Bust of Emperor Macrinus

  • Era/Century: Antique
  • Site: Beograd
  • Dating: 217-218 A.D.
  • Material: bronze
  • Technique: casting
  • Dimensions: height 33cm, width 22 cm
  • ID Number: АА 2636
  • Property: Belgrade City Museum
  • On Display: No

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The realistic portrait of a man at the end of the middle age and the beginning of old age is expressive of inner strength and well-grounded self-confidence. On the basis of the representations on the coins the portrait have been identified as a portrait of Emperor Macrinus.

Emperor Macrinus (Imperator Caesarus Marcus Opellius Severus Macrinus Augustus, 217-218) was born in a poor family at Caesarea, a port town in Mauritania, in 164. It is thought that Macrinus as a soldier killed Emperor Caracalla in 217 A.D. and succeeded him. Many statues of Macrinus were erected in Rome as a sign of gratitude after the murder of Caracalla, although Macrinus himself never set foot on Italian soil. During the fourteen months of his reign Macrinus tried to stabilize the internal political situation in the Empire and to improve the economic conditions in it. He appointed his close associates as new governors of the provinces of Pannonia, Dacia and Moesia, and their troops remained loyal to him to the end. In spite of his endeavours to strengthen the state, he had powerful enemies, especially among military commanders, whose excessive demands he refused to satisfy.

Faced with rebellion and the proclamation of young Elagabalus (218-222) for emperor, Macrinus shaved his head and beard and disguised himself in an effort to escape. He was, however, betrayed, found out and murdered. After the murder, Elagabalus proclaimed "the razing of memory" (damnatio memoriae). There followed systematic demolition and removal of Macrinus' statues (which explains the scant number of portraits which can be reliably identified as his).

This bust was discovered in the area of Boleč, a village near the supposed line of the road leading from Singidunum to Viminacium (in the vicinity of modern Ritopek), which may have belonged to the Emperor at that time. It is supposed that the bust was commissioned to be placed in the villa of a town or mining magistrate. Macrinus' portrait is made in the Severian and post-Severian style with elements of the new, realistic treatment which aims at representing the inner life of the represented person.

Emperor Macrinus' bust is certainly an anthological work of Roman portraiture.

Published in Antiquity


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