The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipolis

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gepd
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipolis

Post by gepd »

Just to add some more data:

Crowning of bulls is the subject of coin illustrations already from 4th century BC as my friend has found, the "problem" is such coins are found exclusively in a Greek settlement at Campania in Italy. Still it may be interesting to see what is the origin of such iconography and whether it could have diffused in a different form in Macedonia at some point.

Image

Also, several diadochi (e.g. Demetrios) and even Alexander himself are depicted having bull horns, so is it completely irrelevant to represent one such character as a bull? Maybe going from bull horns to a full image of a bull is a big step, but was wondering about that.

Finally, regarding centaurs, there is coinage from various sites in Macedonia showing pairs of centaurs holding wreaths. This one below is from Amphipolis, with Janus on the other side, the "problem" again is that these rather rare coins are from the second half of the 2nd century BC.

Image

The main reason I cannot exclude the possibility that centaurs are depicted in the frieze is mostly due to the outline of the male character's legs: too thin and at a rather strange angle, proportions and shape don't fit at all to a dancer, unless these belong to another feature or a structure in the background etc.
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipolis

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gepd wrote:Just to add some more data:

Crowning of bulls is the subject of coin illustrations already from 4th century BC as my friend has found, the "problem" is such coins are found exclusively in a Greek settlement at Campania in Italy. Still it may be interesting to see what is the origin of such iconography and whether it could have diffused in a different form in Macedonia at some point.
Similar coins from Gela (Sicily) are attributed to a portrayal of a river god. Other examples of man headed bull would be from places like Leukas (although no winged NIke with wreath or full body portrayal I can see from a quick double check).
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipolis

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Someone I follow on social media has posted an interesting little direct link, which has been made on this thread before but worth making the support, at least with some associations, for it a little more explicit.

"How the greatest and dearest of the gods are present in our city! For the circumstances have brought together Demeter and Demetrios; she comes to celebrate the solemn mysteries of the Kore, while he is here full of joy, as befits the god, fair and laughing. His appearance is solemn, his friends all around him and he in their midst, as though they were stars and he the sun. Hail boy of the most powerful god Poseidon and Aphrodite! For other gods are either far away, or they do not have ears, or they do not exist, or do not take any notice of us, but you we can see present here, not made of wood or stone, but real. So we pray to you: first make peace,dearest; for you have the power. And then, the Sphinx that rules not only over Thebes but over the whole of Greece, the Aitolian sphinx sitting on a rock like the ancient one, who seizes and carries away all our people, and I cannot fight against her — for it is an Aitolian custom to seize the property of neighbors and now even what is afar; most of all punish her yourself; if not, find an Oedipus who will either hurl down that sphinx from the rocks or reduce her to ashes."

Ithyphallic Hymn for Demetrios Poliorcetes, trans. Angelos Chaniotos adapting from Michel Austin.

https://www.academia.edu/3425661/The_It ... _Mentality
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipolis

Post by Taphoi »

gepd wrote:...Crowning of bulls is the subject of coin illustrations already from 4th century BC as my friend has found, the "problem" is such coins are found exclusively in a Greek settlement at Campania in Italy. Still it may be interesting to see what is the origin of such iconography and whether it could have diffused in a different form in Macedonia at some point...

The main reason I cannot exclude the possibility that centaurs are depicted in the frieze is mostly due to the outline of the male character's legs: too thin and at a rather strange angle, proportions and shape don't fit at all to a dancer, unless these belong to another feature or a structure in the background etc.
Given that we have seen many examples of Nikes being attendant at bull sacrifices and also performing bull sacrifices, I would interpret the coin image as a Nike garlanding the man faced "bull" for sacrifice in the first instance. But the celator may have intended some ambiguity given that Nike also often crowns human victors with wreaths. The wreath in this instance is just a branch however (not a ring). Is that a knife in Nike's right hand (might need to check other examples)?

