Didius Julianus (Facial Reconstruction)

Didius Julianus (Facial Reconstruction)

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Julian (emperor)

Julian [i] (Latin: Flavius Claudius Julianus Greek: Ἰουλιανός 331 – 26 June 363) was Roman emperor from 361 to 363, as well as a notable philosopher and author in Greek. [4] His rejection of Christianity, and his promotion of Neoplatonic Hellenism in its place, caused him to be remembered as Julian the Apostate by the Christian Church. [5] [6]

A member of the Constantinian dynasty, Julian was orphaned as a child. He was raised by the Gothic slave Mardonius, who had a profound influence on him, providing Julian with literary education. [7] Julian became caesar over the western provinces by order of Constantius II in 355, and in this role he campaigned successfully against the Alamanni and Franks. Most notable was his crushing victory over the Alamanni at the Battle of Argentoratum (Strasbourg) in 357, leading his 13,000 men against a Germanic army three times larger. In 360, Julian was proclaimed Augustus by his soldiers at Lutetia (Paris), sparking a civil war with Constantius. However, Constantius died before the two could face each other in battle, and named Julian as his successor.

In 363, Julian embarked on an ambitious campaign against the Sasanian Empire. The campaign was initially successful, securing a victory outside Ctesiphon in Mesopotamia. [8] However, he did not attempt to besiege the capital and moved into Persia's heartland, but soon faced supply problems and was forced to retreat northwards while ceaselessly being harassed by Persian skirmishes. During the Battle of Samarra, Julian was mortally wounded under mysterious circumstances. [9] [7] He was succeeded by Jovian, a senior officer in the imperial guard, who was obliged to cede territory, including Nisibis, in order to save the trapped Roman forces. [10]

Julian was a man of unusually complex character: he was "the military commander, the theosophist, the social reformer, and the man of letters". [11] He was the last non-Christian ruler of the Roman Empire, and he believed that it was necessary to restore the Empire's ancient Roman values and traditions in order to save it from dissolution. [12] He purged the top-heavy state bureaucracy, and attempted to revive traditional Roman religious practices at the expense of Christianity. His attempt to build a Third Temple in Jerusalem was probably intended to harm Christianity rather than please Jews. [7] Julian also forbade the Christians from teaching and learning classical texts. [13]

Corruption in Ancient Rome

Well, if we have to take Procopius' Secret History at face value, then the very same text gives us the reasons why Justinian acted so: he was a demon in human form:

And they say his mother said to some of her intimates once that not of Sabbatius her husband, nor of any man was Justinian a son. For when she was about to conceive, there visited a demon, invisible but giving evidence of his presence perceptibly where man consorts with woman, after which he vanished utterly as in a dream.

And some of those who have been with Justinian at the palace late at night, men who were pure of spirit, have thought they saw a strange demoniac form taking his place. One man said that the Emperor suddenly rose from his throne and walked about, and indeed he was never wont to remain sitting for long, and immediately Justinian's head vanished, while the rest of his body seemed to ebb and flow whereat the beholder stood aghast and fearful, wondering if his eyes were deceiving him. But presently he perceived the vanished head filling out and joining the body again as strangely as it had left it.

Another said he stood beside the Emperor as he sat, and of a sudden the face changed into a shapeless mass of flesh, with neither eyebrows nor eyes in their proper places, nor any other distinguishing feature and after a time the natural appearance of his countenance returned. I write these instances not as one who saw them myself, but heard them from men who were positive they had seen these strange occurrences at the time.

They also say that a certain monk, very dear to God, at the instance of those who dwelt with him in the desert went to Constantinople to beg for mercy to his neighbors who had been outraged beyond endurance. And when he arrived there, he forthwith secured an audience with the Emperor but just as he was about to enter his apartment, he stopped short as his feet were on the threshold, and suddenly stepped backward. Whereupon the eunuch escorting him, and others who were present, importuned himto go ahead. But he answered not a word and like a man who has had a stroke staggered back to his lodging. And when some followed to ask why he acted thus, they say he distinctly declared he saw the King of the Devils sitting on the throne in the palace, and he did not care to meet or ask any favor of him.

