Box with Sleeping Eros

Date: 300–400

Culture: Roman or Byzantine

Medium: Silver

Dimensions: Overall: 3 9/16 x 9 7/8 x 3 3/4 in. (9.1 x 25.1 x 9.5 cm)

Classification: Metalwork-Silver

Credit Line: Fletcher Fund, 1947

Accession Number: 47.100.33


This early Byzantine silver box was found on the site of the ancient city Tastassus, now known as Tastous, in Syria. A number of these small silver boxes survive, decorated with embossed figures and objects. Their precise purpose is unknown, but they must have held objects of great value to their owner, such as jewelry. The cover of the box depicts Eros, or Cupid, the god of love, asleep on a lion's skin with his bow and quiver in hand. Although only a lesser figure in Greek and Roman mythology, Eros is widely represented in a variety of art forms. The sides of the box are decorated with the heads of bulls, objects of worship in early religions for the bull's strength and virility. The decoration of this box shows that the traditions of the Greek and Roman periods remained popular in the region even as Christianity became increasingly powerful.