Equestrian Statue of Augustus — Followup

This just in … the Local seems to be the first off the mark with reports of the news conference mentioned in our previous post on this:

Hessian Science Minister Eva Kühne-Hörmann on Thursday presented fragments of a 2,000-year-old bronze equestrian statue of Roman Emperor Augustus found recently in a stream near Giessen.

“The find has meaning beyond Hesse and the north Alpine region due to its quality and provenance,” Kühne-Hörmann said during the presentation with state archaeologist Dr. Egon Schallmayer and Director of the Roman-German Commission Dr. Friedrich Lüth.

“We’ve rediscovered the remnants of early European history. The unique horse head is a witness to the broken dream of the Romans to create a united Europe under their rule,” she added.

On August 12, archaeologists pulled the gold-gilded, life-sized head of a horse and a shoe of the emperor – who ruled the Roman Empire between 23 BC and 14 AD – from a stream in what was once the Roman outpost Germania Magna. Experts there have uncovered several bits – including a horse hoof and a decorated chest strap – from the statue among some 20,000 artefacts uncovered at the site in recent years.

Scientists from the University of Jena believe it may have been destroyed by Roman soldiers retreating after the legendary Varusschlacht, or the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD, when Germanic tribes ambushed and wiped out three Roman legions. As the remaining Roman troops retreated after the devastating defeat, they destroyed most of what they could not take with them.

The horse’s bridle is embellished with images of the Roman god of war Mars and the goddess Victoria, who personified victory.

Restoration and examination of more than 100 statue fragments is underway in Hessen’s state archaeology workshop.

There’s a nice photo accompanying the article:

The Local
The Local

There’s a little slideshow as well, but it is mostly images of this horse’s head from various angles (there is a photo of the hoof too) …

The photos from the various German-language sources are pretty much the same and as far as I can tell, all are repeating the line mentioned previously that the scholars believe Roman soldiers dumped this in the stream while retreating vel simm.. I continue to see a problem with that — it seems to make more sense to suggest that the victorious Germani dumped it in the river. I also continue to wonder why they are connecting this statue specifically with Augustus … it does make sense, given the apparent date and the like, but I see nothing from these pieces that suggests a positive Augustus connection. Why not Tiberius? Or maybe even Drusus?

From the German-language press:

Epigraphic Evidence from Perperikon

Interesting item from Radio Bulgaria, which seems to have lost a thing here and there in translation:

In the summer the ancient shrine of Perperikon in Southeastern Bulgaria is the source of hot archeological news. During this year’s digs the team of Prof. Nickolay Ovcharov has come across the first epigraphic (written) evidence about Perperikon. Evidence was found on two monuments with Latin inscriptions as well as on a lead stamp. Archeologists have also dug out a Roman road in Perperikon’s southern section, Prof. Ovcharov told a press conference.

“In early August local people told us about a fragment they had seen on the road. We checked into the case and found out that that this is the road from Roman times that connected Perperikon with the branch of the main road East-West-Europe-Asia, the famous Via Egnatia. Five kilometers from Perperikon it branches to reach the stone city. This branch was made especially to serve the city. We found a 30 m fragment from the road into the woods. There we also found an ancient smithy. Coins that we unearthed have been dated to the end 4, early 5 c. AD, the heyday of Perperikon. During digs on the road we were happy to find the first fragment from an inscription, and soon we found two other such fragments. Obviously, they come from different eras. The letters used are either Latin or ancient Greek.”

For deciphering the texts Nickolay Ovcharov referred to Prof. Vasilka Gerasimova, researcher from the National Museum of History and professor at New Bulgarian University, Bulgaria’s best expert in Latin epigraphy. She has dated the epigraphic monuments. The oldest one among them originated in 4-5 c. and the most recent one – in 16-17 c.

Dr. Zdravko Dimitrov, specialist in Antiquity archeology, confirmed this evidence and said: “These are the first pieces of epigraphic evidence in Perperikon. The first one is from a gravestone with a name of Syrian origin written on it. The deciphering of the name suggests that the Perperikon population included immigrants from Syria and Asia Minor. They were rich people and focused mostly on trade and crafts. The second inscription has a very low relief and is difficult to read.”

The last inscription found away from the Roman road in Perperikon has puzzled the team of Prof. Ovcharov. “The letters could be interpreted as recent, written by shepherds in 1950s, for instance”, Prof. Ovcharov explains.

“Later however the inscription was dated to 16-17 c. and for sure one of the names on it is the Christian name Cosmas. It is not clear whether it is Bulgarian or Greek, because in both cases the spelling would be the same”, Prof. Ovcharov added. The most recent find in Perperikon is a lead stamp from 11 c. On one side it depicts Virgin Mary with the Holy Infant and on the other side the name Museli Bakuriani is written.

The Radio Bulgaria piece includes several photos, including one which presumably are the inscriptions:

Radio Bulgaria Photo
Radio Bulgaria Photo

I’ve fiddled with the image in Photoshop but can’t really get a handle on the inscriptions; I think the top one is the one which mentions the ‘Christian’ name Kosmas, but that’s not at all certain. Whatever the case, are there really no Greek or Latin inscriptions from Peperikon (e.g. in IGBulg?)??

This Day in Ancient History: ante diem vi kalendas septembres

ante diem vi kalendas septembres

  • Volturnalia — rites in honour of a divinity associated with fountains/waters
  • 479 B.C. — Greek forces defeat Persian forces under Mardonius at Plataea (according to one reckoning)
  • 413 B.C. — lunar eclipse which caused hesitation amongst  Athenian forces under Nikias in Sicily; the subsequent delay  ultimately led to their destruction