Roman Britain, 4th century AD From Thetford, Norfolk
A dancing satyr
This gold belt buckle is part of a remarkable hoard of late-Roman gold jewellery and silver tableware found near Thetford, Norfolk, in 1979.
The figure on the plate is a dancing satyr holding a bunch of grapes. Two horses’ heads form the loop or bow. The buckle is one of a number of explicitly pagan items in the treasure, which was buried around AD 390, by which time the Roman Empire was officially Christian.
This jug is the finest faience vessel surviving from the Hellenistic world. It takes the form of Eros, the Greek god of love, clinging to the neck of a duck on whose back he is riding.
The combination of traditional Egyptian techniques with a purely Greek theme is characteristic of the products of the faience industry at Alexandria. The court of the Ptolemies (the Hellenistic Greek rulers of Egypt) at Alexandria was a great artistic centre. It became the focus for cultural exchange between the Greek and Egyptian worlds and their distinctive artistic traditions.
Fired clay statuette of Europa riding the bull-figure of Zeus, galloping to the right; she sits sidewards on the bull’s back with her legs crossed, holding the veil to the side of the face with the right hand, and the end of the drapery, close to her knee with the left hand; her left elbow rests on a cushion; nude except for the wide transparent bordered veil; hair parted in the middle and drawn back from the face; on the head she wears a diadem from which the long veil descends; the group is placed on a high oval base, representing a rock (?); double mould, open base; back well worked; venthole in the base; pale greenish clay; remnants of lime wash; traces of original pigments, namely blue paint on the veil, pink on flesh, red on the base and black on the borders of the veil and on the bull’s head.
Excavated from a “stone circle between Kunur and Kartari, on the Nilgiris…about six feet in diameter…[in which] a number of weapons and implements were discovered embedded in a thick layer of charcoal…”
These case or box mirrors, constructed just like modern, hinged ladies’ compacts, were very fashionable from the later 5th century into the 4th century. The decoration of the cover was always in repoussé. Frequently there was another disk within this cover with an incised decoration of a mythological figure. The actual mirror is the highly polished top of the bottom half of the box. A loop at the hinge allowed the mirror to be suspended as a wall decoration when not in active use.