Republican Rome   :|:   Document

Claudia Sintyche altar

ref. : en.858.2013 | 8 September 2013 | by Francis Leveque
sculpture | Middle of Ier century BC
Rome, Latium ( Italie )
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This marble relief altar was discovered on the bank of the Tiber below the Aventine under the papacy of Clement XI at some time between 1700 and 1721. The relocation during the 1990’s – whether permanent or merely temporary – of many items of sculpture from the Capitoline collections in the Museum of the Power Plant Montemartini has given a new visibility to this altar and several items.

The face of the altar bears a dedicatory inscription and a pictorial allusion to the arrival by ship at Rome of the goddess Cybele. In the back face are two phrygian flutes, referring to Cybele’s Phrygian origins.

“The central image is a small ship with a curved stern plume and a volute prow. The goddess enthroned at the center should probably be imagined within the aedicula shell behind her. She is fully enveloped in a veil, chiton and himation with one hand resting on her knee and another raised with a tympanum. Around the capstan on the bow is wrapped a short pull whose other end falls lightly from the hand of a woman positioned obliquely to the front of the boat on a projecting square platform. She also has her head veiled and she wears a chiton wrapped closely over her breast and fastened in the manner of the goddess, but her mantle is loosely draped over the free arm. The dedicatory inscription names the goddess and, surprisingly, gives a name to the ship (CIL VI 492).” [E. W. Leach] navi salviae
salviae voto suscepto
claudia synthyche
d(onum) d(edit)

“To the mother of the gods and the ship salvia - As in a vow made to Salvia - Claudia Syntyche - dedicates this gift”.

Clodia’s brother is P. Clodius Pulcher who had political warfare with Cicero. In both passages Pro Caelio 14.34 and de Haruspicum Responsis 13.27 Cicero refers to Claudia Quinta’s famous virtue involves her role in receiving the Cybele, Magna Mater (event narrated by Aurelius Victor, de viris illustribus, 46). The goddess arrived at Rome by ship from her seat in Asia Minor during the year 204 BC. Her ship is sinking in the mud of the Tiber so low because of the drought. Men try to tow with a rope but he did not move. Consulting Sibylline books indicates that only a very chaste woman could move.
Claudia Quinta then pray the goddess to follow. It attaches to his belt vessel and trailer alone. The goddess and prove the purity of the young woman.

This is the story that recalls the illustration of the altar.


Bibliography :

  • E. W. Leach, Claudia Quinta (Pro Caelio 34) and an altar to Magna Mater, in Dictynna, vol. 4 , 2007
  • I. VILOGORAC BRČIĆ, NAVISALVIA, THE SAVIOUR OF CYBELE’S SHIP, in Histria Antiqua, vol. 21 , 2012