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Artefact – Funeral Urns

I have been preparing for the Classical Association conference this week and so have not had the opportunity to write anything substantial. I look forward to doing a write up of the conference when I get back. However, during this preparation work I have been thinking about where I want to take my studies once I finish my MA. I have always had a fascination with the mythology of the underworld and during a recent visit to the British Museum I saw these two pieces.


Cinerary urn designed in the form of a thatched hut dating from the 8/7th century BC. Discovered in Monte Albano.



Marble cinerary urn from the 1st/2nd century AD. The inscription reads as a dedication to Bovia Procula. It is thought that this originated in southern Italy.

It is interesting that the funerary urn did not change much in design over the duration of 800-1000 years. Though materials differ, as with the ones pictured, the shape and general design remain quite similar. Burials occurred in other parts of Italy but the only funeral rite in early Villanovian culture was incineration. The remains were placed in a container and buried in a cylindrical well. The most common style of funerary urn was a biconical vase with a bowl like lid. The hut urn pictured above was uncommon; at larger burial sites approximately one out of every hundred were of this style (Bartoloni, 2000:59).

Since taking these photos I have often thought about the pieces and what they represent. This is definitely an area that I would like to investigate in greater depth and maybe where my future studies take me.

Just a note that if you are not attending the conference but are on Twitter you can follow #CA14. There are a number of other people you can follow in addition to me on @da11sop. I would also recommend you follow the Classics Collective through their blog where they will be posting updates on the conference.


Bartoloni, G. The Origin and Diffusion of Villanovan Culture in The Etruscans, Torelli, M. (Ed), London: Thames and Hudson, 2001, pp. 53-71.


Artefact – Model sailing ship with crew


This artefact is a model sailing ship with its crew. It was discovered in Kalokhorio and dates to approximately the 7th/6th century BC. This item was a sanctuary offering and suggests that seafaring was important to the people of Cyprus. Given its location and natural resources Cyprus would have been an important trading island for the Mediterranean. With access to an abundant supply of wood the cities of Cyprus would have had the ability to develop a large scale naval fleet. The control of the seas would not have just been important to Cyprus but other nations as well, such as the Minoans and Phoenicians. Nations that had the power to dominate the seas whether by military might or for commercial purposes are referred to by the term Thalassocracy.

Votive offerings of model ships may have been made for many reasons; in order to praise the gods for a victory during a sea battle, for a safe voyage or by merchants to protect trade routes. However, without any epigraphic evidence it is difficult to establish what the intention of this offering was. The crew do not appear to be warriors as there are no weapons and so this might be the offering from a merchant.

It is interesting to note that ship dedications came in all shapes and sizes, the photo below is the display of ship sanctuary offerings at the Cyprus Museum. Carlson (2009:361) observes that sometimes whole ships were set up in a sanctuary as dedications. Though a much older study, Deane (1922:486) also notes the observations of Couchoud and Svoronos who believe that Antigonus Gonatas built a house in which a ship was dedicated as an offering after a naval victory against Ptolemy in 250 BC. I believe that evidence suggest as this suggests that ship offerings were important to the Greeks. This is likely due to their dependency on the sea for travel, trade and military purposes.




Carlson, D. Seeing the Sea: Ships’ Eyes in Classical Greece, Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Vol. 78, No. 3 (2009), pp. 347-365. Available from: [Accessed: 04 April 2014]

Deane, S. Archaeological Discussions, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 26, No. 4 (Oct. – Dec., 1922), pp. 477-515. Available from: [Accessed: 04 April 2014]

Statue of Zeus Keraunios (Thunderer)

This is the statue of Zeus Keraunios (Thunderer) dating to approximately 500 BC, excavated at Kition. The statue can be identified as Zeus due to three key attributes; the beard, the arm positioned in a throwing motion and the eagle that used to be in the left hand. Unfortunately only the talons of the eagle are preserved and very little of the thunderbolt. In addition to these attributes inscriptions indicate that a Temple of Zeus Keraunios existed at Kition.


