'Cruellest' Roman Emperor's £250k bust to auction

A bust of one of the worst and cruellest rulers in the history of Rome will be auctioned at Bonhams' Antiquities sale tomorrow (October 28) in New Bond Street, London.

A sculpture of Caracalla, the notorious Roman Emperor who reigned from 211-217, is estimated to sell for £150,000-250,000.

Historian Edward Gibbon once described Caracalla as "the common enemy of mankind," whose reign was characterised by "rapine and cruelty."

Caracalla's official portraiture is distinctive. He is depicted as a soldier wearing a military cloak, with short cropped hair, a beard and an aggressive expression.

Roman Emperor Caracalla
Caracalla's bust depicts him as a soldier

His chosen image reflects his close association with the Roman army, on whose support he depended.

The Roman marble bust of the Emperor Caracalla depicts him turning sharply to his left, his face contorted in a characteristic forbidding frown, with deep-set eyes, He wears a paludamentum draped around his shoulders.

The bust is of the 'Sole-Ruler' type, dating to the period after Caracalla murdered his brother, and co-emperor, Geta.

Other examples of this type are in the Museo Capitolino Montemartini and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, at the Vatican Museum and the British Museum.

A head in the Acropolis Museum, Athens, also has some of the closest stylistic similarities.

In addition to murdering his brother, Caracalla massacred thousands of his brother's supporters, and his own wife and brother-in-law (and other family members) in an effort to take sole control of the Empire.

'Caracalla' was born Lucius Septimius Bassianus. The nickname "Caracalla" is thought to derive from the Gallic hooded cloak that he made popular.

He was murdered in AD 217 by one of his own bodyguard, apparently while urinating.

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