ART FROM ANCIENT LANDS

Marble Sculpture of Saturn-Baal - X.0502
Origin: Mediterranean
Circa: 100 AD to 400 AD
Dimensions: 18.5" (47.0cm) high
Collection: Classical
Style: Roman
Medium: Marble

The Carthaginian 'triad' of important gods included Baal Hammon, Tanit, and Eshmun. The word Baal (pronounced ba-al) meant "lord" in Phoenician and was the term used in the Old Testament to refer to any Canaanite god. (Canaanite is another name for Phoenician). Baal bears the titles "Rider of the Clouds," "Almighty," and "Lord of the Earth." He was the god of the thunderstorm, the most vigorous and aggressive of the gods, and was believed to reside on Mount Zaphon, in Phoenicia. Archaeological evidence of Baal Hammon includes sacrificial pits in his temples, where victims usually first-born sons were burned in his honour. This was, in fact, a fairly common practice in most of the Mediterranean area, and is noted frequently in the Old Testament (notably amongst the Egyptians and the Carthaginians). His temples were also associated with holy prostitution. The Roman god Saturn was the main deity of agriculture (protector of seeds and sowers) and was associated with the Greek god Kronos. The mythologies of the two gods are therefore intertwined to no little extent, and become more complex once the older Carthaginian god Baal (Hammon) became associated with both Saturn and Kronos during the Greek and Roman imperial expansions of the late first millennium BC. This culture clash led to a fusion of modern and ancient traditions as invaders struggled to impose their culture upon conquered but not defeated societies. The uneasy truce has many archaeological manifestations: a notable example is the Roman habit of being mummified in the traditional Egyptian style. Such evidence is rare and highly significant, denoting major social developments in the Mediterranean basin that would go on to affect much of the known world. This sculpture is an elegant embodiment of those troubled times. Standing 18.5 high, this statue represents Saturn/Baal in traditional garb, with a tunic overlain by a toga. The drapery is very finely carved, and is gathered in the mid-chest with a small round brooch. His face and beard are extremely detailed and beautifully executed, and are topped with a soft cloth hat bound at the brows with a cord. His features are cast in an expression of pensive reflection. His feet are shod with sandals. His right hand rests upon a bale of barley, and he is holding a circular object possibly a discus in his right hand. His left hand has suffered some damage, but probably originally held a scythe an implement associated with both Saturn and Kronos (and, incidentally, the inspiration behind Deaths wielding of a scythe in his role as the grim reaper). Judging from the sculptures size, it was probably a domestically-owned household god, kept in a niche in a private home of substance in order to cast benedictions upon the householders. This is a genuinely beautiful sculpture, and also one of considerable importance to anyone interested in the dynamics of the Mediterranean crucible in which the roots of western civilisation were forged. - (X.0502)

 

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