TO THE BEAUTIFUL ONE

Gold and sardonyx intaglio earrings, 4th century CE, approx. 2 cm in length, MFA Boston, 66.318. 

Gold and sardonyx intaglio earrings, 4th century CE, approx. 2 cm in length, MFA Boston, 66.318. 

About 1,700 years ago, these gold and sardonyx earrings read, "TE KALE," or to the beautiful woman in Greek, while the hanging teardrop pendants are embellished with a wreath design. The translation of the inscription strongly suggests that these earrings were given to a woman as a gift. 

Approximately 2 cm in height, these earrings were undoubtedly made by a jeweler or craftsman of the highest caliber in the fourth century CE. The materials of gold and sardonyx were markers of status as well, monumentalizing these miniature objects of luxury. 

Since these earrings were commissioned in a Late Roman historical context, the use of Greek would have been significant because it would have conferred higher status to the earrings, the woman, and the giver of the gift. In addition to Latin, Greek was a commonly spoken language by certain regions throughout the Roman Empire. Nevertheless, Greek was considered the written and oral language known by individuals who had received an elite education. 

 

 

Patricia Eunji KimComment