Head of Augustus

Period: Roman Period, Augustus

Reign: reign of Augustus

Date: 27 B.C.–A.D. 14

Geography: From Egypt; Possibly from Memphite Region, Memphis (Mit Rahina)

Medium: Faience

Dimensions: H. 7.7 cm (3 1/16 in.); W. 6 cm (2 3/8 in.); D. 6.5 cm (2 9/16 in.)

Credit Line: Purchase, Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1926

Accession Number: 26.7.1428


This small head is thought to depict the Roman Emperor Augustus. Based on Roman prototypes for his portrait, it is dated to the earlier part of his long reign. Egyptian influence may be present in the suggestion of loose flesh beneath the prominent cheekbones.

The original context of the head is uniknown, but Memphite provenance would reflect the importance of the traditional religious capital in Augustus's political domination of the country. A cult of Augustus existed there, and the High Priest of Ptah of Memphis, the most important official in the country's traditional religious structure, was chosen as its chief officiant, the "prophet of Caesar." This appointment was surely intended to encourage the cooperation of the country.