• 25 Nov - 01 Dec, 2023
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During sewer repair work near the Appia Antica (Appian Way), ancient Rome's first highway, a life-sized statue of a Roman emperor dressed as the classical hero Hercules was discovered. It appeared, face first, as a bulldozer ripped through old pipelines that needed to be replaced. An archaeologist in charge of the project stepped in right away. "This face appeared, and it was immediately identified as a character dressed as Hercules," archaeologist Francesca Romana Paolillo of the Appia Antica park told Reuters. The marble sculpture, depicting a Hercules-like figure with the hero's trademark lion skin and club, was discovered on January 25 at Scott Park, which is part of the Appia Antica green area. It has frown lines on the brow, which are typical of depictions of emperors from the third century, when the Roman Empire was in deep crisis. According to Paolillo, the sculpture bears a "fair resemblance" to Emperor Decius, who ruled Rome from 249 to 251 AD, and it is "quite rare" to find Herculean depictions of Roman leaders. The statue, which is made up of several broken pieces and was accidentally damaged during its discovery, is currently being cleaned and restored. It was discovered while being stored in an ancient Roman water reservoir that has been converted into a warehouse. The statue will be returned to the public once it has been repaired. Decius was the first Roman emperor to be assassinated in battle, fighting against the Goths in modern-day Bulgaria, and was responsible for the first organised persecution of Christians.