Goblet with relief decoration

Roman
Imperial
mid-1st century A.D.


Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Sudan, Meroe (Beg. North), Pyramid Beg. N 2

Dimensions

Height x diameter: 9.8 x 8.8 cm (3 7/8 x 3 7/16 in.)

Accession Number

24.971

Medium or Technique

Silver; remains of gilding

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Vessels

Exquisitely crafted and unusually well preserved silver goblet with a judgement scene in raised relief. The subject has been interpreted in various ways by scholars. Whether the scene is a mythological judgement scene, or a historical one, it shows all the elements and participants of a real Roman court: the raised tribunal, the sella curulis – the typical insignia of a Roman magistrate –, the judge himself, clad in the toga, the executioner with his axe and two litigants.

The scene: A Roman emperor with features resembling Augustus, clad in a toga, sits on a throne, while a man in a sleeveless tunic approaches him holding an axe with long handle. A woman turns to both figures with her arms upraised in a gesture of appeal, as two small children cling to her robe. Behind the woman is a striding man, dressed in a tunic and hooded coat. The scene has been interpreted as an allegory showing Augustus as the new pharaoh of Egypt, personified by the woman; as a judgement scene in which the woman has been comdemned and is about to be executed; as a representation of the legend of Bocchoris; as the judgment of King Creon from the Medea of Euripides; and even as an image of King Solomon. This goblet may have been seized by the Meroites in a military raid on Aswan in 24 BC.

Provenance

From Meroe, North Cemetery, in the debris of Pyramid Beg. N 2. 1922: excavated by the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA by the government of Sudan; 1924: received by the MFA.

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition