The most public of the Cybele images is a panel depicting a procession as part of a larger artistic program decorating the front of the Taberna della Quattro Divinita at IX. 7. 1 (figure 5).43
The painting depicts a statue of an enthroned Cybele with gilded lion cubs at her feet, upon a ferculum
that has presumably just been set down by some of the processional participants. The Cybele statue is draped in purple robes and wearing a turreted crown and carries a patera
. A scepter, branch, and tympanum
are also present on the litter with the statue (figure 6
). A total of eighteen other figures are present in the scene holding sacrificial instruments, ritual objects, and musical instruments. A small altar and candelabra are present on the extreme right of the scene, closest to the statue of Cybele and the litter bearers. Two figures with a syrinx and cymbals are painted to the extreme left of the scene, broken from the main scene by the presence of niche containing a herm of Dionysus.44
Explanations for the presence of Cybele on this store front have ranged from the theory that store was a meeting place for the worship of Cybele to an expression of the owner’s religious preferences or even an advertisement and demonstration of the wares that could be purchased in the shop, identified as a felt-maker’s shop.45
One interpretation posits that the processional imagery is a representation of the shop-owner’s membership in the wool-worker’s collegium
and the collegium
’s participation in the Megalesia
festival of Cybele, which would have involved a procession of the cult statue as depicted in the painting.46
The evidence for this last theory comes from the larger artistic program on the storefront, as well as other paintings and graffiti along the Via dell’Abbondanza, and data regarding the participation of collegia in festivals and processions in Rome. Like the painting in the House of Octavius Primus, Vermaseren dates this wall painting to around 70 CE as well47. If Vermaseren’s dating is correct and the theory regarding the processional painting holds at least some truth to it, then the conclusion can be drawn that the Megalesia was indeed being celebrated and processions to Cybele were occurring around the time of the eruption. If processions to Cybele were occurring around the time of the eruption, the cult statue used in such processions would have needed to be housed someplace, although the statue has not been found and no housing for it has been identified.
Robert Caudill (2015)
Charlotte R. Potts, “The Art of Piety and Profit: A New Interpretation of the Painted Shop Façade at ix. 7. 2”, Greece and Rome
1 (2009): 59—60
Vermaseren, M. J. Corpus Cultus Cybelae Attidisque (CCCA). Italia — Aliae Provinciae
. Vol. IV. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1978: 17—19.
45Potts, “The Art of Piety and Profit”, 60—62.
46Potts, “The Art of Piety and Profit”, 65—70.
47Vermaseren, CCCA IV, 19.
© 2015. Photo, text: Robert Caudill. Mothers of the Gods: A Case for Syncretism inthe Cybele and Isis Cults at Pompeii. 2015. P. 14—15; p. 39, fig. 5.
Photographer and date of the photo are unknown.