Sculpture of an Emperor and Captive

1971.180

On display

Relief sculpture of a male figure with a barbarian captive at his feet, in a smiting pose that is reminiscent of Egyptian art. The principal figure is bearded and wears a diadem tied around his head, and a Hellenistic leather cuirass with greaves. He holds a long triangular dagger (parazonium) and grasps the barbarian by the hair. Phalerae with Alexandrine cult busts of Sarapis (Bryaxis type) above and Harpocrates below are set on his chest and stomach. The barbarian/prisoner is fully bearded with long, thick hair and wears a tunic with a belt tied around his waist; his facial features are derived from the Bryaxis Sarapis. The group was carved in the second or third century A.D. and represents a fusion of Egyptian, Greek and Roman imperial iconography in an association suggesting the hero or ruler cults of the Faiyum region of Egypt. Riccomini and Porciani (2014) have suggested the identity of the Roman in armour is probably the emperor Caracalla responsible for the massacre of the population of Alexandria in the last years of his reign. The relief is variously described as a Graeco-Egyptian god (Marianne Bergmann suggests the Thracian rider god, Heron); a Hellenistic ruler; or Roman Emperor (Dietrich von Bothmer and Cornelius Vermeule suggest Lucius Verus; Inge Hofmann suggests Hadrian; and Zolt Kiss suggests Septimius Severus). There is an illustration of the sculpture in 19th century archives held in the Museum (Mayer Guard Book, p. 52) but the original accession number is not recorded and a new number was allocated in 1971. Compare with part of a marble colossal statue of a barbarian captive clutching the skirts of a standing figure from the Palace of Trajan, Ramleh, Egypt (British Museum registration number 1973,0330.5).