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The Iconography of Greek Cult in the Archaic and Classical Periods

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Robin Hägg

Some Comments on the Scene on the Cabiric Vase, Athens N.M. 424

Éveline Loucas-Durie

Texte intégral

  • 1 The vase was first mentioned in: “Von der Reise des A. Furtwängler”, in PhilWocb 47 (24 Nov. 1888) (...)
  • 2 M. Collignon and L. Couve, Catalogue des vases peints du Musée national d’Athènes, Athènes 1902, 35 (...)
  • 3 Prakt 1888, 66; H. L. Lorimer, “The Country Cart of Ancient Greece”, JHS 23 (1903) 132-151, esp. 13 (...)
  • 4 G. Bruns and P. Wolters, Das Kabirenheiligtum bei Theben I, Berlin 1940, 108 (M.6; PI. 33, Fig. 1).

1The black-figure Cabiric vase on which I will comment is exhibited at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens (inv. no. 424). The vase is very fragmentary and one of its faces is lost. Its height, after restoration, is 24 cm, its diameter 23 cm. The vessel is registered as a kotylos.1 In Collignon and Couve’s catalogue, however, it is designated as a “forme de stamnos”,2 and it has also been described as a skyphos3 and by German authors as a “Napf”,4 i.e., porringer, bowl.

  • 5 Bruns and Wolters (supra n. 4), 105ff.
  • 6 K. Braun and Th. E. Haevernick, Das Kabirenheiligtum bei Theben IV: Bemalte Keramik und Glas, Berli (...)

2The only preserved scene is on the upper part of the body between the two handles. G. Bruns5 attributes it to the Mystae Painter who, according to K. Braun,6 worked at the end of the 5th century B.C. until the beginning of the second quarter of the 4th century B.C.

  • 7 The breast is not emphasized, and the scholars who have determined the sex of this figure have expr (...)
  • 8 Lorimer (supra n. 3), 137. Also Winnefeld (supra η. 1), 422.
  • 9 Cf. Bruns and Wolters (supra n. 4), 108 with n. 3.

3The scene shows six figures who follow each other from right to left. The first one on the left (Fig. 1) wears a pointed cap, which covers the cheeks, and is dressed in a tunic, the bottom of which is puffing out above the calves. This is certainly caused by the movement of the figure who does not seem to walk but rather to hop on tiptoe. It’s arms are raised above its head, and in its joined hands it holds a taenia, a kind of band. The figure is certainly dancing; it could be a woman, but this is not certain.7 Following are two figures unusually positioned: we recognize a flute-player (Fig. 1), perhaps naked, with branches and a band around the head, mounted on the shoulders of a man with an emphasized phallos (Fig. 1). This figure holds in his right hand a bough which is used as a walking-stick.8 But he does not seem to really need any support: he is walking, hopping or running with vigorous strides. As far as the black wavy lines are concerned, I am convinced that they can be nothing else than the extremity of a band around his head.9

4This singular couple precedes another which is seated on a cart drawn by a pair of ithyphallic, galloping donkeys crowned with branches. One of the figures (Fig. 2), most probably female, dressed in chiton and himation, is shown in a three-quarters view to the left but with the face turned back and shown in profile. Her right hand is raised with open palm in front of the head, and her left, in a parallel position, holds a circular object seen in profile or three-quarters view between the faces of the two figures. The second figure (Fig. 2), shown in profile to the left and at some distance to the first, is crowned with branches, and tightly dressed in a himation. One hand is perhaps kept on the chest. The composition is closed by the last figure, partly damaged, a bearded man dressed only in a tight mantle thrown over his shoulders, and holding a long stick in his left hand. He has put one foot on the back of the cart and stretched the right hand to the edge of the seat. This attitude suggests that he is trying to get up on the cart.

  • 10 For example, M. Bieber, Die Denkmdler zum Theaterwesen im Altertum, Berlin and Leipzig 1920, 153; i (...)
  • 11 Parody of a religious dromenon, Lapalus 1935 (supra n. 10), 17-22, or of a rustic event, Schachter (...)

