Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Meroë Head

When in London last week, we had time to pop into the British Museum, after our visit to Magna Carta.

We didn't have a lot of time, so we didn't go into any of the (ticketed) special exhibitions, as we would not have had time to take advantage of them, but we did pop in to see the Meroë Head of Augustus, which is being specially featured at present.

It is a life-sized bronze of the head of the Emperor Augustus, dating to around 27-25 BCE, and discovered in what is now Sudan, in 1910.

Apparently this type of bust was sent to all corners of the Empire. 

This particular one was part of the spoils of war when, in 25 BCE a Kushite army made a successful raid on the borders of Roman Egypt, captures the bronze and buried it under the steps of their victory monument in order that everyone who visited the monument could trample on Augustus's decapitated head . .  As you do!

As you can see, it still has the original eyes, made of coloured glass paste, for the irises, surrounded by a copper ring, and set into polished stone. There are even the remains of his (copper) eyelashes.

It is a beautiful piece, and there is something haunting about seeing Augustus staring out from 2,000 years of history. (According to the museum's display, the same bust continued to be used throughout his reign, so although he was probably in his 30s when it was originally made, his image wasn't changed, so Augustus at 76 was still represented throughout the Empire by portraits of his 30(ish) year old self.

Maybe next time I visit the museum I shall have to make time to look at more of their Roman collection, to see who else I can find.

No comments: