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The Great Dish from the Mildenhall treasure

The Great Dish

  • Great Dish: detail

    Great Dish: detail

  • Great Dish: detail

    Great Dish: detail

  • Flanged silver bowl

    Flanged silver bowl

 

Diameter: 60.500 cm
Weight: 8256.000 g

Treasure Trove

P&EE 1946 10-7 1

Room 49: Roman Britain

    The Great Dish from the Mildenhall treasure

    Roman Britain, 4th century AD
    Found near Mildenhall, Suffolk

    The most famous object in the Mildenhall treasure is the large, highly decorated circular platter usually known as the 'Great Dish', or as the 'Neptune' or 'Oceanus Dish'.

    The fine decoration is worked in low relief and engraved line on the front surface of the silver. The subject matter alludes to the worship and mythology of Bacchus on land and in the sea. The staring face in the centre represents Oceanus, with dolphins in his hair and a beard formed of seaweed fronds. The inner circle, bordered by scallop shells, consists of sea-nymphs riding mythical marine creatures, a sea-horse, a triton, a sea-stag and a ketos, a dragon-like sea-monster. The wide outer frieze features Bacchus himself, holding a bunch of grapes and a thyrsus and resting a foot on his panther. He presides over a celebration of music, dancing and drinking in his honour. The participants include the hero Hercules, overcome by the consumption of wine, the goat-legged god Pan, and various satyrs (male attendants) and maenads (female devotees of Bacchus).

    Bacchic imagery had a long history in Greek and Roman art, and this example, on a magnificent silver vessel, is one of the finest to survive from the late-Roman period.

    K.S. Painter, The Mildenhall Treasure-1 (London, 1977)

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    On display: Room 49: Roman Britain

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    Stories and myths from the Roman Empire, £8.99

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