Terme di Diocleziano

Terme di Diocleziano, drunken Dionysus

This is a statue of Dionysus. It is unusual in that, although Dionysus was the god of wine, he is rarely shown experiencing its effects. Here the god is depicted drunk and staring into his cup. It is from the 1st century AD, and was found on the Via Cassia, the road from Rome to Tuscany. In total there were 53,000 miles of Roman roads, many of which are still in use today. The extent of Roman roads necessitated the invention of passports, iteneraries, way stations, and milestones. The mile stones marked not only the distance from the road's beginning, but also the distance to other cities along the road. This statue was found about 5km from the center of Rome. Roman "miles" were about 1480 meters, 4860 feet, or 9/10 of a modern mile. Thus this statue would have been about halfway between mile post 3 and 4 on the ancient road.

Terme di Diocleziano, Dionysus 2nd century

The label claims this is also a statue of Dionysus. We wondered, how could they tell? Was he the only guy with hair down to his shoulders? We eventually sorted out that many statues were actually copies of other works, and that the statue could be identified that way. Also, many of the gods and heroes had distinctive items that identified them - although that doesn't appear to be the case here. This statue is from the 2nd century AD and was found in a villa (a private home) along the via Ardeatina, near Cecchignola.

Terme di Diocleziano, Hera Borghese, Flavian period

This statue, for instance, is listed as a Hera Borghese, which means it is a copy or at least based upon a particular sculpture of Hera from the 5th century BC. I'm still not sure why it's called the Hera Borghese, except that there is a very old, powerful Italian family by the name of Borghese, which also has a lot of art. I would assume they have something to do with the original. This copy is from the Flavian period, a sort of 1st-century fad in style of sculpture with certain stylistic characteristics - hair that is represented somewhat impressionistically, for instance. Since this sculpture is headless, I'm not sure what particular Flavian aspects it possesses. The Flavian period refers to the time when the emporers Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian ruled the Roman empire.

Terme di Diocleziano, Rome, empty display

Some of them, though, I just don't know how they figure out. I have cut and pasted a close-up of the sign for your inspection.

Terme di Diocleziano, Rome, Mithras tauroctony

This is a tauroctony, a symbolic piece central to the religion of Mithracism and found in every church of Mithras. It represents a much friendlier concept than the violent scene would imply - the sacrafice of the bull was symbolic of the creation of animals by Mithras. The symbols also represent constellations: Taurus, the bull; Scorpio, the scorpian, and Canis Major, the dog; are ones that we recognize. The constellation Perseus (Latin for The Persian) is also associated with Mithracism, a religion that started in Persia. It is thought to have started between 4000 BC and 2000 BC, although the first record of it is from India in 1400 BC. It became popular in Rome right around the time that Christianity was getting its start, in the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD. Mithras was said to have been born in human form around 272 BC, lived in Persia for 64 years, and then ascended to heaven in 208 BC. Little more is known about Mithracism because there was no holy book of Mithras, the religion was only passed from person to person. Only men were allowed to join the church of Mithras, and it was popular among soldiers in the Roman army. Followers of Mithras worshipped in caves or in rooms decorated to look like caves, to represent the rock from which Mithras was said to have created the entire universe. Inside these churches we have found the furniture arranged in circles, apparently for sharing meals, and we have found drawings of the followers of Mithras breaking bread and sharing wine. We also know that the followers of Mithras did believe in Heaven and Hell, and a Last Judgement. Mithracism died out in the 5th century AD, after being banned in Rome in the 4th century.

Terme di Diocleziano, Rome, bronze idol, Adonis Osiris

This is one of the few pieces in the museum that is actually protected by glass. It is a bronze idol that was probably in use in the 2nd through 4th centuries AD. It was found in a hole in an altar, probably reserved for viewing by only the priests of the temple where it was found. It is unique in that there were traces of offerings still preserved on it, from almost 2000 years ago. Seven egg shells, flowers, and seeds were found amid the coils of the snake. The other interesting thing about this statue is that it has features of both Adonis, a god from the Roman religion, and Osiris, a god from the Egyptian religion. Adonis and Osiris did have some things in common. Both of them had died and been resurrected. Both were gods of growing, living things, particularly plants and forests. Both were associated with grains and the harvest. There was much contact between Rome and Egypt throughout Roman history, and it appears in this case that the two gods had come to be thought of as one by this particular group. The statue is made of bronze and was found near the city of Dandolo, in the sacred wood of Furrina.

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