In an effort to share more of our favourite ancient objects from around the world, Ancient History Encyclopedia staff have taken a closer look at some really amazing objects or structures. Today’s Object in Focus is the Francois Vase.
Roman glassware includes some of the finest pieces of art ever produced in antiquity and the very best were valued higher than wares made with precious metals. However, plain glass vessels such as cups, bowls, plates, and bottles were also used as everyday containers, in particular, for storing and serving food, drinks, and perfumes. The Romans also used glass for its decorative qualities and could be incorporated in mosaics and decorative panels in both walls and furniture. The material was also used for windows, to create jewellery, mirrors, game pieces, magnifying glasses, sculpture and, in the form of powder, even as a medicine and toothpaste. The sheer quantity of Roman glass would not be matched until the boom in Venetian glass in the 15th century CE. Below are some examples from the collection in the Archaeological Museum of the Museo Civico in Pavia, Italy. All images copyright of Mark Cartwright. These cups, bottles, and perfume containers all date to the 1st and 2nd century CE. Cups
Ivory, with its ease of carving and exotic rarity, has been used to make art objects for millennia. True ivory actually refers to only the dentine of elephant tusks but it may also refer to the tusks and teeth of walrus, hippopotamus, narwhal and sperm whales, amongst others. The ancient world acquired its ivory either directly or through trade with Africa and India via the Levant, as attested by the Bronze Age Ulu Burun shipwreck which had ivory as part of its cargo. In the modern day ivory is, of course, a strictly controlled commodity and its trade and use are illegal if taken from endangered species. In the ancient world, though, ivory could be carved alone or added to metals or wood and used as inlay. The Egyptians buried ivory objects with the dead, the Greeks used it for giant statues such as the Parthenon Athena, and the Romans even burnt it at funerals. Below are just some of the objects made from this precious and fragile material which have survived the centuries.
Apollo was considered an epitome of youth and beauty, source of life and healing, patron of the civilized arts, and as bright and powerful as the sun itself. He was, arguably, the most loved of all the Greek gods. Although he was associated with many positive aspects of the human condition such as music, poetry, and medicine, the god also had his darker side as the bringer of plague and divine retribution. Most famously as the remorseless slayer of Niobe’s six sons as punishment for her boasting and as the flayer of Marsyas after his presumptuous claim to be more musically gifted than Apollo himself. Objects traditionally associated with the god include: a silver bow, a Kithara or a lyre, a laurel branch, the omphalos of Delphi, and a palm tree. These can be variously seen in the many depictions of Apollo from Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic Greece and through to Roman times. Greek Apollo
If you’re staying in Athens then you will almost certainly visit the world famous National Museum and so have your breath pleasurably taken from you as you marvel at the treasures of Greece‘s glorious past. As this stupendous collection seems to have been pillaged from every local museum across Greece you might be forgiven for thinking that those other museums must have nothing more to present than empty shelves and little cards indicating, with some apology, that said artefact has been moved to Athens. Astonishingly though, even more wonders await the more intrepid traveller, in this case just down the road in nearby Piraeus.
The triumphal arch was a type of Roman architectural monument built all over the empire to commemorate military triumphs and other significant events such as the accession of a new emperor. Arches were often erected over major thoroughfares and as the structure had no practical function as a building it was often richly decorated with architectural details, sculpture and commemorative inscriptions, typically using bronze letters. The city of Rome has four outstanding examples of these lasting testaments to Roman vanity. Arch of Constantine I, 315 CE The Arch of Constantine I, erected in c. 315 CE, stands in Rome and commemorates Roman Emperor Constantine’s victory over the Roman tyrant Maxentius on 28th October 312 CE at the battle of Milvian Bridge in Rome. It is the largest surviving Roman triumphal arch and the last great monument of Imperial Rome. The arch is also a tour de force of political propaganda, presenting Constantine as a living continuation of the most successful Roman emperors, renowned for their military victories and good government.
The Erechtheion temple of the Athenian acropolis was constructed between 421 and 406 BCE under the supervision of the architect Philocles. The temple was built to house the ancient cult wooden statue of Athena and as a shrine to other local gods such as the early Athenian kings Erechtheus and Kekrops, and Boutes and Pandrosos. Poseidon and Zeus also had sacred precincts within the building. The south porch has the iconic Caryatids which make the building one of the most distinctive surviving structures of antiquity. The Erechtheion, named after the demi-god Erechtheus, the mythical Athenian king, was built using local Pentelic marble. The largest inner chamber housed the diiepetes, the olivewood statue of Athena Polias (of the city-state), clothed in the specially woven robe which was carried in the Panathenaic procession, held in the city every four years. In front of the statue stood a gold lamp designed by Kallimachos which had a bronze palm-shaped chimney and an asbestos wick which burned continuously. The sacred serpent (oikouros ophis), which was believed to be an incarnation of …