An earthenware lamp filler, or guttus, in the form of a satyr.
Greek, late Classical or early Hellenistic period, around 350 B.C.
Source: Boston Museum of Fine Arts
This. This thing made me laugh SO MUCH I almost stopped breathing. Naturally, it ended up in the queue.
Greek, Alexandria, Egypt
Worn over a high, upswept hairstyle, this is decorated with jewels and gold filigree designs. Composed of three hinged pieces, the diadem was fastened by means of a cord or ribbon that would have been threaded through the loops on the back, allowing for an adjustable fit. This type of headdress, unknown in Greece before Alexander, was adopted directly from Persia.
The central piece is decorated with a large that was originally inlaid with garnets. Adapted from Egyptian imagery, the amuletic and magical Herakles knot was one of the most popular designs in jewellery. Elaborate, intricately filigreed flaming torches, surrounded by running spirals and floral decoration, adorn the two side pieces made from sheet gold. The torches were made separately and attached to the backing. Tassels, several of which are now missing, hang from the front and sides of the diadem and would have dangled on the wearer’s brow and temples. Each tassel consists of a gold disk made to receive a white glass paste inlay, a group of blue and white disks sandwiched together, and four chains, each ending in a gemstone bead of a different colour.
Source: The Getty Museum
Papyrus John Rylands 470 is a small fragment of papyrus, measuring 94mm by 180mm, now in the Rylands Papyri Collection at the University of Manchester.
The fragment was originally found during excavations at the city of Oxyrhynchus, which lies south of the Bahr Yussef branch of the Nile in Egypt, carried out at the end of the 19th Century. The excavations turned up thousands of Greek, Latin, Coptic and Ancient Egyptian papyri, which had been thrown out, onto rubbish tips in the desert outside the city, over a period of a thousand years.
P. Rylands 470 has been dated to around AD 250, and although partially broken, clearly records the Greek text of a prayer still used by Catholic and Orthodox Christians today:
Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν εὐσπλαγχνίαν,
Τὰς ἡμῶν ἱκεσίας,
μὴ παρίδῃς ἐν περιστάσει,
ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ κινδύνων λύτρωσαι ἡμᾶς,
μόνη Ἁγνή, μόνη εὐλογημένη
Beneath your compassion,
We take refuge, O Mother of God:
do not despise our petitions in time of trouble:
but rescue us from dangers,
only pure, only blessed one.
The prayer is also known by its Latin text: sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genetrix. Nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus nostris, sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.
The date of this papyrus fragment makes this the oldest known hymn to the Virgin Mary.
The term Theotokos, “God-bearer”, used in the second line of the Greek text, is often said to have been first used by the early Christian writer Origen (c. 185-254), and was officially declared by the early Church at the Third Ecumenical Council, held at Ephesus in AD 431.
Roman Cameo Ring
Glass and Gold
Roman c.1-100 AD
A chariot rushes past the walls of a city on this Roman gem set in a gold ring. Although parts of the story are not depicted, a Roman viewer would have understood this scene as the episode from the Greek poem, the , in which the Greek hero Achilles drags the corpse of his opponent Hector behind his chariot around the walls of the city of Troy. The gem carver, however, left out a crucial element of the story—Hector’s dead body. Frequently depicted in Greek art, this episode from the mythological remained popular in certain forms of Roman art, especially gem carving.
This gem appears to be carved as a cameo from nicolo, a semi-precious stone with light and dark blue layers, but it is actually made from glass. Glass gems were a popular alternative to expensive semi-precious stones in Roman jewellery. They often imitated banded stones like agate and nicolo.
Source: The Getty Museum
Hera- Zeus’ Queen
Hera (Juno to the Romans) was one of the 12 great Olympian Gods, sister and wife of Zeus, and the Queen of Heaven. When she and Zeus wed Gaia gave her a gold apple bearing tree in a beautiful western garden, beyond the sunset as a wedding gift.She was the goddess of marriage and childbirth. Forget the Disney version of Hera. In myth and literature Hera is most often represented as a capricious and vindictive figure.
She and Zeus had 3 children together: Ares, the god of war, Eleithyia, goddess of childbirth and Hebe, the goddess of youth. Her fourth child Hephaestus was said to have been born of Hera alone (i.e. he had no father). Hephaestus was born lame, Hera was so humiliated that she threw him from Olmypus. He fell into the sea and was brought up by Thetis and Eurynome. He eventually took revenge on his mother. He sent her a glistening golden throne which invisibly bound her in place a soon as she sat down. He refused to release his mother, despite appeals by the other gods, until Dionysus got him drunk.
Hera was continually jealous of Zeus’ many affairs and often punished his lovers and children with other women. The most famous of which was Heracles, son of Zeus and Alcmene.
First Hera delayed his birth, then sent snakes to kill him in his cradle. Unfortunately for her, even as a baby Heracles was heroic and strangled the snakes. She continued to afflict him throughout his life. She nurtured the Hydra and Nemean Lion personally to be formidable enemies for the hero and worse of all drove Heracles temporarily insane, in this mad rage Heracles murdered his wife and their children. At the end of his laborious life Heracles became a god, Hera finally made peace with him and gave him her daughter Hebe as his wife.
She tried to deny Leto, pregnant with the twins Artemis and Apollo by Zeus, any place to give birth. Fortunately for Leto she found the floating island of Delos who agreed to let her give birth there. However Hera kept Eileithyia on Olympus. The labour continued for 9 days until the other gods demanded the goddess of childbirth be allowed to deliver the babies.
