Keenly aware of the power of images, Augustus, the first Roman emperor, developed a definitive image of himself and, in the interests of establishing a dynasty, supervised the creation of images for his potential successors. Augustus's idea of visual continuity to reinforce the dynasty resulted in the similar appearance of portraits of all the princes of the Julio-Claudian family and frequent uncertainty about specific identities.
This engraved gem probably represents Germanicus. A favorite of Augustus, Germanicus was in line to succeed his step-father Tiberius as the third emperor, when he died suddenly under mysterious circumstances in A.D. 19. Germanicus was honored posthumously, and this gem probably dates to the period between his death and the end of the reign of his son, the emperor Caligula.