This marble sculpture from the secondcentury AD joins a Roman architecturalelement to a clearly Egyptian subject.A baboon is sitting on a rectangular,slightly ﬂaring column, a partially rolled-out scroll in its hands. On the monkey’shead is a full-moon disk with the
(writhing cobra). The column’s front isornamented with an ibis in relief. Thebaboon’s round face and the ibis’s slimbill represent two different phases ofthe moon: the full moon and the cres-cent. The two animals are guises ofthe Egyptian moon god Thoth. It is likelythat the god originally stood beside thecolumn in human shape, because themoon disk on the monkey’s head isheld by a human hand at the back.Ibises and baboons—like falcons,crocodiles, and many other animals—were worshipped throughout Egypt,a practice that continued in the Romanperiod. Their mummiﬁed remains wereburied in separate cemeteries such asthe one (present-day Tuna el-Gebel)near Hermopolis. Hermopolis (‘Cityof Hermes’) is the Greek name for theEgyptian city of Khmun (now El-Ashmu-nein), the traditional centre of the Thothcult. Judging from the sculpture’s style,the missing anthropomorphic god wasprobably depicted in Graeco-Romanform.The identiﬁcation of Hermes and Thothseems strange at ﬁrst: Hermes was notconsidered a moon god. Thoth protectedcosmic order against chaos, togetherwith the goddess Maat, and kept theuniverse in balance. He recorded thephases of the moon, and the passingof time with it. As the inventor of lan-guage and writing he became the patronof scribes and scholars. Thoth was themaster of magic, the secretary of thegods, and an arbiter at the Judgementof the Dead.Hermes was a messenger of the gods,like Iris, and the patron of travellers. Inthis capacity he was also connectedwith the interpretation of divine mes-sages, and guided souls to the under-world. And so Hermes and Thothbecame one and the same to the Greekimagination. The Romans in their turnidentiﬁed Hermes with Mercury. In thesecond and third centuries AD, a theol-ogy derived from Egyptian religiondeveloped, Hermeticism, attributedto Hermes Trismegistus (the ‘ThriceGreatest’).
|Dimension||36.3 x 11.6 cm|
|Period||Ancient Roman Art|
|Place||Allard Pierson Museum (Visit)|
Nice simple print that needs some supports and a brim.