There was the tyrannical Nero, who is said to have murdered his mother, Caligula who tried to reinstate his favourite horse as consul and Commodus, a passionate follower of gladiatorial combat.
But some were also revered. Succeeding the notorious emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty was Trajan, who ruled the empire for 19 years, between 98-117AD. He presided over pioneering public projects and bought relative peace and stability to the empire, while overseeing the greatest military expansion in Roman history.
A contemporary marble bust of Trajan has been consigned to Chiswick Auctions’ Antiquities & Tribal Art sale in London on June 14.
The 15in (39cm) high carving shows a clean-shaven emperor, stoic and austere, with his signature hair (in the style of the Emperor Augustus) falling straight down his forehead and around his ears.
The bust is estimated at £8000-12,000 and has resided in the same English private collection for half a century.
Sotheby’s in London will hold a sale of Classical sculpture and works of art two days earlier on June 12. Among the highlights are four large Roman marble figures of women, which have been removed from the opulent ‘El Cerro’ villa in Jamaica where they have stood for the last 50 years. Each measure over 6ft (1.8m) high and date from c.2nd century AD.
Offered individually, estimates range from £100,000-350,000.