roman bronze enamel cockerel

Rare bronze Roman cockerel on display in Cirencester.

Three years since it was discovered during excavations on an ancient cemetery, a rare bronze Roman cockerel has been given a permanent home. The 2nd century figurine is believed to be one of only nine ever found in the Roman Empire, and is part of a new exhibition at the Corinium Museum in the Cirencester.

The child was buried wearing hobnailed shoes and was accompanied by a pottery feeding vessel, and the remarkable enamelled bronze figurine of a cockerel. The cockerel is 5-inches tall (12.5cm) and the breast, wings, eyes and ‘comb’ are inlaid with enamel, which now appears blue and green. There is a separately moulded tail plate, also enamelled, with ‘openwork’ decoration. The beak is shown open, in the act of crowing. It is believed that the Romans gave religious significance to the cockerel which was known to be connected with Mercury. Experts claim it was Mercury, a messenger to the gods, that was also responsible for conducting newly-deceased souls to the afterlife. Statues of this god, including one in the Corinium Museum, commonly show a cockerel at the base. The association probably stems from Mercury’s role as the messenger to the gods and that of the cockerel as ‘announcer’ of the new dawn. Mercury was also the ‘herdsman for the dead’, guiding newly deceased souls on their passage to the afterlife. It is therefore possible that the cockerel was an offering by a devotee of Mercury and expresses a parent’s particular concern to ensure safe transit of a loved one into the after world.

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roman bronze enamel cockerel

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