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Sacrifices humains

 | 
Pierre Bonnechere
, 
Renaud Gagné

Gory Details? The Iconography of Human Sacrifice in Greek Art (Plates II-IX)

Joannis Mylonopoulos

Note de l’auteur

I would like to thank Pierre Bonnechere and Renaud Gagné for inviting me to contribute to this volume. The paper profited enormously from the critical remarks of Pierre Bonnechere and Vinciane Pirenne-Delforge. I am very grateful to Irina Oryshkevich for improving my English. I am deeply indebted to my research assistant, SeungJung Kim, who prepared the drawings of the Protoattic krater in Boston (Pl. IVb) and the white-ground lekythos in Palermo (Pl. IIb).

Texte intégral

  • 1 G. Briganti, Pietro da Cortona o della pittura barocca, Firenze, 1962, p. 155-159; J.M. Merz, Pietr (...)
  • 2 D. Posner, “Pietro da Cortona, Pittoni, and the plight of Polyxena,” The Art Bulletin 73.3 (1991), (...)
  • 3 J. Mylonopoulos, “Sacrifice in the arts,” in A. Grafton et al. (eds.), The Classical Tradition, Cam (...)

1In 1625, a twenty-five-year-old Pietro da Cortona established his fame with a monumental painting that transformed the epic story of the Sacrifice of Polyxena (Rome, Pinacoteca Capitolina, 2.17 × 4.19 m).1 Its composition and iconographic details make Polyxena, who stoically awaits her sacrificial death, the center of attention. Polyxena’s “murderer” stands behind her, his arm already raised and about to deliver the fatal blow. The maiden’s uncovered right breast emphasizes her innocence, a visual strategy that Athenian red-figure vase painters had often used when depicting the rape of Kassandra at the altar of Athena. More or less a century later, Giambattista Pittoni painted four different versions of the same subject, one now destroyed (Vicenza, Palazzo Caldogno Tecchio). The paintings in Baltimore (Walters Art Gallery), Los Angeles (J. Paul Getty Museum), and Paris (The Louvre) show the young Trojan princess peacefully—almost ceremoniously—either approaching or already standing near the altar.2 Both da Cortona and Pittoni were inspired by literary versions of the story (probably Euripides and/or Seneca) but certainly not by ancient Greek pictorial versions of this particular narrative.3

  • 4 D. Steuernagel, Menschenopfer und Mord am Altar. Griechische Mythen in etruskischen Gräbern, Wiesba (...)
  • 5 See in general H.P. Foley, Ritual Irony. Poetry and sacrifice in Euripides, Ithaca, 1985; E.A.M.E. (...)
  • 6 D.D. Hughes, Human sacrifice in ancient Greece, London, 1991, p. 73-107; P. Bonnechere, Le Sacrific (...)
  • 7 In general, M. Recke, Gewalt und Leid. Das Bild des Krieges bei den Athenern im 6. und 5. Jh. v. Ch (...)

2 European artists created over ten paintings—these works included— representing the sacrifice of Polyxena in a relatively short span of about one hundred years. In itself this is not exceptional, since seventeenth- and eighteenth-century interest in ancient stories and myths is well documented. Rather puzzling, however, is the fact that nearly one thousand years of Greek art did not apparently produce more than a small number of representations of the sacrifice of the Trojan princess. As far as we can tell, interest in the gory details of human sacrifice remained relatively limited among Greek artists throughout the centuries. Greek myths involving human sacrifice inspired far more Etruscan and Roman artists than Greek sculptors or vase painters.4 This discrepancy results not from a superficial but a much deeper difference between Greek culture and its neighbors. Ancient Greek literature is full of stories of willing or unwilling human sacrifices,5 which, however, seem to have failed to find their way into the Greek pictorial world. Myths related to human sacrifices were likewise frequently used to explain a posteriori rituals or entire festivals,6 but the impact of such important explanatory myths on the visual world of the Greeks too remained limited. Furthermore, Greek imagery did not generally avoid the depiction of violence, even of the most brutal kind.7 All the same, representations of human sacrifice, especially those depicting the bloody details of the actual act were rare.

  • 8 See supra n. 5.
  • 9 Plut., Them. 13.2-5. A. Henrichs, “Human sacrifice in Greek religion: three case studies,” in J. Ru (...)
  • 10 Bonnechere, o.c. (1994, n. 6), p. 85-96; J.N. Bremmer, “Myth and ritual in Greek human sacrifice: L (...)
  • 11 Y. Sakellarakis, “Drama of death in a Minoan temple,” National Geographic 159 (1981), p. 205-222; Y (...)
  • 12 N. Stampolidis, Αντίποινα. Συμβολή στη μελέτη των ηθών και των εθίμων της γεωμετρικής-αρχαϊκής περι (...)
  • 13 For a brief overview of the archaeological evidence, see Hughes, o.c. (n. 6), p. 13-48. See also th (...)

3This paper will not deal with the ways in which ancient Greek authors, such as Euripides dealt with human sacrifices8 or with alleged historical incidents, such as the sacrifice of the three Persians by Themistocles right before the battle at Salamis, described by Plutarch.9 Legendary—but possibly still to be proven— human sacrifices, such as those offered to Zeus Lykaios in Arcadia will also not be considered.10 Archaeological evidence linked to the much debated existence of human sacrifices, such as that from the Minoan sanctuary at Anemospilia11 or from the Geometric/Archaic cemetery at Eleutherna12 will not be discussed either.13 Instead, the paper will concentrate on the few actual representations— mainly on vases—of mythical human sacrifices, in an attempt to shed light on the visual vocabulary of the scenes and the apparent unwillingness of Greek artists to confront their clientele with the gory details of human sacrifice. Finally, scenes that could be understood as a “perverted” form of a sacrificial act, such as the murder of Troilos, the killing of Medea’s children, or the dismemberment of Pentheus will be addressed briefly and placed in the context of human sacrifice.

  • 14 F.T. van Straten, “Ancient Greek animal sacrifice: food, supply, or what? Some thoughts on simple e (...)
  • 15 In a sepulchral context Hughes (o.c. [n. 6], p. 49-70) seems to favor the term “funerary ritual kil (...)
  • 16 C. FONTINOy, “Le sacrifice nuptial de Polyxène,” AC 19 (1950), p. 383-396. J.-P. Vernant, Mythe et (...)
  • 17 For example, H.S. Versnel, “Self-sacrifice, compensation and the anonymous gods,” in Rudhardt – Rev (...)
  • 18 S. Georgoudi, “A propos du sacrifice humain en Grèce ancienne: remarques critiques,” ARG 1 (1999), (...)
  • 19 Wilkins, l.c. (n. 17), p. 182-183; P. Bonnechere, “Le sacrifice grec entre texte et image,” Kernos (...)
  • 20 F.T. van Straten, Hierà Kalá. Images of animal sacrifice in Archaic and Classical Greece, Leiden, 1 (...)

4It is interesting that when it comes to slaying an animal in a ritual context the terminology used in modern research remains relatively constant; the word “sacrifice,” often accompanied by qualitative adjectives is commonly used, though the semantics of animal sacrifice remain rather complex.14 On the contrary, the ritual slaughter of a human being has caused all sorts of terminological problems among modern historians. For example, the killing of the twelve Trojan captives at the pyre of Patroklos has been referred to as “funerary ritual killing,” “ritual revenge,” or “human sacrifice,”15 while the sacrifice of Polyxena has been called a “nuptial sacrifice.”16 Another issue often addressed in scholarship is the notion of self-sacrifice17—occasionally in connection with that of heroism—as an integral part of Greek mentality.18 Indeed, and especially in Athenian tragedy, human sacrifice is usually portrayed as the heroic decision of an individual— often a young woman—to meet death willingly for the sake of the state. Nonetheless, the stages of the ritual described, the language used, and ultimately the mythological background of the stories retold reveal a structural connection to animal sacrifices.19 Furthermore, it should be stressed that even in the context of animal sacrifices the sacrificial victim has to proceed to the altar willingly and grant permission for its own slaughter.20 In a way, this could be regarded as the creature’s self-sacrifice for the state! In this paper, the ritual killing of a human being—whether in a funerary or military context, whether with the subject’s willingness or not—will be addressed as human sacrifice.

  • 21 J. Mylonopoulos, “Greek sanctuaries as places of communication through rituals: an archaeological p (...)
  • 22 Recke, o.c. (n. 7), p. 72-74.
  • 23 K. Schefold, F. Jung, Die Sagen von den Argonauten, von Theben und Troja in der klassischen und hel (...)
  • 24 Obviously, the painter is not at all interested in slavishly reproducing the Homeric details of the (...)

5One of the earliest incidents of human sacrifice in Greek literature appears in the Iliad, in the famous passages on the sacrifice at Patroklos’ pyre of the twelve young Trojans whom Achilles captured at the river Xanthos (Il. 18.334-337; 21.26- 28; 23.22-23, 114-176). Strange as it may seem, this episode never really captured the imagination of Greek artists, even though the funeral games honoring Achilles’ friend already appear on a fragmentary early sixth-century dinos by Sophilos (Athens, National Museum 15499). The vase painter chose to depict a more joyful even heroic part of the narrative: the chariot race that bears associations with the glorious past of Homeric heroes.21 The absence of the sacrifice of the Trojan youths in early Greek imagery is not easily explained by the apparent brutality of the narrative, since the savage mutilation of Hektor’s body, for example, became a popular motif in Athenian vase painting by the 520s though its popularity did not outlive the black-figure technique.22 It was not until ca 330 BCE that a Greek artist, the so-called Dareios painter, turned his attention to the sacrifice of the Trojans (Pl. IIa).23 The funerary pyre of Patroklos occupies the center of the scene on a monumental Apulian volute krater. To the right of the pyre, Achilles is about to cut the throat of a Trojan captive who kneels on the ground with his arms bound behind him as he leans back and looks up towards his “nemesis.” The upward-turned eyebrows and wrinkles on Achilles’ forehead reveal his emotional state. Achilles is shown in a highly dynamic forward motion; he steps on the right leg of the Trojan, while grabbing the captive’s hair with his left hand in order to pull his head back. The fatal blow, however, has not yet been delivered. Behind Achilles, sit three additional Trojan captives awaiting their sacrifice.24 The iconography of the Achilles-Trojan pair points in two interconnected visual and semantic directions, namely to the contexts of the sphagion-sacrifice and the theme of duels.

  • 25 J. Gebauer, Pompe und Thysia. Attische Tieropferdarstellungen auf schwarz- und rotfigurigen Vasen, (...)
  • 26 The W 10 metope of the Parthenon shows the Greek/Athenian warrior stepping on the Amazon, but his p (...)
  • 27 See, for example, the duel between Herakles and Kyknos on a kylix by the Kleophrades painter in Lon (...)
  • 28 A fascinating scene on a red-figure neck amphora in Cambridge (Corpus Christi, XXXX213744, ca 460-4 (...)
  • 29 In literary sources, criminals are occasionally “used” as sacrificial victims, as demonstrated by t (...)
  • 30 Muth, o.c. (n. 7), p. 248-250.

