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The Boston relief and the religion of Locri Epizephyrii*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 December 2013

Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood
St Hugh's College, Oxford
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The three-sided Boston relief (Plate XIIIa), which is to be dated in the second quarter of the fifth century, has been the object of a long controversy with regard both to its subject matter and to its authenticity, which has been doubted by some scholars. The authenticity of the monument will be taken for granted here, since the work of Jucker, and especially the recent exhaustive stylistic and scientific study by Ashmole and Young leave no possible room for doubting it. Another aspect of the relief which I will take for granted in this paper is the artistic milieu which created it, since it has been convincingly shown that it is of South Italian, and more specifically Epizephyrian Locrian, origin. The object of the present paper is to discuss the iconography of the monument, especially with reference to the cult and religious environment of the city in which it was produced.

The interpretation of the central scene and the two side-panels of the Boston relief is still a matter of controversy, although many hypotheses have been put forward since the monument first appeared in the antiquities market. Discussions of the iconography of this relief tend more often than not to connect the problem, in some way or other, with the subject matter of the Ludovisi throne (Plate XIIIb), another three-sided relief belonging to the artistic environment of Locri Epizephyrii, but of a much higher artistic quality. The interpretation of the scenes on the Ludovisi throne has not provoked the same amount of controversy, and it would, I think, be a fair statement that the interpretation of the central representation as the birth of Aphrodite is now generally accepted—more accurately, it is the new-born Aphrodite being assisted out of the sea, and to the shore, by the Moirai or the Horai. On each of the side-panels a female figure is shown, a naked pipe-player on one, a heavily draped young matron burning incense in a thymiaterion on the other. They have been interpreted as hetaira and young bride or wife, two contrasting figures associated with Aphrodite's Locrian cult.

Research Article
Copyright © The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies 1974

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1 The following is a rather selective bibliography among the numerous discussions of the Boston relief:

Studniczka, F., Jdl xxvi (1911) 50192Google Scholar (full publication); Alscher, L., Götter vor Gericht: Das Fälschungs-problem des Bostoner ‘Throns’ (Berlin 1963Google Scholar) with useful bibliography; Ashmole, B., JHS xlii (1922) 248–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar; ib.,Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston lxiii (1965) 59–61; ib., AntK xiv (1971) 159–60; Young, W. and Ashmole, B., Boston Bulletin lxvi (1968) no. 346 pp. 124–66Google Scholar; Baroni, F., Osservazioni sul ‘Trono di Boston’ (Rome 1961)Google Scholar; Bastet, F. L., BABesch xxxviii (1963) 127Google Scholar; Boyd Hawes, H., AJA xxvi (1922) 278306CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Byvanck-Quarles van Ufford, L., BABesch xi (1936) 116Google Scholar; ib., BABesch xxxvi (1961) 60–3; Carpenter, Rhys, Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome xviii (1941) 4161Google Scholar; Caskey, L. D., AJA xxii (1918) 101–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar; ib., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Catalogue of Greek and Roman Sculpture (Cambridge Mass. 1925) no. 17, pp. 30–48 (with bibliography: pp. 33–4); Colin, J., RA 1946, 2342Google Scholar; 139–72; von Gerkan, A., ÖJh xxv (1929) 125–72Google Scholar; Jucker, H., MusHelv xxii (1965) 117–24Google Scholar; ib., MusHelv xxiv (1967) 116–19; Ch. Kardara, , ArchEph 1964, 5282Google Scholar; Möbius, H., Charites (Festschrift Langlotz, Bonn 1957) 4758Google Scholar, with bibliography (esp. nn. 34–6); ib., AA 1964, 294–9; Prückner, H., Die lokrischen Tonreliefs (Mainz 1968) 8991Google Scholar; Simon, E., Die Geburt der Aphrodite (Berlin 1959CrossRefGoogle Scholar) passim (hereafter Simon, Geburt).

