The wrongly supposed sapphire hololith ring of Emperor Gaius

Sep 2019
24
Antioch
There has been a small, yet sensationalistic media ruse concerning the supposed sapphire hololith ring of Emperor Gaius "Caligula" (R37-41) from the "Multum in Parvo" Collection by Wartski.
The media gladly presents the ring as the collection's star attraction, because it supposedly depicts Caesonia Augusta.

However, Wartski has listed is as "once catalogued as belonging to the Emperor Caligula" and further added that "during the 17th Century, the ring was believed to have belonged to the Emperor Caligula himself".
There have been mild, and nonexplicit enough mentions that the intaglio portrait carved into the ring actually depicts a less sensational Empress: Annia Galeria Faustina Augusta (R138-140).
In that case, going by the rule of assigning the ownership of the ring to the "maritus" of whom it plausibly depicts, wouldn't that make it the supposed sapphire hololith ring of Antoninus Pius Augustus (R131-161)?


Screenshot_2019-10-09 Wartski ( wartski1865) • Instagram-foto's en -video's.png
 

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,939
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
It is highly interesting that the ring could possibly have belonged to any Roman Emperor.

If the probability that it was made for, or once belonged to, any Roman Emperor is estimated to be more than 50 percent it that would make it one of the most historic known jewels.
 
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Oct 2018
1,513
Sydney
I wasn't aware of this ring! I don't know on what basis one can identify it as Caesonia, since she doesn't look much at all like how she appears on coins:

Caesonia1.jpg

Caesonia2.jpg


The headdress also looks much too gaudy for a Julio-Claudian woman. But it looks too gaudy for the second century as well. It doesn't match the look of Faustina the Elder: Faustina I, Roman Imperial Coins reference at WildWinds.com The decoration reminds me more of the Theodosian empresses. See e.g. coins of Galla Placidia: Galla Placidia, Roman Imperial Coins of, at WildWinds.com

Incidentally, this is a minor point, but Caesonia was not necessarily titled Augusta. In the early first century it had not yet become the norm that the most important imperial women were given that epithet. Livia became the first in AD 14, and then under Claudius Antonia the Younger and later Agrippina the Younger became Augustae. This more cautious approach to the honours attributed to imperial women is also reflected in the fact that coins were minted for a more limited selection of women than during the second and third centuries. On the few coins on which Caesonia appears she is titled 'wife of Augustus': Caesonia, Roman Imperial Coins of, at WildWinds.com
 
Sep 2019
24
Antioch
Incidentally, this is a minor point, but Caesonia was not necessarily titled Augusta. In the early first century it had not yet become the norm that the most important imperial women were given that epithet. Livia became the first in AD 14, and then under Claudius Antonia the Younger and later Agrippina the Younger became Augustae. This more cautious approach to the honours attributed to imperial women is also reflected in the fact that coins were minted for a more limited selection of women than during the second and third centuries. On the few coins on which Caesonia appears she is titled 'wife of Augustus': Caesonia, Roman Imperial Coins of, at WildWinds.com
That explains the "ΓYNH ΣEBAΣTOY" on her coin from Caesaraea Panias.
Thank you for pointing this out, I wasn't aware.
 
Sep 2019
24
Antioch
I wasn't aware of this ring! I don't know on what basis one can identify it as Caesonia, since she doesn't look much at all like how she appears on coins:

The headdress also looks much too gaudy for a Julio-Claudian woman. But it looks too gaudy for the second century as well. It doesn't match the look of Faustina the Elder: Faustina I, Roman Imperial Coins reference at WildWinds.com The decoration reminds me more of the Theodosian empresses. See e.g. coins of Galla Placidia: Galla Placidia, Roman Imperial Coins of, at WildWinds.com
I think you've brought up an interesting point about the portrait resembling a Theodosian empress like Galla Placidia, rather than Faustina.
I can quite see it, especially in the "beadiness" of her numismatical portraiture. However, going by facial features and the simplicity of her garment, I do believe she resembles Faustina rather.

erhe.png13392_13392_c.jpg
 
Oct 2018
1,513
Sydney
That explains the "ΓYNH ΣEBAΣTOY" on her coin from Caesaraea Panias.
Thank you for pointing this out, I wasn't aware.
No worries. I have thought a bit about the title and its frequency because I've been reading about the Tetrarchic women, none of whom between the years 284 and 308 possessed the title. By this time this is a surprising absence, but I suppose in the Julio-Claudian period the concept of imperial feminine honours had yet to attain a normal pattern.
 
