Cynthia L. Thompson

Mythylogical figure. This masterpiece in miniature features a curly haired and beardless Hercules standing in a typical pose, with most of his weight on the right leg. His right hand holds a club, while his raised left hand grasps a sword encased in a scabbard, from which a short belt hangs. Deeply incised in a flat oval sardonyx, the image gives a play of light and shadow in the two-colored stone, which is light blue on the surface and a darker maroon beneath. The incision is very fine and accurate in its portrayal of the muscles of the trunk and limbs. When magnified, it becomes clear that even the face is marked with precision, despite its smallness. The artist, Solon, has engraved his name, in the possessive case, vertically on the left in minute Greek letters. The name appears in mirror-image form, so that it will read correctly when imprinted in some material. The ring’s great weight and large diameter—more than an inch—suggest it was worn by a man. Found in Pompeii, this ring now rests in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.