Indeed, how was this man likely to be anything but an evil spirit, who never knew honest satiety of drink or food or sleep, but only tasting at random from the meals that were set before him, roamed the palace at unseemly hours of the night, and was possessed by the quenchless lust of a demon?

Furthermore some of Theodora's lovers, while she was on the stage, say that at night a demon would sometimes descend upon them and drive them from the room, so that it might spend the night with her.


Chauci (Greek: Καῦχοι): name of the inhabitants of the southern shore of the North Sea.

A Northern Tribe

The Chauci are mentioned several times in the ancient sources, usually as examples of a poor and indigent tribe. note [E.g., Strabo, Geography 7.1.3.] They were the inhabitants of the southern shore of the North Sea, which was, as the Roman author Tacitus correctly observes, a densely populated area. He continues with a highly idealized sketch of noble savages.

The Chauci are the noblest of the German races, a nation who would maintain their greatness by righteous dealing. Without ambition, without lawless violence, they live peaceful and secluded, never provoking a war or injuring others by rapine and robbery. Indeed, the crowning proof of their valor and their strength is, that they keep up their superiority without harm to others. Yet all have their weapons in readiness, and an army if necessary, with a multitude of men and horses and even while at peace they have the same renown of valor. note [Tacitus, Germania 35.]

Just like the Frisians, who were divided in a minor and a major group, there were Lesser Chauci (in what is now the Dutch province of Groningen and the German region Ostfriesland) and the Greater Chauci (between the estuaries of the rivers Weser and Elbe). note [Cf. Pliny the Elder, Natural History 16.2 Tacitus, Annals 11.19.2. Ptolemy, Geography 2.11.7 and 2.11.9.]

Ezinge, the wierde on a rainy day

Ezinge, Reconstruction of a "terpen" farm

Ezinge, Reconstruction of a "terpen" farm, interior

Ezinge, Reconstruction of a "terpen" farm

Artificial Hills

The most remarkable aspect of the Chaucian way of life was that they were living on artificial hills, which are now known as terpen or wierden. We will call them terps. In fact, the name Chauci is derived from *Hauhae, "high-homers". The Roman officer Pliny the Elder gives an eyewitness account of the inhabitants of the land that was subject to the ebb and flood of the North Sea.

Here a wretched race is found, inhabiting either the more elevated spots of land, or else eminences artificially constructed, and of a height to which they know by experience that the highest tides will never reach. Here they pitch their cabins and when the waves cover the surrounding country far and wide, like so many mariners on board ship are they: when, again, the tide recedes, their condition is that of so many shipwrecked men, and around their cottages they pursue the fishes as they make their escape with the receding tide.

It is not their lot, like the adjoining nations, to keep any flocks for sustenance by their milk, nor even to maintain a warfare with wild beasts, every shrub, even, being banished afar. With the sedge and the rushes of the marsh they make cords, and with these they weave the nets employed in the capture of the fish they fashion the mud, too, with their hands, and drying it by the help of the winds more than of the sun, cook their food by its aid, and so warm their entrails, frozen as they are by the northern blasts their only drink, too, is rainwater, which they collect in holes dug at the entrance of their abodes. note [Pliny the Elder, Natural History 16.2-4 tr. Bostock & Riley.]

In the eyes of Pliny, accustomed to the towns of Italy and the comfortable military base at Xanten, the terp-people lived in abject poverty. However, his observations are biased, and, in his efforts to adequately illustrate the misery of their conditions, his description is inconsistent. After all, if the land was so poor that not even trees could grow there, then where did the people get the wood to build the stilts under their huts and cottages that Pliny had seen? In fact, it was not nearly as bad as he paints it.

The Chaucian Way of Life

The coastal area was of course open to the sea and was flooded twice a day. The first terps were built in the fifth century BCE and continued to be heightened. At first, they contained just one farm-house, but later, they could contain several houses (e.g., Ezinge) and even villages (e.g., Feddersen Wierde).

Unlike Pliny reports, the terp-dwellers did not sit down to meals of wild game, but their diet was more varied. The archaeologists at Ezinge, one of the main excavations in the Netherlands, discovered that the ancient inhabitants of this artificial hill collected eggs and hunted birds and seals. Furthermore, they had at their disposal vast stretches of pastureland on the mud flats, where cattle and, especially, sheep grazed. Sometimes they engaged in farming behind low dikes. And although the soil was saline, it was still possible to grow barley, flax, and pigeon beans on it.

