top of page

Ca. AD 100-300

A fine Roman gold finger ring with a round-section hoop expanding to form an oval bezel that is set with a jasper intaglio. The intaglio is engraved with a depiction of a gryllos, a figure composed of a bearded face of Silenus facing right, an equine protome on the top, and ram head facing left. The hybrid stands on rooster legs. For a similar example, see G.M.A. Richer, Catalogue of engraved gems. Greek, Etruscan, and Roman (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), Plate LXIII.

The term gryllos, used for bizarre combinations of human, animal, and fantastical creatures, is derived from the Greek word for caricature. It was a concept that endured into the Medieval Era and was continually twisted to suit its historical context. According to Plutarch, however, during the Roman Empire grylloi were thought to have apotropaic properties, serving, "As safeguards against the evil eye deriv[ing] their efficacy from their strangeness which attracts the evil eye and thus lessens its force against its victims." Plutarch,Quaestiones Convivialis, V, 6, 681 F.


Provenance: Private London collection; ex. Japanese private collection 1990s.


SKU: JUL2334
  • Dimensions

    D: 19.76mm / US: 10 / UK: T 1/2 ; 9.79g 

bottom of page