Io, an Argive priestess of Hera, was seduced by Zeus who then turned her into a cow to hide her from Hera. Hera found out and sent a gadfly to torture the poor girl in cow form and chase her all over the earth. When Io gave birth to her son by Zeus, Epaphus, Hera had him stolen and Io was forced to wander the earth again to look for him.
As the protector of marriage, Hera had no lovers herself. However several attempts were made on her virtue. Ixion, a mortal tried to rape her. She told Zeus and he fashioned a cloud in the likeness of Hera. He put the cloud in Ixion’s bed and Ixion promptly ravaged the cloud (I have no idea how that is even possible…). Zeus hen punished him by binding him to the spokes of an ever-turning wheel of fire for eternity.
When the judgement of Paris went against her, Hera firmly sided with the Greeks in the Trojan war. In one instance she wishes to distract him from the battlefield and so seduces him. She borrows Aphrodite’s golden girdle which makes Zeus overwhelmingly attracted to her. Zeus tells her “Never before have I wanted anyone so much, not when I love Ixion’s wife, not when I love Danae, not when I loved…” chronicling his many infidelities.
She blinded Teiresias for siding with Zeus against her in an argument whether a man or a woman experienced the great sexual pleasure. Hera must have been arguing that Zeus was enjoying sex more than her because the answer was that woman experience 10 times more pleasure than a man. Teiresias was asked because he was in the unique position of being a man who turned into a woman for 7 years and then turned back into a man again (how is a very strange story about hitting copulating snakes near Thebes…).
When Side, wife of Orion, claimed that she was as beautiful as the goddess Hera. Hera cast her into Hades. She also took away Echo’s voice other than the ability to repeat what others had said as punishment for helping Zeus’ lover escape by distracting Hera with constant chatter.
There are so many other examples I could include but I think you’ve started to get a real measure of Hera’s character now. She was not a goddess to be trifled with.
Hera was worshipped throughout the Greek world. Festivals celebrating her marriage to Zeus took place all over Greece. The Argive believed that once a year she descended from Olympus to bathe in their sacred spring, each time she did this they thought her virginity was restored. She was an incredibly important goddess of cult for women.
The oldest and most important temples in Greece were dedicated to her. The two best known were on the island of Samos (6th century BC and one of the largest temples in Greece) and her Argive temple between Argos and Mycenae. In the Argive Heraion there was a colossal ivory and gold statue of Hera enthroned.
In art Hera often carries a sceptre and/or wears a crown. She had a proud and regal demenor in her statues, along with being shown as a great beauty. Her bird was the Peacock. She decorated it’s tail with the many eyes of the All seeing Argus, her faithful watchman, after he was killed by Hermes. Another bird associated with her was the cuckoo. It was in the form of a cuckoo that Zeus seduced Hera before their marriage; Hera took the bird and held it to her breast intending it to be her new pet (rather than a future husband).
Homeric Hymn 12 to Hera:
“I sing of golden-throned Hera whom Rhea bare. Queen of the Immortals is she, surpassing all in beauty: she is the sister and wife of loud-thundering Zeus,—the glorious one whom all the blessed throughout high Olympos reverence and honour even as Zeus who delights in thunder.”
1st Century AD
20 sided dice made of stone, inscribed with letters of the Greek alphabet (from alpha to upsilon)
(Source: The British Museum)
Women in Classical Greece
Right, where do we begin with a topic like this? It can encompass so much. I think we should start by looking at the evidence we have for women in ancient Greece.
What the Men say about their Women
It can’t be denied that most of our information about Greek women is written by men! Men who often had their own agenda. This because women often couldn’t read or write, in fact a quote that was copied out by school children in the 4th Century AD, often attributed to Meander (of the 4th century BC) says that: “A man who teaches a woman to write should know that he is providing poison to an asp”.
Here are just a few examples of what men have to say about women:
Aristotle (Politics) said that man is by nature superior to the female and so the man should rule and the woman should be ruled.
Hyperides (fr.204) said “A woman who travels outside her house should be old enough that people ask whose mother she is, not whose wife she is” and Pericles is said to have said “A woman’s reputation is highest when men say little about her, whether it be good or evil.” (Thucydides 2.45.2).
One particularly sour Ephesian from the 6th Century called Hipponax is quoted as saying “There are two days on which a woman is most pleasing—-when someone marries her and when he carries out her dead body.”
Euripides often has the women in his plays make disparaging remarks, such as “I am only a woman, a thing which the world hates” (Euripides Hippolyta), “No cure has been found for a woman’s venom, worse than that of reptiles. We are a curse to man” (Euripides Andromache) and “Men of sense should never let gossiping women visit their wives, for they work mischief.”
Not particularly flattering. I want to give one last example. Demosthenes (Apollodorus against Neaera III.122) said “We keep hetaerae [prostitutes] for the sake of pleasure, female slaves for our daily care and wives to give us legitimate children and to be the guardians of our households.”
Women from the beginning of time (Women in Myth)
Let us take a slight detour now, to the very first “Greek” woman, or rather the first woman the Greeks believed existed. Her name was Pandora, you’ve probably heard of her. Punishment of mankind, unleashed evil upon the Earth…. had a box. Basically she was made to be beautiful on the outside but have the inner attributes that would bring ruin to men.
