Exceptional find in the Appia Antica Archaeological Park

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During a complex overhaul and reclamation of the sewage duct by the Acea Group , with Bacino Sud SRL, a life-size marble statue depicting a character in the guise of Hercules was brought to light in recent days.

In the Scott Park area, the collapse of the old pipeline, damaged in several places, had led in recent months to the opening of dangerous chasms and landslides of the hill. It was therefore necessary to replace the damaged sewage system. 

Detail of the Hercules statue found on the Appia Antica, after cleaning [Credit: Parco Archeologico dell’Appia Antica]

During the demolition operations, a life-size marble statue was recovered inside the trench made in the last century for laying the old conduit which, due to the presence of the club and the leontè – the lion’s skin that covers the head – can certainly be identified with a character in the guise of Hercules.

The sculpture was not in its primary position and lacked stratigraphic data useful for its dating.

Life-sized statue of Hercules figure at time of discovery [Credit: Parco Regionale dell’ Appia Antica]

The first iconographic comparisons lead us to identify the character dressed as Hercules with the emperor Gaius Messius Quintus Traianus Decius, better known as Decius Trajan, who reigned from 249 to 251 AD, when he was killed, together with his son Erennio Etrusco, in the battle of Abrittus between Goths and Romans.

The face, albeit corroded, seems to share the “anxiety wrinkles” with the official portraits of Decius, which recall the Roman republican portraiture and were aimed at representing concern for the fate of the state, a virtue valued very positively in the high offices of the empire. 

Other characteristic features are the treatment of the sparse beard and the morphology of the eyes, nose and lips.

The statue has been secured inside a park deposit where the first preliminary cleaning operations are underway for the restoration of the work.

Source: Parco Archeologico dell’Appia Antica [January 30, 2023]

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