Mercury Riding a Griffin

By
Michele Asuni
Michele Asuni is a first-year doctoral student in Classics at Johns Hopkins University. Before joining the Classics department in 2012, he completed his undergraduate work at the University of Pisa, where here pursued an interdisciplinary program in Classical Studies. Primarily a Hellenist, his main interests lie in Archaic and Classical Greek literature and culture, textual criticism, and Silver Latin.

_NWK4198web

  • Accession Number: JHUAM HT 727
  • Measurements: Length: 12.2cm, Width: 8.5cm, Height: 4.4cm
  • Material: Ceramic
  • Culture/Date: Roman, 2nd c. CE
  • Provenance: Aswan, Egypt

 

This lamp features the god Mercury (Greek Hermes) riding a griffin, a mythological creature (half lion and half eagle) associated with the world of the dead, or Hades. The god appears in the form of a winged youth carrying his most typical attribute, a magical staff called the caduceus through which he performed his tasks. He also appears to be wearing a hat adorned with a pair of little wings. The griffin, the staff, the traveling hat and the wings of the god himself characterize this iconographic ensemble as one that depicts Mercury in his heraldic capacity and as psychopompos, the “leader of souls” to the Underworld.