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"The Esquiline Venus is an anomalous work, for while the body is modelled with a voluptuousness that almost oversteps the line dividing the nude from the naked, the head is treated with archaic severity."
Curator of Classical Antiquities, Musuem of Fine Arts, Boston, Catalogue of Casts, Greek and Roman Sculpture (1891)
Discovered in the Horti Lamiani on the Esquiline Hill in December 1874, the Esquiline Venus was found together with the sculptural group of Commodus as Hercules.
Edward John Poynter modeled his Diadumenč on the Venus.
A similar rendition is in the Louvre (Paris).
Philo Judaeus presents the only eye-witness account of Caligula's behavior.
And while he was saying this he entered into the outer buildings, examining the chambers of the men and the chambers of the women, and the rooms on the ground floor, and all the apartments in the upper story, and blaming some points of their preparation as defective, and planning alterations and suggesting designs, and giving orders himself to make them more costly and then we being driven about in this way followed him up and down through the whole place, being mocked and ridiculed by our adversaries like people at a play in the theater; for indeed the whole matter was a kind of farce....
But when he had given some of his orders about the buildings, he then asked a very important and solemn question; "why is it that you abstain from eating pig's flesh?" And then again at this question such a violent laughter was raised by our adversaries, partly because they were really delighted, and partly as they wished to court the emperor out of flattery, and therefore wished to make it appear that this question was dictated by wit and uttered with grace, that some of the servants who were following him were indignant at their appearing to treat the emperor with so little respect, since it was not safe for his most intimate friends to do so much as smile at his words. And when we made answer that, "different nations have different laws, and there are some things of which the use is forbidden both to us and to our adversaries;" and when some one said, "there are also many people who do not eat lamb's flesh which is the most tender of all meat," he laughed and said, "they are quite right, for it is not nice." Being joked with and trifled with and ridiculed in this manner, we were in great perplexity; and at last he said in a rapid and peremptory manner, "I desire to know what principles of justice you recognize with regard to your constitution."
And when we began to reply to him and to explain it, he, as soon as he had a taste of our pleading on the principles of justice, and as soon as he perceived that our arguments were not contemptible, before we could bring forward the more important things which we had to say, cut us short and ran forward and burst into the principal building, and as soon as he had entered he commanded the windows which were around it to be filled up with the transparent pebbles very much resembling white crystal which do not hinder the light, but which keep out the wind and the heat of the sun. Then proceeding on deliberately he asked in a more moderate tone, "What are you saying?" And when we began to connect our reply with what we had said before, he again ran on and went into another house, in which he had commanded some ancient and admirable pictures to be placed.
But when our pleadings on behalf of justice were thus broken up, and cut short, and interrupted, and crushed as one may almost say, we, being wearied and exhausted, and having no strength left in us, but being in continual expectation of nothing else than death, could no longer keep our hearts as they had been, but in our agony we took refuge in supplications to the one true God, praying him to check the wrath of this falsely called god. And he took compassion on us, and turned his mind to pity. And he becoming pacified merely said, "These men do not appear to me to be wicked so much as unfortunate and foolish, in not believing that I have been endowed with the nature of God;" and so he dismissed us, and commanded us to depart.
On the Embassy to Gaius (XLV)
See also Commodus as Hercules and Venus Pudica; both the Esquiline Venus and Commodus are in the Palazzo dei Conservatori (Rome).
References: The Works of Philo Judaeus, the Contemporary of Josephus (1854-1855) translated by Charles Duke Yonge.
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