Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sheep [sic] bowl

This is an absolutely unique find (at least to my knowledge) from Palaikastro on Crete. It's, obviously, a bowl, but the small figures are interest - a shepherd with his flock! The piece is dated to Late Pre-palatial - Old palace period, i.e.2000-1800 BC.

Point of comparison

This crowning palmette (probably placed on the top of the propylon, "sanctuary gate", ca 500 BC) from Aegina is slightly different in shape from it's terracotta counterpart posted a few weeks ago, but the point remains - this is how stone looks after 2000 years compared to terracotta. Notice that the picture is sharp even as the worn stone give you the impression that it is blurry.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Illyrian helmet

I have posted several Corinthian helmets during the last months. This, however, is a Illyrian helmet in bronze, with unique silver decorations (the horses on the cheek-pieces and the lion vs. boar (as found a few pictures down here) on the forehead.). You can also see how it was intended to hold a crest on the top. The helmet was found in Olympia and is dated to ca 530 BC.

You can find some other helmets in these posts: Three Corinthian helmets, a boar tusk helmet, Athena with a Corinthian helmet (another one) and one last Corinthian helmet.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sima from the the Zeus temple at Olympia

I'm not quite sure why, but I've bene increasingly interested in simas lately. This is one in stone from the temple of Zeus at Olympia. Compare it to this one (terracotta, Delfi) and this one (terracotta, Corinth) to get a feeling of how it might have looked in colour. You can also, with some caution, apply this logic to the rest of the temple.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Stadium at Olympia

This is the stadium at Olympia. You can only imagine how many great athletic victories that have been won here during antiquity. Notice that you only have a small number of stone seats on the right side - the rest of the audience was sitting on the grass.

The palaestra at Olympia

This is the colonnade at the palaestra at Olympia. I would love to write more about it, but I've been away from home for 18 hours straight, and I really need some sleep. I hope that you enjoy the picture anyhow.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Europa and the bull

It's always funny to look back at an old post where a myth is depicted in art, just to realise that I've recently seen another rendering of the same story. Here's Europa and the bull, from Delfi. Compare it to this version (where you also find a quote by Ovidius).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Sima

I mentioned a lion head spout from a corner sima only a few days, adding that these pieces are much more common in the preserved material than what you might expect. Here's another example, from Delfi. It is believed to have once been part of a Stoa on the sacred way. 4th century BC.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Arma virumque cano

A short break from my Greek Odyssey is due, thanks to Rome's 2763rd birthday. Here we see a portrait of Aeneas, the Trojan hero, the founder of Alba Longa and the legendary ancestor of Romulus. The portrait is dated to 27 BC - 14 AD.

Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris
Italiam, fato profugus, Laviniaque venit
litora, multum ille et terris iactatus et alto
vi superum saevae memorem Iunonis ob iram;
multa quoque et bello passus, dum conderet urbem,
inferretque deos Latio, genus unde Latinum,
Albanique patres, atque altae moenia Romae.

J. B. Greenough's edition.

Arms and the man I sing, who first made way,
predestined exile, from the Trojan shore
to Italy, the blest Lavinian strand.
Smitten of storms he was on land and sea
by violence of Heaven, to satisfy
stern Juno's sleepless wrath; and much in war
he suffered, seeking at the last to found
the city, and bring o'er his fathers' gods
to safe abode in Latium; whence arose
the Latin race, old Alba's reverend lords,
and from her hills wide-walled, imperial Rome.

As translated by J. Dryden

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A painted dancer

Here you see a man dancing in a boat. The fresco is from Corinth, Roman period. Compare it to these dancers, posted earlier on (Ostia and Museo Altemps).

Monday, April 19, 2010

An ancient gutter

This is a "gutter" from an ancient Greek temple, designed to collect water from the roof into these lion spouts - this one is well preserved but actually not unique. There's, as an example, at least one (in marble) preserved at the Parthenon in Athens.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


The temple of Hera at Perachora is probably one of the most beautiful sites I've ever been too (perhaps thanks to the amazing weather and falling sun). Anyway, this shot is somehow an incarnation of my view of ruin romanticism, but it's also a warning. This is what water will do to walls if they're not taken care of. Preservation is, unfortunately, neither easy, nor cheap.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The colour of antiquity

I have mentioned several times that sculptures, temples and other buildings were painted in antiquity. Here is an example from the old temple of Aphaea (You'll find a post on the present Aphaea temple here) - this is the kind of colours we are dealing with.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The sacred gate lion

Very little is known about this piece (a tomb monument), the so called sacred gate lion, dating from ca 590-580 BC. The type is however well known and you can find another exampel here

Thursday, April 15, 2010

An altar?

This picture from Pylos is one of my favorites, not so much because it's a beautiful shot as that it's funny. You can hardly see it here but the little sign tells us that this pile of dirt is a Βωμος, i.e. an altar - I do hope that the excavation report is very detailed on the matter, as it's highly probable that all the hard evidence was destroyed when they excavated the place.

