Hellenistic gems: various deities

Gem image

Oxford 351 (1892.1508) Cornelian, 17x15x4mm, slightly convex face and back.

The image of Zeus with ram horns became a popular representation of the god after Alexander the Great was designated the son of Zeus Ammon at the Oasis of Siwa. The head of the god is shown in three-quarter view. This contemplative and passive image of the Zeus is another departure of the Hellenistic period. Earlier representations of the god generally show him active and alert.

Gem image

Badisches Landesmuseum, Karlsruhe; Plantzos 384 (Ionides 15; GGFR 997) Amethyst 22.5mm, flat face, convex back.

Not all gods are immediately identifiable. The head of the bearded god wearing a fillet on this gem probably shows the god Poseidon. It is inscribed with the letters P and Y.

Gem image

Plantzos 510 (Ionides 43) Cornelian 14mm, convex face.

A popular motif of the late Hellenistic period is the bust of a young woman with long wavy hair, her bare shoulders seen from the back, her head shown in profile. The soft folds of the himation framing her shoulder were interpreted by earlier scholars as water and the figure was identified as the personification of the calm see, Galene. The crescent moon added on this gem, however, clearly identifies her as Selene.

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