Percy Gardner

[Extracted from The Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol. 5 (1884), pp. 105-42.]

The tablet which is the primary subject of the present paper, and which is depicted on the accompanying plate, has been for forty years in the British Museum, having been presented in 1845 by Mr. W. R. Hamilton, the secretary of Lord Elgin. It consists of a slab of close-drained white marble of oblong form 2 feet 9 inches in length and 1 foot 10½ inches in height in the middle where it is broadest. The right upper corner is restored. The tablet was evidently made to let into a wall; the back is rough-hewn, and at the top is a small oblong hole for a peg.

The inscription beneath the relief is obviously modern. It reads Aesculapio Tarentino Salenius Areas, in letters which seem to date from the early part of the present century; apparently it was inserted by some person who considered the relief to represent Aesculapius, wrongly, beyond a doubt. But it is yet of some value as suggesting that the monument was found at Tarentum, and this is on all accounts probable.

The design of the relief, which is flanked by Doric pilasters, must be described. On a couch recline to the left two men clad in mantles (himatia); one is bearded and middle-aged, the other of ephebic age. The older man holds a patera in his left hand and lays his right on the shoulder of the youth, who turns to embrace him affectionately. A second youth enters from the left leading in a horse. He is clad in chiton and chlamys, and a taenia is wound about his head. Before the reclining men is a table covered with food and fruit; to the right is a naked servant holding an oenochoe and a patera or flat cup.

The art of the relief is good; not very early, but of times earlier than the Roman conquest of Tarentum. The figures of the youths remind one of Athenian sepulchral reliefs of the [p.106] fourth century. But the most distinctive part of the composition in this aspect is the horse. He is somewhat thin-legged, slightly built and tall, his head rising very high. He is just such a horse as is usually depicted on Tarentine coins of the latter part of the fourth century;1 on earlier Tarentine coins the horse is represented as far more compact and smaller in proportion to his rider.2 The horses on coins of northern Greece are also tall, but they are much more massive.3 It would not be very easy to match the tall sharply-cut animal of our relief except at Tarentum, and it is likely that these qualities were conspicuous in the noted Tarentine breed of horses. The same character belongs to the horse's head from Tarentum published in these pages4 by Prof. Michaelis. We may therefore venture to assign the present monument locally to Tarentum, and in time to the end of the fourth century B.C.

The subject of the relief is a matter of more complexity. I consider it to be one of the earliest examples of a remarkable class of sepulchral reliefs. But the more detailed explanation of it is postponed for the moment.5 For I cannot content myself with discussing this monument by itself. It seems worth while to go into the matter at greater length, and not only to discuss this relief but to indicate what opinions have been held in regard to the class of monuments to which it belongs, those called by archaeologists sepulchral banquets. Few groups of ancient remains have aroused more frequent discussion than this; discussion in which the greatest names have been ranged in hostile camps. Yet we need recount the history of the dispute but summarily, since the question now, in consequence of recent discoveries, admits of definite solution. The scholar of to-day is enabled to take a higher stand in this matter than the giants of the last generation, and to overlook the whole field in which they waged a fluctuating war. No doubt when the Corpus of Sepulchral Beliefs projected many years ago by Prof. Conze is published the whole subject will receive fuller attention than I can bestow, and the facts of the case will be placed before readers in satisfactory and final form. [p.107] But in the meanwhile a slight skirmish on the ground hereafter to be occupied by the advancing army of knowledge may be not without its uses, at least to those English readers who are unable to follow closely the course of archaeological discovery.


In almost all large museums are to be found Attic sepulchral monuments which bear a relief of the following kind: A pair, man and woman, are enjoying together a banquet, in the attitude usual to the Greeks; the man reclining on a couch, the woman seated at his feet: in front a slave serves the wine. This is the commonest species: but in the genus there are numerous varieties. Sometimes we have two men reclining with their wives, or these last are absent, and a multitude of accessories are added, as to which we shall presently speak. Is it wonderful that the appearance of a banquet on a tomb, the presence of sensuous enjoyment at the gate of death, should excite the interest of those who study antiquity? And amid the Athenian sepulchral reliefs which usually bear representations touched with sadness, scenes of parting and melancholy, they seem to form a class quite apart, and to indicate a different order of thought.

These reliefs are seldom of an early period. I believe that the earliest date claimed for one of the usual type is the fourth century B.C. And the great majority, if we exclude the Lycian reliefs as but half-Greek, belong to a much later period, to late Macedonian and Roman times. Then their type had become fixed and conventional, and accessories were added according to a routine and without special meaning. They are especially common in Attica, but specimens reach us from northern Greece, from Peloponnese, and from the coasts of Asia Minor.

This class of reliefs did not escape the observation of Winckelmann;6 he indeed published one of them; but fell, as was not unnatural at the time, into the error that the representation was of a mythological scene, the amours of Poseidon and Demeter Erinnys. Zoega7 was the originator of the view [p.108] which sees in works of this class mere representations from ordinary Greek household life. Gerhard hesitates between two views; he sometimes speaks of the feast depicted on the monuments as of one enjoyed by the deceased in Hades, and sometimes seems rather to regard it as enjoyed by the survivors and celebrated by them in memory of lost friend or ancestor. K. O. Muller preferred the theory which sees in the scenes an allusion to the future happiness of the good, and the enjoyments which await them in the realm of Hades. Le Bas8 adopted the same view, and was vigorously attacked by Letronne, between whom and Le Bas sprang up on some of the points involved a memorable controversy, which did much to clear the air and set matters in the true light, so far as it was possible in the existing state of knowledge. Letronne was considered to have the better of the controversy, and after this the more naturalistic explanation, which sees, as in the family groups on tombs, so in the feasts also, allusion to the ordinary events of daily life, found support from some of the ablest names. Friedlander, Welcker and Jahn all took this view, with but slight variations among themselves, and Welcker9 in particular distinguished himself by a sharp and contemptuous criticism of those who held other views than his own. Meantime Stephani10 had appeared upon the scene with his great learning and wide knowledge of works of Greek art. He did not take the view of Welcker and Jahn, but was led mainly from a comparison of the mural paintings of Etruscan tombs to the belief that the Greek sepulchral reliefs frequently represent the physical enjoyments which were not wanting according to the belief of the ancients in the Elysian fields, and which there awaited the just as a simple continuation of the natural pleasures of the present life. In 1868 the French Institute selected banqueting scenes on Greek tombs as the subject for one of their prize competitions; and the result was the production of two valuable works on the subject; one by Pervanoglu,11 which has been I ml dished, and which proceeds on the lines of Friedlander and Welcker; and one of much greater length by M. Albert Duruont, which has I believe remained as yet unpublished. It is [p.109] however known that M. Dumont believes the feasts of the reliefs to be symbolical representations of those offerings to the dead which were so usual at fixed periods among the Greeks, and memory of which is still kept up in modern Greece by the nations of the dead who bring roses to their graves at certain festivals, and bestow on friends cakes called κόλλυβα made of pomegranate seeds and fruits.12 There is also a short but careful and sensible paper dealing with the whole subject published by Hollaender13 about 1864: this writer takes the same view as Dumont. Within the last ten years the number of important and instructive reliefs of this class has greatly increased, and notices have been elicited from many Continental archaeologists, such as Conze, Milchhoefer, Furtwangler, Woltera and Ravaisson. Some of these will be discussed in the course of this paper.

To sum up: Of the reliefs of this class three explanations have been offered: (1) That they are retrospective, and represent the enjoyment of the past life of the persons whose tombs they adorn. This view brings them in connexion with the ordinary Athenian grave reliefs which represent domestic scenes or out-door pursuits. This view was started by Zoega, and maintained with great vigour and success by Friedlander, Welcker and Jahn. (2) That they refer to the offerings of meat and drink brought by survivors at fixed periods to the grave, which the dead are thus represented as accepting and enjoying. This is the view of Hollaender enforced by M. Albert Dumont and many others. (3) That they represent the happiness of the deceased in Hades, and his enjoyment in the next life of delights of eating and drinking similar to those which he possessed in this world. This view, which represents the Greeks as imagining the next world to be a continuation of this, not in essentials merely, but even in gross and material enjoyments, has been advocated by Stephani, Le Bas and K. O. Muller.

Sepulchral monuments on which is a banqueting scene are very common. Mr. Pervanoglu in his work published in 1872 enumerates 212 examples known to him; M. Albert Dumont describes no less than 297 specimens; and neither of these [p.110] lists is anything like complete. In such circumstances it is evident that I cannot here cite even all important varieties; I must content myself with describing a very few typical specimens.

