‘What did the Romans ever do for us?’
As an artist I would suggest
Abstraction, Landscape, Perspective, Portraiture and Sculpture!!! So I was inspired to deliver a series of the first two dozen Roman emperors by my love of history and art. The Romans painted in perspective and four different styles, they even humanized Greek’s statues.
I have taken a bust of each of the first 24 dictators of the roman empire and given them a digital spin for today.
I Julius Caesar (100BCE -44BCE) was the first dictator of the Roman Empire. Once he crossed the Rubicon it was never to be the same again! He wrote his own history, a lesson to us all. In 60 BCE, Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey formed a political alliance that dominated Roman politics for several years. However, on the Ides of March (15 March) 44 BCE, Caesar was assassinated by a group of rebellious senators led by Marcus Brutus. Whilst strictly not an Emperor I could not leave him out!
II Augustus (63BCE – 14CE), was born into an old and wealthy family and adopted by his maternal great-uncle Julius Caesar. He, Mark Antony, and Marcus Lepidus formed the Second Triumvirate to defeat the assassins of Caesar. The alliance was eventually torn apart under the competing ambitions of its members. Lepidus was driven into exile and stripped of his position, and Antony committed suicide following his defeat at the Battle of Actium by Augustus in 31 BCE.
III Tiberius (42 BCE – 16 March 37 CE) was Roman Emperor from 14 to 37 CE.
Whilst at the start of his career he was one of Rome’s finest generals at the end he spent much of his time living on the island of Capri.
IV Caligula (12-41CE) succeeded Tiberius but did not reign for long (37-41CE). During his short period as emperor he seems to have gone slowly mad with power.
In the end he was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy by officers of the Praetorian Guard and senators.
V Claudius (10BCE – 54CE) was proclaimed Emperor by the Praetorian Guard after their assassination of Caligula fearing a return to a Republic would mean they would be out of a job! He reigned from 41 to 54CE during which he began the conquest of Britain.
Due to illness at a young age he was afflicted with a limp and slight deafness but it was this that probably enabled him to have survived so long since he was never perceived as a serious threat to power.
VI Nero (37 – 68CE) during his reign (54-68CE) he coped with an uprising by Boudica in Britain and a major fire in Rome. After the latter he used the cleared land in the centre of Rome to build a massive palatial complex including a huge lake! It has been said he used Christians as candles by having them dipped in oil and set alight to illuminate his gardens. He was keen on the arts and at the end facing revolt he had himself killed and has been quoted as saying “Qualis artifex pereo” which translates as “What an artist dies in me.”
VII Galba (3BCE- 69CE) was Roman Emperor for only seven months from 68 to 69CE . He was the first emperor of the ‘Year of the Four Emperors’ and the last emperor born in the First Century BCE. Galba’s age was always against him in a time of physical prowess and he was quickly assassinated but offered his neck saying “Strike, if it be for the good of the Romans!”
VIII Otho ( 32– 69CE) was Roman Emperor for just three months, from 15 January to 16 April 69. He was the second emperor of the ‘Year of the Four Emperors’. A hero perhaps as it has been thought that Otho’s suicide was committed in order to stop his country from following a path to civil war.
IX Vitellius (15 – 69CE) was Roman Emperor for eight months, from 16 April to 22 December 69. Vitellius was proclaimed emperor following the death of Otho but his claim to the throne was soon challenged by legions stationed in the eastern provinces who proclaimed their commander Vespasian emperor instead. Civil war followed resulting in a crushing defeat for Vitellius at the second battle of Bedriacum in northern Italy.
X Vespasian (9 – 79CE) was Roman emperor from AD 69 to AD 79. He founded the Flavian dynasty that ruled for twenty-seven years. In 43CE Vespasian was involved in the Roman invasion of Britain and as a consequence penetrated Devon, Britain, with the probable objectives of securing the south coast ports and harbours that would secure the tin mines of Cornwall and the silver/lead mines of Somerset. He even set up a fortress and legionary headquarters at Isca Dumnoniorum (Exeter). He also began construction of the Colosseum, using funds from the spoils of the Jewish Temple after the Siege of Jerusalem. Taken from Suetonius ‘The Twelve Caesars’: At last, being taken ill of a diarrhea, to such a degree that he was ready to faint, he cried out, “Dear me, I think I’m becoming a God.!
