Rome, Imperial Period, ca. 2nd century CE. A superb bronze chariot fitting finely cast via the lost wax process, depicting Minerva (the Roman version of Athena), the goddess of wisdom, medicine, art, commerce, and military victory, here depicted in her warrior guise, donning a crested helmet and battle dress with a finely detailed aegis of Medusa, a goatskin shield with a fringe of snakes in relief. According to Greek mythology, when Perseus killed the gorgon Medusa, whose face turned men to stone, he gave Medusa's head to Athena who placed it on her aegis. Size: 3.875" W x 8.375" H (9.8 cm x 21.3 cm)
Roman chariots were not used for warfare, but instead in special events like triumphal processions. As a result, elaborate finials like this became de rigueur, lending a unique look to each chariot, where they were mounted on posts above each wheel. Furthermore, featuring Minerva on one's chariot would have added immense symbolism associated with military victory. Regarded as the daughter of Jupiter, from whose head she purportedly was born, Minerva was initially worshipped in Rome as one of the Capitoline Triad along with Jupiter and Juno. At first she was revered as the goddess of handicrafts, poetry, and the arts in general. Over time, Minerva's stature grew within the Roman pantheon and she became the most important focus of the Quinquatrus festival, which previously had been the domain of Mars, whose amorous affections she famously refused. The five-day festival began on March 19th marking the beginning of the Roman army's campaign season. Minerva also became associated with the concept of victory, as illustrated by Pompey's dedication of a temple to her following his successful campaigns in the east. Similarly, Emperor Domitian claimed the goddess as his protectress and in the second half of the 1st century CE commissioned a temple to her in the Nerva Forum in Rome.
Provenance: Ex-private Pasadena, CA collection, Ex- Los Angeles County collection acquired before 1990
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