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Les céramiques de la Grèce de l'Est et leur diffusion en Occident

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Centre Jean Bérard
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Institut français de Naples

Oriental influences on Rhodian vases

Chrysoula P. Kardara

Note de l’éditeur

(Pl. XXXI)

Texte intégral

1The subject of this paper is a general outline of the influences exercised by some oriental models on Rhodian vase-painting during the seventh and early sixth centuries B.C.

2During this period, in which oriental models inspired Greek craftsmen, the following centres existed in the Near East from which goods reached Greece.

  1. The Cilician and North Syrian coast, where the Greek port Ποσείδιον (Al Mina) was flourishing in the eighth and seventh century B.C., in which Rhodian Wild Goat pottery appears from the middle of the seventh century. Here we find many survivals of the Hittite tradition and some other elements of less defined traditions, including few Mycenaean remnants. Both in the late second and in the early first millenium B.C. this area was one of the major mixing places of the ancient world but by the early seventh century B.C. its chief feature was Assyrianization since its centres became Assyrian provinces by 700 B.C. (Samal fell into the hands of the Assyrians in 725 B.C., Cachermish in 717 B.C., Narash in 711 B.C.). At the end of the seventh century, however, the Assyrian empire fell into the hands of the Babylonians and in the early years of the following century Nebuchadnezar II extended the Babylonian empire to the Mediterranean coast. At Al Mina occupation after 600 B.C. became very slight and this decline has been connected with this change of power.

  2. The Phoenician centres to the South. In these centres we find influences from Egypt lacking almost completely from the North Syrian centres, also some Mesopotamian influences and considerable Mycenaean survivals. Both in the late second and the early first millenium B.C. this area also was a mixing place of the ancient world and by the middle of the seventh century B.C. it showed Assyrianization since its centres became Assyrian provinces before 650 B.C. (Sidon fell into the hands of the Assyrians in 676 B.C. and Tyre in 668 B.C.). A major Phoenician centre, Sukas, was 50 miles south of Al Mina. Visited by Greek merchants from the eighth century B.C., this centre contained a prosperous Greek settlement after 600 B.C. which was connected with the shift of power from the hands of the Assyrians to the hands of the Babylonians. Phoenician centres also existed on the island of Cyprus.

  3. Cyprus. In this island, which was in continuous contact with Greece even in the early part of the first millenium B.C., both North Syrian and Phoenician influences are found along the Greek tradition with a profound love for polychromy. By the early seventh century B.C. Assyrianization is also evident there since the island by 700 B.C. became an Assyrian province (it was occupied by the Assyrians in 709 B.C.).

    • 1 C. Roebuck, Ionian Trade and Colonization, 45.

    The inland of Asia Minor where two large states were prominent in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C., Phrygia and Lydia. Phrygia presents North Syrian influences with strong Hittite survivals as well as elements of Assyrianization and some others, less defined, brought mostly by artisans who fled from Armenia (Van-Urartu) in the eighth century B.C. (some of these artisans had also fled to North Syria). A persistence of geometrism, due probably to the Balkan origin of the Phrygians and to their contact with the East Greeks of the Geometric period, is also evident there. In the late eighth century B.C. the Phrygians were driven from their southern Anatolian plateau. At this time the trade between the inland of Asia Minor and East Greece was frequent but after the first quarter of the seventh century B.C., when the Cimmerian invasion happened and the Phrygians were overwhelmed from the North and East, the roads leading from the interior of Asia Minor to the Aegean were deserted for a considerable time (for until after 650 B.C.)1. During this time the sea-routes leading to the Levant along the southern shore of Asia Minor became more frequent. Phrygian sites, however, revived after the middle of the seventh century B.C., seem to become part of Lydia (which so far may have been part of Phrygia).

