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The Iconography of Greek Cult in the Archaic and Classical Periods

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Robin Hägg

The Sacred Herd of Artemis at Lusoi*

Ulrich Sinn

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  • * I wish to express my gratitude to J. Binder for translating the manuscript. Acknowledgements. Figs (...)
  • 1 Under the leadership of V. Mitsopoulou-Leon the Austrian Archaeological Institute at Athens carrie (...)
  • 2 Polybios IV.17-21.

1The ancient town of Lusoi with its Artemis sanctuary was situated on the western slope of Mount Aroania about 40 kilometres from the Corinthian Gulf (Fig. I).1 The district was particularly hard hit in 240 B.C. when the Aitolians swarmed through the northern Peloponnesos, plundering as they went2. After they had laid waste to Kynaitha their next goal was the town Kleitor. Interestingly enough the Aitolians did not take the direct route south to Kleitor, but instead chose the difficult route over the mountains of Lusoi. The highland plain of Lusoi (Fig. 2), 1 000 m above sea level, with the surrounding slopes has always been valued for its good pasturage.

  • 3 Polybios IV.18.10-12.

2When the Aitolian arrived at this plain, they did not molest the town itself but went straight to the sanctuary of Artemis. Polybios gives a detailed account of what happened there: “On arriving at the sanctuary of Artemis which lies between Kleitor and Kynaitha, and is regarded as inviolable by the Greeks, they threatened to seize animals belonging to the goddess and plunder the other property about the temple. But the people of Lusoi very wisely induced them to refrain from their impious purpose and commit no serious outrage by giving them some of the sacred furniture. On receiving this they at once left the place and encamped before Kleitor.”3

  • 4 Polybios IV.19, 4.

3After the Aitolians had failed to storm the city wall of Kleitor, they went off– and vented their rage at being frustrated on the sanctuary at Lusoi where, in spite of the fact that they had already settled for a fixed recompense, they now drove off the animals belonging to the goddess after all.4

Fig. 1. The position of Lusoi in northern Arcadia.

Fig. 2. The highland plain of Lusoi with the sanctuary on the northern slopes of Profitis Elias (1 489 m).

  • 5 1) In 220 B.C. at Corinth: F. W. Walbank, A historical commentary on Polybios I, Oxford 1957, 483 (...)

4This event still aroused strong feelings among the Greeks after decades. In any case Polybios reports two political assemblies of the Greeks towards the end of the 3rd century B.C. where the theft of the “Sacred Herd” from Artemis’ sanctuary at Lusoi is described as the kind of crime that only godless barbarians such as the Aitolians would commit.5

  • 6 Lusoi 1901, 2; H. Hitzig and H. Blümner, Des Pausanias Beschreibung von Griechen-land III 1, Leipz (...)
  • 7 This figurine belonged to a collection of 79 objects bought by the Königliches Museum Berlin at th (...)
  • 8 Lusoi 1901, 57-58 Fig. 115.
  • 9 Lusoi 1901, 37.

5For a long time scholars have been speculating about the nature of the herd and its role in the cult of Artemis’ sanctuary. In the context of Polybios’ statement, to the effect that the animals belonged to the goddess (θρέμματα της θεοΰ) it was natural to conclude that the animals were kept in an enclosure inside the sanctuary as living votive offerings, so to speak, and therefore must have been linked to the cult there.6 This idea received welcome confirmation when, during excavations in Lusoi at the turn of the century, votives were found which would be associated with the existence of a “Sacred Herd” in the sanctuary: for example a small bronze deer (Fig. 3),7 stylized antlers also of sheet bronze,8 many real antlers and several boar’s teeth and bear’s teeth belong to this category of finds.9 Iconographical analysis of these finds seemed to pave the way to interpreting the extraordinary significance of the “Sacred Herd” in the sanctuary of Artemis at Lusoi.

  • 10 Frankfurt, Liebieghaus Inv. No. 436. – P. C. Bol, Liebieghaus, Museum Alter Plastik. Fübrer durch (...)
  • 11 Lusoi 1901, 37 Fig. 25.
  • 12 P. C. Bol, “Die „Artemis von Lusoi”. Eine klassische Wiedergabe eines frühgriechischen Kultbildes” (...)

