Greek Lion Tombs

I know that lion tombs will be in the news, so I'm pasting and posting the chapter of my dissertation that dealt with them (without the footnotes). Please note - I wrote it in the later years of the 20th century, and have changed my mind about several things, most notably the Lion Tomb at Amphipolis, based on the excavations there.    


4. Doric Epithemata

            A number of tombs and monuments were built during the period with a pyramidal roof that supported a single sculpture or epithema on the apex. Those whose architecture is preserved were podium tombs with engaged Doric columns; the format is that of the Mausoleum which, although Ionic, must have been an influence. The majority of the epithematic figures were of lions, a popular motif in funerary iconography.
            The Chaironea Lion Tomb (fig. 57), lying immediately to the east of the town, is the only one of the series of monumental funerary lions from the Late Classical and Hellenistic periods to be securely dated, by Pausanias 9.50.10, to soon after the eponymous battle of 338 BC; he also attests that it was a Polyandrion without a dedicatory inscription, which tallies with the archaeological evidence, and identifies the beast as representing the men’s spirited struggle in the battle.  The tomb is also mentioned by Strabo IX,37. The seated lion, of grey Boeotian marble, rebuilt on the site, has an anatomy that follows convention rather than life, with a small head and legs too large for the body. The lion is meant to be heroic, but the almost vertical pose, not unlike a dog performing for a biscuit, is unseemly, and compared to the Amphipolis lion, it appears malnourished. Overall it is unsuccessful in design; the mane is wild and tousled, which emphasises the skinny ribs, the tail is rolled around a hind leg. Reconstructed of eleven pieces, it measures approximately ht. 1.90 x l. 1.00. The base is not extant, but one can guess that it would not have been dissimilar to those of the tombs that follow.

                The lion from the tomb at Amphipolis (fig. 58) is so close in form to that of Chaironea, that they are dated together; its superior style suggests a few years later, at the turn of the century. Picard supposes that it may have been the tomb of Nearchos of Amphipolis, an admiral of Alexander. The structure lay on the right bank of the Strymon, down-stream from this northern Greek town. Although it was situated in the small necropolis to the south-west of, and serving, Amphipolis, there is no evidence that it was a tomb, and one should bear in mind that it may have been a cenotaph. The square foundations with sides of ca. 9.996, suggesting thirty feet of 0.332, were cut in to the slope and backed onto a hill. The upper level was decorated by engaged Doric half-columns. Large parts of the Doric half-capitals survive, their style suggesting a late fourth century date based on comparanda, and traces of the entablature have now been found, as well as evidence for the shield Roger restores in his elevation.  Although the details of the restoration cannot be certain, it is apparent that the foundations are small in relation to the size of the lion, so that even though the lion looks large in proportion to the base, particularly when one compares it to the Cnidus tomb, the rough ratio must be correct. The area around the structure was known as ‘Marmara’, showing that it was a source of the stone in its later history, though many regular poros blocks from its foundations and core have been found. The dating, owing to the little architecture preserved, and disputed chronology of comparanda, is difficult, but unlikely to be before the middle of the fourth century, or much after the beginning of the third. The architecture of the base, particularly the use of engaged Doric columns has led some to question this date, but although there are not as many examples of this in Doric structures as there are in Ionic, the form was in use since the sixth century, and there are enough examples from the fourth century not to preclude this as a date.

