Biblical Archaeology Review 44:5, September/October 2018


Bath Spa, United Kingdom

Commonly called the “Gorgon Head,” this fearsome image decorated a pediment that marked the entrance to the Temple of Sulis Minerva in the Romano-British town of Aquae Sulis (modern Bath Spa, in the United Kingdom). Carved from local stone, the entire pediment would have stood approximately 49 feet high—an imposing sight to those entering the temple. Discovered in 1790, the pediment (including the head) is believed to have been carved by the Gauls in the later part of the first century C.E.

Snakes adorn the head’s hair and beard—held aloft by female victories (winged goddesses)—while wings sprout above its ears. Scholars have proposed many theories as to whom this figure represents. The two most common are that it is either a Gorgon—a mythical creature killed by the hero Perseus with Athena’s (Roman Minerva) help—or a water god, who is similarly depicted in Roman Britain.

This example of provincial Roman sculpture can be viewed today at the Roman Baths in Bath Spa, United Kingdom.

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