5This scene is an excellent example of Cabiric-ware iconography, which is so particular in its way of sketching each human figure as well as the action as a whole. Scholars have wondered about the connection between this iconography and dramatic or pre-dramatic performances, on the one hand, and with the teaching of the Cabiric Mysteries on the other, and also with these two kinds of dromena together.10 I will not try to answer this general question in this paper. Here I will restrict myself to the level of reading of the scene: the identification of the represented topic. I shall not discuss the negroid features of the faces of the figures (figs. 2 to 5), or the morphology of their bodies which may or may not be a caricature, the mode of which may or may not be one of parody.11 However, we cannot deny a rough and ready sense of humour. And wherever humour is present, there is by necessity a reference to reality, to something known, so that the scene does not seem irrelevant or strange but, at least, humorous.

  • 12 As it is asserted in PhitWoch 47 (24 Nov. 1888), col. 1483, Collignon and Couve (supra n. 2), 353; (...)
  • 13 On this question, see, for example, Hemberg (supra n. 11), 195-196, 202-203, 352ff; Schachter (supr (...)
  • 14 On the “Theban” Kabeiroi see, in general, W Burkert, Greek Religion. Archaic and Classical, Oxford (...)
  • 15 Paus. 9-25,5-6. See N. Papachatzis, Πανσανίον Ελλάδος περιήγησης. 5. Βοιωτικά και φωκικά, Athens 19 (...)

6What kind of beings are these figures? Gods, demons, heroes or humans? All these are shown on Cabiric-ware vases. There is nothing here to suggest maenads and satyrs.12 Their features have been characterized as those of Negroes and especially of pygmies, and they have sometimes been connected with the Kabiroi themselves on the testimony of some literary sources according to which these divinities originated from Egypt or Africa.13 However, the Theban Cabiric divinities distinguish themselves from those of the sanctuaries in the Aegean and Asia Minor.14 They are Kabiros who could be easily confused iconographically with Dionysos if his name was not inscribed, and the Pais, the oinochoos. They were also named Megaloi Theoi. The other divinities in their nearby environment at the Kabirion near Thebes (especially from the vase iconography) are the Dioskouroi, Hermes, Pan and a goddess, the Meter. The latter is mentioned in the manuscripts of Pausanias and because of the mention of Kore this designation is generally understood as being another name for Demeter.15

  • 16 PhitWoch 47 (24 Nov. 1888), col. 1483. Cf. Lapalus 1935 (supra n. 10), 19.

7In our scene, there is nothing especially which appears to be a divine attribute. The circular object in the hand of the woman on the cart has been recognized as a tympanon; therefore this figure has been considered to represent the Great Mother accompanied by other divine or demonic beings.16 However, this interpretation actually takes place on the second reading level of the scene, i.e., as far as the role played by the acting figures is concerned (they are not themselves, but the hypostaseis of something else).

  • 17 See Lapalus 1930 (supra n. 10), 65-88, Braun and Havernick (supra n. 6), 26-29. Cf. Schachter (supr (...)
  • 18 See also Hemberg (supra n. 11), 202; Schachter (supra n. 7), 100.

8On the other hand, the figures have no attributes of the heroes which are well-known from the iconography of other Cabiric vases with heroic themes, for example, Odysseus, Bellerophon, Kadmos and so on.17 The figures as well as the action represented seem to belong to the human sphere.18

  • 19 Lorimer (supra n. 3), 137.
  • 20 Lapalus 1935 (supra n. 10), 17-22, esp. 19, 22.
  • 21 Schachter (supra n. 7), 108.
  • 22 Lapalus 1935 (supra n. 10), 19-20.
  • 23 Ghiron-Bistagne (supra n. 2), 221-223.
  • 24 Paus. 9.3.2-6. On this festival, see F. Frontisi-Ducroux, “La fête béotienne des Daidala”, appendix (...)
  • 25 Rocchi (supra η. 24), 323.
  • 26 Paus. 9.3,6; Papachatzis (supra n. 15), 39 n. 3.

