Gold-glass medallion showing Herakles


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

The disc depicts a husband and wife and a small image of the Greek hero Herakles. The man is dressed in a tunic with a red strip and a toga, while she wears a gemstone necklace with pendant pearls, painted red and white. Herakles wears the skin of the Nemean lion and carries his club in his right hand and in his left, three painted apples.The Latin inscription may be translated: 'Orfitus and Constantia. Live happily in the name of Herakles, conqueror of the Underworld'. The fact that Herakles carries the apples of Hesperides, which were his wedding present to Jupiter and Juno, suggests that this was made specifically as a wedding gift. It is possible that Orfitus is Memmius Vitruvius Orfitus, a pagan aristocrat and prefect of Rome in the mid-fourth century AD.This gold-glass 'medallion' originally decorated the bottom of a bowl. Many similar objects have been found mounted in the walls of the Christian catacombs in Rome. It is thought that after the death of one of the partners, the bottom disc of the bowl was used to mark their burial place.


  • Title: Gold-glass medallion showing Herakles
  • Date Created: 300/399
  • Physical Dimensions: Diameter: 105.30mm; Depth: 5.98mm; Weight: 79.42g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: gilded; painted
  • Subject: mythical figure/creature; classical mythology; classical deity
  • Registration number: 1863,0727.3
  • Production place: Made in Rome
  • Place: Found/Acquired Rome
  • Period/culture: Late Roman
  • Material: glass; gold
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Mosca. Previous owner/ex-collection Matarozzi of Urbania

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