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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Esquiline Treasure

The Esquiline Treasure is an ancient Roman silver treasure that was found in 1793 on the Esquiline Hill in Rome. The hoard is considered an important example of late antique silver work from the 4th century CE, probably about 380 for the major pieces. Since 1866, 57 objects, representing the great majority of the treasure, have been in the British Museum. Two of the most important objects in the treasure are the ornate silver-gilt engraved boxes known as the Projecta Casket and the Muse Casket. The treasure was part of the belongings of a wealthy Roman household of high social status. The collection includes 8 plates (4 circular and 4 rectangular), a fluted dish, a ewer inscribed for "Pelegrina", a flask with embossed scenes, an amphora, 6 sets of horse trappings, with furniture fittings including 4 Tyche figures representing the 4 main cities of the Roman Empire: Rome, Constantinople, Antioch and Alexandria, two hands clenching bannisters, and an assortment of jewelry. The four silver Tyches are represented with different attributes: military attire for the Tyche of Rome, a cornucopia for the one of Constantinople, sheaves of corns and the bow of a ship for the Tyche of Alexandria, and a male swimmer personifying the Orontes River at the feet of the Tyche of Antioch. The five panels on the lid of the Projecta Casket represent three mythological scenes, a double portrait and a bathing scene. On the top panel of the lid are half-length figures of a man and woman within a wreath held by standing erotes (or putti in modern terms) and an inscription which reads: "SECVNDE ET PROIECTA VIVATIS IN CHRI[STO] ('Secundus and Projecta, may you live in Christ'). The attire of the two figures is clearly that of an affluent couple from late antiquity. The woman is wearing a long-sleeved tunic with a large necklace. In her hands she holds a papyrus roll alluding to her education. The man is in a long-sleeved tunic that he wears under a chlamys. The four panels of the box itself represent the preparations for a grand Roman wedding. These are placed between columns joined by alternating arches and bottomless pediments, all under a frieze with scrolling vines. In one scene, Projecta is shown sitting on an ornate chair holding a decorated box similar in shape to the Muse Casket. She wears a long-sleeved tunic under a colobium or short-sleeved tunic. A smaller inscription on the front rim of the lid gives the weight as "XXII-III", meaning "[Pondo] XXII,III [Unciae],S[emuncia]" or "Twenty-two pounds, three and one-half ounces" in Roman units. The Muse Casket is divided into sixteen panels, with flat and concave faces. The 'flat' panel decoration includes: vases, vines and birds. The fluted panels are undecorated and those on body contain standing female figures under arches (eight of the nine muses). They are, to the right of the hasp, reading counter-clockwise: Urania, with a globe, Melpomene, with a Heraclean club and a mask, Clio, with a book and a caspa with scrolls, Polyhymnia, with a small mask, Terpsichore, with a lyre, Euterpe, with a double flute, Thalia, with a Dionysiac pedum and comic mask, and Calliope, with a scroll. The top of dome has a medallion containing female figures seated in landscape setting. The interior is fitted for five vessels - four identical silver canisters and one silver flask. Current research suggests that the Projecta Casket and some other items in the treasure (but probably not all of them) were a wedding gift to the newly married couple Projecta and Secundus. Sadly, Projecta is thought to be associated with an epitaph dated to 383 CE stating she died shortly before her 17th birthday.

Silver furniture fittings depicting two hands clenching bannisters part of the Esquiline Treasure, Roman 330-380 CE, now in the British Museum. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Recruos

Silver repousse vase, part of the Esquiline Treasure, Roman 330-380 CE, now in the British Museum courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Sailko

The Pelegrina Ewer. The bride's name can be seen at the widest point, across the three "dimples" to the right. Part of the Esquiline Treasure, Roman 330-380 CE, now in the British Museum. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Sailko

The Muse Casket, part of the Esquiline Treasure, Roman 330-380 CE, now in the British Museum. Image courtesy of the museum.

The Muse Casket, part of the Esquiline Treasure, Roman 330-380 CE, now in the British Museum. Image courtesy of the museum.

The Muse Casket, part of the Esquiline Treasure, Roman 330-380 CE, now in the British Museum. Image courtesy of the museum.

The Muse Casket, part of the Esquiline Treasure, Roman 330-380 CE, now in the British Museum. Image courtesy of the museum.

The Projecta Casket, part of the Esquiline Treasure, Roman 330-380 CE, now in the British Museum. Image courtesy of the museum.

The Projecta Casket, part of the Esquiline Treasure, Roman 330-380 CE, now in the British Museum. Image courtesy of the museum.

The Projecta Casket, part of the Esquiline Treasure, Roman 330-380 CE, now in the British Museum. Image courtesy of the museum.

The Projecta Casket, part of the Esquiline Treasure, Roman 330-380 CE, now in the British Museum. Image courtesy of the museum.

Silver charm depicting a crouching mouse, part of the Esquiline Treasure, Roman 330-380 CE, now in the British Museum. Image courtesy of the museum.

Silver horse trappings found in the Esquiline Treasure, Roman, 330-380 CE now in the British Museum. Image courtesy of the museum.

Silver ring depicting Nike, part of the Esquiline Treasure, Roman 330-380 CE, now in the British Museum. Image courtesy of the museum.

Roman pin, part of the Esquiline Treasure, Roman 330-380 CE, now in the British Museum. Image courtesy of the museum.

Gilded silver furniture ornament depicting Tyche of Alexandria, part of the Esquiline Treasure, Roman 330-380 CE, now in the British Museum. Image courtesy of the museum.

Gilded silver furniture ornament depicting Tyche of Antioch, part of the Esquiline Treasure, Roman 330-380 CE, now in the British Museum. Image courtesy of the museum.

Gilded silver furniture ornament depicting Tyche of Constantinople, part of the Esquiline Treasure, Roman 330-380 CE, now in the British Museum. Image courtesy of the museum.

Gilded silver furniture ornament depicting Tyche of Rome, part of the Esquiline Treasure, Roman 330-380 CE, now in the British Museum. Image courtesy of the museum.

Silver fluted bowl, part of the Esquiline Treasure, Roman 330-380 CE, now in the British Museum courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Jononmac46

Silver decorated trulla or saucepan, part of the Esquiline Treasure, Roman 330-380 CE, now in the Petit Palais Museum in Paris courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Sailko.

 

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