Head of Athena

Head of Athena
Beit Shean, Israel
Roman period, 2nd century CE
Marble from the island of Thassos
H: 55 cm; W: 29 cm
Israel Antiquities Authority
Accession number: IAA 78-505

The Greek goddess Athena-Minerva in the Roman pantheon-was the daughter of Zeus, king of all gods. Goddess of war, patron of the arts and artisans, she is traditionally portrayed wearing a helmet and holding a spear and shield. Unearthed at the north end of Beth Shean (Scythopolis), this sculpture probably adorned one of the magnificent public buildings or temples that stood in the center of this Roman city. The helmeted head is all that remains of a marble statue that once reached a height of two and a half meters. With her head tilted somewhat to the left, full lips, and almond-shaped eyes whose details would probably have been painted, she exhibits an impressive demeanor. Her wavy hair is parted in the middle and gathered at the back, exposing a good portion of her ears. Two locks flank her powerful neck, and traces of red paint are visible in the grooves of her hair. The schematic, rough design of the helmet and hair contrasts with the smoothly carved and naturalistic rendering of the face, as if the work was unfinished. This difference in finish is typical of the second century CE. The sculpture is a Roman copy of a Greek prototype, probably carved at one of the sculpture centers in the eastern Mediterranean and imported to Beth Shean.

The Israel Museum, Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2005

Digital presentation of this object was made possible by: The Pidem Fund, London