Republication from Following Hadrian

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A magnificent bronze statue of Hadrian, now on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, was found by chance by an American tourist in Tel Shalem (Beth Shean Valley, Israel) on 25th July 1975 while searching for ancient coins with a metal detector. Tel Shalem was once occupied by a detachment of the Sixth Roman Legion (Legio VI Ferrata). The 50 fragments of this statue were found in a building which stood at the center of the camp, perhaps in the principia (the headquarters tent or building).

Bronze statue of Hadrian, found at the Camp of the Sixth Roman Legion in Tel Shalem, 117–138 AD, Israel Museum, Jerusalem © Carole Raddato

Bronze statue of Hadrian, found at the Camp of the Sixth Roman Legion in Tel Shalem, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
© Carole Raddato

This remarkable statue was apparently used for the ritual worship of the emperor. Evidence suggests that it may have been erected in AD 132-133 to commemorate Hadrian’s personal involvement in suppressing the Bar Kokhba revolt or that it may have been set up in AD 135 to celebrate the conclusion of Hadrian’s reorganisation of Judaea into a new province named Syria-Palestina.

The statue probably portrays Hadrian in the pose of the supreme military commander greeting his troops (adlocutio) or as a conqueror stepping on a defeated enemy (a head of a youth was found next to the statue), though it’s far from certain that the head and the cuirass originally belong together.  Nevertheless, the Jerusalem bust is one of the finest bronze portraits to survive from antiquity. Only a few of this type of statues have been preserved in bronze, most of the surviving ones were made of marble. Hence the importance of this statue, which is further enhanced by its high quality of execution.

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