6In the context of the imagery of the sphagion-type sacrifice associated with pre-battle rituals, a soldier is usually shown forcing the sacrificial animal (a ram) to the ground with his knee, while yanking back its head in order to cut its throat.25 Although Achilles is forcing down the Trojan prisoner with his foot rather than his knee, the composition is reminiscent of the iconography of the sphagion-sacrifice. In addition, the interaction between the dominant Achilles and the submissive Trojan recalls the iconography of duels between Greeks and Amazons,26 Herakles and his various opponents,27 and in one interesting example the encounter of Kassandra with Ajax by the statue of Athena.28 In all these cases, which contain an obvious military or at least aggressive background, the dominant party uses his foot to push the weaker one to the ground while grabbing the hair or crown of the victim’s head. Apparently, the Dareios painter used specific visual strategies in order to set the sacrifice of the Trojan youths in a clear military context of male dominance. In addition, the use of one’s foot to push to the ground an adversary frequently appears in images that represent the slaying of a criminal,29 a barbarian, or a monster by a hero or a Greek soldier. Centaurs, Amazons, and Persians are often pushed to the ground before being killed in this way. Interestingly, S. Muth has demonstrated that this motif is rather rarely utilized in duels between two Greek hoplites,30 something that probably emphasizes the negative connotations of the iconographic formula.

  • 31 Steuernagel, o.c. (n. 4), p. 19-28.
  • 32 See also the so-called Cista Révil in London (BM 1884.6-14.35, ca 300 BCE) on which Achilles is for (...)
  • 33 S. Lowenstam, The Trojan War tradition in Greek and Etruscan art, Baltimore, 2008, p. 158-159.
  • 34 Interestingly, a series of Roman seals shows a winged soul (probably of Achilles) sitting on top of (...)
  • 35 Not a flying eidolon is meant here, but a human figure comparable to Patroklos’ figure in the so-ca (...)

7The volute krater of the Dareios painter remains the only occurrence of the sacrifice of the Trojan captives in Greek art, but the tale seems to have been more popular among the Etruscans.31 A magnificent representation of the narrative was found on a wall painting in the tablinum of the so-called François tomb, roughly contemporary with the volute krater of the Dareios painter (ca 350 BCE).32 There are significant discrepancies between the Etruscan wall painting and the Greek vase: the Trojan victim is sitting and not kneeling on the ground; Achilles is bent over his victim while his sword is already cutting his throat; and the ghost of Patroklos is witnessing the sacrifice. Although the dynamic and dominant posture of Achilles does not occur in the Etruscan image, the explicitness of the actual killing of the Trojan prisoner is represented in the wall painting while being left to the viewer’s imagination in the case of the Greek volute krater. Following an earlier interpretation by F. Hauser, S. Lowenstam suggested that the presence of Patroklos’ ghost in the Etruscan scene offers moral justification for the sacrifice of the Trojans, while his absence on the volute krater underscores Achilles’ savagery.33 Although Patroklos’ ghost enriches the Etruscan wall painting’s semantic texture, it certainly adds no further justification for human sacrifice.34 There is no hint in the epic tradition that Patroklos or his ghost ever asked for the sacrifice of the Trojan youths. The reason for the death of the Trojan captives at Patroklos’ pyre is well known with or without the presence of his ghost. Besides, the centrality and emphasis of the funeral pyre on the Greek volute krater makes the additional presence of the ghost redundant.35

  • 36 L. Séchan, “Le sacrifice d’Iphigénie,” REG 44 (1931), p. 368-426 offers a helpful overview of early (...)
  • 37 For example, T.J. Hooker, “The sacrifice of Iphigeneia in the Agamemnon,” Agon 2 (1968), p. 59-65; (...)
  • 38 Bonnechere, o.c. (1994, n. 6), p. 26-48. Recently, G. Ekroth, “Inventing Iphigeneia? On Euripides a (...)
  • 39 Henrichs, l.c. (n. 9), p. 199-201; Bonnechere, o.c. (1994, n. 6), p. 39-42.
  • 40 A. Cambitoglou, “Iphigeneia in Tauris. The question of the influence of the Euripidean play in the (...)

8 Iphigeneia and her sacrifice before the Greeks sailed for Troy has fascinated scholars for quite some time.36 Both Euripides’ handling of the topic in his tragedies37 and the ways in which the mythological narratives surrounding Iphigeneia and her real or alleged sacrifice may shed light on several rituals of passage for young maidens particularly in Attica38 have especially attracted the attention of numerous classicists. As early as the first half of the seventh century, literary sources such as the Kypria refer to the sacrifice of Iphigeneia and her subsequent substitution with a hind. Soon afterwards, a further version of the myth appears in the Hesiodic work, in which Iphigeneia is transformed into Hekate and replaced at the altar by an eidolon.39 Of course, we cannot be sure about the exact number of different versions of the same—in its core—mythological narrative in the seventh and sixth centuries BCE. It seems almost certain, however, that it was the Euripidean works that started the Greek and later Roman obsession with Iphigeneia and her fate. Nonetheless, despite at least two major tragic works that have Iphigeneia as their protagonist—Iphigeneia in Tauris and Iphigeneia in Aulis—her presence in late-fifth and fourth-century art is scant. In most cases, artists seem more interested in the famous scenes in Iphigeneia in Tauris in which Iphigeneia, the priestess of Artemis in Tauris, recognizes her own brother Orestes in the sacrificial victim for the “barbaric” goddess and later escapes with him.40

  • 41 C. Marconi, “Iphigeneia a Selinunte,” Prospettiva 75/76 (1994), p. 50-54.
  • 42 F. Jouan, “Autour du sacrifice d’Iphigénie,” in Texte et image. Actes du colloque international de (...)

9All the same, the narrative of Iphigeneia’s sacrifice rarely drew the attention of vase painters. An early-fifth-century white-ground lekythos by Douris found in the sanctuary of Demeter Malophoros in Selinus represents one of the oldest securely identifiable representations of the topic (Pl. IIb).41 It is perhaps important that the scene of the imminent death (and salvation) of Iphigeneia decorates a funerary vase, which, at least in its original function, was intended as a funerary offering in a grave though it ended up as a votive offering in a Selinuntine sanctuary. In the center of the fragmentary scene, a warrior identified by an inscription as Teukros guides Iphigeneia, likewise identified by an inscription and dressed in luxurious nuptial garments, to an altar. The gesture of Iphigeneia follows the well-known anakalypsis motif and underscores the heroine’s nuptial dress. A palm tree functions as a signifier for the Artemisian context of the entire narrative. Behind Iphigeneia, an additional Greek warrior complements the composition. Should this figure be identified with Achilles, the hero whom Iphigeneia allegedly came to marry in Aulis? Although there are no distinct iconographic elements to support the identification of the third figure as Achilles, his presence in a scene full of nuptial imagery makes perfectly good sense. Teukros’ face has satyr-like features, but it is unclear whether or not Douris did this to emphasize the deceitful nature of the scene. F. Jouan recognizes here a rendering of the voluntary sacrifice of Iphigeneia, which predates the relevant passage in the Euripidean Iphigeneia in Aulis.42 The visual evidence shows that both artists, such as Douris and writers, such as Euripides drew their inspiration entirely or partly from pre-existing oral or lost written versions of the myth.

  • 43 Recke, o.c. (n. 7), p. 31-41; S. Ritter, “Eros und Gewalt. Menelaos und Helena in der attischen Vas (...)
  • 44 Marconi, l.c. (n. 41), p. 52.

10The composition of Iphigeneia and Teukros recalls the popular scene of Menelaos guiding Helena out of Troy,43 and thus emphasizes the notion of a wedding ceremony turned into a human sacrifice that informs the mythological narratives of Iphigeneia’s death/transformation/substitution. C. Marconi is correct in asking why it is Teukros and not Achilles, the alleged groom, who guides the maiden to the altar.44 If the figure behind Iphigeneia is indeed Achilles, then Douris could be making a visual comment on the hero’s utter ignorance of his role in bringing the maiden to Aulis. The innocent hero is not the one to lead Iphigeneia to her death; instead, the one hero who will nearly kill Hektor (Il. 15.458-465) before Achilles finishes the task is replacing him.

  • 45 Kahil, l.c. (n. 40), p. 191.

11Far less voluntary appears Iphigeneia’s presence on a red-figure Athenian oinochoe from ca 430-420 BCE in Kiel (Pl. IIIa).45 Four figures fill the scene around a low stone altar. To the right of the altar a male figure, a warrior, grabs the waist of a much smaller, young female figure. The maiden opens her arms in a gesture of despair and powerlessness. At the altar, a second warrior is waiting with the sacrificial knife in his left hand. As the signifier of the scene’s meaning and happy outcome, Artemis stands at the far left corner of the scene with a miniature hind resting on her outstretched left arm. Despite the inherent violence of the scene, Artemis’ presence anticipates the final substitution of the girl with the animal. Nonetheless, this is not the rather ceremonious accompaniment of Iphigeneia to the altar, as on the lekythos by Douris, but the violent coercion of an unwilling maiden at the altar. One may hypothesize that the male figure in the center of the composition is Agamemnon, while Teukros—if we follow Douris’ interpretation of the story—is bringing Iphigeneia to the altar. To my best knowledge there are no exact parallels to this violent gesture towards a female victimized figure by a male dominant one. Usually young maiden and women are chased, forced to the ground, or transported on a shoulder, but not forcefully pushed with arms and body.

  • 46 J.R. Green, E. Handley, Images of the Greek theatre, London, 1995, p. 47.
  • 47 Taplin, o.c. (n. 40), p. 159-160.
  • 48 Taplin, o.c. (n. 40), p. 160.

12The significant moment of the substitution of Iphigeneia with a hind— visually only indicated on the oinochoe in Kiel, and present in the literary tradition already since the Kypria—is represented only once on an Apulian volute krater of the mid-fourth century (Pl. IIIb). According to J.R. Green and E. Handley this image may have been inspired by the Euripidean Iphigeneia in Aulis,46 though O. Taplin is more skeptical and prefers to speak cautiously of “a version” of the tragedy that “was not the version that has come down to us.”47 An altar in the center of the scene immediately signifies the site and the sacrificial context. Iphigeneia approaches the altar at her own volition; by it, an older man is already raising his right hand with the sacrificial knife, while holding a scepter in his left. In an ingenious way, the vase painter visualizes the very moment of Iphigeneia’s substitution through a hind, which is shown behind and partly covered by her. The painter was eager to depict the brief moment when both Iphigeneia and the animal are present; in the next second the hind will lie sacrificed on the altar, while Artemis will rescue Iphigeneia, and they will both leave the scene. Behind and placed higher than Iphigeneia, Artemis watches over the scene. On the other side of the altar, a seated Apollon with a laurel branch complements the figure of Artemis. Below, an unidentified figure stands near the altar holding a sacrificial tray. Behind him a female figure looks towards the central scene; her posture—one hand on her hip, the other raised in an uneasy gesture—expresses anger, so that we may identify her as Klytaimnestra, Iphigeneia’s mother, already contemplating revenge. Due to the scepter, Taplin identifies the male figure about to perform the sacrificial ritual as Agamemnon.48 A scepter, however, is neither an exclusively kingly nor priestly attribute, so the figure could be Kalchas after all.

