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Les hippodromes et les concours hippiques dans la grèce antique

 | 
Jean-Charles Moretti
, 
Panos Valavanis

Les épreuves hippiques et les chevaux

Samphoras and Κoppatias.
The brand-name horses of
Sikyon and Corinth

Stamatis A. Fritzilas

Résumé

This study examines the archaeological data concerning famous branded horses of the ancient Greek world. More specifically, the symbols and representations of the brand-name horses originating in the two NE Peloponnesian neighboring cities are examined. This paper presents written sources and surviving depictions of the Koppatias horse branded with the letter Koppa (ϙ), from the city of Corinth, and of the Samphoras branded with the Doric letter sigma (Σ), from Sikyon. The article brings together for the first time references to ancient sources and surviving depictions of those horses on Attic vases, mainly Samphorae on Panathenaic amphorae. Apart from the scenes painted on Attic vases of the second half of the 6th and the first half of the 5th century BC, evidence regarding the brand-name horses from Corinth and Sikyon may also be found in the comedies of Aristophanes dating from the early years of the last quarter of the 5th century BC, namely his Clouds and Knights. Finally, the symbols of these expensive racing horses in ancient Greece are associated with the coinage of these cities and the archives of the Athenian cavalry.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Fritzilas 2012, pp. 39-47.
  • 2 Lolos 2005-2006; Lolos 2011, pp. 15, 62, 80.
  • 3 For this reason, I would like to express my particular gratitude to the co-organisers of the confer (...)

1In 2012 I published and commented upon an Attic black-figure amphora attributed to the Bucci Painter; the unique amphora, known through the Art Market and once in a European private collection, as I proposed, is decorated with scenes showing horses bred in the ancient cities of Corinth and Sikyon.1 Editorial limitations and the specialized purpose of the volume in which the paper appeared did not permit a detailed consideration into the subject of the representations of the brand-name horses originating in the two NE Peloponnesian neighbouring cities –and, at times, adversaries.2 Recently I was given the opportunity to do so at the international conference “Hippodromes and the Equestrian Games” held in Athens.3 Therefore, the present study on the case of the branded horses from Corinth and Sikyon is a sequel to that published four years ago.

Koppatias and Samphoras
in attic vase-painting

  • 4 Christie’s, New York, 9 December 2005, pp. 98-99, no. 171; Christie’s, New York, Rockefeller Plaza, (...)
  • 5 Fritzilas 2012, pp. 41 fig. 3, 46-47.
  • 6 Suda, s.v. “Κοππατίας. κοππατίας ἵππους ἐκάλουν οἷς ἐγκεχάρακται τὸ κ [sc. κόππα] στοιχεῖον, ὡς σαµ (...)
  • 7 Suda, s.v. “σαµφόρας εἶδος ἵππου · ἐγκεχαραγµένα τὸ σ σηµεῖον. οἱ δὲ Δωριεῖς τὸ σ σὰν λέγουσι”. Hes (...)
  • 8 Herodotus, 1.139: τὸ Δωριέες µὲν σὰν καλέουσι, Ἴωνες δὲ σίγµα.
  • 9 Sigalas 1974, p. 349.
  • 10 Xenophon, Historia Graeca 4.4.10; Photius, Bibliotheca 532a, 18. Griffin 1982, p. 30 ; Jeffery 1990 (...)

2On the front side of the black-figure amphora in question, known only through the Art Market,4 is a single scene of a warrior’s departure in a chariot, depicting a horse branded with the letter koppa (ϙ) as a mark, as well as a pair of Homeric heroes, Hippodamas and Eurylochos. The charioteer Hippodamas leads four horses, and the trace-horse on the right has been identified by the letter Koppa branded on its hindquarters, meaning koppatias, a breed of horses known from written sources (fig. 1). It is undoubtedly the earliest known representation of this famous horse to date. On the other side of the vase, also depicting a scene of a warrior’s departure, there is a noticeable pattern shaped like the letter sigma on the rump of the horse in the middle of the metope; this sigma-bearing horse has been identified as a samphoras (fig. 3b).5 Until that time, neither horse brand had been identified through research. The depiction of the initials of two Doric cities on the haunches of the horses on the two metopes of a 6th century BC Attic amphora bears a remarkable correlation with what is known from ancient literary references. Thus, the lexicon Suda mentions these two horse brands together: “They used to call koppatiae the horses branded with the letter kappa (s.v. koppa), just as they called samphorae those horses branded with the letter sigma”.6 There is no doubt that the aforementioned term samphoras was created in order to denote the horses from Sikyon branded with the Doric letter san, as opposed to the term koppatias that referred to the breed of horses from neighbouring Corinth, branded with the letter koppa (ϙ).7 Herodotus clearly states that the Ionian letter sigma was called “san” by the Dorians.8 The pronounciation of the letter sigma (s) as san in Dorian local dialects corresponded much better to a possibly thicker accent. It has been argued that it either derived from the name of the letter šin, which stood for sigma in the Phoenician alphabet, or was invented to imitate the Phoenician letter. The simultaneous use of san and sigma in the same alphabet is very rare.9 Thus, the branded horse of Sikyon was named samphoras, not sigmaphoros. Consequently, the letter san of the Dorian alphabet became a symbol of Sikyon’s horse-breeding (hippotrophia); after all, the coins issued by the city were struck with this letter, which was also used as a shield device by Sikyonian hoplites.10

Fig. 1 — Koppa (ϙ)-bearing horse. Detail of Attic black-figure amphora attributed to the Bucci Painter, ca. 540 BC (Once New York [Christie’s] and Basle [Cahn AG].

Fig. 1 — Koppa (ϙ)-bearing horse. Detail of Attic black-figure amphora attributed to the Bucci Painter, ca. 540 BC (Once New York [Christie’s] and Basle [Cahn AG].

After J.‑D. Cahn, Cahn International AG, BAAF Basel, 5.-10. November 2010 [leaflet cover]).

  • 11 Jeffery 1961, pp. 30-34.

