A Pre-Principate portrait of Gaius Ca...

A Pre-Principate portrait of Gaius Caligula? Joe Geranio

Posted in the Archaeology Forum

Joe Geranio

Oakdale, CA

#1 Nov 9, 2012
I believe this portrait represents emperor Gaius Caligula before he asscended to power in 37 A.D.


The only known pre-principate portraits of Caligula known are numismatics (coins) from Carthago Nova.

There are no accepted pre-principate portraits of Caligula by scholars and art historians of portraits in the round.

This head fron the La Spezia Musuem shows a young Julio Claudian prince and it is not identified as any member of the imperial household. I believe and this is subjective and first brought to light by prof. John Pollini as a possible candidate for the young princeps as Gaius Caligula? The physiognomy and hair are so close to all of Caligula’s other portraits that it has to be the young princeps. Usually we can look at coins to give us a better idea of what the individual looked like, in this case the only coins minted of Caligula prior to his accession to power are from Carthago Nova Spain. These coins that are extant are so crude and badly struck, in most cases gives us little evidence and the dating of these coins has also come into debate, all of the coins were dated under the reign of Tiberius, but not to exact months or years, therfore this will be subjective. After looking at all the extant portraits of Caligula, I have found that this is so close in hairstyle, forehead, lips and hair length on the nape of the neck, that I see the La Spezia portrait as a strong candidate to be name a portrait done of Caligula prior to 37 A.D.? I know some will be sceptical, but the portrait has all the necessary traits of Caligula and therefore must be strongly considered. All art historians that I have read regarding this portrait dismiss it as a private individual or a young member of the Julio Claudian family.

Joe Geranio
Julio Claudian Iconographic Association

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