Mosaic birds

Bird Watching in the Museum


Spotted in the Museums stores this Romano-British ornament, found in Cirencester is in the form of a peacock.


Romano-British ornament in the form of a peacock

Peacocks are the male peafowl, originating from Asia and Africa, they are known for their piercing calls and their extravagant plumage of eye-spotted feathers.

Peacocks may have been present through Roman Britain and are often depicted in Roman mosaics and sculpture. They are a symbol of immortality and rebirth in both Pagan and Christian art due to the legend that their flesh does not decay and their feathers renew in spring.

The peacock was the bird of Juno, Queen of the heavens. Juno was the Roman counterpart to the Greek Goddess Hera, whose chariot was pulled by peacocks. One myth tells of Io, a woman-turned-cow who was one of Jupiter’s lovers. Juno placed Io under the watchful guard of her servant Argus, who had a hundred eyes. Mercury however managed to free Io by killing Argus through eternal sleep. To commemorate Argus, Juno persevered his eyes forever on the tail of a peacock.

Heather Dawson-Mains

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