|Professor Pollini lectures on Germanicus|
John Pollini, Professor of Classical Art & Archaeology at the University of Southern California, delivered a talk, “The Bronze Statue of Germanicus from Ameria (Amelia)”, at the Museo Archeologico di Amelia for the Rome Society of the Archaeological Institute of America.
Here's a link to the summary of the talk (posted on Academia.edu) with this introduction:
The statue of Germanicus with its travertine base was discovered in 1963 outside the Porta Romana of the town along the ancient via Amerina. That the statue was found smashed into a number of fragments indicates that it did not fall accidentally from its base but was attacked, quite likely by Christians in the Late Antique period. The statue had probably been set up originally in an imperial shrine in connection with the ludi iuvenum (games of the local pre- or para-military youth organization known as the luventus) that would have taken place in the campus of America outside the city walls.
Because it is a work of high quality, the statue was undoubtedly produced in a workshop in Rome and then transported to Ameria, where it was set up.
In his lecture, Professor Pollini describes the figures, pointing to the symbols of legal command and that of a supreme military commander and ‘a military tunic and high-laced boots, the calcei patricii, symbolic of patrician status. This is Professor Pollini’s description of the cuirass decoration:
The muscle breastplate is decorated with a plethora of appliqué figures symbolizing various aspects of victory. The central figures depict the ambush of the Trojan youth Troilos, son of King Priam, by the Greek hero Achilles. Represented above and rising out of a series of stylized sea waves is the winged sea monster Scylla hurling a rock in her upraised right hand. Flanking either side of the central scene of Troilos and Achilles and located just under the cuirass’s arm-openings are winged Victories. On the back of the cuirass is represented an incense-burner (thymiaterion), on either side of which are posed two Spartan female dancers (Lacaenae Saltantes), who celebrate a victory dance with baskets (kalathiskoi) on their heads. Circling the bottom of the cuirass are two rows of lambrequins (pteryges), that is, decorated leather straps. The upper row of straps features apotropaic motifs (symbols used to ward off evil), consisting of alternating heads of lions and bearded satyrs; the lower row, stylized victory palmettes.
And his interpretation of the program of the cuirass:
All the figurative and decorative elements represented on the cuirass have reference to military victory. The sea monster Scylla, who also serves an apotropaic function, may refer to victorious battles fought in the context of the sea or rivers. Since Roman commanders enjoyed emulating great Greek military personalities of the past, the representation of the legendary hero Achilles in the central composition would have been a suitable model, even though he slays here one of Rome’s ancestors, the Trojan prince Troilos. Although this might seem an odd subject to celebrate on the cuirass of a Roman commander, it should be remembered that without the fall of Troy there would be no Rome; and it was one of the prophecies that Troy would not fall if Troilos reached the age of 20 (Plaut. Bacch. 951-954; Mythographi Vaticani. I. 210). Therefore, this was all part of the divine plan! Achilles, moreover, was a model for great Roman leaders in Latin literature. In his famous messianic Eclogue (4.35-36), Vergil foretells the birth of a child (most likely the future Augustus), who as savior of Rome would bring peace to the world after military victories on land and sea. In the context of the wars that preceded the advent of this new Golden Age of peace, Vergil likened the great future Roman leader to Achilles: Erunt etiam altera bella atque iterum ad Troiam magnus mittetur Achilles (“There will also be other wars and a great Achilles will be sent again to Troy”). Therefore, the Achillean imagery on the cuirass has a dual meaning. The figural program of the statue’s cuirass referencing victory would also have been suitable for an original portrait statue of Caligula. Despite his aborted invasion of Britain in 39, Caligula celebrated a triumph in Rome for a sea victory over the sea-god Oceanus (Suetonius, Vita Tib. 46-47; Cassius Dio 59.27.1-4). This statue with cuirass heralding military victory could also have conveniently served to honor Germanicus, who won battles against the Germans on the Rhine and Weser and along the coast of the North Sea, for which he was awarded a triumph, as already noted. A transformation from an image of Caligula to one of Germanicus would have taken place after Caligula’s death in 41 A.D., at which time Claudius (10 B.C. - 54 A.D.), the uncle of Caligula and the brother of Germanicus, became emperor.
Also attending Professor Pollini's lecture in Amelia was Guilia Rocco, the Italian scholar and author of La Statua Bronze con Rittratto di Germanico (Roma 2008, Bardi Editore Commerciale) in which she proposes that the thorax was made around the first century BC in a Greek workshop in Pergamene for Mithradates VI, King of Pontus.