Ancient Roman Bronze Intaglio of Hercules


A Roman bronze intaglio featuring an engraved image of Hercules standing. The stylised hero is facing forward with his head turned to the right and is depicted holding a club in his right hand and a bow in his left. The image is framed by a dotted border along the edge.

Date: Circa 2nd Century AD
Provenance: Ex SM collection, London, acquired 1970s-2010.
Condition: Fine condition. Patination and earthly encrustations to the reverse.


SKU: CY-138 Category: Tags: , ,

The term intaglio refers to a small image that has been engraved into a material, most commonly a gemstone. Such an artistic form has its origin in Sumer in the 4th millennium BC, with the appearance of cylinder and stamp seals, whereby decorations and patterns were engraved into soft stones. During the Hellenistic period and the early Roman Empire, the art of intaglio reached its apogee, with there being a steady decline in craftsmanship in late Imperial Rome, until a revival of interest with the Byzantine and during the Renaissance.

The subjects used for intaglios are diverse, with depictions of deities and mythical creatures being a favourite theme. In Ancient Roman mythology, Hercules (or Herakles in Greek culture) was famed for his strength, as well as for his far-ranging adventures. As punishment for the frenzied killing of his family, Hercules was ordered to undertake twelve tasks. The first task was to free the inhabitants of the city of Nemea in Greece from a vicious lion – the so called Nemean lion. With his supernatural strength, Hercules strangled the lion and dressed in its skin thereafter – Hercules’ own head peeking out of the lion’s gaping jaws. Together with the lion skin, the club was the main attribute of Hercules, meaning strength and success against the odds. Widely considered to be the greatest of Greco-Roman heroes, Hercules is often depicted with a heightened masculine physique. 

To find out more about intaglios, please visit our relevant blog post: Engraved Gemstones in Ancient Rome.

To discover more about Roman deities, please visit our relevant blog post: Roman Gods in Mythology

Weight 0.84 g
Dimensions L 1.3 x W 1.1 cm


Roman Mythology


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