Fragmentary bronze portrait of the emperor Caracalla

Roman, ca. A.D. 212–217 (Mid-Imperial, Severan)

Height 8 ½ in. (21.6 cm)

This portrait depicts Caracalla as a grown man, when he was sole emperor. He succeeded his father, Septimius Severus, who died at York in A.D. 211 during campaigns in northern Britain. Caracalla only reigned for six years before his own death near Carrhae in northern Mesopotamia while campaigning against the Parthians.

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art


Ancient Worlds - BBC Two 

Episode 6 “City of Man, City of God”

Villa Adriana is a large complex of over 30 buildings, constructed at Tibur (modern-day Tivoli) as a retreat from Rome for Roman Emperor Hadrian during  the second and third decades of the 2nd century AD. 

The complex combined the best elements of the architectural heritage of Egypt, Greece and Rome in the form of an ‘ideal city’. It included palaces, several thermae, theatre, temples, libraries, state rooms, and quarters for courtiers, praetorians, and slaves. Some areas are still unexcavated. One of the most spectacular and best preserved parts of the villa are a pool and an artificial grotto which were named Canopus and Serapeum. The villa was the greatest Roman example of an Alexandrian garden.

A large court lived there permanently. During the later years of his reign Hadrian actually governed the empire from the villa.

After Hadrian’s death in 138, his successors preferred Rome as their permanent residence but the villa continued to be enlarged and further embellished. The complex was sacked and plundered by successive barbarian invaders, fell into neglect and was partially ruined.

Many artefacts have been found and restored at the villa, such as marble statues and mosaics from the theatre and baths

Villa Adriana, Tivoli, Italy

Detail from the Arch of Constantine, Rome.

Constantine’s arch commemorates his victory over Maxentius at the battle of the Milvian Bridge, in 312 AD. The arch uses spolia, so it re-uses earlier decorative fragments to put upon the new arch. Similarities can be seen on the Arch of Septimius Severus.


January 16th 27 BCE: Augustus becomes first Roman Emperor

On this day in 27 BCE, Gaius Octavius - known as Octavian - was awarded the title of Augustus by the Roman Senate, making him the first Roman Emperor. Octavian had been named as heir of his great uncle Julius Caesar and upon Caesar’s assassination in 44 BCE he formed an alliance - the Second Triumvirate - with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Mark Antony, to rule and take vengeance on Caesar’s assassins. The alliance soon fell apart and the three fought for sole rule of Rome. Octavian emerged victorious after defeating Mark Anthony at the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE. Octavian then set about ‘restoring’ the Roman Republic, which had been ruled by Caesar as Dictator, by formally returning power to the Senate. However, in reality the new leader retained considerable power in his person, adopting many titles which became part of the imperial pantheon, including ‘Augustus’ (which loosely translates as ‘magnificent’), 'princeps’ (first citizen), 'pontifex maximus’ (priest of Roman religion), and 'tribunicia potestas’ (power over the tribune assemblies elected by the people). Augustus’s constitutional system gave way to the birth of the Principate, the first period of the Roman Empire. For his role in shaping the empire, and for the expansion of the imperial possessions during his rule, Augustus is considered the first Roman Emperor. He died in 14 CE, aged 75, and was succeeded by his step-son and adopted heir Tiberius. Augustus thus began the stable line of 'adoptive’ Roman Emperors, which ended with Marcus Aurelius’s decision to name his birth son Commodus, who came to power in 180 CE. Perhaps his most enduring legacy, however, is the name of the eighth month of the Roman calendar - August - which was renamed in his honour.

Roman marble bust of Antoninus Pius.

Antoninus Pius was born in 86 AD and died in 161 AD. He was Roman Emperor from 138 AD through to his death, and was happily married to Faustina the Elder. Together they bore four children (two sons and two daughters); one of the daughters was Faustina the Younger, who went on to marry emperor Marcus Aurelius, who succeeded Antoninus’ title.


The Roman Emperor

The roll of Emperors spans more than 500 years of Roman History. All of those listed below bore the title; ten of the most famous are pictured above. The list has been simpilfied by excluding certain usurpers, claimants and co-emperors of little importance. The emperors’ reigns varies enormously. The Golden Age of Augustus lasted 41 years, and Theodosius II served for 42 years; but in the troubled years of 68-69 AD, Galba, Otho and Vitellius averaged less than six months on the throne. By the end of the 4th Century, during the reign of Honorius, the empire had been permanently divided, with separate rulers for the West, in Rome, and for the East, in Constantinople.