                  The lion itself is recreated from fourteen fragments: it is not complete.  It was made of Thasian marble, ht. 5.37-40, and standing on a base 3.30 by 2.10, built of limestone clad in creamy white marble. Its pose, sitting on its rump, is known since the sixth century, and is the same as that of the lions from Thespiae and Chaironea. The exaggerated anatomy, with inflated muscles and veins, is not unusual for a sculpture placed so high on a building. The mane is surprisingly detailed, with the hair immediately around the face differentiated from the rest, and it contrasts with the smooth skin. The large locks make the hair seem less organic than on the other examples. The mane runs down the front in a triangle, and one can note the rendition of a fringe of hair along the back legs which is typical of fourth century and Hellenistic representations of lions. Stylistically it is closest to the Chaironea lion, notably in its mane, as well as in its pose. The eyes were carved, and not inlaid like those of the Cnidus lion. The mouth was deeply carved, a feature also seen at Chaironea. There is no trace of the animal’s tail. The lion was not monolithic, but made up of six horizontal blocks with anathyrosis, held together by double-T and hook clamps of iron set in lead, to which were doweled additional pieces. Some of the blocks, particularly those at the top, were cut away to reduce the weight. This piecing is the most unusual aspect of the lion, though it is a technique known and occasionally used in the fourth century, and is more closely related to the techniques used in masonry; similar hollowing and piecing can be seen on the Mausoleum chariot group. 
           The seated lion from a Polyandrion at Thespiae, Boeotia, is now in Thebes Museum;  its date is uncertain, linked to local warriors fallen at Tanagra, Delion and even Thermopylae, but it is likely to be amongst the first of the series of colossal lions as grave-markers in the Greek world, probably from the last quarter of the fifth century. Unfortunately not enough of the surviving architecture was recorded.   Broneer, who sees this Polyandrion as the first extant lion monument, the engraved names of the deceased giving it a date within the second half of the fifth century, linked it to Delion. Either way, it is identified as one of a number of fifth century lions, that fill in the gap between those of the Archaic and of the Hellenistic periods, showing definite continuity of the form, increasing in size over the centuries. The front right leg, part of the left and most of the rump of the Thespiae lion are missing. If one is to believe the reconstruction, the tail lay flat on the ground underneath the raised belly, hence no trace of it remains. Parallels can be drawn to the Attic Piraeus Lion, now outside the Venice Arsenal,  although this lion post-dated the Boeotian one by a century or more, being from the late fourth or early third centuries. The pose of the monolithic Piraeus lion, three times life-size, is close to those from Amphipolis and Chaironea but its rendition cruder; the tail is rolled in a rather too affected fashion around a hind leg, and its over-stylised mane is very much in the Archaic tradition, although the locks are not schematised enough to be overtly Archaising.                   
                 The date of the Lion Tomb at Cnidus,  in Caria, is debated, ranging from Newton’s now largely dismissed early fourth century, on which Pullan’s reconstruction is based, to Krischen’s ca. 175, on a comparison with the Bouleuterion at Miletus. I do not find either’s arguments convincing, and prefer a date in the second half of the fourth century. Stylistically the architecture is unlikely to be Classical, and the overall format would thus be loosely based on the near-by Mausoleum. Its only decoration was a reclining lion, British Museum 1350, whose pose is not dissimilar to that of the late fourth century Dipylon Lion/Hound. It was placed on top of the pyramidal roof that topped the Doric base. A broken piece of a relief shield, restored between the columns, was also found.

            The monolithic lion, of a marble that may be Pentelic, almost three and a half metres long originally,  was frontal in the sense that his head faces his right flank, at an angle of around seventy degrees, and his tail is wrapped around his hind leg on that side, making his back the secondary view. In this sense he differs from the other lions, as well as being in a different pose. Much of the underside was roughly hollowed out to reduce the weight and relieve the stress placed on the structure. The sculpture is in surprisingly good condition, though the surface is discoloured at the front and in parts heavily weathered, particularly on the left flank and around the rump where the tail is nearly worn away. The rear left foreleg and paw are missing, as are the tips of the ears. The mouth was deeply drilled, and the lower jaw is now broken off. As with the other features it was emphasised so as to be seen from a distance. The running drill was used on the mouth, nostrils, locks of hair, and to delineate the area between the legs. The eyes are hollow to a depth of ca. 0.10, width 0.125, with roughly carved sockets that suggest insertion, perhaps of a reflective material, as in the lion with flashing eyes of Pliny, NH 36,17. The beast has abundant fur, in its mane that reaches back ca. 0.70, as far back as the beginning of its hind quarters, and in the fringes that run along the bottoms of the flanks and on the legs. The mane is made up of schematic locks, in the shape of half-crescents curving towards the right or front flank, that goes down into the triangular area between the forelegs. 
              The square Polyandrion the beast rested upon was of lightly coloured marble on a limestone core, surrounded by a high temenos wall. The foundations measure a fraction over 12 m per side. Above the three stepped crepis were four engaged Doric half-columns per side, with a Doric entablature. The shafts are fluted only immediately below the capital, a feature also seen on the temple of Athena Polias at Pergamon, traditionally dated to the early third century, but now being redated to the late fourth.  It is unclear whether this should be taken to indicate that it was unfinished, or if it was a design feature. Engaged Doric columns are known from the sixth century and are found again in the fourth. The central columns were more widely spaced, with a round relief shield in between them: the intercolumniations were of three metopes, with four over the middle bay. The central chamber had eleven smaller ones radiating from it. Pullan’s reconstruction of the tomb is based on the idea of it having been late Classical, and Krischen suggests that certain features of it should be altered: the addition of an attic below the roof is without foundation, and the double socle for the lion is more likely to have been single. Waywell agrees with Krischen that the pyramidal roof is likely to have been made up of twelve steps rather than ten. The tomb would originally have been around forty feet high as opposed to Pullan’s sixty-one feet. Krischen has suggested that the columns on the reconstruction are too low, but he is restoring them on a par with those from the Bouleuterion at Miletus to reinforce his proposed later date. None of the information known about the architecture or sculpture of the tomb precludes a date in the second half of the fourth century, but the structure is unlikely to have been erected before the Mausoleum, under whose knowledge and influence it was built. The influence of Halicarnassus, in Caria, may have been responsible for the large number of such tombs around that region, in the Doric as well as the Ionic order.

