John William Waterhouse: The favourites of the Emperor Honorius (1883)


(Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)

A painting by the English artist John William Waterhouse (1849 – 1917). This piece was inspired by a scene mentioned in the book "History of the Wars" by Procopius of Caesarea (A.D. 500-554) and is about the Western Roman Emperor Honorius (reign A.D. 393 to 423):

"At that time they say that the Emperor Honorius in Ravenna received the message from one of the eunuchs, evidently a keeper of the poultry, that Rome had perished. And he cried out and said, 'And yet it has just eaten from my hands!' For he had a very large rooster, Rome by name; and the eunuch comprehending his words said that it was the city of Rome which had perished at the hands of Alaric (in A.D. 410) , and the emperor with a sigh of relief answered quickly: 'But I thought that my fowl Rome had perished.' So great, they say, was the folly with which this emperor was possessed"

Waterhouse shows the Honorius sitting on his throne, busy feeding his favorite birds while several councilors are seeking his attention. Painting from 1883.

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