Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Flight of Aeneas

While browsing the Getty's collections today I saw yet another intricately sculpted Roman cornelian gemstone from the 1st century BCE.

"The gem captures the moment when Aeneas, son of the Trojan prince Anchises and the goddess Venus, escapes with his family from Troy at the end of the Trojan War. Aeneas climbs up the steps to a waiting ship, with his father over his right arm and his son, Ascanius, holding his left hand. Aeneas wears a corselet but no other armor. His father wears robes with a mantle pulled over his head. Ascanius, shown just at the moment of leaving the gates of the city, wears a Phrygian cap, a chiton, and cloak while holding a pedum (a hunter's throwing stick) over his left shoulder. Anchises holds a cylindrical box with an X pattern on the side. Behind them, the walls of Troy rise up, and a Greek solider in a crested helmets looks towards them from the battlements while holding a lit torch aloft in his raised right arm, a spear upright in his left. Three Trojans await them on the ship, all wearing Phrygian caps: one works the rudder, another the still-furled rigging of the ship, and the third raises a trumpet or other horn-shaped object. Above them, a single star." - J. Paul Getty Museum

I noticed the similarities between the scene on the gem and a 1st century CE sculpture of the flight of Aeneas from the Sebasteion, an imperial cult temple of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and Aphrodite (Venus) in ancient Aphrodisias.  The three-storey complex was embellished with richly carved panels depicting mythological scenes, heroes, and gods surrounded by the emperors Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero and their spouses, children and  a series of personified ethne or 'nations' of Augustus' world empire, from the Ethiopians of eastern Africa to the Callaeci of western Spain. The temple was excavated beginning in 1979.  Of the original 200 reliefs, 80 were recovererd.

Read more about the excavations and see more images of the temple here:



Intaglio with Scene of Aeneas and his Family Escaping from Troy, Carnelian, Roman, 20 BCE now in the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Pacific Palisades, California
Roman relief of the Flight of Aeneas with his father Anchises and son Ascanius helped by Aphrodite, 20 - 60 CE. The Trojan hero, Aeneas was the son of the prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite. His father was the second cousin of King Priam of Troy. The journey of Aeneas from Troy (with help from Aphrodite), which led to the founding of the city Rome, is recounted in Virgil's Aeneid. The 1st century CE relief is now in the Aphrodisias Museum in Turkey, image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Dick Osseman.


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