3Similarly, the letter koppa, used in the Corinthian and other archaic Doric alphabets to denote a voiceless uvular plosive (the consonant sound of the letter kappa before omicron and upsilon), was found in abbreviated form on coins minted in Corinth, as the city’s emblem along with the Pegasus. Gradually, koppa disappeared from Greek alphabets or ceased to be indicated, particularly after the middle of the 6th century BC, when the use of a single kappa (k) became widespread and any difference between the pronunciations of the two related letters had been forgotten.11

  • 12 Buchholz 2010, p. 41 n. 105.
  • 13 New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv. 06.1021.170 (Rogers Fund, 1906): Richter 1936, pp. 21-22 (...)

4As no depictions of these branded horses have survived in the art of either Corinth or Sikyon,12 the scenes painted on Attic vases are of particular significance. Another typical representation of a koppatias may be observed in the interior of an Attic red-figure kylix by the Painter of Berlin 2268 in New York.13 Dating from around 510-500 BC, it places the branded horse of Corinth in a military context, next to a peltast on foot carrying a light crescent-shaped shield (fig. 2).

Fig. 2 — Warrior with a brand-name horse (koppatias). Attic red-figure kylix by the Painter of Berlin 2268, about 510-500 BC.

Fig. 2 — Warrior with a brand-name horse (koppatias). Attic red-figure kylix by the Painter of Berlin 2268, about 510-500 BC.

Νew York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 06.1021.170. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

  • 14 Florence, Museo archeologico etrusco, inv. 97779 ; ΑΒV 110.33 ; Beazley Addenda² 30 ; Tiverios 1976 (...)
  • 15 Valavanis 2009, fig. 1, pl. 23.

5Of more interest, however, are the surviving scenes on Attic vases that place the famous horse of Sikyon in an athletic context. An interesting series of representations of such horses is depicted on a number of 6th and 5th century BC Panathenaic prize amphorae with scenes of chariot racing and horse racing. I believe that the earliest depiction of a samphoras is the right-side trace-horse of the quadriga in the chariot race on the Panathenaic prize amphora of Lydos in Florence,14 since it dates from around 550-540 BC. It was found in Orvieto and is one of the so-called pre-canonical Panathenaic amphorae. The front side is decorated with a scene depicting the victorious quadriga along with the agonistic inscription (ΤΟΝΑΘΕΝΕΘΕΝΑΘΛΟΝ), while the rear of the amphora shows a nude bearded man, obviously the owner of the victorious chariot race, standing in front of the statue of Athena in the type of Promachos, offering the goddess a ribbon in thanks for the victory at the Panathenaic Games.15 Although an interpretation has been offered on the significance of the victor and the owner of the four-horse chariot, until now no one had commented upon the significance of the mark incised on the animal’s thighs. The sigma on the rump of Lydos’ horse (fig. 3a) is depicted in the same way as the one on the sigma-branded horse on the black-figure amphora known through the Art Market (fig. 3b). Of course, the letter san is not rendered in the archaic Sikyonian script, as a four-bar sigma (Σ or Μ) such as those found on the coins of Sikyon, but in the Attic script, in the form with curved bars (ε). Apparently it denotes that the victorious tethrippon included one or more of the famous horses of Sikyon, and perhaps this was one of the reasons behind the great victory. In the Homeric epic Menelaus of Sparta took part in the horse races at the funeral games of Patroklos with a chariot drawn by a pair of fast horses, one of which was named Aethe, a mare from Sikyon (Iliad 23.293-300).

Fig. 3 — a. Sigma-bearing horse by Lydos. Panathenaic amphora, 550-540 BC (Florence, Archaeological Museum, 97779. After Bentz 1998, no. 6008, pls 6-7) ; b. Sigma-bearing horse. Detail of Attic black-figure amphora attributed to the Bucci Painter, ca. 540 BC (Once New York [Christie’s] and Basle [Cahn AG]. After J.‑D. Cahn, Cahn International AG, BAAF Basel, 5.-10. November 2010 [leaflet cover]) ; c. Sigma-bearing horses (samphorae). Panathenaic amphora by the Berlin Painter, ca. 480 BC (Once Melbourne, Graham Geddes. After Bentz 1998, no. 5078, pl. 66) ; d. Sigma-bearing horse (samphoras). Zeus with chariot. Procession of Gods. Attic red-figure dinos by the Berlin Painter. 470 BC (Basel, Antikenmuseum und Sammlung Ludwig, LU39. After Latacz et al. 2008, fig. 2 no. 70).

Fig. 3 — a. Sigma-bearing horse by Lydos. Panathenaic amphora, 550-540 BC (Florence, Archaeological Museum, 97779. After Bentz 1998, no. 6008, pls 6-7) ; b. Sigma-bearing horse. Detail of Attic black-figure amphora attributed to the Bucci Painter, ca. 540 BC (Once New York [Christie’s] and Basle [Cahn AG]. After J.‑D. Cahn, Cahn International AG, BAAF Basel, 5.-10. November 2010 [leaflet cover]) ; c. Sigma-bearing horses (samphorae). Panathenaic amphora by the Berlin Painter, ca. 480 BC (Once Melbourne, Graham Geddes. After Bentz 1998, no. 5078, pl. 66) ; d. Sigma-bearing horse (samphoras). Zeus with chariot. Procession of Gods. Attic red-figure dinos by the Berlin Painter. 470 BC (Basel, Antikenmuseum und Sammlung Ludwig, LU39. After Latacz et al. 2008, fig. 2 no. 70).
  • 16 Ferrara, Museo Nazionale di Spina, inv. T11CVP (9356): ARV   ² 214 ; Addenda² 197 ; Beazley 1971, (...)
  • 17 Once in Melbourne, Graham Geddes: Cohen, Shapiro 1995, pp. 2-4 no. 1; Bentz 1998, no. 5078, p. 145 (...)
  • 18 Demosthenes, Κατὰ Μειδίου περὶ τοῦ Κονδύλου 21.157: καὶ εἰς µυστήρια τὴν γυναῖκ᾽ ἄγει, κἂν ἄλλοσέ π (...)
  • 19 Warsaw, National Museum, inv. 142346 (from Vulci): ABV 408.2; Beazley Addenda² 106; CVA Goluchow, M (...)
  • 20 Basel, Antikenmuseum und Sammlung Ludwig, inv. LU39: Braun 1970, p. 262, fig. 13; Berger, Lullies 1 (...)

