Intaglio Ring with Berenike II

Nikandros (active ca. 246–222 BCE)

Intaglio Ring with Berenike II


Berenike II (267 or 266–221 BCE), a queen in Alexandria, Egypt, vowed to cut off her hair and dedicate it to Aphrodite if her husband, Ptolemy III, returned alive from battle in Syria. He did, and fulfilling her vow, she dedicated her long blonde hair to the goddess. Mysteriously, the hair disappeared from the temple but according to legend, it became the constellation known as Coma Berenices (Berenike’s Lock), which contains many galaxies.

On this garnet intaglio, the artist Nikandros shows the queen before her offering of thanks. Her hair is pulled back in a melon coiffure, with large locks of hair loosely twisted across the head from front to back before they are gathered up in a bun encircled by a fishtail braid. A thin hair band is visible between her ear and braid. This popular Hellenistic hairstyle, was also worn by goddesses, such as the Mattei Ceres (Demeter) in the cast gallery, and it has become fashionable again for today’s brides.


Work Date:
ca. 246–222 BCE
Garnet in gold mount
Credit Line:
The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore (42.1339)