Oct 2018
1,513
Sydney
I think you've brought up an interesting point about the portrait resembling a Theodosian empress like Galla Placidia, rather than Faustina.
I can quite see it, especially in the "beadiness" of her numismatical portraiture. However, going by facial features and the simplicity of her garment, I do believe she resembles Faustina rather.

View attachment 23803View attachment 23804
Huh, I was so distracted by the different styles of hair decoration that I didn't notice how similar those faces are. The eyes and the protruding chin are uncanny.
 
Oct 2018
1,513
Sydney
Well then, if scholars think that this is Faustina the Elder, and curious hair aside I certainly do see it, then it is indeed possible that this is a ring worn by Antoninus Pius. Alternatively, perhaps it could be that a senator wore it as a gift from the empress. After all, the empresses themselves possessed extensive networks of clients, being rich women with unique access to the emperor and his successor.
 
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Jun 2018
526
New Hampshire
I wasn't aware of this ring! I don't know on what basis one can identify it as Caesonia, since she doesn't look much at all like how she appears on coins:

View attachment 23800

View attachment 23801


The headdress also looks much too gaudy for a Julio-Claudian woman. But it looks too gaudy for the second century as well. It doesn't match the look of Faustina the Elder: Faustina I, Roman Imperial Coins reference at WildWinds.com The decoration reminds me more of the Theodosian empresses. See e.g. coins of Galla Placidia: Galla Placidia, Roman Imperial Coins of, at WildWinds.com

Incidentally, this is a minor point, but Caesonia was not necessarily titled Augusta. In the early first century it had not yet become the norm that the most important imperial women were given that epithet. Livia became the first in AD 14, and then under Claudius Antonia the Younger and later Agrippina the Younger became Augustae. This more cautious approach to the honours attributed to imperial women is also reflected in the fact that coins were minted for a more limited selection of women than during the second and third centuries. On the few coins on which Caesonia appears she is titled 'wife of Augustus': Caesonia, Roman Imperial Coins of, at WildWinds.com
These are some very good points you bring up. But out of curiosity, how exactly do you know what Caseronia looked like? Are there any written descriptions of her appearance? I understand that a headdress is an archaeological artifact that can be studied, presuming the remains of such a Julio-Claudian headdress have been found. But as far as I am aware, the ancient Roman elite cremated there mortal remains. Which would make the survival human remains unlikely.
 
Oct 2018
1,513
Sydney
These are some very good points you bring up. But out of curiosity, how exactly do you know what Caseronia looked like? Are there any written descriptions of her appearance? I understand that a headdress is an archaeological artifact that can be studied, presuming the remains of such a Julio-Claudian headdress have been found. But as far as I am aware, the ancient Roman elite cremated there mortal remains. Which would make the survival human remains unlikely.
I was basing the comparison purely on how she is depicted in coins, which struck me as being pretty different from the depiction on the ring. Likewise, my points about headdresses were based on coins. That said, while we can use coin portraits to test the validity of an identification (to get an idea of how different people were visually represented), we can't really know what these women looked like in actuality, since coin portraits are themselves a type of propaganda. The same applies to statues, although the identification of statues is also often tenuous, since statues do not usually remain attached to the original dedicatory inscription that identifies the person depicted. Literary descriptions are of variable quality too. I don't know of statues and literary descriptions that depict Caesonia, but I went with coins because it was the easiest means of comparison.
 
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