  • 49 A reliable collection of the relevant literary sources can be found in P. Bruneau, “Phrixos et Hell (...)
  • 50 There is, however, a Nolan amphora (Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale Stg. 270) by the painter o (...)
  • 51 T. Morard, Horizontalité et verticalité. Le bandeau humain et le bandeau divin chez le Peintre de D (...)
  • 52 L. Giuliani, Tragik, Trauer und Trost. Bildervasen für eine apulische Totenfeier, Hannover, 1995, p (...)
  • 53 Based on the existence of these objects, Giuliani (ibid., p. 27) suggests that the action takes pla (...)

13The story evolving around Phrixos and Helle, the children of Athamas and Nephele, represents a further attempted human sacrifice that could be prevented thanks to divine intervention.49 At least once, the sacrifice per se and not the dramatic rescue of the children attracted the attention of vase painters.50 The so-called Dareios painter who showed interest in the rendering of the sacrifice of the Trojan youths at Patroklos’ pyre is also the one to decorate a large volute krater (Berlin, Staatliche Museen 1984.41) with the representation of the intense moments at the altar shortly before Phrixos and Helle escape death on the back of the ram with the golden fleece (Pl. IVa). The lower frieze of the vase’s face A focuses on the action at the altar and consists of eight human figures.51 The central group shows Phrixos holding the ram, while Athamas is standing opposite his son with a machaira in his right hand placed far too close to his son’s neck. In his right hand, he holds a scepter crowned by a bird, which identifies him both as a king and a priestly officer. Interestingly, both Phrixos and the ram bear bands on their heads that are usually worn by sacrificial victims. To the far left, the personification of ritual silence during sacrifice (εὐφημία) is an additional clear indication of the frame.52 Directly under the human figures, a number of cult paraphernalia, including an omphalos cup, a bucranium, and a tripod, emphasize the ritual context.53

  • 54 Giuliani, o.c. (n. 52), p. 27 and 88-89.
  • 55 Taplin, o.c. (n. 40), p. 215 suggests that the absence of Dionysos from the divine assembly indicat (...)

14There are strong connections to the divine assembly in the upper zone.54 Here, zeus holding a scepter almost identical to the one that Athamas holds represents the divinity which had allegedly demanded the human sacrifice. Next to him and centrally placed sits Athena who, however, has no obvious association with the narrative. Next to her, the painter situated Apollon, the god whose falsified oracular response led to the attempted human sacrifice. To the far left, Nephele and Hermes stand looking at each other. The mother of the children in danger and the god who would eventually help them escape by giving the ram with the golden fleece to Nephele are visual signifiers of the happy ending of the story—at least until Helle’s drowning. To the far right, stand Pan and Artemis whose exact role is unclear.55

  • 56 One, of course, might ask why Phrixos did not sacrifice the ram to Hermes, the god who helped him e (...)

15Despite the similarities between the Iphigeneia and the Phrixos-and-Helle stories both in terms of their narratives and the modes of their respective visualizations, there is a significant discrepancy: at the end of the Phrixos-and-Helle sacrificial episode, there is actually no sacrifice at all. At the altar, there is no replacement through an animal like in the case of Iphigeneia. The quasi-magical ram represents the means of rescue and will be only later and in a different spatial context sacrificed to Zeus as a sign of gratitude.56 Compared to the Iphigeneia narrative, the demand for the sacrifice of Phrixos and Helle does not originate in the will of a divine being, and, thus, not even a replacement for the human victim is required. The end of the story with its negation of any sacrificial action, however, is not really anticipated in the image that the Dareios painter created. With the inclusion of Euphemia, the numerous cult paraphernalia, and the divine assembly, the artist constructed a “true” image of sacrificial reality.

  • 57 Recke, o.c. (n. 7), p. 41-50.
  • 58 A. Cambitoglou, “Troilos pursued by Achilles,” in J.H. Betts (ed.), Studies in honour of T.B.L. Web (...)
  • 59 K. Schefold, Götter- und Heldensagen der Griechen in der früh- und hocharchaischen Kunst, München, (...)
  • 60 Schefold, o.c. (n. 59), p. 306-308. Here, I will not enter the discussion on the center of producti (...)

16Neither Iphigeneia nor Phrixos or Helle end up being sacrificial victims, this is the fate of another young person, Polyxena. Compared to Iphigeneia, Polyxena is clearly a far less important figure in Athenian literature. However, she appears much more frequently on Athenian vases as either a supporting figure in scenes such as the murder of Priamos57 or as part of the narrative of Troilos’ ambush and subsequent chase by Achilles.58 The latter episode is regarded as the beginning of Polyxena’s violent death, since this is when Achilles encounters her for the first time. A small Corinthian aryballos by Timonidas (Athens, NM 277, ca 600-580 BCE) bears one of the earliest and certainly most detailed representations of the ambush.59 The composition contains all the features that eventually became typical for the Athenian visual versions of the episode: Achilles hides behind the fountain; Polyxena is situated before her brother, while Troilos appears with two horses. With respect to the slightly later Athenian representations, an important difference is that Troilos is not represented as a young beardless boy, but as a bearded man. The earliest Athenian representations of the ambush appear on the so-called Tyrrhenian amphorae.60 The chase episode is also very popular with black- and red-figure vase painters. In black-figure vase painting, Achilles is shown chasing Troilos who tries to flee with his two horses as Polyxena runs away before him. In several instances, the scene is enhanced by the inclusion of additional fleeing figures.

  • 61 J.-L. Durand, F. Lissarrague, “Mourir à l’autel. Remarques sur l’imagerie du sacrifice humain dans (...)
  • 62 O. TOuchefeu-MEynier, “Polyxène,” LIMC VII.1 (1994), p. 431. Fontinoy, l.c. (n. 16) offers an excel (...)
  • 63 M. Robertson, “Troilos and Polyxene. Notes on a changing legend,” in J.-P. Descoeudres (ed.), Eumou (...)
  • 64 G. Schwarz, “Der Tod und das Mädchen. Frühe Polyxena-Bilder,” MDAI (A) 116 (2001), p. 41-43 pl. 10. (...)

17In comparison with the ambush or chase episodes, Polyxena’s sacrifice represents a far less prominent subject.61 It correlates with the admittedly secondary position of her legend in literary sources. The Trojan princess is completely absent in the Iliad and the Odyssey, while in the Kypria, Odysseus and Diomedes fatally wound her, and later, Neoptolemos takes care of her burial. The sacrifice of Polyxena was certainly part of the narrative of the epic poem Ilioupersis by the Milesian Arktinos, while Archaic lyricists were also aware of the myths related to the maiden’s violent death at the grave of Achilles.62 In Greek imagery, only a few examples can be securely identified as representations of the Trojan princess’ sacrifice.63 A further scene previously associated with the sacrifice of Iphigeneia may also be added to the group. Recently, G. Schwarz suggested that the female figure in metope 13 of the famous relief pithos from Mykonos displaying scenes from the Fall of Troy should be identified as Polyxena. The hands of the figure that are bound together on her chest allow her to be identified as a woman, most probably Polyxena, about to be executed / sacrificed.64

  • 65 E. Vermeule, S. Chapman, “A Protoattic human sacrifice?” AJA 75 (1971), p. 285-293.
  • 66 Vermeule–Chapman, l.c. (n. 65), p. 291-292.
  • 67 SChwarz, l.c. (n. 64), p. 39-41.

18 Fragments of a large mid-seventh-century Protoattic krater attributed to the painter of the New york Nessos amphora contain the remains of a scene in which several men carry a young woman on her back (Pl. IVb).65 Parts of only five figures are preserved. At the far right, three men are represented walking. Only the outline of the lower left leg of the first male figure is preserved. The third man is nearly intact, and his iconography reveals that we are dealing with unarmed, young, beardless men in short chitons. The men are carrying a female figure whose lower part is covered by an embroidered skirt while her feet (pointing upwards) are preserved. On the back of the vase stands a male figure surrounded by palmettes. This bearded man is shown moving dynamically away from the scene described above, although his head is turned towards the group of youthful men who carry the female figure. In the first publication of the fragments, E. Vermeule and S. Chapman suggested that the scene depicts the sacrifice of Iphigeneia rather than Polyxena, because the young men are not portrayed as warriors, as on the amphora by the Timiades painter (Pl. V). In addition, the Timiades painter shows Polyxena facing down, while the placement of the feet demonstrate that the artist of the Protoattic krater had the female figure facing the sky.66 However, in this respect, the scene on the krater seems visually to anticipate the way in which the victim is held on the so-called Polyxena-sarcophagus (Pl. VI). Both the amphora by the Timiades painter (Pl. V) and the so-called Polyxena sarcophagus (Pl. VI) offer excellent parallels to the iconography of violence in Polyxena’s sacrifice. Furthermore, the existing visual evidence strongly suggests that Iphigeneia’s alleged death was never imagined in this form. The forceful pushing of Iphigeneia towards the altar on the oinochoe in Kiel (Pl. IIIa) cannot be compared to the brutality of the scene on the amphora by the Timiades painter. Following G. Schwartz’s convincing arguments, the scene on the fragments of the Protoattic krater should be recognized as the earliest known depiction of Polyxena’s sacrifice in an iconographic scheme that was to be followed in at least two further cases.67

  • 68 H.B. Walters, “On some black-figured vases recently acquired by the British Museum,” JHS 18 (1898), (...)
  • 69 Although I disagree with the main thesis of K. Topper’s article ( “Maidens, fillies, and the death (...)
  • 70 According to J.B. Connelly, “Parthenon and parthenoi: a mythological interpretation of the Partheno (...)
  • 71 See, for example, the late-fifth-century relief in the Archaeological Museum of Chalkis, van Strate (...)

19Besides the fragments of the Protoattic krater, so far only one additional vase, a so-called Tyrrhenian amphora by the Timiades painter produced in Athens but found in Etruria, shows the sacrifice of Polyxena in its entirety and full brutality (Pl. V).68 Three Greek warriors identified by inscriptions as Amphilochos, Antiphates, and Ajax the Lesser hold the defenseless victim above the miniaturized tumulus of Achilles, atop which rests an altar with its fire already burning. A fourth warrior, Neoptolemos, forces Polyxena’s head back and pushes his sword into her neck.69 His posture is energetic and dynamic since he is depicted as if he were running. The streams of blood that fall on the tumulus—while avoiding the fire on the altar—emphasize the brutality of the scene. The central group is framed by two figures on the left, Diomedes and Nestor, who look towards the sacrifice, and one figure on the right, Phoenix, who looks away. The structure of the scene expresses acceptance and rejection of the human sacrifice within one composition.70 The iconography and the explicit depiction of the slaying recall depictions of a highly specific sacrificial ritual: the killing of an animal (usually a ram) before battle, the only instance in which the actual slaughter of the sacrificial animal is depicted in art so far.71

  • 72 vanStraten, o.c. (n. 20), p. 219 (V141) fig. 115; Bonnechere, l.c. (1998, n. 19), p. 387.
  • 73 B. KNittlmayer, Die attische Aristokratie und ihre Helden. Untersuchungen zu Darstellungen des troj (...)