/> A loom weight from Heveskesklooster: evidence for a more complex economy than Pliny suggests

As the Roman writers were fixated by the idea that those living on the edge of the world were barbarians, they failed to see that, in the lands around the North Sea, barter was a very important part of the economy. The Chauci (and their neighbors, the Frisians) not only exported cheese, salt, wool, leather, and sheep, but they were also a link in the transit chain for slaves, hides, and amber. So many Roman coins have been found that it is assumed that they played a role in economic exchange, though more for hoarding than as a means of payment.

The Roman troops on the Rhine were among their most important customers therefore, it is not so odd that, in the terps, glass, pottery, jewelry, and statuettes of Roman gods were found that had been produced in more southerly regions.

Krangeweer, Domitia Longina as Juno

Ezinge, Statuette of a charioteer

Ezinge, Figurine of Jupiter

Furthermore, the Chauci and Frisians sailed up the coasts of the lands that are now called England, Flanders, and Denmark. Chaucian pirates harassed the Romans in the North Sea. Other seafarers had more peaceful intentions and engaged in trade. Consequently, the German cultures along the North Sea began to influence each other – one can speak of a "North Sea culture" – and this culture would spread to England in the fifth century. The oh-so-miserable way of life of the Chauci, as described by Pliny, was not so miserable and most definitely had a future.

The Chauci and Rome

The Chauci were subjected by the Roman general Drusus. According to Cassius Dio, whose account dates to the third century CE but survives more or less complete, this happened in 12 BCE. note [Cassius Dio, Roman History 54.32.] Livy, who was a contemporary but whose account is known only in an abridged version, appears to date it in 11. note [Livy, Periochae 140.1.] In 5 CE, general Tiberius, the future emperor, forced the Chauci to pay tribute. Velleius Paterculus was an eyewitness:

The Cauchi were again subjugated. All the flower of their youth, infinite in number though they were, huge of stature and protected by the ground they held, surrendered their arms, and, flanked by a gleaming line of our soldiers, fell with their generals upon their knees before the tribunal of the commander. note [Velleius Paterculus, Roman History 2.106.1.]

It is very likely that in 9 CE, the Chauci joined the German insurrection that culminated in the battle in the Teutoburg Forest. The evidence is mixed, but in 40/41, one of the lost legionary eagles was recovered among the Chauci, note [Cassius Dio, Roman History, 60.8.7.] which is a very strong indication that they had taken part in the war against the Romans. The general who reconquered the eagle standard, Aulus Gabinius Secundus, was awarded the honorific titel Chaucicus.

The Chauci did not succeed in regaining their independence during the insurrection in 9. Tacitus mentions a military unit in their county during the first regnal years of Tiberius. note [Tacitus, Annals 1.38.] This may have been at Bentumersiel, close to the mouth of the river Ems, where archaeologists have found many Roman objects.

Pirates, Rebels, and Auxiliaries

Several years later, in c.47 CE, the Roman commander Corbulo defeated a Cananefate named Gannascus, who had led a band of Chaucian pirates. note [Tacitus, Annals 11.18-19 Cassius Dio, Roman History 60.3.4.] It is likely that it was on this occasion that Pliny the Elder observed the "boats of the German pirates made from dug-out tree trunks". note [Pliny the Elder, Natural History 16.203.] Another group of Chaucian pirates is mentioned in 173 CE. Evading the Rhine frontier, they attacked the coastal area of what is now called Flanders. Here, they were defeated by Didius Julianus, the future emperor. note [Historia Augusta, "Didius Julianus" 1.7.]

/> Eenum, Knife-grip in the shape a Roman charioteer

Chauci are also mentioned as enemies of the Ampsivarii, note [Tacitus, Annals 13.55.] who lived along the river Ems, and as joining the Batavian Revolt in 69-70. note [Tacitus, Histories 5.19.] One of these bands could be overcome without military help by the inhabitants of Cologne. note [Tacitus, Histories 4.79.] In all these cases, the groups must have been small: it is unlikely that there was a central government of the two Chaucian tribes.

