Birds, "Meniskoi," and Head Attributes in Archaic Greece

Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway
1990 American Journal of Archaeology  
Research on metal attachments in Archaic sculpture leads to the conclusion that the "meniskoi" mentioned by Aristophanes as protection against the birds may be a pun or allusion, the meaning of which escapes us today. Spikes and attachment holes on the heads of kouroi and korai should rather be seen in the light of some examples on marble sphinxes, where traces of paint and other devices indicate specific meanings for the metal bars. It is argued that what has usually been taken as
more » ... ken as simplification in the rendering of Archaic hair should often be read as a head cover; in particular, Antenor's Kore, Akr. 681, is considered an Athena wearing a helmet, in imitation of an earlier image. Elaborate Archaic headdresses may have their roots in prehistoric or Eastern practices, and in turn lead to the complicated fashions of fifth-century temple statues, like the Athena Parthenos and the Rhamnousian Nemesis. Identification must be made on a case-by-case basis, but it seems plausible to suggest that most kouroi and korai represented divine beings, whose distinctive headdresses served as identifiers for the ancient viewers.* It is a well-known fact of Greek iconography that the modern viewer, without the help of specific clues such as written labels or distinctive attributes, cannot always distinguish representations of mythological figures and epic events from those of common human beings and scenes of everyday life. This situation is proportionately more acute the earlier the artistic phase and the more "primitive" or abstract the rendering. Thus, on vases of the Geometric period, some scholars have wanted to identify Homeric heroes and specific legends, for example, Paris abducting Helen or Theseus departing with Ariadne, whereas others have read the same figures as an eighth-century ship captain taking leave of his wife. A shipwreck with sailors surrounded by fish has been interpreted as one of Odysseus' adventures, but also as one of the perils of contemporary Greek trade expanding overseas.' Even apparently standard decorative motifs such as animals and filling ornaments have been alternatively taken as divine symbols or as elements of daily life having practical purposes, some more easily intelligible than others, especially in their meaningful juxtaposition. In particular, an important article by John Boardman has tried to make sense of the seemingly generic horses and fish decorating Argive Geometric vases in terms of the natural habitat of the vase painters, who could see around them horses at pasture in areas ringed by marshes and sea. A more recent publication has instead returned full circle to earlier re-* This article is dedicated to G. Roger Edwards, without whom it would not have been written. Not only did he put at my disposal his most extensive file on meniskoi and representations of the moon crescent and astral signs (from which most of my references are taken), but he gave me access to many of his own ideas and, with his intensive attempts to visualize the Aristophanic meniskos and other head ornaments, forced me to come to grips with the issue. His scholarly generosity is here most gratefully acknowledged. I am also grateful to Jane B. Carter and especially Jody Maxmin, for helpful discussion, references, and observations. I warmly thank Kevin Glowacki for bibliographical help and comments, and Kenneth Shapiro and Marina Belozerskaya, who in the Spring of 1989 checked the headdress of Antenor's Kore for me. The following abbreviations have been used: AMA Die archaische Marmorbildwerke der Akropolis (Frankfurt 1939). Korai published by E. Langlotz, other sculptures in the round and reliefs by W.-H. Schuchhardt, architectural sculpture by H. Schrader. Boardman, J. Boardman, Greek Sculpture: The Ar-Archaic Period chaic Period (London 1978). Richter, G.M.A Richter, The Archaic Gravestones AGA of Attica (London 1961). Studies in Honor of T.B.L. Webster 2 (Bristol 1988) 97-107, with mention of possible interpretations and previous bibliography. For a general discussion on the iconographic meaning of Geometric representations, see A.M. Snodgrass, An Archaeology of Greece (Sather Classical Lectures 53, Berkeley 1987) 147-69. American Journal of Archaeology 94 (1990) 583 584 BRUNILDE SISMONDO RIDGWAY [AJA 94 ligious interpretations, explaining the patterns as reminiscent of a Bronze Age Leader of Horses derived from Oriental iconography and connected with ritual fish sacrifice.2 This ambiguous situation could have improved during the Archaic period, especially with the spread of writing to provide labels for painted scenes and dedicatory inscriptions for monuments. Yet the ambivalence remains, not only for representations on black-and red-figure vases, but also for extant sculptures, whether large or small, in terracotta, bronze, or stone. It is with the last that I am particularly concerned here, although examples and evidence from the other categories will occasionally be introduced to support my arguments. To be sure, our interpretation of surviving statuary is hampered by various factors, of which a few may bear examination and exemplification here. Paint, for instance, was an integral element of all ancient carving, yet today it is mostly lost and can only be recovered, if at all, through technical means not accessible to the general viewer. By means of color, sculptors introduced significant details too difficult to render plastically, gave liveliness and distinction to facial features, and created visible differentiation from garment to garment and even from statue to apparently similar statue. A startling demonstration of the importance of paint has been given by the recent publication of the Isthmia perirrhanterion, showing the supporting female figures as differently clothed and made up. What looked like a plain tunic on all four is seen to be a more complex combination of garments including a diagonal mantle and perhaps a veil tucked in at the waist, unexpectedly early for Greek art and worn in a manner now convincingly connected with earlier Near Eastern practices. A simple coiffure of angular masses framing the face is now explained as a veil draped under a polos and almost entirely covering the hair, again of Oriental derivation. The iconography of the goddess standing on a lion had always been interpreted in terms of Eastern influence, and this earliest among Greek stone sculptures therefore confirms ties with more remote periods and lands.3 Attributes, often added in metal or carved together with separately inserted limbs, had the potential to transform a generic human form into a divinity. Thus the well-known "Nikandre" from Delos could represent the Naxian woman who dedicated the marble statue, but the metal attributes once held by the figure in both hands, combined with the epithets of Artemis mentioned in the votive inscription, make it virtually certain that it is a representation of the goddess herself, holding a bow and an arrow. A more or less standard kouros type provided with a belt and gold pendants to the hair turns into an Apollo.4 Wings at the booted feet of a generic traveler indicate Hermes. Thus the anthropomorphism of Greek gods is at the same time a help and a hindrance-a help to the ancient sculptor who could use a standard model and, by judiciously adding different attributes, adapt it for various purposes or depictions; a hindrance for the 2 J. Boardman, "Symbol and Story in Geometric Art," in W.G. Moon ed., Ancient Greek Art and Iconography (Madison 1983) 15-36. For connection of the Argive motif with Mycenaean pictorial vases from Ugarit in North Syria, see S. Langdon, "The Return of the Horse-Leader," AJA 93 (1989) 185-201. 3 For a recent general treatment of paint on Archaic sculpture see, e.g., E. Walter-Karydi, "Prinzipien der archaischen Farbgebung," in Studien zur klassischen Archiiologie (Festschrift F. Hiller, Saarbriicken 1986) 23-41. Isthmia perirrhanterion: M.C. Sturgeon, Isthmia IV: Sculpture I: 1952-1967 (Princeton 1987) 14-61, esp. 41-45 and color pl. A. The costume may now be compared to that of an ivory statuette from Tumulus D near Elmali, dated late eighthseventh century B.C.: Antalya Museum, catalogue revised and edited by E. and I. Ozgen (Ankara 1988) 190, no. 42; cf. also p. 33 and color pl. on p. 39, as well as front and back cover. The theory on the Anatolian precedence of the costume had already been advanced by I. Ozgen, A Study of Anatolian and East Greek Costume in the Iron Age (Diss. Bryn Mawr 1982). The stone of the Isthmia perirrhanterion may be Lakonian: see J.B. Carter, "Isotopic Analysis of Seventhcentury B.C. Perirrhanteria," in N. Herz and M. Waelkens eds., Classical Marble: Geochemistry, Technology, Trade (NATO ASI Series, Applied Sciences 153, Dordrecht 1988) 419-30; a Syro-Palestinian connection for the iconography is postulated on p. 425, where the water basin as cult equipment is said to reach back to Early Bronze Age Mesopotamia. In the same volume, see M. Waelkens, P. de Paepe, and L. Moens, "Quarries and the Marble Trade in Antiquity," 11-24, for the theory that the Greeks learned their quarrying methods from Anatolia. This point is further elaborated by M. Waelkens, "The Quarrying Techniques of the Greek World," in Marble: Art Historical and Scientific Perspectives on Ancient Sculpture (Malibu, Getty Symposium held 28-30 April 1988; forthcoming). 4 Nikandre, Athens Nat. Mus. 1: Boardman, Archaic Period fig. 71 (a floral ornament or a lion leash is preferred as metal addition); Richter, Korai no. 1, figs. 25-28; Ridgway, Archaic Style 86-87 and bibl. on p. 115. The observation that the holes do not run through the entire hand, and are thus unsuitable to hold long weapons, applies only to the right fist, not to both, and therefore I find it unlikely that the Nikandre should be visualized as grasping the leashes of two lions or a floral offering. For belts and hair pendants, see the colossal marble Apollo dedicated by the Naxians: Boardman, Archaic Period fig. 60 (dated ca. 580-570; too late?); Ridgway, Archaic Style 65 n. 22. There is still dispute over the stance and attributes of this statue. 