2 Op. cit. (n. 1).

3 B. Ashmole, Boston Bulletin lxiii; W. Young and B. Ashmole, Boston Bulletin lxvi (cf. n. 1).

4 Ashmole, B., JHS xlii, 248–53Google Scholar; ib.Late Archaic and Early Classical Greek Sculpture in Sicily and South Italy (Oxford 1934) 18.

5 Cf. bibliography n. 1; on the history of the relief and its find cf. Nasch, E., RömMit lxvi (1959) 104–37Google Scholar.

6 For the attribution cf. Ashmole op. cit. (n. 4).

7 For a discussion of this interpretation cf. Simon, Geburt, passim.

8 Cf. Caskey, , Boston Catalogue 42Google Scholar; ib., AJA xxii, 117–18; Simon, , Geburt 20–9Google Scholar.

9 Boston Catal. 34.

10 Op. cit. 34–5; cf. also Carpenter 46–50; Carpenter's thesis is that the Boston relief was carved later than the Ludovisi throne, but for use in the same monument, as a true companion piece.

11 Boston Bulletin lxvi, 159; Nasch, op. cit. (n. 5).

12 Many suggestions have been made with regard to the function of the two three-sided reliefs, the way they were used (cf. e.g. JHS xxii, 252; Jdl xxvi, 83–96; ArchEph 1964, 79–80). To these I would like to add, very tentatively, yet another: I would like to suggest that the two reliefs may not have had a primarily structural, ‘functional’ use, but a religious-decorative one; that each (separately) may have constituted a very small parapet, secured, directly or indirectly, in the ground, both at the base and at the vertical ends of the side-panels, on uneven ground, possibly a hill, to be viewed from below, perhaps in a way not dissimilar to that of die parapet of die balustrade of Athena Nike on the Athenian Acropolis. But I have no intention of pressing this suggestion which I consider no more than just another possibility.

13 Cf. JdL xxvi, 132–5; Caskey, L. D. and Beazley, J. D., Attic Vase-paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, iii (Boston 1963) 44–6Google Scholar (hereafter CB); van Essen, C. C., BABesch 1964, 126–8Google Scholar; Schauenburg, K., BonnJb clxi (1961) 227–8Google Scholar; Lung, G. E., Archäologische Studien zur Aithiopis (Bonn 1912) 1327Google Scholar.

14 Stamnos by the Syracuse Painter, Boston 10.177 (ARV 2 518, 1; CB pls. 82, 3; 83; Simon, Geburt fig. 47); cup, Louvre G 399 (Pottier, E., Vases antiques du Louvre iii (Paris 1922) pl. 140Google Scholar; Simon, Geburt fig. 49); neck-amphora by the Ixion Painter in Leyden AMM 1 (Trendall, A. D., The red-figured vases of Lucania, Campania and Sicily (Oxford 1967) 339 no. 800Google Scholar; BABesch 1964, 126 fig. 1; 127 fig. 2; Simon, Geburt fig. 50).

15 Il. xxii, 209–13, kerostasia of Hector and Achilles.

16 Cf. the neck-amphora by the Ixion Painter and the stamnos by the Syracuse Painter; cf. also CB iii, 46 and Schauenburg op. cit. (n. 13) 227–8.

17 CB 44–5.

18 Another objection which has been raised against the psychostasia theory (cf. e.g. ArchEph 1964, 61) is that it should be Hermes or Zeus holding the scales if that were in fact the subject of the scene.

19 Cf. Jdl xxvi, 141.

20 On ‘attributes’ cf. Studniczka, Jdl xxvi 128–31Google Scholar; 141.

21 Jdl 141; cf. also e.g. Simon, , Geburt 84–6Google Scholar; Ashmole, , AntK 159–60Google Scholar. This definition of Aphrodite through her association with the fish was probably determined by two factors; first, the persona of Aphrodite at Locri, and her birth from the sea is represented on one type of Locrian pinax (cf. Prückner 37 fig. 4); and second, by the representation of Aphrodite on the Ludovisi throne, which again records her connection with the sea.

22 Cf. JdI xxvi, 129, 141; JHS xlii, 250.

23 JdI xxvi, 129, 141.

24 Simon's identification (Geburt 82–4) does depend upon a central hypothesis, and is not much concerned with the specific iconography of the figure.

25 Orpheus as a lyre-player: metope from the Sikyonian treasury at Delphi (c. 560); de la Coste-Messelière, P., Delphes (Paris 1943) pl. 42Google Scholar; stamnos in the manner of the Berlin Painter (ARV 2 215, 12) etc. Cf. also Linforth, , The Arts of Orpheus (Berkeley and Los Angeles 1941) 14Google Scholar; 33; 165.

Descent to Hades: cf. Linforth op. cit. 16–21 ; 30–1 ; 167–8.

26 Cf. Linforth 35; 38–49; 67–8; 170–1; Kirk, G. S. and Raven, J. E., The Presocratic Philosophers (Cambridge 1957) 38Google Scholar.

27 It may be worth mentioning in this connexion the evidence offered by the Rhesus, a play with regard to which Ritchie has recently argued in favour of a Euripidean authorship and a date between 455 and 440 (Ritchie, W., The authenticity of the Rhesus of Euripides (Cambridge 1964Google Scholar)). Lines 941–4 of the Rhesus inform us that Orpheus was the founder of some very important mysteries in Athens, lines 964–6 that Persephone was believed to have some kind of obligation towards Orpheus. Linforth (op. cit. 61–4) suggests that we should connect the two items of information and conclude that Persephone's obligation towards Orpheus stemmed from the fact that he was believed to have instituted the mysteries most valued by the Athenians, the Eleusinian mysteries, in Persephone's honour. He also notes (171) that the only deity ever mentioned as honoured in the rites instituted by Orpheus is Persephone in this particular context.

28 Ashmole, , AntK xiv (1971) 159–60Google Scholar.

29 Cf. on the subject Yalouris, N., ArchEph 19531954 ii, 175–6Google Scholar.

30 Cf. e.g. Furtwängler, A., Die Antike Gemmen (Leipzig-Berlin 1900) p. xxxviii, 15Google Scholar.

31 Cf. BdA iii (1909) 11 fig. 10; 12 figs. 11–12; Ausonia iii (1908) figs. 33–41; Zancani Montuoro, P., Atti Società Magna Graecia 1954, 83–4Google Scholar and pls. xiii–vi; Prückner pls. 1; 2; 24, 6; p. 17 fig. 1; cf. p. 78.

32 Ausonia iii, 187 fig. 40.

33 Cf. JdI xxvi, 64; Caskey, , AJA xxii, 114Google Scholar.

34 Cf. Simon, , Geburt 69 fig. 41Google Scholar.

35 Ashmole, , AntK xiv, 159–60Google Scholar.

36 Epimenides fr. 19 Diels.

37 (No note.)

38 55, 5.

39 Geburt 46–55.

40 Achaeus, , Moirai fr. 27Google Scholar Snell (27 N2); cf. Simon 46.

41 AntK, op. cit.

42 Cf. e.g. the Artemision drum with Alkestis' story: Arias, P. E., Skopas (Rome 1952Google Scholar) pl. v, 17. Much earlier representations of Thanatos as a naked winged youth can be found on vases; cf. e.g. the kalyx-krater Louvre G 163 by the Eucharides Painter (ARV 2 227. 12; Pottier, E., Vases antiques du Louvre iii (Paris 1922) pl. 124)Google Scholar.

43 BdA iii, 12 fig. 12.

44 Ausonia iii, 191 fig. 42.

45 On unidentified winged Underworld daemons cf. Bakalakis, G., Ἀνάγλνφα (Salonica 1969) 17Google Scholar, with bibliography.

46 Prückner pl. 34, 4.

47 Kardara, , ArchEph 1964, 75Google Scholar.

48 A parallel suggested by Kardara (op. cit. 75 and pl. 20): Phlyax calyx-krater by the Tarporley Painter, New York 24.97.104; Trendall, A. D., Phlyax Vases (London 1967 2) 53 no. 84Google Scholar; ib.Frühitaliotische Vasen (Leipzig 1938) pl. 28b.