6Adolf Wilhelm and Wilhelm Reichel, the excavators, believed they could demonstrate that the very form of the cult statue was affected by the existence of animals in the sanctuary. Although the cult statue itself is, of course, not preserved, two statuettes have been found which have been recognized as reflections of the cult statue. One of them is a bronze, now in Frankfurt (Fig. 4).10 The other is a terracotta figure (Fig. 5).11 P. Bol has recently shown – convincingly in my view–that the bronze figure, dated to about 500 B.C., may well be a small-scale copy of the cult statue created in the 7th century B.C. Otherwise it would be very difficult to explain the unusually faithful rendering of the daedalic epiblema around the shoulders of the figure which in all other respects bears the hallmarks of the Late Archaic style.12

Fig. 3. Lusoi, Sanctuary of Artemis. Statuette of a deer. Bronze, H. c. 6.8 cm. Formerly Berlin, Staatliche Museen (lost during the war).

  • 13 F. Eckstein, Antike Kleinkunst im Liebiegbaus, Frankfurt a. M. 1969, Nr. 7/8: “Es war ohne Frage e (...)
  • 14 Lusoi 1901, 37.

7Unfortunately the Late Archaic small-scale version provides us with no information about the attributes of the cult statue. The left hand is broken off, the right hand is now empty. The consensus, however, is that in any case the figure must have held an object of considerable size because of the powerful arm and the strikingly large hand.13 Reichel and Wilhelm also followed the same lines. In this connexion they refer to the terracotta figurine (Fig. 5) which they also regarded as an iconographical allusion to the cult statue. Accordingly, they transferred the attributes of this figure –a bow in the left hand, a deer in the right –to the bronze figure and thence to the cult statue. The powerful arm and the large hand of the bronze figure seemed to them to be ideally suited for an attribute the size of a deer.14

Fig. 4. Lusoi, Sanctuary of Artemis. Statuette of Artemis. Bronze, H. 13.2 cm. Frankfurt, Liebieghaus. Inv. no. 436.

8The iconography of the cult statue inferred in this manner was thought to constitute proof that the worship of the goddess as the Mistress of Animals was the essential element of the cult in the Lusoi Artemis sanctuary. The farmers and hunters of Lusoi in the Arcadian mountain ranges sacrificed to Artemis so that she would bring good luck in hunting and, at the same time, ward off dangers threatened by beasts of prey dwelling in the mountains.

  • 15 Berlin, Antikenmuseum, Inv. No. Misc 8624. Lusoi 1980, 36 Fig. 14; Die Meisterwerke aus dem Antike (...)
  • 16 Above note 6.

9It is to be taken for granted that this aspect would have played an important role in a sanctuary located in this area. Votives such as the well-known statuette of Pan in Berlin15 or the animals mentioned earlier provide further eloquent testimony. But the idea that this aspect predominated to such a degree that it affected the form of the cult statue is derived merely from an iconographical analysis of the votive offerings. Not only that. The scholars deduced also the character of the animal herds mentioned only in a general way be Polybios solely from their assessments of the iconography of the votives: according to Reichel, Wilhelm and others the herd in question is an enclosure with wild animals, just as they thrive in the wilds for the benefit of hunters under the protection of Artemis.16

Fig. 5. Lusoi, Sanctuary of Artemis. Statuette of Artemis. Terracotta, H. 7.7 cm. Athens, National Museum Inv. no. II. 19864.

  • 17 The type, with its variations and distribution in Greece, is documented by L. Kahil, in: LIMC II, (...)

10Interpreting the iconography of votives in a sanctuary is no easy matter. The process of selecting the votives believed to provide decisive evidence is fraught with inherent dangers. In our case it would be natural to attach special importance to the terracotta figure holding a deer (Fig. 5), since the motif of the deer is also attested among the bronze votives. And yet one should not overestimate the value of the terracotta figure for providing information about the cult in the Artemis sanctuary at Lusoi: the figure is mould-made of a type which is widespread throughout Greece.17 Therefore we have no right to consider the terracotta figurine as a means of diagnosing local cult practice. Consequently the terracotta figurine proves useless as a guide to restoring the attributes of the bronze figure (Fig. 4).

