Date: ca. 400
Location or Findspot (Modern-Day Country): Italy
Dimensions: 29.6 × 12.1 (Symmachi leaf) and 29.9 × 12.4 cm (Nicomachi leaf)
Description: This ivory diptych refers in its inscriptions to the Symmachi and Nicomachi, two aristocratic Roman senate families. It may have been made to commemorate an alliance between them (e.g., a marriage) or the elevation of women from these families to the priesthoods of Ceres, Cybele, Bacchus, and Jupiter. Each leaf shows a priestess engaged in ritual activities. The priestess on the leaf labelled "Nicomachorum" holds two lit torches before a round altar. The leaf labelled "Symmachorum" depicts a priestess sprinkling incense over flames.
Relevant Textbook Chapter(s): 2
Repository and Online Resources: • The Symmachi leaf is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. • The Nicomachi leaf is in the Musée Cluny, Paris. • Watch a video on the iconography of the Symmachi panel posted at Smarthistory (with narration from Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker).
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons
Tags: Access to the sacred, Latin, Polytheist, Women, Western European, Roman, Late Antique, Mediterranean