Lot 40: Roman Cybele Statuette
December 6, 2016
London, United KingdomLive Auction
Description: 1st-2nd century AD. A silver statuette of the goddess Cybele, seated on a throne with tall headdress, tympanum supported by her left hand, lion sitting at her side. Cf. Rolland, H. Bronzes Antiques de Haute Provence, Paris, 1965, item 148 for type. See Vermuele, C. Greek and Roman Sculpture in Gold and Silver, for a discussion of statues in precious metals. 15 grams, 35mm (1 1/2"). Property of a London gentleman; formerly the property of a Surrey gentleman, acquired 1970s. The polos crown, tympanum and lion by her side identify this figure as the goddess Cybele, an extremely ancient deity who originated in Anatolia, and whose worship would spread across the Roman Empire as one of the Mystery Religions. Her main temple was at Pessinus, Anatolia, now modern day Turkey. Here the goddess was worshipped in the form of a large block of stone, believed to be a meteorite, and her original ancient name would appear to be Kubaba, meaning 'Mountain Mother'. Her worship was adopted by Greek colonists in Asia Minor from where it would spread to mainland Greece in the sixth century BC. In Rome, Cybele was known as Magna Mater (Great Mother"). The Roman State adopted and developed a particular form of her cult after the Sibylline oracle recommended her conscription as a key religious component in Rome's second war against Carthage. Roman mythographers reinvented her as a Trojan goddess, and thus an ancestral goddess of the Roman people by way of the Trojan prince Aeneas. With Rome's eventual hegemony over the Mediterranean world, Romanised forms of Cybele's cults spread throughout the Roman Empire. A temple was dedicated to the goddess on the Palatine Hill close to the Imperial palace, and she also had a major shrine on the Vatican Hill close to the hippodrome of Caligula, present day site of the Vatican City. Her cult was associated with eastern exoticism and most notably the eunuch priests who served the goddess, and as such was often looked upon with suspicion by conservative Romans; the Senate banned any Roman male from joining her priesthood. However, her worship proved extremely popular and continued to flourish well after the adoption of Christianity as the state religion.
Condition Report: Fine condition, right arm and part of tympanum absent.