The patera (plural: paterae) was round shallow dish or bowl used by the Romans in religious ceremonies, either in offering libations of wine to the gods, or in receiving the blood of sacrificial animals. On coins, the patera is placed in the hands of rulers and priests as an attribute of their religious functions and in the hands of deities as a symbol of the divine honors rendered to them. Similar to the Greek phiale.
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Patera, a round shallow dish or vase used by the Romans, (who adopted it from the Etruscans,) at their religious ceremonies, either in making libations of wine to the gods, or in receiving the blood of sacrificial victims. On Roman coins and other monuments the patera is placed in the hands of all the deities, whether of the first or of the second rank, as a symbol of the divine honors rendered to them, or in that of their ministers as an attribute of their functions. It also appears often in the hands of princes, to mark the union of the sacerdotal with the imperial power, effected through the office of Pontifex Maximus. For this reason the figure of the deity, priest, or emperor is frequently seen beside an altar, upon which he seems to be pouring the contents of the patera. In the more ancient periods, these utensils, always consecrated to religious purposes, were made of baked earth: afterwards of brass, a metal peculiarly dedicated to the gods; still later they were also fabricated of gold and silver, and sometimes ornamented with fine compositions in high relief; as in the case of that magnificent gold one in the Royal Library at Paris.
A serpent feeding out of a patera is the symbol of the Goddess of Health (Salus).----A patera appears in the right hand of Cybele, of Clementia, of Concordia.----And the Genius of a city holding in his right hand a patera, as in the act of performing sacrifice for the health of the Emperor is a frequent type. We see this in the GENIVS EXERC. ILLYRICIANI of Trajanus Decius; and the GENIVS AVGusti of Gallienus and Claudius Gothicus.
The patera is to be observed in the right hand of IVPITER CONSERVATOR, of Hercules, Juno Conservatrix, Mercury, Patientia, Pietas, &c.; also in the hand of the Emperor sitting, as in Tiberius; and of the Emperor standing, as in Elagabalus.----See INVICTVS SACERDOS.