6After Lydos, samphorae are depicted on three Panathenaic amphorae and an Attic red-figure dinos by the Berlin Painter (figs. 3c, 3d, 4, 5). One of the amphorae, dated 480-470 BC, is in Ferrara and comes from a tomb in Spina.16 The sigma-brand appears on the draught-horse of the quadriga, while the same letter, rendered in a hasty manner, should also be depicted on the right-side trace-horse as well (fig. 4). We do not know whether the other two galloping horses were similar. In the second Panathenaic amphora by the same painter and with an identical motif, once in Melbourne, again it is sigma-shaped incisions that distinguish two samphorae horses belonging to the victorious quadriga at the Panathenaic Games’ chariot race (fig. 3c).17 Therefore, it could be argued that the aforementioned scenes suggest that horses from Sikyon were drawing the quadriga that won the chariot race at the Panathenaic Games ca. 480 BC. Demosthenes also preserves a testimony relative to these famous horses. One of the accusations levelled against Meidias and his wife by the orator (Demosthenes, Against Meidias) was a demonstration of inappropriate arrogance when he drove his wife to the Eleusinian Mysteries in a chariot drawn by “a pair of greys from Sikyon” (ἐπὶ τοῦ λευκοῦ ζεύγους τοῦ ἐκ Σικυῶνος).18 Furthermore, a sigma-bearing horse is denoted in the horse race depicted on the Panathenaic amphora by the Berlin Painter in Warsaw, dating from the years around 480 BC (fig. 5).19 In this equestrian game, however, samphoras takes second place in the row of horses galloping to the right, while the last horse bears no brand (asēmos hippos). With the exception of the sigma on the haunches of the horses taking part in the equestrian games at the Panathenaia, very few brands are depicted throughout the long history of the Panathenaic amphorae from the 6th to the 4th century BC. Undoubtedly the important vase-painters who depicted equestrian events on the Panathenaic prize amphorae, as well as other scenes with chariots, drew particular attention to the sigma on the samphorae. A samphoras is evident in Zeus’ four-horse chariot in a scene depicting the Procession of Gods on an Attic red-figure dinos by the Berlin Painter, dating from the first quarter of the 5th century BC (fig. 3d).20 The draught-horse of Zeus’ quadriga bears the Attic sigma, rendered in the Athenian red-figure technique, not incised as in the black-figure technique of the Panathenaic amphorae. What is interesting is that the trace-horse next to the draught-horse bears on its hindquarters a swastika, which constitutes an iconographic parallel between it and a similar pattern found in the reverse of coins struck in Corinth. It may very well be that, when koppa became obsolete in other Greek alphabets (such as the Attic, for instance) at the end of the Archaic period, the swastika displayed on the city’s coinage replaced it, or was used in parallel with it as a symbol denoting the branded horses of Corinth. Therefore, it is possible that the divine chariot depicted on the Attic dinos by the Berlin painter comprised both Corinthian and Sikyonian horses.

Fig. 4 — Sigma-bearing horses during chariot race at the Panathenaic Games. Panathenaic amphora by the Berlin Painter, ca. 480-470 BC.

Fig. 4 — Sigma-bearing horses during chariot race at the Panathenaic Games. Panathenaic amphora by the Berlin Painter, ca. 480-470 BC.

Ferrara, Museo nazionale di Spina. T11CVP [9356]. Photo: author.

Fig. 5 — Samphoras during horse race. Panathenaic amphora by the Berlin Painter, ca. 480 BC.

Fig. 5 — Samphoras during horse race. Panathenaic amphora by the Berlin Painter, ca. 480 BC.

Warsaw, National Museum, 142346. After Bentz 1998, no. 5073, pl. 64.

The testimony of Aristophanes

7Apart from the scenes painted on Attic vases of the second half of the 6th and the first half of the 5th century BC, evidence regarding the brand-name horses from Corinth and Sikyon in a racing context may also be found in the comedies of Aristophanes dating from the early years of the last quarter of the 5th century BC, namely his Nubes and Equites. In the former, a play originally produced in 423 BC at the Great Dionysia, the celebrated comic playwright portrays the protagonist, Strepsiades the farmer, in despair, because thanks to his son, Pheidippides, he has been saddled with huge amounts of debt in order to cover the cost of horse breeding and purchasing lavish race horses. Due to the added weight of the interest he has accrued, he is unable to repay the debt. Strepsiades is shown owing twelve minae, i.e. 1,200 Attic drachmas, to Pasias, since he used borrowed money to buy a horse branded with a koppa (koppatias). It is certainly one of the largest sums of money one could spend on a horse in antiquity. Strepsiades, the protagonist of the Nubes, soliloquizes on the misfortune that has befallen him and says that he would rather have lost an eye, dashed out with a stone, than buy this extremely costly horse.

  • 21 Aristophanes, Nubes 31: Τρεῖς µναῖ διφρίσκου καὶ τροχοῖν Ἀµεινίᾳ.
  • 22 Aristophanes, Nubes 46-48: Ἔπειτ᾿ ἔγηµα Μεγακλέους τοῦ Μεγακλέους ἀδελφιδῆν ἄγροικος ὢν ἐξ ἄστεως, (...)
  • 23 Aristophanes, Nubes 69-70: ὅταν σὺ µέγας ὢν ἅρµ᾿ ἐλαύνῃς πρὸς πόλιν, / ὥσπερ Μεγακλέης, ξυστίδ᾿ ἔχω (...)

