greek gold ring

Graeco-Roman gold ring in the form of a snake, dated to c. 300-100 BCE. Found in Egypt, the ring is currently located in the British Museum.

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Roman Gold Eros Ring, 1st Century AD

Eros, (Roman Cupid), was regarded as the deity who awoke the passions and fostered love in the hearts of both gods and mortals. The poet Hesiod sings his praises as the most beautiful of the gods. His worship seems to be much more ancient than that of the winged boy in popular imagination. At Thespiae, in Boeotia, his cult had ancient origins and the main image at his temple was a block of stone, most likely a meteorite, a common object of worship in many of the more ancient cults of Greece.

His power to rouse and move the world was viewed by the Orphic mystery cult to regard him as the creator of the world. Although there are many visual images of Eros there are surprisingly few literary references to him from ancient times. The only mythological account of the birth of Eros comes from Plato’s Symposium, where we learn that he was conceived by Poros and Penia, plenty and poverty. It was not until the seventh century BC that the poet Sappho describes him as the son of Aphrodite.

The worship of Eros was not highly organized and, aside from his temple at Thespiae, his worship seems mainly to have been one confined to the home, or in conjunction with Aphrodite at her temples. By the Roman period his image and worship becomes more recognizable and depictions of him are found on many objects; however there was no formal worship of the god and he seems to have been largely worshipped in the home, as in Greece.

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Greek Gold Ring with a Siren, Sphinx and Hippocamp, 6th Century BC

In Greek mythology Sirens were dangerous yet beautiful creatures, portrayed as femmes fatales who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island.

A sphinx was a female monster with the body of a lion, the breast and head of a woman, eagle’s wings and sometimes a serpent-headed tail. She was sent by the gods to plague the town of Thebes as punishment for some ancient crime. There she preyed on the youths of the land, devouring all those who failed to solve her riddle.

Hippocampoi were the horses of the sea. They were depicted with the head and fore-parts of a horse and the serpentine tail of a fish. The ancients believed they were the adult-form of the fish we call the seahorse. Hippocampoi were the steeds of Nereid nymphs and sea-gods. Poseidon drove a chariot drawn by two or four of the creatures.