- Museum number
Sardonyx cameo engraved with a tethered goat lying down.
- Production date
Height: 3.10 centimetres
Width: 3.90 centimetres
Depth: 1 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Text from Payne Knight's Latin manuscript catalogue
49) Hircus capistratus, dextrorsum recumbens, cornibus praelongis, e strato fusco pellucido onychis Indicae pulcherissimae et splendissimae, alii albo opaco inhaerente, egregie exsculptus et expolitus, opere perantiquo, malleo et scalpello, non terebra et rota; ita tamen scite et eleganter, ut vix verius aliquid, pulchrius, aut absolutius, Graeci artifices optimorum etiam temporum unquam finxerunt. Equi et tauri fraenati et capistrati in nummis Cretensium et Archelai Macedonum regis sunt obvii; atque hirci species non alia est quam ea, quae in [Celeraditarum] nummis argenteis exhibitur; ita ut opus Graecum Asiaticum antiquissimam esse puterem. Sunt tamen qui Indorum trinorum potius esse crediderint; quorum imperium, tam sacrum quam civile, a Brachmanis, circa annum sescentesimus ante Christum natum, ita funditus eversum est, ut pauca tantum et parum certa de eo e fabulosis utriusque gentis traditionibus acceperimus. Latissimum autem, et florentissimum fuisse; atque bonarum artium cultu et elegantia longe felicius et ornatius, quam eorum qui everso successerunt, reliquiae et fragmenta, inter urbium veterum rudera, multis in locis effossa, et adhuc asservata satis testantur*; neque a ratione abhorret, artem exsculpendi imagunculos ex huiusmodi lapidibus duris et pretiosis, ab hac gente ad Graecos pervenisse; traditis per commercium Medorum Persarumque, quorum imperium Indorum fines premebant, exemplis cum materia: Aegyptii enim veteres, neque exsculpendi neque insculpendi hosce lapides artem, unquam calluisse omnino videntur; neque Graeci ante Medica tempora priorem exercuisse, etsi alteram [Pelepodarum?] etiam seculo haud ignorarent: huic enim lapides indigenae materiam idoneam praebebant; dum illi lapidibus Indicis bicoloribus opus omnino fuit; atque exempla antiquiora omnia, more adhuc apud Indos Persasque vigente, instrumentis scilicet imperfectioribus malleo et scalpello, sine rota et terebra, exsculpta vel potius extusa, et deinde multo labore perpolita sunt. Quid Manius in hac arte profecerint, ne probabili quidem coniectura ullo modo assequi possumus; sed ut eam exercuerint vix dubitandum est.
*vide Asiatic Researches vol: IX. Moores Hindu Pantheon and Catalogue Art: Buddha.
A bound goat, lying to the right, with very long horns, carved out excellently and finished from a dark, translucent layer of the most beautiful and bright Indian onyx, adhering to a white opaque one elsewhere, in a most ancient work, using a hammer and scalpel, not a borer and a wheel; nevertheless so skilfully and elegantly, that Greek artists even of the best periods scarcely ever fashioned anything more genuine, beautiful, or excellent. Bridled and bound horses and bulls are known on Cretan coins and those of King Archelaus of Macedonia; and a type of goat not different to this, which has been represented on the silver coins of [text unclear]; thus I thought the work to be very ancient Greek Asiatic. Nevertheless there are those who believed rather that it was from the Indus Valley civilisation; the empire of whom, as holy as civic, was thus overthrown completely by the Brahmins, around the six hundredth year before the birth of Christ, so that we have received only few and not sufficiently certain things about this from the richly mythical traditions of each people. However, remains and fragments among the ruins of the ancient cities, that have been dug up in many places, and preserved until now, demonstrate satisfactorily enough that it was very extensive and flourishing; and more productive and more distinguished by far in terms of the cultivation of the fine arts and taste, than the empire of those who succeeded them after they had been overthrown*; nor is it unreasonable to infer that statuettes made by the art of carving out hard and precious stones of this kind, reached the Greeks from this people; with specimens and material reaching them through trade with Medes and Persians, the borders of whom used to touch those of the Indian Empire: certainly the ancient Egyptians seem never to have been versed at all in the art either of carving out or of engraving these stones; nor do the Greeks seem to have practised this before the times of the Medes, although they were by no means ignorant of the latter even in the century of [text unclear]; indigenous stones certainly provide suitable evidence of this; yet Indian, bicoloured stone were generally needed for the former; and all more ancient examples have been carved or rather hammered out, in the practice still thriving among the Indians and Persians, with tools that are undoubtedly more incomplete than a hammer and scalpel, without a wheel and borer, and have then been finished with great care. What the Phoenicians accomplished in this art form we are not able to comprehend in any way, even through a probable inference; but that they practised it must scarcely be doubted.
*see Asiatic Researches vol: IX. Moores Hindu Pantheon and Catalogue Art: Buddha
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2018 23 Feb – 22 Apr, Nashville, Frist Art Museum, 'Rome; City &Empire'
2018-2019 20 Sep-04 Feb, Canberra, National Museum of Australia, 'Rome; City &Empire'
2021 13 Feb-15 Aug, Belgium, Tongeren, Gallo-Romeins Museum, 'Rome; City & Empire'
- Acquisition date
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number