First among equals

Art, government, history, United Kingdom

Here we have the head of Augustus Roman Leader, (around 27 B C -A D 14 ) and First Emperor; he defeated Anthony, and other rivals for power, becoming the undisputed master of Rome, and its territories. This bronze represents a shift, to remove himself from battle stance politics, to a more reflective leadership. He was trying to bring back a moral outlook, and individual responsibility, to a society that was confused. He could be likened to David Cameron, wanting us to get ‘back to basics’. This statue shows an image of the leader who wants to be seen as a role model of a new order. The head is that of a young man, strong featured, and good looking, with a piercing gaze and a slightly furrowed expression. This is his idea of being first among equals. It is a political idea that resonates with our current leadership, where we are encouraged to believe ‘ we are all in this together’. Of course we are. Like Cameron, Augustus was careful to collaborate, (or appear to!), in order to maintain a position of power. It took him over two decades before he achieved official assumption of supreme power. Augustus will have been totally in charge of this image, in the same way P.R men measure all that is put into the current arena, the statue will have been made a little bigger than the man. It is an image that will have been portrayed everywhere, standing in for the man in outlying provinces , to administer justice.
Many bronzes of antiquity were melted down for the bronze, so the fact that this one survived is amazing. It was found in Sudan and had been part of a statue put up in Egypt, during the period Augustus ruled territories there. Later the head was removed by the Kushites, as an act of enmity, to disempower the idea of Augustus. The head was buried underneath the place where they worshipped, in order that they literally trampled on it. Perhaps the political leaders of today would do well to look back , as well as forward.
If you want to see the head, in all of its glory, it is in the British Museum

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