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Roundel with Bust of Atargatis-Tyche and Zodiac

UnknownNabataean, late 1st century A.D.

Cincinnati Art Museum

Cincinnati Art Museum
Cincinnati, United States

For more than three centuries, from the second century B.C. through the second century A.D., the independent kingdom of the Nabataeans, with its capital at Petra, flourished in the Transjordan and neighboring regions. Originally nomads, the Nabataeans established themselves as influential merchants who drew their wealth largely from the lucrative spice and incense trade of southern Arabia.

The sculpted roundel in the Art Museum’s collection depicts the Syrian deity Atargatis, represented here in the form of Tyche, a Hellenistic Greek goddess who typically served as the city’s protector. She is clearly identified by her distinctive headdress, which recalls the fortified walls of a city.

Atargatis is surrounded by the twelve signs of the Zodiac, images that became popular in the Roman world of the second century A.D. This association clearly underscores the astral or celestial significance of the goddess, a fact reinforced by the appearance of a lunar crescent above her right shoulder. The arrangement of the zodiacal symbols in two halves (moving counterclockwise and clockwise from the top) suggests that the Nabataean calendar contained two yearly cycles: a natural new year beginning with spring, and a civic new year that began in autumn.

The Art Museum’s roundel originally was supported by the winged figure of Nike, the goddess of victory, which now resides in the Jordanian Archaeological Art Museum in Amman. Like the other Nabataean sculptures in Cincinnati, the Tyche sculpture was excavated at Khirbet Tannur, a remote mountaintop sanctuary located southeast of the Dead Sea.

Details

  • Title: Roundel with Bust of Atargatis-Tyche and Zodiac
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Nabataean, late 1st century A.D.
  • Location: Jordan
  • Location Created: Khirbet Tannur, Petra, Jordan
  • Physical Dimensions: 11 x 14 x 5 in. (29.5 x 35.6 x 13.3 cm)
  • Credit Line: Museum Purchase
  • Accession Number: 1939.233
  • Type: Stone/Sculpture
  • Medium: micaceous quartz limestone

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