We begin with a simple and ordinary class: Male figure reclining on couch; at his feet seated female figure; before the couch a tripod covered with eatables and drinkables, with a slave to serve them; while the man is feasting, the woman commonly draws her veil about her. Or the male figure reclines alone. It is evident that here we have nothing to give a colour or a flavour to the scene; the feast is to all appearance an every-day one. It is well known that the heroes of Homer sit at table; and the custom of reclining came in at some time between the age of Homer and historical times. The custom never spread to women, at least of the modest class, nor to boys. We are told that in Macedon boys were not allowed to recline at table until they had slain a boar, which sometimes did not happen until they were middle-aged; Cassander for instance had to sit like a boy until he reached his thirty-fifth year. When men dined together in Greece modest women were not present; but when a man dined at home his wife would naturally be present, not reclining with him, nor probably eating with him, but sitting by to entertain him with her talk while he dined. The group which I have described is therefore an ordinary scene from the private life of the Greeks. Sometimes the seated wife rests her head on her hand in an attitude which to the Greeks signified grief.14 This may seem a jarring note at a feast; but we know that it was customary in Athenian grave-reliefs which represent scenes of daily life to introduce some such touch as this, to show that the beautiful picture has been spoiled by the hand of death, that it was not destined to last, and that already the shadow of coming change was thrown on to the happy scene. In the same way we may interpret another adjunct sometimes found in banqueting scenes which certainly come from actual tombstones, a snake twined round a tree in the background.

So far we find nothing to throw doubt on the theory of Welcker and Friedlander, that the daily banquet was introduced in sepulchral reliefs from the same motives as other scenes of [p.111] domestic life. What scene, they say, could be more characteristic of domestic felicity, what memory more pleasing to recall on a gravestone than these happy moments, when physical satisfaction of bodily needs went with pleasant talk and social enjoyment?

We may even go further and say that to certain reliefs of the class this view alone seems appropriate. For example, one of the earliest and most interesting anions them is on a tomb in the celebrated Athenian cemetery on the Sacred Way.15 It represents two men reclining on a couch, with food as usual set before them, and their two wives seated by; in the foreground is a galley, in which is Charon with his hand extended towards the feasters. A comparison with other Athenian reliefs leads us to think that this banquet, at all events, is one of every-day life. The sudden appearance in the midst of social enjoyment of one destined to summon to the next world is a striking fancy, rather in accordance, one would think, with the taste of the Etruscans than that of the Greeks, yet by no means unknown in Greek and even Athenian sepulchral reliefs. We may instance the well-known relief inscribed with the name ΜΥΡΡΙΝΗ where Hermes appears16 leading by the hand the girl Myrrhina, from the midst of her family, to convey her to Hades.

Indeed this simple explanation of the group is in almost all cases tenable where the monument is of Athenian provenience, and the relief belongs to an ordinary tombstone. In this case the relief is of square form, and carved on a stele usually bearing the name of the deceased, and left rough at the bottom that it may be set up in the ground. But there is another class of reliefs easily distinguished from these by being oblong in form, of greater width than height, usually flanked by pilasters, and made to be let into the wall of a larger monument. Many writers have confused these with the reliefs of stelae, but they are, as Stephani clearly shows, to be kept apart from them. Stephani, remarking the likeness of these reliefs to ex voto tablets dedicated to various deities, expresses the opinion that they were set up in private shrines as memorials of the dead, and used in the household worship of deceased ancestors.


As to their provenience, it seems to be established that in some cases at all events they come from cemeteries, and the close neighbourhood of tombs; one published by M. Frankel17 for instance was found close to an actual tombstone. They must therefore be considered as a sort of supplementary memorial, set up near the tombs of the wealthy or distinguished, beside the ordinary inscribed stelae.

If we could in this paper maintain a strictly scientific order, we should treat them apart from the actual reliefs of tombs. This is, however, not altogether possible, because the two classes are confused in the lists drawn up by various writers, even in those of Stephani himself, as he is obliged to confess.

But in the main, all that here follows refers to the oblong class of reliefs. They are far more complicated, and introduce a number of additions to the simple banqueting group, which are found but seldom on the simple reliefs of square form. These additions we must briefly discuss in order. As they multiply, so do the difficulties of the naturalistic method of interpretation increase. In order to help the imagination of the reader, I [p.113] insert on the opposite page a woodcut of a typical specimen of the oblong-reliefs.18

It is the relief in the Theseium at Athens, commonly called "the death of Socrates." As to its date opinions differ; some, as Friederichs, assign it to the fourth century B.C., in which case it would be among the earliest reliefs of the class; some, as Stephani, consider it to date from so late a period as that of Hadrian. Certainly in many of the details and the general character of the work, we see proofs that the relief does not really belong to good Greek times. But if it be of eclectic and unoriginal type, yet the monument whence the type was borrowed must have belonged to days of Greek autonomy.

A dog is in this case seen lying under the couch.19 It is true of course that dogs did, in Greek houses, lie under the couches and tables to be fed from the hand of master and mistress; nevertheless the dog was certainly an animal devoted to the shades below, the favourite of Hecate, and the common sacrifice to the infernal deities. Sometimes in the place of this dog we find a snake. Welcker and some of the more extreme advocates of what we may term the daily-life theory as to these reliefs have held that the snake appears in them by the same right as the dog, as a domestic animal, since we know that it was by no means unusual among the Greeks to have tame snakes, and to allow them the range of the house.20 But less extreme advocates have seen the absurdity of supposing that the snake was a common attendant at the ancient dinner-table, and have allowed that his presence in these reliefs must have reference to the widely-spread belief of ancient times, that snakes were either the companions or even the representatives of dead heroes. I need not surely bring forward proofs of this statement, but I may for a moment pause to point out how ancient science explained the fact. Plutarch tells us, that when the dead body of Cleomenes was hanging on the cross in Egypt, a large serpent was seen wound about it, repelling the attacks of the birds of prey who would have fed on it. This phenomenon, he says, terrified some of the Alexandrians as proving that Cleomenes [p.114] was a hero or of semi-divine nature, until it was pointed out, that as the dead body of a bull produces bees and that of a horse wasps, so the dead body of a man produces in the natural course of its decay, snakes.

A third animal of usual occurrence in these scenes is the horse, who either makes his appearance bodily,21 or else is represented by his head only, which is seen, as it were, framed in the background, that is in a square inclosure which has been imagined to stand for a window, through which the head is seen. With regard to the horse, one of the fiercest contests in this whole war has been waged. One party have affirmed that his appearance is a sign of death. They have tried to establish a connexion between Hades and horses, and to show that the horse is a natural symbol of departure on a long journey, as the Greeks usually travelled on horseback. There has even been a suggestion that there must be an antique element in the modern Greek belief that Charos, or Death, rides on horseback about the mountains attended by a train of corpses, and with dead children hung at his saddle-bow. Letronne and Welcker are very severe upon this theory, declaring the legends of modern Charos to be of Slavonian origin. Welcker is also very angry with an unfortunate critic who imagines the term κλύτόπωλος, as applied in Homer to Hades, to have something to do with riding on a horse.22 He maintains that the horse who appears at banquets on tombs is merely an ordinary domestic animal, who has good right to share in the pleasures of his master, and by his presence testifies to the knightly rank of the person to whom the tomb belongs. Friedlander declares that the way to the next world for a Greek would lie across the waves, and that it would not occur to him to connect even in idea the last journey with a horse. To this question we shall return.

Finally, the scene of the banquet is, on the oblong more complicated class of reliefs, very commonly supplemented by an addition, which at once seems entirely to change its character: that is, by the approach to the feasting pair of some worshippers, represented as of smaller size than they, and therefore as of inferior rank or dignity. Sometimes they bring with them a pig, and frequently other offerings, with chaplets and other trappings of [p.115] Greek cultus. The following relief from Argos may serve as an example:23 Male figure reclining, and female seated, attendant in background; under the couch a serpent, and in the background a horse's head inclosed in a square frame. There enters a train of suppliants of small size, bringing with them a slurp for an offering. Another relief, also published by Welcker,24 shows us a very similar scene, with a curious variety, that the reclining male figure wears on his head a modius, and holds in his hand a horn (cornucopiae). It is at once evident that the presence of worshippers takes these reliefs out of the class which can be explained as representations of ordinary domestic life. Even the most thorough-going of the advocates of the daily-life theory have seen this, and maintained, as does Welcker, that the reliefs where votaries appear belong to altogether another category from sepulchral reliefs; are indeed ex voto tablets dedicated to certain deities by persons whom they had aided and succoured. In the tablets where a snake appears by the side of the pair who are the objects of veneration, he calls them Asclepius and Hygieia; where the reclining figure wears a modius, he calls him Sarapis accompanied by his wife Isis or Persephone.

