Ancient Roman Gold Ring with Carnelian Intaglio of Bacchus


A fine ancient Roman gold ring comprising of a round section hoop with expanding shoulders and a slightly raised oval bezel. The ring is enriched by a carnelian stone finely carved with the image of the Roman god Bacchus. Portrayed in a stylised manner, the god is presented as a naked youth sitting under a florid grapevine. Seen in profile and facing left, he extends both his arms upwards towards the plant to harvest its fruits.

Closest UK ring size: P.

Date: Circa 1st – 3rd Century AD
Provenance: From the late Alison Barker collection, a retired London barrister; formed early 1960s-1990s.
Condition: Fine condition. The ring has been repaired for modern wear.


The term intaglio refers to a small image that has been engraved into a gemstone and usually set in a piece of jewellery, most commonly a ring. Such 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 the 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. Bacchus, known as Dionysus in Ancient Greek culture, was one of the most important gods in Ancient Roman pantheon. He was the god of wine, fertility, and theatre. In these, Bacchus represented both the ecstasy and danger of complete liberation. The worship of Dionysus was transported to Italy by Greek colonisation of Southern Italy and Sicily, and in Roman culture continued through the festival of Bacchanalia. Symbolically, Dionysus is usually represented with grapevines and a Thyrsos (pine-cone tipped staff). He was often associated with several key concepts of everyday life. One was rebirth after death; his dismemberment by the Titans and his return to life was symbolically echoed in viticulture, where the vines must be pruned back sharply, and then become dormant in winter for them to bear fruit.

To find out more about intaglios and Roman gods, please visit our relevant blog posts: Engraved Gemstones in Ancient Rome and Roman Gods in Mythology.

Weight 11.9 g
Dimensions W 1.9 cm



Semi-Precious Stones

Roman Mythology

You may also like…