Figs. 6a-b. Olympia. Statuette of a sacrificing man. Bronze, H. 8.3 cm. Olympia, Archaeological Museum Inv. B. 11560 (found in 1986).

  • 18 Olympia, Archaeological Museum. Inv. Β 11560, found 1986 in the region of the Prytaneion. This fig (...)

11The bronze figure itself offers only one indirect indication for restoring a deer, which depends on the argument that the disproportionately large hand must have held a large attribute. But this argument is not plausible because it overlooks an iconographical peculiarity of small Greek bronzes. Just as the head, as being the essential element, is, as a rule, made disproportionately large in small-scale figures, so too the characteristic attributes and, consequently, the hands and arms supporting these attributes are necessarily made oversized. A good example of this phenomenon is the statuette recently found in Olympia (Fig. 6) who is holding nothing more than a libation bowl in the oversized hand.18

  • 19 The type of Artemis with a bow in the left hand and a phiale in the right hand is well known: LIMC(...)

12Thus the large hand of our bronze figure (Fig. 4) by no means necessarily indicates a large attribute; rather it is a creative means of making the great importance of the attribute visible. Like the new bronze figure from Olympia (Fig. 6), the statuette from Lusoi could have held a libation bowl. This is all the more likely in view of the slightly tilted palm and the position of the thumb which is not beside the other fingers but is held out above the cupped hand.19 The cult statue of Artemis at Lusoi is at least hardly apt to have been a representation of the Mistress of Animals.

  • 20 Lusoi 1901, 51-55. A full catalogue of the hundreds of pieces will soon be given by the author.
  • 21 U. Sinn, “Der Kult der Aphaia auf Aigina”, in: Early Greek cult practice. Proceedings of the Fifth (...)
  • 22 Lusoi 1901, 47 Fig. 59. For the type: Chr. Vorster, Griechische Kinderstatuen, Köln 1983, 189-211; (...)

13This is in any case highly improbable since, to judge by the votives in their entirety, the goddess was worshipped as Kourotrophos. The great mass of women’s jewellery dedicated here,20 the furled sheet bronze for hair-offerings21 and a – badly battered – marble statue of a squatting boy (Fig. 7)22 transmit a clear iconographical message.

Fig. 7. Marble statuettes of sitting boys. Left: Fragment from the Artemis Sanctuary at Lusoi. The boy was leaning to his right. Athens, National Museum. Right: Statuette from Imeron. The boy is leaning to his left. Kavalla, Archaeological Museum Inv. L 80.

14In this context it seems to me to be a questionable procedure to use the iconography of the votive offerings in order to determine the role of the animals in the Artemis cult of Lusoi mentioned by Polybios.

15If in this case one abandons preconceptions about the votive offerings and takes a look instead at other Greek sanctuaries, parallels open up that are, in my view, better able to account for the presence of animals in the Artemis sanctuary at Lusoi mentioned by Polybios.

  • 23 Xenophon, Hellenika IV.5. An abundant discussion of this event is given by the author in “Das Hera (...)

16Something very similar to what Polybios reports about Lusoi had earlier occurred in another Greek sanctuary, i.e., in the Heraion at Perachora. Xenophon reports that during the war between Corinth and Sparta at the beginning of the 4th century B.C., the landowners in the Corinthian Peraia had, at the approach of the enemy, driven their flocks into the sanctuary of Hera to protect them from plundering soldiers. Xenophon’s description makes it clear that the owners availed themselves of the right of asylum in the sanctuary to which they had fled, not only for themselves but also for their animals.23

17Protected by the sanctuary both man and beast were safe from a direct attack by the plunderers. This way of seeking refuge in the Heraion at Perachora proved to be reliable in times of war. And as we may gather from Polybios’ description the same system for protection functioned in Lusoi at least during the first invasion of the Aitolians. The Aitolians threaten to carry off the animals, but in the end they respect the protection afforded by the sanctuary. By paying ransom from the temple treasury the inhabitants of Lusoi suffer a financial loss, but manage to avoid the incomparably greater catastrophe of being robbed of their herds, thus deprived of their means of existence.

