Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Circe appears in center mixing her potion for Odysseus’ men. The men have animal heads and arms, but retain their human lower bodies. Eurylochus escapes the scene at far right and Odysseus enters at far left.
Painter of the Boston Polyphemos. Attic Black-Figure Kylix Depicting Circe and the Companions of Odysseus, Eight Figures. Ceramic, Black Figure, Height: 13.2 cm (5 3/16 in.); diameter: 21.7 cm (8 9/16 in.), 550BC. Boston Museum of Fine Arts 99.518.
Tarporley Calyx Bowl
Scene from a phlyax play: The representation shows the structure of a stage at the far right. A hag with a dead goose and a basket containing a kid proclaims something to the effect of "I shall hand him over." An old man with arms raised pirouettes stage center. Looking to his right he says, "He has tied my hands up high." The actor with a long staff wears the costume of a nude figure and probably is the caricature of an athlete; his garments are thrown over the shoulder of the small figure at the upper left. The inscription associated with the athlete makes no sense and has been considered a magic spell responsible for the raised arms of his neighbor. Above the "athlete" is the word "tragedy," and a mask hangs in the background. A recent interpretation makes the two male figures accomplices about to steal the hag's provisions or defy her threats to turn them in. The inscriptions, written in Attic Greek, indicate that this farce originated on the Greek mainland rather than in Southern Italy. Terracotta calyx-krater (mixing bowl), attributed to the Tarporley Painter, ca. 400–390 B.C.Greek, South Italian, Apulian Terracotta; red-figure, H. 12 1/16 in. (30.6 cm) diameter 12 1/2 in. (31.8 cm).
Medea Escaping from Jason in a Dragon Chariot
Policoro Painter (Italian). Medea Escaping from Jason in a Dragon Chariot, Lucanian Calyx-Krater. Red-figure earthenware with added white, red, yellow, and brown wash, Diameter of mouth: w. 49.90 cm (19 5/8 inches); Overall: h. 50.50 cm (19 7/8 inches); Diameter of foot: w. 22.00 cm (8 5/8 inches)., 400BC. Cleveland Museum of Art.
Relief with Medea and the Daughters of Pelias
This relief, known since the Renaissance and considerably reworked, depicts the myth of Medea and the daughters of Pelias. Medea, of divine descent and the daughter of the king of distant Colchis, beyond the Black Sea, helped the Argonauts to win the Golden Fleece with her magical powers and fell in love with their leader, Jason. Returning to Iolcos, the hero delivered the Golden Fleece to his uncle, Pelias, but the latter refused to give him his royal inheritance. Medea undertook his revenge: in the presence of Pelias’ daughters, she cut up an old ram, cooked it in magic herbs and turned it into a young lamb. She convinced the young girls to do the same to their father. They cut him into pieces and cooked him, but Medea refused to give them the magic ingredients.
Marble relief scultpure, 420BC. Berlin Altes Museum, Image in Google Arts and Culture.
Upper Part of Caduceus (Hermes Staff).
The Greek kerykeion (Latin caduceus) appears in art from the Early Archaic period most often as the staff of Hermes, messenger of the gods and guide to mortals and immortals alike. It is sometimes held by Iris, another messenger of the gods (usually Hera), or by a Nike, who in this context serves as the herald of victory. Hermes, the god of herdsmen, was also known by the title Nomios (the pasturer). This office was granted to him by his half brother Apollo, who also bestowed on him a magic wand (not the kerykeion) to be used as a staff and symbol of his authority (Homeric Hymn 4.529). The origin of the kerykeion is not clear, but it may have its source in the ancient Near East. In his capacity as a guide, Hermes was the protector of travelers and merchants, as well as the patron of the thieves who preyed on them. Bronze examples of the kerykeion are often decorated with snake heads, and in later representations the staff is sometimes depicted with snakes coiled about it. These may be fanciful artistic derivatives of ribbons, which occasionally adorn the kerykeion. However, the snake was considered to be a communicator between the living and the dead because it spends time in the sunlight as well as underground. In this context, the reptiles make a fitting adornment to Hermes' staff, since in his capacity as Psychopompos (guide of souls) he escorted the shades of dead mortals from the world of the living to the realm of Hades. 5th century BC. Bronze. Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Junior League of Dallas 1969.7.
Dolls and Figurines
The leg of this figurine is inscribed with the name Mnesimachos, and the lid of the coffin lists nine men, including Mnesimachos, and closes with a catch-all phrase: "and anyone else who is either a legal advocate or a witness with him." This figurine may be connected with a defendant in a Lysian legal corpus case.
Kerameikos Coffin Figurine. Lead, classical Athens. Athens: Kerameikos Museum.
Greek Kolossoi, From left to right:
1) Carved voodoo doll with bound limbs from the Hellenistic Period in Israel (332 C.E. — 37 BCE), is “probably used in erotic magic practices." From an exhibit at Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, “Angels & Demons: Jewish Magic Through the Ages,” Image from Dan Friedman, "Jews Have Been Magic for Thousands of Years," Forward, May 19, 2010.
2) Lead Coffin figurine, Keramikos, Athens. Now in the Musees Royaux d'Art et Histoire, Brussels. Image from the Melammu Project
3) Bronze Kolossos, Hellenistic, Bronze, Musee de Delos Inv. A2157.In ancient Greek such a ritual image was usually called a Kolossos a word of uncertain origin, which can refer to an effigy of any kind. The Greek use of these effigies dates from at least the fourth century BCE and is similar to their use throughout the Mediterranean, although of course there are regional differences. One distinguishing characteristic of the Greek use of Kolossoi is that it is primarily defensive; it is generally aimed at containing a hostile force, rather than destroying it.
Jewelry and Amulets
Eros with Iunx
Gilded copper ring with Eros playing with a iunx/iynx (magical wheel on a string). The design on this ring shows Eros crouching to the left, holding the iunx. There is a simple, single ground line. The iynx-wheel (that can mean yearning or craving) is a magic spinning wheel instrument on a string invented by Aphrodite who taught its use to Eros. Its magic was used ‘to attract lovers and call back faithless lovers’.
350-300 BCE, found in Naukratis, Egypt. British Museum 1888,0601.1