Ancient Roman Gold Signet Ring with Zeus Serapis


An extremely fine Ancient Roman signet ring featuring a round section hoop made from high carat gold. The hoop is connected to a large oval bezel, which is finely carved with the bust of Zeus Serapis facing left. The god is portrayed as a robed and bearded figure, recognisable by his typical attribute: the modius, a flat-topped cylindrical headpiece found in the Egyptian and Graeco-Roman world. Below him, a large eagle is shown with its wings open and lifted upwards, demonstrating the deity’s connection with the Roman imperial house. The central image is framed by two signa militaria, military standards, surmounted by winged Victories which allow to interpret the image as an allegory of the military and political power of the Empire.

Closest UK ring size: W.

Date: Circa 1st – 3rd Century AD
Provenance: From the late Alison Barker collection, a retired London barrister; formed early 1960s-1990s.
Condition: Very fine condition.


SKU: MG-289 Category: Tags: , , , ,

The ancient Romans considered jewellery to be an essential accessory, for it provided a public display of their wealth. Roman jewellery at first followed trends set by the Etruscans, using gold and glass beads, but as the power and spread of the Roman Empire increased, so too did jewellery designs became increasingly elaborate. Different cultural styles from Greece, Egypt, North Africa, and the Orient were all incorporated to reflect Rome’s prosperity as a dominant, conquering city. The custom of wearing rings was probably introduced by the Sabines, who are described in early legends as wearing gold rings with precious stones. During the Roman Republic it became customary for all the senators, chief magistrates, and at last for the equites also, to wear gold rings. Signet rings, such as this example, occurred in various ancient civilisations, as they were used to “sign” documents through the impression of the symbol on the ring pressed in to hot wax.

The subject used to decorate jewellery was diverse, with depictions of deities being a favourite theme. Serapis (Σέραπις) is a Graeco-Egyptian composite deity, blending the transformative powers of the Egyptian gods Osiris and Apis with the heavenly authority of the Greek god Zeus. His cult was developed under the Ptolemaic ruler Ptolemy I Soter (305-282 BC) as a means to unify his Greek and Egyptian subjects, and later gained popularity throughout the Roman Empire, until it was banned under Theodosius I (AD 379-395). Zeus Serapis became the tutelary divinity of the Severan imperial dynasty. The god’s association with the emperor enhanced the mystique of the position, imbuing the Roman ruler with his divine qualities as a giver of salvation and immortality.

The double Victory iconographic group appeared in Rome with Marius, who erected a statue of himself between two winged Victories bearing trophies to commemorate his victory over Jugurtha in 101 BC. The statue, erected on the Capitoline Hill and known as the Trophea Marii, was tore down by Sulla and restored by Caesar in 65 BC.

To find out more about Roman gods, please visit our relevant blog post: Roman Gods in Mythology.

Weight 10.30 g
Dimensions L 2.2 x H 2.5 cm



Roman Mythology


Reference: For a similar iconographic group, please see The Metropolitan Museum, item 81.6.171

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