9We can classify the previous identifications of our scene into two categories. According to the first, it is a wedding procession, and therefore the figure (Fig. 5) is male, the bridegroom. The cart with the bride and the bridegroom is preceded by the bridesmaid, dancing, a flute-player and a man whose function is generally not defined. H. L. Lorimer described the newly-weds in a manner which gives an anecdotical explanation of the right part:19 “The bride and the bridegroom are seated side-by-side on separated stools. The bride holds in her left hand a circular object, apparently a hand-mirror, on which her eyes are fixed. The bridegroom is an elderly man whose baldness is partly concealed by a wreath. The parochos, whether by mischance or malice, has been left behind, an accident likely enough, at a wedding of this type (sc. a wedding procession from low life, and grotesquely treated) to befall a person so obviously superfluous, and is vainly endeavouring to get up at the back of the cart.” É. Lapalus agreed with the wedding interpretation, but includes it in the frame of the Cabiric Mysteries so that it shows a hieros gamos played by the initiates or the priests.20 The reasons for this were the branches, the bands, and the tightly robed figure in himation. In my opinion, Lapalus was right to point out those details which otherwise determined the name Mystae Painter: we can recognize them on other Cabiric vases where obviously a cultic scene is shown. As A. Schachter noticed when studying related representations in Cabiric iconography, headbands, branches stuck into the hair, mantles seem to be the special dress features of the initiates.21 But Lapalus did not explain what is going on to the right, while, on the other hand, he stressed the noise which is expressed by the musical instruments, the flute and especially, according to his interpretation, the tympanon or the kind of gong that the “bride” holds.22 In 1976, in an appendix on the komos in her book Recherches sur les acteurs dans la Grèce antique, P. Ghiron-Bistagne also identified the scene with a wedding-procession, and more precisely with the one held at the Daidala festival.23 But she does not prove this. According to Pausanias,24 the Daidala festival was celebrated in memory of Hera’s and Zeus’ reconciliation, included the mikra and the megala Daidala. The first were celebrated by the Plataians every sixth year in a wood near Alalkomenes, and the second one, by all the Boeotians, every fifty-fourth year on mount Kithairon. The strong character of reconciliation between communities that marks this festival,25 the absence of a relationship between the divinities of the Daidala and those of the Kabirion where Theban mythic elements are noticeable, and the fact that Thebes took part in the Daidala festival only after 316 B.C. when Kassandros had rebuilt the city,26 all lead me to conclude that this identification of the scene is the least likely.

  • 27 On marriage in antiquity, see in general C. Vatin, Recherches sur le mariage et la condition de la (...)

10Furthermore, the identification of the scene as a wedding procession rises some questions when we compare it with the testimony of the literary sources and with other vase iconography.27 There is usually also present a torch-bearer as well as a cithara player, but the most significant element is that the bride, holding generally a crown in her hand, is veiled, and in spite of the humorous character of our figured scene, the veil ought to be depicted in some way or other.

  • 28 Bruns and Wolters (supra n. 4), 108.
  • 29 Schachter (supra n. 7), 100 with n. 2.

11The other stream of interpretation is closer to the religious life of the sanctuary. G. Bruns did not exclude the possibility of the initiates’ jolly coming-home from the festival.28 But, according to A. Schachter, it is most probably a procession to the sanctuary.29 The orderly way in which the personages follow each other, really brings to mind, in spite of the hurried and rushed speed, an officially organized procession to the sanctuary and not the break-up of a sacred event.

  • 30 IG V (I), 1390. Cf. P.K. Georgountzos, “Τὰμυστήρια τῆς Άνδανίας”, Platon 31 (1979) 3-43 (text of in (...)
  • 31 The links between the Boeotian cult and that of Andania should be closer according to Paus. 4.1,7, (...)

12A long inscription of the first century B.C., the famous sacred law from Andania30 that refers to the celebration of the mysteries held at the Karnasion alsos, provides us with a testimony betraying a lot of details through which we can perceive more clearly the atmosphere of the event. This inscription is even more interesting for us because the divinities concerned are the Megaloi Theoi, related to Demeter and her local Kore.31

  • 32 IG 8, 2420; Bruns and Wolters (supra n. 4), 27, 4. See Hemberg (supra n. 11), 203; Schachter (supra (...)