The recent excavations at the Asclepieion at Athens have resulted in the discovery of a large number of ex voto tablets dedicated to Asclepius and Hygieia. These however do not bear any very close resemblance to the class of reliefs under discussion. Asclepius and Hygieia appear on them25 either seated or standing, usually one seated and one standing. The snake, which specially belongs to the healing god, takes its place under his seat, or twined round a tree. Worshippers, of course of smaller size, approach bearing incense or fruits. But these tablets are of far earlier period than the sepulchral reliefs, and cannot fairly be compared with them. With greater fairness we may cite, as representing a late ex voto tablet to Asclepius, a remarkable coin of Bizya in the British Museum. Comparison with other coins of the same city and period, on which Asclepius very commonly appears, renders it certain that the representation does belong to his cultus. We may thus describe [p.116] the reverse type of this curious piece26 which was minted in the reign of Philip the Arab:—ΒΙΖΥΗΝΩΝ. Asclepius reclining on a couch and Hygieia seated in front of him; a tripod before the couch, also a serpent twining round a staff. A votary approaches bearing an amphora of wine, and on the other side a horse enters. In the background is armour hung on a tree.

This scene so closely resembles some of those cited by Welcker that we might naturally be disposed to accept the theory that these latter also were dedicated to Asclepius.

Welcker, however, does not seem to have been aware that some of the reliefs of the oblong class on which votaries make their appearance bear inscriptions which may perhaps help us towards ascertaining their meaning. Two such are cited by Stephani from Janssen's catalogue of the sepulchral reliefs at Leyden:—27

(1) A male figure reclines on a couch holding a patera, before him is a table laden with fruits; votaries are grouped about him; above, five square openings, in which are placed arms, a horse's head and three female figures. Inscribed:

(2) A male figure reclines, holding horn and patera, a table before him as usual; behind, a snake wound round a tree; by the side an oenochous; votaries approach bringing a pig decked for sacrifice; in the corner above is a horse's head. The inscrip- [p.117] tion records that the tablet is dedicated by Diodotus, son of Antialcides, Prytanis for the second time, and his fellow-Prytanea to one Teiades [ΤΗΙΑΔΗΙ].

If we could change but a letter or two at the end of the inscription just cited, and read ΤΩΙΑΔΗΙ we might fairly see in the tablet an ex voto relief dedicated to Hades, and certainly the reclining male figure with his horn and patera would do very well for a representation of Hades. But we learn from Janssen that the reading as he gives it is clear and certain; we are therefore obliged to suppose that the tablet was set up in honour of a mortal hero, and that he was dead at the time is indicated by the whole scope of the relief, and in particular by the snake twined round a tree in the background, this being a well-understood sign of death. The first tablet also is set up in honour of a hero.

Another instance will be found in the Archeologische Zeitung for 1874.28 On a relief there published we see a male figure reclining, with his wife seated as usual; votaries approach them. The inscription in this case is [Greek]. Eucolus seems to be the deceased hero, to whom Hedylus, presumably a relation, set up this tablet.

We seem then to have clear instances of votive tablets set up in honour of a mortal, with votaries and the symbols of snake and horse-head; but perhaps scarcely enough instances to enable us to lay down the rule that all the class of banqueting scenes on oblong reliefs were of this nature.


Hitherto, I have been regarding Attic banqueting reliefs as a class of monuments apart, and considered them from the point of view which prevailed until recent years. But theories of development are of as great value in archaeology as in other branches of science. If we try not only to distinguish the classes of these reliefs, but to track them upwards in time and discover their original ideas and the artistic forms from which they are descended, we shall, I hope, be able to decide finally [p.118] those questions which seem insoluble when we proceed from the mere classificatory point of view. To take this course would have been a few years ago impossible, as the monuments which will most assist our search had not then been discovered. But now it has become a possibility.

If we turn from Greece to the monuments of the semi-Greek countries of the east and west, to Lycia on the one hand and Etruria on the other, we shall at once see that the banqueting reliefs do not stand so far aloof as they appear to do when we confine our attention to works of Hellenic art only. On many of the Lycian tombs discovered by Fellows are reliefs of which the subject is a male figure reclining on a couch and holding a patera. On a tomb at Cadyanda,29 for instance, the relief represents a man reclining, holding a bunch of grapes and a patera, a dog below his couch: suppliants approach him bearing grapes. The relief of a tomb at Myra30 represents a reclining man and a seated woman who draws forward her veil: a dog is beneath her seat; and votaries are on either side. Both these tombs are of the native Lycian or pre-Greek class, and must therefore be older than the Hellenisation of the district, which took place probably in Seleucid times. And they appear to contain most of the essential elements of the later banqueting reliefs. Not very different in character are scenes depicted on still earlier monuments, such as the well-known tomb called the Nereid monument, which was erected according to a generally accepted theory in honour of Pericles, a king of Xanthus. On one pediment of this building we find an ideal battle-scene, on the other is a group representing the king after death receiving the homage of survivors. He is seated on a throne beneath which crouches a dog, his queen sits opposite, drawing forward her veil; between the two are their children, and on either side suppliants of smaller stature are represented as approaching the principal figures.31 Groups of a similar character are to be found on other Lycian monuments, that called the Chimaera-tomb for instance. Thus so far as Lycia is concerned [p.119] there can be no doubt that as early as the fourth century B.C. dead heroes were represented on their bombs as receiving homage from the living.

The same order of ideas prevails in Etruria. The well-known archaic sarcophagus of the British Museum furnishes us on its two sides with contrasted pictures of fighting and feasting. And that the feast here is a feast after death is shown by the analogy of the wall paintings of several of the large tombs of Etruria, in which the occupant of the tomb is seen eating, drinking, and making merry, as if he had but to continue in the tomb the life which while he was in the flesh he had found so pleasant.

But we must not delay over the representations in Etruscan tombs, partly because in character they are nearer to the art and the beliefs of Egypt than to those of Greece, partly because the question of their interpretation is not altogether an easy one. Let us pass on to Greek soil. And first we must mention a class of sepulchral reliefs common from the fourth century onwards, and more particularly usual in Boeotia, in which we see a hero of magnified stature, either riding on a horse or leading a horse, and receiving in a patera or cup the libation of some figures, usually female, who meet him.

A good instance of this large class may be found in a Theban relief, which represents a warrior of magnified stature, clearly a hero, standing beside his horse and holding out a patera to receive the offerings of some suppliants who approach, bringing him a pig, a bird and a vase. A similar relief exists in the Sabouroff Collection.32 It is from Tanagra, but Furtwangler considers it to be of Attic work, and of not later time than the fourth century B.C. It represents a hero accompanied by his horse, holding out a patera into which a female figure is pouring wine or oil from a vase: at the side a man and woman and two children enter as suppliants. Above is the important inscription, ΚΑΛΛΙΤΕΛΗΣ ΑΛΕΞΙΜΑΧΩΙ ΑΝΕΘΗΚΕΝ, proving that the tablet was set up in honour of a deceased mortal. In a small stele from Rhodes in the British Museum, the hero advances on his horse towards a female figure who prepares to pour him a libation.

Italian excavations also have of late years largely illustrated [p.120] our subject. At Tarentum large numbers of terra-cotta reliefs have been discovered33 which in their subjects approach closer to the Athenian monuments. These terra-cottas are usually found in fragmentary condition; but it is clear that in many cases they represent a deceased hero reclining at table, often accompanied by wife and child. Sometimes these groups bear the impress of archaic, sometimes of fully-developed, art. A remarkable specimen which presents exceptional features is engraved in the Monumenti of the Roman Institute (xi. pl. lv.). It represents a young man and woman engaged in feasting together, while behind them appears in the background a horse. The exact purpose of these terra-cottas has not as yet been ascertained, but all scholars who have written about them are agreed that they belong to the cultus of the dead in Tarentum, which was, it must be remembered, a Dorian colony. On others of these tablets heroes seem to be represented as riders.

But the best clue for the due interpretation of the Greek banqueting reliefs is furnished by those archaic Laconian reliefs the finding of which in recent years has so greatly increased our knowledge of art and archaeology. Some of the more important of these were brought before the learned world by Dressel and Milchhoefer in the second volume of the Transactions of the German Institute at Athens.34 One stone bears a relief representing a man and woman seated side by side; he holds wine cup and pomegranate, she draws forward her veil. Another reproduces the same pair; but behind them stands erect a snake, while in front approach two votaries of the female sex bearing as offerings a cock, an egg, a flower, and a pomegranate. So soon as wonder at the very remarkable artistic style of these interesting reliefs so far subsided as to allow archaeologists leisure to consider their meaning, two opinions found advocates. The wine-cup naturally suggested Dionysus, and the first discoverers of the stones had supposed the tablets to be made in his honour, and to represent him seated with Ariadne (or perhaps Persephone), to receive the adoration and offerings of certain votaries.