3Rhodes, being located to the South-West corner of the Aegean, also close to the Asia Minor corner, served as a station to Greek and Oriental ships carrying various goods from the Near Eastern centres westwards. Rhodian craftsmen, therefore, could be easily affected by oriental models. Thus, the formation and development of Rhodian orientalizing vase-painting was due, to a certain extent, to the location of the island. Its main oriental dependencies can be here illustrated by the following examples:

4The oriental influences are clearly noticeable on the Rhodian vases from the second quarter of the seventh century B.C. and are seen particularly on human faces which are now entirely freed from the geometric tradition. Thus, for instance:

  • 2 Ch. Kardara, Ροδιακή Ἀγγειογραφία, 35, fig. 6.
  • 3 J. Boardman, The Greeks Overseas, 85.
  • 4 E. Akurgal, Phrygische Kunst, pls. 21 b, 22.
  • 5 Kardara, op. cit., 48-9. On the influence of Phrygian textiles on early Greek art, see Barnett, JHS (...)

5On a sphinx2 drawn on a jug in the Museum of Rhodes, dating from the second quarter of the seventh century B.C. (Fig. 1), the big eye and the heavy nose, the low skull and the contour of the head recall oriental models, especially some heads of sirens, which serve as attachments of cauldrons from Urartu reaching Greece from North Syria and Phrygia and widely copied by the Greeks. These objects were found at Olympia, Delphi, Athens, Argos, Delos, Rhodes and Phrygia3. Of the Rhodian sphinx the broad ribbon-like outline and the series of dots, reminiscent of certain traditional embroideries, as far as the technique is concerned, used for details of its body and loved on other vases particularly for the rendering of subsidiary decorative elements, mostly floral, recalls analogous use on other Greek vases of the same period but also that which occurs on Phrygian vases of the late eighth century B.C.4. Since then Phrygia was reputed in antiquity as the homeland of embroidery, we may assume that oriental embroidered tissues, mostly Phrygian, influenced at that time directly the manufacture of Greek embroidered tissues and through them the technique of Greek vase-painting along with other oriental works of art5.

6After 650 B.C. other oriental influences are noticeable on Rhodian vases, particularly in the rendering of the face and bodies of lions or of other feline creatures. Thus, for instance:

  • 6 Kardara, op. cit., 84, n° 3, fig. 52.
  • 7 The heart-shaped ear originated with the Hittite lions (cf. Akurgal, Späthethitische Bildkunst, 1, (...)

7On a chimaera6 depicted in the tondo of a plate from Rhodes, now in the Louvre, dating from the early second half of the seventh century B.C. (Fig. 2), strong debts to the North Syrian art are clearly noticeable in the rendering of the body and especially in the rendering of its lion head. Thus, the big shell-like eye, the strong and broad jaws, the open mouth, the chevron-like mane with an oblong curl of hair swinging from the ear down to the chin, are largely derived from the North Syrian tradition where they occur and which shows strong Hittite elements. The flat and pointed ear, however, seems to be a modification of the Hittite heart-shaped type of ear7.

  • 8 Kardara, op. cit., 93, n° 10, 153, fig. 118.

8On a sphinx8 drawn on the shoulder of a Rhodian oenochoe, coming from Rome and now in the Louvre, dating from the second half of the seventh century B.C. (Fig. 3), apart from the big shelllike eye and the heavy nose, which give an austere touch to the face and recall also North Syrian models, a lock of hair hanging down from the temples towards the chin reminds of a fashion characteristic of North Syrians, particularly of the Arameans.

  • 9 Ibid., 92, n° 2, 151, fig. 114.
  • 10 R. D. Barnett, The Nimrud Ivories, p. 11, A 9: Phoenician ivory with lion. For the closed mouth cha (...)

