A-to-Z Index

GHUM250

Foundations of Western

Culture: The Romans

Spring 2013


Required Procedures:

1) Choose one of the objects below. 

2) Carefully look at the photograph and read the information.

3) Research any unfamiliar words or imagery.

4) Make an appointment with Dr. Stevens via email (stevenke@jmu.edu) to view your object. 

* Include in your email all the names of those in your group and each object that they wish to view.

* Generally Dr. Stevens can meet with you Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:00-4:00 and Tuesday, Thursdays, and Fridays from 9:00-noon.

5) You will be able to view your object ONLY at your appointed time in Festival room 1010, the Charles Lisanby Center.  Please bring a pencil with which to take notes and your camera if you wish to take additional photographs.

6) All images and information below may be used for scholastic purposes by citing this website as your source.  If you have further questions about your selected object, please email Dr. Kate Stevens (stevenke@jmu.edu).

Juno

Juno Regina
76.1.754

Roman: Imperial Period, c. 200 CE

Carved marble, 63 cm tall

Juno Regina, or Juno the Queen, protected the Roman people.  With her husband Jupiter and his daughter Minerva, the three were the Capitoline Triad, a divine family that had been worshipped the three were the Capitoline Triad, a divine family worshipped at least as early as Rome's Etruscan period.

Juno Regina represented the physical land of the city as well as the women who lived there.  It is believed that in Etruscan times queens of city-states, as the embodiment of Juno, must grant their approval before a king could be appointed.  If true, this would explain the prominent role of women in this state cult, a tradition that continued through the ludi saeculares under the rule of Augustus.

This statue of Juno Regina is a pastiche, or a combination of other sculptures combined to form a whole.  This becomes apparent upon close inspection of the raised right arm of the statue as well as the base of the neck.  The proportions of the arm, the more shallow folds of the clothing, as well as the slightly greyer color of the marble, indicate that this was from an entirely different statue.  The head is slightly smaller than the proportions of the body and is carved in a softer style, also indicating that it is from another work.  Regardless, the stance and voluminous drapery of the main body of the statue indicate that it originally was of Juno Regina.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Commodus

Commodus as Hercules
76.1.756

Roman: Imperial Period, c. 190 CE

Carved marble, 18.5 cm tall

Imperial portraits of the ruler were frequently dispersed throughout the Roman empire as a symbol of his power and authority.  Images of Commodus can be easily identified because of his affiliation with the hero Hercules (as seen by the lion skin in this work) and his beard (traditionally worn by those who achieve the highest education in philosophy).  Some scholars believe that Commodus was insane, using this personal identification with Hercules as proof, but other powerful leaders such as Alexander the Great also used images of himself combined with the Greek hero.  This use should instead have been seen as a symbol of Commodus's divine elevation and heroic nature, part of the imperial image.

This statue of Commodus is carved from marble, but far from the refined Roman image, it is more squat and muscular and so probably was made in the provinces, perhaps in Germany.  It was intended to be viewed from within its place in a wall niche, hence the sculptor used a heavy relief and drill technique so that the shadows create greater three dimensionality.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Oil Lamp with Fac eof a Gaul

"Gaul" Oil Lamp
76.1.536

Roman: Imperial Period, c.100 CE

Ceramic, 10.8cm wide

Artificial lighting was commonplace in the Roman world.  Candles, made from beeswax or tallow, existed but were used mainly by the wealthy upper class.  Lamps fueled with inexpensive olive oil survive in great numbers and have been studied in minute detail. 

These clay lamps were created from molds in workshops that turned out large numbers of this standardized product.  The typical lamp is made from ceramic, with a single nozzle, a central discus with a hole to fill it with oil.  The discus was usually decorated: scenes from everyday life, hunting scenes, and mythological stories.

This oil lamp is made in the shape of a bearded face, with the mouth allowing the inner area to be filled with oil.  Because of the heavy beard and his Phrygian cap we can identify this as a caricature of a Gaul (a Celtic person from modern France), a group of people whom the Roman considered uncivilized.  The Latin word for beard, barb (also very similar to the Latin barbar meaning “foreign”) became the modern word “barbarian.”

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Oil lamp of Secutore Gladiator

"Secutore Gladiator" Oil Lamp
76.1.540

Roman: Imperial Period, c. 100 CE

Ceramic, 10.8cm

Artificial lighting was commonplace in the Roman world.  Candles, made from beeswax or tallow, existed but were used mainly by the wealthy upper class.  Lamps fueled with inexpensive olive oil survive in great numbers and have been studied in minute detail. 

These clay lamps were created from moulds in workshops that turned out large numbers of this standardized product.  The typical lamp is made from ceramic, with a single nozzle, a central discus with a hole to fill it with oil.  The discus was usually decorated: scenes from everyday life, hunting scenes, and mythological stories.

This oil lamp depicts a fallen secutore gladiator.  The secutore were one of the best armed fighters in the Roman arena.  This type of gladiator can be determined because of the curved rectangular shield (scutum), the protective wrappings on his right arm (manica), and the gladius in his right hand.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Gladius

Gladius
76.1.778

Roman (Germany): Imperial Period, c. 250 CE

Bronze, 47.8cm long

While Hollywood has mislead people into thinking ancient battles were fought with large elaborate swords, the most popular weapon was actually a short sword.  The Roman military traditionally fought in tightly formed ranks based on the century unit, overseen by a centurion.   In these large groups, the short sword allowed each man to use his shield to protect his companion while stabbing the enemy with this light weapon. 

