Bust of a Lictor

Ancient Rome, early 2nd century

In Ancient Rome, lictors were guards attendant on high-ranking officials, processing ahead and behind them. In his left hand and over his left shoulder a lictor would carry the fasces – a bundle of rods tied around an axe that was a symbol of the punitive power of the law. Within Rome, lictors wore a toga, but outside the city they might don a sagum cloak, lined with velvet or fur and fastened at the breast by a flat fibula. It is in just such attire and with the fasces that this Roman, no longer young with an intelligent energetic face, is depicted. At one time, this bust was considered a bust of the famed general Lucullus (late 2nd – early 1st century BC), but features of the costume and the strict simplicity of the modelling make it possible to date the piece to the reign of Emperor Trajan (AD 98–117). Trajan pursued a policy of reviving the heroic spirit and customs of the republic, but while in republican times lictors had been plebeians and freed slaves, under his rule it became a prestigious office for members of the high nobility as well. The Hermitage bust – the only known sculptural depiction of a lictor with a sagum and fasces – portrays one of those aristocrats.


Bust of a Lictor




55,0 cm

Acquisition date:

Entered the Hermitage in 1862; originally in the Marquis Campana collection in Rome

Inventory Number: