Roman sewer works reveal statue of emperor posing as Hercules
3 February, 2023, 3:04 pm
ROME (Reuters) – A life-sized statue of a Roman emperor posing as the classical hero Hercules has been discovered during sewer repair works near the Appia Antica (Appian Way), ancient Rome’s first highway.
It emerged, face first, as a bulldozer was tearing through old pipelines that needed replacing. An archaeologist overseeing the work immediately intervened.
“This face appeared, and it was then immediately identified as a character dressed as Hercules,” Francesca Romana Paolillo, archaeologist at the Appia Antica park, told Reuters.
The marble sculpture, showing a Hercules-like figure with the hero’s trademark lion skin and club, was unearthed on Jan. 25 at the Scott Park, part of the Appia Antica green area.
It shows frown lines on the forehead that are typical of depictions of emperors from the 3rd century, a time of deep crisis for the Roman Empire.
The sculpture bears a “fair resemblance” to Emperor Decius, who ruled Rome from 249 to 251 AD, Paolillo said, adding it was “quite rare” to find Herculean depictions of Roman leaders.
The statue, which consists of several broken pieces and which suffered some accidental damage during its chance discovery, is currently being cleaned and restored.
Reuters saw it while stored in an ancient Roman water reservoir now repurposed as a warehouse. Once repaired, the statue is expected to be placed on public display.
Decius was the first Roman emperor to be killed in battle – fighting against the Goths in modern day Bulgaria – and was behind the first organised persecution of Christians.
With Rome’s ancient history, chance discoveries of archaeological treasures are not unusual when the city’s streets or parks are excavated.
In January, archaeologists said they had abandoned a quest to find the remains of the opening stretch of the Appian Way, because underground water made it impossible to dig deep enough.