aurelius; Commodus; Pertinax; Didius Julianus; Septimius Severus; Caracalla; Geta; Macrinus; Diadumenian; Elagabalus; Severus Alexander. 🖼️ Print available here.

Appearance of The Principate [Pt. III]

96–192: The Nerva–Antonine 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Using the neural-net tool Artbreeder, Photoshop and historical references, I have created photoreal depictions of Roman Emperors.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.

Nerva: (UL) Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Tuscany, Italy; (R) Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Massimo; (LL) Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne;

Nerva

96–98 (Died aged 67 — Natural causes)

  • Hair: “grey-haired” (Day (2001) 106)
  • Eyes:
  • Skin:
  • Other: “Grayhaired, old, weak and ill when he became emperor; well born and worthy, but incapacitated by physical condition for difficult undertakings, his weakened condition being reflected in the lack of activity and energy which mark his reign.” (via Canter)
  • Height:
(UL) Glyptothek, Munich (LL) Glyptothek Munich; (LR) Museum of Art History, Vienna, Austria.

Trajan

98–117 (Died aged 63 — Natural causes)

  • Hair: “majestic looking gray hair” (via Canter)
  • Eyes:
  • Skin: “complexion fresh with glow of health; eyes large; face and countenance dignified” (via Canter)
  • Other:
  • Height: “Tall, firm and strong in body” (via Canter)
Hadrian (v1): ↖️ Vatican Museum; Altes Museum, Berlin, Germany; ↙️ The British Museum, London.
Hadrian (v2) Older with much deeper tan.

Hadrian

117–138 (Died aged 62 — Natural causes)

  • Hair:
  • Eyes:
  • Skin: “hair curled on a comb; beard worn full to cover blemishes of
    the face” (via Canter)
  • Other:
  • Height: “In stature tall and well built”
Antoninus Pius: (L) Glyptothek Munich; (R) National Archaeological Museum, Naples, Italy.

Antoninus Pius

138–161 (Died aged 74 — Natural causes)

  • Hair:
  • Eyes:
  • Skin:
  • Other: “striking personality-face handsome” (via Canter)
  • Height: “Tall and well built; limbs slender though strong” (via Canter)
Lucius Verus: (UL) MET; (R) Collosal head at Louvre Museum, Paris; (LL) Vatican Museums.

Lucius Verus

161–169 (Died aged 39 — Natural causes)

  • Hair: Blonde ( “flaventium”) “He took such pride in his yellow hair, it is said, that he used to sift gold-dust on his head in order that his hair, thus brightened, might seem even yellower.” (Historiae Augustae, Verus) (via Cocci)
  • Eyes:
  • Skin:
  • Other:
  • Height:
Marcus Aurelius (v1): ↖️ Glyptothek Munich; ↗️ Musée des Antiques de Toulouse; ↙️ Musée Saint-Raymond, Toulouse, France c. 170–180; (LR) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.
Marcus Aurelius (v2): I was shown compelling evidence hair, can stay upright naturally as shown in all busts. Facial features more influenced by bust at ↙️ Musée Saint-Raymond, Toulouse, France c. 170–180.

Marcus Aurelius

161–190 (Died aged 58 — Natural causes)

  • Hair: “beard full and flowing” (via Canter) “Marcus Aurelius wore his dark, curly hair and beard long like his predecessors.” (via Historum)
  • Eyes:
  • Skin:
  • Other: “Careless of personal appearance-wore dark clothing after made a Caesar, when not in his father’s company” (via Canter)
  • Height:
Commodus: (L) Paul Getty Museum; Also: Commodus as Hercules; Young & Old Commodus from Capitoline Museum.

Commodus

177–192 (Died aged 31 — Assassinated in palace, strangled in his bath)

  • Hair: “His hair was always dyed and made lustrous by the use of gold dust” Hist. Aug., Commodus (via Cocci) “hair naturally blond and curly, and in sunlight as lustrous as if sprinkled with gold dust, or as if reflecting a divine splendor; cheeks covered with tender down; hair of face and head singed because he feared barber […] at times shaved his head and carried a statue of Anubis, Egyptian tutelary deity of the chase.” (via Canter)
  • Eyes:
  • Skin:
  • Other: “features clear cut and attractive; expression affable but dull, as usual in drunkards” (via Canter)
  • Height: “body well proportioned” (via Canter)
Pertinax: (L) Vatican Museums, Rome.

Pertinax

193 (Died aged 66 — Murdered by Praetorian Guard [so that they could auction off the empire to the highest bidder])

  • Hair:
  • Eyes:
  • Skin:
  • Other:
  • Height: “a short and stocky man” (via Historum)
Didius Julianus: (UL) Vatican Museum; (LL) Capitoline Museum; (R) Christies.

Didius Julianus

193 (Died aged 56 or 60 — Executed on orders of the Senate)

  • Hair:
  • Eyes:
  • Skin:
  • Other:
  • Height:
Septimius Severus (v1): ↖️ Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen c. 195–211 AD; ↗️ Capitoline Museum; ↙️ Capitoline Museum; ↘️ The Severan Tondo c. 200 AD; Also: Munich Glyptotek
Septimius Severus (v2): Removal of busts with nose reconstructions. Weighted heavily to Tondo and inscribed bronze bust. ↖️ Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen; ↗️ The Severan Tondo c. 200 AD; ↙️ Capitoline Museum c. 200–210 AD; Coin AD 202–210 via CNG.

