Kathryn Chalmers

MONTFAUCON, Bernard de. L’Antiquite Expliquée et Représentée en Figures (Paris, 1719) 



The image of plate 5, associated with page 18, is labelled Archigalle, the French for Archigallus. The illustration depicts a statue of an Archigallus, as well as a smaller image of Cybele seated in temple, flanked by two lions. Archigallus was the title of the head of the Galli, the influential priesthood of Cybele in Rome. In most depictions the Archigallus is decoratively dressed and the statue illustrated here is no exception with its embellished neckline. The missing head would likely have been wearing an elaborate headdress too. On the chest of the figure is a depiction of Mercury, apparent by his caduceus and winged hat, Jupiter, as shown by his held thunderbolts, and the crowned and veiled Cybele. These characters together show the integration of the Phrygian cult of Cybele into the Roman society.

Cybele herself was originally an Anatolian mother goddess and the state goddess of Phrygia, located in Anatolia, but her cult spread to Greece and to Rome and across their empire. The Phrygian origin of the cult is reflected on the chest of the Archigalle in two medallions, each depicting a bust of a figure wearing the traditional Phrygian cap. Cybele is heavily associated with lions amongst other wildlife and nature, hence the lions that flank the depiction of Cybele to the side of the statue illustration. The Romans adopted her cult as they did with many other foreign deities, referring to her as Magna Mater, ‘Great Mother’, and claiming her to be a goddess of Troy, the Romans being supposedly descended from the Trojans. This removed her foreign identity to some extent and the depiction of her with Mercury and Jupiter reinforces the idea. Mercury and Jupiter were both gods in the Dii Consentes, the group of twelve major deities in the Roman pantheon, which Jupiter also headed as king of the gods, and the introduced Cybele took an important role in both the Roman Republic and Empire. 

Promethée qui Forme l’Homme avec Minerve, qui lui Donne l’Ame; Cupidon et Psyché; Neptune; Vulcain qui Forge; Image Toute Symbolique


The image on the unnumbered plate on the tipped in folio page associated with page 24 depicts a frieze portraying multiple figures including major gods and titans. It also contains many symbolic aspects that recognisably belong to certain figures. Viewed from left to right, the female figure on the far left wears a helmet and has a hand on the lifeless figure held by another. The one holding and crafting this figure is Prometheus, a titan who created humans from clay, and the helmeted female is Minerva, who was his helper. She was one of the Dii Consentes, the twelve major gods of the Roman pantheon, and the goddess of wisdom as well as defence and trade. Her helmeted appearance was a common portrayal in Rome in accord with her defensive role, and also arose from the myth that she had been born from Jupiter fully armed. In the illustration, an owl can also be seen next to Minerva, her sacred creature and a reflection of wisdom. Her shield also rests by her feet.

Cupid and Psyche can be seen as couple in the centre of the image. Smaller than some of the other figures, their size shows their lesser status. Cupid was god of love, but not a major god, and Psyche was mortal until she drank ambrosia, the so called nectar of the gods and the drink of immortality, in order for her marriage to Cupid to be an equal union. Cupid does not yet have the cherub like characteristics later granted to him in depictions but is still youthful.

Another prominent figure in the foreground is that of Ceres, goddess of agriculture and fertility. She is identifiable by the cornucopia, the horn of plenty that she holds. In the background Neptune rides in his chariot, though is oddly not represented with the trident which he is often depicted with. Both of these gods were part of the Dii Consentes, as was Vulcan, who can be seen with a hammer and anvil and is in front of a fire. God of fire, Vulcan was also god of the forge. Only one of his legs can be fully seen in the frieze and may be hiding the permanent damage to the other leg as a baby when rejected by Juno. Not all the Dii Consentes are present though, as apparent by lacking figures and symbolic items.

Iupiter Enfant


The image on plate 7, associated with page 32, is a full page image centred on Jupiter as a child. Jupiter was king of the gods and sky-father so is generally depicted as holding a thunderbolt, but as he is a child in this image other imagery is present instead. The tree behind the figures holds an eagle devouring a hare. The eagle was the sacred animal of Jupiter as thus the most important bird to determine omens from, as well as being the primary symbol of the Roman army. In this case the eagle makes it clear that the boy shown is Jupiter. Also in the tree is a nest containing smaller birds and another bird on the opposite branch, which the accompanying text suggests is for aesthetic balance. The snake in the tree is also linked to Jupiter as snakes were sacred to him, and also linked to his wife and sister, Juno. The tree itself is an oak, the sacred tree of Jupiter.

There is a faun, merged by Roman poets with the Greek satyrs with their goat legs, playing the pan flute behind Jupiter. Although Pan, himself having goat legs, was a god of Greek origin, fauns and Roman satyrs remained linked to him. In some Greek mythology, Pan is son of Zeus, who was the equivalent of Jupiter, whilst another link can be seen through Amalthea. Aegipan, according to various traditions the father of Pan, the son of Pan or Pan himself, was nursed by Amalthea, who also nursed Zeus with goats milk in some versions of his upbringing. Jupiter’s upbringing mirrored this, and Ovid Fasti 5.111 refers to the constellation immortalising Amalthea in return for her nursing. Amalthea is sometimes written as a goat and sometimes as a nymph. In this image the goat idea is represented by the goats present, whilst Amalthea takes the form of a woman and is feeding the young Jupiter with a drinking horn, reminiscent of a cornucopia. The imagery is reflecting Jupiter’s upbringing and his start in life but also his future power.


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Kathryn Chalmers