Other Chaucian men joined the Roman army as auxiliary soldiers. They are mentioned several times in Tacitus' Annals. note [Tacitus, Annals 1.60, 2.17, 2.24.] Archaeologists have found many Roman military objects on the terps, which prove close cooperation between the Roman army and Chaucian allies.

Late Antiquity

In the third century CE, the Dutch coastal regions were abandoned. When they were repopulated in Late Antiquity, the settlers were Saxons, arriving from the east. The New History of the Byzantine author Zosimus may contain a reference to Chauci being integrated in a Saxon army in about 360 CE, but this presupposes a spelling error. note [Zosimus, New History 3.6.1, reading Καῦχοι instead of Κουάδοι.]

One of the last references to the Chauci is in a speech by Claudian, who in 400 CE mentions the Chauci as inhabitants of the far bank of the river Rhine. note [Claudian, On the Consulship of Stilicho 225.] This reference may be topical. It is also possible that the Hugas, whose leader Daeghrefn was squeezed to death by a young Beowulf, as is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon epic with that name, note [Beowulf 2502, 2914.] are in fact the Chauci.

The terps remained in use. Today, they are remarkable for the charming churches, which often date back to the Middle Ages.

Ancient Rome used a range of overseas spices such as black pepper, long pepper, ginger, cardamom and cinnamon. However, the most frequently used raw materials, both in cooking and in medicine, that were grown locally – coriander, mint and Roman cumin. The last of them was used both as an ingredient of dishes, a cosmetic raw material and a ritual plant. Where was this spice traded? What diseases were treated with it? Answer in the article below.

The Man Who Bought the Roman Empire

There are rulers in history who stand out not so much for what they did with their power, but for how they gained it, or lost it. The Roman Emperor Didius Julianus is just such a ruler. His reign is one of the shortest, and certainly the most comical, in Roman history. An examination of his career and conduct before his unorthodox ascension, however, suggests that his fate was perhaps unbecoming of this accomplished military man.

Marcus Didius Severus, who was given the extra cognomen of Julianus later in life, was born at Mediolanum (Milan) during the reign of Emperor Hadrian. The exact date is a mystery - Cassius Dio gives it as January 30th of 132 CE, the Historia Augusta as February 2nd of 137. The former date is generally considered more likely.

Julianus was the youngest of three brothers born to Quintus Petronius Didius Severus and Aemilia Clara. Didius Severus was a Romanized Gaul, whose ancestors were chieftains of the Insubres tribe his family had lived in Mediolanum likely for most or all of the town's history. Aemilia Clara was a Roman noblewoman whose family had settled in the province of Africa several generations before whether her ancestry was predominately Italian or African is unknown.

For reasons that are lost to history, Julianus was not raised by his parents. There is no evidence, but perhaps they died when he was a child. Either way, he was brought up in the household of Domitilla Lucilla, the mother of the future Emperor Marcus Aurelius. When he came of age, Domitilla became his patroness and secured a prosperous future for him. In 153 he married a girl of senatorial family named Manlia Scantilla. Around 157, he was a tribune in a legion. At some point in the 150s, his only child, Didia Clara, was born. She would become known during the reign of Commodus as the most beautiful woman in Roman society.

Julianus held a succession of posts, most of them civilian in nature, over the course of the 160s, serving as an aedile and praetor as well as a clerk to several provincial governors. It was in 170 CE that he received his first serious responsibility, when he was made the legionary legate of the Twenty-second Primigenia Legion, which was stationed at Mogontiacum. There is evidence to suggest that he defeated an incursion of the Chatti while commanding this Legion.

The next year Julianus was given his first province to govern, Gallia Belgica. It was here that he made a name for himself. Our ancient sources, backed up by archaeological evidence, tell us that there was a major Germanic raid into this province c. 173, spearheaded by the Chauci. Julianus proved himself to be quick-thinking and efficient in gathering both legionary and auxiliary forces, and inflicting crippling defeats on this tribe.