20Interestingly enough, a compositionally similar scene is depicted on an Athenian black-figure amphora in Viterbo (Museo Archeologico Nazionale della Rocca Albornoz, ca 550 BCE). Here, seven naked bearded men lift a bull on their shoulders, while a man in a short chiton stands beneath the raised animal and cuts its throat.72 The seven men are looking in different directions, indicating that no actual movement takes place; it is the motif of the raising of the sacrificial victim that is important, not the ritual movement. The same applies to the scene on the amphora by the Timiades painter, in which the three warriors do not carry the victim to the altar, but rather raise it over it, so that the blood can run down into Achilles’ tumulus. The Timiades painter was apparently one of those early-sixth-century artists with a keen interest in the twisted artistic quality of the atrocities of war and a special penchant for the brutal deaths of Priamos’ young children, since on another Tyrrhenian amphora in Munich (Staatliche Antikensammlungen 1426), he painted a horrific version of Troilos’ death. In it, the mutilated body of the boy lies on the ground partly covered by the altar of Apollon Thymbraios, while the head of Achilles’ spear is lodged in Troilos’ severed head.73 In my view, it is as if the Greek hero were using Troilos’ head as an apotropaic device, a perverted form of Athena’s gorgoneion, against the four Trojan warriors who attack him from the left.

  • 74 N. Sevinç, “A new sarcophagus of Polyxena from the salvage excavations at Gümüsçay,” Studia Troica  (...)
  • 75 F. von Duhn, “zur Deutung des klazomenischen Sarkophags in Leiden,” JDAI 28 (1913), p. 272-273; R.M (...)

21In 1994, a spectacular find in a tumulus at Gümüsçay, near the ancient battlefield by the river Granicus, contributed a monumental piece of evidence regarding the visualization of Polyxena’s brutal fate to the relatively small group of objects decorated with her myth. The find consisted of a late Archaic sarcophagus (Çanakkale, Archaeological Museum, ca 520-500 BCE), whose one long side was lavishly decorated with a multi-figural version of Polyxena’s sacrifice (Pl. VI).74 The sarcophagus represents the earliest known example from Asia Minor made of stone and decorated with reliefs. The use of the Polyxena-sacrifice myth on a large object with a primarily funerary function is not unique, however, since a fragmentary so-called Clazomenian sarcophagus in Leiden (Rijksmuseum I.1896-12.1) also bears a scene that has been convincingly identified as the sacrifice of Polyxena.75

  • 76 Steuernagel, o.c. (n. 4), p. 169.
  • 77 Sevinç, l.c. (n. 74), p. 260.
  • 78 I follow here C. Reinsberg ( “Der Polyxena-Sarkophag in Çanakkale,” in R. Bol, D. Kreikenbom (eds.) (...)

22The twelve figures on the long side that represents the scene of Polyxena’s death are arranged in two groups; one group is shown performing the sacrifice, while the other group is mourning the death of the young maiden (Pl. VIa). The grieving group consists of seven figures, three male and four female. The men with their long garments are easily identifiable as Orientals, and thus as Trojans; their gestures also represent oriental ways of mourning.76 The group sacrificing Polyxena is composed of five figures including Polyxena herself (Pl. VIb). Three of them are carrying Polyxena horizontally and keeping a tight hold on her body in order to prevent her from moving during the actual slaughter. The fourth male figure is grabbing her hair and pushing her head down as he forces his dagger into her neck. Solely based on the evidence of the Timiades amphora, one could identify the male figures holding Polyxena as Ajax the Lesser, Antiphates, and Amphilochos, although there is no reference in the preserved literary sources that these three heroes were indeed the “sacrificial assistants” of Neoptolemos. The figure performing the sacrifice is, of course, Neoptolemos. The killing takes place before the tumulus of Achilles, Neoptolemos’ father. The sacrificial scene continues along the short side of the sarcophagus, where the tumulus actually ends. Here, three women also mourn the death of Polyxena. In this group, the first figure crouching on the ground is of special interest: the wrinkles around her eye characterize her as an older woman, perhaps Hekabe, Polyxena’s mother.77 The other two sides of the sarcophagus are decorated with scenes associated with the female world; friends or female family members adorn a bride-to-be. A second group of figures can be associated with important rituals in the life of a maiden; two musicians play the aulos and the kithara and accompany four female dancers dressed as warriors, a female dancer playing the castanets, and three members of a choir. The other short side of the sarcophagus shows two women in discussion on a bed, framed by one female figure on the left and two on the right.78

  • 79 Already captured by Exekias in his famous amphora in London (BM B 210), which predates the sarcopha (...)
  • 80 R. von den Hoff, “‘Achill, das Vieh’? Zur Problematisierung transgressiver Gewalt in klassischen Va (...)

23The part of the composition dealing explicitly with the sacrifice (Pl. VIb) reminds us of the scene on the Timiades amphora (Pl. V). There are some minor discrepancies, however, for the Greek warriors lack helmets, and Polyxena is held with her face up. This is thus comparable to the way she must have been depicted on the Protoattic krater (Pl. IVb). Her position adds enormously to the intimacy of the scene, since she and her murderer can look in each other’s eyes. In my view, this is a very conscious decision on the part of the artist, who through this meta-narrative demands the viewer to recall a famous incident in the vita of Neoptolemos’ father: the slaying of the Amazon Penthesileia by Achilles while the two gaze into each other’s eyes and fall in love.79 Visual ambivalence with respect to the iconography of Neoptolemos and his distinction from his father Achilles has been something vase painters occasionally would experiment with.80 For example, a red-figure amphora by the Alkimachos painter (Madrid, Museo Arquelogico Nacional L 178) presents a Greek warrior dragging a male child by its hair. Due to the lack of accompanying inscriptions, the scene can be equally convincingly associated either with Neoptolemos and Astyanax or with Achilles and Troilos.

  • 81 N. Sevinç et al., “A new painted Graeco-Persian sarcophagus from Çan,” Studia Troica 11 (2001), p.  (...)
  • 82 In a lecture entitled “The Polyxena Sarcophagus from Ilion,” delivered at the conference “The Sarco (...)
  • 83 K. Geppert, “überlegungen zum Polyxena-Sarkophag im Museum von Çanakkale,” in N. Kreutz, B. Schweiz (...)

24In many respects the interpretation of the sarcophagus’ relief program depends on whether it was intended for a male or female burial. The skeletal remains of a 40-year-old male are indeed associated with the sarcophagus.81 Nonetheless, the iconography of the relief decoration is emphatically female,82 and should therefore be associated in its original conception and production with the burial of a female member of the local nobility. The bridal scenes identify her as a bride-to-be (probably a young woman who died unmarried), a person whose tragic death at a young age was to be commemorated by the decision to represent the sacrifice of another (mythical) virgin, Polyxena, on her sarcophagus. In this context, it is interesting to note that parts of the sarcophagus remained unfinished,83 a fact that indicates that the completion of a work of this unusual quality had to be expedited. Although it cannot be proven, one could hypothesize that the sarcophagus was originally destined for a dying female, but at the end was used for an important male member of the same family who died unexpectedly.

  • 84 Touchefeu-Meynier, l.c. (n. 62), p. 433 no. 22.
  • 85 Recke, o.c. (n. 7), p. 31-41.
  • 86 Touchefeu-Meynier, l.c. (n. 62), p. 433 no. 24.
  • 87 Durand – Lissarrague, l.c. (n. 61), p. 98 made the excellent observation that Polyxena’s fatal fate (...)

25A black-figure hydria attributed to a painter of the so-called Leagros group represents one of the last examples (Berlin, Staatliche Museen F 1902, ca 500 BCE)84 that mark the end of the violent versions of Polyxena’s sacrifice. Although no inscriptions accompany the figures of the scene on the main decorative zone, the iconography can be explained only in the context of Polyxena’s sacrifice. The composition is structured into two subgroups. To the right, two fully armed Greek warriors stand opposite a group of four horses, while an additional warrior seems to emerge from the vertical frame of the scene (Pl. VIIa). One could associate the three warriors with those identified by name on the amphora by the Timiades painter. To the left, a fourth warrior, Neoptolemos, is leading the weeping figure of Polyxena to the high tumulus of Achilles (Pl. VIIb). With his right hand, Neoptolemos grabs her right hand. In his left hand, he holds a spear, and not the sword with which he will sacrifice her. While Neoptolemos looks back towards Polyxena, the young woman looks to the ground. A snake depicted on the white tumulus functions as a clear signifier of the chthonic connotations of the scene. Above the tumulus, the armed eidolon of Achilles flies towards Neoptolemos. Although the figure of Polyxena overlaps one of the Greek warriors, there are no clear signs of communication between the two groups, which seem oddly dissociated. The motif of the victim who is led almost ceremoniously and not forced to her death reminds us of the white-ground lekythos by Douris (Pl. IIb), the countless scenes of Menelaos leading Helena or anonymous warriors leading nameless women by the hand.85 The same motif appears slightly later on a kylix attributed to Makron (Paris, Louvre G 153, ca 490/80 BCE) (Pl. VIIIa),86 on which Neoptolemos and Polyxena are identified with inscriptions. Here, the scene is much more emotional, for Polyxena is not simply looking down, but back in despair at a bearded male figure. In addition, Neoptolemos already holds the sacrificial instrument, the sword, and assumes a more intense and dynamic movement towards the grave of his father.87

  • 88 See, however, a late black-figure Campanian amphora in London (BM B 70), which apparently preserves (...)
  • 89 Strangely enough, O. Touchefeu-Meunier (l.c. [n. 62], p. 433) associates the painting in Athens wit (...)
  • 90 Moret, o.c. (n. 88), p. 64 pl. 28.1.
  • 91 Moret, o.c. (n. 88), p. 64-65 pl. 28.2.
  • 92 Touchefeu-Meynier, l.c. (n. 62), p. 434 nos. 27-31. No. 27, a relief bowl from Kephallonia, reintro (...)

26After around 480 BCE, evidence of the representations of Polyxena’s sacrifice becomes problematic.88 Pausanias claims to have seen a monumental painting in the Pinakothek on the Athenian Acropolis (1.22.6) and in Pergamon (10.25.10). These were probably of the sort that belonged to the rather peaceful versions of the scene with Polyxena standing near Achilles’ tumulus rather than about to be brutally killed.89 A Campanian hydria by the Caivano painter (Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale) shows Polyxena with her hands tight behind her back and sitting on the ground in front of an Ionic column marking Achilles’ grave. Neoptolemos with his hand on his sword is standing behind her.90 Only Polyxena’s facial expression and her upwards-turned head are clear indications of the brutal action about to take place. A Paestan amphora by the painter of Naples 1778 bears a similarly structured scene, aside from the fact that Neoptolemos and Polyxena are instead shown facing each other (Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale H 1779).91 The Anthologia Palatina and Libanios refer to lost sculptural (Hellenistic?) groups that depicted Neoptolemos sacrificing Polyxena, while in the mid-first century BCE the theme re-appears miniaturized on relief bowls.92

  • 93 G. Schwarz, “Achill und Polyxena in der römischen Kaiserzeit,” RhM 99 (1992), p. 296-298.
  • 94 Morricone-Matini, l.c. (n. 3), p. 226-230 fig. 2-11.