Septimius Severus

193–211 (Died aged 65 — Natural causes)

  • Hair: “hair gray and curly; beard long” (via Canter)
  • Eyes:
  • Skin:
  • Other:
  • Height: “Large, strong, and handsome” (via Canter)
Caracalla (v1): ↖️ Vatican Museum; ↗️ Met, NYC; ↙️ The Severan Tondo; ↘️ Naples National Archaeological Museum
Caracalla (v2): It likely Geta removed from Severan Tondo due to damnatio memoriae. Simulating darker exposure with less spectacular reflections on forehead.
Caracalla (v2.1): More scowl. ↖️ Vatican Museum; ↗️ Met, NYC; ↙️ The Severan Tondo; ↘️ Capitoline Museums, Rome

Caracalla

198–217 (Died aged 29 — Murdered by a soldier as part of a conspiracy involving Macrinus)

  • Hair: “hair curly and thin, approaching baldness; beard shaved while in the East” (via Canter) “Caracalla kept his beard trimmed shorter than his predecessors but wore his curly black hair fairly long; […] During his campaigns in Germania he wore a blond wig and Celtic clothing.” (via Historum)
  • Eyes:
  • Skin:
  • Other: “wrinkled his brow, assumed a threatening expression, and bent head and neck to the left in fancied resemblance to Alexander the Great, whom he tried to imitate in look, gait, and dress” (via Canter)
  • Height: “in stature small and not imposing, though strong enough to hunt wild boars and lions”
Geta (v1): (UL) Capitoline Museum c.211; (UR) Presumed head of Geta; (LL) Young Geta; (LR) Louvre.
Geta (v2) Older, Darker haired. More pronounced facial hair matching Capitoline Museum and coinage via ANS

Geta

211 (Died aged 22 — Murdered on the orders of Caracalla)

  • Hair:
  • Eyes:
  • Skin:
  • Other: “In person strong and handsome; more gentle in appearance and manner than Caracalla” (via Canter)
  • Height:
Macrinus (v1): ↖️ Capitoline Museum Rome, Italy; (UR & LR) Belgrade City Museum; (LL) Hall of Emperors Capitoline Rome, Italy.
Macrinus (v2): Previous version influenced by bust from Hall of Emperors with nose reconstruction via misidentified bust on Getty. Now more heavily weighted to bronze bust from Belgrade City Museum.

Macrinus

217–218 (Died aged 53 — Both executed in favour of Elagabalus)

  • Hair: “head bald, face bearded” (via Canter)
  • Eyes:
  • Skin:
  • Other: “Born of humble parentage, a Moor by race; left ear bored in token of servile origin.” (via Canter) NOTE ON TERM ‘MOOR’: “Derived from the Latin word “Maurus,” the term was originally used to describe Berbers and other people from the ancient Roman province of Mauretania in what is now North Africa.” (via NatGeo)
  • Height:
Diadumenian (v1): (UL) Uffizi Gallery; (UR) Vatican Museum; (LL) ; (LR) Cast from Innsbruck, Institute for Classical and Provincial Roman Archeology
Diadumenian (v2): Older, more influenced by older bust and speculated skin tone of father.

Diadumenian

218 (Died age 9 — Both executed in favour of Elagabalus)

  • Hair:
  • Eyes:
  • Skin:
  • Other:
  • Height:
Elagabalus: (L) Capitoline Museum.
Elagabalus (v2.1) Older, feminine with some cosmetics. ↖️ Bust Circa 218 AD; ↗️ Capitoline Museum; ↙️ Carlsberg Glyptotek; ↘️ Cassius Dio.

Elagabalus

218–222 (Died aged 18 — Murdered by Praetorian Guard)

  • Hair:
  • Eyes: “painted his eyes” (via Canter)
  • Skin: “naturally bright face with cosmetics” (via Canter)
  • Other: “noted for beauty and imposing physique; so handsome in bloom of youth and when dressed as a priest of the Syrian sun-god that he was compared to youthful Bacchus; but covered his naturally bright face with cosmetics and wore a diadem set with jewels, that his face might look like a woman’s; sometimes wore a hairnet, painted his eyes, and went with smooth face.” (via Canter)
  • Height:
Severus Alexander (v1): ↖️; ↗️ Archaeological Museum, Dion; ↙️ The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia; ↘️ Capitoline Museum. Also: Louvre
Severus Alexander (v2): Weighted more to bronze (original nose). More beard, deeper tan.

Severus Alexander

222–235 (Died aged 27 — Murdered by the army)

  • Hair:
  • Eyes:
  • Skin:
  • Other: “dressed in plain white robes without gold ornaments, and
    reintroduced rough cloaks and tunics without purple stripes.” (via Canter)
  • Height: “physically strong with height and vigor of a soldier who knows his strength and maintains it; devoted to physical exercises and a wrestler of first rank” (via Canter)

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