A Roman-period hollow bronze helmet mount in the form of a female bust. Featuring a textile hood with a scarab crest and extended segmented cobra’s tail. Under the chin sits a satyr mask with splayed horns and open mouth. The eyes, nose, mouth and hair of the female divinity are nicely detailed. Scales upon the protome’s head and breast make a squama armour. Stylised similarly to an Amazon portrait or theatre mask of the Gorgon Medusa. Possibly secured at the top of a helmet by a pin through the satyr’s mouth and most likely worn by a gladiator or military officer. Some patination visible.
Date: 3rd Century AD Provenance: Property of a North London Gentleman, acquired on the UK art market before 2000. Condition: Excellent condition
The use of the scarab crest and the cobra’s body suggest an Egyptian origin with links to Egyptian mythology, in the form of the scarab god Khepri and the uraeus goddess Wadjet. Similar examples of this protome have been excavated at the military camp found at Straubing, southern Germany (ancient Sorviodurum). These also have a suggested Egyptian origin. The protome represent a mythical female, likely a Gorgon or Amazon, and like this example, would have decorated an elaborate helmet. It could have quite easily decorated the helmet of a gladiator or military officer, playing the part of an Amazon warrior. Men dressing as mythical women warriors was not unusual and there is evidence of distinctly ‘female’ helmets used by military personal in the ‘hippika gymnasia’, ritual tournaments performed by the Roman cavalry. During the tournaments men donning such female helmets would play the part of Amazon warriors, whilst their male-donned counterparts would play the side of the civilised Greeks.
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