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Drusilla sacerdos o diva nella Colonia Augusta Himereorum Thermitanorum?


Among the sculptures of the Museo Civico of Termini Imerese that were published by Nicola Bonacasa in 1960, a female portrait head of a Julio-Claudian princess is remarkable for its excellent workmanship. The paper deals with the problem of the identification of the subject, variously referred to as Agrippina I, Agrippina II, Messalina or Drusilla, according to the interpretation of the portrait series “Glyptothek of Munich 316- Caere” to which the head belongs. The comparanda, some iconographic details giving a certain aura of sanctity to the subject, and the very strong physiognomical resemblance with the likenesses of Caligula confirm the hypothesis that the woman portrayed in the head from Thermae was the beloved sister of the emperor, Drusilla. The princess was honored perhaps as sacerdos divi Augusti (if really she had for a while a such religious role, after the death of Antonia II) or more probably as diva Drusilla, after her untimely death in 38 A.D. As a matter of fact, the evaluation of the context from which the head comes, vaguely referred to by 17th-19th scholars and travellers as “the House of Sthenius” (a famous citizen of Thermae quoted by Cicero), allows to reconstruct an Imperial Cult building, in which the statue of Drusilla was dedicated: it was an edifice lavishly decorated with marbles, located under the cathedral of Termini in the southern part of the ancient forum, from which also a base of a statue of the divus Commodus comes. The intriguing hypothesis could be made that a colossal foot bearing a sumptuous “parade boot”, of unknown findspot, belongs indeed to a lost statue of the divus Augustus that was worshiped in the same context.