9But on a lion9 depicted on the shoulder of another Rhodian oenochoe, found in Crete and now in the Museum of Herakleion, dating from the early second half of the seventh century B.C. (Fig. 4), details to be noted especially are: the closed mouth, the hair over the forehead (three vertical lines) indicating bushy eyebrows, the rather long legs and the slender and lithe body. These features, however betoken an Egyptianizing influence, especially the closed mouth of the beast10. This influence then was probably exercised through Phoenician goods transported to Rhodes from Phoenician centres either of the coast of Phoenicia or of Cyprus. Another detail of the lions of this Rhodian oenochoe to be noted is the mane which is composed of series of Vis, that is of locks rendered like chevrons. This feature occurs both on Phoenician and North Syrian lions of the early seventh century B.C. Still another detail to be noted on these Rhodian lions is the folded ear. but this seems to be rather of a North Syrian and Assyrian origin.

10Although the lions of this oenochoe are rather unique in Greek orientalizing vase-painting, since they clearly betray Egyptianizing Phoenician models, they are not, however, the only Phoenician elements occurring in Rhodian vase-painting after 650 B.C. For other Phoenician elements seem to appear in this painting from this time on. Thus, for instance:

  • 11 Kardara, op. cit., 108, n° 19, 154, fig. 121.

11The head of a sphinx11 on an oenochoe from Rhodes, now in the Louvre, dating from the advanced second half of the seventh century B.C. (Fig. 5), recalls Phoenician cherubs not only because of its profile but also because of its hair-dressing which looks like a scarf.

  • 12 Crawfoot, Early Ivories from Samaria, pl. XVI.
  • 13 Kardara, op. cit., 92, n° 4152, fig. 116.

12The lotus flowers alternating with buds, drawn after 650 B.C., around the bottom of the oenochoes, as a rule, also betray a Phoenician source. On account of their formation and of their composition they are comparable to oriental models occurring on a Phoenician ivory from Samaria12. The polychromy, however, evident on these garlands of flowers and on other decorative themes of Rhodian vases, being generally a characteristic feature of Cypriote painting, can be taken as indicating an influence exercised through goods from Cyprus, where Phoenicians were established in some ports13.

  • 14 Brown, op. cit., 3 ff.
  • 15 Ibid.

13Another case of Rhodian vase-painting influenced by Phoenician models can be seen on an oenochoe in Rhodes dating from the early second half of the seventh century B.C. (Fig. 6). On the shoulder of this oenochoe a lion is drawn attacking a bull, an oriental theme known to the Mycenaeans, from whom it was transferred to the Levant in the late second millenium B.C.14. The mane of this lion, like that of the other lions on the aforementioned oenochoe from Crete, stylized as a series of Vishaped locks, a feature common on Phoenician and North Syrian lions, as already said, was probably derived from Mycenaean prototypes reaching the Levant in the late second millenium B.C.15. The lithe body, however, of this Rhodian lion clearly indicates a Phoenician derivation. It can, therefore, be inferred that the painter of this oenochoe also had in mind a Phoenician loan.

  • 16 Kardara, op. cit., 95, n° 5, 141, fig. 115.
  • 17 According to Dunbabin (The Greeks and the Eastern Neighbours, 48), Assyrian themes were transmitted (...)

14An indication from a North Syrian loan, however, can be presumed for the two lions16 depicted on the shoulder of a Rhodian oenochoe, now in the British Museum, dating from the second half of the seventh century B.C. (Fig. 7). Details of these two lions, shown flanking a bull, to be noted especially are: the lively expression, the open mouth with the lolling tongue, the wrinkles shown prominently on the upper lip, the reticulate mane which stands like a roll round the heavy neck, the rather compact body and the determined pose. These features seem to come from the same oriental tradition, from which come most Greek orientalizing lions. This tradition, however, betrays an Assyrian source which is believed to have reached the Aegean probably from North Syria after the. Assyrians occupied it17. The heart-shaped and back turned ears of these lions are a North Syrian modification of the heart-shaped Hittite form, while the vertical line in their middle seems to be a modification of the folded form. As to the three vertical lines on the forehead of these beasts, they seem to be a loan from a different origin which is connected with the Egyptianizing Phoenician loans. These lions, therefore, present a good example of how Rhodian vase-painters mixed their prototypes.

