Bronze head from a statue of the Emperor Hadrian
Roman Britain, 2nd century AD
Found in the River Thames near London Bridge (1834)
Hadrian (reigned AD 117-138) is famous as the emperor who built the eighty-mile-long wall across Britain, from the Solway Firth to the River Tyne at Wallsend: 'to separate the barbarians from the Romans' in the words of his biographer. This head comes from a statue of Hadrian that probably stood in Roman London in a public space such as a forum. It would have been one and a quarter times life-size.
The statue may have been put up to commemorate Hadrian's visit to Britain in AD 122; Hadrian travelled very extensively throughout the Empire, and imperial visits generally gave rise to programmes of rebuilding and beautification of cities. There are many known marble statues of him, but this example made in bronze is a rare survival.
T.W. Potter, Roman Britain, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)