Intaglio rings were a popular style of jewellery in Ancient Rome and have been uncovered across the full geographic extent of the former Roman Empire. The custom of wearing rings was popular amongst the Romans and was probably introduced by the Sabines, who are described in early legends as wearing gold rings with precious stones. During the Roman Republic it became customary for all the senators, chief magistrates, and at last for the equites also, to wear gold rings. The nature of their individual production meant that designs and details show a wide variety, though there are common themes, such as certain gods, which were especially popular. This particular example, features Theseus, a Greek hero and a mythical king of Athens. The most famous of Theseus’ deeds was the slaying of the Minotaur. Athens was forced to pay an annual tribute of seven maidens and seven youths to King Minos of Crete to feed the Minotaur; the monstrous half man, half bull, that inhabited the labyrinthine palace at Knossos. With the help of the king’s daughter Ariadne (whom he was subsequently persuaded to abandon), Theseus defeated the monster and ended Minoan dominance.
To discover more about intaglios, please visit our relevant blog post:Intaglios: Miniature Masterpices.