               A similar arrangement to this series of tombs can be seen on a more elaborate Heroon at Sagalassos, second half or third quarter of second century BC.  The structure, 7.74 x 8.59, had a solid podium, then a three-stepped socle, crowned by the frieze of dancing girls for which the structure is best known. Above was a Corinthian distyle in antis naiskos with a pyramidal roof; a large marble lion with the head of a bull under its front paw, found at the foot of the structure, is restored as an epithema. The reclining lion, its head turned to the left, was set on a high plinth; the workmanship is rougher than that of the frieze, confirming a location at some height from the viewer. The inclusion of a bull or deer head under the front paws of reclining lions is a feature often seen in Hellenistic Asia Minor, with examples at Rhodes and flanking the entrance to the harbour at Miletus.  The Heroon was intramural, located on a hill near the bouleuterion, to the northwest of the Agora. Though called a Heroon, the exact nature of the monument is uncertain; the discovery of remains of a colossal statue ca. 4 m high, that appears to be a portrait of Alexander, has led Waelkens to suggest that the structure may have been linked to his cult. 
                 The Scylla Monument at Bargylia,  also in Caria, follows the basic architecture of the tombs with lions as epithemata, but replaces these with the eponymous monster. Like them it was built outside the town, by a necropolis, and an inscription probably names one of the two occupants of the tomb, Melas, son of Hermaiskos.  This suggests that the structure was a tomb. The foundations were recorded by Biliotti as measuring 7.62 x 6.70. The superstructure was of white marble, with engaged fluted Doric half-columns and a pyramidal roof with room for 12 steps. The twelfth step of the pyramid, ht. 0.33, acted as a base for the group. The base of the Scylla group was 1.83 x 1.37, and Waywell in his reconstruction takes the sculptural group’s dimensions to be 1.80 x 1.50; the concept of the sculpture overlapping the base is a Hellenistic one. The overall height of the building, including the sculpture, would have been ca. 12 m, with the height of the architecture restored as ca. 9.75. Only traces of the entablature, fragments of a cornice with mutules, have been found, but it is likely to have been Doric with blank metopes. Architecturally it was quite similar to the Lion Tomb at Cnidus. Waywell dates the structure to the first half of the second century, after Cnidus but preceding the tomb at Ta Marmara: this is based on the typology of the sculpture as well as on the architecture. 
           The Scylla was pieced, so that she could more easily have been lifted into place, and is reconstructed of five main fragments.  The group was made of two different marbles, with a finer white for her torso, and presumably her head, and a slightly darker grey-white for the rest of the group. As reconstructed in the display the group measures: ht. 1.83, w. 1.745, d. excluding tail 1.185, d. including tail 1.69 m. The original height would have been ca. 2.25, or one and a half times life-size. The lower part of the creature is made up of three ketea and one preserved fish tail, though there were probably two originally. The dogs’ manes are treated as if fins, and this emphasis on necking is similar to the seaweed skirt Scylla wears to mark the end of her human torso. This can be seen from ca. 300 on Tritons, and on such creatures as centaurs, for example at Belevi, where the articulation of the transition was used to emphasise the duality of these creatures’ natures. There is a strong twist in the upper part of the torso, with the right arm raised, the left lowered, which creates a spiral within the composition, though overall there is a large degree of frontality. The abdomen is worn and damaged, but still powerful, almost masculine; she does however have breasts. A similarity in the representation can be noted to the Tritonnesses from throne at Lycosoura.  A sailor,  whose sleeved arm is amongst thirty or so smaller fragments from the group, was held by Scylla and fed to the hounds; this assumption can be made not only on the basis of the aforementioned fragment, in which the arm is clasped by a canine paw, but by the pose of the dogs’ heads, and by Scyllan iconography as seen in representations in the minor arts.

