Roman emperor Antoninus Pius died on 7 March 161 CE in Lorium, an ancient Etruscan village on the Via Aurelia, less than twelve miles west of Rome.

By Anne Leader

Roman emperor Antoninus Pius died on 7 March 161 CE in Lorium, an ancient Etruscan village on the Via Aurelia, less than twelve miles west of Rome. He was 74 years old. He had ruled as emperor since 138 CE, when he succeeded his adoptive father Hadrian. Like Hadrian before him, Antoninus wore a short beard and slightly long, curly hair. This style had been a departure from the first generations of emperors, who from Augustus to Trajan were clean shaven and had worn short, cropped hair brushed forward on the forehead. (The fashion for clean-shaven faces dated back at least to the Roman Republican general Scipio Africanus.) Various explanations have been offered as to why Hadrian broke with this tradition, including that he had blemishes on his face, but the most likely is that he was a fan of Greek culture and thus adopted the hairstyle associated with Greek philosophers.

Antoninus was succeeded by his adopted sons Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, who carried on his signature look. It would not be until Constantine the Great in the early 4th century that Roman emperors revived the short hair and smooth cheeks of the Julio-Claudians, a haircut often referred to today as a “Caesar.”

Bust of Antoninus Pius, ca. 150, marble. Munich Glyptothek

Arch of Antoninus Pius, Sufetula (Sbeitla, Tunisia)

Aureus of Antoninus Pius, 145 CE, gold. Profile portrait of Antoninus Pius (obverse); Rome (reverse)

Bust of Hadrian, marble. Rome, Capitoline Museums

Bust of Augustus wearing civic crown, marble. Munich Glyptothek

Head of Trajan, marble. Munich Glyptothek (from Ostia)

Marble head of Epikouros, 2nd cent. CE, marble. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund 1911

Bust of Marcus Aurelius, marble. Private collection, formerly on loan to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (L.2007.29)

Bust of Lucius Verus, marble. Paris, Musée du Louvrecap

Colossal portrait of Constantine, marble. Rome, Capitoline Museums

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