49 Studniczka op. cit. ; Ashmole, AntK, op. cit.

50 Cf. Alscher 102 n. 14 and add Ashmole, AntK op. cit.

51 Cf. Alscher 102 n. 14; to it should be added: Ch. Picard, , Manuel d'Archéologie grecque. La sculpture ii, 142 n. 1Google Scholar.

52 Op. cit.

53 Studniczka suggested that he was yet another Adonis, but such a triplication is highly implausible.

54 Publications of pinakes: Orsi, P., BdA iii (1909) 143Google Scholar; Quagliati, Q., Ausonia iii (1908) 136234Google Scholar; Zancani Montuoro, P., Archivio storico per la Calabria e la Lucania v (1935) 195 ff.Google Scholar; ib., RIA vii (1940) 205 ff.; Rendiconti Accademia Napoli xxix (1954) 79–86 ; ib., Atti Soc. M. Graecia 1954, 71–106; ArchStorCal xxiv (1955) 283–308; ib., ArchClass xii (i960) 37–50; ib.Marsyas Suppl. i, Essays in memory of K. Lehmann (New York 1964) 386–95; Prückner op. cit. (cf. n. 1).

55 Cf. Prückner 37 fig. 4 and pp. 36–8.

56 Orsi, op. cit. (cf. n. 54); Quagliati, op. cit.; Zancani Montuoro, op. cit.; A. W. Oldfather, RE s.v. ‘Lokroi’; ib., Philologus lxix (1910) 114–25; ib., Philologus lxxi (1912) 321–31.

57 Prückner op. cit. (cf. n. 1). Cf. also reviews: Boardman, J., CR xxi (1971) 144–5Google Scholar; Zuntz, G., Gnomon xliii (1971) 490501Google Scholar; Ridgway, B. S. and Scott, R. T., Archaeology xxvi (1973) 43–7Google Scholar.

58 Cf. Boardman, op. cit.; Zuntz, op. cit. 492–4.

59 Cf. Zuntz 499; cf. e.g. BdA 10 fig. 8; 11 fig. 9 etc.

60 Cf. Zuntz 494–7.

61 Cf. Zancani Montuoro, P., RendAccLincei 1959, 225–32Google Scholar.

62 In my opinion, Prückner's main methodological fault is that he does not start with the scenes which indisputably belong to one or the other goddess and isolate the ‘symbols’ and cult objects peculiar to each of them. Hence, for example, his misplacement of the cock, upon which hang and follow many other attributions. The attribution of the ‘Gewand’ series to Aphrodite depends on the—surely both illusory and irrelevant—similarity of the indoors environment to that of the woman-with-child type, which he interprets as representing Aphrodite and the Dionysos child—ignoring the fact mat the child is sometimes female.

63 Cf. Zancani-Montuoro, , Soc. M. Graecia 1954, 7990Google Scholar.

64 Prückner (op. cit. 74) made the suggestion of such an association en passant while discussing the Abduction types of pinakes, mainly in order to get out of the difficulty of having cult objects which he had firmly, if unconvincingly, attributed to Aphrodite present in scenes which cannot but belong to Persephone's cycle. Meanwhile, Zuntz, [Persephone (Oxford 1971) 158–73Google Scholarpassim] has considered this hypothesis seriously, and, of course, the presence of Aphrodite in the cult, but in a less conspicuous role, was never denied by Zancani Montuoro.

65 Cf. BdA iii, 10 fig. 8.

66 Cf. BdA iii, 8 fig. 6; 14 fig. 14; 15 fig. 16; 16 fig. 17; 17 fig. 18; 21 fig. 25; 22 fig. 26; 23 fig. 27.

67 Cf. Farnell, L. R., The Cults of the Greek States (Oxford 1896) ii, 655–6Google Scholar; Nilsson, M., GGrR 3524–5Google Scholar; cf. also Schol. Ar. Nub. 52; Schol. Ar. Lys. 2; Paus. i. 1, 5.

