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Image: ‘Gorgon’s Head Pediment’.  The beige-coloured stones are shown on display, placed in the position they would originally have appeared.  Not all of the pieces have survived.

Roman 'Gorgon's Head' pediment

Fourteen pieces of carved stone have been found from the decorative front of the Temple to Sulis Minerva. This stood in its own sacred courtyard by the Sacred Spring, in the centre of Roman Bath.

It is difficult to know the meaning behind the carvings. The central decoration shows a bearded face with snake hair. We do not know who it is meant to be. It is usually described as a gorgon, but in Roman mythology they were portrayed as women. It could show the Celtic god responsible for the Spring, perhaps Sul with whom the Roman goddess Minerva was associated on this site.

Surrounding the face there are two wreaths of oak leaves symbolising a victory. The two incomplete female figures with wings holding the wreaths are victories.

On the bottom right-hand side of the larger wreath is a small owl, representing Minerva and symbolising her wisdom. The helmet on the lower left-hand stone refers to her military powers.

All pieces but one were found in 1790 during the construction of the new Pump Room. They were probably found where they had fallen within the Temple courtyard when the Temple finally collapsed or was pulled down when people stopped worshipping there.

Height: 2440 mm; Width: 8000 mm

Barry Cunliffe and Peter Davenport, The Temple of Sulis Minerva at Bath, Volume 1(I): The Site (1985), pages 26-29, figure 11, plates XXXV-XLVII

B.W. Cunliffe and M.G. Fulford, Corpus of Sculpture of the Roman World, Volume 1, Fascicule 2: Bath and the Rest of Wessex (1982), page 11, numbers 32-37

Number: batrm 1983.1.9
Material(s): oolite (bath stone)
Creation date: Roman
Display status: On display : Roman Baths Museum, Bath

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