In interpreting the male dancer to the left of the bull you need to take into account that the flaking away of overpaint has probably revealed drafting lines to our eyes that were originally hidden by solid overpaint. That is why parts of these images appear to us as outlines, despite the fact that the final painting was probably solid coloration like the Pompeii murals. Some of the drafting lines will have been corrected by the artist before he/she performed the overpainting. So it is not possible to assume that outlines running closely parallel were both reflected in the final image. It is sometimes more likely that they represent initial an finalised drafts respectively. I am in process on reconstructing the man.

If the Pompeii bulls are pulling a carriage, then the "bling" is harness. Also one of the chest diagonals on one of the centaur examples above looks like a cloak rather than a strap or band. You can see the rest of it behind the creature's back. All tending to emphasise the difficulty in finding bulls wearing bling and centaurs wearing diagonal chest straps. But please keep the examples coming: they are interesting contributions.

Best wishes,

Andrew
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipolis

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Taphoi wrote:
If the Pompeii bulls are pulling a carriage, then the "bling" is harness. Also one of the chest diagonals on one of the centaur examples above looks like a cloak rather than a strap or band. You can see the rest of it behind the creature's back. All tending to emphasise the difficulty in finding bulls wearing bling and centaurs wearing diagonal chest straps.
Yes, from a different angle what seems to be a strap is actually a cloak. That's the point. Just as how what appears to be a U shape on the Pompeii bull's chest from the angle it is portrayed is, with the colour present, very clearly just marking out perspective.
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipolis

Post by gepd »

Taphoi wrote:
gepd wrote:...Crowning of bulls is the subject of coin illustrations already from 4th century BC as my friend has found, the "problem" is such coins are found exclusively in a Greek settlement at Campania in Italy. Still it may be interesting to see what is the origin of such iconography and whether it could have diffused in a different form in Macedonia at some point...

The main reason I cannot exclude the possibility that centaurs are depicted in the frieze is mostly due to the outline of the male character's legs: too thin and at a rather strange angle, proportions and shape don't fit at all to a dancer, unless these belong to another feature or a structure in the background etc.
Given that we have seen many examples of Nikes being attendant at bull sacrifices and also performing bull sacrifices, I would interpret the coin image as a Nike garlanding the man faced "bull" for sacrifice in the first instance. But the celator may have intended some ambiguity given that Nike also often crowns human victors with wreaths. The wreath in this instance is just a branch however (not a ring). Is that a knife in Nike's right hand (might need to check other examples)?

In interpreting the male dancer to the left of the bull you need to take into account that the flaking away of overpaint has probably revealed drafting lines to our eyes that were originally hidden by solid overpaint. That is why parts of these images appear to us as outlines, despite the fact that the final painting was probably solid coloration like the Pompeii murals. Some of the drafting lines will have been corrected by the artist before he/she performed the overpainting. So it is not possible to assume that outlines running closely parallel were both reflected in the final image. It is sometimes more likely that they represent initial an finalised drafts respectively. I am in process on reconstructing the man.

If the Pompeii bulls are pulling a carriage, then the "bling" is harness. Also one of the chest diagonals on one of the centaur examples above looks like a cloak rather than a strap or band. You can see the rest of it behind the creature's back. All tending to emphasise the difficulty in finding bulls wearing bling and centaurs wearing diagonal chest straps. But please keep the examples coming: they are interesting contributions.

Best wishes,

Andrew
I think what you describe is very unlikely: slighlty curved lines, at the location where we expect to have the legs of the male figure are just draft outlines of the artist appearing there by coincidence, just to mislead us once more? What did he want to paint there, if not the male figure's feet, and how bad this draft would have been if one assumes he wanted to draw the feet of a dancer and his draft ended up like horse legs? Makes no sense to me and furthermore, one can use the same argument that you put forward for every element of the frieze that doesn't fit each one's favoured interpretation.