Julianus' efforts in Belgica did not go unrewarded. In 175 he was appointed consul alongside his friend and fellow senator, Publius Helvius Pertinax. Julianus and Pertinax had radically different family backgrounds but their careers mirrored each other closely. Pertinax allegedly nicknamed Julianus "My Successor" because whatever post Pertinax held, Julianus earned it right after his term ended. This joke was to prove chillingly prophetic.

Julianus was an energetic and ambitious man and - perhaps surprisingly, considering his later reputation and conduct - he seems to have been an above-average general and soldier. He first suggested that Marcus Aurelius have a string of forts built along the northern coast of Gaul these forts would later form part of the "Saxon Shore" in following centuries. However, Julianus was also a pleasure-seeker. His dinner parties were opulent and lavish, and his lust for wealth apparently outweighed the substantial fortune he inherited from his father.

The future emperor wore his hair and his beard long, as was the fashion from the reign of Hadrian on to the Severan epoch. His features in most of his coins and busts suggest a slightly-built man, with a (perhaps deceptively) gentle and sensitive face.

Julianus was the governor of Dalmatia 176-180, and apparently strengthened his reputation as a talented military man by rounding up gangs of brigands, deserters, and stray Germanic warbands. By the death of Marcus Aurelius in March of 180, he was considered one of the best generals in the Empire. He was appointed governor of Germania inferior by Commodus in this year, and appears to have held this post for four years. As he had in Belgica a decade before, Julianus appears to have taken an active interest in fort-building in Germania.

In 184 or 185, Julianus and Pertinax were among a number of accomplished generals who were forced into retirement by Commodus. The fact that he did not execute them in some rancid scandal, as was his preferred method, shows that he had no evidence that either man held any danger to his position. Julianus it seems was shortly redeemed anyways. Around 186 he was the city prefect of Rome. The next few years saw him governing Bithynia and Pontus, the old province of Pliny the Younger, while Pertinax governed Africa. In 189 Pertinax was recalled to Rome, and Julianus governed Africa for the next year.

In the early months of 193 CE, Didius Julianus was living in Rome, in comfortable retirement. He spent most of his time hosting decadent feasts for his fellow senators and off-duty generals. He regaled his guests with tales of the brave deeds he and the men under his command had performed, often in the face of the relentless savagery of the Germanic tribes. The stunning beauty of his daughter Clara, however, did much to increase the prestige of his name in Rome herself.

In March, however, Julianus' comfortable world was upset. His old friend and colleague Pertinax had succeeded Commodus at the beginning of the year. Pertinax had proven a competent emperor and was well loved by the common people, but the Praetorians were nursing a fierce grudge against him for not raising their pay as he had promised at the beginning of his reign. On March 28th, a contingent of angry soldiers broke into the Palace, and Pertinax recklessly confronted them.

Unsurprisingly, the Roman world found itself without a master. The senators of the city all locked themselves in their houses while bands of Praetorians scoured the streets, looking for someone to hail as emperor. Two volunteers came forward, Titus Flavius Sulpicianus the city prefect, and Didius Julianus. Sulpicianus enjoyed a better reputation with the Praetorians and was permitted into their Camp Julianus courted them from outside, shouting promises over the walls.

Various factions within the Guard supported one man or the other the bickering between Sulpicianus and Julianus soon turned into an auction. They were the two richest men living in the Capital, and it was money (or perceived lack thereof) that had first driven the Praetorians to these successive acts of boldness and rebellion. Sulpicianus promised to pay each Praetorian 20,000 secterces in response Julianus promised 25,000 a piece. Unable to top that, Sulpicianus relinquished his claim to the Empire, and the Praetorians declared Julianus Caesar Augustus.

Marcus Didius Severus Julianus became Roman Emperor on the evening of March 28th, 193 CE. His reign was to last just over two months, and would prove stressful and embarassing for everyone involved with his regime. The proud and energetic victor over the Chauci and Chatti was a stingy and frightened little man during his brief stint as emperor.

It could be argued that Julianus has no place on the list of "official" emperors. His term was but a tiny speed-bump between the established regimes of Pertinax and Severus. There is no evidence that any province, governor, or military unit outside of Italy supported his claim to the purple indeed many of the provinces may not have been aware of him until he was already dead. In name he was the ruler of the Roman Empire, in practice he was barely able to keep a precarious hold over Rome herself.

