The excavations of Metro C in Rome have brought to light a masterpiece of craftsmanship: a very rare golden glass depicting the Goddess Rome, legendary personification of the Eternal City.
The iconographic theme is not new to classical art, the representation of the Goddess Rome is present on various coins, starting from 269 BC, and on prominent monuments, such as the Ara Pacis Augustae and the column of the emperor Antoninus Pius.
The novelty of finding, which took place near the Porta Metronia station, is linked both to the subject and to the type of support. In fact, a golden glass with the personification of the city of Rome had never been found. There extraordinary executive finesse and perfect state of conservation of the object, probably dating back to the beginning of the XNUMXth century AD, betray its value and history.
The find originally made up the bottom of a cup. It was a refined and precious object, most likely a gift, which exploited the transparency of the liquid to show diners and cupbearers "the noble simplicity and quiet grandeur" of the Goddess Rome.
The divinity, personification not only of the city of Rome, but in general of Roman state, is represented there in Amazonian dress, armed with a spear, shield and decorated helmet. Her face in profile, proud and elegant, with her gaze busy scanning the horizon, is grafted onto a massive bust, a harbinger of countless victories.
Origins and development of devotion
The cult of the Goddess Rome, which established itself in the XNUMXnd century BC, was nourished by several legendary traditions. The oldest identified her with the Trojan prisoner who rebelled against Ulysses, setting fire to his fleet, to found a new civilization in Lazio. According to other versions, the goddess would instead be the daughter or wife of Ascanio, eldest son of Aeneas and founder of the city. She or even the wife of the hero-protagonist of Virgil's epic poem.
It was thanks to the suggestion of the Roman conquests that the veneration for the Goddess Rome spread mainly in the eastern Mediterranean area. Places where the Hellenistic use of the deification of rulers offered fertile ground for the creation of a political deity.
A late imperial technique
The goddess who "out of the whole world [made] a city", paraphrasing a famous verse from Book I of De reditu suo by Rutilio Namaziano, is made using the ancient technique of the image in gold leaf. There processing predicted that one gold leaf decoration was fixed with gum arabic, skilfully scratched to obtain the figure, and fused between two layers of glass. A technique that distinguished the Roman glassware of the late empire, when several gold-decorated medallions of cups and other containers were removed from the original vessel and inserted into the walls of Rome's catacombs as distinctive funerary marks.
The history of the find
A not entirely dissimilar fate also marked the conservation of the gilded glass, found at the Porta Metronia station. The background depicting the Goddess Roma was most likely cut and used as a piece of furniture, displayed on a piece of furniture or hung on a wall.
The find will soon be placed in a dedicated display case at the Porta Metronia metro station-museum, a unique place in the world, where you can admire the charm of re-emerged Rome.
Sources: romano romano.com; mediterraneanantique.it; Loreti, EM (1985). CONSIDERATIONS ON THE SCULPTURAL TYPE OF SEATED ROME. Classical Archeology, 37, 171–181. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44366124
Image source: ansa.it