x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

A History of the World in 100 Objects: bust of Augustus

Caesar Augustus was always represented as a young man in his prime and his image was made to perfect proportions, as this marble bust shows.

Stone Augustus from A History of the World In 100 Objects exhibition at Manarat Al Saadiyat. Courtesy British Museum
Stone Augustus from A History of the World In 100 Objects exhibition at Manarat Al Saadiyat. Courtesy British Museum

Caesar Augustus defeated Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the battle of Actium and took possession of Egypt in the year 31BC. It then became a Roman province and statues of Emperor Augustus were erected all over the country.

As a young leader, he understood the need to communicate his personal authority to his subjects and these statues, found not just in Egypt but across his vast empire, helped to achieve this. This piece is a Roman marble head from Italy dated between 1-40BC.

More than 250 of these distinctive portraits survive. Although he was 76 when he died, Augustus was always represented as a young man in his prime and his image was made to perfect proportions based upon classical Greek notions of the ideal human form. It became an enduring symbol of his power and, as such, appears in the section of the exhibition dedicated to power and philosophy.

Each Tuesday Arts & Life will focus on one artefact on show as part of A History of the World in 100 Objects, an exhibition running until August 1 in Manarat Al Saadiyat on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi