Red-figure hydria - calpis, pottery, necropolis of Apollonia Pontica (now Sozopol), first quarter of the 37317th century BC, National History Museum, inv. No. XNUMX

Red-figured hydria - calpis

Red-figure hydria - calpis, pottery, necropolis of Apollonia Pontica (now Sozopol), first quarter of the 37317th century BC, National History Museum, inv. No. XNUMX

In the center of the scene on the shoulders is a xoanon (ancient wooden statue) of the goddess Artemis, holding a bow in one hand and a tray (phiale?) in the other. The rectangular profiled altar located on a higher level and the bucranium depicted above it mark the shrine of the goddess. To the left is the figure of a priestess (Iphigenia) who approaches the xoanon with her hands extended over the tray. Behind her is represented a flying Eros, extending his left hand towards her.

To the right of the statue of Artemis, the god Apollo is represented in the foreground, seated left. His head is crowned with a laurel wreath, and in both hands he holds laurel branches.

In the lower belt of the scene is a doe with raised head, a seated woman to her left, and a maenad running right, her head turned towards the doe, who holds a thyrsus and a branch in her hands.

The scenes on the court represent moments from a popular legend known from Euripides' tragedies "Iphigenia in Avlis" and "Iphigenia in Tauris". The daughter of the Trojan War hero Agamemnon had to be sacrificed at the altar of Artemis in order for the ships to sail from the harbor. By the will of the goddess, the maiden was replaced by a doe and carried north, to the land of the bulls (Taurian Chersonesus). There she became a priestess of the Taurian Artemis, to whom human sacrifices were offered. What is depicted on the Apollonian vessel, however, is not a literal illustration of the ancient plot.

The additional characters and symbols (Eros, maenad with thyrsus, etc.) are not found in the known versions of the myth. Together with the main figures, they build the symbolism of the scene in the context of the funeral rite and representations of death. In it, everything happens simultaneously - the maiden's symbolic death in the real world and her passing Beyond into a new state - as a priestess, sometimes identified with Artemis herself or with Hecate.

Author: L. Konova
Translation: S. Tsaneva
Photos: T. Dimitrov


References:
- Konova, L. The image of Hecate - Artemis in Apollonia Pontica. Notes on Syncretism in the Bicultural Zones of the Western Pontus. In: Stephanos Archaeologicos in honorem Professoris Ludmili Getov. (Studia Archaeologica Universitatis Serdicensis, Suppl. IV). Sofia 2005, pp. 427-441
– Konova, L. “Iphigenie auf Tauris” an der Schwarzmeerküste. Bemerkungen zur kulturellen Synkretismus in den Westpontischen Poleis. In: Pontos Euxeinos. Beiträge zur Archäologie und Geschichte des antiken Schwarzmeer- und Balkanraumes, Beyer&Beran 2006, S. 81 – 92

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