Augustus of Prima Porta Rome (Vatican Museums)

The Augustus of Prima Porta is one of the greatest attractions of the Vatican Museums in Rome. The barely damaged statue is named after the spot where it was found during excavations in 1863. It can be seen in the Braccio Nuovo of the Chiaramonti Museum.

Augustus of Prima Porta Rome

Address, Entrance Price and Opening Hours

For entrance fee and opening hours, please visit that of the Vatican Museums.

History and Description

Augustus of Prima Porta, Braccio Nuovo, Chiaramonti Museum, Vatican, Rome
Augustus of Prima Porta

The famous statue of Augustus was found in 1863 in the suburb of Prima Porta, about 15 kilometers north of the city center of Rome. This district was named after an archway belonging to an aqueduct over the Via Flaminia. Since this was the first Roman gate that travelers saw when entering the city, it was dubbed the Prima Porta.

The statue, just over 2 meters tall and weighing 1,000 kilos, can be seen in the Braccio Nuovo in the Chiaramonti Museum. It is made of marble from the Greek island of Paros.

The statue dates back to the early 7th century. The exact site of discovery was near the ruins of the Villa of Livia, the wife of Augustus, This villa was located along the ancient Via Flaminia consular road.

The statue depicts the Emperor himself while addressing his troops. The dignified pose is derived from Greek sculpture, while the typical gesture of the orator places the statue in the Roman tradition. The body is deliberately made to give a youthful impression.

He is dressed in highly detailed ornate armor and a cloak wrapped around his hips. On his right foot he has a dolphin and a cupid (indicating that Augustus is a descendant of the Goddess Venus).

The reliefs on the cuirass show a Partian king returning to a Roman army commander the banners that had been lost by Crassus at the Battle of Harran (which was then called Carrhae) in 53 BC.

Above this scene is a personification of the Heavens, accompanied by the carriages of Apollo and Aurora. The Goddess Earth is seen in the center and at the bottom Diana is depicted on the back of a deer.

It is thought that the sculpture was inspired by a spear-carrier created by the Greek sculptor Polykleitos. The two works are easy to compare because a copy of this statue is also on display in the Braccio Nuovo.

The original excavators noticed that the marble must have been painted. Later tests with ultraviolet photography show that five or six different colors were used. These were applied to the clothing, the decoration of the cuirass, the hair and parts of the eyes and lips.

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