The ‘Mouth of Truth’ and the Forum Boarium: Oceanus, Hercules, and Hadrian

Fabio Barry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


The Bocca della Verita (Mouth of Truth) has earned popular fame as an enchanted lie detector. The ancient effigy actually represents the god Oceanus: primordial water, end of the earth and threshold of the heavens, spring- board from history to eternity. As such, the figure recurrently surfaces in Roman iconography, mythography, rhetoric, political history, numismatics, hymnody, and material symbolism. In the context of the Forum Boarium, the Bocca was integral to the myth of the Romanized Hercules; evidence suggests its creation in Hadrian's reign as part of a universal symbolism that charac- terized the emperor as cosmocrat and alter Hercules.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-37
Number of pages31
JournalThe Art Bulletin
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


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