13According to this sacred law, the participants of the procession must respect the following order: after a personage who appears as a kind of “chief-priest” as well as a sponsor of the local mysteries, come the priest of the gods in whose honour the mysteries are celebrated, the priestesses, the agonothetes, the hierothutai, the auletai, followed by the carts with the sacred virgins who keep the cista with hiera mystica; afterwards, the thoinamostria (the woman with the responsibility of the sacred banquet) and other officials of lesser importance. All this corresponds to the cultual etiquette and reflects a strict hierarchy. On the Cabiric, we can recognize an analogous disposition but “in reduction”, reduced. All the figures are involved in the religious practices; someone is dancing (but is it a dancer?), there is a musician, and the rabdos of Fig. 3 and the stick of Fig. 6 could make reference to some official function. A few inscriptions of the third century B.C. give names of officials whose functions and links with the cult have not been exactly determined: a pair of priests, kabiriarchs, secretary, paragogeies.32

  • 33 M. P. Nilsson, “Die Prozessionstypen im griechischen Kult”,jdt 31 (1916) 309-339, esp. 311.

14The pompe of the Andania mysteries has been classified by M. P. Nilsson33 among the offering processions towards the divinity or the divine place because it is specifically mentioned that the pompe of the Andania ceremony, although it occurs within a mystery cult, but a little before the celebrations of the mysteries, included the sacrificial victims; it presents, according to the Swedish scholar, the traditional scheme. So that this pompe could be compared with the iconographie evidence.

  • 34 Though they have been represented on other vases, see for example G. van Hoorn, “Kabiros”, BABesch (...)

15On our Cabiric vase however, no sacrificial victim is shown, nor the purpose of the procession.34 Perhaps these elements were depicted on the now lost other face of the vase, although generally on Cabiric vases the pictures were not connected from one face to the other, though they could be related by theme.

16But according to Nilsson’s classifications, there are processions to a cult-place where a cult practice other than sacrifice is accomplished, a procession with a sacred, mystic object, as the cista mystica, the action of which is magic.

17On the other hand, we do have some elements from the religious life of the Kabirion by which I could suggest an explanation for our procession. And as far as the anecdotal episodes of some part of the picture are concerned, little is left to the imagination.

  • 35 Paus. 9.25,5.

18If only the desire to emphasize could explain the use of a cart in a procession, it maybe combined with practical and (or) religious reasons. Our procession could occur at a sacred event joining the Kabirion to the alsos of the Meter Kabeireia and Kore, mentioned by Pausanias and which is c. 7 stades from the sanctuary.35

  • 36 Georgountzos (supra n. 30), 12-13, lines 13-15.

19Not all the participants wear the branches or a cap. The Andania inscription tells us that the head-dresses can be used to make difference between the participants and that they could be included in a symbolic way: the white pilos was worn by the priest and the priestesses, while the initiated participants wear a stemma, a crown; but when the priests gave the signal, they all change their head-dress for a laurel wreath.36

  • 37 Collignon and Couve (supra n. 2), 353.
  • 38 PhitWoch 47 (24 Nov. 1888), col. 1483; Braun and Haevernick (supra n. 6), 62.
  • 39 On this curious couple, cf. Bruns and Wolters (supra n. 4), 108, n. 3: Herakles auletophoros?

20As far as the head-dress of the Fig. 1 is concerned, it has been described as a Phrygian cap,37 or supposed to be one when the figure has been considered as a Phrygian,38 though it is not wearing the Phrygian dress. On the other hand, we cannot decide whether it is a professional dancer or simply one of the members of the procession excited by the music of the flute-player. The last figure dominates the procession from the shoulders of his companion, as if it were meant that the musical rhythm, which seems to be unrestrained and wild, lead the members of the procession and provoked the rush.39 This frenzy would be due to the Phrygian rhythm expressed by the dancing figure opening the procession.

  • 40 Georgountzos (supra n. 30), 14-15, lines 24-25.
  • 41 From Delos, at the National Museum of Athens, inv. no. 3335.
  • 42 Georgountzos (supra n. 30), 16-17, lines 42-45.

