John Pollini

Classical Archaeology/Art History/History, Los Angeles
Fellowship: 15.10.2017–14.07.2018



John Pollini received his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.  After teaching at Case Western Reserve University and at Johns Hopkins University, where he also served as Curator of the University's Archaeological Museum, he joined the faculty of the University of Southern California, where he has taught since 1987. He has received numerous fellowships and awards, including a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, three National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships, two American Council of Learned Societies Fellowships, and a Fulbright Fellowship, and he has served as Whitehead Professor of Archaeology at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Among his other honors, he is a Corresponding Member of the German Archaeological Institute. Professor Pollini has lectured widely in the United States, Canada, and Europe. His numerous publications deal with various aspects of Greek and Roman art, considered in an interdisciplinary context. In addition to his project for the Morphomata Fellowship, he is presently completing work on his book »Christian Destruction and Desecration of Images and Temples of Classical Antiquity.«


Fields of Research

  • Classical Art
  • Archaeology
  • History


Project outline

Augustus Caesar: From Image to Icon


The public perception of the leader of any government is a factor of major importance in the successful operation of that government. Whether in antiquity or in our own day, this perception is advanced through »image-making,« which takes different forms depending on time, place, and circumstances. My case study focuses on the image of Augustus Caesar, a central figure of Western civilization, and how his image (perceptual, literary, and visual) became an icon of Roman leadership. At a personal level, a leader’s psychological need to convince himself of his self-worth and place in history may result in his believing and becoming the image created. To be considered, therefore, are not just political factors but also the possible effects of Augustus’ upbringing, education, and certain physiological and psychological handicaps in the creation of his image. In the formation, reception, and transmission of Augustus’ image, the role of rhetoric, biography, autobiography, and history will also be examined.  My interdisciplinary approach reevaluates not only what constitutes Augustus’ image/icon but also the process of image-making in a broader sense, which has wider implications and ramifications for our understanding of the iconography and iconology of personal imagery over the course of the centuries.


Publications (Selection)


  • From Republic to Empire: Rhetoric, Religion, and Power in the Visual Culture of Ancient Rome (2012).
  • Terra Marique: Studies in Art History and Marine Archaeology (ed.) (2005).
  • The de Nion Head: A Masterpiece of Archaic Greek Sculpture (2003).
  • Gallo-Roman Bronzes and the Process of Romanization: The Cobannus Hoard (Monumenta Graeca et Romana IX) (2002).
  • Roman Portraiture: Images of Character and Virtue (1990).
  • The Portraiture of Gaius and Lucius Caesar (1987).



  • »The God from Cape Artemision: Zeus or Poseidon? An Old Question, a New Approach,«  in Monographie Instrumentum 52, edd. A. Giumlia-Mair and C.C. Mattusch (2016) 219-230.
  • »Some Observations on the Use of Color on Ancient Sculpture, Contemporary Scientific Exploration, and Exhibition Displays,« in Interdisciplinary Studies on Ancient Stone, edd. P. Pensabene and E. Gasparini (2015) II, 901-910.
  • »Recutting Roman Portraits: Problems in Interpretation and the New Technology in Finding Possible Solutions,« MAAR 55 (2010) 23-44.
  • »The Augustus from Prima Porta and the Transformation of the Polykleitan Heroic Ideal,« in Polykleitos, the Doryphoros, and Tradition, ed. W. Moon (1995) 262-282.