Messrs. Dressel and Milchhoefer in the above-mentioned Transactions discussed the matter at length and with much discretion. They declared that the reliefs must belong to some well-understood and widely-spread Peloponnesian cultus, deeply rooted in the feelings of the people, and possessed of a well-understood language of symbols, the wine-cup, the egg, and the pomegranate. It occurred to these archaeologists to compare the reliefs of Sparta with the reliefs representing banqueting scenes, but they maintained that whereas the personages represented in the ordinary banqueting scenes are mortal, those portrayed on the Spartan reliefs must be deities. They next asked what deities? and rejecting Dionysus as inappropriate and not known in Laconia in early times, decided that the figures represented must be Hades and his consort, and the whole set of reliefs an important evidence of the worship of Chthonic deities in Laconia in early times. The scene represented would thus be the homage done by votaries dead or living to the great powers of the unseen world.

The proofs, however, of the truth of this attribution were not numerous. That Hades sometimes on vases holds the wine-cup or kantharos of Dionysus is true. And there was found near Sparta a terra-cotta statuette of a seated man, inscribed ΑΙΔΕΥΣ, which word we may reasonably suppose to be a cross-form between ΑΙΔΗΣ and ΑΙΔΩΝΕΥΣ. But this figure being headless, and endowed with no attributes, furnishes but a very slight argument in favour of giving the name of Hades to so different a being as he in the reliefs. There was no doubt rife in the Peloponnese, or at least in all parts of it where Pelasgic traditions of cult were strong, a devoted worship of the Chthonian deities Demeter, Persephone, and Hades. But we do not know that Sparta was one of the seats of this worship; rather from the hostility shown by the Spartans to the Eleusinian mysteries, the celebration of which they on several occasions interrupted, we may conjecture that they did not care to countenance the cultus of the great nature-deities.

The reasons in the other scale of the balance were even at that time weighty. First, the only one of the Spartan reliefs of which the exact find-spot could be traced was found, it appears, standing erect in a tumulus composed of earth and [p.122] stones which was in all probability an early tomb, while near by was a stone inscribed ΕΡΜΑΝΟΣ.35 Secondly, the snake seems by his presence to afford a strong indication that the being whom he attends is rather a deceased hero than Hades the mighty ruler of the dead.

Thus even on the evidence before them Messrs. Dressel and Milchhoefer might with justice have ventured to reject the theory that Hades and his consort are represented in the reliefs. It is, however, always difficult on the discovery of quite a new class of works of art immediately to determine their character. Fortunately, not long afterwards, other Spartan reliefs came to light; of these some are figured in the seventh and eighth plates of vol. iv. of the Athenian Mitthcilungen. One represents a male figure seated, closely draped, holding in one hand a wine cup from which a snake drinks, in the other hand a pomegranate. This relief is on a stele inscribed with the name of ΤΙΜΟΚΛΗ; and another stele which bears the name of ΑΡΙΣΤΟΚΛΗΣ exhibits a similar figure though in a freer style of art. These reliefs readily attach themselves to the more archaic class of Spartan monuments, and throw afresh light on their character, so that after seeing them Milchhoefer36 retracted his previously expressed opinion, and no longer hesitated to believe that in all alike dead mortals held the post of honour, and that all referred to the cultus of ancestors.

Other fortunate discoveries made recently, both on the soil of Laconia and on that of Attica, have removed the last shadow of doubt in the matter, and by bringing the Spartan reliefs in line with the banqueting scenes on Athenian and other tombs have served to explain the character of these also, and to throw light beyond them, not only on other classes of sepulchral relief, but on the monuments of Lycia, Etruria, and other districts of semi-Greek art.

A Laconian relief was found at Ohrysapha37 near Sparta. Its subject is a male figure, seated, fully clad, holding in one hand a wine-cup, in the other a pomegranate; at his feet is a dog leaping up, and in front is sculptured in low relief a horse.


Neither Dionysus nor Hades is specially connected with dogs or horses, nor has Asclepius any connexion with a wine-cup or a pomegranate. It seems then that it cannot be a deity who is here represented. And every one who is acquainted with sepulchral reliefs knows that a dog leaping up and a horse in the background are among their most usual features. We can scarcely resist the conclusion that our slab belonged to a tomb, and that the person there represented is a mortal, seated in state to receive the homage of his descendants or of passers-by.

If any doubt remained it would vanish on considering a stele recently discovered in Attica, and ascribed to the latter part of the sixth century.38 As to the sepulchral destination of this monument its inscription leaves no doubt, recording that it was [p.124] set up in honour of one Lyseas by his father. It is not a relief, but a flat slab, bearing a painting of Lyseas standing. This standing figure in general outline reminds us of the relief which presents a portrait of Aristion, and of other portraits of early Attic worthies; but the remarkable thing about it is that the hero bears in one hand what seems to be a laurel bough, in the other a wine-cup exactly similar to that carried by the seated figure in the Spartan relief. We thus gain an incontrovertible proof that a wine-cup or kantharos does not belong only to Dionysus and Hades, but may be held by a hero on his tomb.

It may then be considered as certain that the dead were figured on their tombs as seated in state, holding wine-cup and pomegranate. And this leaves no doubt that the pair, male and female, seated, who appear in the early Spartan reliefs, are the departed head of a family and his wife, and that the reliefs wherein they appear are of sepulchral character. Again, this pair, as we have already seen, is in some cases approached by votaries bringing offerings; this shows that, in Sparta at least, not only were the regular offerings to the dead held in great estimation, but that their presentation was considered a fit subject to adorn the tombs of departed heads of families. And the stele of Lyseas shows that this general order of thought is not peculiar to Laconia, but that we may expect to find ideas not dissimilar in other parts of Greece and even in Attica.

In Boeotia stelae have been discovered which exhibit the prevalence in that part of Greece also of the same ideas. They are published in the third volume of the Mittheilungen. For instance, we have from Lebadeia a stele of very early date, which was evidently fashioned with a view to being set up in the earth as a gravestone. The relief on this stone is as follows: On a seat rests an aged man clad in a himation; his feet supported by a stool. Both arms are extended; in one hand is a staff, in the other a kantharos. Here we distinctly find the dead hero grasping the cup of Dionysus.

According to Dressel and Milchhoefer the tablets at Sparta must be memorials of a widespread and deeply-rooted cultus. Willingly we accept this verdict; and the phrase happily expresses the character of that worship of the dead which was widely prevalent in ancient times, and which was a marked [p.125] feature of Greek religion, more particularly of the religion of the conservative races of the Moponnese.

The worship of the dead can scarcely be said to lie on the surface of the great Attic literature. That literature, in fact, belongs rather to all time and to human nature than to a particular age and country; and what is local and temporal in Greek thought and feeling has ever a tendency to fall into the background in it. It represents the Greek mind in the same way in which the Doryphorus of Polycleitus, and the Apoxyomenus of Lysippus, represent the Greek body: they give us the better and nobler side, and put out of sight what is mean and unworthy. In the great age of Greece, and in the favoured city of the Athenians, religion meant the worship of the great deities of Olympus, the highest and noblest forms of the Greek religious consciousness. Primitive and patriarchal elements of religion still existed; but they were thrust into the background. Thus, as indeed a glance at Athenian sepulchral monuments will assure us, the worship of the dead did not occupy among the elite of Greece the same space in men's minds which at an earlier time it had held, and which it still held in the more conservative districts.

Nevertheless, a careful search will disclose many passages even in the Attic writers which illustrate this form of religion. The opening passage of the Choephori, for example, tells of cultus kept up at the tombs of deceased worthies. In the Alcestis, the heroine of the play is scarcely dead before she is invoked by the chorus as a spiritual power, able to give and to withhold favours:—

It is instructive to compare with such passages as these a class of vases peculiarly Athenian, the beautiful white λήκυθοί,39 which bear paintings in almost all cases illustrative of the offerings brought to the tombs of departed ancestors by survivors. The abundance of these vases proves that the ideas which they illustrate were quite familiar to the Athenians.


At a lower level than that of poetry, in the laws and the customs, more especially the burial-customs, of the Greeks, we find ample proof of the tenacity with which they clung to the belief that the dead desired offerings of food and incense, and were willing in return to furnish protection and aid. We must briefly trace the rise of this belief in the primitive mental tendencies of the ancient peoples of the East.

