The Portraiture of Carinus


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Carinus was

Preceded by (and son of) Carus

Co-emperor with (& brother of) Numerian

Succeeded by Diocletian

  William Storage and Laura Maish
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Marcus Aurelius Carinus was Roman Emperor from 283 to about July, 285. Virtually no reliable information on his reign exists; it all being heavily colored by fanciful fabrication (e.g. Historia Augusta, who reports nine wives, omitting his real wife as evidenced by coin portraits) and propaganda associated with his damnatio memoriae, issued by Diocletian and the senate.

Severals marble heads in Rome, Florence and Antalya have been proposed as possible portraits of Carinus. Only the one shown here has near universal acceptance among scholars. The basis for their identifications is poorly documented however.

Coin portraits of Carinus always show him with a full beard with large curls, extending well onto his neck. On coins he has a low forehead, occasionally wrinkled (e.g., RIC 253), and with large to huge, arched eyebrows. His nose is usually aquiline, often with an indentation at the bridge. His beard curls extend to the top of his sideburns, as they do on the portrait shown below. Also like the portrait, his hairline extends very close to the outside edge of his eyebrows. All his coins show a very small nasofacial angle, as does the marble portrait. Forehead angle varies considerably from coin to coin however, and is usually somewhat more vertical than in the marble head. Shape of the occipit and the flat region of his skull above the lambda (intersection of sagittal and lambdoidal sutures) on the more realistic coin portraits (e.g., Cohen 58, RIC 248) are a dead ringer for the marble portrait. That fact, the distinctive beard, and the style (and size) of the sculpture probably make the identification solid.

The head (Museo Capitolino inv. 850) is carved from Luni marble, and was found  in 1872 in either Castro Pretorio or on the Esquiline Hill (sources differ on find-spot). The base of the larger-than-life head has been shaped for use in a statue. It is in almost perfect condition - a marvel, since Carinus was condemned after his murder; this resulted in mutilation of many emperors with similar fates.

For other coins of Carinus, see the online reference at

  Larger images
Carinus Carinus
Carinus Antoninianus
IMP C M AVR CARINVS P F AVG;Radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right /
AETERNIT AVGG; In ex: KAΓ; Aeternitas standing left holding phoenix on globe and lifting skirt
RIC 246F. 4.22g. 22.4mm. EF. Ex Gert Boersema.





Copyright 2008 Bill Storage and Laura Maish. Created 5/3/2008


Keywords: emperor, Carinus, Roman imperial portraits, pictures of roman emperors,  sculpture, art history, iconography, William Storage, Bill Storage, Laura Maish, ancient Rome