Many of the vicious and vile monsters of Greek mythology are female: Harpies, the sphinx, the gorgons, the Furies, Scylla, and the Sirens to name but a few.
So all positive so far! Well not really but how much of all this actually reflects real life?
Women: As a Wife
Every father was obliged to arrange an appropriate marriage for his daughter. To do this he had to provide her with a dowry and select a suitable groom.
Often men were in their late twenties or early thirties when they got married for the first time, whereas women were normally fourteen or fifteen. This was probably due to men wishing to have a military career before marriage and starting a family. The age difference would have definitely put the man in charge of the relationship from the start.
So what would the wedding have been like? Well there was no official moment where the couple became man and wife. Instead a wedding could consist of a series of events that happened over a period of time, perhaps even over a very long period of time, and seems to have included a betrothal in front of witnesses, an agreement as to the value of the dowry, the transfer of the dowry to the groom [along with the woman], and perhaps even the birth of the first child.
But there would be some sort of celebration which allowed friends, family and neighbours the chance to acknowledge the change in relationship and to welcome a man and woman into society as husband and wife. It seems to have taken place as follows: the ceremony seems to have included a sacrifice performed by the bride’s father, the cutting of the bride’s hair, and a ritual bath in sacred water, followed later in the day by the wedding feast where friends and family gathered at the bride’s home to celebrate the union of husband and wife. After sundown the guests processed with much music and singing to the couple’s new home, the bride, groom and the groom’s best friend riding in a chariot drawn by mules or horses. Where modern guests might throw confetti, the Athenians showered the bride and groom with nuts and dried fruit, symbols of fertility and prosperity. At her new home the bride was welcomed by her mother-in-law and escorted to the hearth, the focal point of life in any Greek home.
The existence of a woman’s dowry did give the woman some amount of power and security should her husband die or divorce her. It also encouraged her father to still maintain a vested interest in her and her wellbeing as it was his money that had gone into the marriage.
Were Women Really That Secluded?
All this paints a rather depressing picture of a woman’s life in ancient Greece. Women seem to have been taken into the home to be wives and bear children for the continuation of society, then to be ignored and confined to the back of the house. Only slave girls, prostitutes and the poor women allowed to wander free. How accurate is this picture?
The economic restrictions placed upon women did make them dependent on men for their entire lives. However, what of all the other negative views etc. a small selection of which are shown above? Did that attitude reflect the ancient Greek world?
Domestic life is rarely a topic touched upon in literature, why? Because it was unimportant? Perhaps. Or maybe because it was such an important and personal thing it could not be reduced to paper. Often tombstones of women show a great deal of affection between men and women. Reading deeper into texts it is clear that men and women actually talked in their home about current affairs. Some have argued for the existence of “women’s quarters” within the ancient Greek home however if you look at the plan of Greek houses, particularly more modest dwellings this doesn’t seem likely.
Also women did leave their houses! They would go and visit each other for all sorts of reasons from gossiping, to helping each other give birth to borrowing spices. Women would go out for social and religious reasons. Perhaps there were some safety concerns in bustling cities and women would have been encouraged to send a slave to go shopping or fetch water, but this is very different to a blanket ban on leaving the house. And those who didn’t own slaves would have had to! The women of poor families would have also had jobs so they could eat and Athenian citizen women are attested as being involved in agriculture, wool-working, midwifery, market workers and wet nurses. I suppose it was more a concern that women outside of the house may converse with other men- for that was considered a sign that a woman was a hetaera [prostitute].
Women in Religion
In Athens a large proportion of the year was devoted to one religious festival or another- even the other Greek states thought that the Athenians were “the most pious” of the Greek people because of this. Some of these would have been minor event involving few people; others would have involved the entire community.
Greek religion was complex, with numerous deities and rituals we can only begin to scratch the surface of. The simplest form of a woman’s involvement in religious festivals was within a chorus, both singing and dancing.
Among the elite of Athens, young girls were chosen to perform various religious roles including as a Kanephoros, who lead public processions carrying a basket, perhaps also as one of the Arrephoria, two girls who performed night time rituals on and below the Acropolis. Several girls would serve at the Arkteia for the goddess Artemis before they reached puberty. They would have travelled to the goddess’ sanctuary and performed many rituals. Here they would have come into contact with other girls of their class and probably make friends whom they would continue to have contact with back home.
There were also festivals like the Thesmophoria which were only open to married women. In honour of the goddess Demeter, women would gather outside of the city and spend three days there fasting, feasting and celebrating away from the world of men.
Finally the sanctuaries of goddesses were normally tended to by priestesses. Some of these positions were particularly highly regarded, like the Priestess of Athena Polias on the Athenian Acropolis. They often had official standing in the community and were given a proportion of the sacrifices. Some even received special seats in the theatre.
Finally there were a few exceptionally sacred positions such as that of the Pythia, the prophetic priestess of Apollo at Delphi.
In Ancient Greece, prostitution was legal and morally accepted. However it occurred at various levels depending on a woman’s age, looks, personality, talent and luck. At the bottom were streetwalkers, who would service their clients for little more the price of one or two loaves of bread, in one of the back alleys of the city.
Brothels would vary in quality. Often, in between clients, women in brothels would spin wool, we know this because in the remains of many brothels we find hundreds of loom weights. Those who worked in the brothels and streets were referred to as pornai, literally whores or harlots.
