Sardonyx cameo fragment with Jupiter astride an eagle

Period: Hellenistic or Early Imperial

Date: 1st century B.C.–1st century A.D.

Culture: Greek or Roman

Medium: Sardonyx

Dimensions: H.: 1 3/8 x 1 3/16 in. (3.4 x 3 cm)

Classification: Gems

Credit Line: Gift of Milton Weil, 1932

Accession Number: 32.142.2


Despite its fragmentary condition this cameo still displays the fine quality of its workmanship. The eagle's feathers and Jupiter's torso and bearded face are carved in exquisite detail against an almost transparent background. The imagery of the Father of the Gods flying through the heavens astride an eagle was adapted for use in Roman official art to depict scenes of apotheosis. This was the procedure by which emperors were deified; their ascent up to heaven was marked at the state funeral by the release of an eagle that symbolically carried the spirit of the deceased emperor up to the heavens.