Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius

c. 175 AD
11' 6" tall

Although mounted, the statue of Marcus Aurelius exhibits many similarities to that of Augustus. The overall theme is one of power and divine grandeur—the emperor is over life-size and is holding out his hand in a gesture much like that in the Augu stus portrait. In this case the gesture may also signify clemency as some historians assert that a fallen enemy may have been portrayed begging for mercy under the horse's raised hoof.

It should be pointed out that although rare today, equestrian imperial portraits were popular before the Christianization of Rome—they are rare now because early Christians destroyed huge numbers of pre-Christian artworks in the belief that they were pagan idols. The statue of Marcus Aurelius was spared owing to its early misidentification as a portrait of Constantine.

It is also worth noting that Marcus Aurelius is riding without the use of stirrups as the stirrup had not yet been introduced to the West.