Come face to face with Emperor Hadrian at Segedunum Roman Fort

By Culture24 staff | 10 August 2009
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Showing a marble bust of Hadrian the Roman Emperor in profile with a beard and wearing military dress

(Above) Marble bust of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. From Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli, Lazio, Italy (circa AD 118-130). Pic © Trustees of the British Museum

If you weren't able to get to the magnificent 2008 Hadrian Exhibition at the British Museum and live in the North-East, there's another chance for you and your class to come face to face with the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

Between August 14 and October 2009, Segedunum Roman Fort will be hosting the British Museum's touring exhibition View of an Emperor: Hadrian's Marble Portrait.

"We are delighted to be working with the British Museum once more to bring another stunning example of Roman art to the North-East," said Geoff Woodward, manager of North Tyneside museums.

Hadrian's bust was discovered at the Villa Adriana, the Emperor's country residence near Tivoli and dates back to AD117-118.

The marble image of Hadrian is an official portrait that would have been used by the Emperor to reach out to his subjects and define his public image.

Even if you can't get to Segedunum Roman Fort, you can still use the images on this page as a resource. Why not ask your pupils how they think Hadrian wished to be presented to people by looking at the bust? (For the answer, please read on...)

Showing a marble bust of Hadrian the Roman Emperor front on with a beard and wearing military dress

Marble bust of the Roman Emperor Hadrian wearing military dress. From Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli, Lazio, Italy (circa AD 118-130). Pic © Trustees of the British Museum

The sculpted portrait shows the Emperor's face in great detail down to a deep, diagonal crease above both of his earlobes that are now known to be a sign of coronary artery disease.

Although it is impossible to know whether or not Hadrian suffered from the condition, the existence of such life-like detail adds a naturalistic touch to his portrait.

Surviving imperial statues show that there were just three ways that an emperor could be officially represented: in battle dress, a civilian toga, or nude and likened to a God.

Historical sources show that Hadrian was keen to promote strong military image, and this is supported by this particular bust, showing Hadrian as a commander-in-chief.

View of an Emperor at Segedunum coincides with the 13th decennial Hadrian's Wall Pilgrimage when the pilgrims arrive at Wall’s end on Friday August 14 2009.

You can find videos about Hadrian on the British Museum website.

For games, interactives and activities with a Roman theme, why not try our online resource round-up: the Romans?

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned: