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Work Bust of a woman
Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Levant
Bust of a woman, probably Artemis
© 2009 RMN / Franck Raux
Near Eastern Antiquities
Dura-Europos was under Roman control in the second century AD and had previously experienced Greek rule. These influences affected its religion, as is shown by this bust of Artemis found in the temple of Artemis-Nanaia at Dura. Locally made in a crude style displaying Greco-Roman qualities, it was sculpted in plaster and enlivened by polychrome treatment. It shows the personality of the goddess as the faithful should perceive her.
A polychrome plaster bust of Artemis
The bust was part of a statue of Artemis. It was found in several fragments at the Dura-Europos site. A cloak held by a fibula on the right shoulder leaves the left breast of the goddess bare. The cloak is knotted at the waist and the extremities are rolled round her arms. The hair is drawn back, parted in the center, and covered by a headdress that reaches the nape of the neck and then curves outward. Artemis is adorned with earrings rendered as small balls, a bracelet in twisted work on her left wrist, and a broad necklace. Her right arm is raised and she probably held a bow in her left hand. A few traces of paint seem to indicate that the cloak and lips were red, the hair black, and the headdress yellow. The lower part of the body, part of the right arm, the left hand and the nose are missing. The rear part is not sculpted.
A cosmopolitan society
Dura-Europos was both geographically and historically subjected to various influences. Founded in 300 BC by Seleukos I on the right bank of the Euphrates, it was successively dominated by the Greeks, the Parthians (who conquered it in 113 BC), and then the Romans, who annexed it in AD 165, before it was razed by the Sassanids in 256.
Its cosmopolitanism was is evident in its variety of languages and religions. The bust was found in the temple of Artemis-Nanaia, which does not conform to a Greek plan but rather that of a Babylonian temple built around a central courtyard. Foreign gods had Greek names during the Seleucidan era: Artemis was identified with Nanai, an old Mesopotamian deity associated with Venus. The assimilation by the Greeks of a local divinity in this bust shows that this practice continued under the Roman Empire.
Local traditions and Greco-Roman influence
In spite of its assimilation, the local character of the deity was maintained, but its representation was affected by Greco-Roman influence. The bust is an example of this. Locally made, it depicts the goddess Artemis. The statue, carved in plaster obtained by calcining gypsum, is characteristic of the art of Dura-Europos. Two plaster Victories, also found in the temple, likewise employ polychromy to enliven the sober material. The use of plaster and the quality of the sculpture confirm that it was made locally, in contrast with a statue of Aphrodite with a tortoise discovered in the temple, which is made in a Hellenistic style of Parian marble. Artemis-Nanaia, a warrior goddess associated with Victory, also ensured fertility, which accounts for the presence of Aphrodite.
The bust of Artemis shows that local traditions were strong in spite of Greco-Roman influence. It represented with a Greek touch the cult of Artemis-Nanaia, a local deity, honored in a temple with an Eastern structure.
Bust of a woman, probably Artemis
2nd-3rd century AD
Room F, Temple of Artemis Salhiye (ancient Dura-Europos), Syria
H. 34 cm; W. 28.50 cm; D. 9.10 cm
Cumont expedition, 1922-23
Arabia: the caravan cities, Dura-Europus, Palmyra, 3rd century BC–3rd century AD
Display case 17
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