  • 24 Polybios IV18, 10; IV.19, 4.
  • 25 Euripides, Ion 1285.

18It is hardly mere chance that Polybios explicitly refers to the right of asylum in the sanctuary of Lusoi in the passage cited above (“ἄσυλον δὲ νενόμισται. παρά τοῖς “Ελλησιν” = regarded as inviolable by the Greeks). The explicit statement that the animals “belong to the goddess” (“θρέμματα τῆς θεοῦ”)24 also point in the direction of rights of asylum, since according to Greek Sacred Law every suppliant is a possession of the divinity during the stay in the sanctuary. Thus Euripides says of Kreousa seeking refuge in the sanctuary of Apollon “ἱερὸν τὸ σῶμα τῷ θεῷ” = “I commit my person to the god to keep inviolate”.25

  • 26 Sinn, Perachora; idem, “La funzione dell’Heraion di Perachora nelle Peraia Corinzia”, in: Incontri (...)
  • 27 It is not impossible that the bronze figurine of a sheep with the dedicatory inscription Pesidos i (...)

19This is not the place to expatiate on the function of Greek sanctuaries as places of refuge.26 I must confine myself to saying that Polybios’ mention of a “Sacred Herd” informs us about this essential aspect of the cult of Artemis at Lusoi. Here we are driven to acknowledge the fact that this important function of the sanctuary is obviously not reflected in the iconography of the votive offerings. And indeed in general in the votive offerings of Greek sanctuaries there seems to have been no iconographical formula whatsoever for conveying the right of asylum in Greek sanctuaries.27

  • 28 The question of space in the Greek sanctuaries is discussed in Sinn, Perachora; and idem, “Sunion. (...)

20It is by no means my intention here to argue against making use of evidence provided by the iconography of votive offerings. Quite the contrary: just because iconography is so indispensable for deducing the cult practices of a sanctuary, one should be alert to potential dangers of the method. One of the dangers consists of thoughtlessly regarding archaeological finds as mere illustrations of the written texts, simply because combining them fits into a stereotyped mental framework, e.g., as Potnia Theron Artemis has an enclosure of wild animals in her sanctuary. In this particular case the true character of the Artemis cult at Lusoi is to be more fully understood by not mixing up two sources of information: on the one hand learning from the iconography of the votives that the goddess was worshipped as kourotrophos and the guardian divinity of hunting. On the other hand treating the written testimonia as an independent source, thus recognizing a further aspect of the cult: that this sanctuary offered the inhabitants living around it the possibility of driving their precious flocks into the widespaced sanctuary28 in times of war and placing them under the protection of the goddess as “sacred Herds”.

Notes

1 Under the leadership of V. Mitsopoulou-Leon the Austrian Archaeological Institute at Athens carries out new excavations since 1980; regular reports in ÖJh since 1981/82.
A summary of the history of the town and its sanctuary is given by W. Reichel and A. Wilhelm, “Das Heiligtum der Artemis zu Lusoi”, ÖJh 4 (1901) 1–89 (hereafter Lusoi 1901); F. Bölte, “Lusoi”, RE XIII 2 (1927) cols. 1890-1899 (hereafter Lusoi 1927); U. Sinn, “Ein Fundkomplex aus dem Artemis-Heiligtum von Lusoi im Badischen Landesmuseum”, Jahrbuch der Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen in Baden-Württemberg 17 (1980) 25-40 (hereafter Lusoi 1980); V Mitsopoulou-Leon, “Lusoi. Ergebnisse neuer Forschungen”, ÖJh 56 (1984/85) (Hauptblatt) 93-98; M. Jost, Sanctuaires et cultes d’Arcadie, Paris 1985, 47-51.

