Zeus Sabazios

Roman Provincial
Imperial Period, Antonine or Severan
A.D. 170–230


Place of Manufacture: Asia Minor, Turkey

Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 213; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 112 (additional published references).

Dimensions

Height x length: 57 x 40 cm (22 7/16 x 15 3/4 in.)

Accession Number

RES.53.63

Medium or Technique

Marble from Dokimeion (modern Afyon) in west-central Asia Minor

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Sculpture

A rider with a beard and curly hair wears the typical traveler’s costume of the Roman imperial period, a cloak pinned on the right shoulder, a short tunic, tight-fitting trousers, and boots. He is holding a torch in the right hand; part of the support for the missing upper end connects with the right side of the head. His left hand is along the horse’s flank. The horse is supported by a rectangular altar and places his right forefoot on the head of a bull or cow. The back of the statue is not finished as smoothly as the front, and the horse and plinth are curved, in the shape of a crescent moon, as if the ensemble were designed to be a cult image in an apsidal shrine.
The god’s bearded head and solemn expression associate him with major Classical divinities like Zeus, but in all other respects he is conceived in provincial, unclassical terms. He is mounted, like many Anatolian gods, and wears the costume of an ordinary traveler. His attribute could be a torch or possibly a thunderbolt of ancient Near Eastern form. The altar and the bull’s head allude to the sacrifices of his devotees. Zeus Sabazios of Phrygia combined the characteristics of a sky and father god with those of Dionysos, god of vegetation and wine.
The statue is in excellent condition, only the upper part of the torch and small sections of the horse’s tail being broken away. The surfaces are somewhat incrusted throughout and, where visible, have a yellow patina on a smooth carving.

Scientific Analysis:
Harvard Lab No. HI778: Isotope ratios - delta13C +1.35 / delta18O -4.52, Attribution - Dokimeion, Justification - White, fine grained marble.

Provenance

By 1953: Thomas Whittemore Collection (said to have been acquired in Istanbul); Bequest of Thomas Whittemore to MFA, June 16, 1953.

Credit Line

Bequest of Thomas Whittemore