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Rulers and Citizens


Bronze was the primary material for Hellenistic statues of individuals displayed in marketplaces, theaters, and other public spaces. Today, often only the heads remain from these full-length portraits of rulers, military leaders, and civic benefactors. The individuals portrayed would have been named on the statue bases, along with descriptions of the good deeds that earned them the honor of being commemorated in bronze. Citizens were shown clothed; rulers were represented nude or in armor, sometimes on horseback. Nudity had traditionally been reserved for images of athletes, heroes, and gods, but became an artistic attribute of Hellenistic rulers and military leaders, their virile bodies projecting strength and authority.

Pictured: Portrait of Aule Meteli ("The Orator"), 125 – 100 BC; bronze and copper. Lent by Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana (Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Firenze)