April 14, 2008—He supposedly preferred to remain behind the scenes, but after 1,800 years one of Rome's most reclusive emperors has been thrust into the limelight.
A statue of Lucius Verus, who ruled ancient Rome alongside his more famous adopted brother Marcus Aurelius, was recently recovered among a cache of looted artifacts, Italian officials say.
Investigators found the intricately carved marble head in a boathouse near Rome, saying the find was particularly significant because Lucius was reluctant to pose for official portraits. Only four other depictions of Lucius are known to exist, experts said.
The likeness will prove useful to scholars studying the mysterious ruler, whose family saga was complex enough to rival most prime-time soaps.
Lucius was the son of a Roman senator who was in line to succeed the emperor Hadrian. When the emperor died, Hadrian selected another successor and ordered him to adopt both Lucius and Hadrian's own nephew, Marcus Aurelius, as his sons.
The brothers rose to power as co-emperors in A.D. 161. But Marcus reportedly arranged to be sole bearer of the title pontifex maximus, or high priest, giving him more authority.
Whether the "other" emperor was shy or merely overshadowed, Lucius will take on a very public profile later this month, when the newfound statue goes on display in a Roman museum.
—Blake de Pastino