  • 18 Kardara, op. cit., 181, n° 1, 179, fig. 154.

15Another case of North Syrian lions influencing Rhodian vase-painting can be presumed for the two lions18 flanking a boar on the shoulder of a Rhodian oenochoe, now in the British Museum, dating from the advanced second half of the seventh century B.C. (Fig. 8). The features of this lion also seem to have come from the same oriental tradition from which come most Greek orientalizing lions, that is from the Assyrian tradition, which reached Greece from North Syria. The mane of these lions, however, covered with down-turned scales or feathers seems at first sight to come from another tradition. But it is probable that it is due to a modification of the mane which is covered with series of Vi-shaped locks and which occurs both in the Phoenician and the North Syrian lions. The series of small teeth, at any rate, seem to derive from the Hittite tradition.

16Some other Assyrian elements are also clearly noticeable on Rhodian orientalizing lions but they appear on Rhodian vases made from the end of the seventh century onwards. Thus, for instance:

  • 19 Ibid., 283, n° 1, 285, fig. 283.
  • 20 Ibid., 286, n° 1, 273, fig. 270.
  • 21 Brown, op. cit., 12.

17On a lion19 depicted on an oenochoe from Rhodes, now in Berlin, dating from the early sixth century B.C. and on another lion20 on a plate in Rhodes dating from the same period (Fig. 9), a leaf-like lock of hair, common on Assyrian lions, hangs from the ear of the beast. The same feature also appears in Corinthian vase-painting from the Early Corinthian period onwards and seems to become fashionable in Early Attic Black-Figure, too. The occurrence of this feature on Lydian electrum coins is thought21 to indicate that it became frequent as an oriental loan rather from an intermediate East Greek source. To be sure, the Rhodian example is slightly later than the Corinthian. As Corinthianization, therefore, became frequent in Rhodian vase-painting about 600 B.C., one cannot exclude the possibility that in Rhodian vase-painting this feature was derived from an Early Corinthian influence directly or indirectly associated with an oriental source.

  • 22 Ibid., 29.

18Another Assyrian element, seen occasionally in Rhodian vase-painting from the end of the sixth century B.C., is the treatment of the haunches of the lion, indicating a back-mane, a feature unknown to Corinthian vase-painters, as it appears, for instance, on the aforementioned plate in Rhodes from Nisyros (Fig. 9), dating from the early sixth century B.C. This feature occurring on LevantoMycenaean works of art seems to have been widely spread in the Near East in the early first millenium B.C. and to have become predominant in North Syria by the seventh century B.C.22. For its appearance, however, in Rhodian vase-painting one can credit an East Greek source derived from an oriental source.

19From the foregoing account a general picture emerges of the main oriental elements contributing to the development of Rhodian orientalizing vase-painting. It should be pointed out that Rhodian vase-painters often seem to alter and to mix the oriental loans and to adapt them to their own East Greek idiosyncrasy, thus showing a considerable remove from the oriental models which inspired them.

  • 23 Kardara, op. cit., 271.

20In general, however, one can say that there are three distinct waves of oriental influence exercised on these painters: One, evident before the middle of the seventh century B.C., containing elements mainly from Phrygia and North Syria, a second slightly later, that is after 650 B.C., comprising elements from the Phoenician, the North Syrian as well as the Assyrian tradition, often intermixed; and a third, considerably later, that is after 600 B.C., carrying on more Assyrian elements. It should be reminded that about 600 B.C. Rhodian vase-painting becomes strongly influenced by Corinthian vase-painting and about the same time also slightly influenced by a north East Greek tradition, probably Aeolian23.

  • 24 Boardman, op. cit., 74. G. Ploug, Sukas II, 97.
  • 25 Boardman, op. cit., 77.
  • 26 Ibid., 76.