27In the Roman Imperial period, Polyxena’s sacrifice experiences a true renaissance, especially in the context of glyptic. Miniature scenes on seal rings reveal a slightly different, in a way more intimate encounter between Polyxena and Neoptolemos that probably reflects literary traditions different from the Homeric ones.93 Polyxena is often represented with exposed breasts seated on a shield that lies on the ground. Behind her stands the heroically nude Neoptolemos with the sacrificial knife in his (usually left) hand, which Polyxena grabs in a last attempt to beg for mercy. In the background, Achilles’ elaborate grave monument offers a clear spatial context.94 Interestingly, these scenes are reminiscent of the Campanian hydria by the Caivano painter discussed above.

  • 95 Here, one should also add the attempted sacrifice of Phrixos, even if zeus never demanded it.
  • 96 Vondenhoff, l.c. (n. 80), p. 231 with fn. 26.

28The myths and their respective renderings in art discussed here so far represent human sacrifices either demanded by a divinity (Iphigeneia),95 the ghost of a Greek hero (Polyxena), or promised to a dead friend as a supreme funerary honor (Trojan captives). A number of mythological narratives, however, do not immediately fall into the realm of human sacrifice, but their translations into images occasionally create interesting visual parallels to human sacrifices. In most cases, the wrongful killing is highly emphasized by the addition of religious connotations that turn the entire scene into a somewhat perverted form of human sacrifice. Admittedly, the savage murder of the boy Troilos represents one of these anticlimactic moments in the arête of Achilles. A number of black-figure vases reveal great interest in the gory details of the murder, since the decapitated body of Troilos is often shown lying on the ground, while Achilles finds all sorts of twisted ways of using the boy’s head. The spatial frame of the murder is known, but the inclusion of the altar of Apollon Thymbraios is usually a strong indication of Achilles’ sacrilegious act. In my view, however, a red-figure kylix by Onesimos (Perugia, Museo Archeologico 89) goes much further semantically, and visually transforms the murder into a perverted human sacrifice. On the exterior of the kylix, Achilles is shown dragging Troilos to an altar, which can be identified as belonging to Apollon by the Delphic tripod and the Delian palm tree. Represented on the other side of the same vase, is an apparently generic scene: two Greek soldiers arm themselves as young boys, who iconographically closely resemble Troilos, assist them. The tondo presents Achilles committing the murder at the altar; he grabs the boy’s hair, forces back Troilos’ head, and is about to deliver the fatal blow with his sword. The sequence of his actions is indeed comparable to what Neoptolemos does in the context of Polyxena’s sacrifice. R. von den Hoff is skeptical about the sacrificial connotations of the scene.96 In my view, it is not of importance whether Achilles meant to perform a sacrifice or not, but rather that the artist chose to associate the murder with human sacrifices visually. The fact that Troilos stands unwillingly at the altar is also not so important, since the imagery of Polyxena’s or Iphigeneia’s sacrifice occasionaly show an equally unwilling victim.

  • 97 Taplin, o.c. (n. 40), p. 123, 255-257.
  • 98 Taplin, o.c. (n. 40), also sees a clear connection between the image and the semantic implication o (...)

29The representation of the murder of Medea’s children on a Lucanian calyx krater in Cleveland (Museum of Art 1991.1) and an Apulian volute krater in Munich (Staatliche Antikensammlungen 3296) can be seen in a similar context.97 On the Lucanian vase, both children lie already dead as if displayed on the altar.98 The image on the Apulian krater is more explicit (Pl. VIIIb); one of the boys is standing on an altar with outstretched arms in a gesture of supplication, which reminds us of Iphigeneia’s posture on the oinochoe in Kiel (Pl. IIIa). Like Achilles or Neoptolemos, Medea grabs the hair of the child, pulls its head back, and is about to use her sword against her “sacrificial” victim. The strategic position of personified frenzy, Oistros, before the child on the altar creates the illusion that a human sacrifice is about to be performed in his honor. And what but a perverted sacrifice is the atrocious dismemberment of Pentheus on the kylix by Douris in Fort Worth (Kimbell Art Museum), when parts of his body are presented to the seated Dionysos as if they were sacrificial meat? (Pl. IXa)

  • 99 Durand – Lissarrague, l.c. (n. 61), p. 85-91. V. Mehl ( “La norme sacrificielle en images: une rele (...)
  • 100 van Straten, o.c. (n. 20), p. 46-49; V. Brinkmann, “Herakles tötet den ägyptischen König Busiris,” (...)

30There is a particular set of images whose twisted sacrificial connotations do not need to be debated: the murder of the Egyptian king Bousiris by Herakles.99 Following an oracle, Bousiris sacrificed foreigners until Herakles reversed the sacrificial process and killed the Egyptian Pharaoh, his son, and all their followers at the altar. Although Bousiris’ murder takes place within the context of an intended human sacrifice, it is not per se a sacrifice. A red-figure kalpis in Munich (Staatliche Antikensammlungen 2428, ca 480 BCE) by the Troilos painter demonstrates an interesting visual conflation of animal and human sacrifice in the ritual paraphernalia used. On it, an enraged Herakles is about to kill a kanephoros on the altar, as an obeloi-bearing helper on the left of the altar flees the scene, and a hydriaphoros on its right runs away. Even if the hydria and the kanoun can be explained in some way, how are we to understand the presence of the obeloi? Did the human sacrifices on the coasts of Egypt include cannibalism? This is what the painter appears to indicate by incorporating spits for roasting the entrails of the sacrificial victim in the scene.100

  • 101 In comparison to the Iphigeneia narratives, the sacrifice of the Egyptian children did take place; (...)

31On the contrary, another Greek visitor to Egypt, Menelaos, is presented by Herodotos (2.119.2-3) actually sacrificing two young Egyptian children in order to obtain better sailing conditions. The sacrifice is strikingly reminiscent of the sacrifice of Iphigeneia, but Menealos is explicitly characterized because of his action, an ἀνὴρ ἄδικος.101 Compared to the Herakles-Bousiris story, Menelaos’ visit to Egypt appears as an anti-version of the same story of the deconstruction of the rules of hospitality. In Menelaos’ case, it is the visiting foreigner who breaks the rules and actually sacrifices two native children. There is, however, no punishment. In comparison, Herakles punishes the Egyptians with brutal death at the altar for attempting to sacrifice him. Bousiris and his people do not get away by simply being called ἄνδρες ἄδικοι. Even within the context of human sacrifice, there seem to have existed different rules for Greeks and Barbarians.

  • 102 Henrichs, l.c. (n. 9), p. 195.
  • 103 Schwarz, l.c. (n. 64), p. 36: “obwohl sie [the human sacrifices] noch in historischer zeit ausgeübt (...)
  • 104 See, for example, the antithetical approaches to the significance of human sacrifice in the context (...)
  • 105 Bonnechere, l.c. (1997, n. 19) and (1998, n. 19), p. 384-388.

32In 1981, A. Henrichs opened his important contribution to human sacrifice in Greek religion with the following words: “the Greeks clearly preferred the fiction of human sacrifice to its reality”.102 Twenty years later, G. Schwarz countered his statement by claiming that human sacrifices were a historical reality in Greece.103 Whether or not human sacrifices actually occurred in ancient Greece is not the focus of this article, but the contradictions in the current scholarship104 reflect in a way the ambivalence with which the ancient Greeks themselves dealt with human sacrifice in mythological narratives, religious traditions, and the visual arts. Generally speaking, however, ancient Greek culture appears to have had less trouble speaking about than depicting human sacrifice. Of course, this attitude is reminiscent of the unwillingness to depict the actual killing of an animal in the context of sacrifices of the thysia-type.105

  • 106 Georgoudi, l.c. (n. 18), p. 73-74 is absolutely right in emphasizing that victims are not always an (...)
  • 107 In this respect, I would disagree with L. Bonfante, “Human Sacrifice on an Etruscan Funerary Urn,” (...)
  • 108 Particularly brutal is the scene on an Attic black-figure hydria (London, BM B 326) showing Achille (...)

33Despite the countless narratives associated with a sacrifice usually of young persons,106 Greek artists and the buyers of their products showed but limited interest in visualizing the slaying of a human being in a religious or sepulchral context. To claim that this tendency simply conforms to the common features of Greek artistic expression means to ignore the degree to which Greek art is all about violence: violence against the female, violence against the foreign, violence against the young, violence against the weak. In all these visual contexts, artists are not in the least reluctant to depict swords penetrating bodies, decapitated heads thrown to adversaries,107 or streams of blood literally pouring down to the ground.108 Greek artists did not avoid the gory details of violence in times of war, yet they apparently did choose not to depict the ceremonious killing of people in contexts that might have sanctified such action.

34Nonetheless, there seems to have been some sort of evolution in the way that the theme was treated in art. Early evidence, especially outside Attica, as in the case of the amphora by the Timiades painter (Pl. V) or the sarcophagus from Gümüsçay (Pl. VI), seems nearly to celebrate the goriness of the depicted topic and the unwilling death of the victim; on the amphora, the maiden’s blood appears as a red stream dripping on the tumulus of Achilles. Around the end of the sixth century, however, Polyxena and Iphigeneia were visually transformed into the counterparts of male heroes, since they came to be represented as submitting to destiny and meeting death with mental tranquility while approaching the altar/tumulus as willing brides-to-be (Pl. IIb and VII). From this period on, the visual representation of the unwilling and brutally killed sacrificial victim (Pl. IIIa) became the exception that would return only in the late Hellenistic period as miniature scenes on relief bowls, and would be abandoned again during the Roman Imperial period, when the stoic victim who barely resists death came to be celebrated.

35The canonization of the heroic death of the former sacrificial victim does not—yet again—correlate with the contemporary literary evidence, which still likes to play with all the variations of the myths involving human sacrifices. Interesting too is that in the visual arts, the end of the sixth century marks the beginning of a distinction between the human sacrificial victim who is guided to the altar but whose slaughter is not shown, and the sacrilegious killing of innocent victims at an altar (Priamos, Troilos, Medea’s children) in a semantically perverted version of human sacrifice that is utterly anti-heroic and is indeed represented as such. The representations of exactly these “sacrifices” focus on the hubristic actions of the “sacrificer” and not on the “sacrificial” victims. From the late sixth century on, brutal killing at the altar connotes savagery and clear distortion of the sacrificial order, unless we are dealing with the righteous (at least from a Greek perspective) punishment of Bousiris.

  • 109 Connelly, l.c. (n. 70).
  • 110 vanStraten, o.c. (n. 20), p. 113 with n. 41.

