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Roman World 800BC-AD324

Roman imperial portraits

Within the Roman empire, many different languages were spoken, and the majority of people could not read or write. This meant that images, more easily understood than words, were extremely important in transmitting values and messages across the whole empire. [NP]Roman emperors deliberately used their official portraits in this way, most importantly to assert their right to succeed the previous emperor. Many imperial portraits were designed to show a ‘family’ resemblance, particularly since, at some periods, it was common for an emperor to adopt a successor who was not a blood relation. These images could be large statues set up in public places all over the Roman empire, but small-scale, portable images, such as those in showcase 12 also played a crucial part.

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