Julianus' first act was to declare Pertinax a god. It was "the Successor's" final tribute to a friend and a colleague. Julianus also executed the powerful Praetorian prefect Quintus Aemilius Laetus, on the grounds that the latter had been instrumental in the murders of both Commodus and Pertinax. Other members of the plot against Commodus, including his Christian mistress Marcia, were sent to their deaths by Julianus.

Laetus was replaced with two prefects, Titus Flavius Genealis and Tullius Crispinus. The Guard itself was apparently reorganized, and the soldiers who had killed Pertinax were put to death. Despite being Julianus' rival, Flavius Sulpicianus was spared and was allowed to continue his decorated public career, in a rare display of professional courtesy. Julianus apparently promised donatives not only to the Praetorians but also to the common people when these gifts failed to materialize the mob became hostile towards Julianus.

The Emperor apparently couldn't leave his Palace without being assaulted by commoners, throwing stones and chanting "robber and parricide!" Others prayed to Pescennius Niger, the governor of Syria, to march on Rome and deliever them from this cheapskate usurper. Julianus made no attempt to punish these protestors, a testimony both to their numbers and to the weakness of his regime.

When word of Pertinax's death reached the provinces, three different governors proclaimed themselves emperor Decimus Clodius Albinus of Britain, Lucius Septimius Severus of Pannonia, and Lucius Pescennius Niger of Syria. Severus was the closest to Rome, and by declaring Albinus his "Caesar" he bought off the western legions for the time being. He marched on Rome with an army of three legions and accompanying auxiliary units. The common people of Rome as well as the rest of Italy rejoiced at these developments Julianus panicked.

Julianus sent his Praetorian prefect Crispinus to Severus, offering to make Severus Julianus' Caesar. Insulted by this notion, Severus murdered Crispinus and continued his advance on the Mother City. Rome herself was in an uproar. It had been a century and a half since a Roman army had actually marched on Rome legionary units were forbidden from even entering Italy.

Julianus was desperate to find competent soldiery. The Praetorians were lacking in discipline the Emperor's frenzied attempts to impose classic Roman discipline on them were met with laughter and sneers of contempt. Julianus called marines from the Misenum Fleet to Rome upon arrival, however, they were more interested in chasing women and making drunken nusiances of themselves than defending the increasingly hapless emperor. Gladiators and slaves were drafted into Julianus' makeshift army the emperor even pulled elephants from the circus into his army, but these proved impossible to ride or tame sufficiently.

Apparently all these military mishaps caused the senators barely concealed amusement. Julianus simply had no luck at all. This became increasingly apparent in the final week of May, when it became clear that there was no military force in Italy that had both the ability and the desire to resist Severus' advance. On June 1st of 193, the Senate reneged their allegiance to Julianus and declared Severus emperor. Julianus barricaded himself in his palace.

In his final hours, Julianus was abandoned by his Praetorians. The Guardsmen proved to be as treacherous as they were expensive. Besides his wife and daughter, only one person remained loyal to the abandoned emperor, his son-in-law Sextus Cornelius Repentinus, who stood at Julianus' side at great risk to his own life and career. On the morning of June 2nd, the Senate hired a soldier, probably a Praetorian, to infiltrate the Palace and execute Julianus. The deed was carried out quietly and quickly Julianus allegedly died protesting "what wrong have I done? Who have I killed?"

A week later Severus entered Rome, and was recognized by the Senate, who issued a damnatio memoriae on Julianus. Severus had scornfully disregarded Julianus in life, but in death he was surprisingly kind. The Praetorian cohorts were disbanded and reformed with veterans from Pannonia the officers who had abandoned Julianus were executed. Julianus' now-decomposing body was handed over to his wife, daughter, and son-in-law, who laid him to rest just outside of Rome.

Marcus Didius Severus Julianus was a successful man, but the tumultuous events of the last three months of his life cast a negative aura on the many achievements of his ealier career. He was one of Rome's finest generals during the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, conducting himself with courage and skill against several enemies. He was a talented and intelligent man who lived a colorful life, earning a reputation for administrative and military excellence in provincial posts across the Empire.