36Aside from the possible interpretation of the central section of the east frieze of the Parthenon as part of the preparations for the sacrifice of Erechtheus’ daughters,109 the volute krater showing Phrixos at the altar (Pl. IVa), and a highly problematic scene on a fragmentary red-figure kylix in Barcelona,110 narratives involving human sacrifice that were visualized in art almost entirely belong to the Trojan cycle. With the singular representation of the sacrifice of the Trojan captives by Achilles at the pyre of Patroklos (Pl. IIa), it is significant that Greek artists decided to bend the “rules” regarding the “non-representability” of human sacrifice solely to render the very outset of the Trojan expedition on the coast of Aulis and its very end on the coast of Ilion, which are marked respectively with the sacrifices of the Greek Iphigeneia and the Trojan Polyxena. Just as the Iliad begins with Achilles’ anger and ends with his appeasement, Greek artists decided that the A and Ω of the greatest of all Greek wars should be represented, despite their gory details, which were usually left to the viewers’ imagination.

37Even if the theme of human sacrifice remains central in understanding the visualization of Iphigeneia’s and Polyxena’s narratives, their status as unmarried virgins, both to be married but never in fact married to Achilles, could have been of equal importance in the mental processes that led to the relative popularity of these two myths out of a plethora of stories associated directly or indirectly with human sacrifice. It seems as if the connection of powerful women, such as Penthesileia, or virginal princesses, such as Iphigeneia and Polyxena, to Achilles, and the fact that they tragically did not survive the real (Penthesileia, Polyxena) or alleged (Iphigeneia) erotic interest of the strongest of all Homeric heroes could have been an additional and no less significant reason for the transformation of their stories into visual narratives.

Notes

1 G. Briganti, Pietro da Cortona o della pittura barocca, Firenze, 1962, p. 155-159; J.M. Merz, Pietro da Cortona: Der Aufstieg zum führenden Maler im barocken Rom, Tübingen, 1991, p. 93-94.

2 D. Posner, “Pietro da Cortona, Pittoni, and the plight of Polyxena,” The Art Bulletin 73.3 (1991), p. 407-414.

3 J. Mylonopoulos, “Sacrifice in the arts,” in A. Grafton et al. (eds.), The Classical Tradition, Cambridge, 2010, p. 856. The same cannot be said about Roman visual versions of Polyxena’s sacrifice. Roman seals and impressions most probably influenced late-eighteenth-century renderings of the mythical episode, as shown by the tondo in stucco in the entrance hall of the Galleria Borghese, executed by Vincenzo Pacetti between 1776 and 1778, see M.L. Morricone Matini, “Medaglione in stucco della Galleria Borghese con il sacrificio di Polissena,” in L. Bacchielli, M. Bonanno Aravantinos (eds.), Scritti in antichità in memoria di Sandro Stucchi II, Roma, 1996, p. 225-237. It is the da Cortona painting rather than the versions painted by Pittoni that reveals possible connections with the iconography of Polyxena’s sacrifice on Roman seals (exposed female breast, position of the sacrificer behind the victim). If this holds true, Roman seals might have directly influenced artists already in the early 17th century.

4 D. Steuernagel, Menschenopfer und Mord am Altar. Griechische Mythen in etruskischen Gräbern, Wiesbaden, 1998; P. Bonnechere, “Mythes grecs de sacrifice humain en Étrurie. Problèmes iconographiques et socio-historiques,” Kernos 13 (2000), p. 253-264. In general, both Etruscans and Romans apparently preferred the Iphigeneia over the Polyxena narrative. Only in Roman glyptic, does there exist a strong interest in Polyxena’s sacrifice.

5 See in general H.P. Foley, Ritual Irony. Poetry and sacrifice in Euripides, Ithaca, 1985; E.A.M.E. O’Connor-Visser, Aspects of human sacrifice in the tragedies of Euripides, Amsterdam, 1987; C. Sourvinou-Inwood, Tragedy and Athenian religion, Lanham, MD, 2003, esp. the chapter on Euripides, p. 291-422.

6 D.D. Hughes, Human sacrifice in ancient Greece, London, 1991, p. 73-107; P. Bonnechere, Le Sacrifice humain en Grèce ancienne, Athènes-Liège, 1994 (Kernos, Suppl. 3). Especially in the first chapter, Bonnechere demonstrates the significance of myths about human sacrifice in the foundation of initiation rituals. P. Bonnechere, “Orthia et la flagellation des éphèbes spartiates. Un souvenir chimérique de sacrifice humain,” Kernos 6 (1993), p. 11-22 convincingly deconstructs the hypothesis that the flagellation of the youths at the sanctuary of Orthia in Sparta originated in a human sacrifice. However, I remain skeptical about Bonnechere’s rejection of the association between the flagellation and initiation rituals.

7 In general, M. Recke, Gewalt und Leid. Das Bild des Krieges bei den Athenern im 6. und 5. Jh. v. Chr., Istanbul, 2002; S. Muth, Gewalt im Bild. Das Phänomen der medialen Gewalt im Athen des 6. und 5. Jahrhunderts v. Chr., Berlin, 2008.

8 See supra n. 5.

9 Plut., Them. 13.2-5. A. Henrichs, “Human sacrifice in Greek religion: three case studies,” in J. Rudhardt, O. Reverdin (eds.), Le Sacrifice dans l’Antiquité, Genève, 1981 (Entretiens Hardt, 27), p. 208-224; Hughes, o.c. (n. 6), p. 111-115. One of the earlier studies on human sacrifices in Greek and Roman antiquity, F. Schwenn, Griechische Menschenopfer, Naumburg, 1915, considers the literary evidence as a reference to rituals performed in reality and places a strong emphasis on the so-called pharmakos rituals. In this respect, he was followed by Hughes who likewise dedicates an entire chapter to Greek pharmakoi, while Bonnechere, o.c. (1994, n. 6) remains quite skeptical.

10 Bonnechere, o.c. (1994, n. 6), p. 85-96; J.N. Bremmer, “Myth and ritual in Greek human sacrifice: Lykaon, Polyxena and the case of the Rhodian criminal,” in J.N. Bremmer (ed.), The strange world of human sacrifice, Leuven, 2007, p. 65-78. In my view, Bremmer is over-stressing the notion of lycanthropism in the rituals and mythological narratives surrounding the cult of Zeus Lykaios. The Arcadian “wolves” probably belong to a similar context associated with initiation, much like the Ephesian “bees” and the Brauronian “she-bears.”

11 Y. Sakellarakis, “Drama of death in a Minoan temple,” National Geographic 159 (1981), p. 205-222; Y. Sakellarakis, E. Sakellarakis, Archanes. Minoan Crete in a new light, vol. I, Athens, 1997, p. 294-311.

12 N. Stampolidis, Αντίποινα. Συμβολή στη μελέτη των ηθών και των εθίμων της γεωμετρικής-αρχαϊκής περιόδου, Rethymno, 1996.

13 For a brief overview of the archaeological evidence, see Hughes, o.c. (n. 6), p. 13-48. See also the critical remarks in P. Bonnechere “Les indices archéologiques du sacrifice humain grec en question: compléments à une publication récente,” Kernos 6 (1993), p. 23-55 who discusses and dismisses the archaeological evidence from several sites in Greece (including Anemospilia, p. 24-27) and Cyprus. Note that the material from Eleutherna was published after Hughes’ monograph and Bonnechere’s article. In my view, the case of Anemospilia deserves a closer look, before it can be dismissed as human sacrifice. On the contrary, the decapitated body found in Eleutherna reminds me of Troilos and his decapitation by Achilles at the altar of Apollon rather than of the sacrifice of the Trojan youths at the pyre of Patroklos.

14 F.T. van Straten, “Ancient Greek animal sacrifice: food, supply, or what? Some thoughts on simple explanations of a complex ritual,” in S. Georgoudi et al. (eds.), La Cuisine et l’Autel. Les sacrifices en questions dans les sociétés de la Méditerranée ancienne, Turnhout, 2005, p. 15-29.

15 In a sepulchral context Hughes (o.c. [n. 6], p. 49-70) seems to favor the term “funerary ritual killing” over “human sacrifice.”

16 C. FONTINOy, “Le sacrifice nuptial de Polyxène,” AC 19 (1950), p. 383-396. J.-P. Vernant, Mythe et société en Grèce ancienne, Paris, 1974, p. 149 emphasizes the structural similarities between marriage and sacrifice (here followed by H.P. FOLEy, “Marriage and sacrifice in Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Aulis,” Arethusa 15 [1982], p. 168-173 and P. Bonnechere in this volume). yet, blood sacrifices remain in their nature destructive rituals. On the other hand, R. Rehm emphasizes the conflation of marriage and sacrifice for the sake of theatricality and performativity on the stage of ancient Greek theatre (Marriage to death. The conflation of wedding and funeral rituals in Greek tragedy, Princeton, 1994). See also the critical remarks about marriage-sacrifice in the context of the Iphigeneia-myth in Henrichs, l.c. (n. 9), p. 237 and in this volume.

17 For example, H.S. Versnel, “Self-sacrifice, compensation and the anonymous gods,” in Rudhardt – Reverdin (eds.), o.c. (n. 9), p. 135-185; J. Wilkins, “The state and the individual: Euripides’ plays of voluntary self-sacrifice,” in A. Powell (ed.), Euripides, women, and sexuality, London, 1990, p. 177-194.

18 S. Georgoudi, “A propos du sacrifice humain en Grèce ancienne: remarques critiques,” ARG 1 (1999), p. 74-79. Georgoudi strongly opposes the idea of human sacrifice as part of what ancient Greeks understood as barbaric and favors the notion of heroism. Recently, the character of human sacrifice in Greek imagination as an “anti-norm” has been re-emphasized, see P. Bonnechere, “Le sacrifice humain grec entre norme et anormalité,” in P. Brulé (ed.), La Norme en matière religieuse en Grèce ancienne, Liège, 2009 (Kernos, suppl. 21), p. 189-212.

19 Wilkins, l.c. (n. 17), p. 182-183; P. Bonnechere, “Le sacrifice grec entre texte et image,” Kernos 11 (1998), p. 384-388. In addition, P. Bonnechere, “La πομπή sacrificielle des victimes humaines en Grèce ancienne,” REA 99 (1997), p. 63-89 sheds light on the comparability of processions associated with human sacrifices with those in the context of animal sacrifice of the thysia-type.

20 F.T. van Straten, Hierà Kalá. Images of animal sacrifice in Archaic and Classical Greece, Leiden, 1995, p. 100-102; S. HOTz, “Delphi – eine störrische Ziege und Priester unter Druck,” in C. Ambos et al. (eds.), Die Welt der Rituale. Von der Antike bis heute, Darmstadt, 2005, p. 102-105. I do not share the skepticism regarding the willingness of the sacrificial victim to be slaughtered at the altar expressed by S. Georgoudi, “L’‘occultation de la violence’ dans le sacrifice grec: données anciennes, discours modernes,” in Georgoudi et al., o.c. (n. 14), p. 131-134 and even more strongly by F.S. Naiden, “The fallacy of the willing victim,” JHS 127 (2007), p. 61-73.

