button to main menu  Gents Mag 1804 p.269

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Gentleman's Magazine 1804 p.269

  roman sacrificial vases

Roman Sacrificial Vases

Description of the Roman Sacrificial Vases lately discovered in Sewell's-lane, Scotch Street, Carlisle.
These antiquities are so valuable, both from their rarity, and from the elegance of the workmanship, that they must be extremely precious in the eyes of the Antiquary. The name that the vase is generally distinguished by is praefericulum, and it is understood to have been appropriated to the holding of incense, &c. used in the sacrifice. Many of these have been brought from Greece and Siciliy, and have been highly estimated by the curious, for the elegance of the workmanship, and the beauty of the relief in the ornaments. But the Grecian vessels are principally of fine clay, or bronze. These vases we are speaking of, we believe, are the first which have been discovered in Britain; and the sculpture of such a vessel but once appears among all the altars found in this country: it is on a beautiful Roman altar, discovered at Ellenborough, which was removed to Flat-hall, at Whitehaven, and is now in the possession of Lord Viscount Lowther. This altar is inscribed "Genio loci, Fortunae reduci, Romae AEternae, et Fato bono," &c. It is said to be the most curious Roman altar that ever was discovered in Britain, and is particularly described both by Camden and Horsley, who go into a long train of conjectures respecting the instruments sculptured on its side, which are the praefericulum, the patera, the axe, and the knife.
- The metal which the vessels in question are formed of seems to be a composition of refined brass, capable of receiving a very high polish, and so flexible that it allowed the artificer to form them extremely thin. At the top and bottom of the vases it is evident that they have been turned and finished in a lathe. From there being no accompanying altar or inscription, we regret we cannot suppose exactly the time of the Empire when these sacred vessels have been used. The only guide is the elegant sculpture of the handles, which consists of four tiers of groups of figures, in excellent workmanship, and all apparently illustrative of sacrifice. The uppermost seems to be two persons holding, or preparing, a cow or bullock for sacrifice; the next, a person taking hold of a hog for the same purpose; the third, a priest cloathed in his robes, standing at an altar, holding something on it; the lower one, which is the most beautiful, is, on the one side, a man cloathed in complete armour, holding a knife, as if going to sacrifice a sheep or a lamb, which another person below holds for that purpose; on the other side the priest stands, with another knife or sword, attending the ceremony. These vases are, from their extreme rarity, and from other cause, unquestionably of much greater value than we were first induced to set upon them.
This piece of antiquity has been preserved, because it fell into the hands of a judicious mechanic; but we have heard it asserted as a fact, that some remains of antiquity, found in this neighbourhood, was a few years ago carries to a founder, who consigned it to the furnace, because no one present understood that such a thing was of the smallest value!
Carlisle Journal
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