On the other hand, Julianus was a vain and greedy individual, desperate not only for wealth, but for recognition. His conduct as emperor was neither inspired nor tyrannical - it was all the behavior of a man who had sought the purple to indulge his own ego, to make an everlasting name for himself. Julianus recognized only too late how unnecessary, and how dangerous, his pitiful graspings for power would prove to be.

Julianus was a man who should have died elderly, tired, and in bed, surrounded by his family and hallowed by his descendants. Instead, he died around the age of sixty, still alert and healthy, but destined to be branded a greedy and power-hungry coward. In the last two months of his life, he achieved the immorality of historical remembrance, and he lived long enough to wish he hadn't.

He was the man who bought the Roman Empire. But he paid in gold, in an era when successful emperors paid in the blood of brave soldiers.

8. Torso Of A Dancing Faun, Rome, Ca. 1st Century BC

Realized Price: EUR 2,897,500

The simple but beautifully elegant torso of a dancing faun

Realized Price: EUR 2,897,500

Estimate: EUR 200,000 – 300,000

Venue & Date: Christie’s, Paris, 08-09 June 2016, Lot 73

Known seller: French art collectors and patrons, Zeineb et Jean-Pierre Marcie-Rivière

First found on Greek vases of the 5th century BC, the motif of a dancing faun (or satyr) became a regular feature in Hellenistic and Roman sculpture . Although to our ideas of indulgence, hedonism and release might seem antithetical to religious worship, dancing was a key step towards ecstasy in the Dionysian , or Bacchic, rites of the classical world.

Despite its missing limbs and head, the torso of one such celebrant demonstrated the continued lure of the ancient mysteries when it sold at Christie’s for almost €3m, exceeding its estimate by ten times! The powerfully sculptured faun is naked, his muscular torso turning to the left, one arm raised, the other lowered to accentuate his athletic form. On top of its sensuous appeal, the statue has a colorful history: past owners include Neoclassical painter, Gavin Hamilton , British author and intimate of Marie Antoinette, Quintin Craufurd, from whom they were seized during the French Revolution, and Robert Grosvenor, Duke of Westminster, in whose family portrait the statue can be seen, still with its eighteenth-century restorations.

This is an ivory relief made in ca. 1780-1820. This relief represents the head of the Roman Emperor Didius Julianus, his face turned towards the left. This is one of three pieces that are set onto a later velvet backing in a nineteenth-century wood frame. They all may have formed part of a larger group, now lost. This image of Didius Julianus (r. AD 193) is carved after an antique gem. Julianus was Roman Emperor for only a few weeks during the year 193. He came to the throne after buying it from the Praetorian Guard, who had assassinated his predecessor Pertinax, which all triggered the Roman Civil War of 193–197. Julianus was assassinated by his successor, Septimius Severus.

  • List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington, Acquired During the Year 1874, Arranged According to the Dates of Acquisition. London : Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., p. 16
  • Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929, Part II, p. 107
  • Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, cat. no. 308, p. 312

Friends turned foes

Severus stayed in the east for a while after his victory however, fighting Rome’s Parthian enemies and consolidating his position. For a time the uneasy truce between him and Albinus – which can be compared to Hitler and Stalin’s pact in 1939, held, until Albinus was suddenly replaced by Severus’ son as co-Caesar and declared an enemy of Rome.

The ruler of Britain then declared himself sole Emperor, and took 40,000 men from the British legions to Gaul (France) where he was joined my many more men from Spain and the local armies. He then set up a vast camp at Lugdunum (modern Lyons) and planned his next move.

Knowing that the legions in Germany were likely to side with Severus, he decided to strike against them before his enemy returned from the east. Though he was victorious, it was not decisive, and he had not done enough to improve the odds when Severus came for him.

The Emperor was on the Danube meanwhile, gathering more men in his old province to join his soldiers from the eastern provinces. By the time the two armies were both in Gaul in the early weeks of 198, over two thirds of all the soldiers in the Empire were fighting for one of the two sides. It was war on a scale that wouldn’t be seen again until – arguably – the 20th century.

Temple of Romulus in Rome, dedicated to the son of Maxentius in 309 CE. Originally, this small round temple was a place of worship for Jupiter Stator. The building is well-preserved due to the fact that it was used in later times as a vestibule for the Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian.

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