Vetusta Monumenta: Ancient Monuments

Plate XXXIV: A head gilded from bronze, of ancient work, excavated at Aquae Sulis (Bath)


Caput ex aere inauratum, antiqui operis, Aquis Solis…

Translation [EB]

Gilded bronze head, an ancient work, from Bath . . .




The Gilded Bronze Head of Minerva,

Provenance and Location:

Roman Baths (Bath, Britain)

Commentary [BF]

Discussion of Engraving:
The engraving features the head turned to the right in profile in front of a dark background. The head is portrayed as of light color and does not suggest bronze material. Further, in the engraving the head is portrayed without the damage evident in photographs and as reported by Cunliffe. The areas beneath the chin and on the back side of the neck are depicted as shaded,and the hair is displayed as having intricate curls, presented in a life-like manner.
Discussion of Object:
The head was discovered in 1727 beneath Stall Street by workers digging a sewer trench. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, debate ensued as to whether the identity of the head was Minerva or Apollo, though most contemporary scholars now maintain that it is, in fact, Minerva. It is assumed that the life-sized head once belonged to a full body statue and was located in the Temple of Sulis Minerva at Bath. The head itself has the appearance of missing its top half, which indicates that it once adorned a separately cast Corinthian helmet. Cunliffe notes the competent modeling in the facial features of the head, as well as in the hair, which hangs asymmetrically in the back of the head. Cunliffe also notes damage to the head in the form of dents, presumably created by a blunt instrument (1969: 34).


Cunliffe, Barry.  1969.  Roman Bath. Oxford: Oxford UP.

Cunliffe, Barry and Peter Davenport.  1985.  The Temple of Sulis Minerva at Bath.  Oxford: Oxford University Committee for Archaeology (esp. 114-16).

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