A Roman Bronze Socket Bident, ca. 1st century AD


derived from the Latin word "Bidentis" (having two prongs), the two-pronged implement resembling a pitchfork, the tips both curving inward, the tang bent for attachment. In classical mythology, the bident has been associated with Pluto, the ruler of the underworld, while the three-pronged trident is the implement of Poseidon (Neptune), ruler of the sea and of earthquakes.

In Roman agriculture, the bidens (genitive bidentis) was a double-bladed drag hoe or two-pronged mattock, used to break up and turn ground that was rocky and hard. Bidens are pictured on mosaics and other forms of Roman art, as well as tombstones to mark the occupation of the deceased.

The spear of Achilles is said by a few sources to be bifurcated. Achilles had been instructed in its use by Peleus, who had in turn learned from Chiron the Centaur. The implement may have associations with Thessaly. A black-figured amphora from Corneto (Etruscan Tarquinia) depicts a scene from the hunt for the Calydonian boar, part of a series of adventures that took place in the general area. Peleus is accompanied by Castor, who is attacking the boar with a two-pronged spear. On Lydian coins that show Plouton abducting Persephone in his four-horse chariot, the god holds his characteristic scepter, the ornamented point of which has sometimes been interpreted as a bident. Other visual representations of the bident on ancient objects appear to have been either modern-era reconstructions, or in the possession of figures not securely identified as the ruler of the underworld.

Condition: Expected surface wear, but in good condition overall.  With museum-quality custom mount.

Dimensions:   Height: 6 3/4 inches (17.14 cm)

Provenance: The Hauge Collection of Ancient & Iranian Art, assembled between 1962 and 1966. Foreign service brothers, Victor and Osborne Hauge, together with their wives Takako and Gratia, assembled their collection of Persian, Japanese, Chinese, and Southeast Asian works of fine and folk art while stationed overseas with the US government after WWII. In consultation with academics and dealers, the Hauges assembled over two decades of what former Freer Gallery of Art director Harold Stern described in 1957 as "without doubt one of the finest private collections in the world". Victor and Takako published Folk Traditions in Japanese Art to coincide with a traveling exhibition held from 1978 at the Cleveland Museum of Art; Japan House Gallery, New York; and Asian Art Museum, San Francisco. Much of their collection was donated to the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institute culminating in an exhibition and published catalogue in 2000. The balance of the collection, including this object, was inherited by descent in 2016.

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