This colossal head, probably from the cult image of Diana at her temple at Lake Nevi, may have been part of an acrolithic sculpture. The head, arms, and feet were of marble, the body of wood draped with fabric. This arrangement was not only less expensive than a statue entirely of marble, but resembled the chryselephantine statues of more ancient temples. This type of cult image would have possessed life-like movement as the fabric drapery moved with the air currents.
Today, August 13, is the Nemoralia, the major Roman festival honoring Diana. The hunting or killing of any animal was forbidden on this day. Women and slaves were free of their duties, and enjoyed equality with men and masters. Dogs were also honored, and adorned with flower crowns. Worshippers wearing flowers in their hair assembled with torches and candles at Diana’s temple at Lake Nevi. Votive offerings were made of bread or terracotta in the shape of stags, mothers and children, and of body parts in need of healing. Ribbons with written prayers were tied to trees in the sanctuary.
This day was also celebrated as the birthday of Diana by members of the College of Antinous and Diana at Lanuvium.
Image: Cult statue head; probably Diana from Nemi Roman, circa 125 BCE. Penn Museum; Philadelphia, USA. March 2011. Ed Trayes Photo Archives at Temple University. Height: 44.7cm/17.59in Width: 28.5cm/11.22in