21 J. Mylonopoulos, “Greek sanctuaries as places of communication through rituals: an archaeological perspective,” in E. Stavrianopoulou (ed.), Ritual and communication in the Graeco-Roman world, Liège, 2006 (Kernos, suppl. 16), p. 93-94.

22 Recke, o.c. (n. 7), p. 72-74.

23 K. Schefold, F. Jung, Die Sagen von den Argonauten, von Theben und Troja in der klassischen und hellenistischen Kunst, München, 1989, p. 230-231 overemphasize the distinction between Greek artists from Mainland Greece and those from the Greek colonies in Southern Italy and Sicily.

24 Obviously, the painter is not at all interested in slavishly reproducing the Homeric details of the scene, such as the exact number of Trojans to be slaughtered at the pyre.

25 J. Gebauer, Pompe und Thysia. Attische Tieropferdarstellungen auf schwarz- und rotfigurigen Vasen, Münster, 2002, p. 280-285. See A. Henrichs in this volume.

26 The W 10 metope of the Parthenon shows the Greek/Athenian warrior stepping on the Amazon, but his posture is rather Harmodios-like. The warrior on W 14 grabs the hair of the kneeling Amazon, but it is unclear whether he is also stepping on her. On an Athenian dinos in London (BM 1899.0721.5, from Agrigento, ca 440/30 BCE) an Amazon is shown stepping on a Greek warrior kneeling on the ground, while she grabs his hair and violently pushes her sword into his jugular notch.

27 See, for example, the duel between Herakles and Kyknos on a kylix by the Kleophrades painter in London (BM 1864.10-7.1685, from Rhodes, ca 500-480 BCE).

28 A fascinating scene on a red-figure neck amphora in Cambridge (Corpus Christi, XXXX213744, ca 460-440 BCE) shows Ajax literally stepping on Kassandra and grabbing her head.

29 In literary sources, criminals are occasionally “used” as sacrificial victims, as demonstrated by the case of the criminal sacrificed opposite the image of Artemis Aristoboule during the Kronia festival on Rhodes in the description of Porphyry (De abstinentia 2.54) who in the same passage refers to a human sacrifice to Aglauros in the form of a holokauston. Bremmer, l.c. (n. 10), p. 56- 59 who briefly discusses the sacrifice of the criminal on Rhodes is in my view wrong in translating hedos as temple, and thus placing the human sacrifice in front of a temple instead of an image of Artemis. The association with the image rather than the temple of Artemis creates interesting connections to the flagellation of the Spartan youths next to the portable statue of Artemis Orthia. For the use of the term, see T.S. Scheer, Die Gottheit und ihr Bild. Untersuchungen zur Funktion griechischer Kultbilder in Religion und Politik, München, 2000, p. 21-23; S. Bettinetti, La statua di culto nella pratica rituale greca, Bari, 2001, p. 52-54.

30 Muth, o.c. (n. 7), p. 248-250.

31 Steuernagel, o.c. (n. 4), p. 19-28.

32 See also the so-called Cista Révil in London (BM 1884.6-14.35, ca 300 BCE) on which Achilles is forcing his victim to the ground with his knee, a further visual reminiscence of the Greek sphagion-type animal sacrifice.

33 S. Lowenstam, The Trojan War tradition in Greek and Etruscan art, Baltimore, 2008, p. 158-159.

34 Interestingly, a series of Roman seals shows a winged soul (probably of Achilles) sitting on top of a grave monument, in front of which Polyxena is about to be killed by Neoptolemos, Morricone-Matini, l.c. (n. 3), p. 232.

35 Not a flying eidolon is meant here, but a human figure comparable to Patroklos’ figure in the so-called François tomb.

36 L. Séchan, “Le sacrifice d’Iphigénie,” REG 44 (1931), p. 368-426 offers a helpful overview of early scholarship on the sacrifice of Iphigeneia in various literary sources. See J.N. Bremmer and A. Henrichs in this volume.

37 For example, T.J. Hooker, “The sacrifice of Iphigeneia in the Agamemnon,” Agon 2 (1968), p. 59-65; J.C.G. Strachan, “Iphigenia and human sacrifice in Euripides’ Iphigenia Taurica,” CPh 71 (1976), p. 131-140, and FOLEy, l.c. (n. 16), explicitly focus on the motif of the sacrifice and its use in Euripides’ work.

38 Bonnechere, o.c. (1994, n. 6), p. 26-48. Recently, G. Ekroth, “Inventing Iphigeneia? On Euripides and the cultic construction of Brauron,” Kernos 16 (2003), p. 59-118 made a strong case for the influence of the Euripedean Iphigeneia in Tauris on the foundation of the cult of Iphigeneia in Brauron.

39 Henrichs, l.c. (n. 9), p. 199-201; Bonnechere, o.c. (1994, n. 6), p. 39-42.

40 A. Cambitoglou, “Iphigeneia in Tauris. The question of the influence of the Euripidean play in the representations of the subject in Attic and Italiote vase-painting,” AK 18 (1975), p. 56-66; L. Kahil, “Le sacrifice d’Iphigénie,” MEFRA 103 (1991), p. 186-188 fig. 1-6; O. Taplin, Pots and plays. Interactions between tragedy and Greek vase-painting of the fourth century B.C., Los Angeles, 2007, p. 149-156.

41 C. Marconi, “Iphigeneia a Selinunte,” Prospettiva 75/76 (1994), p. 50-54.

42 F. Jouan, “Autour du sacrifice d’Iphigénie,” in Texte et image. Actes du colloque international de Chantilly, 13-15 octobre 1982, Paris, 1984, p. 61-65.

43 Recke, o.c. (n. 7), p. 31-41; S. Ritter, “Eros und Gewalt. Menelaos und Helena in der attischen Vasenmalerei des 5. Jhs. v. Chr.,” in G. Fischer, S. Moraw (eds.), Die andere Seite der Klassik. Gewalt im 5. und 4. Jahrhundert v. Chr., Stuttgart, 2005, p. 265-285. Ritter concentrates on the variation of the imagery portraying Eros’ involvement in the pacification of Menelaos.

44 Marconi, l.c. (n. 41), p. 52.

45 Kahil, l.c. (n. 40), p. 191.

46 J.R. Green, E. Handley, Images of the Greek theatre, London, 1995, p. 47.

47 Taplin, o.c. (n. 40), p. 159-160.

48 Taplin, o.c. (n. 40), p. 160.

49 A reliable collection of the relevant literary sources can be found in P. Bruneau, “Phrixos et Helle,” LIMC VII.1 (1994), p. 399.

50 There is, however, a Nolan amphora (Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale Stg. 270) by the painter of Munich 2335 (440/30 BCE) that shows Ino chasing Phrixos with a double axe. Phrixos is already sitting on the ram with the golden fleece, see A. Nercessian, “Ino,” LIMC V.1 (1990), p. 659 no. 13*. Despite the iconographic proximity to scenes of Klytaimnestra going after Orestes with an axe (see, for example, a red-figure stamnos in Boston [Museum of Fine Arts, 91.226B]), the scene could be the only known Attic example of Ino herself attempting to kill her stepson with a sacrificial double axe.

51 T. Morard, Horizontalité et verticalité. Le bandeau humain et le bandeau divin chez le Peintre de Darius, Mainz, 2009, p. 78 shows that the figures are subdivided in micro-narratives, which by no means imply “une succession temporelle.”

52 L. Giuliani, Tragik, Trauer und Trost. Bildervasen für eine apulische Totenfeier, Hannover, 1995, p. 27-30 and 89-94.

53 Based on the existence of these objects, Giuliani (ibid., p. 27) suggests that the action takes place in a sanctuary. On the contrary, Taplin, o.c. (n. 40), p. 217 hypothesizes that the sacrifice is performed in the wild countryside. He thinks that Pan and Artemis in the upper zone are used in a way as visual indicators of the spatial frame.

54 Giuliani, o.c. (n. 52), p. 27 and 88-89.

55 Taplin, o.c. (n. 40), p. 215 suggests that the absence of Dionysos from the divine assembly indicates a connection of the image with the first version of Euripides’ lost work Phrixos. Either the painter was directly inspired by a performance of the play or both painter and writer were inspired by the same version of the myth.

56 One, of course, might ask why Phrixos did not sacrifice the ram to Hermes, the god who helped him escape. It is as if the replacement of Phrixos through the ram did take place after all and the animal had to be sacrificed to Zeus, because, even if for the wrong reasons, a sacrifice had been promised to him.

57 Recke, o.c. (n. 7), p. 41-50.

58 A. Cambitoglou, “Troilos pursued by Achilles,” in J.H. Betts (ed.), Studies in honour of T.B.L. Webster, vol. 2, Bristol, 1988, p. 1-21.

59 K. Schefold, Götter- und Heldensagen der Griechen in der früh- und hocharchaischen Kunst, München, 1993, p. 306.

60 Schefold, o.c. (n. 59), p. 306-308. Here, I will not enter the discussion on the center of production of the so-called Tyrrhenian amphorae.

61 J.-L. Durand, F. Lissarrague, “Mourir à l’autel. Remarques sur l’imagerie du sacrifice humain dans la céramique attique,” ARG 1 (1999), p. 91-102 (focusing on Attic vase painting). Bremmer, l.c. (n. 10), p. 61 is rather exaggerating when he claims that we can reproduce Polyxena’s sacrifice as described by Euripides “with a series of images.”

62 O. TOuchefeu-MEynier, “Polyxène,” LIMC VII.1 (1994), p. 431. Fontinoy, l.c. (n. 16) offers an excellent collection of the literary sources associated with the sacrifice of Polyxena.

63 M. Robertson, “Troilos and Polyxene. Notes on a changing legend,” in J.-P. Descoeudres (ed.), Eumousia. Ceramic and iconographic studies in honour of Alexander Cambitoglou, Sydney, 1990, p. 64-65 identified the chasing of a young woman by two warriors on an Etruscan black-figure amphora in Paris (Louvre E703) with the death of Polyxena as presented in the Kypria.

64 G. Schwarz, “Der Tod und das Mädchen. Frühe Polyxena-Bilder,” MDAI (A) 116 (2001), p. 41-43 pl. 10.2-3.

65 E. Vermeule, S. Chapman, “A Protoattic human sacrifice?” AJA 75 (1971), p. 285-293.

66 Vermeule–Chapman, l.c. (n. 65), p. 291-292.

67 SChwarz, l.c. (n. 64), p. 39-41.

68 H.B. Walters, “On some black-figured vases recently acquired by the British Museum,” JHS 18 (1898), p. 284-287.

69 Although I disagree with the main thesis of K. Topper’s article ( “Maidens, fillies, and the death of Medusa on a seventh-century pithos,” JHS 130 [2010], p. 114) that the murder of the equine Medusa on the relief pithos in Paris (Louvre CA 795) should be seen in the context of “the sacrificial maiden,” I find her comparison of the murder of Medusa and the sacrifice of Polyxena on the amphora by the Timiades painter intriguing. One should note, however, that Perseus is actually cutting Medusa’s throat, while Neoptolemos is brutally forcing his sword into Polyxena’s neck.