68 Cf. Dietrich, B. C., Death, Fate and the Gods (London 1965) 7981Google Scholar; Nilsson, GGrR 3363 and n. 3Google Scholar; 524; cf. also Pind. Ol. vi. 39–42; Ol. i. 25–7.

69 On this fragment: Rose, H. J., Greek Poetry and Life. Essays presented to G. Murray (Oxford 1936) 7996Google Scholar; caution should be exercised with regard to the Orphic approach of the author. Cf. also Dodds, E. R., The Greeks and the Irrational (Berkeley and Los Angeles 1951) 155–6Google Scholar and n. 131; Linforth, op. cit. 345–55.

70 Cf. a brief account of Pindar's eschatology in Bowra, C. M., Pindar (Oxford 1964) 8995Google Scholar.

71 Dodds, E. R., Plato, Gorgias (Oxford 1959) 375Google Scholar.

72 As is argued in Taylor, A. E., A Commentary on Plato's Timaeus (Oxford 1928) 10Google Scholar, 17, 25 and passim.

73 Cf. Minar, E. L., Early Pythagorean Politics in Practice and Theory (Baltimore 1942) 41–2Google Scholar.

74 Dunbabin, T. J., The Western Greeks (Oxford 1948) 72–3Google Scholar.

75 Plato, , Gorgias 525cGoogle Scholar.

76 Dodds, , Gorgias 375Google Scholar.

77 Cf. bibliography n. 69.

77a By this I do not, of course, mean that Persephone is mourning because of the weighing, that she regrets it; what I mean is that her attitude of grief is a reminder of the reasons for the whole operation. Greek art, and especially archaic Greek art, does not always show a ‘snapshot’ view of an episode of the story represented, but can interweave elements belonging to different moments of that story. (Cf. Himmelmann-Wildschütz, N., Erzählung und Figur in der archaischen Kunst (Akademie Mainz 1967: 2, 73–100)Google Scholar; cf. also the review of this book by Hemelrijk, , Gnomon xlii (1970) 166–71Google Scholar). An important element in these ‘synoptical’ narrative scenes is the ‘hieroglyphic’ figure which by its presence and/or iconography hints at, and stands for, earlier or later moments of the story than that of the main action. An example of such a figure which could be analogous to the mourning attitude of Persephone on our relief is Athena in the representation of Theseus struggling with the Minotaur on the black-figure cup signed by Archikles and Glaukytes, Munich 2243 (ABV 163, 2; Paralipomena 68; Himmelmann-Wildschütz pl. 7). In that scene Athena, by holding the lyre which Theseus played at a subsequent moment, when the victory over the Minotaur was celebrated with the performance of the geranos dance, hints at this future stage in the story, and at the victorious outcome of the struggle which is taking place next to her on the pot.

As mentioned above, such synoptical scenes are much more frequent in archaic than in classical art, but, apart from the fact that the Severe Style of South Italy and Sicily has distinct lingering archaic traits, it should also be remembered that we find a fully ‘synoptical’ scene in a cup of the same period as our relief and in a purely early classical style, the whiteground cup British Museum D 5 by the Sotades Painter with the representation of Glaukos and Polyidos. (Cf. Philippart, H., Les coupes attiques à fond blanc (Brussels 1936) no. 65.Google Scholar)

78 Vv. 691–700.

79 Vv. 116–22.

80 Paus, ix 27. On the demiurgic aspect of Eros cf. also Parmenides fr. 13 Diels; Sappho fr. 198 Lobel-Page; Pherecydes fr. 3 Diels; Akousilaos FGrH 2F6; Eur. 57.23 Bond.

81 Empedokles fr. 17 Diels; 128 Diels; 151 Diels and φιλότης throughout. Parmenides fr. 13 Diels.

82 Plato, , Republic x. 616c617eGoogle Scholar.

83 Linforth, 168–9; Dodds, , Greeks and the Irrational 149Google Scholar.

84 Eliot, T. S., Four Quartets (London 1944) 17Google Scholar.

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