Statue of Hadrian

Tell Shalem, Beth Shean Valley
Roman period, 2nd century CE
Head: H: 37 cm Breastplate: H: 52 cm
Israel Antiquities Authority
IAA number : 75-763 --- (Photo © IMJ, by David Harris)

This bronze statue was found some 12 km south of Beth Shean (Scythopolis) at a site that was once a camp of the Sixth Roman Legion (it was customary for a likeness of the emperor to be erected and worshiped in Roman military camps). The statue is one in a series of representations of standing cuirassed emperors, most of them carved in marble. Of the many bronze statues that must have existed, only a few heads have been preserved. Hence the importance of this find, which is further enhanced by its high aesthetic quality. The head, cast in one piece and found intact, is one of the finest portraits of Hadrian. The breastplate depicts a mythological battle, a subject not often seen on cuirassed statues. Although Hadrian is regarded as one of the most enlightened of the Roman emperors, his attitude toward Judea and the Jews was hostile, and his oppressive measures provoked the outbreak of the Bar-Kokhba Revolt (132-135 CE).

The Israel Museum, Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2005
Zalmona, Yigal, ed., The Israel Museum at 40: Masterworks of Beauty and Sanctity, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2005