These were quite different to the hetaerae, literally courtesan or companions. These could function as mistresses, hostesses and call girls. Very few of these women were slaves; instead they tended to be freedwomen, metics, and even citizen women with no other means to support themselves. They were well educated, articulate and able to hold witty conversations. These women were free from the control of men for a short time. Once their looks ran out many women purchased slave girls or adopted abandoned girls from the streets and trained them up to entertain clients.
Ancient Greek Motherhood
The most important role of women in Ancient Greece was to bear and raise children, the future of the state.
Greek medical theory held that a woman’s flesh, being softer and more sponge-like than a man’s, absorbed extra moisture that had to be expelled through menstruation. Child-birth was said to cause the smaller vessels to break down and allow an easier flow of blood. Plato tells us in Timaeus that the womb is an animal inside a woman that, if it fails to become pregnant, can wander about the body causing ill health by blocking air passages and restricting respiration. Celibacy was said to be bad for a woman’s health as it dried out the womb and could lead to blocked menstruation, which if left untreated, could be fatal.
Sterility in a woman was presumed to be caused by some sort of blockage. To test her fertility, they wrapped her in a cloak and burned incense beneath her. If the smell could be detected in her mouth she was fertile, as a woman should be hollow inside. The cure for infertility in a woman involved her sitting in the sunshine all day outside the front of the house while fumigations of myrrh, wormwood, garlic, etc., “softened and opened the mouth of the womb.” It was probably one of the few times she got to relax and do nothing. In a pinch the sanctuary of Asclepius, the god of medicine, allowed people to sleep overnight with the expectation that their dreams would cure them or even help women to conceive.
Childbirth was almost exclusively in the realm of women. Prospective mothers sat on a friend’s lap or on a birthing stool. Drugs were sometimes given to induce labour or speed delivery, and occasionally a woman might be shaken violently as a means of encouraging birth.
Soon after a successful delivery the new mother was expected to visit the shrine of an appropriate goddess, such as Artemis or Eileithyia, to give thanks for her new child. In the absence of private or state sponsored pensions a son was the only reasonable chance a woman had for a comfortable old age, so any pressure society or family put on her to have a baby was nothing compared to the pressure she would put on herself. Athenian families were not large, but little in life was more important than that first son.
The Women of Ancient Sparta
Alas the picture is never complete; I can’t finish a piece on Greek women without mention of Sparta. In Sparta things were a little different. Most of the evidence above comes from or refers to Athens. Such is the nature of our sources.
In Sparta any sickly babies, male or female, were exposed. Men married in their mid-twenties and would sneak out of their barracks at night to visit their wives. Only once they turned thirty could they sleep at home. Even then it was the state that took importance, not the family.
Spartan women took their role of bearing children very seriously. Furthermore they believed that in order to bear robust and healthy children, they had to be robust and healthy. Girls took part in athletic training and competitions including wrestling, running, javelin and discus. Spartan women married around the age of eighteen and pretty much ruled their homes as their husbands lived in the barracks until they were at least thirty. Another unusual practice in Sparta was that of “wife sharing” sometimes brothers would share a wife in order to prevent a family’s wealth being broken up, with any child being considered a child of all the brothers. Also sometimes men who wanted a child without the trouble of keeping a wife may borrow a wife from one of his friends solely for the purpose of getting a child.
Often Spartan daughters would inherit from their fathers (normally in the form of their dowry); this could even include land. In fact some ancient authors report that women owned around 40% of the land of Sparta. They would raise their sons until the age of 7 and then they would be handed over to the state.
The rest of the Greek world considered Spartan women outspoken and bossy. Their standard article of clothing had a long slit up the side, permitting easier movement for the wearer, but earning them the nickname, “thigh-shower”. Bronze figurines feature Spartan female athletes competing in a tunic that left one breast bare. Plutarch reported that Spartan girls performed nude ritual dances in public and implied that girls and boys competed side by side in the nude. The fact that a Spartan woman could bear one man’s child and still remain married to another, or, even worse, be married to two or more men at the same time was seen by Athenian men as proof that she was shamelessly immoral.
Excavated at Sardis
One of a pot of 30 staters found in a terracotta jug at Sardis. Staters were a standard from of currency in antiquity. They were made in gold, silver and electrum. It shows the fore-parts of a bull and lion.
The jug was probably buried for safekeeping before the Persian conquest of Sardis in 547 BC.
(Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
7 Wonders of the Ancient World: The Colossus at Rhodes
The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the Greek Titan Helios, erected in the city of Rhodes on the Greek island of Rhodes by Chares of Lindosbetween 292 and 280 BC. It is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was constructed to celebrate Rhodes’ victory over the ruler of Cyprus, Antigonus I Monophthalmus, whose son unsuccessfully besieged Rhodes in 305 BC. Before its destruction in 226 BC—due to an earthquake—the Colossus of Rhodes stood over 30 meters (107 ft) high, making it one of the tallest statues of the ancient world.
After Rhodes sided with Ptolemy, who claimed parts of the Mediterranean after the death of Alexander the Great in 323BC, Antigonus I Monophtalmus decided to invade Rhodes with an army of 40,000 men. however, the city was well defended, and Demetrius—whose name “Poliorcetes” signifies the “besieger of cities”—had to start construction of a number of massive siege towers in order to gain access to the walls. The first was mounted on six ships, but these capsized in a storm before they could be used. He tried again with a larger, land-based tower named Helepolis, but the Rhodian defenders stopped this by flooding the land in front of the walls so that the rolling tower could not move.
