3.14 Mars

Mars was another deity with widespread appeal, and some 47 figurines have been found. Although most commonly known as a war-god, Mars was also associated with agriculture. The style of Mars figurines ranges from highly classical to crude, local products; however, the general uniformity of his stance and clothing means that he can usually be identified. The most common form of Mars is a youthful, nude male wearing a crested helmet and with his right arm raised to hold a spear. Figurines of this type include well-made, classical pieces such as those from Colchester (26) and Richborough or Reculver (1146), slightly more provincial pieces (6 and 31), and rather clumsy figures including another example from Colchester (1149) and Braiseworth, Suffolk (854). There are also the very crude or stylised examples from Chessels villa, West Coker, Somerset (25), and Icklingham, Suffolk (684), in an awkward stance, with large hands, crudely modelled bodies and helmets.

Sometimes Mars may be nude except for a baldric, as in the example from Barkway, Hertfordshire (27). Other examples depict a more mature, often bearded, deity standing in the same stance but clothed with a tunic and cuirass (e.g. 29 and 525). A less classical example of this form comes from Dragonby (13).

A clothed figure from London (23) stands with a raised left arm, and outstretched right arm with a patera in the hand. He is a mature, bearded Mars wearing a crested helmet and bears some resemblance to a clean-shaven figurine from Swell, Gloucestershire (527), which is of North Italian origin dating to the 3rd or 2nd century BC (Henig and Paddock 1993, 85). The build of the London figure is also sturdier than the typical Etruscan style and might be a Roman product copying this earlier style. A final example, probably from London (24), of the Mars in helmet, tunic and cuirass is in a rather naïve style with simply depicted pleats on the skirt and modelling of the body. A very similar figurine comes from Tiel, in the Netherlands (Zadoks-Josephus Jitta et al. 1969, no. 33).

A rather unusual figure from Southbroom may also depict Mars (371). He is shown standing and holding a ram-headed snake in each hand, the bodies of which curl around his forearms, across the front of his legs, and then around the calves and ankles. On his head he wears an elaborate helmet or head-dress which is surmounted by a bird, the head of which is missing. Finally there is a herm-like figure from Usk, Monmouthshire (877). This consists of the bust of an elderly Mars wearing a helmet and cuirass on top of a shaft with a phallus just over half-way down its length (Manning et al. 1995, 49-50). While included in this catalogue as an unusual piece, the function of this figure is unknown.


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