            The Scylla would have acted as a tomb ‘guardian’ in the manner of the lions, but was a more adventurous choice. She appears to have been used in funerary contexts,  on Tarentine tombs  and in Etruscan art, but otherwise little in mainstream Greek art. Taranto has often been seen as the conduit through which Greek art influenced that of Etruria, and one can see the monster represented on a number of stone urns. She was also one of the motifs used in mass-produced, mould-made terracotta urns from Chiusi in the second and first centuries BC.  On small Chiusan urns she is on the front; she can also be located there on the larger limestone urns, but is more often on one or both ends. There are a number of variations within her Etruscan iconography but, as in Tarentine sculpture, she is always depicted frontally.  In fourth century Greek depictions, Scylla appears to be passive, while in the third century she once again becomes aggressive and violent. 
               Lions were used from the Archaic period onwards as grave markers. A popular use may have been as a pun on the name of the deceased, such as Leonidas, and Leon of Sinope.  The monumental lion at Hamadan in Ekbatana may have been erected by order of Alexander the Great to mark where Hephaestion died.  A similar lion, on limestone crepis base, is to be found at Pella.  Lionesses on the other hand were associated with courtesans, and used to depict allegories on their mausolea.  The lions were standardised, depicted either reclining or seated. By the fourth century the type of a lion crowning a monumentalised Doric base, had been established, but due to lack of evidence it is difficult to ascertain when it reached this point; the earlier type was of a simple base. The Mausoleum is the first known structure with an epithema, of a quadriga, and also illustrates the use of lions as grave guardians; standing lions were positioned on the lower step of the pyramidal roof. A similar series of standing lions ran around the top of the podium on the so-called Ptolemaion at Limyra,  and free-standing lions were again amongst the decoration of the so-called Founder’s Tomb by the stadium at Messene. On a smaller scale one can note that reclining lions take the place of lateral acroteria on the Alexander Sarcophagus and on the tomb of Nikeratos of Istria at Kallithea.
            The later tombs with epithemata are all Doric, though large acroteria similar to epithemata appear on Ionic altars. The popularity of lions can be seen to be due to their role as a guardian of the tomb, a role which would not be inconsistent with the use of Scylla at Bargylia. Lions represented valour and courage, and one can also note that they were Phoenician symbols of death, explaining their early and systematic use in Asia Minor. In Phrygia the motif of paired lions was popular, seemingly symbolising royal power, also a sign of apotropaia used as a motif to fight off evil. Although the lion tomb has a longer history, many examples are from the same time-span as the Macedonian tombs, but could not be more different in conception. They are in the Greek and Lycian-Ionian tradition of having markers visible above ground. One must conclude that the differentiation is deliberate.

            The epithemata, which can be understood as more emphasised acroteria that stood on top of a building that was in turn a glorified base, have in common a degree of frontality. The buildings, which seem all to have been cenotaphs or tombs, follow the same general construction, with the epithemata at the apex of a pyramidal roof that bridges the gap between the sculpture and the top of a Doric pseudo-colonnade on a podium. A number of other tombs followed the basic structure of these, but replaced the stepped roof and sculpture with a simple gabled one. Others kept the steps, but did not use them as a base for a figure. Thus one can see the series of monuments as a fusion of a number of traditions: the trend towards increasingly elaborate and grandiose bases, topped with acroteria.


No comments:

Post a Comment

I do not moderate comments, but I remove spam, overt self-promotion ("read [link] my much better post on this") and what I consider hate speech (racism, homophobia etc).

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.