Posts Tagged ‘Julius Caesar’

The famous bust of Caesar, fished out of the Rhone 5 years ago, and just back from its show at the Louvre, now has a large question mark over its identity.  Is it really Caesar?

Last week there was a conference of archaeologists in Arles on the theme of Roman statuary in France, and the thinking is that the subject could have been either a local noble or even a freed slave.  The only likenesses of Caesar that exist are on coins so it is hard to cross-check; the archaeologists also believe that there was a ‘look’ that sculptors would follow – a fashion almost – that makes it difficult, now, to distinguish one person from another.

One theory is that two years before his death, Caesar passed a law which dictated that all temples and official buildings should have a bust of himself… this self-aggrandising behaviour was one of the reasons for his later assassination. After his death, the bronzes were melted down and the marble busts incinerated.  Locally this would have happened in ovens at Trinquetaille opposite Arles. Waiting in a heap for destruction, the thinking is that various unwanted statues were swept into the river by floods – hence the number which have been recovered.

The debate continues but the archaeologists have agreed that it should henceforth be called ‘le César d’Arles’, archaeology not being an exact science.

The Musée Departemental de l’Arles Antique has lots of statues, amphorae, pottery etc rescued from the river with great little videos of them being pulled out of the muddy river-bed, plus graphics of what the town would have looked like.  It’s very easy to visit – just off the main road with lots of parking.  Check the website for details of their opening times and programmes.

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