8At the same time, his son Pheidippides is dreaming of scenes from the world of chariot racing. Pheidippides mumbles in his sleep: “You are acting unfairly, Philon! Drive on your own course”; he then exclaims: “How many courses will the war-chariots run?” Still sleeping, he goes on to order the groom: “Lead the horse home, after having given him a good rolling”. Pheidippides is portrayed as wearing his hair long and leading the privileged life of a carefree Athenian youth enjoying, and constantly dreaming of chariot races (a very expensive aristocratic hobby indeed). The thoughts of what the stable costs and the amount of debt keep Strepsiades awake at night, since he owed an additional three minae, i.e. 300 Attic drachmas, to another lender. This was Amynias,21 who had lent money to Pheidippides for the purchase of two chariot wheels and a curricle. Despite the fact that Strepsiades is portrayed as an elderly farmer, he had married a wife from an aristocratic family, who wore expensive clothes and perfumes. His wife belongs to the Alcmaeonid family, a niece of Megacles, the 5th century BC son of another Megacles.22 Because of her lineage, she wanted her son Pheidippides to have a compound name with the word hippos (horse) added to it, and to drive a chariot as a grown man, wearing a sumptuous chiton like a charioteer,23 just like her uncle. She used to take this son and fondle him, saying: “When you, being grown up, shall drive your chariot, like Megacles, with a xystis”. The play goes on to show a desperate Strepsiades anxious to send his son to the school of Socrates, where he will be taught rhetorical tricks that would allow him to outsmart the lenders with regard to the money Strepsiades owes them. Pheidippides refuses to enroll in a sophists’ school, thinking of how the aristocratic youths who were members of the Athenian cavalry will treat him if he receives an education in sophistry.

  • 24 Aristophanes, Nubes 120-123: Οὐκ ἄρα µὰ τὴν ∆ήµητρα τῶν γ᾿ ἐµῶν ἔδει οὔτ᾿ αὐτὸς οὔθ᾿ ὁ ζύγιος οὔθ᾿ (...)
  • 25 Aristophanes, Nubes 124-125: Ἀλλ᾿ οὐ περιόψεταί µ᾿ ὁ θεῖος Μεγακλέης ἄνιππον.
  • 26 Aristophanes, Nubes 436-439: ∆ράσω ταῦθ᾿ ὑµῖν πιστεύσας· ἡ γὰρ ἀνάγκη µε πιέζει διὰ τοὺς ἵππους τοὺ (...)
  • 27 Aristophanes, Nubes 21-24: ∆ώδεκα µνᾶς Πασίᾳ. Τοῦ δώδεκα µνᾶς Πασίᾳ ; Τί ἐχρησάµην ; Ὅτ᾿ ἐπριάµην τ (...)
  • 28 Aristophanes, Nubes 1406-1407: Ἵππευε τοίνυν νὴ ∆ί᾿, ὡς ἔµοιγε κρεῖττόν ἐστιν ἵππων τρέφειν τέθριππ (...)
  • 29 Aristophanes, Nubes 709-712: Ἀπόλλυµαι δείλαιος. Ἐκ τοῦ σκίµποδος δάκνουσί µ᾿ ἐξέρποντες οἱ Κορίνθι (...)

9Then Strepsiades says that he has no wish to spend any more money on the chariot’s horses and a samphoras is mentioned among them.24 Pheidippides replies that his uncle Megacles will not suffer him to be without horses.25 Apparently the latter was either a horse breeder or a horse merchant. During another conversation with the Chorus of Nubes, Strepsiades mentions that his bleak financial situation is mainly due to the koppa-branded horses (koppatiae) and the marriage that ruined him.26 It follows, therefore, that he was the owner not only of the koppatias that he bought with money borrowed from Pasias, but of other Corinthian horses as well.27 Later on, Strepsiades admits that he would rather feed the horses of the quadriga he owns than be unjustly beaten by his son Pheidippides.28 It is obvious from the descriptions in the play that Strepsiades kept four horses stabled in his house. In other words, his was a household (τεθριπποτρόφος οἰκία) wealthy enough to maintain horses for chariot races, which, as is well known, were costlier than all the rest. At another point in the play, Aristophanes lampoons the Corinthians. In a pun based on the assonance between the two related words, Κορίνθιος (Corinthian) and κόρις (bug, Lat. Cimex lectularius), he makes fun of the Corinthians, who were enemies of Athens at the time and perhaps had been given the moniker bed bugs (oἱ κόρεις). Thus, Strepsiades, the main character of Aristophanes’ comic play produced in the midst of the Peloponnesian War, is portrayed as being tormented by Corinthians who bite him, sucking his blood and constantly causing him to lose money,29 while he has no wish to repay his creditors.

  • 30 Aristophanes, Nubes 1226-1227: Τῶν δώδεκα µνῶν, ἃς ἔλαβες ὠνούµενος τὸν ψαρὸν ἵππον.
  • 31 Aristophanes, Nubes 1299: Ὓπαγε. Τί µέλλεις ; Οὐκ ἐλᾷς, ὦ σαµφόρα.
  • 32 Aristophanes, Equites 601-603: εἶτα τὰς κώπας λαβόντες ὥσπερ ἡµεῖς οἱ βροτοὶ / ἐµβαλόντες ἀνεβρύαξα (...)
  • 33 Thucydides, 4.42-44.
  • 34 Golden 1997, esp. p. 337; Étienne 2005 ; Griffith 2006, esp. pp. 200-202.
  • 35 Bell S., Willekes 2014.
  • 36 Pausanias, 2.6.5.
  • 37 LGPN III A, 6, s.v. “  Ἀγαρίστα” (1).
  • 38 LGPN III A, 345, s.v. “  Ὀρθαγόρας” (9).
  • 39 Lavelle 1989. 
  • 40 Skalet 1975, pp. 15, 47-68. Lolos 2011, p. 51.

10First off, he denies having borrowed money from Pasias to buy a koppatias, rationalizing his refusal by claiming that he personally hated horses.30 Apparently the four horses of Pheidippides’ chariot were bought in stages and not with money from a single lender. Ultimately, Strepsiades angrily throws the second creditor, Amynias, who had come to ask for his money, out of the house. He snatches Amynias’ carriage whip and gives the command for the horses to get a move on, calling him Mr. Sigma-brand.31 Aristophanes had used the same proverbial hortatory expression the year before (424 BC) in the Equites, his first play to win first prize at the Lenaia,32 when he alluded to an amphibious operation that saw 200 Athenian cavalry under Nicias land on Corinthian territory in 425 BC.33 What is interesting about Aristophanes’ storyline behind the Nubes is that, among other things, horse breeding in Athens is portrayed as a very costly affair,34 especially if the horses came with a hefty price tag, as was the case with Pheidipides’ quadriga and its team of horses bought from Corinth and Sikyon, and maintained at a stable in his house. Consequently, it turns out that many Athenians, among other Greeks, had their swift horses from Sikyon and Corinth entered in the horse and chariot races.35 There is no doubt that Athenians were using Sikyonian horses, as both the archaeological record and the textual sources make clear. After all, the ties between Sikyon and Athens were close. Sicyon, the eponymous hero and second founder of the city, was sometimes considered to be a son of Marathon and brother of Corinthus, while more often a son of Metion and grandson of Erechtheus. Sicyon was invited by king Lamedon, who married an Athenian woman, Pheno, the daughter of Clytius. Sicyon married Zeuxippe, daughter of Lamedon, and when he became king the land was named Sikyonia after him, and the city of Aigiale was renamed Sikyon.36 It is no coincidence that Cleisthenes, the famous tyrant of Sikyon, who died ca. 565 BC, was the father of Agariste, who married Megacles the Younger of the Alcmaeonid clan and became the mother of Cleisthenes, the reformer of the Athenian constitution.37 As is well known, the union between the Orthagorid clan of Sikyon38 and the Alcmaeonid clan of Athens produced a number of illustrious offspring, among them Coesyra (wife of the tyrant Peisistratus),39 Pericles, and Alcibiades.40

Archives of the Athenian cavalry

  • 41 Braun 1970, pp. 129-269.
  • 42 Kroll 1977.
  • 43 Maehler 1996.

11Additional information on the samphoras and other eponymous horses marked with a hot iron brand as proof of breed or ownership is found in certain documents of the Athenian cavalry. The body of evidence in question consists of 681 inscribed lead tablets that formed part of the archives of the Athenian cavalry, dating from the middle of the 4th to the 3rd century BC. Some 570 lead tablets were discovered in 1965 down a well in the courtyard of the Dipylon Gate in the Kerameikos quarter of Athens.41 A further 111 lead tablets were recovered in 1971 from a well situated in front of the Royal Stoa and the Panathenaic Way near the Stoa of the Herms; they probably came from the Hipparcheion (the cavalry headquarters) situated near the NW corner of the Athenian Agora.42 The Kerameikos and Agora tablets record the owner’s name, the colour of the horse, its brand, and an amount expressed in Attic drachmas signifying the value of the horse, which was estimated annually. It is interesting to note that 162 inscribed lead tablets, in other words 30% of the total, contain the term ἄσηµος (unmarked   ), indicating that the horse was without either name or brand (graph 1). The rest of the horses, i.e. those with brands, were given various names related to heroes, deities, animals, mythical beings, weapons, or objects.43

Graph 1 — Horses with brands of the athenian cavalries.

Graph 1 — Horses with brands of the athenian cavalries.

Graph: author.

  • 44 Hemingway 2004, pp. 89, 93, 101-103, fig. 59.
  • 45 Kroll 1977, p. 88 ; Gaebel 2002, p. 20.
  • 46 Photius, Λέξεων Συναγωγή, s.v. “σαµφόρας ἵππος· χαρακτήρα ἔχων ἐνκεκαυµένον σίγµα, ὡς κοππατίας καὶ (...)
  • 47 Aristophanes, frg. 41.42. Etymologicum Genuinum AB: βουκέφαλος [...] οὕτως ἐν Θεσσαλίᾳ ἐκαλοῦντο οἱ (...)
  • 48 Chandezon 2010.
  • 49 Kroll 1977, pp. 87-88.
  • 50 Lucian, Αdversus Indoctum 5: ὁ δὲ ἵππον κτήσαιτο Μῆδον ἢ κενταυρίδην ἢ κοππαφόρον.
  • 51 LGPN III A, 445, s.v. “Φειδόλας” (2).
  • 52 LGPN III A, 308, s.v. “Μύρων” (3, 4).
  • 53 LGPN III A, 245, s.v. “Κλεισθένης” (9).
  • 54 Pausanias, 6.19.2, 10.7.6.
  • 55 Herodotus, 6.126.
  • 56 Pausanias, 10.7.7.
  • 57 LGPN III A, 52, s.v. “Ἄρατος” (3).
  • 58 LGPN III A, 324, s.v. “Νικοκλῆς” (17).
  • 59 Plutarch, Aratus 6.

