Stela of King Ptolemy II and the deified Queen Arsinoe II - ROM2008_10293_1


Stela of King Ptolemy II and the deified Queen Arsinoe II

Medium:Limestone, carved and painted
Geography: Undetermined site, Egypt
Date: c. 250 BC
Period: Ptolemaic Period
27 x 16 cm
Object number: 979.63
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

This round-topped limestone stela is decorated at the top in good Egyptian fashion with a winged solar disc with pendant uraeii. On the right side of the stela the standing figure  of a king is shown in pharaonic style, wearing the double crown and shendyt kilt; he offers a nw-jar to the female figure on the left.  She stands facing right, wearing a traditional Egyptian sheath dress and tripartite wig. She holds a very tall staff with an ankh sign at the top in her right hand. Egyptian deities hold their staffs vertically in front of them, so this pose may reflect Hellenistic influence, recalling images of the goddess Athena holding her spear. The female figure appears to be making a libation with her left hand over a horned altar represented in the centre of the scene. The horned altar was introduced to Egypt in the Persian Period and is found throughout the Near East in the Hellenistic and Roman eras.

The female figure can be identified by the special crown that she wears. This crown takes the form of the red crown of Lower Egypt, but without the spiral.  On top of the basic red crown are added the horizontal ram horns of Amun with a small sun disc flanked by cow horns in the centre; above this are two tall straight plumes. This special crown, which comes in a few variant forms, identifies the figure as the deified Arsinoe II, who was the wife of Ptolemy II. The stela is uninscribed, but there is an empty cartouche placed by the head of the female figure, presumably meant to include the queen's name. The king is therefore presumably Ptolemy II making an offering to his deified wife.  The stela was likely set up in a mixed Greek and Egyptian community, such as in the Fayum, in honour of the royal cult of the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt. (S. B. Shubert)

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