Trying to find a picture of the “Cista mystica” of M. Modius Maxximus from Ostia

In my previous post, I put up a picture of a vessel, a cista or modius, surmounted by a cock, which belonged to the High Eunuch (archigallus) of Cybele at Ostia, M. Modius Maxximus.  In fact there is a pun here; the Latin for a cock is a gallus, which is depicted on top of a large modius (modius maximus).

Here is the image from yesterday again.

In fact the image is also available on Wikimedia Commons here, where the source is given as Rieger, Heiligtümer in Ostia, 1994.  The image is no clearer, tho.

Looking at this intently, some things are visible.

The syrinx or pan-pipes are in the middle.  To the left seems to be an animal with a tail, and above that a head wearing a phrygian cap.  Is there something above that also?

The picture leaves much unclear; and I have been attempting to track down more images.  This is not simple.  The item was held in the Lateran museum; but this has long since been moved to the Vatican.  But surely there is a published drawing?

One annoyance in 19th century scholarship is the use of abbreviations for references.  In case my struggles may help others – or at least turn up in Google, let me outline how I went about this.

Thus Decharme tells us in his article (p.288 n.7 and 8) that Visconti’s publication of the cista may be found in “Annal. Inst. Arch., 1868, p.390 et suiv; Ibid., 1869, p.242″.  Graillot says the item is studied on p.240 ff.  That’s helpful; if you don’t already know what that might be, you aren’t going to find out from here.

Luckily we have the internet.  After some difficulty I found this:

Annali dell’Instituto di Corrispondenza Archeologica = Annales de l’Institut de Correspondance Archéologique

And found it at Arachne, here, attached to the 1877 volume.  It required a bit of fiddling to find the list of volumes, which led me to volume 41 (1869), which – again with some fiddling – can be downloaded.  Volume 40 (1868) does not appear to be there.  The resulting PDF is enormous.  p.240-5 seem to deal with the cista.  But no image.  On p.240 tho is a reference – infuriatingly abbreviated also – to “la nostra tav. VIIIa n. 1”.  On p.245 I find references to “Mon. dell’Inst. Vol. VIIII tavv.” and Showerman refers to “Mon. dell’ Ist. IX, tav. 8 a. 1”; not helped by a misspelling.

Guessing, therefore, I substitute “monumenti” for “annales” and  get “monumenti dell’instituto di corrispondenza archeologica”.  And … this does exist!  (as does “bulletini dell’instituto di corrispondenza archeologica” – what a system).  This likewise points me to Arachne, and, searching in Arachne, clicking on “books”, then “list” leads me to volume 9, 1869.  There it is!  And the drawing is as follows (click to enlarge):

The “statua di Atti” I have cropped.  The “utensile sacro” is our cista.  Both found in the excavations of Ostia.

Zooming on the left-hand side, we get this:

The three figures that Visconti thought he saw are certainly present.  The top one is supposed to be Attis, the middle one Zeus Idaios or possibly a river, the bottom one a lion (sacred to Cybele), while the vertical elements are reeds.

In the absence of a better image, it’s hard to see more.


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