August 8, 2007—Some people are larger than life. Others simply want to be carved that way.
For the Roman emperor Hadrian, life size just wasn't big enough, according to archaeologists who recently unearthed a colossal statue of the second-century A.D. ruler in Turkey.
Scientists came across the giant marble likeness last weekend while excavating a complex of ornate Roman baths in the ancient city of Sagalassos, 68 miles (109 kilometers) north of the resort town of Antalya (see Turkey map).
The team excavated a giant head (inset), foot, and leg each about 2.5 feet (0.75 meter) long, leading the experts to estimate the size of the complete statue at some 16 feet (5 meters).
The marble is among the most exquisite carvings of the leader ever found and depicts Hadrian early in his reign, said lead archaeologist Marc Waelkens of Belgium's Catholic University of Leuven.
"The statue represents the younger Hadrian as shown by the plain eyes (without indication of pupils or irises) [and] the scarce use of the drill in the hair," Waelkens said in an email.
During his rule from A.D. 117 to 138, Hadrian enjoyed great popularity in Sagalassos for bringing trade to the city and transforming it into a provincial hub of politics and culture, Waelkens added.
As his team continues to dig, Waelkens expects to find more monuments to Hadrian's legacy, he noted.
"It can be expected that the remaining parts of the statue, and possibly that of other ones (e.g. his wife, Sabina), will be discovered during next year's season, below more than six meters [two feet] of debris, mainly consisting of Roman concrete," he said.
—Blake de Pastino
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