The Roman House at Hopkins | The Art of Light

Mercury Riding a Griffin

By Michele Asuni

Accession Number: JHAM HT 727
Measurements: Length: 12.2 cm, Width: 8.5 cm, Height: 4.4 cm
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.