On the point of centaurs again: there is one amateur in Greece mostly known for his activity of collecting coins from the Pangaion/Thrace region. Besides some of his strange ideas, he does point several facts, one that from the Pangaion region (mountains nearby Amphipolis) there are 6th-4th century BC coins showing centaurs in non-battle scenes, one such is below:

Image

More here: http://www.snible.org/coins/hn/macedon.html#a or here http://archaicwonder.tumblr.com/post/12 ... -bc-valued

Many more links giving info for these coins can be found. The point is that for this region, depictions of centaurs are not uncommon
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipolis

Post by Taphoi »

I see this for the male dancer to the left of the bull. There is a hint of a diagonal strap across his chest too. In general his reconstruction is less certain than for the bull or the woman, but there are indications of his feet. I cannot see how he could possibly be a centaur.

Best wishes,

Andrew
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipolis

Post by gepd »

You can get a somewhat higher resolution image of the frieze here: http://www.iefimerida.gr/sites/default/ ... to_1_1.jpg

I cannot see what you are overdrawing at the area of the legs. Apart from the general outline, to me you make the legs look thicker than visible. Also, in the link above I can see that at the bottom we very likely have no sandals or footwear.

I am not saying I see a centaur, just highlighting that what the shape of the legs is. That's the data. How one interprets this is another story, I am just saying this is a feature that I can better fit to a horse rather than a human and the reason why I can't exclude the centaur scenario.
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipolis

Post by Zebedee »

Agree there's clearly something around his neck which is cloak-like, although obviously quibbling over the exact nature of it would be normal. ;) Think there's also a beard there or he's got a very, very fat neck.

Ignoring the lower body for the moment, the pose suggests to me he's holding something to his mouth. Single aulos perhaps? Doesn't look like his arm is extended enough for a salpinx. Perhaps a keras? Something like that. Ignoring obvious parallels in the world of the half-equine, and a musical instrument still makes sense if this a sacrificial procession. The salpinx is known to have been used in some hero-cults as the bull was conducted to sacrifice etc etc. If you want Dionysian rites, then one can obviously find parallels there which also work without centaurs.

To determine whether it's a centaur or not, making sense of the line between left arm of the figure and its torso seems the obvious place. If it is a centaur then it must form part of the horse chest. If it is not, then he's got an arrow in his arm :wink: Seriously though, If it's a centaur, the torso is twisted, and I'm not sure if the arm is a continuous shape down there, unless the figure is holding something vaguely cylindrical.
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipolis

Post by Taphoi »

gepd wrote:I cannot see what you are overdrawing at the area of the legs. Apart from the general outline, to me you make the legs look thicker than visible. Also, in the link above I can see that at the bottom we very likely have no sandals or footwear.

I am not saying I see a centaur, just highlighting that what the shape of the legs is. That's the data. How one interprets this is another story, I am just saying this is a feature that I can better fit to a horse rather than a human and the reason why I can't exclude the centaur scenario.
Thanks for the helpful link.

Here is a close up on the leg area. The lines are not lines, but rough alignments of darker patches. There are also alignments of lighter patches, which may be just as significant. One may be the remains of drafting lines and the other staining of the surface from mostly flaked away overpaint. I follow alignments wherever they make sense of the image. There is anyway something quite foot-like where the forward foot should be.

Best wishes,

Andrew
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipolis

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So earliest examples of beardless or female centaurs. Could have knocked me down with a feather. Not saying Amphipolis is or is not, just seeking reasonable context in which to place a bull and two figures next to it.

Two centaurs centauring. Obviously a male one on the right, less sure on the left but potentially female and certainly beardless. Not quite sure what's going on there. Would love more detail if anyone has.

Image

Context for that pebble mosaic speaks for itself on a forum which knows so much about Alexander.

Image

From the same place, and forgive picture quality - I hope someone has better if required.

Image

From the description of it, it is a potentially a centauress (although between the hind legs to check seems damaged) carrying a rhyton, and perhaps making a libation in front of a cave entrance. An alternative interpretation is she's just getting drunk or having a picnic, but there's always one outlier from the consensus. From another angle I've been told she appears to be wearing a garment which cuts from her left shoulder down to her right 'hip' (where it joins horse body).

Both are Macedonian, late 4th century BC, from Pella's House of Dionysos.
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipolis

Post by Taphoi »

Zebedee wrote:So earliest examples of beardless or female centaurs. Could have knocked me down with a feather. Not saying Amphipolis is or is not, just seeking reasonable context in which to place a bull and two figures next to it.

