Yorkshire Museum

Bust of Constantine the Great

This marble bust carved in the image of the Roman emperor, Constantine the Great is a very rare and hugely significant object to have been found in Britain. 

Originally standing twice-life size, this marble statue depicts the Emperor Constantine who was, famously, declared Emperor right here in Eboracum by his father, the Emperor Constantius Chlorus, who died here quite suddenly in AD306. Chlorus was only the second Emperor who we can be sure had been based at York for a short time; the first was Septimius Severus a century earlier. During this time York was one of the political and administrative capitals of the whole Roman Empire.  

We can be sure that this image does represents the Emperor Constantine because of the oak-leaf crown on his head and the fact he does not have a beard. We know from coin evidence that Constantine is the first emperor since Trajan (AD 98-117) not to have worn a beard. 

This statue is presumed to have been commissioned to celebrate Constantine having being proclaimed emperor right here in York in 306 and would have taken up a prominent position in the fortress near the headquarters building. The head itself is quite considerably weathered; identifying that it has been on display outside for a long time.  

As well as being the only statue of an Emperor known from Roman Britain, it is also the largest known human portrait from the city of York and one of a very small number of statues in marble.  

Please note: The Yorkshire Museum is home to an extensive and varied collection of items and artefacts. Whilst we make every effort to display a broad spectrum of our collections it is not always possible for all our collections to be on display at once.