Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Sardonyx cameo engraved with the portrait-heads of Trajan and Plotina, side by side in profile.

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 117-138
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 5 centimetres
    • Width: 4.2 centimetres
    • Depth: 1.1 centimetres
    • Weight: 39 grammes
  • Curator's comments

    Text from Payne Knight's Latin manuscript catalogue
    97) Trajani imperatoris iam senis, et uxoris Plotinae capita coniuncta et dextrorsum spectantia, illius laureatum, huius capillis more seculi dispositis ornatum, e strato albescente pellucido, alii fusco purpureo pellucido inhaerente, summa eorum aetatis arte et elegantia, accuratissime exculta, elaborata et perpolita, laureis foliis fuscum tertii strati superimpositi colorem partim retinentibus. Naturalis est lapidis defectus, quo collum imperatoris non integrum exstat; atque ex oris forma, partim collapsi et partim inflati/instantis colligere licet effigiem hanc maximi et optimi principis, curis et laboribus fracti, ex imagine, cera impressa, iam mortui, confictam esse; ita tamen, ut qualis fuerit plane intelligatur.* E capsa sacrorum saepius citata.
    *... victura feretur
    gloria Trajani; non tam quod, Tigride victo,
    nostra triumphati fuerint provinicia Parthi,
    alta quod invectus fractis Capitolia Dacis;
    quam quod patriae mitis erat. – Claudian: de IV cons: Honor:

    The joined heads of Emperor Trajan, now an old man, and of his wife Plotina, looking to the right, that of the former crowned with a laurel wreath, that of the latter adorned with hair arranged in the style of the century, honed very carefully, refined and finished thoroughly with the greatest skill and elegance of that age, from a whitening, translucent layer, adhering to a dark, purple, translucent one elsewhere, with the laurel wreaths keeping for the most part the dark colour of the third layer that has been laid upon the others. The stone has a natural defect, whereby the neck of the emperor is not complete; and on account of the shape of his face, partially shrunken and partially swollen, one can deduce that this is the likeness of the greatest and most excellent emperor, weakened by cares and labours, which has been taken from his funerary mask, engraved in wax, when he had died; it was done in such a way however, that it might be clearly understood what sort of a man he was. From the cabinet of sacred objects that has been cited often.
    *...The glory of Trajan will never be vanquished; not so much because, after the river Tigris had been conquered, the conquered Parthians were made a province of ours, or because he brought the shattered Dacians to the high Capitol; but because he was gentle towards his country.
    Claudian: de IV cons: Honor:


  • Bibliography

    • Opper 2008 30 bibliographic details
    • Gem 3610 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G70/dc35

  • Exhibition history


    2008, 24 Jul-26 Aug, London, BM, 'Hadrian: Empire and Conflict'
    2016, 3 Feb-31 Aug, Forum Antique de Bavay, Marguerite Yourcenar et l’empereur Hadrien

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Greek & Roman Antiquities

  • Registration number


Sardonyx cameo engraved with the portrait-heads of Trajan and Plotina, side by side in profile.



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Object reference number: GAA1772

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