In 304 BC a relief force of ships sent by Ptolemy arrived, and Demetrius’s army abandoned the siege, leaving most of their siege equipment. To celebrate their victory, the Rhodians sold the equipment left behind for 300 talents and decided to use the money to build a colossal statue of their patron god, Helios. Construction was left to the direction of Chares, a native of Lindos in Rhodes, who had been involved with large-scale statues before. His teacher, the sculptor Lysippos, had constructed a 22 meter (70 ft) high bronze statue of Zeus at Tarentum.
Ancient accounts, which differ to some degree, describe the structure as being built with iron tie bars to which brass plates were fixed to form the skin. The interior of the structure, which stood on a 15 meter (50 foot) high white marble pedestal near the Mandraki harbor entrance, was then filled with stone blocks as construction progressed. Other sources place the Colossus on a breakwater in the harbor. The statue itself was over 30 meters (107 ft) tall. Much of the iron and bronze was reforged from the various weapons Demetrius’s army left behind, and the abandoned second siege tower may have been used for scaffolding around the lower levels during construction. Upper portions were built with the use of a large earthen ramp. During the building, workers would pile mounds of dirt on the sides of the colossus. Upon completion all of the dirt was removed and the colossus was left to stand alone. After twelve years, in 280 BC, the statue was completed. Preserved in Greek anthologies of poetry is what is believed to be the genuine dedication text for the Colossus.
To you, o Sun, the people of Dorian Rhodes set up this bronze statue reaching to Olympus, when they had pacified the waves of war and crowned their city with the spoils taken from the enemy. Not only over the seas but also on land did they kindle the lovely torch of freedom and independence. For to the descendants of Herakles belongs dominion over sea and land.
Modern engineers have put forward a plausible hypothesis for the statue construction, based on the technology of those days (which was not based on the modern principles of earthquake engineering), and the accounts of Philo and Pliny who both saw and described the remains.
The statue stood for 56 years until Rhodes was hit by the 226 BC Rhodes earthquake, when significant damage was also done to large portions of the city, including the harbor and commercial buildings, which were destroyed. The statue snapped at the knees and fell over on to the land. Ptolemy III offered to pay for the reconstruction of the statue, but the oracle of Delphi made the Rhodians afraid that they had offended Helios, and they declined to rebuild it.
The remains lay on the ground as described by Strabo (xiv.2.5) for over 800 years, and even broken, they were so impressive that many traveled to see them. Pliny the Elder remarked that few people could wrap their arms around the fallen thumb and that each of its fingers was larger than most statues.
Eventually the parts were sold off and melted down which is the reason we do no have part of it today. If it hadn’t been melted down then corrosion over time would have also destroyed it.
7 Wonders of the World: Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
Mausolus was a satrap of the Persian Empire, he married his sister Artemisia II of Caria. He ruled at Halicarnassus for 24 years, expanding his territory to the south-west coast of Antatolia. Though his family originated from Halicarnassus and the surrounding area, Mausolus admired the Greek way of life, spoke Greek and founded several cities of Greek design.
Mausolus built up Halicarnassus to be his capitol city, magnificent and safe from capture. There was a small canal that could easily be defended from warships, his palace was fortified and several walls and watch towers were built. He also had a Greek style temple built to Ares, the Greek god of war. The whole city was embellished in great works of art and gleaming buildings of marble; Mausolus and Artemisia paid for all this with huge amounts of tax money. On a near by hill, overlooking their great city, Artemisia planned a great tomb for her and her husband.
In 353 BC Mausolus died, leaving Artemisia to rule alone. In his honour she decided to build the greatest tomb she could for him and spared no expense. The tomb for Mausolus became so famous that the term “mausoleum” came about as a general for a tomb above ground.The structure was considered such a unique aesthetic triumph that it was included in the lists of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Artemisia put a call out for the greatest artists in Greece to come and build the tomb. It was designed by by the Greek architects Satyros and Pythius of Priene. It stood at nearly 45 meters (148 ft) tall, but it wasn’t it’s size that made it a wonder, it was the high quality statues and sculptural relief that adorned each side. Each side was made by a different Greek sculptor: Leochares, Bryaxis, Scopas of Paros (who supervised the building of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, another wonder of the world) and Timotheus.
The Mausoleum was enclosed in a courtyard. The tomb sat on a stone platform, a stairway led up this flanked with stone lions. Along the outer walls of the platform stood many statues of gods and goddesses and on each corner stood a stone warrior on horseback guarding the tomb. The square tomb rose out of the platform covered in bas relief showing action scenes. These included the battle between the Centaurs and the Lapiths (also depicted on the Parthenon metopes), and the battle of the Greeks against the Amazons, a legendary race of warrior women.
The top section of the tomb had thirty six columns, ten per side, with each corner sharing two. Standing between each pair of columns stood a statue. Behind the columns was a great, cella-like, block to support the massive weight of the roof. The rook was pyramidal with 24 steps, on top of which stood a final statue group; a quadriga, a four hourse chariot in which stood images of Mausolus and Artemisia. A stone wheel of this chariot has been found, it measure 2 meters in diameter.
Several reconstructions of the whole structure exist however historians today still debate how the tomb would have looked from the scant evidence from the site and descriptions of ancient authors, particularly Pliny the elder.