21At that time, that is after 600 B.C., Rhodian pottery is exported in groups in Tocra, Istros, Naucratis and Sukas and in rather isolated pieces in cities of the Black Sea. This distribution, however, is thought24 that it does not correspond to the mediocre role played by the Rhodians at that time in sea-adventures but it corresponds rather to that played by the Milesians. Also, since Milesian painted pottery has not yet been identified with certainty, the Milesians are thought that may have used imported vases, such as Rhodian. There has also been suggested25 that the Greek merchants living in Sukas were allowed to stay there among the Orientals after 600 B.C., since this site shows a considerable prosperity attested by the Greek finds of the early sixth century B.C. This prosperity of the Greeks at Sukas, contrasting that of the Greeks of Al Mina, who show an obvious decline at that time, has been explained on the basis that there «was more interest in direct trade with Syria and less with the remote centres served by Al Mina»26.

  • 27 Ploug, op. cit., 99.

22The oriental influence exercised on Rhodian vase-painting after 600 B.C. could have then come from the Greeks living at this time in the Levant. The oriental influence exercised on early Greek architecture at this time, not being explained «by contact with seventh century Al Mina»27 is presumed to have come from these Greeks of the Levant, perhaps. In Rhodian vase-painting after 600 B.C. there also exists, however, a north East Greek influence, too, which comes from the area of the Aeolid. The oriental impetus, therefore, which is noticeable on Rhodian vases after 600 B.C. could have come through a north East Greek source as well.

Notes

1 C. Roebuck, Ionian Trade and Colonization, 45.

2 Ch. Kardara, Ροδιακή Ἀγγειογραφία, 35, fig. 6.

3 J. Boardman, The Greeks Overseas, 85.

4 E. Akurgal, Phrygische Kunst, pls. 21 b, 22.

5 Kardara, op. cit., 48-9. On the influence of Phrygian textiles on early Greek art, see Barnett, JHS, 48, 1948, 9, note 50. The Aegean and the Near East, Studies Presented to Betty Goldman, 226.

6 Kardara, op. cit., 84, n° 3, fig. 52.

7 The heart-shaped ear originated with the Hittite lions (cf. Akurgal, Späthethitische Bildkunst, 1, 74).

8 Kardara, op. cit., 93, n° 10, 153, fig. 118.

9 Ibid., 92, n° 2, 151, fig. 114.

10 R. D. Barnett, The Nimrud Ivories, p. 11, A 9: Phoenician ivory with lion. For the closed mouth characteristic of an Egyptian or egyptianizing influence cf. L. Brown, The Etruscan Lion, 98. For the three lines over the forehead of a lion cf. the silver (Phoenician) bowl from Praeneste (MAAR III, 16); Möhlstein, Die Kunst der Etrusker, pls. 16-8.

11 Kardara, op. cit., 108, n° 19, 154, fig. 121.

12 Crawfoot, Early Ivories from Samaria, pl. XVI.

13 Kardara, op. cit., 92, n° 4152, fig. 116.

14 Brown, op. cit., 3 ff.

15 Ibid.

16 Kardara, op. cit., 95, n° 5, 141, fig. 115.

17 According to Dunbabin (The Greeks and the Eastern Neighbours, 48), Assyrian themes were transmitted to Greece through Assyrian decorated textiles. According to him (ibid.), Assyrian motives, such as the lion, became known to the Greeks from North Syria.

18 Kardara, op. cit., 181, n° 1, 179, fig. 154.

19 Ibid., 283, n° 1, 285, fig. 283.

20 Ibid., 286, n° 1, 273, fig. 270.

21 Brown, op. cit., 12.

22 Ibid., 29.

23 Kardara, op. cit., 271.

24 Boardman, op. cit., 74. G. Ploug, Sukas II, 97.

25 Boardman, op. cit., 77.

26 Ibid., 76.

27 Ploug, op. cit., 99.

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