2 Polybios IV.17-21.

3 Polybios IV.18.10-12.

4 Polybios IV.19, 4.

5 1) In 220 B.C. at Corinth: F. W. Walbank, A historical commentary on Polybios I, Oxford 1957, 483 (hereafter Walbank); and idem, Philipp V of Macedon, Cambridge 1967, 24ff.
2) In 211/10 B.C. at Sparta: B. Niese, Geschichte der griechischen und makedonischen Staaten II, Gotha 1899, 482; M. Gelzer, “Die hellenische προκαχασκευή im zweiten Buch des Polybios”, Hermes 75 (1940) 27-37.

6 Lusoi 1901, 2; H. Hitzig and H. Blümner, Des Pausanias Beschreibung von Griechen-land III 1, Leipzig 1907, 176. “Der Tempel war von einem Hain umgeben, in dem der Göttin heilige Tiere (wohl vornehmlich Hirsche und Rehe) gehalten wurden.”; Lusoi 1927, 1898; Walbank, 465; A. Mauersberger,Polybios-Lexikon 13, Berlin 1966, s.v. θρέμμα = “(heilige) Herde”; R. Stiglitz, Die Groβsen Göttinnen Arkadiens (Sonderschriften des ÖAI, 15) Wien 1967, 10-11: “Herden der Göttin, die sich beim Tempel (in Gehegen) aufhielten”; Lusoi 1980, 36-37.

7 This figurine belonged to a collection of 79 objects bought by the Königliches Museum Berlin at the same time when the museum at Karlsruhe acquired the complex of Lusoi-bronzes. With the exception of 8 pieces the Lusoi-collection at Berlin was to be lost during the second world war. There exist only the notes in the inventory book and some negatives in a bad condition: Lusoi 1980, 26-27.

8 Lusoi 1901, 57-58 Fig. 115.

9 Lusoi 1901, 37.

10 Frankfurt, Liebieghaus Inv. No. 436. – P. C. Bol, Liebieghaus, Museum Alter Plastik. Fübrer durch die Sammlungen. Antike Kunst, Frankfurt a.M. 1980, 31-32 Fig. 34; LIMC II, Zürich & München 1984, ‘Artemis Nr. 104’.

11 Lusoi 1901, 37 Fig. 25.

12 P. C. Bol, “Die „Artemis von Lusoi”. Eine klassische Wiedergabe eines frühgriechischen Kultbildes”, in: Kanon. Festschrift E. Berger (AntK-BH 15), Basel 1988, 76-80.

13 F. Eckstein, Antike Kleinkunst im Liebiegbaus, Frankfurt a. M. 1969, Nr. 7/8: “Es war ohne Frage ein gröβerer und gewichtiger Gegenstand, den die beiden nach oben geöffneten Hönde darreichten.”

14 Lusoi 1901, 37.

15 Berlin, Antikenmuseum, Inv. No. Misc 8624. Lusoi 1980, 36 Fig. 14; Die Meisterwerke aus dem Antikenmuseum Berlin (1980), Nr. 21 (U. Gehrig).

16 Above note 6.

17 The type, with its variations and distribution in Greece, is documented by L. Kahil, in: LIMC II, Zürich & Miinchen 1984, ‘Artemis Nr. 578-589’.

18 Olympia, Archaeological Museum. Inv. Β 11560, found 1986 in the region of the Prytaneion. This figure clearly shows that the degree of outsize proportions is also, as to be expected, dependent on the artistic quality of a figure.

19 The type of Artemis with a bow in the left hand and a phiale in the right hand is well known: LIMC II, Zürich & München 1984, ‘Artemis Nr. 966-994’. It is known also from the iconography of cult images: ditto Nr. 1391. In general E. Simon, Opfernde Götter, Berlin 1953.

20 Lusoi 1901, 51-55. A full catalogue of the hundreds of pieces will soon be given by the author.

21 U. Sinn, “Der Kult der Aphaia auf Aigina”, in: Early Greek cult practice. Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium at the Swedish Institute at Athens, 26-29 June, 1986 (Skrifter utgivna av Svenska Institutet i Athen, 4°, 38), Stockholm 1988,158 Fig. 14.

