Victory Monument from Greece

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Victory relief now in New York © David Gill

This relief was acquired by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1959 [inv. 59.11.19]. It was first recorded by Michel Fourmont in 1729/30, and was last known in 1753. The piece surfaced in the London sale at Sotheby’s of part of the collection of Lord Hatherton in 1959.

The relief dates to the second century AD. Although the name of the individual is lost, his father was Alexander (restored, [Ale]xandrou) of the deme Rhamnous in Attica. The relief marks from left to right, victories in the Panathenaic games (showing an amphora containing olive oil), the Isthmian games (with a pine wreath), Argive games (with a shield), and the Nemean games (with a celery wreath). Brian F. Cook has suggested that a further wreath would have appeared at the left end, above the now missing personal name: Delphi and Olympia are possibilities.

The relief is a reminder how cultural property can move from one country to another passing through historic collections.

Priene: The Temple of Athena Polias

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Temple of Athena Polias, Priene © David Gill

The temple of Athena Polias dominates the lower part of the city of Priene. The Ionic temple was reported to have been designed by the architect Pytheos who was associated with the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos. The naos itself measured 100 Attic feet.

The south anta of the temple carried an inscription recording the benefaction of the temple: King Alexander | dedicated the naos | to Athena Polias. The inscription was recovered by the members of the Society of the Dilettanti during their sponsored excavation of the city in 1869-70. This was then presented to the British Museum in 1870 (see online details). The adjacent blocks were used to record other benefactions from Alexander and other civic records.

The inscription suggests that the benefaction should date to c. 334 BC, following the campaigns of Alexander in western Anatolia.

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Dedication by Alexander the Great, Temple of Athena Polias, Priene © David Gill

The archaeology of ostracism

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Ostraka from the Eridanos in the Kerameikos © David Gill

German excavations in the Kerameikos, in the bed of the river Eridanos, revealed major deposits of pot sherds or ostraka with the incised names of individuals. They include:

  • Aristeides Lysimachou, candidate in the 480s
  • Kallias Kratiou, candidate in the 480s
  • Megakles Hippokratous, candidate in the 480s [or later]
  • Themistokles Neokleous, candidate in the 480s [or later]
  • Kimon Miltiadou, candidate in the mid 5th century

Although in some cases the date of the (successful) ostracism is known, the individual could have been a candidate in earlier voting.

These ostraka were used in the process of ostracism in the Athenian democracy to restrict the power of a person who had been seen as becoming too powerful. If sufficient votes were cast against an individual they were forced to go into exile.

Note that some of these ostraka come from the same pot.

Reference

Lewis, D. (1974). The Kerameikos Ostraka. Zeitschrift Für Papyrologie Und Epigraphik, 14, 1-4. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20180644

See also:

Lang, M. (1990). Ostraka. The Athenian Agora, 25, Iii-188. doi:10.2307/3601999

A Greek in Lincoln

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Inscription from Lincoln © David Gill

Among the Latin inscriptions from Lincoln is a limestone tombstone found in 1785 on the north side of the Roman city (RIB 251). It was found to the west of the so-called Newport Arch, the north gate of the original garrison.

It marks the burial of Flavius Helius, a Greek (‘natione Grecus’) who lived for 40 years. The marker was set up by Flavia Ingenua, his wife.

Anthony Birley has suggested that Helius was a trader.

The inscription is now displayed in the Lincoln Museum, although it was previously displayed in the cathedral cloister and then the City and County Museum in Greyfriars.

A Greek inscription from Maryport

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Greek inscription from Maryport © David Gill

Among the inscriptions from the fort at Maryport in Cumbria (and now in the Senhouse Museum) is one in Greek (RIB 808). The dedication to the Greek god of healing, Asklepios, is made by Aulus Egnatius Pastor.

The inscription is known from 1720.

George C. Boon has suggested that Egnatius Pastor was a freedman of the governor Egnatius Lucilianus (“Potters, Oculists and Eye-Troubles”, Britannia 14 [1983] 7 [JSTOR]), and therefore dates to 238-244 (see RIB 1091, from Lanchester; 1262, from High Rochester).

Traces of history and the Parthenon

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Parthenon, north-east corner © David Gill

It is important to remember that the Parthenon was in use over several centuries and that it was adapted through time. In this north-east corner of the pediment is the (replica) of one of the horses of Selene, and at the south-east corner Helios emerging.

Below the pediment is a series of metopes showing a gigantomachy. (This theme was developed by the later Attalid sculptures, dated after 200 BC, placed in front of the east end of the Parthenon.)

The north-east corner of the Parthenon was later obscured by the construction of the Attalid monument, surmounted by a bronze chariot, for Attalos II, c. 178 BC. His chariot made the visual connection with the chariot containing Selene.

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Parthenon, south-east corner © David Gill

On the architrave below each metope is a hole with the shadow of a circle. These are where the 14 gilded shields from Alexander the Great’s victory at Granikos (334 BC) were mounted. Thus Alexander was making the point that his victory over the Persians was as heroic as the gigantomachy.

Between each of the shields, and immediately below the triglyphs, are a series of holes. These are the traces of a bronze inscription that was pegged onto the architrave during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero in AD 61/2. This text honoured Nero, and it was erected by Tiberius Claudius Novius. They may have reflected Nero’s campaigns against the ‘new’ Persians, in the areas of Armenia and Parthia. In this way the dedication picked up the original 5th century BC Athenian iconography that celebrated the Hellenic victories over the Persians at Salamis and Plataia.