Friday, September 11, 2009

Puteoli Block Praetorians

Naturally. the vast majority of Roman sculpture and artifacts reside in museums in Europe and along the Mediterranean. However, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology holds an object of keen interest to Roman military equipment studies. The Puteoli block was carved during the reign of Domitian and depicts his Praetorian guardsmen. One carries a shield emblazoned with a very nice vine and scorpion design. The scorpio, birth sign of Emperor Tiberius, often appeared on Praetorian equipment. Tiberius was so honored because he allowed the Praetorian camp to be built in Rome, centralizing their power. No other Roman legion appear to have used the scorpion emblem. A color interpretation of this shield blazon appears in The Praetorian Guard by Boris Rankov.

The above photo of the other half of the Puteoli block is courtesy of Jasper Oorthuys. It is housed in Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Thanks, Jasper! Images of both these sections are rarely found on the internet, so I definitely appreciate your contribution!

For a detailed study of this monument see Flower, Harriet. "A Tale of Two Monuments: Domitian, Trajan, and Some Praetorians at Puteoli" in American Journal of Archaeology, Vol 105. No. 4, October 2001. pages 625 - 648.


  1. Interestingly, that museum does not hold the only part though. Another part resides in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. One wonders how long ago it was that anyone saw them together!?

  2. Yes, the AJA article mentions this. It would be nice if casts were made of each section, one plaster block sent to Berlin, the other to Philly. Then you could see the two side by side.

  3. Not sure they're anywhere online together. I don't think I can post a picture in a comment, so I'll email an image of the other part to you.