Appearance of The Principate


Augustus; Tiberius; Caligula; Claudius; Nero.

27 BC–68 AD: The Julio-Claudian dynasty

Using the neural-net tool Artbreeder, Photoshop and historical references, I have created photoreal depictions of Roman Emperors. Scroll down to see each emperor.

  • [Pt I] 27 BC–68 AD: Julio-Claudian dynasty

ON CREATIVE COMMONS & COPYRIGHT: Faces can be shared Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike at 200 pixels max height for non-watermarked OR 512 pixels with the digital mosaic watermark. Please link back to this page.Continuation of this project depends on prints, licensing and commissions.

These are my collected notes and references. Many written sources are known to be unreliable but remain here for posterity and debate.

UPDATE Aug 21st: 2nd Edition of poster released. 21 of 54 portraits have been updated.

  • *CONCISE UPDATE (July 31st) replacing a July 27th CLARIFICATION: ‘TheApricity’, a tertiary source, has been removed entirely. I knew it to be unreliable prior to starting this project but kept here for posterity and debate. It is now clear to me they have distorted primary and secondary sources to push a pernicious white supremacist agenda. I am instead quoting Davide Cocci who has provided, what I believe to be, a more reliable translation.

A primary Greek text by John Malalas has also been removed. Only three Emperors (in Part II) are impacted by these changes.


Augustus (v1): The Prima Porta, Pergamum Museum, Labicana, British Museum


Augustus (v2): Aged. Hair appears slightly darker. Same bust references.


27 BC — 19 AD (Died age 75 — Natural Causes)

Great-nephew and adopted son of Julius Caesar

  • Born: Rome, Italy
  • Skin: “His complexion was between dark and fair” (Suetonius) ‘dark skin’ in an ancient context is not believed to be a statement of racial heritage (via Walton et al.)
  • Other: “His teeth were wide apart, small, and ill-kept … his eyebrows met. His ears were of moderate size, and his nose projected a little at the top and then bent ever so slightly inward. His complexion was between dark and fair.” (Suetonius)
  • Height: “He was short of stature, although Julius Marathus, his freedman and keeper of his records, says that he was five feet and nine inches (just under 5 ft. 7 in., or 1.70 meters, in modern height measurements), but this was concealed by the fine proportion and symmetry of his figure, and was noticeable only by comparison with some taller person standing beside him…” (Suetonius)

Tiberius: UL: UR: Royal Ontario Museum; LL: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli LR: Also: “The Lansdowne”

14–37 (Died aged 75 — Probably natural causes, possibly assassinated by Caligula or praetorian prefect)

Mother: Livia Drusilla, Augustus’ third wife, by a previous marriage

  • Born: Rome, Italy
  • Hair: “full and worn so long behind. ;bald in later life.” (via Canter)
  • Eyes:
  • Skin: “face handsome but often, especially in later years, full of pimples and sores” (via Canter)
  • Other:
  • Height: “height somewhat above average; broad of shoulders and chest, and evenly proportioned in all other members of the body” (via Canter)

Caligula (v1): Met Gallery Also: New Carlsberg Gylototek


Caligula (v2): Previously used bust with greatest craftsmanship (↙️ Met Gallery), now depiction weighted to bust with most disfigurement. ↖️ Louvre bust as primary reference. ↗️ New Carlsberg Gylototek for skin tone. Asymetrical eye consistent with ↘️ Museum of Rome bust.


Caligula (v2.1): No longer referencing Met Gallery buts. Depiction weighted to busts with asymetrical eyes ↖️ Louvre; ↙️ Worchester Art Gallery; ↘️ Museum of Rome bust. ↗️ New Carlsberg Gylototek for skin tone and hair colour.

37–41 (Died age 28 — Assassinated in a conspiracy involving senators and Praetorian Guards)

Great-Grandfather: Augustus

Other Family: Great-nephew and adoptive grandson of Tiberius

  • Hair: blonde beard (and hair). Originally referenced text (Sueutonius, 52), was a description of Caligula’s habits of dressing up as a woman which was against the roman moral (Mos Maiorum) (via Cocci) “head misshapen, eyes and temples sunken; hair thin, with crown of head bald; hair and beard worn long for a time after death of his sister. neck covered with bristles and rest of the body hairy;” (via Canter)
  • Eyes: “eyes staring and with a glare savage enough to torture.” (via Canter)
  • Skin:
  • Height: “Tall, ill proportioned, an object of derision; neck and legs very thin; feet enormous” (via Canter)

Claudius: ↖️ Naples National Archaeological Museum; ↗️ Vatican Museum; ↙️ Museum Chiaramonti (51–54 AD); ↘️ National Archaeological Museum of Spain

41–54 (Died age 63 — Probably poisoned by his wife Agrippina the Younger, in favour of her son Nero, possibly natural causes)

Brother: Germanicus

Other Family: Uncle of Caligula; nephew of Tiberius; Great-nephew and step-grandson of Augustus

  • Eyes: “eyes at corners bloodshot. Health so precarious during childhood and early manhood that both mind and body were impaired, but generally in good health after he became emperor” (via Canter)
  • Skin:
  • Other: “neck thick set” (via Canter)
  • Height: “Tall, but not slender” (via Canter)

Nero (v1): ↖️ Musei Capitolini Rome; ↗️ Glyptothek Munich; ↙️ Uffizi Gallery, Florence; ↘️ Peter Paul Rubens


Nero (v2): Neck-beard hair on ↖️ Musei Capitolini Rome bust was incorrectly registering as a strong jawline. this has been fixed.

54–68 (Died age 30 — Committed suicide after being declared a public enemy by the Senate)

Great-nephew, stepson, son-in-law and adopted son of Claudius; nephew of Caligula; great-great-nephew of Tiberius; grandson of Germanicus; great-great-grandson of Augustus

  • Eyes: grey eyes (“oculis caesis — Suet. Nero 51) (via Cocci) “eyes gray and dull; shortsighted and wont to contract brows, in order to recognize near objects the better” (via Canter)
  • Skin: “skin freckled and repulsive” (via Canter)
  • Other: “abdomen prominent. Health good.” (via Canter)
  • Height: “Stature a little below average; face agreeable rather than attractive” (via Canter)