1990] BIRDS, "MENISKOI," AND HEAD ATTRIBUTES IN ARCHAIC GREECE 585 modern student who is not always able to read the ancient clues. Moreover, these very clues, when added in metal to a stone sculpture, have often disintegrated and disappeared, leaving behind, at best, only stains and drill-holes to indicate their former presence. Outstretched limbs in action poses or holding significant objects, as well as meaningful headdresses (often together with the very heads supporting them), have usually broken off because of their exposed position and precarious technique. This "mutilation" is perhaps one of the most serious obstacles to our modern understanding of ancient monuments. Even more grievous than the disappearance of specific elements of a statue is the total destruction of images made of perishable materials. Many sanctuaries, as we know from inscriptions and literary sources, held venerated idols in wood, often provided with real clothing and jewelry, that could be bathed, fed, and carried in procession, with practices that found parallels and perhaps even inspiration in Egypt and the Near East. Later imitations of these venerable cult images are known, such as the many reproductions of the Artemis of Ephesos, but others escape our perception and are therefore open to misinterpretation. Such allusive renderings were probably completely clear to the ancient Greeks, who had the prototypes still among them or could easily "read" the conventions of their times, but they seem puzzling to our modern, lacunose understanding.5 5 On such early statues and their rituals, see I.B. Romano, "Early Greek Cult Images and Cult Practices," in R. Hagg, N. Marinatos, and G.C. Nordquist eds., Early Greek Cult Practice (Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium at the Swedish Institute at Athens, 26-29 June, 1986; Stockholm 1988) 127-33; see also 130 n. 30, for references to Artemis of Ephesos and forthcoming publications. The main discussion remains R. Fleischer, Artemis von Ephesos und verwandte Kultstatuen aus Anatolien und Syrien (EPRO 35, Leiden 1973), and his additions in Studien zur Religion und Kultur Kleinasiens 1 (Festschrift F.K. D6rner, Leiden 1978) 324-74; LIMC 2 s.v. Artemis, 755-63 pls. 564-73. For the practice of dressing statues, see also Fleischer, "Eine bekleidete Nachbildung der Artemis von Ephesos," OJh 52 (1978-1980) 63-66. Also of interest are the references collected by J.M. Mansfield, The Robe of Athena and the Panathenaic Peplos (Diss. Berkeley 1985) 438-587. 6 For statues in painted marble, with real jewelry, see, for instance, the Madonna and Child by Rinaldino di Guascogna in the Madonna Chapel of St. Anthony's Basilica in Padua, Italy (14th century); the famous Bambino of the Ara Coeli, in Rome, is dressed in real clothes and jewels. See also Fleischer, Artemis (supra n. 5) 406 n. 7, for examples of other clothed Christian images. For a painted cast of the Peplos Kore, in the Cambridge Museum of casts, see, e.g., Boardman, Archaic Period fig. 129 (here fig. 2). For comments on the reconstruction, see R.M. Cook, "A Supplementary Note on Meniskoi," JHS 96 (1976) 153-54; for close-up details, see also his "The Peplos Kore and Its Dress,"JWalt 37 (1978) 84-87, figs. 1-2. For a sociological interpretation of the korai, see L.A. Schneider, Zur sozialen Bedeutung der archaischen Korenstatuen (Hamburg 1975); for the kouroi, see also A.F. Stewart, "When is a Kouros not an Apollo?" in Corinthiaca; Studies in Honor of D. Amyx (Columbia, Mo. 1986) 54-70. For my own position, at an earlier stage of my research, see B.S. Ridgway, "Of Kouroi and Korai, Attic Variety," Hesperia suppl. 20 (1982, in honor of H.A. Thompson) 118-27, with previous bibl. For the changing meaning of ancient terms, according to the time of the sources, see the excellent discussion on the use of xoanon in A.A. Donohue, Xoana and the Origins of Greek Sculpture (American Classical Studies 15, Atlanta 1988). See also infra n. 14. 586 BRUNILDE SISMONDO RIDGWAY [AJA 94 Aristophanes' meniskoi and the Athenian monuments was F. Studniczka in an 1887 article; his own visualization, however, took the form of a flower on the head of Antenor's Kore, Akr. 681 (fig. 1).7 Other early commentators argued for an umbrella, a crescent with upraised horns, a disk atop a tall rod, or perhaps even the rod alone. It was rightly pointed out by H. Lechat that no moon, in disk or crescent form, had ever been found connected to the extant rods or separately. The rods themselves, when preserved to a pointed tip, 77 The aristocratic theory is by Schneider (supra n. 6); for a different viewpoint, see Ridgway (supra n. 6) esp. 125; most of the evidence is collected in Raubitschek (supra n. 74) with comments on 465-66. For some kore figures as brides and Nymphs, see also E.B. Harrison, in J. Sweeney, T. Curry, Y. Tzedakis eds., The Human Figure in Early Greek Art (Exhibition catalogue, Washington, D.C. 1988) 53-54. 78 J.R. Marszal, "An Architectural Function for the Lyons Kore," Hesperia 57 (1988) 203-206; cf. also Ridgway, Archaic Style 108-109. The bar is said in all accounts to be of iron. One more head with polos (Akr. 696, Richter, Korai no. 126; AMA no. 20, pp. 61-62, pl. 29, and figs. 22-25; Ridgway, Archaic Style 108-109 and n. 31) is preserved only in the front half, and it is therefore impossible to tell whether or not it had a central dowel. The upper surface of the head-
doi:10.2307/505121 fatcat:bok2xrs7pzgitkp7l44wqrna7e