Portraits of Emperor Domitian


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Domitian was

Son of Vespasian

Brother of (and successor to) Titus

Husband of Domitia

Succeeded by Nerva


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  Photos by Bill Storage and Laura Maish
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Titus Flavius Domitianus, Roman emperor from. 69 to 79, was the last ruler of the Flavian dynasty. Analysis of ancient texts and other evidence suggests he was an aggressive builder, a micro-manager of the economy, a strict moralist and traditionalist, and a mediocre military strategist. The verdict of history has been entirely negative, often focusing on persecutions (supported only by Christian tradition) and hostile ancient histories written by members of the Roman senate, a group that Domitian generally did not trust. Consequently, it appears that, despite the significant number of extant writings, insufficient basis exists for a fair evaluation of his rule.

As with his father Vespasian, many of Domitian's portraits were recarved from earlier portraits of Nero. The heads show in photos 4,5, and 6 show obvious signs of this conversion. The head of the statue of Domitian in the Braccio Nuovo has been shown to have the exact profile of a Type 3 head of Nero in the Palatine Museum as well as showing the usual signs of coiffure reworking. After Domitian was assassinated, many of his portraits were recarved into likeness of his successor, Nerva. Oddly, a portrait of Nerva in Parma shows signs of having been recarved from a portrait of Domitian that was recarved from an earlier portrait of Nero.

Photos -

1, 2: Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Massimo
3:  Museo Capitolino Montemartini, Rome, inv 2451
4: Vatican Braccio Nuovo inv. 2213
5, 6: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli inv. 6061
7: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli inv. 6058
8: Museo Capitolino, Rome, inv. 1156.
9: Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Massimo, numismatic collection
10: Museo Capitolino numismatic collection

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More info on Domitian

Biographical summary: Domitian at De Imperatoribus Romanis

More on the reuse of Nero's portraits by Domitian: Mutilation and Transformation: Damnatio Memoriae and Roman Imperial Portraiture (2004) by Eric R Varner


Copyright 2007 Bill Storage and Laura Maish. Created 2/2/2007


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