Tessera with two figures

Click to enlarge

Near Eastern, Palmyrene
2nd century BCE—2nd century CE
Terracotta
Hood Museum of Art: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Eddy, Class of 1934; 179.20.25871.b

While one side of this tessera presents the common motif of a reclining priest beneath a hanging vine, the other side displays a complex amalgamation of symbols occasionally found on other tokens. Two figures, both wearing sleeved tunics and Phyrigian bonnets, are shown facing each other in profile view. The figures are genii, or demigods. The genie on the left is depicted as a bearded man lowering a torch to the ground, while the genie to the right is represented as a younger, beardless man, raising a torch above his head. These figures may be the demigods Cautes and Cautopates, attendants of the god Mithras, who are often represented in this manner. Cautes, the younger of the two figures, is often associated with sunrise, spring, and new life while the older Cautopates is frequently interpreted as a symbol of sunset, winter, and death. Between the two genii is a small oval, inside of which can be found a winged figure that faces right. Stacked atop this oval is a vessel, occasionally interpreted as a libation cup, which may relate to the traditions of the ritual banquet.

This text was prepared by Mellon Special Projects Intern Amanda Manker.

Not on view

Additional views (1)

Side B

 

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