Artemisia only lived two years after her husband’s death. Their ashes were placed in the tomb before it was finished. However, according to Pliny the Elder, the craftsmen chose to remain and finish the structure after the deaths of their patron “considering that it was once a memorial of his own fame and of the sculptor’s art.” It was probably destroyed in an earthquake that shook the area between the 12th century (where it was still written about as a wonder) and 1402 when it was recorded as a ruin by the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. The knights used some of the stones from the ruin to build their castle, Bodrum.
(images from British Museum and http://www.livius.org/ha-hd/halicarnassus/halicarnassus_mausoleum.html)
7 Wonders of the Ancient World
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
Let me set the scene, Ancient Ephesus, one of the greatest harbours on the Eastern Aegean, served as a major link on the chief line of communication between the East and Greece and Rome. It was the gateway to the East for the West. Any Roman governor of the Asia province was bound to first land in Ephesus when he entered his office.
Now days, Ephesus lies several miles from the coast, as the gulf that lead to it has silted up, in Turkey.
Ephesus, as well as a great port, was a religious centre in the ancient world. Near the hill of Ayasaluk lies the site of the great Temple of Artemis, or Diana as she was called by the Romans. The temple once stretch c. 2 km above the city centre however, even the very site of it remained hidden for centuries, buried deep beneath the soil of the plain.
The temple of Artemis was built, and rebuilt several times. The remains visible from its excavation are from its 4th century BC temple. This was built to replace the 6th century temple, which had had columns built by Croesus, King of Lydia (Herodotus tells us, and pieces of column bearing his name have been found. Its great when ancient literature matches the archaeology). This temple was burned down by a man named Herostratus the night Alexander the Great was born. He was said to have done this in the hope of achieving everlasting fame however the Ephesians issued a decree forbidding the mention of his name for all time. Furthermore, they sold treasure and the columns of the old temple to raise funds for a final, spectacular temple on the site. They made the base of this c. 2.7 m higher than the previous temple in an attempt to prevent flooding. The final temple was eventually ransacked and destroyed by the Goths in 263 AD.
The 4th century BC temple was named as a Wonder of the World, partly due to it sheer size, but also because of its beautiful and lavish decoration both inside and out. It’s more unusual features were the use of sculpted column drums on some columns, each nearly 20 ft. in circumference and 6 ft. high. It attracted thousands of pilgrims in antiquity.
The temple was excavated by Mr. Wood in 1870, however the remains were scanty. This was due to the temple being used as a quarry in later centuries and its stone reused in other buildings. This lack of evidence has lead to much debate over the architecture of this vast structure.
A number of reconstructions of the wonder have been produced, some extremely fanciful, others not so much, based on the archaeology, the written sources, and of course the artists imagination.
Pliny (10.36.95) describes the temple as the largest ever built, made entirely of marble, 425 feet long and 225 feet wide (close to double the size of the Parthenon at Athens), with 127 columns 60 feet high of which 36 were carved with reliefs. He also states that it took 120 years to complete. It was said to reach into the clouds themselves. Some ancients proclaimed it the only temple on Earth to be fit for a god, and as the greatest wonder the sun would ever see, only surpassed by Olympus itself.
Practically, the temple functioned as a bank and as a place of asylum, as well as the focal point of worship and festivals in the goddess’s honour.
The temple was dedicated to the goddess, Artemis Ephesus, a “multi-breasted” and distinct facet of Artemis said to have fallen from the sky. This version of Artemis was equated by the Greeks with the original goddess at the site, an Anatolian earth mother goddess when they took over the site. This Artemis appears on statues and works of art wearing a headdress and veil and with bands of animals around her midriff. Her many “breasts” are sometimes thought by scholars to be adornments or part of the goddesses costume rather than her actual breasts, particularly as most of the time they lack nipples. Theories about the “breasts” are numerous. One scholar recently suggested that they were actually the scrotal sacs of sacrificial bulls, said to “masculinise” the goddess and represent “power” and “virility”.
The primary function of the goddess Artemis at Ephesus was that of a protector and a provider. Inscriptions in the city link her to all walks of life, from health to citizenship and debt collecting. The goddess was a central symbol of the city and its people. She was honoured with a great festival and procession past all of the city’s greatest monuments ending at the Great temple itself.
Bowl with a Gorgon’s Head
Greek, Archaic period, about 625-600 BC
Made in Corinth, Greece; from Kamiros, Rhodes
A frieze of panthers, deer, two sphinxes and a siren surround the frontal, staring face of the gorgon Medusa. According to Greek legend, anyone who looked upon the face of the Gorgon was instantly turned to stone. The hero Perseus succeeded in chopping off her head, which he handed to the goddess Athena to set in the centre of her shield. Gorgon heads are quite often found in the centre of cups and bowls at this time. Their shape is suited to the circular field available, and their design is usually both decorative and eye-catching. It seems likely that they also fulfilled an apotropaic function: warding off the ‘evil eye’ from the user of the vase.
By the late seventh century BC, Corinthian pots were popular throughout the Mediterranean. As production increased to meet demand, new and larger shapes of pot appeared alongside the still popular perfume bottles. The fine workmanship of the Protocorinthian style was gradually replaced by a slightly cruder black-figure style. In the sixth century BC real and mythological animals, which remained the basic subject for Corinthian vase painters, gradually became longer and their details more sketchily incised; at the same time the filling ornament through which they prowl became denser and less carefully executed. This bowl was made early in the Archaic period, and the painting and incision are still quite careful.