The beauty of this is that, as a visitor at almost any archaeological site, you'll find yourself facing this kind of sign over and over again. They may be more or less reasonable, but the bitter truth is that you can't do anything in the end but to trust that the excavator did a good job or use your common sense (and previous experiences) to decide what you find plausible.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pylos and the palace of Nestor

This is the megaron (throne room) in the palace at Pylos (the name is secured from linear B tablets) - and thus the very room from which Nestor, the hero from the Iliad ruled his sandy lands. There might just be a little truth to the stories...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


This is the northern wall at Kolona, constructed from spolia, i.e. re-used stone. Here you see two inscriptions of different quality (the central one is perhaps Christian in nature?) and one triglyph.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A sad remain

This is the sad remains of an Apollo temple at Aegina, one single column spared by the sands of time. The site, called kolona, is however well worth a visit.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Bronze Kouros

This is an extremely rare piece (the only one I've ever seen and very likely the only one in anywhere near this big), a bronze kouros. I can unfortunately tell you only very little about the statue, as there is little consensus on the dating and style.

Anyway, the statue is from Piraeus and was found in a burned warehouse with several other impressive bronzes (among them one Athena). It has been argued that the building was destroyed in a fire just before Sulla had time to ship of his booty to Rome, which mean that that piece have to be older than ca 86 BC, but also that it was not lost already at that date.

This may seem good, but it raise a number of problems. First of all, this statue would, by form and style, be dated to ca 525 bc (some 440 years earlier) - could it really have survived that long? Secondly, there are reasons to doubt that it's an archaic piece: the right foot is put forward (almost all other kouroses put their left foot forward), the arms are raised and it seems like he once had something in his left hand. It could very well be a Hellenistic copy or imitation (which would fit in well with the other bronzes from the find spot), but if so, why is this the (to my knowledge) only one preserved?

You can compare it to other kouroses from ca 600, the early 6th century, ca 530 and ca 490-480.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bellerophon and Pegasus

Ossuary in the shape of a sarcophagus, ca 150-200 AD, from a workshop in Asia Minor. Here you see Bellerophon and Pegasus. It is interesting that this hero (probably) is less famous than his horse - a strange fate.

You can read one version of the story of Bellerophon in the Iliad (Book 6) even though Pegasus isn't mentioned in it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A back plate

This is the backplate of a (presumably) distinguished warrior. The piece is dated to the 2nd half of the 7th century bc (i.e. 650-600 BC) and was probably made in Ionia or Corinth. It is unfortunately very difficult to see in this picture (it's almost as difficult in the original size) but the plate is incised with figures of humans and animals - it may depict Apollos introduction to mount Olympus.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pheidias' workshop

I realized yesterday that I mentioned Pheidias workshop without supplying a picture - here it is. Remember that I haven't really read anything about the building, but it seems like the foundation is Greek, the brickwork Roman and the apse (in the place of the original entrance) Christian.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pheidias' workshop

There's actually quite a lot left to us from the workshop where the so famous statue of Zeus (one of the seven wonders of the world) was created under Pheidias supervision and guidance. This is a piece of the architectural terracotta decoration (ca 430 BC).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Zeus and Ganymede

Corinthian workshop, beginning of the 5th century BC.
This terracotta statue visualize how Zeus kidnapped Ganymed from Troy to be his cup-bearer, an incident mentioned in the Iliad when Diomedes command his charioteer Sthenelus to act:

"spring Aeneas' horses and drive them from the Trojan to the Achaean ranks. They are of the stock that great Jove gave to Tros in payment for his son Ganymede, and are the finest that live and move under the sun. King Anchises stole the blood by putting his mares to them without Laomedon's knowledge, and they bore him six foals. Four are still in his stables, but he gave the other two to Aeneas."

- The Iliad V - translated by S. Butler

You should also notice the rooster Ganymede is carrying, a lovers gift from the god.

Monday, April 5, 2010

An ancient quarry

This rock may look very insignificant, but tests and measurements has shown that this is one of the many small pits where the stone used to build the temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion came from.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Clay ship

This is a Roman ship model (clay) from the 1st century AD, probably found at Cape Maleas. For some other ancient ships, look here and here.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

An ancient stadium

This is the stadium (Hellenistic) in Messene (I should probably try to post pictures from other places as well) and I find it interesting that the stone seating only cover one of the ends (and it looked like that was the read deal, not a modern reconstruction). Notice that the low wall in the foreground is a Roman addition from when place was used as amphitheatre.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The ekklesiasterion (odeon?) of Messene

This is the (quite reconstructed) ekklesiasterion (official interpretation) of Messene. I would however argue that it's rather an odeon than a city council building, due to it's shape and position - the functions can of course be joined and there may be evidence available that I am unaware of.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The walls of Ancient Messene

The walls of ancient Messene from the late classical/early hellenistic period are the best preserves in all of Greece. Here you see a part of it, near the Arcadian gate.