what did julius caesar really look like?

The only two known busts of Julius Caesar have gone on display together for the first time in Paris as part of an exhibition of objects found in the Rhône River near the ancient city of Arelate, modern day Arles. For decades the only portrait known to exist of Julius Caesar was a bust found in Tusculum in 1825. Then in the autumn of 2007, Luc Long, director of the Rhône Underwater Archaeology Project, came face to face with the dictator during an archaeological dive. As the bust peered out at him from the murky waters of the Rhône, he recognised it immediately: ‘Mais, c’est César’. Despite initial scepticism – as the Danish historian Flemming Johansen explained during one of the free talks held in the Louvre as part of this exhibition, of the 200 representations of Caesar currently in existence, 90% are modern fakes – comparison with the Tusculum bust, which is kept in the Archaeological Museum in Turin, has left archaeologists in little doubt. Both show him in his fifties, with a  receding hairline, hollow cheeks, a small, slightly drooping mouth and prominent adam’s apple. Founded by Julius Caesar in 46 BC, Arles is located near the mouth of the Rhône River, 30 km from the Mediterranean, and once stood at the centre of a vast maritime and river trading network that stretched from Spain to modern Turkey and beyond.

Arles, Record of the Rhône. Twenty years of underwater excavations. Muséé du Louvre. 9 March to 25 June 2012.


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