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Wax portrait‐masks of Romans who had held the higher magistracies (see magistracy, roman), were prominently displayed in the family mansion (see houses, italian), with lines of descent and distinctions indicated. They were worn by actors impersonating the deceased in full ceremonial dress at public sacrifices and family funerals, at first only of male descendants, after c.100 bc gradually of female descendants as well (see Iulius Caesar 1, Gaius). The right to this, and to having one's own imagō preserved, was forfeited by criminal conviction, by proscription, and, under the empire, by damnatio memoriae. The families ‘known’ (see nobiles) to the public through these processions formed the nobilitas. By the early empire, and probably even in the late republic, the imagines of all qualified men to whom the deceased was related by birth or marriage seem to have been displayed at his funeral. The custom lasted into the late empire. These imagines played a part in the development of Roman portraiture.

Subjects: Classical studies

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