The exceedingly rare head of a statue that has recently been discovered Bulgaria is believed to be that of the Roman Emperor Aurelian. The head was recovered in what was once the ancient Roman colony of Ulpia Oescus, which at the time of the statue’s sculpting was a highly powerful and influential Roman city.
As Archaeology in Bulgaria has reported, lead archaeologist Assoc. Prof. Gergana Kabakchieva, who works with the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia, noted that the statue head of Aurelian is a very rare find indeed, especially as the vast majority of statues discovered today are not found with their heads still attached.
“This is an extremely valuable find from the Roman city of Ulpia Oescus. Ancient Roman statues and especially heads of statues are found very rarely. In the Antiquity, they thought that removing the head of a statue stripped off its energy. We have found the more precious part – the head.”
Other archaeologists who were involved during the discovery of Roman Emperor Aurelian’s head in Bulgaria include Deyan Dragoev from the Ruse Regional Museum of History, and Vladimir Naydenov and Tinka Krasteva who work with the Pleven Regional Museum of History.
The old Roman city of Ulpia Oescus can today be found in Northern Bulgaria in the town of Gigen, which is in the Pleven District.
The discovery of the statue head of Roman Emperor Aurelian in Ulpia Oescus should perhaps not surprise anybody. After all, this city once held 100,000 Roman citizens and was just one out of only three Roman colonies in Bulgaria, with the other two colonies called Deultum and Ratiaria.
Situated only a short three miles away from the Danube River, this city was in the perfect location for Romans and marked the start of the Roman Emperor Constantine’s bridge that was constructed over the Danube. At the time, this would have been the largest Roman bridge to have ever been built.
Archaeologists note that the statue head of Aurelian was fashioned out of limestone that was marbleized, making it a very striking display of this once great Roman Emperor. And as Aurelian is also known to have visited this city during his lifetime, it is highly likely that the head found is his.
As archaeologist Kabakchieva explained, the features of the statue head’s face have all shown clear signs that this statue was from the 3rd century AD. The statue was also discovered to have been sculpted locally in Ulpia Oescus.
“The hairstyle, the depicting of the chin, the way the eyes are depicted all speak of the fact that this statue is from the 3rd century AD, the period of the so called barracks emperors, or soldier emperors in the Roman Empire (235 – 284 AD). Based on the size of the head, we can assume that the statue it came from was slightly smaller than life-size, probably about 1.5 meters (5 feet) tall. This statue was the work of a sculptor from a local atelier in Ulpia Oescus.”
Along with the discovery of Roman Emperor Aurelian’s head in Bulgaria, archaeologists note that 2018 has been a very exciting year for other discoveries in this region as a marble colonnade and the remains of one of the main buildings in the Roman city of Ulpia Oescus have also been excavated.