XI Titus (39 – 81CE) was Roman emperor from 79 to 81CE. He succeeded his father Vespasian upon his death,thereby becoming the first Roman Emperor to come to the throne after his own true father. He is best known for completing the Colosseum and dealing with two disasters, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 and a fire in Rome in 80. But barely two years in office Titus died of a fever.
XII Domitian (51 – 96CE) was Roman emperor from 81 to 96. Domitian was the last emperor of the Flavian dynasty. Significant wars were fought in Britain, where his general Agricola attempted to conquer Caledonia (Scotland) but ultimately failed. His reign came to an end in 96 when he was assassinated by court officials.
XIII Nerva (30 – 98CE) was Roman Emperor from 96 to 98. Nerva became Emperor at the age of sixty-five, after a lifetime of service under Nero and the rulers of the Flavian dynasty. Nerva was considered a wise and moderate emperor but nevertheless was assassinated in 98. Upon his death he was succeeded and deified by Trajan.
XIV Trajan (53 –117CE) was Roman emperor from 98 until his death in 117. He is remembered as a successful soldier-emperor who presided over the greatest military expansion in Roman history, driving the empire to its maximum territorial extent. In particular he was redound for the two wars against Dacia for which his column was erected. Possibly the greatest work of artistic relief sculpture ever. He died suddenly but will always be remembered for this column.
XV Hadian (76 – 138CE) was Roman emperor from 117 to 138. Hadrian is known for building Hadrian’s Wall and the pantheon. Possibly the greatest building ever to be built. He died of an heart attack.
XVI Antonius Pius (86 – 161 CE) was Roman Emperor from 138 to 161. He managed to lead the empire despite throughout the twenty-three years of his reign never going within five hundred miles of a legion! Probably the least known and best emperor of all. Died gently for once.
XVII Lucius Verus (130 – 169CE) was the Roman Emperor from 161 to 169. Verus conducted a glamorous lifestyle with a group of actors and favourites. A fighting man he probably died of smallpox.
XVIII Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180CE) was Roman Emperor (probably my favourite!) from 161 to 180. He ruled with Lucius Verus as co-emperor from 161 until Verus’ death in 169. He was one of the most important Stoic philosophers giving us as a legacy his ‘Meditations’. His campaigns against the Germans and the Sarmatians were also commemorated by a column and a temple. Marcus gave the succession to his son Commodus, whom he had named Caesar in 166 and made co-emperor in 177. This decision, putting an end to the series of “adoptive emperors”.
XIX Commodus (161 – 192CE) was Roman Emperor from 180 to 192. He ruled as co-emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius from 177 until his father’s death in 180. This was the first time a son had succeeded his biological father since Titus succeeded Vespasian.
XX Pertinax (126 – 193CE) was Roman Emperor for three months as successor to the assassinated Commodus. On 28 March 193 Pertinax was in his palace when some several hundred soldiers of the Praetorian Guard rushed the gates. Despite being advised to flee he attempted to reason with them, and was almost successful before being struck down by one of the soldiers.
XXI Didius Julianus (133 – 193CE) was Roman Emperor for just nine weeks during the year 193 but with the greatest name of them all (just my opinion!) He bought his leadership from the Praetorian Guard who had assassinated his predecessor Pertinax. Julianus was killed in the palace by a soldier of the Praetorian Guard. According to Cassius Dio Julianus’s last words were “But what evil have I done? Whom have I killed?”
XXII Septimius Severus (145 – 211CE) was Roman emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the Roman province of Africa (still a great place to see roman ruins). He traveled to Britain, strengthening Hadrian’s Wall and in 208 he invaded Caledonia (modern Scotland), but he fell fatally ill in late 210 and died in early 211 at Eboracum (York, England).
XXIII Geta (189 -211CE) was a Roman emperor who ruled with his father Septimius Severus and his older brother Caracalla from 209 to 211 but was murdered in December of that year by his brother Caracalla.
XXIV Caracalla (188 – 217CE) was Roman emperor from 198 to 217CE. Caracalla is remembered as one of the most notorious and unpleasant of emperors because of the massacres and persecutions he authorized and instigated throughout the Empire (although he did leave us some magnificent baths!) He was assassinated while whilst having a pee at the roadside!!
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