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Equestrian statues in Rome

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Rome has three kinds of statues: equestrian, pedestrian and seated ones. The equestrian statues are statues where there is a leader mounted on a horse. The word has been derived from Latin, where "eques" means knight. The equestrian statues were representatives of the honors reserved for some people. These statues represent the victorious men of Rome.

Whenever a general, or an emperor was victorious, that person would be honored by the emperor and the Senate. An equestrian statue of the victorious person would be erected as an honor. Records say that there were approximately eighty such statues in the City, but not all of them have been found. Actually, one only one of them has been found so far. This equestrian statue is the statue of the emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Some of the literary texts and coins shed light on the existence of several other statues. Several fragments of pedestal stones with inscriptions have also been found. In this document, we will talk about the only statue that survived: Marcus Aurelis' statue, in the first section. In the second part, we will also discuss various other equestrian statues, whose existence was brought to light by various ancient testimonies.

The equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius was located at the Lateran. Marcus Aurelius was a great Roman emperor who ruled Rome between 161 and 180 AD. He was the last of the "Five Good Emperors" and was a stoic philosopher. The statue of Marcus Aurelius was built in 169 AD. Since Marcus had been raised in the house of his grandfather, the domus Annii Veri, adjoining the Lateran, this location was ideal for the erection of the statue. However, this location, which was known as Caballus Constantini, was not mentioned until the tenth century.

The statue was then moved to the Capitol, by Paul III in 1538, and was installed afresh. This statue became the centerpiece of the Piazza del Campidoglio at a later date. It was then removed from the square in 1980, to undergo restoration as it had deteriorated due to corrosion by air pollution. It was then placed in the Capitoline Museum. The statue that is seen in the square now is actually a replica.

The emperor is wearing a military uniform, but is disarmed. He wears boots with laces, shoes reserved for patricians and senators, a short tunic and a paludamentum, that is to say, a military coat. He rides a horse in high spirits, and raises his right arm stretched forward as a sign of peace. He seems to calm and impassive, in contrast to the nervousness of his mount. The latter stands on three legs. The right foreleg is lifted, and below is what is probably a barbarian kneeling, or an allegorical figure, to support the hoof.

Originally, the statue in bronze, was entirely golden, and we found some traces of the gold used. The statue measures 4.24 m in total height. The head measures 58.5 cm. With this statue, the popes claimed to hold the emperor himself in their temporal power: the Constitutum Constantini. This statue is moreover the only equestrian statue in Rome to have reached us from antiquity. It is thanks to Bartolomeo Sacchi we know this statue under the identity of Marcus Aurelius.

Tags: Bartolomeo Sacchi , Constitutum Constantini, Piazza del Campidoglio

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