21The woman on the cart could have in her hand a cista, a van, or another mystic object, or more simply the seat cushion, such as the priestess of the Andania procession had on her seat.40 This could explain her attitude, as if she had to get up. With the object in her hand, she seems to try to keep the Fig. 6 away, in a gesture which evokes the famous statue of Aphrodite keeping the goat-legged Pan away.41 The scene would be yet more humorous, if Fig. 6 was an official, a rabdophoros as the stick could suggest, who, according to the Andania inscription, was in charge to keep order among the participants to the procession.42

Notes

1 The vase was first mentioned in: “Von der Reise des A. Furtwängler”, in PhilWocb 47 (24 Nov. 1888) col. 1483; H. Winnefeld, “Das Kabirenheiligtum bei Theben. III. Die Vasenfunde”, AM 13 (1888) 412-428, esp. 422; Prakt 1888, 66-67.

2 M. Collignon and L. Couve, Catalogue des vases peints du Musée national d’Athènes, Athènes 1902, 352-353, no. 1132; as stamnos, R Ghiron-Bistagne, Recherches sur les acteurs dans la Grèce antique, Paris 1976, 223 and Figs. 76-78.

3 Prakt 1888, 66; H. L. Lorimer, “The Country Cart of Ancient Greece”, JHS 23 (1903) 132-151, esp. 137 and Fig. 3; R E. Arias, s.v. Cabirici, vasi, in EAA 2 (1959) 239-241, esp. 240 and Fig. 363.

4 G. Bruns and P. Wolters, Das Kabirenheiligtum bei Theben I, Berlin 1940, 108 (M.6; PI. 33, Fig. 1).

5 Bruns and Wolters (supra n. 4), 105ff.

6 K. Braun and Th. E. Haevernick, Das Kabirenheiligtum bei Theben IV: Bemalte Keramik und Glas, Berlin 1981, 7-9.

7 The breast is not emphasized, and the scholars who have determined the sex of this figure have expressed different opinions, for example Winnefeld (supra η. 1), 422; Lorimer (supra n. 3), 137; E. Pfuhl, Malerei und Zeichnung der Griechen II, Munchen 1923, 717 and Fig. 614; Bruns and Wolters (supra n. 4), 108; Arias (supra n. 3), 240; Braun and Haevernick (supra n. 6), 62 no. 289; A. Schachter, Cults of Boiotia 2 (BICS Suppl. 38:2), London 1986, s.v. Kabiroi, esp. 100, n. 2, a woman; a man, PhilWoch 47 (24 Nov. 1888), col. 1483; Ghiron-Bistagne (supra n. 2), 223.

8 Lorimer (supra n. 3), 137. Also Winnefeld (supra η. 1), 422.

9 Cf. Bruns and Wolters (supra n. 4), 108 with n. 3.

10 For example, M. Bieber, Die Denkmdler zum Theaterwesen im Altertum, Berlin and Leipzig 1920, 153; idem, The History of the Greek and Roman Theater, Princeton 19612 (1971), 48-49; G. Bruns, “Das Kabirenheiligtum bei Theben”, A4 1967, 228-273, esp. 268-273; Ghiron-Bistagne (supra n. 2), 223; É. Lapalus, “Sur le sens des parodies de thèmes héroïques dans la peinture des vases du Cabirion thébain”, RA 32 (1930) 65-88, esp. 86-88; idem, “Vases cabiriques du Musée national d’Athènes”, RA 37 (1935) 8-28, esp. 17-22; Pfuhl (supra n. 7), 715-716, 780; L. Séchan, Etudes sur la tragédie grecque dans ses rapports avec la céramique, Paris 1926, 49-50.

11 Parody of a religious dromenon, Lapalus 1935 (supra n. 10), 17-22, or of a rustic event, Schachter (supra n. 7), 100, n. 2. Cf. Bruns and Wolters (supra n. 4), 108; B. Hemberg, Die Kabiren, Uppsala 1950, 202.

12 As it is asserted in PhitWoch 47 (24 Nov. 1888), col. 1483, Collignon and Couve (supra n. 2), 353; cf. Lapalus 1935 (supra n. 10), 18.

13 On this question, see, for example, Hemberg (supra n. 11), 195-196, 202-203, 352ff; Schachter (supra n. 7), 99 with n. 3 (comments and bibliography), 100.