(Source: The British Museum)
An ancient Roman town which, like Pompeii, was destroyed and buried in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Herculaneum was buried under a pyroclastic flow from the eruption and disappeared from history along with Pompeii, and also Stabiae and Oplontis. This was one of the first sights where we could study the skeletal remains of Roman people as normally the dead were cremated. Here the town appears to have been effectively evacuated however it’s citizens did not escape the eruption, their bodies (around 300 individuals) have been found mainly along the sea shore in what would have been boat houses.
Herculaneum was a smaller town than Pompeii however its inhabitants seem to have been wealthier. It’s name comes from the Greek hero Hercules alluding to the fact that in its early history it was under Greek control. In the 4th century BC this changed and the Samnites took control of the area; and then in 89 BC, after the Social War, it fell to Roman control.
When Vesuvius erupted on the 24th August 79 AD, the town of Herculaneum was buried under c. 20 meters of mud and ash, where it remained hidden for c. 1600 years. It was discovered by accident, when people were well digging in 1709. At the time of the eruption, Vesuvius had been dormant for nearly 800 years and wasn’t even recognised as a volcano. Based on Pliny the younger’s letters, the eruption began at around 1 pm when Vesuvius began spewing volcanic ash and stone thousands of meters into the air. Pliny described this as like a “stone pine tree”. The wind blew to the southeast, blowing the ash over Pompeii and burying it, Herculaneum lay to the west and so only a few centimetres of ash fell on it. However, the eruptive column then collapsed, sending a pyroclastic surge, a mixture of ash and hot gases at around 100 m/ph. This hit the beach and boathouses at around 1 am, killing all those sheltering there instantly with its intense heat of around 500 degrees centigrade. There is evidence of this heat left in the bones, where skulls have exploded, fractures appeared on long bones and teeth and contractions of the hands and feet- all due to the sheer heat of the flow.
A succession of 6 flows in total buried the town from the bottom up. It did very little damage to the buildings and has preserved the structures, the objects inside them and the town peoples’ remains almost intact. Organic materials were carbonised by the intense heat, and extracted water from them. The peoples’ flesh was vaporised by the heat, so unlike at Pompeii, casts of the bodies could not be made.
The town included villas, such as the so called House of Argus (named after a painting inside it which is now lost), which had a second floor and also a balcony. It contained the carbonised remains of wooden cupboards and shelving (unfortunately these have been lost since their discovery). There are remains of a bath houses built in the 1st century AD. There was also a college of Augustales, which housed the worship of the imperial cult.
The interior of the college
The most famous of Herculaneum’s luxurious villa is the Villa of the Papyri, possibly a retreat for Julius Caesar’s father in law Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus (though we can’t say for certain). The villa stretches towards the sea on four terraces. Here the only complete library from antiquity has survived. Some 1800 scrolls of papyrus have been unearthed carbonised by the eruption, however with new technologies we are slowly managing to unrolled the blackened scrolls; and with enhanced multi spectral imaging read them. This process is still being developed but it is hoped that the technique could develop so that unrolled scrolls could be read through the use of powerful x-rays so that the remains themselves are not compromised. This technique could then be applied to other scrolls that remain buried at the villa in unexcavated sections.
Currently excavations are closed, instead money is put into trying to save and preserve those parts of the town that have been uncovered and are rapidly deteriorating.
It is from Herculaneum that some of the most fantastic ancient paintings have survived. In normal Mediterranean conditions these would have been lost to time however the volcanic ash sealed the town and has meant that we can see a small example of what the Romans and Greeks produce artistically beyond statues and pottery.
Xerxes I of Persia (Xerxes meaning “ruling over heroes”), also known as Xerxes the Great (519 BC-465 BC), was the fourth king of the Achaemenid Empire.
When Darius I of Persia died in October 486 BC Artabazanes claimed the crown as the eldest of all the children, because it was an established custom all over the world for the eldest to have the pre-eminence; while Xerxes, on the other hand, urged that he was sprung from Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus, and that it was Cyrus who had won the Persians their freedom. Some modern scholars also view the unusual decision of Darius to give the throne to Xerxes to be a result of his consideration of the unique positions that Cyrus the Great and his daughter Atossa have had. Artobazan was born to “Darius the subject”, while Xerxes was the eldest son born in the purple (meaning “born during his parents reign”) after Darius’s rise to the throne, and Artobazan’s mother was a commoner while Xerxes’s mother was the daughter of the founder of the empire.
Xerxes was crowned and succeeded his father in October–December 486 BC when he was about 36 years old. The transition of power to Xerxes was smooth due again in part to the great authority of Atossa and his accession of royal power was not challenged by any person at court or in the Achaemenian family, or any subject nation.
Almost immediately, he suppressed the revolts in Egypt and Babylon that had broken out the year before, and appointed his brother Achaemenes as governor or satrap (Old Persian: khshathrapavan) over Egypt. In 484 BC, he outraged the Babylonians by violently confiscating and melting down the golden statue of Bel (Marduk, Merodach), the hands of which the rightful king of Babylon had to clasp each New Year’s Day. This sacrilege led the Babylonians to rebel in 484 BC and 482 BC, so that in contemporary Babylonian documents, Xerxes refused his father’s title of King of Babylon, being named rather as King of Persia and Media, Great King, King of Kings (Shahanshah) and King of Nations (i.e. of the world).