12As a typical piece of information provided by the aforementioned documents, let us mention here that δράκων (snake) seems to be the most popular brand name given to horses (graph 2). However, there are also names of birds, such as eagle, owl, crow, cock, swallow, quail, and dove, which symbolize the horses’ agility, grace, or fighting spirit. Other horses’ brands evince the strength, appearance, and skills of various animals, such as lion, lioness, bull, ox, wild boar, and dog. Sometimes the names relate to the story of the legendary winged horse, or are used to liken the animal to heroes or deities: for instance Perseus, Pan, Pegasus, Cerberus, centaur, Triton, Siren, Skylla, Artemis, Pallas (patron deity of Athens), and Nike. With regard to the latter, a Nike brand is visible on the bronze Artemision Horse’s right hind thigh, giving us a good idea of what a life-size brand on a horse’s hindquarters looked like and how formulaic and simplified those brands actually were (fig. 6).44 On occasion, horses were named after objects connected to riding, hunting, war, victories, or divine attributes, e.g. caduceus, thunderbolt, club, bridle, spear, trident, dolphin, rudder, tripod, crown, ivy-leaf, krater, axe, circle, and helmet. There are a few instances of horses’ brands that have been linked to specific breeds and horse-breeding regions on the Greek mainland. The rearing and management of horses was a complicated and costly endeavour. The inscribed lead tablets make it clear, however, that some of the horses of the Athenian cavalry, which might be used in chariot races and horse races, at least during the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, also came from Thessaly and Northern Greece. Apart from the case of the samphoras, a term which appears either written in full or simply denoted by its initial, the centaur is connected to the horses of Larissa; the axe with those of Pherai during the rule of Alexander, the city’s tyrant (369-357 BC); and the caduceus brand to the Macedonian horses during the reigns of King Alexander I (498-454 BC) and Pausanias of Macedon (390-389 BC).45 Finally, an ox-head brand is more generally linked to Thessaly. Information on this famous breed of Thessalian horses is mentioned by Photius, when he writes about the samphoras.46 Testimonies referring to the Bucephalus are found as early as the 5th century BC, for instance in this fragment from a lost play by Aristophanes: “Don’t cry! I’ll buy you an ox-head horse”.47 It was such a horse of immeasurable value that accompanied Alexander the Great on his expedition against the Persian Empire. Perhaps no other horse in history was as fortunate in its eponymous ox-head brand, since it shared the fate of its rider.48 According to Plutarch, Philonicus the Thessalian, a horse merchant, suggested to Philip of Macedon that the latter buy Alexander’s famous Boukephalas for the sum of 13 talents. Of course, Bucephalus was not merely a name, but a whole breed of Thessalian horses bearing the βούκρανον, i.e. an ox-head stamped with a hot iron brand on their hindquarters, the trademark of Thessalian stud farms. Thessalian horses called Boukephalai (bull-headed     ) are also mentioned twice in Athenian cavalry documents. This view of Greek horse breeds originating in specific regions of the ancient world49 is also supported by certain other passages scattered throughout ancient literature, including one by Lucian, who refers to the Μῆδος, probably a Persian horse, and the koppaphoros, which, as we have seen, denoted the koppa-branded horses of Corinth.50 Contrary to Sikyon’s popular sigma, the letter koppa and the koppatias do not appear in the documents preserved in the archives of the Athenian cavalry, apparently because the letter was not retained in the post-Classical alphabets after the official adoption of the Ionic alphabet by the Athenians during the archonship of Eucleides (403 BC): it was used to denote a sound and variations in pronunciation that had ceased to exist by that time. However, since it was the initial letter for the name of Corinth, it was preserved on the city’s coins, and perhaps on its horses, even as it was abolished in other local scripts. As early as the Archaic period, both cities of the NE Peloponnese had established the fame of their koppa- and san-bearing horses through great equestrian victories and the dedication of public votive offerings at the venues of the great Panhellenic games. Apart from Pegasus, the winged horse that was tamed by Bellerophon and aided the hero in winning fame in Asia Minor, and the costly koppa-branded horses, Corinth was also home to a number of Olympic victors in equestrian events. Thus, Pheidolas the Corinthian was equestrian victor at the Olympic Games of 512 BC; four years later (508 BC) his son also won at Olympia.51 It was probably horses from Sikyon that allowed the famous tyrants of the city, Myron52 and Cleisthenes,53 to compete at and win the chariot races at Olympia and Delphi.54 It should be remembered that the tyrant Myron won the four-horse chariot race at the 33rd Olympiad, i.e. in 648 BC. The tyrant Cleisthenes was victorious in 572 BC55 and ca. 582 BC at Delphi.56 Finally, Aratus of Sikyon,57 general of the Achaean League, was proclaimed victor in the four-horse chariot race at the Olympic Games of 232 BC, while he was also connected to a plot hatched to steal the horses belonging to Nicocles, tyrant of Sikyon58 –he hired a group of men to expel the latter, thus masking his actual purpose.59

Graph 2 — The names of the horses of the athenian cavalries.

Graph 2 — The names of the horses of the athenian cavalries.

Graph: author.

Fig. 6 — Nike brand on the Artemision Horse’s right hind thigh. Middle of 2nd century BC. Bronze statue.

Fig. 6 — Nike brand on the Artemision Horse’s right hind thigh. Middle of 2nd century BC. Bronze statue.

Athens, National Archaeological Museum. Photo: author.

13Finally, Aristophanes and the scenes depicted on Attic pottery, in particular Panathenaic amphorae, attest to the fact that many Athenian aristocrats, especially those belonging to the illustrious Alcmaeonid clan, must have won equestrian races with the renowned horses of Sikyon, ever since Megacles’ elder son Alcmaeon sought refuge in the court of the tyrant Cleisthenes. There is no doubt, however, that other Greeks would also have bought the expensive and fast horses of Sikyon and Corinth in order to compete in chariot and horse races, especially during the Archaic and Classical periods.

Notes

1 Fritzilas 2012, pp. 39-47.

2 Lolos 2005-2006; Lolos 2011, pp. 15, 62, 80.

3 For this reason, I would like to express my particular gratitude to the co-organisers of the conference, the distinguished Professor P. Valavanis (University of Athens) and Professor J.-Ch. Moretti (University of Lyon), who chose this interesting subject, one that may potentially provide researchers with many novel insights.

4 Christie’s, New York, 9 December 2005, pp. 98-99, no. 171; Christie’s, New York, Rockefeller Plaza, 10 June 2010, pp. 48-49, no. 70. J.-D. Cahn, Cahn International AG, BAAF Basel, 5.-10. November 2010.

5 Fritzilas 2012, pp. 41 fig. 3, 46-47.

6 Suda, s.v. “Κοππατίας. κοππατίας ἵππους ἐκάλουν οἷς ἐγκεχάρακται τὸ κ [sc. κόππα] στοιχεῖον, ὡς σαµφόρας τοὺς εγκεχαραγµένους το σ. τὸ γάρ σ καὶ τὸ ν χαρασσόµενον σὰν ἔλεγον…”

7 Suda, s.v. “σαµφόρας εἶδος ἵππου · ἐγκεχαραγµένα τὸ σ σηµεῖον. οἱ δὲ Δωριεῖς τὸ σ σὰν λέγουσι”. Hesychius, s.v. “σαµφόρας”. West 1984, frg. 27 (Ἀνακρεόντεια µέλη): Ἐν ἰσχίοις µὲν ἵπποι / πυρὸς χάραγµ’ ἔχουσιν·

8 Herodotus, 1.139: τὸ Δωριέες µὲν σὰν καλέουσι, Ἴωνες δὲ σίγµα.

9 Sigalas 1974, p. 349.

10 Xenophon, Historia Graeca 4.4.10; Photius, Bibliotheca 532a, 18. Griffin 1982, p. 30 ; Jeffery 1990, p. 142.

11 Jeffery 1961, pp. 30-34.

12 Buchholz 2010, p. 41 n. 105.

13 New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv. 06.1021.170 (Rogers Fund, 1906): Richter 1936, pp. 21-22 no. 6, pl. 5.