It is well known to be one of the most universal and deepest rooted convictions among barbarians, that the dead are not without feelings and perceptions, but remain keenly alive to the treatment they receive from their kindred and require of them much assistance. The dead man, living in his tomb as he had lived in his house, requires frequent supplies of food and drink, rejoices in the presence of armour and ornaments, such as he loved in life, and is very sensitive to discourteous treatment. These ideas were part of the mental furniture of the whole Aryan race, before it separated into branches, and are found in all the countries over which it spread. They were also fully accepted in very early times by the Egyptians. The belief of these latter in the existence of persons after death was so intense that it has created their art, given birth to their literature, and even now gives a strong colour to all that remains of the Egypt of the Pharaohs. The Egyptian grave consisted properly of three parts: first, the underground cell where were laid, carefully preserved and wrapped in spices, the mummies of the dead; secondly, an inner chamber filled with images; and thirdly, an outer chapel accessible to the friends of the departed. The last two require a word of explanation. The images were regarded as things in which the shade of the deceased might dwell, their number was increased in order that among so many one should please him well, and as long as one remained, so long it was supposed would the shade of the deceased find something to attract and bind him to the spot. The outer chapel was a place of resort of friends who brought offerings to the dead, burning incense, the fumes of which were allowed to pass through certain openings into the chamber of images. Even after the Egyptians had fully accepted the belief that the souls of the dead passed to a distant world, there to be judged by Osiris, they still, inconsistently enough, retained the customs of the tomb, and called it the eternal dwelling- [p.127] place, in opposition to that temporary dwelling-place, the house.

By no means dissimilar were the views of the Greek least in earlier times. In the earliest of Greek graves, such as the so-called Treasury of Atreus, at Mycenae, and the building at Orchomenus,40 we find a somewhat similar arrangement of an inner chamber devoted to the dead, and an outer chamber to which those who came to pay their respects to the tenant of the tomb probably had access, and which may have been stored with articles of pomp and splendour, set aside for his enjoyment. It is well known with what care the early Greeks provided in the chamber in which they placed a corpse all that was necessary for its comfort, I had almost said its life. Wine and food of various kinds were there laid up in a little store, a lamp was provided full of oil, frequently even kept burning to relieve the darkness; and around were strewn the clothes and the armour in which the dead hero had delighted; sometimes even, by a refinement of realism, a whetstone41 to sharpen the edge of sword and spear in case they should grow blunt with use. The horse of a warrior was sometimes slain and buried with him that he might not in another world endure the indignity of having to walk. Even in Homeric days the custom survived of slaying at the tomb of a noted warrior some of a hostile race to be his slaves thereafter. After the fall of Troy, Coulanges remarks, the captives were distributed among the chiefs; but it was not thought right to deprive the dead Achilles of his share, and Polyxena was offered up at his tomb. According to the ingenious theory of a modern savant42 the terra-cottas so commonly found in tombs in some parts of Greece are the successors and substitutes of these living victims, placed like their bodies in the grave of one who would in his future life require servants and companions. Every one knows that the custom of sati, whereby a wife is burned on the same pyre with her dead husband, is barely extinct in India.

And the care for the dead did not by any means cease at their burial. They had to be constantly tended thereafter, their bones preserved from violence, and their tombs from [p.128] spoliation; and at certain seasons food and drink had to be brought them and left by their tomb for their use. Sometimes even this did not satisfy their friends. There is in the British Museum a sarcophagus in which a hole has been cut to allow food to pass in to the occupant, and Mr. Newton has suggested that the small apertures near the top of Lycian tombs were made with the same view; they are too small to allow the passage of the dead body itself. If a body was left unburied, or if the tomb in which it was laid was not from time to time supplied with food and drink, then the ghost inhabiting such body became a wretched wanderer on the face of the earth, and neither had peace itself nor allowed survivors to be at peace.

The belief in the continued need felt by the dead and to be supplied by the living was so deep that even Christianity has been unable wholly to abolish it, though in modern days roses take the place at tombs of the more substantial offerings of old times. A couple of passages from Lucian43 will serve to summarise the ancient feeling: [Greek omitted].

It is true that the state of opinion which gave birth to Greek burial customs did not persist unchanged into historical times. Later there was spread abroad a general belief in the existence of a realm of spirits, presided over by Hades and Persephone, and hidden somewhere in the deepest recesses of the earth. At least the common people believed in the Styx and the Cocytus, the dog Cerberus and the Etysian fields, and the ferryman Charon who conveyed souls. They even gave the dead an obol to pay to Charon as his fee, but this very fact shows how persistent the belief in the connexion of the future life with the body was, for it was in the actual mouths of corpses [p.129] (the mouth being the Greek purse) that the piece of money was placed and left. The same men who supposed that souls went into a far country, yet believed heroes to hover about the spot on which they were buried, like the virgins of Leuctra who appeared to Pelopidas, when he happened to sleep at the spot where they were buried, or like the sages whose tombs became oracular. The upper stratum of belief was occupied by those notions of religion and a future state which were sanctioned by poetry and art, and public cultus; but in the background still lurked many feelings which had arisen at a time when the grave was regarded by all as a dwelling-place, and the dead as by no means inaccessible to the favours and the requests of the survivors.

If, having acquired and assimilated these facts, we now turn to the Spartan and Athenian reliefs successively, we shall find ourselves in a position to solve some of the difficulties which they present, and which have in former days perplexed archaeologists. We may begin with the Spartan class. These reliefs show us in connexion with the dead man as hero a number of symbols. The hero himself holds a wine cup. Furtwungler suggests that this contains an allusion to the libations which used to accompany funerals. This is doubtless true; but the hero is not pouring a libation, but receiving it. This is no trivial distinction, but involves the whole question whether the wine-cup is merely introduced in a spirit of vague symbolism to typify certain rites which belonged to funerals, or whether it is introduced not with a mere symbolical intention, but with a very literal and real one. It appears to me that our hero holds out his wine-cup to be filled, conveying thereby a very broad hint to his votaries that he hopes to receive plenteous draughts of wine at the recognised festivals of the dead. In the case of some sepulchral reliefs this is quite evident. I will instance a stele of the fourth century from Tanagra;44 on which is a hero standing beside his horse, holding out a vessel which a lady who approaches fills from an oenochoe. The same subject is found on a stele from Thebes,45 and many others.

And there is the same meaning in the case of those statues of the gods in which a patera is held in their hands. On coins the patera in the hands of deities is especially common.


Some students imagine that the deities who hold paterae are occupied in sacrificing to one another. Some archaeologists explain the fact by saying that the patera is the symbol of worship: it should, I think, rather be considered that the gods hold out to their votaries empty vessels for them to fill with libations or incense.

The hero of the Spartan reliefs also holds sometimes a pomegranate. It is well known what use is made of this fruit in the legends of Cora. In the lower world she tasted a pomegranate subtly offered her by Hades, and as a consequence could never entirely return to the upper air and the light of day, but was obliged to remain for four months of the year as queen of the world of shades. The pomegranate then is the characteristic food of the shades;46 they eat it at their feasts, and it is brought to them by votaries together with fowls and with eggs, which are recognised archaic symbols of future life beyond the grave. The wife of the hero draws her veil forward; a natural and characteristic act no doubt in a Greek matron. Yet the frequency of the action in case of those seated ladies on Attic tombs who are taking leave of their friends to go on the last journey suggests that to grasp the veil may be a sign in these cases of departure to another world, just as to rest the head on the hand is a recognised sign of grief. The three animals which occur on the Spartan reliefs are the snake, the horse, and the dog. The snake and the dog appear as friends and companions of the hero; the horse only comes in relief in the background.


If we return next to the class of oblong tablets found in Attica and elsewhere in Greece, presenting the subject of a banquet, we shall find that they have lost much of their mystery. We shall no longer hesitate to see in them the dead hero and ancestor with his wife, as they still exist after death in the pious thought of their family.

Indeed among the sepulchral reliefs of Peloponnesus is one [p. 131] which may be considered as the prototype of the banqueting scenes. It comes from Tegea,47 is of archaic work, and presents the following design: On the left of it is a female figure seated in a chair towards the right, holding a flower and drawing forward her veil. Opposite her reclines on a couch a man, of whom unfortunately all is lost but the feet. Between man and woman is a naked youth who holds a wreath. Milchhoefer remarks with justice that this relief, in spite of its fragmentary state, just avails to bridge over the gap between the Spartan stelae and the ordinary banqueting reliefs. It has many points of resemblance to both classes.

