Sardonyx cameo portrait of the Emperor Augustus

Period: Early Imperial, Claudian

Date: ca. A.D. 41–54

Culture: Roman

Medium: Sardonyx

Dimensions: 1 7/16 × 1 1/8 × 5/16 in. (3.7 × 2.9 × 0.8 cm)

Classification: Gems

Credit Line: Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1942

Accession Number: 42.11.30


The cameo depicts Augustus as a triumphant demigod wearing the aegis, a cape usually associated with Jupiter and Minerva. Here, it is decorated with the head of a wind god, perhaps intended as a personification of the summer winds that brought the corn fleet from Egypt to Rome and so an oblique reference to Augustus’s annexation of Egypt after the defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra at Actium in 31 B.C.