Classical Antiquities :
Classical Bronzes : Roman Bronze Votive Plaque Depicting a Goddess
Roman Bronze Votive Plaque Depicting a Goddess - X.0158
Origin: Black Sea Region
3.875" (9.8cm) high
x 4.25" (10.8cm) wide
Small votive plaques forged from precious metals
such as this one were common to the regions of
the western Black Sea coast under Roman
control. Scholars believe that the images of a
woman likely represent a fertility goddess. Even
as Hellenistic influence began to infiltrate Asia
Minor, the Anatolian cult of the mother goddess,
which can be traced back to the Neolithic era,
remained a vital force. The Phyrigian goddess
Cybele represented one of the most popular
adaptations of this ancient fertility goddess.
Called the Great Mother, she was one of the few
Eastern deities whose cult was absorbed into the
Roman pantheon almost fully intact.
She is generally depicted on such plaques
crowned with a kalathos, a type of tiered basket,
holding her arms in front of her, revealing her
open palms to the viewer. However, here, she
wears an elaborate floral diadem headdress and
the frame of the composition truncates her arms.
Instead, the artist has chosen to emphasize the
jewelry that adorns her body, including a
necklace with a crescent pendant, armbands,
earrings, and a thin headband. Flanking the
goddess in the field on either side of her bust are
two cult objects: a torch on the left, and a pair of
cymbals on the right. The presence of the torch
may indicate that this goddess is not Cybele, but
Bendis, whose cult was famous for torch races.
Although the identity of the goddess represented
here may be uncertain, we can be sure that she
represented a contemporary version of the
ancient Anatolian Mother Goddess.