22 Lusoi 1901, 47 Fig. 59. For the type: Chr. Vorster, Griechische Kinderstatuen, Köln 1983, 189-211; especially p. 200 Nr. 139 Taf. 9, 1 (= here Fig. 7, right); for the meaning of these figures: pp. 48-88.

23 Xenophon, Hellenika IV.5. An abundant discussion of this event is given by the author in “Das Heraion von Perachora. Eine sakrale Schutzzone in der korinthischen Peraia”, AM 105 (1990) 53-116 (hereafter Sinn, Perachora).

24 Polybios IV18, 10; IV.19, 4.

25 Euripides, Ion 1285.

26 Sinn, Perachora; idem, “La funzione dell’Heraion di Perachora nelle Peraia Corinzia”, in: Incontri perugini di storiografia antica e sul mondo antico 4 (Acquasparta 29.5. –1.6.1989), Roma and Bari 1991, 209ff.; and idem, Die griechischen Heiligtümer. Funktion – Organisation – Topographie (in preparation).

27 It is not impossible that the bronze figurine of a sheep with the dedicatory inscription Pesidos ikesia is the votive of a man, who had served his animals by bringing them in a sanctuary. De Ridder, Bronzes trouvés sur l’Acropole d’Athènes, Paris 1896, 192-193 Nr. 529 Fig. 172; IG I2 Nr. 434; WH. Rouse, Greek votive offerings, Cambridge 1902, 296. (I thank J. Day for this indication.)

28 The question of space in the Greek sanctuaries is discussed in Sinn, Perachora; and idem, “Sunion. Das befestigte Heiligtum der Athena und des Poseidon an der „Heiligen Landspitze Attikas“”, Antike Welt 1992 (in print).

Notes de fin

* I wish to express my gratitude to J. Binder for translating the manuscript. Acknowledgements. Figs. 1-2 by the author; Figs. 4, 5, 7 (r) after ÖJh; Fig. 3 Staatliche Museen Berlin (R. Zahn 1887); Fig. 6 DAI Athen Neg. Inv. 90/2050.2052 (E. Gehnen); Fig. 7 (1) Chr. Vorster.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 1. The position of Lusoi in northern Arcadia.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pulg/docannexe/image/202/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 104k
Légende Fig. 2. The highland plain of Lusoi with the sanctuary on the northern slopes of Profitis Elias (1 489 m).
URL http://books.openedition.org/pulg/docannexe/image/202/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 820k
Légende Fig. 3. Lusoi, Sanctuary of Artemis. Statuette of a deer. Bronze, H. c. 6.8 cm. Formerly Berlin, Staatliche Museen (lost during the war).
URL http://books.openedition.org/pulg/docannexe/image/202/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 196k
Légende Fig. 4. Lusoi, Sanctuary of Artemis. Statuette of Artemis. Bronze, H. 13.2 cm. Frankfurt, Liebieghaus. Inv. no. 436.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pulg/docannexe/image/202/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 148k
Légende Fig. 5. Lusoi, Sanctuary of Artemis. Statuette of Artemis. Terracotta, H. 7.7 cm. Athens, National Museum Inv. no. II. 19864.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pulg/docannexe/image/202/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 187k
Légende Figs. 6a-b. Olympia. Statuette of a sacrificing man. Bronze, H. 8.3 cm. Olympia, Archaeological Museum Inv. B. 11560 (found in 1986).
URL http://books.openedition.org/pulg/docannexe/image/202/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 227k
Légende Fig. 7. Marble statuettes of sitting boys. Left: Fragment from the Artemis Sanctuary at Lusoi. The boy was leaning to his right. Athens, National Museum. Right: Statuette from Imeron. The boy is leaning to his left. Kavalla, Archaeological Museum Inv. L 80.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pulg/docannexe/image/202/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 73k

Auteur

Ulrich Sinn

Fach Klassische Archäologie der Universität
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