Two centaurs centauring. Obviously a male one on the right, less sure on the left but potentially female and certainly beardless. Not quite sure what's going on there. Would love more detail if anyone has.

...From the description of it, it is a potentially a centauress (although between the hind legs to check seems damaged) carrying a rhyton, and perhaps making a libation in front of a cave entrance. An alternative interpretation is she's just getting drunk or having a picnic, but there's always one outlier from the consensus. From another angle I've been told she appears to be wearing a garment which cuts from her left shoulder down to her right 'hip' (where it joins horse body).

Both are Macedonian, late 4th century BC, from Pella's House of Dionysos.
My turn to pour cold water: as you say, it is a beardless centaur and there is nothing else to suggest that it is female and you have already demonstrated that female centaurs are rare. Therefore it is much more likely to be a young male centaur. I cannot see this diagonal garment. There is no bull or Nike on a ship's prow or tripod - nothing really to connect this scene with the tomb frieze. If you want to connect centaurs with Alexander, a better bet would be the centauromachy on Hephaistion's pyre. But nobody is suggesting that centaurs are not ubiquitous in Greek art (I hope).

Best wishes,

Andrew
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipolis

Post by Zebedee »

Taphoi wrote: My turn to pour cold water: as you say, it is a beardless centaur and there is nothing else to suggest that it is female and you have already demonstrated that female centaurs are rare. Therefore it is much more likely to be a young male centaur. I cannot see this diagonal garment. There is no bull or Nike on a ship's prow or tripod - nothing really to connect this scene with the tomb frieze. If you want to connect centaurs with Alexander, a better bet would be the centauromachy on Hephaistion's pyre. But nobody is suggesting that centaurs are not ubiquitous in Greek art (I hope).
No cold water contained in that post Andrew. :) If I were making a connection with Alexander, I'd certainly be explicit about that. I'm not, and never have - don't really consider H. likely but open to the possibility, but regardless not my point. And I'd certainly have highlighted a ship or bull in the so-called House of Dionysos if either were present in the depictions of centaurs from it. Did wonder however about portrayals of Poseidon and Aphrodite recently, but that's another angle altogether. Do wish the dating of the stages of development of the site were released. Old song as that is.

The diagonal garment is apparently shaded in, as with other details, but I can't find any good depictions of the centaur in question hence my lack of certainty about that. Do find the association of centaur with cave interesting and rather fun. As is the fact that the centaur is making a libation and holding a rhyton rather than something more typical - like a musical instrument or a staff or, well, other things from 'ubiquitous' Greek artistic portrayals.

What is particularly of note is the presentation of the centaurs as not being rampant, but with just one leg raised. Which would seem to be also true if we have centaurs besides the bull at Amphipolis. And, of course, a beardless centaur from late 4th century BC is a curious thing in and of itself.
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipolis

Post by hiphys »

A famous example of a female centaur in Greek art is in the painting of Zeuxis 'The centaur's family'. This excellent Greek painter (second half of the V century B.C.), who decorated the palace of Pella in Archelaos' times (413-399 B.C.), represented a female centaur feeding her twins (Lucian, Zeux. 3-8). Unfortunately this painting was lost in a shipwreck in Sulla times, but Lucian described a copy he saw in Athens and I think was widely known not only in Greece but in Macedonia too.
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipolis

Post by Taphoi »

hiphys wrote:A famous example of a female centaur in Greek art is in the painting of Zeuxis 'The centaur's family'. This excellent Greek painter (second half of the V century B.C.), who decorated the palace of Pella in Archelaos' times (413-399 B.C.), represented a female centaur feeding her twins (Lucian, Zeux. 3-8). Unfortunately this painting was lost in a shipwreck in Sulla times, but Lucian described a copy he saw in Athens and I think was widely known not only in Greece but in Macedonia too.
Yes, but in general female centaurs are rather like the ancient equivalent of entwives. Maybe that's why the species appears to have died out :cry:
Best wishes,
Andrew
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