The word “gladiator” came from this weapon, originally indicating slaves and prisoners of war who fought at funerary games.  This gladius is missing the carved wooden handle and ball pommel which were broken in ancient times.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Strigil

Strigil
76.1.664

Roman: Imperial Period, c. 200 CE

The aryballos and strigil were part of the everyday gym equipment for Greco-Roman men.  Everyone was expected to attend the gymnasium, not only for physical education, but most importantly for the social and political aspects.  Men traditionally exercised in the nude, coating themselves with olive oil (stored in the aryballos).  After working out, they would remove the oil, sweat, and dirt with the strigil. 

The strigil could also be used after massage as a means of removing excess oil.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Aryballos

Aryballos
76.1.727

Roman: Imperial Period, c. 100 CE

The aryballos and strigil were part of the everyday gym equipment for Greco-Roman men.  Everyone was expected to attend the gymnasium, not only for physical education, but most importantly for the social and political aspects.  Men traditionally exercised in the nude, coating themselves with olive oil (stored in the aryballos).  After working out, they would remove the oil, sweat, and dirt with the strigil.

This aryballos is made from hand-blown glass and not the common ceramic ones typically found.  We can thus assume it was owned by an individual of high status since glass was highly valued by the ancient Romans.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Denarius of Caesar AugustusDenarius of Caesar Augustus

Denarius of Caesar Augustus
1997.1.57

Rome: Imperial, 27 BCE

Silver, 1.9cm wide

This silver coin depicts the face of the goddess Nike (Victory) on the obverse while the reverse shows Caesar Augustus as the sea god Neptune resting his foot on the globe of the world.  This not only shows the power of Rome as a “world” conqueror, but also debunks the myth that no one knew the world was round until Christopher Columbus took his epic voyage. (The Greek scholar Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the Earth before his death in 194 BCE.)

Roman coins were made of a variety of metals, but the manufacturing process was the same.  The metal was first either rolled into a sheet and stamped into round blanks or was melted and then poured into round molds.  The metal blank was then placed between two dies and struck so that the image was transferred to the newly minted coin.  Each die had been laboriously created by engraving a rough image into the iron die and then given to a celator who carved the fine details into the image.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Denarius of Augustus ObvDenarius of Augustus Rev

Denarius of Caesar Augustus Celebrating His Triumph at Actium
1997.1.56

Rome: Imperial, 28 BCE

Silver, 2cm wide

This silver coin features a portrait of Gaius Octavius, better known as Caesar Augustus, the first citizen of Rome.  The reverse of the coin depicts a crocodile, the symbol of Egypt, with the text “Egypto Capta.”  This inscription refers to Augustus’s recent victory over Queen Cleopatra of Egypt and Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium.

Roman coins were made of a variety of metals, but the manufacturing process was the same.  The metal was first either rolled into a sheet and stamped into round blanks or was melted and then poured into round molds.  The metal blank was then placed between two dies and struck so that the image was transferred to the newly minted coin.  Each die had been laboriously created by engraving a rough image into the iron die and then given to a celator who carved the fine details into the image.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Sestertius of Trajan ObvSestertius of Trajan Rev

Sestertius of Trajan
1997.1.70

Rome: Imperial, 117-138 CE

Bronze, 3.2 cm wide

This bronze coin was actually issued by the Emperor Hadrian as a commemoration of his predecessor, Trajan.  The obverse shows Hadrian shaking hands with Roma, the goddess of the city. Hadrian also completed the Forum of Trajan, a complex that includes famous structures such as the Basilica Ulpia, the Column of Trajan, and a temple to the Deified Trajan.

Roman coins were made of a variety of metals, but the manufacturing process was the same.  The metal was first either rolled into a sheet and stamped into round blanks or was melted and then poured into round molds.  The metal blank was then placed between two dies and struck so that the image was transferred to the newly minted coin.  Each die had been laboriously created by engraving a rough image into the iron die and then given to a celator who carved the fine details into the image.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill

Sestertius of Faustina The Younger ObvSestertius of Faustina The Younger Rev

Sestertius of Faustina the Younger
1997.1.74

Rome: Imperial, 175 CE
Bronze, 3.2cm wide

This bronze coin features the portrait of Faustina the Younger, the wife of the emperor Marcus Aurelius.  While history has not treated her kindly, she accompanied her husband on numerous campaigns and was so beloved of his soldiers that she was given the name “Mater Castrorum” or Mother of the Camp. 

The coin’s obverse shows her with a bow and arrow, associating her with Diana, the goddess of the hunt.  While modern audiences immediately associate this visual pairing with Faustina’s refusal to play the traditional Roman matron, it is likely that the ancient Romans would have instead seen it as a reference to Diana’s maternal aspect as she was also the protectress of all children, human and animal alike.

Roman coins were made of a variety of metals, but the manufacturing process was the same.  The metal was first either rolled into a sheet and stamped into round blanks or was melted and then poured into round molds.  The metal blank was then placed between two dies and struck so that the image was transferred to the newly minted coin.  Each die had been laboriously created by engraving a rough image into the iron die and then given to a celator who carved the fine details into the image.

Gift of Drs. John and Bessie Sawhill