Biblical Archaeology Review 23:6, November/December 1997
Roman Jerusalem

Hadrian: A Portrait in Bronze

By Molly Dewsnap Meinhardt

Vigorous, muscular and armorclad, Emperor Hadrian—in the rare bronze sculpture featured on the cover of this issue—appears as the adept military leader who dominated the Mediterranean world from 117 to 138 C.E. His commanding appearance is recognizable from marble statues, reliefs, coins and even ancient texts. The portrayal of Hadrian in the Historia Augusta, a fourth-century C.E. compilation of imperial biographies, could be a description of this very statue: “He was tall of stature and elegant in appearance; his hair was curled on a comb, and he wore a full beard to cover up the natural blemishes on his face.” But it is extremely unusual to find such a well-preserved bronze statue of Hadrian, perhaps because this precious metal, unlike marble, can be melted down and reused.

An American tourist named Morton Leventhal discovered the statue in 1975, while searching for coins on the ancient mound of Tel Shalem, in the Jordan River Valley.a When his metal detector went off, he dug down more than a foot before striking the larger-than-life head, torso and other fragments—a find estimated at the time to be worth three or four million dollars. He brought the pieces to a nearby kibbutz.

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.