Head of Augustus

Period: Roman Period, Augustus

Reign: reign of Augustus

Date: 27 B.C.–A.D. 14

Geography: From Egypt, Memphite Region; Possibly from 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


With the defeat of Cleopatra VII and Marc Antony at the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C., Egypt became a Roman province under the direct control of the Roman emperor. Augustus assumed the traditional divine role of pharaoh in Egypt, portraying himself as the offspring of the gods. He made numerous additions to the major temples of Egypt and founded the Temple of Dendur. His administrative reforms brought economic and political stability to Egypt after the turmoil of the Ptolemaic era.

This small head from Memphis may have come from a statue dedicated to the cult of the emperor. The style is completely Roman and is similar to other portraits from early in his long reign. The choice of blue-green faience, however, reflects the Egyptian attributes of longevity and prosperity.