Parabiago Plate

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Parabiago plate.
Detail: Cybele and Attis group.

The Parabiago plate, also known as the Parabiago patera,[1] is an ancient Roman circular silver plate depicting mythological figures. It was found in an ancient Roman cemetery at Parabiago, near Milan, in 1907.[2] The plate depicts Cybele with her consort Attis in a "vast cosmic setting"[3] amid "sun, moon, earth and sea, time and the seasons."[4] At the time of its discovery, it was thought to have been used as a lid for a funerary amphora.[5]

The plate is difficult to date. Earlier scholars tended to date it to the 2nd century AD, because of its classicizing style, but stylistic characteristics also permit a later date. Technical analyses, however, support a provenance in the 4th–5th centuries, even though it bears little stylistic resemblance to other silver pieces from that period.[6]


The plate weighs 3555 g and measures 390 mm in diameter. It has a foot-ring of 26 mm in height. The surface is worked with figures in high relief.[7]

  • Center left: Cybele and Attis ride in a quadriga pulled by four lions. They are accompanied by three Corybantes.
  • Center right: Rising from the ground is a nude youth who holds up a zodiac ring surrounding Aion, wearing a chiton and holding a sceptre.[8]
  • Far right center: A snake twines around an obelisk or gnomon.[9]
  • Upper left: The Sun rising in his chariot, preceded by the winged, torch-bearing morning star, Phosphorus.
  • Upper right: The Moon setting in her chariot, preceded by the evening star, Hesperus, also winged and carrying a torch.
  • Lower center: Four erotes representing the seasons hover above Neptune and Thetis.
  • Lower left: Two river nymphs.
  • Lower right: Tellus, with two erotes that point toward Cybele. Above the head of Tellus is a small grasshopper and a lizard.


  1. ^ The plate is actually not a patera, however.
  2. ^ Ruth E. Leader-Newby, Silver and Society in Late Antiquity: Functions and Meanings of Silver Plate in the Fourth to Seventh Centuries (Ashgate, 2004), p. 146.
  3. ^ Giulia Sfameni Gasparro, Soteriology and Mystic Aspects in the Cult of Cybele and Attis (Brill, 1985), p. 99
  4. ^ John Ferguson, The Religions of the Roman Empire (Cornell University Press, 1970, 1985), p. 26.
  5. ^ Arthur Bernard Cook, Zeus (Cambridge University Press, 1940 edition, 2010 reprinting), vol. 3, pt. 2, pp. 1127–1128.
  6. ^ Leader-Newby, Silver and Society in Late Antiquity, p. 146.
  7. ^ Leader-Newby, Silver and Society in Late Antiquity, p. 146. Unless otherwise noted, the following description of the figures on the plate is that of Leader-Newby.
  8. ^ Danuta Shanzer, A Philosophical and Literary Commentary on Martianus Capella's De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercuii Book 1 (University of California Press, 1986), pp. 159–160.
  9. ^ Jaime Alvar Ezquerra, Romanising Oriental Gods: Myth, Salvation, and Ethics in the Cults of Cybele (Brill, 2008), p. 140.