Maximinus Thrax; Gordian I; Gordian II; Pupienus; Balbinus; Gordian III; Philip the Arab; Philip II; Decius; Herennius Etruscus; Hostilian; Trebonianus Gallus; Volusianus; Aemilian; Valerian; Gallienus; Saloninus; Claudius Gothicus; Quintillus; Aurelian; Ulpia Severina; Tacitus; Florianus; Probus; Carus; Carinus; Numerian. 🖼️ Print available here.

Appearance of The Principate [Pt. IV]

235–285: Gordian dynasty and Crisis of the Third Century

Using the neural-net tool Artbreeder, Photoshop and historical references, I have created photoreal depictions of Roman Emperors.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

Maximinus Thrax (v1): (L) Capitoline Museum, Rome. Also: Carlsberg Glyptotek Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark; Excluded: Louvre (now believed to be a municipal figure).
Maximinus Thrax (v2): Added photo-realism (visible only in HD). Larger chin, fuller face.

Maximinus Thrax

235–238 (Died aged 65 — Assassinated by his men during the siege of Aquileia)

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  • Height: “Ancient Roman writers claimed that Maximinus Thrax stood over 8 feet tall. His sandals were said to be twice the size of regular army issue. He wore his wife’s bracelet as a thumb ring. It was said he devoured 40 pounds of meat and 18 bottles of wine at each meal. They claimed he crushed rocks in his fists, out-pulled a team of horses, and knocked out a mule with one punch. These are all exaggerations, of course.” (via W&M) “strikingly huge stature and feats of strength won him a place in Septimius Severus’ army; body preeminent in height, size, and proportions-extraordinary accounts given of his feats of strength, eating, drinking, etc.” (via Canter)
Gordian I (v1): (L) Capitoline Museum Rome.
Gordian I (v2): Older, larger nose according to coinage.

Gordian I

238 (Died aged 79 — Committed suicide upon hearing of the death of Gordian II)

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Gordian II (v1): (L) Capitoline Museum Rome.
Gordian II (v2): Added realism and image depth. Further receding hairline according to coinage.

Gordian II

238 (Died aged 46 — Killed during the Battle of Carthage, fighting a pro-Maximinus army)

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Pupienus: (L) Capitoline Museum Rome.

Pupienus

238 (Died aged 68 or 73 — Assassinated by the Praetorian Guard)

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Balbinus: (UL) Ephesus Museum; (R) Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia; (LL) Capitoline Museum, Rome.

Balbinus

238 (Died aged 60 — Assassinated by Praetorian Guard)

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Gordian III: (L) Vatican Museums. Also: Louvre, Paris, France.

Gordian III

238–244 (Died aged 19 — Unknown; possibly murdered on orders of Philip I)

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  • Other: “handsome and winsome in appearance” (via Canter)
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Philip the Arab: (L) Vatican Museum.

Philip the Arab

244–249 (died aged 45 — Killed in the Battle of Verona by Decius)

Philip II: (L) Venice; (R) Capitoline Museum, Rome

Philip II

247–249 (Died aged 12 —Murdered by the Praetorian Guard after his father was killed in battle by his successor Decius in 249)

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Decius: (L) Glyptothek, Munich, Germany.

Decius

249–251 (Died aged 50 — Killed in the Battle of Abrittus fighting against the Goths)

(UL) Possibly a bust of mother Herennia Etruscilla; (UR) Unknown bust via Alchetron;

Herennius Etruscus

249–251 (Died age 24 — Killed in the Battle of Abrittus fighting against the Goths)

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Hostilian: (L) The Vatican Museums, Rome—Possibly Herennius Etruscus. Also: Grande Ludovisi sarcophagus

Hostilian

251 (Died aged 21 — Natural causes (plague))

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Trebonianus Gallus: (UL) Antioch, Museum (UR) Metropolitan Museum of Art ; (LL) Louvre; (LR) National Archaeological Museum of Florence.

Trebonianus Gallus

251–253 (Died aged 47 — Assassinated by their own troops, in favour of Aemilian)

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Volusianus: (L) Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours.

Volusianus

251–253 (Died aged ~23 — Assassinated by their own troops, in favour of Aemilian)

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Aemilian: The various coins used as reference.

Aemilian

253 (Died aged 40 or 46 — Assassinated by his own troops, in favour of Valerian)

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  • Skin: Moor OR Lybian according to 12th-century historian Joannes Zonaras, (that is, coming from western Egypt-eastern Libya) rather than a Moor
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Valerian: (L) Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Also: British Museum (?).

Valerian

253–260 (Died aged 65 — Captured in Battle of Edessa against Persians, died in captivity)

  • Hair: “clean shaven” (via Historum)
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  • Height: “was stocky in build” (via Historum)
Gallienus: (L) Carlsberg Glyptotek Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark Also: Antiquarium del Palatino, Rome; Louvre, Paris, France.

Gallienus

253–268 (Died aged 50 — Murdered at Aquileia by his own commanders)

  • Hair: “Vain in dress-powdered his hair, appeared in public with a halo upon his head” (via Canter)
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Saloninus: Father De-aged from Uffizi gallery; Pergamonmuseum, Berlin; Museo Capitoliono.

Saloninus

258–260 (Died aged ~18 — Murdered at Aquileia by his own commanders)

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Claudius Gothicus (aka: Claudius II)

268–270 (Died aged 60 — Natural causes (plague))

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  • Eyes: “lustrous eyes” (via Canter)
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  • Height: “tall of stature” (via Canter)
Quintillus: British Museum (?)

Quintillus [Marcus Aurelius Claudius Quintillus]

270 (Died age ~60 — Unclear; possibly suicide or murder)

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Aurelian (L) Aurelian, Usually thought to be Claudius II; (R)“Presumed portrait” via PBA Auctions

Aurelian

270–275 (Died aged ~61 — Assassinated by Praetorian Guard)

  • Hair: “Aurelian, along with Probus, Carus, Diocletian, and Maximian after him, favored short hair and a goatee.” (via Historum)
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Ulpia Severina: Several coins as reference.

Ulpia Severina (possibly)

275 (Died age unknown)

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Tacitus: (L) Louvre, Paris, Fance.

Tacitus

275–276 (Died aged 76 — Natural causes (possibly assassinated))

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Florianus (v1): Bust ? (via Alchetron); Several coins show conflicting appearance.
Florianus (v2): Relaxed expression.

Florianus

276 (Died age unknown — Assassinated by his own troops, in favour of Probus)

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Probus: (L) Capitoline Museum, Rome

Probus

276–282 (Died aged 50 — Assassinated by his own troops, in favour of Carus)

Carus: (L) Museo Archeologico Ostiense, Rome, Italy.

Carus

282–283 (Died aged unknown — Probably natural causes (Possibly killed by lightning))

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Carinus: Centrale Montemartini Museum, Rome.

Carinus

283–285 (Died aged unknown — Probably died in battle against Diocletian)

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Numerian: (UL) Boston Museum of Fine Arts; (UR) Brother via Centrale Montemartini Museum, Rome; (LL) Father via Museo Ostiense; (LR) Coin.
Numerian (v2): Subtle change to increase perception of photo-realism.

Numerian

283–284 (Died age unknown — Unclear; possibly assassinated)

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