Emperor Gallienus (253/260) by UnknownAltes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
We’ve all seen them – groups who all wear the same T-shirt, and neighbours whose kids all have the same haircut. Well, in Ancient Rome it was no different ...
This portrait of the Emperor Gallienus (253–268 C.E.) shows the ruler of Rome ...
... with a tidy cut, his hair lifelike and close to his head with accurately modelled forelocks.
This was not the first bust to look like this. And Gallienus knew that. With this hairstyle he was quite deliberately following in a tradition that went back to the first Roman Emperor, Augustus.
Emperor Augustus (31 BCE–14 CE) was a past master of what we today call “branding”. He broke with the artistic styles of past rulers and went for a timeless, idealised look:
Evenly cut hair, tidy forelocks and an expression of regal sublimity on his face – for the rest of his reign all statues of him looked almost the same. Many Roman citizens and his heirs as well took their lead from his style. It’s what we call dynastic portraits.
About 250 years later Emperor Gallienus chose this hairstyle too. Why? It made him look like a direct descendant of the first Roman Emperor...
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz