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06 april '20

Red-figure hydria – kalpis

Red-figure hydria – kalpis, ceramic, necropolis of Apollonia Pontica (pres. Sozopol), first quarter of the 4th century BC,  National Museum of History, inv. № 37317

The hydria (water jar) has been found in the center of a ceramic depot (offering place). An ancient repair with three lead clamps is seen at the base of one of the horizontal handles indicating that the luxurious object was used for a long time before being placed on the ritual place.

A xoanon (ancient wooden statue) of the Goddess Artemis is represented in the center of the shoulders of the vessel holding a bow and a tray (phiale?) in her hands. The situated on a higher level rectangular, profiled alter, and the represented above it Bucranium mark the sacred space of the goddess. A priestess (Iphigenia) is represented in the left, stepping towards the xoanon with hands stretched over the tray. A flying Eros is depicted behind her with a hand outstretched towards her shoulder.

The god Apollo is situated in the foreground to the right of the statue. He is laureate, sitting to the left and holding laurel boughs in his hands.

The composition on the lower level presents a female deer with up-turned head, a sitting woman to its left and a maenad running to the right and holding a thyrsus and a bough are represented in the right.

The scenes represent moments of a popular legend, known from the tragedies by Euripides – Iphigenia in Aulos and Iphigenia in Tauris. The daughter of Agamemnon, the hero of the Trojan War, was to be sacrificed at the altar of Artemis to allow the ships to sail from the port. On the goddess will, she was replaced with a female deer and carried away to the northern land of the Taurians (in Chersoneses of Tauris) her sanctuary. There she became a priestess of the Taurian Artemis, to whom human sacrifices were offered. 

However, the represented on the hydria is not an illustration to the letter of the subject-matter. The inclusion of additional personages and symbols (Eros, a maenad with a thyrsus, etc.), which are not present in the known version of the myth, builds up the symbolism of the scene in the context of the funeral rite and the notions of death. Everything is happening simultaneously in it – the symbolic death of the maid in the real world and her transition into Yonder, into a new stasis – of a priestess, who sometimes even has been identified with Artemis herself, or with Hecate. 

Author: L. Konova
Translation: S. Tsaneva
Photos: T. Dimitrov

Further reading:
Конова, Л. Образът на Хеката – Артемида в Аполония Понтика. Бележки към синкретизма в двукултурните зони по Западния Понт. В:  Stephanos Archaeologicos in honorem Professoris Ludmili Getov. (Studia Archaeologica Universitatis Serdicensis, Suppl. IV). София 2005, с. 427 – 441
Konova, L. „Iphigenie auf Tauris“ an der  Schwarzmeerküste. Bemerkungen zur kulturellen Synkretismus in den Westpontischen Poleis. In: Pontos Euxeinos. Beiträge zur Archäologie und Geschichte des antiken Schwarzmeer- und Balkanraumes, Beyer&Beran 2006,  S. 81 – 92