How Did Various Emperors from Augustus to Constantine Use Portraits to Project Their Image?

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The Roman Empire is the period of ancient Roman civilization which extended from 27 BC through 476 AD; it is characterized by an autocratic form of government started by Augustus after his victory in the Battle of Actium. The first Emperor, known as Octavian before he accepted the name offered by the Senate, is responsible for the use of portraiture to serve his needs beginning what is today known a Imperial Portraiture, “a distinct segment of ancient art due to the abruptness and purposeful of its origin”. (Breckenridge, 1981, pp.477-478). The use of the portraits continued to be important through the entire Imperial years, but there are some periods of time between the reigns of Augustus and Constantine where it became a key part of the Imperial propaganda as seen in busts, statues and coins. It is possible to represent many of the emperors’ intentions about portraits within Augustan objective as many of these were inherited from the first emperor but the style always returned to Augustan classicism. Of course these are differences between 500 years of Empire and the important are clearly noted below. After Augustus settled in power, the type of portrait chosen to represent himself, and a regular favourite of other emperors, was the Prospective Portrait “which looks forward toward what may come to be” (Breckenridge, 1981, pp.480). The Augustan artists created images with some degree of idealization to represent the notion of anticipated achievement; we see Augustus as an eternal hero in a variety of aspects of political, military and religious life. This is now known as the classical style of portraiture. Augustus intended to present himself as Princeps or First Citizen, character created to give an illusion of continuity of the Roman Republic and place the Emperor within the society, but always advertising his personal qualities and achievements and justify his personal position in public monuments. It is important to underline the fictitiousness of this...
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