When we have recognised that the banqueting reliefs of later Greek art are the descendants of earlier monuments which testify to the prevalence in Greece of the worship of ancestors we shall no longer be startled by the presence on them of votaries bringing offerings. And we shall be able to explain the presence in them of domestic animals, the horse and the dog. It is evident that henceforward the view which makes of these the ordinary household pets of the deceased while he was alive must be modified, since we now know that what we have to deal with is not an ordinary scene of daily life. Yet the theory requires but a slight modification, a sort of translation, to make it again reasonable. It has been an ancient custom with most or all of the peoples of Europe to bury with a dead warrior his horse and his dog. The bones of horses and dogs are found with those of deceased worthies in Etruscan, Panticapaean, and other tombs. It seems to me not impossible that the Greek fashion of representing horses and dogs in the company of heroes on their reliefs and vases may be a result of these ancient burial customs. Depicting the future state of the hero they place still in his company the horse and the hound which were his pride when he was alive, and which a Greek gentleman could not do without in this world or the next.

That the horse was constantly thought of in close connexion with heroes who received cultus is so well known that it need not further be insisted on. We may compare the class of late South Italian vases in which it is so usual to see a hero standing in his heroon to receive homage, while his horse is very commonly added.


But a very curious feature of the votive reliefs is that frequently in the place of a horse we find only a horse's head framed. I do not know that any one has suggested a plausible explanation of this fact, for it is impossible to accept as plausible the theory that the square frame is a window through which is seen the head of the horse standing outside.48 If I must suggest an explanation it would be that the frame with the head in it is an anathema within an anathema, a votive-tablet represented as hung up by the couch of the feaster.

The dog also occurs by no means unfrequently on actual stelae, the well-known archaic one from Orchomenus in Boeotia for instance, and many of the Athenian tombs. The snake is still commoner on stelae, though he appears there by a right quite different from that by which horses and dogs hold their place. Horse and dog are old friends whom the hero takes with him to the other world; the snake is a new friend who there first becomes his companion. Horse and dog belong to the happy hunting-ground; the snake to the cold earth of the cemetery. The arms which in sepulchral reliefs are often seen hung up in the background stand no doubt, by parity of reasoning, for those placed in the tomb at burial.

Another feature of the sepulchral reliefs of both Spartan and Athenian classes which requires some notice is the constant presence of the wife. This has always been regarded as a chief support for the theory which refers these scenes to daily life. The stones on which banquets are depicted were certainly in many cases and probably in many more set up in memory of a dead husband by a surviving wife. How, it was asked, could a husband who had removed to another world sup with a wife who remained in this? but the difficulty vanishes if we refer the scene to the past and not to the future. There is a certain plausibility about this argument; and if wives accompanied their husbands only on actual stelae and not on the oblong-slabs it might be possible to allow some weight to it. But as no doubt remains that the reference in these latter is to the [p.133] future, and as women very usually accompany their husbands on them, we are compelled to seek another explanation. It is surely likely that a wife, even if she survived, would wish to represent herself as sharing in imaginative anticipation the banquet of her dead husband.

It is however a fact not to be overlooked that in cases where the female figure is not seated at the feet of the male figure or beside him, but meets him to pour wine into the cup which he holds out, a modification of the older type which we meet at quite an early period, then this lady does not seem to be the wife of the hero. Rather from her stature and appearance we may suppose her to be some divine personage of perpetual youth and beauty.49 And sometimes by the wings which spring from her shoulders we may identify her as Victory, who thus greets the hero on his arrival in the world of shades. This is a poetical variation of the idea; but we need scarcely suppose that in these cases a divine maiden is assigned to the deceased as his companion in the next world, as Hebe was assigned to Herakles.

Whether the feasting hero is supposed to be receiving the gifts of his votaries at the tomb or in Elysium is no easy question to settle. Indeed I do not believe that it can be settled, for it is a matter on which the Greeks never fairly cleared their minds. The primitive theory was that the deceased man lived in the family tomb, and on this theory were based the burial customs, the storing of food and drink in the tomb, the piling in it of armour and vestments, the kindling of a lamp there to dispel the darkness. But though these customs locally survived to later Greek times, the ideas which had given birth to them partly passed away. A realm of Hades, an Elysium, Islands of the Blest were imagined, and the soul, at death, was supposed to wander forth to distant lands in the direction of the setting sun, or to pass into the lower parts of the earth. And yet, though Achilles dwelt in the [Greek], he was also to be found at his tomb, where Alexander the Great went to worship him. Though the soul of Agamemnon when he died went to the land of Hades, yet Electra calls on his name at his burial-place. We here reach one of those radical confusions of ideas which exist [p.134] among all peoples,50 even among ourselves if we take the trouble to consider the matter. We may therefore decline to attack the problem of the locality of the feast of the hero; the snake points to the tomb, but the horse and dog indicate rather the Elysian plains.

We have already remarked that among the Athenian sepulchral reliefs, which so often merely depict a scene of every-day life, with a shadow of coming death thrown across it, the banqueting reliefs seem to form a class apart. And we now see the reason. The usual reliefs are products of Athenian artistic feeling and good taste, and we may add of Athenian levity and love of innovation. But the banqueting reliefs come from another source altogether. They are based on a religious respect for ancestors which belongs especially to Peloponnesus and the Dorians. Their line begins probably among the races of Asia Minor: it is accepted by the Spartans and developed at Tegea and Tarentum. At Athens it does not make its appearance until later times, and is never taken up and assimilated as the Athenians took up ideas which were congenial to them. The few early banqueting reliefs from Athens, such as that on which Charon appears, are peculiar, and not readily ranged in line with the rest.


How, next, do we explain those votive reliefs to Asclepius, which are not merely in character, but even in every detail, so closely like the reliefs in honour of the dead? I think that after a careful examination of instances it clearly appears that these are mere copies of the reliefs we have been discussing. The presence of a horse, and armour hung on the walls, are features of the Asclepian reliefs, which seem in their case to have no intelligible meaning at all. Le Bas suggests that the meaning of the horse is, that death would have taken place but for the intervention of the physician-god, and that the arms hung up mean, that had the patient not recovered, the survivors would have hung up his arms on his tomb. But it is sufficiently evident how lame is an explanation which rests entirely on [p.135] 'would have been,' and thus confesses itself directly at issue with what actually took place. To me it appears far more reasonable to suppose, that arms and horse alike were transferred from sepulchral reliefs, where they have a clear and intelligible meaning, to the Asclepian reliefs, where their presence is by no means so appropriate.

It is indeed a fact, however we may explain it, that the artistic representations of Asclepius and Hygieia are, from the first, remarkably similar to those of deceased heroes. Not only do the snake and the dog belong alike to the dead and the deities of healing, but the very pose of the latter seems often copied from that of figures in sepulchral reliefs. I would specially cite one sepulchral relief,51 wherein a hero seated lays his hand on the head of a snake, in almost exactly the attitude of the great statue of Asclepius by Thrasymedes at Epidaurus,52 while a female figure stands before him in the customary pose of Hygieia. The dog too, who reclined beside the throne of Asclepius at Epidaurus, has his parallel in the dog who lies under the couch of the hero in the Lycian reliefs. We must remember that Asclepius was a hero of mortal origin, born of the woman Coronis. To Homer he is merely the 'blameless physician,' whose sons, Machaon and Podaleirius, led to Ilium the men of Tricca. The framers of these reliefs may also have considered Asclepius as but a demi-god, to whom horse and armour would be appropriate.

It has been supposed that there are also votive tablets of this class dedicated to Serapis. And certainly the feaster on the couch sometimes wears on his head a modius which is the special mark of Serapis. A specimen is engraved by Welcker,53 but to those at all acquainted with Egyptian tombs an explanation of this fact will readily suggest itself. Among the Egyptians the dead man becomes Osiris on passing into the next world, and takes on himself the character and the form of that deity. Serapis is the successor of Osiris in Egypt, and assumes at a late period all his functions; what more natural, then, that a deceased hero should appear after death, whether in Egypt or even elsewhere, in the form of Serapis, and wearing his special [p.136] head-dress? And we actually find reliefs in which the feaster wears a modius, which are identified by their inscriptions as referring to mere mortal heroes.54

This order of thought, however, belongs to Egypt rather than to Greece. It has been suggested that on the Spartan reliefs, for instance, the dead man appears in the person of Hades rather than in his own. But this is scarcely true. The hero is generalized by dying, as it were, and loses his most marked individual traits. But he does not lose his personality in that of the god of the shades; for in almost all classes of sepulchral reliefs young men are distinguished from elderly ones, and the wife and children who accompany them are those of their actual life.

