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The Trimontium Museum Archive

Maenad Intaglio: NMS ref X.2000.17.3

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Nicolo intaglio depicting a Maenad dancing and playing the double pipes (‘auloi’). It is set on a much decayed iron ring. Possibly Julio-Claudian. It may have been brought to Newstead at the time of the Agricola occupation.

The nicolo is a two layered, banded ‘gem’. Made of onyx, agate or glass, it features an upper bluish layer on which the depiction is engraved, revealing the black layer underneath.

In Roman mythology Maenads, also known as Bacchantes, were the female followers of Bacchus (the Greek Dionysus), god of wine. Inspired by him into a state of ecstasy, through music, dancing and intoxication, they are often portrayed in this ‘raving frenzy’. ‘Maenad’ literally means ‘raving one’.

Auloi, (sing. Aulos), were double-reeded instruments. Like the Pan-pipes, they were associated with music of ‘wild abandon’ and were characteristic of the followers of Bacchus, such as satyrs and maenads.

The intaglio is part of the Cruickshank Collection of field-walking finds from Trimontium and is on display in the Trimontium Museum, Melrose in the Scottish Borders.

Photo © National Museums Scotland.

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