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.