The ancient Romans were into cancel culture. If a former emperor’s reputation fell into disgrace, all his statues, images and likenesses were destroyed — even on coins. Yet they were also a pragmatic people, and didn’t always bother to ruin perfectly serviceable statuary if a lesser figure fell from grace.

They went for economy of effort. In the museum at the Roman site in Catanzaro in Calabria, you can find toga’d marble bodies which turn out to have interchangeable heads: with the arrival of a new senator or local bigwig, only the face of the incomer would have to be re-sculpted, and the new head popped on to the existing figure, fitting with a peg into a hole in the shoulders like a giant piece of Lego. Definitely pragmatic.

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