Three Hellenistic Heads, Cyprus

Persian Cyprus

Cyprus (Greek Κύπρος): large island in the eastern Mediterranean, colonized by Phoenicians and Greeks.

Between Persia and Greece

The Persians had seized control of Cyprus in the sixth century, but had allowed the local kings to rule in their own cities. This was to change during the reign of king Darius the Great (r.521-486), the great organizer of the Achaemenid Empire, who strengthened Persian control. If we are to believe the Greek researcher Herodotus, the immediate cause was a conflict among Cypriote rulers, in which Onesilus, the ruler of the northern city-state Soloi, took over Salamis. note [The story is told by Herodotus in Histories 5.104-116.] Except for Amathus, he received support from all over the island.

At the same time, in the year 499 BCE, the Greek cities in Asia Minor revolted ("the Ionian Revolt"). To restore order in the western parts of their empire, the Persians sent an army, which would pass along Cyprus, where it was to settle affairs too. Onesilus now requested help from the Greek rebels, which he received almost immediately: just like king Amasis of Egypt (above), the rebels realized that Cyprus was a perfect base to attack the Phoenician ports. As long as they would control Cyprus, they had no Persian naval expedition to fear.

Upon hearing of the arrival of the Greek reinforcements, the Persians sent more troops, which arrived from Cilicia. The naval battle was a success for the Greeks and Cypriotes, but the following land battle was won by the Persians. Onesilus and his allies were defeated, Persian supremacy was restored, and the Cypriote cities had to pay heavily to the Persian war chest.

Kouklia, Marchellos, Arrowheads

Kouklia, Marchellos, Cypriote helmet

Marchellos, Head of an archaic statue

Marchellos, Site of the siege ramp (wall in the background right, countermine visible right of center)

At a place called Marchellos, archaeologists have found the siege ramp that the Persians used in c.497 BCE to recapture Paphos. The excavators also identified Cypriote mines, arrowheads, protective armor, and pieces of ancient sculpture that had been used to strengthen the siege ramp.

Cyprus was reorganized. Some ten kingdoms remained, which were usually loyal to Persia and supported king Xerxes when he tried to subject the Greek homeland in 480 BCE: Cyprus sent no less than 150 ships. Still, the Cypriote kings were always open to Greek initiatives. In about 468, the Athenian commander Cimon tried to conquer the island, but although he was able to defeat the Persian army and navy (Battle of Eurymedon), he was unable to seize all of Cyprus.

/> Two lions attacking a bull

Still, Greek cultural influence was certainly increasing. Even when Cypriote artists picked up a Persian artistic motif, like the fight between a lion and a bull, they created something that looked undeniably Greek.

At the beginning of the fourth century, king Euagoras of Salamis (r.411-374) attempted to become sole ruler of Cyprus. At first, he tried to achieve this with Persian support, for example by taking part in a Persian naval expedition against Sparta, note [Xenophon, Hellenica 2.1.29 Isocrates, Oration 9.52-56.] When the Persians did not award Euagoras as he had expected, note [Diodorus, World History 14.98.] he decided to revolt (391 BCE).

Cypro-Classical II Pottery

Cypro-Classical II Pottery

The moment was well-chosen. The Persian Empire was at this moment severely weakened, still suffering from a civil war between king Artaxerxes II Mnemon and his brother Cyrus the Younger. Moreover, Athens and the Egyptian king Achoris supported Euagoras too. He managed to unite most of Cyprus and expanded his influence even to Cilicia and Phoenicia. note [Diodorus, World History 15.2.3-4.3.]

Artaxerxes' initial response was diplomatic: in 387 BCE, the Persians concluded a peace treaty with the Greek cities. Athens would no longer support Cyprus. In 381, a Persian army invaded Cyprus. Euagoras' ships were defeated near Kition, and although he held out for some time, he was forced to sign a peace treaty in 379, keeping control of Salamis but losing much of what he had once possessed. Persian control had been restored. Another revolt, in 350 BCE, was repressed by Persian king Artaxerxes III Ochus. Still, the end of Persian Cyprus was near.


The rugged island of Cyprus resembles a saucepan, with the handle extending northeastward from the main part. The general pattern of its roughly 400-mile (640-km) coastline is indented and rocky, with long, sandy beaches. The Kyrenia Mountains—the western portion of which is also known as the Pentadaktylos for its five-fingered peak—extend for 100 miles (160 km) parallel to and just inland from the northern coast. It is the southernmost range of the great Alpine-Himalayan chain in the eastern Mediterranean like much of that extensive mountain belt, it is formed largely of deformed masses of Mesozoic limestone.