14 Florence, Museo archeologico etrusco, inv. 97779 ; ΑΒV 110.33 ; Beazley Addenda² 30 ; Tiverios 1976, pp. 74-75, fig. 66 ; Shapiro 1989, pl. 8A ; Valavanis 1991, p. 65 ; Neils 1992, p. 41, fig. 26 (B) ; Esposito, Tommaso 1993, p. 24, figs. 17-18 ; Bentz 1998, no. 6008, pls. 6, 7.

15 Valavanis 2009, fig. 1, pl. 23.

16 Ferrara, Museo Nazionale di Spina, inv. T11CVP (9356): ARV   ² 214 ; Addenda² 197 ; Beazley 1971, 177.2BIS ; Berti, Guzzo 1993, p. 154, figs. 123-124 ; Adani, Bentini 1994, pp. 12-13 ; Bentz 1998, no. 5072, pls. 62-63.

17 Once in Melbourne, Graham Geddes: Cohen, Shapiro 1995, pp. 2-4 no. 1; Bentz 1998, no. 5078, p. 145 pls. 66-67; Green 2009.

18 Demosthenes, Κατὰ Μειδίου περὶ τοῦ Κονδύλου 21.157: καὶ εἰς µυστήρια τὴν γυναῖκ᾽ ἄγει, κἂν ἄλλοσέ ποι βούληται, ἐπὶ τοῦ λευκοῦ ζεύγους τοῦ ἐκ Σικυῶνος, καὶ τρεῖς ἀκολούθους ἢ τέτταρας αὐτὸς ἔχων διὰ τῆς ἀγορᾶς σοβεῖ, κυµβία καὶ ῥυτὰ καὶ φιάλας ὀνοµάζων οὕτως ὥστε τοὺς παριόντας ἀκούειν.

19 Warsaw, National Museum, inv. 142346 (from Vulci): ABV 408.2; Beazley Addenda² 106; CVA Goluchow, Musée Czartoryski 15, pl. 12.1; Gerhard 1843, pl. A3-4. Frohner 1897, pp. 78-80; Beazley 1928a, pl. 16.2; Beazley 1928b, pls. 1.1, 2.2; Gardiner E. N. 1930, fig. 206; Beazley 1971, p. 177; Kurtz 1983, p. 79 ; Kurtz 1989, pl. 16.2; Bentz 1998, no. 5073, pls. 64-65.

20 Basel, Antikenmuseum und Sammlung Ludwig, inv. LU39: Braun 1970, p. 262, fig. 13; Berger, Lullies 1979, pp. 110-111; no. 39, pp. 214-219, figs. 1-4; Brijder et al. 1986, p. 137, figs. 4-5; Shapiro 1989, pl. 64B-D ; Robertson C. M. 1992, pp. 76-77, figs. 62-63; Schefold 1998, p. 245, fig. 67; Latacz et al. 2008, p. 169, fig. 2; p. 338, no. 70. Schlesier, Schwarzmaier 2008, p. 78, fig. 8; Palagia, Wescoat 2010, p. 56, fig. 5.9; Isler-Kerenyi 2014, p. 50, fig. 24A-B.

21 Aristophanes, Nubes 31: Τρεῖς µναῖ διφρίσκου καὶ τροχοῖν Ἀµεινίᾳ.

22 Aristophanes, Nubes 46-48: Ἔπειτ᾿ ἔγηµα Μεγακλέους τοῦ Μεγακλέους ἀδελφιδῆν ἄγροικος ὢν ἐξ ἄστεως, σεµνήν, τρυφῶσαν, ἐγκεκοισυρωµένην.

23 Aristophanes, Nubes 69-70: ὅταν σὺ µέγας ὢν ἅρµ᾿ ἐλαύνῃς πρὸς πόλιν, / ὥσπερ Μεγακλέης, ξυστίδ᾿ ἔχων ἐγὼ δ᾿ ἔφην·

24 Aristophanes, Nubes 120-123: Οὐκ ἄρα µὰ τὴν ∆ήµητρα τῶν γ᾿ ἐµῶν ἔδει οὔτ᾿ αὐτὸς οὔθ᾿ ὁ ζύγιος οὔθ᾿ ὁ σαµφόρας, ἀλλ᾿ ἐξελῶ σ᾿ εἰς κόρακας ἐκ τῆς οἰκίας.

25 Aristophanes, Nubes 124-125: Ἀλλ᾿ οὐ περιόψεταί µ᾿ ὁ θεῖος Μεγακλέης ἄνιππον.

26 Aristophanes, Nubes 436-439: ∆ράσω ταῦθ᾿ ὑµῖν πιστεύσας· ἡ γὰρ ἀνάγκη µε πιέζει διὰ τοὺς ἵππους τοὺς κοππατίας καὶ τὸν γάµον ὅς µ᾿ ἐπέτριψεν.

27 Aristophanes, Nubes 21-24: ∆ώδεκα µνᾶς Πασίᾳ. Τοῦ δώδεκα µνᾶς Πασίᾳ ; Τί ἐχρησάµην ; Ὅτ᾿ ἐπριάµην τὸν κοππατίαν. Οἴµοι τάλας, εἴθ᾿ ἐξεκόπην πρότερον τὸν ὀφθαλµὸν λίθῳ.

28 Aristophanes, Nubes 1406-1407: Ἵππευε τοίνυν νὴ ∆ί᾿, ὡς ἔµοιγε κρεῖττόν ἐστιν ἵππων τρέφειν τέθριππον ἢ τυπτόµενον ἐπιτριβῆναι.

