Gallo-Roman Figural Votive Plaque c. 3rd Century AD
Such artifacts are also referred as "Danube Rider" or "Danube Mystery Cult" plaques
Lead; 87mm X 74mm / 85.8gm.
Con/ Some lead patina crumbling and missing top-right corner, otherwise, As Cast; beautiful butterscotch patina
Ref/ Ertl type F.1
Seller's Note/ Not sure if you are familiar with such plaques, but they were all about the Soli Invicto (Unconquered Sun) Cult that became very popular with the Roman military, especially with the cavalry troops. No one really knows where or how such plaques were displayed; small temples or household shrines being the general consistence among scholars.
And, again, the symbology seen on these plaques is rather confusing to our eyes as no one has been initiated into the secret cult for over 1,700 years.
Domiter has suggested that these plaques should be “read” from bottom upwards.On many types of plaque the lowest layer appears to symbolize the mortal world, the Earth, through symbols representing the four elements. These are usually, though in varying order, a snake (earth), a rooster (air), a lion (fire) and a kantharos urn (water). The next layer from the bottom usually appears to symbolize the cult’s initiation rite. This includes a criobolium (sacrifice of a lamb) and often also portrays a cult meal to which naked figures (initiates ?) are being invited.
The next layer, often the main layer, appears to symbolize the power of the Celtic Goddess Epona to support the riders (warriors) which in turn allows them to defeat and kill their enemies. The warrior horsemen are also supported by Mars and Nemesis, though those two deities are clearly subordinate to the Goddess.
The uppermost layer appears to symbolize the celestial world of the sun (Sol), moon (Luna) and stars, often guarded (?) by the celestial serpents.
There are, of course, exceptions to this general model, and the layout of some types raises further questions. Is there a significance between plaques with the sacrifice and feast shown, with only the sacrifice shown, and with neither shown? Why is a fish sometimes portrayed in the uppermost part, which is usually reserved for celestial imagery? On type F1, what are the snakes drinking from? What does this symbolize? Is it “celestial”?
Please note the final photo of a similar Ertl type F.1 The color markings are intended simply to help understand the written description of the design. The colour groupings are not meant to indicate any formal grouping on the part of the makers.
Pink: Fish and four four-pointed stars.
Dark Blue: Two snakes drinking (?) water flowing out of a crater with lid.
Yellow: Busts of Luna (left) and Sol (right).
Red: Goddess (Epona) with arms spread out, standing on a small pedestal.
Light Blue: Two horsemen, with Phrygian caps, trampling on prone male figures.
Light Green: Standing figure wearing ram-head mask behind left-hand horseman, female figure (Nemesis?) standing behind right-hand horseman.
Purple: Sacrifice scene, left to right, animal (ram ?) hanging from tree, man with knife.
Dark Green: Tripod table with three candles, tall lamp-stand and an upright dagger (?) to left. Three circles (loaves or fruit ?) above kantharos (urn) and rooster standing on a ram’s head to right.
Very Rare in this unbroken condition and seldom presented.