The age of Domitian (81—96 CE). Inv. No. 9997.Rome, Vatican Museums, Gregorian Profane Museum
The age of Domitian (81—96 CE).
Rome, Vatican Museums, Gregorian Profane Museum
(Roma, Musei Vaticani, Museo gregoriano profano).
B. A triumphal arch of three-passageways inscribed ARCUS. AD. ISIS (Fig. 30).
In the rubricated inscription on the attic templum or something equivalent must be understood as the object of the preposition, ad. Isis is here genitive, so the inscription translates “arch near to [the temple] of Isis.”191 The four, unfluted columns of the arch carry Composite capitals and stand on pedestals. Oddly enough, the two outer pedestals are set at an oblique angle. This peculiarity has affected the rendering of the architrave on the left side for it angles upward. Each of the three openings of the arch spring from impost blocks. Correctly, the height of the arches and imposts of the lateral arches are lower than the central opening. Within the passageways stand three figures on bases, suggesting that they were to be thought p.90 of as statues. Since these figures are unfinished, their precise identification is somewhat uncertain.
In the central opening is a frontally placed figure wearing a helmet with crista and carrying an oval shield in her lowered left hand, a spear in her raised right. A full-length tunic, girded at the waist, is covered by the aegis. Whether the raised knob over the sternum of the figure can be seen as the gorgon’s head, as Benndorf and Schöne thought,192 is debatable. Regardless of this point, the two owls carved in the spandrels as well as the dress and attributes clearly mark this figure as Minerva.193
The extreme vagueness of the two statues in the lateral archways has led many scholars to remain noncommittal on their identification. However, a consideration of certain details of their representation and the images above them establishes their probable identity.
Above the figure on the right are two hawk-like birds flanking a baetyl. This heraldic composition is clearly a variation on a well-known iconography in Egyptian art, viz., Isis and Nephthys mourning over the dead Osiris. In late examples of this subject the two sisters are shown as hawks flanking the mummiform figure of Osiris.194 As already noted earlier, a baetyl was used in the Egyptian liturgy as a substitute for the dead Egyptian god who was resurrected in the service by Isis. p.91 Therefore, since the relief image is unique, it either preserves an otherwise lost iconography of the above-mentioned subject in a symbolic form, or it is an invention by the Haterii artist. In either case the figure below must be one of the three Egyptian deities referred to in this stenogram.
Although roughly delineated, the elongated object held across the chest of the figure in the archway can be recognized as a sistrum, thus identifying her as Isis.195 In this regard the projecting forms on her head could have been intended for either the lotus blossom or lunar disk, both of which are worn by this goddess.196 Given the inscription on the arch, we should expect that at least one of the statues in the passageways represented the deity whose sanctuary, we are told, stood nearby.
The cista mystica above the figure in the archway on the left is well-known as a symbol appearing in the art of the various mystery religions, including that of Isis. The statue itself has its right arm held across the chest in a gesture standard in Egyptian sculpture. An identification of this figure depends on the interpretation of three aspects of its portrayal: the round form on the head, the object in the right hand and the possible zoomorphic physiognomy (more apparent in a distant view, cf. Fig. 29). The object held seems certainly to be a flail since the individual strands can be seen falling p.92 down the back of the hand. This attribute excludes the identification of this figure with Serapis197 and suggests instead either Osiris or the jackel-headed Anubis. The latter is the preferred choice since the round form was probably intended for the lunar disk and since it seems clear enough the face was meant to be non-human.198
Ram’s heads, shields, and an assortment of sacrificial implements are carved on the frieze of the arch.199 On the recessed areas of the attic are representations of three wreaths, two on the left and one larger one on the right. The arch proper is surmounted by a quadriga of which only the legs and chests of the four horses, set frontally, are visible. To its sides are two captives tied to a palm tree and at the far right end is a trophy. The destroyed left half presumably also had a similar trophy.191Cf. Hor. Sat. 1. 9. 35 (“ventum erat ad Vestae”). 192Benndorf-Schöne, p. 236. 193Braun, p. 98 was the first to make this identification. More recently, Helbig-Speier, vol. 1, p. 779 have suggested this figure might be Mars, but the aegis and ovals verify the Minerva identification. 194I owe the original suggestion of the identification of this subject to Charlotte T. Sullivan. More commonly, the two sisters are winged humans and flank the mummified Osiris, as on the painted coffin of Hu-en-Amen, ca. 800 B. C. in the British Museum (no. 6660). 195Benndorf-Schöne, p. 234 were the first to suggest this identification, and Spano (above n. 189), p. 256 went a step further by bringing in comparative material. 196Spano (above n. 189), 257. 197As identified by Spano (above n. 189), pp. 233, 256. 198Helbig-Speier, vol. 1, p. 779 and Heinz Kähler, Rom und seine Welt (Munich, 1960) p. 246 concur with this identification. For Anubis wearing the lunar disk and holding the flail (assimilated to Osiris) see R. E. Witt, Isis in the Graeco-Roman World (Ithaca, New York, 1971), p. 46. 199Specifically, the objects are (left to right): two rams’ heads, aspergillum, oval shield, oval shield, bucranium, patera (?), unrecognizable object, oval shield, simpulum, two oval shields partly overlapping, axe, two oval shields partly overlapping, simpulum, round shield over hexagonal one, aspergillum over knife sheath, knife sheath, bucranium (?), patera, oval shield, oval shield, unrecognizable object, ram’s head (?), aspergillum, and ram’s head (?). Cf. Spano (above n. 189), p. 232.