A bust of Germanicus with a broken nose and a cross on his forehead. It is located in the British Museum in London. | Photo: Carole Raddato
Numerous antique sculptures with an engraved cross on the forehead or chin and a broken nose, for example, have survived to this day. These actions were the work of both vandalism and accident.
Speaking of coincidence, I mean simply the passage of time and the fact that the noses, due to the ease of fracture, broke as a result of being crushed or influenced by other objects. The absence of a nose is not the only example of damage. Many sculptures without hands, fingers, head or legs have also been preserved. All these parts of the work were exposed to such damage. It cannot be ruled out that the damage mentioned was the work of man and vandalism.
The situation is quite different in the case of the visible crosses on the heads of the figures depicted, which were a deliberate act of early Christians who gradually gained a strong position in the Roman Empire. Some of the sculptures (such as the head of Aphrodite from the Acropolis) have additionally damaged eyes – such destruction was reportedly intended to blind the ancient deities.
The activities of early Christians were primarily aimed at desecrating ancient deities, as well as marking the sculptures for reuse, e.g. for the presentation of their saints.
August’s head with a cross on his forehead
Livia’s head with a cross on her forehead and a broken nose
The head of Aphrodite of Athens with a broken nose and a cross on her chin and forehead