70 According to J.B. Connelly, “Parthenon and parthenoi: a mythological interpretation of the Parthenon frieze,” AJA 100 (1996), p. 67, the gods on the eastern part of the Parthenon frieze are turning their backs to the central group precisely because there, Erechtheus and his wife are shown preparing the sacrifice of their youngest daughter.

71 See, for example, the late-fifth-century relief in the Archaeological Museum of Chalkis, van Straten, o.c. (n. 20), p. 102 fig. 109.

72 vanStraten, o.c. (n. 20), p. 219 (V141) fig. 115; Bonnechere, l.c. (1998, n. 19), p. 387.

73 B. KNittlmayer, Die attische Aristokratie und ihre Helden. Untersuchungen zu Darstellungen des trojanischen Sagenkreises im 6. und frühen 5. Jahrhundert v. Chr., Heidelberg, 1997, p. 92- 93; Lowenstam, o.c. (n. 33), p. 35-37.

74 N. Sevinç, “A new sarcophagus of Polyxena from the salvage excavations at Gümüsçay,” Studia Troica 6 (1996), p. 251-264.

75 F. von Duhn, “zur Deutung des klazomenischen Sarkophags in Leiden,” JDAI 28 (1913), p. 272-273; R.M. Cook, Clazomenian sarcophagi, Mainz, 1981, p. 36 no. G 8 pl. 48.3.

76 Steuernagel, o.c. (n. 4), p. 169.

77 Sevinç, l.c. (n. 74), p. 260.

78 I follow here C. Reinsberg ( “Der Polyxena-Sarkophag in Çanakkale,” in R. Bol, D. Kreikenbom (eds.), Sepulkral- und Votivdenkmäler östlicher Mittelmeergebiete (7. Jh. v. Chr. – 1. Jh. n. Chr.), Paderborn, 2004, p. 206-214), whose interpretation of the scene of the female dancers as a ritual honoring Artemis Ephesia, a highly popular divinity among the Lydians (in antiquity, the region in which the sarcophagus was found, was part of Lydia), I consider especially intriguing.

79 Already captured by Exekias in his famous amphora in London (BM B 210), which predates the sarcophagus from Gümüsçay.

80 R. von den Hoff, “‘Achill, das Vieh’? Zur Problematisierung transgressiver Gewalt in klassischen Vasenbildern,” in Fischer – Moraw (eds.), o.c. (n. 43), p. 225-246, esp. p. 234-245.

81 N. Sevinç et al., “A new painted Graeco-Persian sarcophagus from Çan,” Studia Troica 11 (2001), p. 383.

82 In a lecture entitled “The Polyxena Sarcophagus from Ilion,” delivered at the conference “The Sarcophagus East and West” (Nyu, October 2, 2009), R. Neer argued in favor of the male connotations of the sarcophagus’ iconography by claiming an intended identification between Achilles (the visually absent owner of the tumulus and recipient of the sacrifice) and the deceased buried in the sarcophagus placed in the tumulus. A very brief summary hereof was published in R.T. Neer, Greek Art and Archaeology. A New History, c. 2500-c. 150 BCE, New york, 2012, p. 211. Although it is methodologically questionable to argue with funerary objects from a different time and geographical context, I would like, nevertheless, to bring the iconography of Attic funerary reliefs of the Classical and Late Classical periods into the discussion. Ignoring the obvious female character of the entire relief program of the sarcophagus would be equivalent to suggesting that a relief depicting a seated woman and her slave is not “celebrating” the woman but rather her absent and thus dead husband—indeed a sophisticated, but quite modern concept of how images could have worked in antiquity. I would like to raise the question of why the tumulus of Achilles—not centrally placed, though it would have been possible—should be interpreted as the most important signifier on the entire relief program of the sarcophagus. In this kind of an interpretation, the tumulus as a sign of an otherwise absent Achilles and thus of the deceased male it allegedly symbolizes would overshadow the apparent importance of female iconographic elements; one should keep in mind that not a single man is represented on the small sides and the long side B. For these reasons, I would like to consider the evidence of the bones found in the sarcophagus secondary, when compared to the significance of the overall iconography of the relief decoration of the sarcophagus.

83 K. Geppert, “überlegungen zum Polyxena-Sarkophag im Museum von Çanakkale,” in N. Kreutz, B. Schweizer (eds.), TEKMERIA. Archäologische Zeugnisse in ihrer kulturhistorischen und politischen Dimension. Beiträge für Werner Gauer, Münster, 2006, p. 90-91.

84 Touchefeu-Meynier, l.c. (n. 62), p. 433 no. 22.

85 Recke, o.c. (n. 7), p. 31-41.

86 Touchefeu-Meynier, l.c. (n. 62), p. 433 no. 24.

87 Durand – Lissarrague, l.c. (n. 61), p. 98 made the excellent observation that Polyxena’s fatal fate announced on the exterior of the cup is complemented by the scene on the tondo that shows Hektor’s body under Achilles’ kline.

88 See, however, a late black-figure Campanian amphora in London (BM B 70), which apparently preserves the tradition of brutal renderings of Polyxena’s sacrifice. In an admittedly very crude style, the painter shows Neoptolemos with the sacrificial knife in his hand waiting at the altar. A single hoplite lifts Polyxena who turns her head to her right and looks towards Neoptolemos, J.-M. Moret, L’Ilioupersis dans la céramique italiote. Les mythes et leur expression figurée au ive siècle, vol. 1, Genève, 1975, p. 197 and 214 pl. 25.1.

89 Strangely enough, O. Touchefeu-Meunier (l.c. [n. 62], p. 433) associates the painting in Athens with Polygnotos even though Pausanias refers to the famous Thasian painter only with regard to the paintings showing Achilles on Skyros and Odysseus approaching Nausikaa.

90 Moret, o.c. (n. 88), p. 64 pl. 28.1.

91 Moret, o.c. (n. 88), p. 64-65 pl. 28.2.

92 Touchefeu-Meynier, l.c. (n. 62), p. 434 nos. 27-31. No. 27, a relief bowl from Kephallonia, reintroduces the brutality of the sacrifice by showing Neoptolemos piercing Polyxena’s abdomen with his sword. Of course, this iconographic element transforms the sacrifice into a straightforward murder.

93 G. Schwarz, “Achill und Polyxena in der römischen Kaiserzeit,” RhM 99 (1992), p. 296-298.

94 Morricone-Matini, l.c. (n. 3), p. 226-230 fig. 2-11.

95 Here, one should also add the attempted sacrifice of Phrixos, even if zeus never demanded it.

96 Vondenhoff, l.c. (n. 80), p. 231 with fn. 26.

97 Taplin, o.c. (n. 40), p. 123, 255-257.

98 Taplin, o.c. (n. 40), also sees a clear connection between the image and the semantic implication of “sacrifice and ritual.” However, I don’t think the artist is pointing towards the establishment of the boy’s cult.

99 Durand – Lissarrague, l.c. (n. 61), p. 85-91. V. Mehl ( “La norme sacrificielle en images: une relecture de l’épisode d’Héraklès chez le pharaon Busiris,” in Brulé [ed.], o.c. [n. 18], p. 171-187) discusses the relevant imagery with respect to its ritual and ritualistic connotations. For a more symbolic approach to the same material, see Durand – Lissarrague, ibid. I would disagree with Durand and Lissarrague who claim (p. 166) that the cult participants and officers (musicians, priests, assistants etc.) are not occupying their usual place, and thus emphasize the abnormality of the scene. The scenes are actually composed in the manner of a typical animal sacrifice of the thysia-type. The atypical sacrificial victim, a human being, is disturbing in itself and disrupts the sacrificial process by turning a sacrifice at the altar into a murder at the altar.

100 van Straten, o.c. (n. 20), p. 46-49; V. Brinkmann, “Herakles tötet den ägyptischen König Busiris,” in R. Wünsche (ed.), Herakles – Herkules, München, 2003, p. 175-176.

101 In comparison to the Iphigeneia narratives, the sacrifice of the Egyptian children did take place; there was no miraculous replacement at the altar.

102 Henrichs, l.c. (n. 9), p. 195.

103 Schwarz, l.c. (n. 64), p. 36: “obwohl sie [the human sacrifices] noch in historischer zeit ausgeübt wurden.”

104 See, for example, the antithetical approaches to the significance of human sacrifice in the context of ancient Greek values as expressed by Georgoudi, l.c. (n. 18) and Bonnechere, o.c. (1994, n. 6); l.c. (n. 18).

105 Bonnechere, l.c. (1997, n. 19) and (1998, n. 19), p. 384-388.

106 Georgoudi, l.c. (n. 18), p. 73-74 is absolutely right in emphasizing that victims are not always and by necessity young.

107 In this respect, I would disagree with L. Bonfante, “Human Sacrifice on an Etruscan Funerary Urn,” AJA 88 (1984), p. 535 with n. 27 who considered “severed heads, present but unusual in Greek art.” I am preparing an article on this topic.

108 Particularly brutal is the scene on an Attic black-figure hydria (London, BM B 326) showing Achilles throwing Troilos’ head at a group of Trojan soldiers. On a red-figure krater, the head of Melanippos lies on the ground in front of Tydeus (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art 12.229.14). See in general, B.E. Borg, “Gefährliche Bilder? Gewalt und Leidenschaft in der archaischen und klassischen Kunst,” in B. Seidensticker, M. Vöhler (eds.), Gewalt und Ästhetik. Zur Gewalt und ihrer Darstellung in der griechischen Klassik, Berlin, 2006, p. 248-257 who argues that savage images could be seen in the context of a morally supported (or not) use of brutality (especially in times of war, I would add). Streams of blood are often seen in agonistic contexts (M. Benz, “Spiel um Leben und Tod? Gewalt und Athletik in klassischer Zeit,” in Fischer – Moraw (eds.), o.c. (n. 43), p. 129-141), but are of course an integral part of warlike scenes as well. The best-known example is the scene on the famous krater by Euphronios (Rome, Villa Giulia L.2006.10) showing Hypnos and Thanatos transporting the bleeding but still perfect body of Sarpedon. In my view, Sarpedon’s bleeding wounds are a visual evocation of the blood rain that Zeus sent shortly before the violent death of his son (Il. 16.459-461). Less heroic are the scenes on an Attic red-figure cup by Onesimos (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts 01.8021) depicting warriors with open bleeding wounds.

109 Connelly, l.c. (n. 70).

110 vanStraten, o.c. (n. 20), p. 113 with n. 41.

Auteur

Columbia University, New york
(PhD Heidelberg, 2001) teaches Greek Art and Archaeology at Columbia University since 2008. His book on the archaeology and architectural development of Poseidon’s sanctuaries on the Peloponnese was published in 2003. He has published extensively on the archaeology and iconography of Greek religion. An elected member of The Archaeological Society at Athens, he has excavated in Greece, Turkey, and Germany. He is currently co-author of the Chronique archéologique de la religion grecque, annually published in Kernos. In 2012, he joined the editorial board of the Archiv für Religionsgeschichte.

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