A Roman Gold Ring of Serapis, ca 1st century BC/AD

of high karat gold, the bezel cast with a draped bust of Serapis in right profile, the bearded god with thick curly hair, the voluminous locks center parted and bound in a foliate wreath.   On his head is a calathus or modius, a basket or grain measure that held about a quarter of a bushel, symbolizing the fertility and bounty of the earth and an association with Osiris, the god of grain.  Both bezel and shank are bordered by an applied beaded wire.

Background:  The god Serapis, whose main cult center was in Alexandria, was thought to have been invented by Ptolemy I Soter as a tool for the fusion of Greek and indigenous Egyptian religions. There is some evidence, however, that the god had already existed in late Pharaonic Egypt.  Of the numerous surviving depictions of Serapis, many of them show him in a three-quarter frontal view, which must reflect the original pose of the cult statue in which the god was seated with his head slightly turned. Serapis was worshipped throughout the Roman world in the guise of Zeus, ruler of the heavens, or that of Hades, god of the Underworld. All show the god with long wavy hair in the manner of Olympian Zeus, crowned with a modius; some have anastole locks at the forehead while others have a fringe of vertical locks, as on the example presented here, with the anastole type perhaps representing an earlier version.  

Condition:  The ring is intact and in excellent condition overall. 

Dimensions:  US ring size: 7 1/4

Provenance:   Private Virginia collection, acquired from the London trade in the mid 1960's.


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