Life and Death in Rome Medea Sarcophagus (-140) (140 BCE)
Medea, granddaughter of the sun god Helios and daughter of the king of Colchis, on the far side of the Black Sea, used her magical powers to help the Argonauts gain the Golden Fleece and fell in love with their leader, Jason. On returning home to Iolcus, the hero handed the trophy to his uncle Pelias, who still refused him his royal inheritance. After Medea tricked Pelias' daughter into murdering her father, the lovers fled to the court of King Creon in Corinth. There they lived for ten years with their two sons, until Jason disowned his wife in order to marry the Icing's daughter Creusa. Creon now wanted to banish the frightening stranger and her children from Corinth. Deeply wounded, Medea sought the deadly revenge recounted in the four scenes of this relief. Here Medea has sent her sons with a gold diadem and costly wedding dress for the bride. Creusa receives the twins graciously, seated on the throne in the decorated palace; Medea's old nurse accompanies the children, and in the background is the man who will give away the bride, bearing poppy heads; on the left, Jason calmly observes the presentation of the gifts. The link to the next scene is made through the couple's hands: Creusa's a little raised, Jason's hanging loosely by his side as, standing beside a spear-carrier in the middle of the relief, he observes the cruel effect of Medea's presents. For, as soon as Creusa puts it on, the diadem bursts into flame, and she rises from her bed to try in vain to save herself. Her father, Creon, rushes to the scene and tears his hair in desperation. The next murder occurs shortly afterwards: as her two carefree children play ball, their mother, Medea, brandishes a sword behind them, intending to kill them in order to complete her vengeance on Jason. In the last scene Medea flees with the corpses of her children in Helios' dragon-drawn chariot; one of the boys is on her shoulders, while the legs of the other hang out of the chariot. Through the mythical fable recounted in the Medea of the Greek poet Euripides, first performed in Athens in 432 BCE – with its tale of death and marriage, of a young woman's terrible pain at what should be her happiest moment – the Roman observer of six hundred years later was offered an image of the tragedy that had befallen the deceased.
Altes Museum, Berlin | Etruscan and Roman Art | Life and Death in Rome Medea Sarcophagus 140 BCEDetails Unknown.jpg
Roman Villas - Luxury as a Lifestyle Centaur Mosaic (130 BCE - 120 BCE) ()
The centaur mosaic was found in the 18th century on the site of the sprawling, luxurious villa complex near Tivoli that once belonged to the Roman emperor Hadrian. The mosaic was found in situ along with other smaller ones that bore depictions of landscapes, animals and masks. The relatively small central panel (emblema) formed part of the floor decoration for the dining room (triclinium) in the main palace. The various individual scenes of these mosaic pictures bear depictions of wild, inhospitable landscapes that deliberately contrast with idyllic ones featuring animals living in harmony with each other. The dangers of the wild are portrayed in this mosaic in the dramatic struggle between great cats and a pair of centaurs, mythological creatures with the head, arms, and torso of a man and the body and legs of a horse. On a rocky outcrop that hangs over a terrific chasm that runs parallel to the bottom of the picture, a pair of centaurs have been pounced on by great cats. While the male centaur has been able to defend itself successfully from the lion, the tiger has managed to bring the female centaur to the ground and is clawing her side. The male centaur rushes to his companion’s side, rearing his legs in the air while holding a rock aloft above his head. Undaunted, the tiger seems intent on not surrendering its prey. Even though one lion already lies fatally wounded, bleeding and with its claws retracted, the outcome of the struggle is anything but clear because in the background (whose spatial depth is achieved through the staggered arrangement of rock forms and impressive gradations of colour) we see yet another foe for the centaur: a leopard ready to pounce. While depictions in older Greek art tended to emphasise the bestial side of centaurs, later depictions increasingly focussed on their human qualities. Lucian, a writer from the 2nd century, records that the Greek painter Zeuxis (active around 400 BCE) became famous for his painting of a family of centaurs, including the young, set in a rural idyll. Similarly, Ovid, who lived around the turn of the millennium, wrote in moving verse of the death of a centaur couple. The extensive restoration work that was undertaken in the 18th and 19th century makes it difficult to date the mosaic with certainty. As a result, its dating ranges from Hellenistic to Hadrianic. There is broad agreement among scholars that the mosaic amounts to one of most virtuoso works of Roman mosaic art, which was inspired by a Greek work of art (either a panel painting or mosaic) from the Hellenistic period.
Altes Museum, Berlin | Etruscan and Roman Art | Roman Villas - Luxury as a Lifestyle Centaur Mosaic (130 BCE - 120 BCE)Details Unknown.jpg
Chest Of Sarcophagus; Lion Hunt 240BC ()
From the 2nd to the 4th century, many Romans were laid to rest in a marble coffin with relief decoration, known as a sarcophagus. The word means ‘flesh-eater’ in Greek.The Glyptotek has a large collection of sarcophagi from tombs in Rome itself. The reliefs show a variety of motifs: Greek myths, flying Cupids and processions with the god of wine, Dionysus, are common. Lion hunts are rarer. At the centre is the deceased, on horseback. His hair and beard is cut very short as was the fashion in much of the 3rd century. The portrait resembles that of Balbinus, emperor in AD 238, allowing a closer dating.
Enthroned Woman With Infants (-298 - -198) ()
The enthroned woman holds four babies in her lap while breast-feeding the uppermost. The figure is one of many of the type discovered in a sanctuary at Capua in Campania. The sanctuary was consecrated to a fertility or mother goddess, possibly Fortuna or Juno. The exact intention of the donor is uncertain. This may be a case of a gift offered in gratitude for a successful birth or as a votive in hope of the same.