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Ancient Art

Arsu Riding a Camel

ca. 2nd century A.D.

Limestone

33 × 44.5 × 7 cm (13 × 17 1/2 × 2 3/4 in.)
Yale-French Excavations at Dura-Europos
1935.44
The worship of Arsu, an Arab god, was probably introduced at Dura-Europos during the Parthian era by caravans and nomads. In the earlier of the two Arsu reliefs in the Yale University Art Gallery’s collection (see also 1938.5311), the god rides a camel and approaches an altar. A crescent perhaps symbolizes his association with the evening star; the rose may signal divinity. After Dura became a Roman military garrison, worship of Arsu emphasized his military characteristics. The later relief above depicts a standing Arsu with weapons of the desert: a small round shield, a spear, and a sword.
Geography: 
Excavated in Dura-Europos, Syria
Status: 
On view
Culture: 
Syrian, Dura-Europos
Period: 
Parthian or Roman, 2nd century A.D.
Classification: 
Sculpture
Provenance: 

Excavated by the Yale-French Excavations at Dura-Europos (block L5 42, Temple of Adonis), present-day Syria, 1928–37; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

Bibliography: 

Michael I. Rostovtzeff, Dura-Europos and Its Art, 1st (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1938), 65, pl. 12, ill.

Dorothy E. Miner, ed., Early Christian and Byzantine Art: An Exhibition Held at the Baltimore Museum of Art, April 25–June 22, exh. cat. (Baltimore: The Walters Art Museum, 1947), 35, no. 76, fig. pl. X.

Ann Perkins, The Art of Dura-Europos, 1st ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973), 98–100, pl. 40, ill.

Susan B. Downey, The Excavations at Dura-Europos, Final Report III (Los Angeles: Insititue of Archaeology, University of California Los Angeles, 1977), 55–6, 195–199, no. 43, pl. 11, fig. 43.

Christa Bauchenss-Thüriedl, Erika Simon, and Ingrid Krauskopf, Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae, 8 vols. (Zurich: Artemis, 1981–97), vol. 2, p. 615, no. 3, pl. 440.

Hans Erik Mathiesen, Sculpture in the Parthian Empire : a study in chronology, 2 volumes (Aarhus Denmark: Aarhus Universitetsforlag, 1992), 199–200, no. 179, vol. 1, appendix II, pp.78–80, fig. 58.

Lisa R. Brody and Gail Hoffman, eds., Dura-Europos: Crossroads of Antiquity (Boston: McMullen Museum of Art, 2011), 353, no. 46, pl. 46.

Jennifer Chi and Sebastian Heath, eds., Edge of Empires: Pagans, Jews, and Christians at Roman Dura-Europos, exh. cat. (New York: Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, 2011), 53, no. 39, fig. 2–23.

Blair Fowlkes-Childs and Michael Seymour, The World Between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East, exh. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2019), 191, no. 135.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.