Oval gem with Zeus Serapis

Hellenistic Period
2nd–1st century B.C.


Length: 16 mm (5/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


Jewelry, The Ancient World



Slightly orangish-red carnelian. Intaglio. Convex front, flat back. Bust of Zeus Serapis. His beard is indicated by tightly spiraled and deeply drilled curls. He has shoulder-length wavy hair and a central part with an anastole, a hairstyle in which the hair is brushed up from the forehead. Atop his head he wears a woven basket (modius), a sign of fertility. He looks down to his left. This representation of Serapis with anastole and frontal pose echoes the cult statue of the god in his temple in Alexandria, the capital of ancient Egypt. The ruler Ptolemy I Soter favored Serapis, and the god’s worship spread rapidly, especially between the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. The gem is likely from Egypt and connected to the Ptolemaic dynasty.


By date unknown: with Edward Perry Warren (according to Warren's records: Bought in Rome.); purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren, January 2, 1913, for $18,948.70 (this figure is the total price for MFA 13.186-13.245)

Credit Line

Francis Bartlett Donation of 1912