A curious monument published by Pervanoglu55 is a relief of closely similar character, erected in honour of a divine being, whose cultus was almost confined to Attica, Boreas, whom the Athenians supposed to be particularly partial to them, owing to the influence of his wife, the Attic Oreithuia. In this relief appears a man with janiform head, reclining on a couch, and a lady seated at his feet, with the inscription, .... ΙΟΣ ΤΩΙ ΕΥΙ ΚΑΙ ΤΗΙ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΙΑΙ. Pervanoglu shows that the names or epithets [Greek] and [Greek] apply most properly to Boreas and his consort, and that the Janus-head is appropriate to him almost alone among gods and heroes.

In the last two pages we have been travelling on the verge of an interesting subject, by no means distantly connected with the subject in hand, the custom of spreading a banquet to the gods under the name [Greek]. The lectisternia of the Romans, in which they spread feasts for certain of the gods, and laid their images by the tables that they might enjoy what was provided are well known, and most people fancy that the custom was of Latin origin, but it is certain that the Romans in this matter were mere imitators of the Greeks. We should naturally suppose that the custom of feasting the gods arose from that of feasting deceased ancestors. And this view receives fresh confirmation when we consider that these banquets were, among the Greeks, bestowed not upon all the gods, but nearly always on those of mortal birth, such as the Dioscuri, Asclepius and [p.137] Dionysus. They are bestowed indeed upon Zeus and Apollo, and this may seem strange, unless we remember how commonly Zeus Patroius or Herceius, and Apollo were confused in cultus with the traditional family ancestor.56 The monuments which commemorate [Greek] are however in some cases older than the stelae which belong to the cultus of ancestors. On a lekythus from Rhodes, for instance, published by Mr. Newton,57 we have a very remarkable painting, which represents a couch laid with cushions at each end, and above the Dioscuri on horseback approaching the couch, evidently in order to receive the promised banquet. Testimonies alike in the form of inscriptions and of passages of ancient writers to the custom of inviting the Dioscuri to dine are abundant, and are collected in the work of Deneken De Theoxeniis. This writer shows that the reliefs which are usually supposed to represent the visit of Dionysus to Icarius really represent banquets at which a priest or votary of Dionysus receives his master in the capacity of host and feasts with him. One of the most remarkable of these reliefs was published in the Archaologische Zeitung of 1882 by Deneken. It represents a man reclining at table, and a woman seated at his feet, no doubt his wife. Below the table is a snake, and beside it a slave to pour wine. The reclining pair turn with a gesture of surprise and pleasure to the door, at which enters Dionysus holding a thyrsus and leaning on a young satyr. Deneken maintains, and probably with justice, that this monument belongs to the oblong class of banqueting reliefs; and that it was inserted in the walls of a hereon erected in honour of one who had in his life-time offered banquets to Dionysus, whether as his priest, or as a member of some corps of actors, who were in ancient times called Dionysiac artists.

A relief like this brings us back to the question which we have already discussed. Is the scene of it in this world, or in the grave, or in Hades? No doubt it is commemorative of events which happened in this world. Such a relief would only be set up in honour of one who had in his life been a guest-friend of Dionysus. Yet the presence of the snake, confirmed by the general argument which has been established in the course [p.138] of this paper, serves to show that the reference is not merely to the past, but to the world which lies beyond death. The man who has shown a friendly hospitality to the god of wine when he was alive might fairly expect to receive him as a guest in Hades. We may then safely discard the view which would lay the scene in the present life. The grave and Hades remain, and of these possible scenes we may hesitatingly prefer Hades, as a banquet given to Dionysus actually in the tomb must seem a strange and incongruous thing.

In connexion with the last sentence we may cite an important relief published by Conze,58 which represents a man supping at table in company with a hero, who can be identified as Herakles by means of the lion-skin which he carries, as well as with a number of female figures. Conze considers that the scene represents one who sups in Elysium with Herakles and the Muses, and the accessories seem to bear out the view. Not only are there trees in the background, among which flutter winged youths, but similar youths appear also in the foreground, and furnish the feasters with food and drink. Here then we may seem to have an actual scene from Elysium. But at the same time the relief recalls to our mind the remarkable inscription called the will of Epicteta,59 which gives details of the foundation, at quite a late period, of a cultus of some deceased relatives of the foundress in conjunction with that of the Muses, the heroon being at the same time a temple of those goddesses. In such a heroon, a relief like that under discussion would be quite in place, and the banquet represented on the relief might be an ideal representation of the sacrifices there offered year by year by the surviving kinsfolk.

At the end of these somewhat protracted investigations we find ourselves at last in a position to discuss the relief from which we took our start. It evidently belongs to the class of banqueting reliefs, and to that subdivision of the class which consists of oblong tablets erected in the neighbourhood of tombs. Of this class I believe it to be one of the earliest extant examples. In the elder reclining figure we recognise at once a deceased hero and ancestor, and in the general scene an idealised representation of the sacrifices brought to him from time to time [p.139] by surviving relatives. But that which constitutes to be a great peculiarity of the relief, and that which is least easy to explain in it is the presence of the two youths, one reclining at the feet of his elder, one leading in a horse. These youths are not deities. For a moment one might be inclined, especially considering the Tarentine origin of the relief, to suppose that they are the Dioscuri, who were greatly venerated at Tarentum, come as guests to sup with the hero, but that explanation seems impossible in view of the familiar attitude which is assumed by the reclining men. No mortal would dare to lay a hand on the shoulder of one of the great twin brethren. Neither are they slaves, their size and their dignity at once preclude this idea. They can scarcely be explained except as the sons of the elder man. Sons do not as a rule on monuments of this class appear as of the same stature as their parents, but as the wife is ordinarily represented as of the same size as the hero, his sons may be so exceptionally. Shall we suppose that these sons died with their parent and were venerated with him, or were they the survivors who erected the tablet? I fear that, in spite of all the writings on the subject of sepulchral reliefs, their grammar is not yet sufficiently established to enable us to form a decided opinion on this point; and with like uncertainty the horse may be regarded either as belonging to the father, or to that one of the sons who brings it in. Perhaps the son on the couch may have been dead when the relief was set up, and the standing son may be the survivor who brings in a horse for the use of his relatives. In the presence of this animal and in other respects our relief resembles the Tarentine terra-cottas already cited.

But in calling this relief abnormal, we must not forget that the ordinary type to which we might have expected it to conform, the type in which the seated wife is present, certainly was not in exclusive use. None of the banqueting reliefs of Greece proper, except that of Tegea, are of so old a date, and the earlier Athenian banqueting reliefs show much greater variety than do the late. We must therefore be cautious in applying to this scene rules of interpretation based on a class of monuments to which it cannot be expected to conform.



If the present paper comes here to an end the reason must be sought rather in the limits of space and the occupations of the writer than in the exhaustion of the material. I have tried to explain the Greek banqueting reliefs, by comparing them with other classes of sepulchral reliefs in use in Greece at an earlier period than that in which banqueting scenes first make their appearance, and which bear a more clearly indicated meaning. But I have not tried to follow the idea in its various developments in Greece in historical times, with chronological and geographical classification: for this could not be attempted without a multitude of illustrations. And I have by no means tried to trace the custom of representing banquets on tombs to its original source. This would involve a discussion of the monuments of Etruria on the one hand, and of Assyria and Egypt on the other; and would require many investigations into the religions and the customs of many nations. The work would bring most valuable results, but it is altogether beyond the present purpose. And I understand that more than one able archaeologist is at work on the subject in Germany.

It would be equally out of the question to attempt, in the course of an article like the present, to determine whether in other cases the analogy of the Spartan reliefs may induce us to discover mortal heroes and heroines where we have hitherto seen deities. Certainly a process of that kind has been for many years going on in the interpretation of Greek art. Some statues formerly called Apollos are now regarded as athletes; figures once regarded as representations of Hera or Demeter are now known to be portraits of matrons. To extend this change of interpretation to new fields might be an enticing task. But I will here refer only to one monument, which to most Englishmen who know anything of classical archaeology bears a charm quite unique—the Lycian Harpy-tomb in the British Museum. It has been suggested by Dr. Milchhoefer60 that we can now scarcely hesitate to see in the reliefs of this [p.141] beautiful monument scones in which deceased worthies are receiving worship from the living.

In support of this view several considerations are adduced; lastly, the building was certainly a tomb; and we find in several of the Lycian tombs, as has already been mentioned, representations of the heroes buried in them as receiving offerings and worship from survivors.

