The Careworn faces of past leaders

People who think that Trump and Biden are looking old, or that Boris Johnson tired, should compare their problems to those of Roman Emperors. Especially those from the troubled years of the third century. If you want to see the toll it took, you could do worse than visit the marvellous series of reconstructions by Daniel Voshart on Artbreeder.

The superb excellence of Imperial Portrait Sculpture has long been well-known. Trouble was, they were all in dead white stone. Something was lacking. Now Voshart has used both ancient sources and advanced AI to bring them to stunning, coloured 3D life. If television viewers claim to see character in the faces of our modern leaders, here it is at last for another age. We’ve posted two links below.**

If you want to see what stress does to the human face, look particularly at the haunted features of the Emperor Decius (249-251). He knew he was up against it before he took the job. Since 165, the once marvellous Roman system had been torn apart by plagues and civil wars. Since 235, they had got a lot more frequent. Decius’ first act was to rise in rebellion against his mentor, the Emperor Phillip, who was killed. Nothing odd in that; every third century Emperor expected to go quickly, either to the knife or military rebellion. But it couldn’t have helped with a good night’s sleep. Decius’s use of the Balkan armies to seize the throne left those provinces wide open to the Goths, who duly took advantage. Another big one on his to do list-no wonder those lines are etched so deep! Meanwhile he launched the first empire wide persecution of Christians, in an attempt to boost general morale. It failed on both counts. So, turning back to those pesky Goths, he marched back up to the Balkans, only to lead his army into a swamp and be overwhelmed. He was the first Emperor to be defeated and killed, which showed that suddenly the Romans had lost their mojo. At least he didn’t have to worry about hiring a stress counsellor any more.

To make it easy we’ve linked a WIKIPEDIA article* on the third century crisis below. Read it as you leaf through Voshart’s gallery. To any aspiring politician we say “Be careful what you wish for.” How about journalism or property development as an alternative career?

#voshart #romanemperors #stress #donaldtrump #joebiden #borisjohnson #crisisthirdcentury #AI #facialreconstruction

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