Hellenistic gems: Herakles

Herakles remains the favourite hero of the period, for his moral virtues and his strength in combating monsters and other adversaries. Rulers, from Alexander on, were often assimilated to him. The bearded heads and figures derive mainly from the sculptural type introduced by Lysippus in the fourth century.

Gem image

Oxford 310 (1892.1335) Garnet (10)x10x2mm, convex face, concave back.

A naked, muscular Herakles with raised club fights the Nemean lion. He is shown bearded and with a laurel wreath on his head.

2 Gem images

Oxford 297 (1921.1233) (Plantzos 388) Pale cornelian 19x13x4mm, flat face and back.

This gem shows the head of a young beardless Herakles in profile. The lion-skin is pulled over the back of his head, the front paws knotted under the chin.