Bust of Arles: The Secret of Caesar’s Real Face

In September 2007, a French archaeologist dived near Arles in southern France into the Rhone to search its riverbed for ancient remains. As he raised a finely crafted marble head out of the water, the captain, in one of these classic moments of discovery, exclaimed: “Putin, Miz Caesar” — loosely translated: “Damn, that’s Caesar.” In other words, it was a bust of what may be the most famous of Romans today – Julius Caesar, conqueror of Gaul, charismatic dictator, victim of an assassination at Aides on March 44 BC. He is – perhaps along with Cleopatra – the figure of antiquity that later generations would have preferred to meet face to face.

Bust of Arles: Did Caesar Look So Different?

The hunt for the real tsar has become an irresistible sport. In the 15 years since it was recovered, Ron’s marbled head has become a celebrity in its own right. It has been the subject of exhibitions and television specials and earned a French postage stamp. It is currently one of the highlights of the Antique Museum of Arles. Visitors take selfies with him. Possible date of discovery: Loyal citizens of ancient Arles erected the bust during Caesar’s lifetime. After the political climate changed after his assassination, they threw her into the river. The head was pulled out of its wet tomb about two thousand years later.

The big question: How do we know for a fact that he is Julius Caesar? Marble head has no name. Why do we think it is? Nearly 80 ancient heads have been found in Europe and the United States that are claimed to be true images of Caesar. How can we judge which ones are real and which are not? Ancient writers mention that Caesar flooded the Roman world with his image as a sign of his power. But can we identify his head among the hundreds of thousands of other Roman paintings in the galleries of our museums?

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