29 Aristophanes, Nubes 709-712: Ἀπόλλυµαι δείλαιος. Ἐκ τοῦ σκίµποδος δάκνουσί µ᾿ ἐξέρποντες οἱ Κορίνθιοι, καὶ τὰς πλευρὰς δαρδάπτουσιν καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν ἐκπίνουσιν…

30 Aristophanes, Nubes 1226-1227: Τῶν δώδεκα µνῶν, ἃς ἔλαβες ὠνούµενος τὸν ψαρὸν ἵππον.

31 Aristophanes, Nubes 1299: Ὓπαγε. Τί µέλλεις ; Οὐκ ἐλᾷς, ὦ σαµφόρα.

32 Aristophanes, Equites 601-603: εἶτα τὰς κώπας λαβόντες ὥσπερ ἡµεῖς οἱ βροτοὶ / ἐµβαλόντες ἀνεβρύαξαν, “ἱππαπαῖ, τίς ἐµβαλεῖ; / ληπτέον µᾶλλον. τί δρῶµεν; οὐκ ἐλᾷς ὦ σαµφόρα.

33 Thucydides, 4.42-44.

34 Golden 1997, esp. p. 337; Étienne 2005 ; Griffith 2006, esp. pp. 200-202.

35 Bell S., Willekes 2014.

36 Pausanias, 2.6.5.

37 LGPN III A, 6, s.v. “  Ἀγαρίστα” (1).

38 LGPN III A, 345, s.v. “  Ὀρθαγόρας” (9).

39 Lavelle 1989. 

40 Skalet 1975, pp. 15, 47-68. Lolos 2011, p. 51.

41 Braun 1970, pp. 129-269.

42 Kroll 1977.

43 Maehler 1996.

44 Hemingway 2004, pp. 89, 93, 101-103, fig. 59.

45 Kroll 1977, p. 88 ; Gaebel 2002, p. 20.

46 Photius, Λέξεων Συναγωγή, s.v. “σαµφόρας ἵππος· χαρακτήρα ἔχων ἐνκεκαυµένον σίγµα, ὡς κοππατίας καὶ βουκέφαλος”.

47 Aristophanes, frg. 41.42. Etymologicum Genuinum AB: βουκέφαλος [...] οὕτως ἐν Θεσσαλίᾳ ἐκαλοῦντο οἱ ἱπποι ἔχοντες ἐγκεκαυµένον βουκράνιον. ὅτι δὲ τῶν Θετταλικῶν ἵππων τινὲς ἐκαλοῦντο βουκέφαλοι· µὴ κλᾶ᾿· ἐγώ σοι βουκέφαλον ὠνήσοµαι.

48 Chandezon 2010.

49 Kroll 1977, pp. 87-88.

50 Lucian, Αdversus Indoctum 5: ὁ δὲ ἵππον κτήσαιτο Μῆδον ἢ κενταυρίδην ἢ κοππαφόρον.

51 LGPN III A, 445, s.v. “Φειδόλας” (2).

52 LGPN III A, 308, s.v. “Μύρων” (3, 4).

53 LGPN III A, 245, s.v. “Κλεισθένης” (9).

54 Pausanias, 6.19.2, 10.7.6.

55 Herodotus, 6.126.

56 Pausanias, 10.7.7.

57 LGPN III A, 52, s.v. “Ἄρατος” (3).

58 LGPN III A, 324, s.v. “Νικοκλῆς” (17).

59 Plutarch, Aratus 6.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 — Koppa (ϙ)-bearing horse. Detail of Attic black-figure amphora attributed to the Bucci Painter, ca. 540 BC (Once New York [Christie’s] and Basle [Cahn AG].
Crédits After J.‑D. Cahn, Cahn International AG, BAAF Basel, 5.-10. November 2010 [leaflet cover]).
URL http://books.openedition.org/efa/docannexe/image/6612/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 649k
Titre Fig. 2 — Warrior with a brand-name horse (koppatias). Attic red-figure kylix by the Painter of Berlin 2268, about 510-500 BC.
Crédits Νew York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 06.1021.170. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
URL http://books.openedition.org/efa/docannexe/image/6612/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 524k
Titre Fig. 3 — a. Sigma-bearing horse by Lydos. Panathenaic amphora, 550-540 BC (Florence, Archaeological Museum, 97779. After Bentz 1998, no. 6008, pls 6-7) ; b. Sigma-bearing horse. Detail of Attic black-figure amphora attributed to the Bucci Painter, ca. 540 BC (Once New York [Christie’s] and Basle [Cahn AG]. After J.‑D. Cahn, Cahn International AG, BAAF Basel, 5.-10. November 2010 [leaflet cover]) ; c. Sigma-bearing horses (samphorae). Panathenaic amphora by the Berlin Painter, ca. 480 BC (Once Melbourne, Graham Geddes. After Bentz 1998, no. 5078, pl. 66) ; d. Sigma-bearing horse (samphoras). Zeus with chariot. Procession of Gods. Attic red-figure dinos by the Berlin Painter. 470 BC (Basel, Antikenmuseum und Sammlung Ludwig, LU39. After Latacz et al. 2008, fig. 2 no. 70).
URL http://books.openedition.org/efa/docannexe/image/6612/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 2,1M
Titre Fig. 4 — Sigma-bearing horses during chariot race at the Panathenaic Games. Panathenaic amphora by the Berlin Painter, ca. 480-470 BC.
Crédits Ferrara, Museo nazionale di Spina. T11CVP [9356]. Photo: author.
URL http://books.openedition.org/efa/docannexe/image/6612/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 314k
Titre Fig. 5 — Samphoras during horse race. Panathenaic amphora by the Berlin Painter, ca. 480 BC.
Crédits Warsaw, National Museum, 142346. After Bentz 1998, no. 5073, pl. 64.
URL http://books.openedition.org/efa/docannexe/image/6612/img-5.png
Fichier image/png, 314k
Titre Graph 1 — Horses with brands of the athenian cavalries.
Crédits Graph: author.
URL http://books.openedition.org/efa/docannexe/image/6612/img-6.png
Fichier image/png, 263k
Titre Graph 2 — The names of the horses of the athenian cavalries.
Crédits Graph: author.
URL http://books.openedition.org/efa/docannexe/image/6612/img-7.png
Fichier image/png, 465k
Titre Fig. 6 — Nike brand on the Artemision Horse’s right hind thigh. Middle of 2nd century BC. Bronze statue.
Crédits Athens, National Archaeological Museum. Photo: author.
URL http://books.openedition.org/efa/docannexe/image/6612/img-8.png
Fichier image/png, 2,4M

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