The statue can be compared to the early Greek kouroi that were likely influenced by Egyptian sculpture. The Egyptians represented the figure striding forward, with flat feet and fists by their side. The kouroi have a similar stance but the Greeks developed this style further to create a more natural free standing figure. The Zeus has a similar stance and stylised hair but it differs as kouroi were nude. The Zeus is depicted wearing a chiton and aegis with an archaic smile. Early kouroi had expressionless faces and the archaic smile developed later. The archaic smile is intended to present a naturalistic face and create a more realistic representation of the human form. It can be compared to similar mainland Greek sculpture of the time indicating the influence of Greece during the Ionian revolt. I would suggest that there is a strong local influence on the sculptural representation of Zeus is he represented clothed.

The Zeus can be compared to statues such as the New York Kouros in form and design but also the Moscophoros of the Acropolis Museum which has a similar archaic smile.

The escape of Cloelia

The escape of Cloelia from Porsena is an interesting episode that is alleged to have occurred following the downfall of the Roman monarchy and rise of the Republic. The episode is recounted by several authors including Livy (The History of Rome 2.13.6-11), Plutarch (Life of Publicola 18-19) and Dionysius of Halicarnassus (Roman Antiquities  33-34). The story itself demonstrates the ingenuity, bravery and skill of Cloelia. However, this is not what I intend to focus upon but instead the inconsistency of the accounts of Livy and Plutarch.

In summary Livy tells that Cloelia escaped from King Porsena’s guards unobserved and swam across the Tiber leading the other hostages to safety. Angered by Cloelia’s behaviour Porsena demands her surrender for having led the escape. However, Porsena’s feelings of anger change to those of admiration, and he declares that the treaty agreed between his kingdom and Rome would not be considered broken if Cloelia surrenders herself. Furthermore, Porsena states that he will release Cloelia following the surrender because of the bravery she demonstrated. True to his word she is released along with half of the remaining Roman hostages as a reward. The Romans raise an equestrian statue in Cloelia’s honour.

Plutarch’s account is very different. Cloelia leads the hostages to safety across the Tiber on horseback, but upon their return to Rome the Consul Publicola is concerned that the word of the Romans has been broken. Publicola in order to keep the cities word decides to return the hostages to Porsena. On route to Porsena’s camp the convoy is attacked by the former king Tarquinius Superbus. Porsena’s son, having learned of the plan, intervenes and assists in the safe return of the hostages. Cloelia is identified to Porsena as the instigator of the escape and in full admiration of her achievement he gifts her a horse. Plutarch notes that there is an equestrian statue by the Via Sacra but observes that it could be Cloelia or Publicola’s daughter Valeria.

The accounts have some very striking differences which might be explained through the sources used, the timing of the episode or due to political reasons.

It is highly likely that Livy and Plutarch used different sources. It has been suggested by Affortunati and Scardigli (1992:119) that Valerius Antias is undoubtedly responsible for the positive representation of Publicola in Plutarch’s work. It is likely, therefore, that Plutarch relied heavily on Antias’ work when producing his Life of Publicola. Therefore, it might be suggested that the Cloelia episode was also drawn from this work. Like Plutarch Livy relied on the histories written by other authors in order to write his The History of Rome; the works of Quintus Fabius Pictor, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Frugi were used among many others. It is clear that Livy used multiple sources throughout the work as he cross references them and notes where they disagreed with each other; one such example being the differing accounts of the battle between Aeneas and Latinus (Livy The History of Rome 1.1.5-9). Given the distinct differences between the accounts it might be suggested that either Livy was not aware of the second version of the Cloelia story, or he chose to ignore it due to the inconsistencies with the other sources. However, if Livy knew of this version it is likely he would have noted the inconsistency as he did with other events. Plutarch notes only one dispute between authors, over why Cloelia was gifted a horse. It is clear that he was aware of other versions of the story when writing his Life of Publicola, but it is not clear which ones. It could be argued that as the biography focused on a specific individual Plutarch may have referred only to sources that related to his subject. These sources may not have included the version of the Cloelia story Livy refers to.

The event that Livy and Plutarch wrote about pre-dated the start of Roman historiography. The earliest Roman to write about the history of Rome was Fabius Pictor; likely just before 200 BC. The stories of Rome’s foundation and development would have passed through centuries of the oral tradition before being written down and as such were subject to change (the link will take you to a short piece I wrote about the oral tradition). The story of Cloelia is subject to such changes which could include local variances and the differing views, biases and interpretations of the person committing it to writing.

There may have been political reasons for presenting the story in different ways. Livy’s account demonstrates Roman resourcefulness and ingenuity. Porsena is so impressed with Cloelia’s actions that he gifts half of his hostages to her to take back to Rome with her. Nothing about the story presented in Livy is negative about the Roman’s or the episode. Forsythe (2005:149) suggests that the story of Cloelia is a laudatory tale created to reinforce Roman pride and cover up the fact that Porsena conquered the city. On the one hand, I consider that evidence for this can be seen in Plutarch’s version of events. Publicola’s concerns for the Roman’s word of honour could also be viewed as a concern for the breach of the treaty. The broken treaty could have resulted in the return of Porsena’s army and further bloodshed or capitulation. On the other hand, Plutarch states that Porsena honours Cloelia and abandons his camp taking only his army’s weapons. However, it must be noted that Plutarch is likely presenting Valerius Antias’ view of his ancestors achievements. Therefore, the account is likely to be heavily biased in order to present a strong and honourable lineage. Authorial bias, such as this, likely affected what elements were included (events may have been left out if they were disliked or not believed) and aspects may have been refined in order to it fit with the narrative or theme of the work.

It is difficult to draw one conclusion as to why events can vary so much between authors as there are a series of factors that appear to effect what is recounted. Authorial bias likely affected what sources were chosen, whether other works were consulted and what was important to include. Furthermore, the transmission of stories through the oral tradition may have resulted in different local variances of events. Roman annalists may have taken it upon themselves to present an idealised view of Roman history where honour, ingenuity and skill is important and admired; even by their enemies. These factors may have individually or collectively contributed in some way to the differing representations of the Cloelia episode.


Primary Sources

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, Loeb Classical Library Translated by E. Cary, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1950. LacusCurtius [Accessed: 23 March 2014]

Livy, History of Rome Translated by Rev. C. Roberts, New York: E. P. Dutton and Co. 1912. Perseus Digital Library [Accessed: 23 March 2014]

Plutarch, The Parallel Lives Vol 1, The Life of Publicola, Loeb Classical Library Translated by Bernadotte Perrin Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1914. LacusCurtius*.html [Accessed: 23 March 2014]

Secondary Sources

Affortunati, M. and Scardigli, B. ‘Aspects of Plutarch’s Life of Publicola’, Plutarch and the Historical Tradition Stadter, P. (Ed) London: Routledge, 1992.

Forsythe, G. A Critical History of Early RomeLos Angeles: University of California Press, 2005.

A Blog Birthday Thank You

Greek ancient theater cake

Ancient Greek Theater Cake – Image via

It is a year to the day that I started writing for my blog, and what a year it has been. Since this blog began I have written 152 posts which have been viewed 11,825 times. I would just like to say a big thank you to all those who follow, read and comment on what I put out there. Your support is very much appreciated.

I have learnt a lot over the course of this year about blogging in an entertaining way whilst maintaining academic rigour. Blogging has also enabled me to write about areas of interest, share my experiences and travels and further develop my studies by exploring topics in greater depth. I have re-read some my earlier pieces and feel the urge to re-write them because my style has developed and improved so much.

I am really looking forward to the coming year. There will be a lot for me to write about in July and August following my trip to Greece. I will also be entering the final stages of my MA focusing on Greek and Roman Epic and a yet to be determined dissertation topic.

If you have any areas of interest you would like me to write about then do contact me, my contact details are on the welcome page. I also share a lot of articles by other classicists and bloggers, pictures and other content on twitter (@da11sop) and via Facebook ( So do follow me and like my page if you use those Social Networks and want to keep up with me between posts.

Thank you again everyone and here is to the year ahead.



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