A GREEK ONYX CAMEO OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT
HELLENISTIC PERIOD, CIRCA 2ND-1ST CENTURY B.C.
The circular stone in three layers, black on white on blue-black, carved with the head of the Macedonian king in profile to the right, wearing a diadem in his characteristic tousled hair, the upper edge of the horn of Ammon in black; mounted as a brooch in a late 19th century gold setting ornamented with filigree and granulation, and hanging on a modern gold chain.
Bronze statuette of a veiled and masked dancer. Greek, 3rd–2nd century B.C.
The complex motion of this dancer is conveyed exclusively through the interaction of the body with several layers of dress.
Over an undergarment that falls in deep folds and trails heavily, the figure wears a lightweight mantle, drawn tautly over her head and body by the pressure applied to it by her right arm, left hand, and right leg. Its substance is conveyed by the alternation of the tubular folds pushing through from below and the freely curling softness of the fringe.The woman’s face is covered by the sheerest of veils, discernible at its edge below her hairline and at the cutouts for the eyes. Her extended right foot shows a laced slipper. This dancer has been convincingly identified as one of the professional entertainers, a combination of mime and dancer, for which the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria was famous in antiquity. (MET)
The origins of these dancers are briefly mentioned in my book, ‘Alexander’s Lost General’, in one of the later chapters. I almost feel the need to return and expand on them, but sadly there really is no place for it.
Sliver Tetradrachm with head of Alexander the Great, dating back to 297-281 BCE. This coin conveys Alexander’s superhuman status by endowing him with the ram’s horn of the god Zues-Ammon. The Macedonian king ruled Babylon from 331 BCE until his death in that same city in 323 BCE. Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.
Photo by Babylon Chronicle
Hellenistic Greek Gold and Garnet Earrings, Circa Late 4th Century BC
Alexander the Great.
The Ishtar Gate And The Animals It Holds
The Ishtar Gate is a part of the fortified walls that surrounded the ancient city of Babylon. The Ishtar Gate was actually the eighth and final gate into the city and served as the city’s main entrance. Pictured is a reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate from Berlin’s Pergamon Museum. They were built by King Nebuchadnezzar in 575 BCE as part of his plan to beautify his capital city. Just like any modern-day city beautification project, the Ishtar Gate was just a part of a series of construction projects that included restoration to the Temple of Marduk and the world famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
The Gate stood as high as 11.5 metres in some places and was decorated all over with glazed brick tile reliefs. The mosaics that these bricks formed depicted creatures of importance to the Mesopotamian world, whether these animals were real or mythical.
The ‘striding lion’ wall relief in the ROM’s collection is just one example of the many animal mosaics that decorated this palace. On display in the ROM’s Mesopotamia Exhibition, this panel was just one of many that covered the walls of the Ishtar Gate and Processional Way. The lion was of particular importance since it was the animal commonly associated with Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess of love and war.
Another animal that graced the walls of the Ishtar Gate was the aurochs. This is a now-extinct type of large cattle that inhabited Europe, Asia and North Africa. As with the lion, the aurochs had an association with a god that made it especially significant to the Mesopotamian world. The aurochs was commonly associated with Adad, the Mesopotamian god of weather and storms, who was commonly seen riding atop a bull.
The third and final creature that could be found on the Ishtar Gate was the mušḫuššu (also known as sirrusu or sirrush), an animal out of Mesopotamian mythology. Just as with creatures like the gryphon or the sphinx, the sirrush was a combination of many different features rolled into one animal. It combined the scaly body of a dragon with feline front paws and eagle’s talons for hind legs. As if this wasn’t intimidating enough, the creature also had a snake’s tongue as well as a horn and crest atop its head.
Interestingly enough, when the sirrush was first seen on the Ishtar Gate in 1902 by German archaeologist Robert Koldewey, he believed it to be the portrayal of a once-real animal. This was due in part to the fact that the depiction of this creature remained consistent throughout many years of Mesopotamian art but more importantly because the sirrush was depicted alongside the aurochs and lions, two existing animals. While it was eventually correctly identified as a mythological creature, it serves as an interesting case of cryptozoological speculation.
The Processional Way
Through the actual Ishtar Gate was the Processional Way, which was a vast corridor stretching roughly 800 metres long and walls about 15 metres high. The walls of the Processional Way were similarly adorned with glazed tile reliefs of lions, flowers and other decorative elements.
Both gate entrances of Imgur-Ellil and Nemetti-Ellil following the filling of the street from Babylon had become increasingly lower.
Therefore, I pulled down these gates and laid their foundations at the water table with asphalt and bricks and had them made of bricks with blue stone on which wonderful bulls and dragons were depicted.
I covered their roofs by laying majestic cedars length-wise over them. I hung doors of cedar adorned with bronze at all the gate openings.
I placed wild bulls and ferocious dragons in the gateways and thus adorned them with luxurious splendor so that people might gaze on them in wonder
I let the temple of Esiskursiskur (the highest festival house of Marduk, the Lord of the Gods a place of joy and celebration for the major and minor gods) be built firm like a mountain in the precinct of Babylon of asphalt and fired bricks.
A Wonder Of The World
One of the coolest things I learned in reading about the Ishtar Gate is that when it was first built, it made the original list of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. While it was later bumped from its spot by the Lighthouse of Alexandria, it was still recognized as one of the most spectacular and awe-inspiring objects in the world at its time. After the gates were replaced on the list by the Lighthouse of Alexandria, there were still some figures (notably Callimachus of Cyrene and Antipater of Sidon) who felt the Ishtar Gate deserved the recognition which had been taken away.
I just find it fascinating that thousands of years ago, in a time before social media and award shows, there were still people arguing over top 10 lists.
- If you’re interested in learning more about the Ishtar Gate, check out the ROM’s exhibition – Mesopotamia: Inventing our World, on display until the start of the New Year.
- Join us for Mesopotamia Weekend on September 28th and 29th and for our Mesopotamia Sleepover on Friday October 4th!
- Marco Marini, “Door n. 2” March 17, 2007 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.
- JoeLosFeliz, “Ishtar Gate (detail)” April 29, 2013 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.
- Badly Drawn Dad “Aurochs” via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.
- Allie Caulfield, “Berlin 313 Pergamon Museum, Ischtar Tor, Detail” October 14, 2012 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.
Post by Chris Miller, ROMKids Studio Assistant. Last updated: September 27, 2013.
Alcibiades (or Alkibiades) was a gifted, rich, handsome, and flamboyant Athenian statesman and general whose shifting of sides during the Peloponnesian War in the 400s BCE earned him a reputation for cunning and treachery. He was appointed general at the minimum age (30) and therefore had a seat on the ruling council of Athens, which he held for fifteen years. After some shenanigans and a likely conspiracy against him, Alcibiades was condemned to death in Athens and unsurprisingly fled to Sparta. Falling out of favor with their king, he switched alleigence to Persian Satrap Tissaphernes who happened to be allied with Sparta. Under guise of organizing a Athenian-Persian alliance, Alcibiades organized a coup in Athens. Democracy was replaced by an oligarchy of 400. Alcibiades returned to his former post of general, defeated the Persians and Spartans, and expanded the oligarchy to 5000. (Things went downhill from here. Athens started losing the Peloponnesian War, Alcibiades was blamed, not re-elected, and unofficially exiled. He was eventually murdered while taking refuge with a Persian satrap.)
You can’t tell me this doesn’t look just like Alexander…
Items from the tomb of Phillip II of Macedon of Vergina Museum and Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki
Head of the so called Dying Alexander, Hellenistic art, Uffizi Gallery.
Picspams of an endless list of beautiful films - Alexander (2004)
"How can I tell you what it was like to be young; to dream big dreams? And to believe when Alexander looked you in the eye you could do anything. In his presence, by the light of Apollo, we were better than ourselves."
I’m not too fond of this movie but this is one of the better pic sets I’ve seen.
Tetradrachm of Ptolemy I Soter in the name of Alexander III (the Great), Alexandria mint, Egypt c. 310-305 BC
Alexander right wearing elephant skin headdress with the horns of Zeus Ammon and the aegis. On the reverse, AΛEΞANΔPOY, Athena Alkidemos advances carrying a shield, monograms on either side, an eagle on a thunderbolt in the outer right field. The obverse has a countermark and there is graffiti in the form of an X on the reverse.
Ptolemy I Soter was a Macedonian general under Alexander the Great, who became ruler of Egypt (323–283 BC) and founder of both the Ptolemaic Kingdom and the Ptolemaic Dynasty. In 305/4 BC he demanded the title of pharaoh. The eagle on a thunderbolt was the personal emblem of Ptolemy.
The significance of Alexander in the Elephant Headdress:
Successors of Alexander the Great were rivals, and the history of the decades after Alexander’s death is one of warfare and constantly shifting alliances as they attempted to enlarge and consolidate their holdings. In these struggles coinage and coin portraits in particular played an important role. The first tentative steps in this direction were taken by the Successors who replaced the Herakles/Alexander type with portraits of the deified Alexander as a way of showing reverence for their predecessor and demonstrating their close association with him.
The first to do so was Ptolemy I of Egypt (c. 367-282 BC), a childhood friend of Alexander who immediately laid claim to Alexander’s cult and image in order to legitimize and consolidate his rule and enhance his prestige among the Successors.
In 321 BC Ptolemy hijacked Alexander’s body on its way to burial in Macedonia and had it enshrined in a magnificent tomb in his capital, Alexandria. About the same time he issued tetradrachms with an obverse portrait of Alexander wearing a headdress consisting of an elephant’s scalp, complete with trunk and tusks. The headdress, undoubtedly inspired by Herakles’ lionskin cap on Alexander’s own coins, refers to Alexander’s eastern conquests, in which his troops overcame an Indian army reinforced by some 200 elephants. Beneath the elephant scalp Alexander’s head sprouted ram’s horns, the distinctive attributes of Zeus Ammon, the Egyptian god whose priests had recognized Alexander as his son when he visited Egypt in 331 BC.
Photo with 1 note
Basic cover created with Kindle’s cover software. As I’m still waiting for the artist to respond.
Ancient Macedonian gold.
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