Milchhoefer calls especial attention to a detached gable end61 of a Xanthian tomb in the archaic room of the British Museum, on which is represented a stele surmounted by a harpy, on either side of which stele is a seated figure, one bearded and one beardless, each holding a long staff. These two seated figures closely resemble those on the Harpy-tomb, and Milchhoefer considers that they are two buried worthies depicted as seated beside their tomb, just as on the white Attic lekythi we sometimes see the dead seated on the steps of their own tombs. We are also referred to the paintings of an early tomb at Caere in Etruria,62 where the hero is depicted in a sitting posture, while near him is a winged figure bearing in his arms a woman.

In Greece the hero exchanges a sitting for a reclining posture at the end of the period of archaic art, the relief of Tegea above mentioned marking the transition. Does it not seem probable that at about the same time the same change of posture was introduced in Lycia also? The reclining figures of later Lycian art we know to be heroes: does it not then seem very likely that the seated figures of earlier Lycian art are also heroes? We have here a sort of rule of three sum: three of the four objects of which we speak are known; and it might seem very reasonable to deduce the nature of the fourth. And in fact on the Nereid monument personages already recognised as deceased ancestors are seated.

Milchhoefer further maintains that there is no precedent for assuming that the deities of Olympus can be depicted on a monument the nature of which is clearly sepulchral. To which argument we may add another in the fact that the objects offered on the Lycian monument are not such as were presented to the Olympian gods, but all have a chthonian character. In [p.142] fact the objects in the hands of the seated figures on the Harpy-tomb and of their suppliants are nearly those which we find on the Spartan monuments. One of the seated figures holds the patera, the receptacle for incense, one an apple or pomegranate and a flower, while another holds a fruit in each hand. A dove, a cock, a flower and a pomegranate are the offerings brought to the ladies by their votaries. A seated male figure receives the, to him, more appropriate gift of arms, arms which remind us of those sometimes suspended on the wall in the reliefs of which we have above spoken. It might perhaps be replied that as we know so little about the religion of the Lycians, we must be cautious in applying to the reliefs on their tombs arguments taken from Greek religious custom; but here again the close likeness between the reliefs of Lycian and those of Peloponnesian tombs forbids us to suppose that they can belong to entirely different classes of representations embodying diverse religious reliefs.

This theory then seems very promising; but before we accept it, we must wait until its author, or some other archaeologist, takes it up in detail, and furnishes us with an exact and well-reasoned explanation of the different groups represented on the four sides of the tomb. That the tomb should have been erected in honour of three men and two women is not likely. Nor is it the custom of early art to represent worshipper and worshipped as of the same stature; but on the Harpy-tomb standing and seated figures are nearly of the same size. We require also fuller explanation of the mysterious harpies themselves, and the prey they are bearing away; for we can scarcely subscribe to Milchhoefer's view that they are merely inserted to indicate a locality—the underworld. There thus opens before us an interesting problem, one of many which recent excavations in Greece have suggested: and I cannot but hope that in the future our universities, with their new interest in archaeology, may produce followers of Oedipus bold enough to attempt, and able enough to solve them.

                    Percy Gardner

1 Gardner, Types of Greek Coins, Pl. xi. 3, 4.

2 Ibid. PI. v. 8, 9, 34, 35.

3 Ibid. PL vii. 3-f!, 39, 40.

4 Journ. Hell. Stud. 1882, Pl. xxiv.  p. 234.

5 I return to the subject under head iv. ad Jin. at page 138.

6 Alte Denkmaler, No. 19.

7 Bassirilieri Pls. xi. xxxvi.

8 Antiq. Figurines, pp. 85, 599.

9 Alte Denkmaler, pt. ii. Pl. xiii. and text.

10 Der Ausruhende Herakles, 1854.

11 Das Familiemiahl mif altgriech ischen Grabsteinan.

12 See M. Dumont's notes on the νεκύσια in the Revue Archeologique, N.S. vol. xx. p. 247. Also, Newton, Travels and Discoveries, I. 218.

13 De operibm anaglyphis, &c.

14 Stephani, Der Ausruhende Herakles, Pl. vii. 1.

15 Salinas, Monumenti Sepolcrali, Pl. iv.

16 Ravaisson, Le Monument de Myrrhine.

17 Arch. Zeitlung, 1874, p. 118.

18 Pl. 269. Welcker, Alte Denkmaler, ii. No. 96; Stephani, Ausruh. Herakl. p. 81, &c. A cast in the British Museum.

19 Cf. Welcker, Alte Denkmaler, ii. Pl. xiii. 1; Zoega, Bassirilieri Pl. xxxvi.

20 The story of Olympias, wife of Philip, and her tame snake is well known.

21 As in Zoega, Bassirilieri, Pl. xi.

22 The epithet refers of course to the chariot, not the horse of Hades.

23 See Welcker, Alte Denkmaler, ii. Pl. xiii. 2. The horse's head here looks like that of an ox; this can scarcely be anything but the result of defective drawing. The monument itself has disappeared.

24 Ibid. Pl. xiii. 3.

25 Mittheilungen Inst. Ath., vol. ii. Pls. xvi.-xviii.

26 Cat. Gr. Coins in Brit. Mus. Thrace, p, 90.

27 Nos. 15, 16.

28 P. 128.

29 Fellows, Lycia, p. 118.

30 Ibid. p. 197.

31 Such is the interpretation suggested by Michaelis in the Ann. d. Inst. 1875. I believe that it has been generally accepted, and has superseded the theories which made of the group either a set of deities or mortals engaged in an every-day feast.

32 Pl. xxix.

33 Wolters, Arch. Zeit. 1882, p. 300; also Dummler, Ann. dell' Inst. 1883, p. 192. They have been also found at Myrina.

34 Engraved also in Overbeck's Gr. Plastik, 3rd edit. i. 85; Perry, p. 73; Murray, i. 94.

35 This would seem to be the genitive of [Greek], a variant of [Greek]. It seems to signify that the tomb was sacred to the Chthonian Hermes.

36 Mittheilungen, 1879, p. 160,

37 Published by Furtwangler in the Mittheilungen, vol. vii. (1882) Pl. vii. This writer looks on the evidence furnished by the monument in the same way in which it is here accepted.

38 Mittheilungen, iv. (1879) Pl. ii.

39 Cf. Pottier's useful work Les Lecythes blancs antiques, 1884, where these monuments are fully discussed from the point of view of funeral customs as well as from that of art.

40 Described by Dr. Schliemann in the Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol. ii.

41 At Mycenae, for instance.

42 Rayet, in the Gazette des Beaux Arts, 1875.

43 Lucian 519 (Charon, 22), ii. 926 (De luctu, 9). I cannot omit quoting these passages, to which my attention was drawn by the late Rector of Lincoln College; He took a kindly interest in the present paper, and during his last illness copied out for me Lucian's words in tremulous characters which evidenced alike the feebleness of his health, and the continued activity of his interest in Hellenic studies.

44 Sabouroff Collection, Pl. xxix. 9

45 Mitthtilungen, iii. 376.

46 Furtwangler takes it otherwise, as the symbol of wifely love and devotion. But it is sometimes placed in the hands of virgins. Pomegranate seeds enter still into the composition of the cakes, above spoken of (p. 109).

47 See Mittheilungen, 1879, Pl. vii.

48  It is not unusual to find the head of a horse without his body painted on late Italian races (see Mon. dell' Inst. iv. 40). But this fact gives us no help.

49 See especially a stele from Laconia in the Mittheilungen for 1882, Pl. xvi, and the remarks of Furtwangler on it at p. 367.

50 Exactly the same confusion is observed by M. Perrot in the Egyptian ideas as to the future life. See L'Egypte, p. 135, &c.

51 From Patras. Mittheilungen, viii.  Pl. xviii.

52 Copied on a coin. Gardner, Types of Greek Coins, Pl. xii. 21, p. 187.

53 Alte Denkm. Pl. xiii. 3.

54 Hollander, De Operibus, &c. plate. 2

55 Das Familienmahl, &c. plate.

56 See for instance, the remarkable  inscription Bull. Corr. Hell. iii. 47, where Zeus Patroius appears as family god of the gens of the Clytidae.

57 Transactions of the R.S.L. New Series, ix. 434.

58 Archaol. Zeitung, 1871, p. 81.

59 C. I. 2448, cf. Newton, Essays, p. 169.

60 Arch. Zeitung, 1882, p. 54. Miltheilungen, iv. 167. In the same journal  viii. p. 81, Prof. Brunn speaks of the scenes on the Harpy tomb as sepulchral.

61 A poor engraving of it in the Annali dell' Inst. 1844, p. 150.

62 Mon. d. Inst. vi. 30.