- Museum number
Gold sceptre. The sceptre is made of a net casing around a (modern replacement) core. The casing is made up of twelve units of equal size, one slightly longer and one that has been cut down. Each of these units is made up of circles of undulating plain wire, soldered together at the crests and troughs, each junction being hidden by a tiny circle of wire filled with enamel. At the top of each unit is a plain circle of spiral-beaded wire. The enamel fillings are of two colours: one is now white, but was most probably green, and the other is blue. They were so arranged that the colours spiralled down the shaft.
The base consists of a gold disc decorated with concentric rings of beaded, plain and rope wires and, in the centre, a rosette with concave petals with spiral-beaded wire borders. At the centre of the rosette -is a large solid gold ball.
The capital consists of a sleeve of gold onto which the various ornaments have been attached. The base of the capital consists of rings of plain and beaded wire, a collar of small tongues which were once filled with enamel (now virtually white), and a ring of acanthus leaves of three different heights. The capital itself has double spiral supports reaching up to the abacus at each of the four corners. Each face is decorated with two spirals of plain wire, with a flower at the point where they meet. The petals of these flowers are filled with blue enamel and at the centre is a corkscrew of wire. The top of the plain abacus is lined with a beaded wire.
The terminal above consists of a six-lobed fruit of pale green glass set within a nest of carefully veined acanthus leaves.
The fruit, perhaps a quince, was cast in one piece, ground to shape and then had a hole drilled vertically through it to take -the end of the central core. The top of the hole was disguised by a small sheet of gold decorated with four ivy-like leaves.
- Production date
Diameter: 1.20 centimetres (of shaft)
Length: 51.40 centimetres (as restored)
- Curator's comments
- Williams and Ogden 1994
The sceptre is a truly remarkable find, for no other certain example is known, now that the famous ‘sceptre’ from the Tomba degli Ori at Canosa has been ingeniously reinterpreted by Bernard den Driessche as the handle of an elaborate fan. Sceptres are symbols of authority, either royal or religious. Since any monarchy at Taranto seems to have ended around 473 BC, if not before, it seems most probable that the present example belonged to a priestess, as a symbol of the power of the deity whom she served. The presence in the same tomb of a ring with the depiction of a seated female holding a very similar sceptre suggests that the jewellery worn by this priestess may well have been specially made. As a result, one notices that two of the female heads on a necklace found at the same findspot (BM GR 1872.6-4.667) have horns and therefore represent Io, once the priestess of Hera, it is very tempting to wonder if the owner of this set of jewellery might have been a priestess of Hera at Taranto.
The core of the shaft of this sceptre is not preserved: a modern white resin tube has been inserted for support. The original core may have been of wood and covered with a fabric which not only hid the end of the gold sleeve that supports the capital but also set off the gold net casing to the greatest effect. As a result of modifications in the units of casing, it is impossible to be sure of the original length of the sceptre.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: BMCJ 2070; A.B. Cook, Zeus, vol. 11 (Cambridge 1925), p. 763, n. 1, with figs 708-9; Wuilleumier Tarente, pl. 23, 4; Taranto, p. 321; Williams, pls 30 and 31, 1-2.
- On display (G73/dc71)
- Acquisition date
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number