Darius died while in the process of preparing a second army to invade the Greek mainland, leaving to his son the task of punishing the Athenians, Naxians, and Eretrians for their interference in the Ionian Revolt, the burning of Sardis and their victory over the Persians at Marathon. From 483 BC Xerxes prepared his expedition: A channel was dug through the isthmus of the peninsula of Mount Athos, provisions were stored in the stations on the road through Thrace, two pontoon bridges later known as Xerxes’s Pontoon Bridges were built across the Hellespont. Soldiers of many nationalities served in the armies of Xerxes, including the Assyrians, Phoenicians, Babylonians, Egyptians and Jews.
According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Xerxes’s first attempt to bridge the Hellespont ended in failure when a storm destroyed the flax and papyrus cables of the bridges; Xerxes ordered the Hellespont (the strait itself) whipped three hundred times and had fetters thrown into the water. Xerxes’s second attempt to bridge the Hellespont was successful. Xerxes concluded an alliance with Carthage, and thus deprived Greece of the support of the powerful monarchs of Syracuse and Agrigentum. Many smaller Greek states, moreover, took the side of the Persians, especially Thessaly, Thebes and Argos. Xerxes was victorious during the initial battles.
Xerxes set out in the spring of 480 BC from Sardis with a fleet and army which Herodotus estimated was roughly one million strong along with 10,000 elite warriors named the Persian Immortals. More recent estimates place the Persian force at around 60,000 combatants, although this is disputed: another modern estimate of the Persian invasion force is roughly 500,000, with the Persian Empire controlling forty percent of the world’s population, more than 100 million people, at that time.
At the Battle of Thermopylae, a small force of Greek warriors led by King Leonidas of Sparta resisted the much larger Persian forces, but were ultimately defeated. According to Herodotus, the Persians broke the Spartan phalanx after a Greek man called Ephialtes betrayed his country by telling the Persians of another pass around the mountains. After Thermopylae, Athens was captured and the Athenians and Spartans were driven back to their last line of defense at the Isthmus of Corinth and in the Saronic Gulf.
What happened next is a matter of some controversy. According to Herodotus, upon encountering the deserted city, in an uncharacteristic fit of rage particularly for Persian kings, Xerxes had Athens burned. He almost immediately regretted this action and ordered it rebuilt the very next day. However, Persian scholars dispute this view as pan-Hellenic propaganda, arguing that Sparta, not Athens, was Xerxes’s main foe in his Greek campaigns, and that Xerxes would have had nothing to gain by destroying a major center of trade and commerce like Athens once he had already captured it.
At that time, anti-Persian sentiment was high among many mainland Greeks, and the rumor that Xerxes had destroyed the city was a popular one, though it is equally likely the fire was started by accident as the Athenians were frantically fleeing the scene in pandemonium, or that it was an act of “scorched earth” warfare to deprive Xerxes’s army of the spoils of the city.
At Artemisium, large storms had destroyed ships from the Greek side and so the battle stopped prematurely as the Greeks received news of the defeat at Thermopylae and retreated. Xerxes was induced by the message of Themistocles (against the advice of Artemisia of Halicarnassus) to attack the Greek fleet under unfavourable conditions, rather than sending a part of his ships to the Peloponnesus and awaiting the dissolution of the Greek armies. The Battle of Salamis (September, 480 BC) was won by the Greek fleet, after which Xerxes set up a winter camp in Thessaly.
Due to unrest in Babylon, Xerxes was forced to send his army home to prevent a revolt, leaving behind an army in Greece under Mardonius, who was defeated the following year at Plataea. The Greeks also attacked and burned the remaining Persian fleet anchored at Mycale. This cut off the Persians from the supplies they needed to sustain their massive army, and they had no choice but to retreat. Their withdrawal roused the Greek city-states of Asia.
In 465 BC, Xerxes was murdered by Artabanus, the commander of the royal bodyguard and the most powerful official in the Persian court (Hazarapat/commander of thousand). Although Artabanus bore the same name as the famed uncle of Xerxes, a Hyrcanian, his rise to prominence was due to his popularity in religious quarters of the court and harem intrigues. He put his seven sons in key positions and had a plan to dethrone the Achamenids.
In August 465 BC, Artabanus assassinated Xerxes with the help of a eunuch, Aspamitres. Greek historians give contradicting accounts of events. According to Ctesias (in Persica 20), Artabanus then accused the Crown Prince Darius, Xerxes’s eldest son, of the murder and persuaded another of Xerxes’s sons, Artaxerxes, to avenge the patricide by killing Darius.
But according to Aristotle (in Politics 5.1311b), Artabanus killed Darius first and then killed Xerxes. After Artaxerxes discovered the murder he killed Artabanus and his sons. Participating in these intrigues was the general Megabyzus, whose decision to switch sides probably saved the Achamenids from losing their control of the Persian throne.
Bronze Figure of Nike, Goddess of Victory
Greek c.550 BC
Made in South Italy
Probably a from a large bowl
Nike is shown running forwards with her right foot placed delicately on a rising scroll. It may have been one of a series that ran around a bowl.
Her wings are intricately worked into an out stretched arch enhancing the feeling of movement. Her hair sweeps backwards and she pulls her dress up with her left hand.