Ancient bust of Bacchus discovered in Rome

A 2,000 year-old marble head of the god Bacchus has been unearthed in a medieval wall by archaeologists in Rome.

Used by medieval Romans as a handy bit of building material and bunged into the base of a wall, the head of the god, which would originally have been part of a larger statue, is thought to date the height of the imperial Roman era of the 1st to 2nd centuries AD.

The discovery was made during excavations near the ancient Roman Forum.

The delicate, almost feminine, features of the face have led the archaeologists to conclude, at least initially, that it is a depiction of Bacchus (as he was known to the Romans)/Dionysus (as he was known to the Greeks).

The god of wine, dancing, theatre, fertility and religious ecstasy, Bacchus is often depicted in ancient art as boyish, verging on female – an aesthetic that heightened the perception of him as god whose mysteries were hard to grasp, inconstant and centred around altered states.

The work will be cleaned and displayed and the archaeologists are hopeful that traces of the original colouring of the statue – because ancient sculpture was often vividly decorated – may be recovered.

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