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 subject used for intaglios are diverse, with depictions of deities being a favourite theme. Mars, also known as the Greek god Ares, was the god of war and also an agricultural guardian. He was the son of Jupiter and Juno and was an important deity in the Roman pantheon. It was also believed that he was the mythological father of Romulus and Remus, the two brothers that founded Rome. Mars later became the protector of Rome, largely acting as a defender for the city during their many wars. Festivals were thrown in his honour at the end of successful military and agricultural seasons, to honour him and continue his protection of the city. Mythologically he was known to be argumentative and unpopular among the gods, however he was deeply respected by men, especially soldiers.
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