Ancient Artefact of the Day: The Meroë Head
Bronze portrait of the Emperor Augustus, excavated at Meroë, where it had been deposited as a victory token by the Kushite Candace, Amanirenas. #AAOTD #Augustus #Kush
Image: British Museum (1911,0901.1). Link - britishmuseum.org/collection/obj…
The head likely comes from one of a series of statues that Augustus had set up in Egypt following his victories over Antony and Cleopatra. The modelling of the head in bronze, with eyes of glass and calcite, was designed to communicate power to the newly acquired Egypt.
The message of power, however, was more apparent than the reality, at least for Amanirenas, Queen of Kush. This powerful independent Queen led a series of raids into Roman Egypt in 25 BC, taking plunder back to Kush, including this statue head.
A possible record of this campaign survives on a Meroitic stela from Hamadab, ca. Late 1st Century BC. While the relief seems to depict Queen Amanirenas and Prince Akinidad, the detail of the text is not understood.
Image: British Museum (EA1650). Link - britishmuseum.org/collection/obj…
The plundered head remained there, deposited beneath the steps of the Kushite temple, so that as Amanirenas crossed the threshold she would always be stepping on and over the Roman Emperor she had defeated.
Eventually the hostilities between the two forces would be brought to an end in late 21 BC with the Treaty of Samos which set a formal border between the two territories.
In the years that followed, Augustus constructed a series of Egyptian-styled temples which also paid honour to the rulers of neighbouring kingdoms, such as the The Temple of Dendur, ca. 10 BC.
Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (68.154). Link - metmuseum.org/art/collection…
For more on this structure and its connections with Kush, see:
SCHORK, R. J. “The Dendur Temple in New York: The Gallus Connection.” Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics 18, no. 3 (2011): 93–105.
#AAOTD #Augustus #Kush