14 On the “Theban” Kabeiroi see, in general, W Burkert, Greek Religion. Archaic and Classical, Oxford 1985, 281-282; Μ. Ρ Nilsson, Geschichte der griechischen Religion I, Miinchen 19673, 671-672, and esp. Hemberg (supra n. 11), 191-197; Schachter (supra n. 7), 88-96. Cf. also O. Kern, “Die Boiotischen Kabiren”, Hermes 25 (1890) 1-16, chiefly using literary testimonies to emphasize the relationship with orphism.

15 Paus. 9-25,5-6. See N. Papachatzis, Πανσανίον Ελλάδος περιήγησης. 5. Βοιωτικά και φωκικά, Athens 1981, 174 η. 2, 494; Schachter (supra η. 7), 88 with η. 5.

16 PhitWoch 47 (24 Nov. 1888), col. 1483. Cf. Lapalus 1935 (supra n. 10), 19.

17 See Lapalus 1930 (supra n. 10), 65-88, Braun and Havernick (supra n. 6), 26-29. Cf. Schachter (supra n. 7), 99 with n. 2.

18 See also Hemberg (supra n. 11), 202; Schachter (supra n. 7), 100.

19 Lorimer (supra n. 3), 137.

20 Lapalus 1935 (supra n. 10), 17-22, esp. 19, 22.

21 Schachter (supra n. 7), 108.

22 Lapalus 1935 (supra n. 10), 19-20.

23 Ghiron-Bistagne (supra n. 2), 221-223.

24 Paus. 9.3.2-6. On this festival, see F. Frontisi-Ducroux, “La fête béotienne des Daidala”, appendix 2 in Dédale, mythologie de l’artisan en Grèce ancienne, Paris 1975, Appendix 2, 193-216, and M. Rocchi, “Kithairon et les fêtes des Daidala”, Dialogues d’Histoire Ancienne 15: 2 (1989) 309-324, and esp. 315ff. for a bibliography and discussion of previous interpretations.

25 Rocchi (supra η. 24), 323.

26 Paus. 9.3,6; Papachatzis (supra n. 15), 39 n. 3.

27 On marriage in antiquity, see in general C. Vatin, Recherches sur le mariage et la condition de la femme mariée à l’époque hellénistique, Paris 1970.

28 Bruns and Wolters (supra n. 4), 108.

29 Schachter (supra n. 7), 100 with n. 2.

30 IG V (I), 1390. Cf. P.K. Georgountzos, “Τὰμυστήρια τῆς Άνδανίας”, Platon 31 (1979) 3-43 (text of inscription on pp. 12-24).

31 The links between the Boeotian cult and that of Andania should be closer according to Paus. 4.1,7, something which would enforce the parallel made here between iconographie and epigraphic testimonies (the purpose of the present paper). On this question, see in general Hemberg (supra n. 11); Kern (supra n. 14); Schachter (supra n. 7), esp. 105ff. Cf. also i. Loucas, Ρέα-Κυβέλη και οι γονιμικές λατρείες της Φλύας, Athens 1988, 67ff.

32 IG 8, 2420; Bruns and Wolters (supra n. 4), 27, 4. See Hemberg (supra n. 11), 203; Schachter (supra n. 7), 83.

33 M. P. Nilsson, “Die Prozessionstypen im griechischen Kult”,jdt 31 (1916) 309-339, esp. 311.

34 Though they have been represented on other vases, see for example G. van Hoorn, “Kabiros”, BABesch 10: 2 (1935) 1-4. Cf. Hemberg (supra n. 11), 198-199.

35 Paus. 9.25,5.

36 Georgountzos (supra n. 30), 12-13, lines 13-15.

37 Collignon and Couve (supra n. 2), 353.

38 PhitWoch 47 (24 Nov. 1888), col. 1483; Braun and Haevernick (supra n. 6), 62.

39 On this curious couple, cf. Bruns and Wolters (supra n. 4), 108, n. 3: Herakles auletophoros?

40 Georgountzos (supra n. 30), 14-15, lines 24-25.

41 From Delos, at the National Museum of Athens, inv. no. 3335.

42 Georgountzos (supra n. 30), 16-17, lines 42-45.

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