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By Joe Geranio

I was glad to find a portrait we know for sure is Nero Julius Caesar!  The brother of Gaius Julius Caesar. My Friend and part of our JCIA group took the photo and here is the identification:  This head "velato capite" of a Julio-Claudian Prince, probably, portrays Nero Julius Caesar 16 years old (c. AD 6 AD 30), Stemma Drusorum N. 17. He was son of Germanicus and Agrippina the Elder, and brother of the emperor Caligula. By the death of Drusus Minor, the son of Tiberius, in A.D. 23, Nero became the heir to the imperial throne. In A.D. 29 he was accused of treason along with his mother. Nero was exiled to the island of Pontia, and shortly afterwards was there starved to death. According to some accounts he put an end to his own life, when the executioner appeared before liira with the instruments of death.

1st cent., about A.D. 23
From Ziane, Tunisia
Paris, Department of Coins, Medals and Antiquities.

PHOTO BY Egisto Sani.

The portrait is veiled and very rare, the problem with the portraiture of Nero Julius, Drusus Julius, Germanicus, Caligula and even Tiberius is the true familial assimilation of the three brothers. The rhetoric or propaganda was to copy not only Augustus, but Tiberius in accession portraiture.  The three brothers identification is also difficult because as all new princeps they wanted to look young; the three brothers were actually young which adds to the difficulties.

As a Julio Claudian portrait enthusiast these three brothers are the toughest to identify and numismatics is of little help, most of Nero and Drusus' portraits come from crude provincial issues.  Even though Tiberius was not consecrated, images of him continued to be set up after his death in imperial statuary groups, or cycles, throughout the Empire to underscore imperial dynastic ideology and the line of succession. The forking of Tiberius' hairlocks in the middle of his forehead and the pincer effect of the locks over the outer corners of his eyes are iconographic features of the Chiaramonti type that are also reflected in the portraiture of Tiberius' adopted son and intended successor Germanicus (who died in a.d. 19), as well as Germanicus' sons Nero Iulius and Caligula. Nero Iulius, next in line after the death of Tiberius' natural son Drusus Minor in a.d. 23, was executed in a.d. 31, while Caligula became princeps at the age of 25 on the death of Tiberius in a.d. 37.


In many of Caligula's images, including his boyhood representation on the Grand Came de France his hair forks over his forehead, a feature shared with portraits of Tiberius as Princeps and of his very popular father Germanicus not to mention with his two older brothers, Nero Iulius and Drusus Iulius. Even in Caligula's later portraits, after he succeeded Tiberius as Princeps, it is sometimes difficult to identify Caligula solely on the basis of facial features since there is at times considerable diversity in his imagery not only in Rome, but especially in the provinces of the Empire. For more on these issues see my friend Prof. John Pollini's article on early Julio Claudian iconography which is excellent and thoughtful as usual.

Here is a dupondius I own which has such wonderful historical value of Nero and Drusus Julius.

Nero & Drusus Caesar. Died AD 31 and 33, respectively. Dupondius (28mm, 16.30 g, 6h). Rome mint. Struck under Gaius (Caligula), AD 37-38. Nero and Drusus on horseback right / Legend around large S C. RIC I 34 (Gaius).  Joe Geranio Collection, anyone may use as long as credit is given.

Digital Sculpture Project: Caligula

In Memoriam John D. MacIsaac*

The Image of Caligula: Myth and Reality

John Pollini


Also see: JOHN POLLINI A NEW MARBLE HEAD OF TIBERIUS Portrait typology and ideology

Also see:
The Propaganda of Tiberius and the Coin from Carthago Nova- Nero Julius and Drusus Julius - Joe Geranio
Joe Geranio

Julio Claudian Iconographic Association

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