The Tomis Sculpture Treasure: The Fantastic Snake

Marble statue, slightly purplish. The statue is a true masterpiece, a unique piece, a sort of Venus of Milo of the sculptures representing animals, especially that to this day, there has not been found anything like it anywhere else.The statue represents a fantastic animal with the body of a serpent, the muzzle of a mammal, a sheep, it seems, with the eyes fixed straight ahead like a watchdog's, with human ears and hair, and with the tail ending in a tuft of hair like a lion's. The hair is flat on the head and separated in strands, leaving the impression it is wet.From the coiling of the body the head stands up, vertically, looking ahead. The coiling snake is set on a mono-block marble pedestal, carved with descending stairs. The statue can be inscribed in a cone, which proves that the sculptor respected some artistic principles, belonging to all the schools of classical architecture. Probably the form of the marble block dug out of the quarry suggested to the sculptor the final object of the work of art.The rings of the snake are very ingeniously arranged, which may confirm the suggestion of the form of the block of marble, coiled in receding diameters towards the extremities of the animal, the design of the scales being a sculptor's demonstration of a case study on a living animal.The archaeologists don't like exaggerated names, the legends about dragons or even fantastic animals, even though many of the pieces that represent humans and animals present the attributes of fantastic beings, cupids, griffins, snakes or dragons, taken out of childhood fairy tales.Consequently, the first wish of the researchers of the statue was to separate themselves from the "Fantastic Snake", the name given to the piece in the surprise of the discovery. Finding themselves in front of a unique monument, of which nothing similar has been found until now, the researchers resorted to the traditional medicine of the Roman Antiquity, to the god Glycon, the one worshipped like a new Aesculapius in the time of Emperor Antonius Pius.The snake, with its new name, Glycon, permanently entered the Tomis culture as an animal coming from the oriental culture. In Greek culture, the snake appears to be independent either as an attribute of divinity, or even as a form of these divinities.The independent snake appears as a protector of special, sacred places sometimes: the snake appears as the protector of the garden of the Hesperides, as a guardian of the Golden Fleece, or of the Athenian Acropolis.The Constantza snake has different attributes from the ones mentioned above. Through its presence and through the imposing attitude that is visible in the position of the statue, its unswerving look, it makes us think that the snake from Tomis is part of the category of the feared and at the same time worshipped snakes, a beneficial divinity, guardian of the sacred places, connected to the chthonic gods (of the underworld), thus being an agathodaimon or a genius loci.The work dates from the end of the 2nd century. Translated by Ştefania Tarbu

by Petre Covacef