Skip to main content

Clay figure of Bes as a soldier: E.207.1932

An image of Statuette

Terms of use

These images are provided for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons License (BY-NC-ND). To license a high resolution version, please contact our image library who will discuss fees, terms and waivers.

Download this image

Creative commons explained - what it means, how you can use our's and other people's content.

Alternative views

Object information

Current Location: Gallery 19


Clay figure of Bes as a soldier




Nile silt clay, mould-made in three parts: the front, which was pushed into a mould and sealed with a flat clay back, the shield and the base, which is also sealed at the top. The back of the piece is not modelled but there are the remains of four points of clay which indicate that the figure was fired on its back and was propped during this process on account of the depth of the base. There are traces of a plaster wash on the surface.

Bes is always shown as a dwarf-like figure with leonine ears and ruff. His face is exaggerated, with mask-like features and he usually extends his tongue. Traditionally, he was a household deity who protected sleepers, women in childbirth and women from each other's jealousy. In the Roman period, however, he became associated with new and more specific social groups in society.

Here we see Bes as a Roman soldier. He wears a tunic and skirt that is moulded in a fashion to suggest that it is made from a series of tongues. In his left hand he holds an oval shield. His right arm is raised and holds a small sword or dagger towards his crown. The headdress is made up of five plumes in the traditional form for Bes. His tongue is not obviously projecting, but the surface in this area is rather worn.

Bes appears with a sword in the Ptolemaic period but he usually stands with only a panther skin and is not dressed in military attire. He became enormously popular with Roman troops in Egypt, who may have mistaken the sword that Bes used to fight off household spirits as a piece of military equipment. Although no temples were dedicated specifically to him, he remained popular as a household deity and his statue was often included in temples to other gods. Only the sword indicates his warrior status in the Ptolemaic period; Roman examples show him in full military dress.

Measurements and weight

Height: 21 cm

Find spot

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1932) by Whyte, Edward Towry


Circa -30 BCE - Circa 395 CE

School or Style


Materials used in production


Techniques used in production


References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: E.207.1932
Primary reference Number: 52934
Oldadmincategory: P
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Tuesday 25 February 2020 Last processed: Tuesday 13 June 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Antiquities

Citation for print

This record can be cited in the Harvard Bibliographic style using the text below:

The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Clay figure of Bes as a soldier" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-04-15 20:15:58

Citation for Wikipedia

To cite this record on Wikipedia you can use this code snippet:

{{cite web|url= |title=Clay figure of Bes as a soldier |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2024-04-15 20:15:58|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

API call for this record

To call these data via our API (remember this needs to be authenticated) you can use this code snippet:

Bootstrap HTML code for reuse

To use this as a simple code embed, copy this string:

<div class="text-center">
    <figure class="figure">
        <img src=""
        alt="Clay figure of Bes as a soldier"
        class="img-fluid" />
        <figcaption class="figure-caption text-info">Clay figure of Bes as a soldier</figcaption>

More objects and works of art you might like


Accession Number: C.1-1926


Accession Number: GR.1.1818

French soldier & English sailor

Accession Number: C.1009-1928

Suggested products from Curating Cambridge

You might be interested in this...

Sign up for updates

Updates about future exhibitions and displays, family activities, virtual events & news. You'll be the first to know...