The Troodos Mountains in the south and southwest are of great interest to geologists, who have concluded that the range, made up of igneous rock, was formed from molten rock beneath the deep ocean (Tethys) that once separated the continents of Eurasia and Afro-Arabia. The range stretches eastward about 50 miles (80 km) from near the island’s west coast to the 2,260-foot (689-metre) Stavrovouni peak, about 12 miles (19 km) from the southeastern coast. The range’s summit, Mount Olympus (also called Mount Troodos), reaches an elevation of 6,401 feet (1,951 metres) and is the island’s highest point.

Between the two ranges lies the Mesaoria Plain (its name means “Between the Mountains”), which is flat and low-lying and extends from Morphou Bay in the west to Famagusta Bay in the east. Roughly in the centre of the plain is Nicosia. The plain is the principal cereal-growing area in the island.

Ancient Hairstyles of the Greco-Roman World

​Head of a Man, mid-5th century BCE. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cesnola Collection Purchased by subscription, 1874–76 (74.51.2826). Gods and goddesses in art wear leafy wreaths as hair accessories, as do mortals engaged in sacred rituals or events. Wreaths were worn at festivals, initiations, weddings, and funerals. They were awarded to winners of athletic competitions, which took place in religious sanctuaries. For important occasions or for royalty, they were crafted in gold and silver. Later, in the Roman Empire, military victors wore them and wreaths became symbols of government authority.

Tetradrachm with Apollo from Leontini, 435-430 BCE. The American Numismatic Society (1997.9.121). Greek adult men would ritually cut their hair and grow a beard, but Apollo, whose long hair is often described as golden, defines the ultimate appearance of an ephebe, a beardless adolescent. Apollo wears a wreath of leaves from a laurel, a tree associated with the god’s oracle at Delphi.

From the dawn of civilization to the present day, human hair has seldom been worn in its natural state. Whether cut, shorn, curled, straightened, braided, beaded, worn in an upsweep or down to the knees, adorned with pins, combs, bows, garlands, extensions, and other accoutrements, hairstyles had the power to reflect societal norms. In antiquity, ancient hairstyles and their depictions did not only delineate wealth and social status, or divine and mythological iconography they were also tied to rites of passage and religious rituals. Hair in the Classical World, now on view at the Bellarmine Museum of Art (BMA) in Fairfield CT, is the first exhibition of its kind in the United States to present some 33 objects pertaining to hair from the Bronze Age to Late Antiquity (1500 BCE-600 CE). The exhibition takes the visitor on a rich cultural journey through ancient Greece, Cyprus, and Rome, in an examination of ancient hairstyles through three thematic lenses: “Arrangement and Adornment” “Rituals and Rites of Passage” and “Divine and Royal Iconography.”

In this exclusive 2015 holiday season interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Dr. Katherine Schwab and Dr. Marice Rose, art history professors in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at Fairfield University, who teamed up to co-curate this unprecedented exhibition.

JW: Dr. Katherine A. Schwab and Dr. Marice E. Rose, I bid you both a warm welcome to Ancient History Encyclopedia, and I thank you for speaking to me about Hair in the Classical World.

Attic Red-Figured Cup or Bowl Fragment with Bearded Warrior Wearing Scalp of Enemy on Helmet, 500-490 BCE. Attributed to Onesimos as painter (active ca. 505-480 BCE). Signed by Euphronios as potter (active 520-470 BCE). The J. Paul Getty Museum (86.AE.311).

This exhibition, the first ever in the US, investigates the ways in which hair reflected ancient societal norms, and signaled wealth, social status, and even divine prominence. Would you say our modern conceptions of hair have changed significantly since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans? To what extent have things remained the same given the lasting legacy of ancient Greek aesthetics in the Western world?

KS: Thank you, we are delighted to discuss the exhibition with you, James. In many ways our modern idea of hairstyles is quite different from antiquity because we do not have specific age-related hairstyles to mark rites of passage and significant life events. We do not ritually cut hair to dedicate it here in the US, for example, but these traditions are old and enduring elsewhere. Indian and Hindu traditions include ritual hair cutting today. The beauty of ancient hairstyles and the creative approaches used especially by women in Greece and Rome certainly does sound familiar in our modern world. Individuality, even within societal expectations, was as prevalent then as it is now.

MR: Thank you, it is a pleasure, James. I think conceptions of hair, in terms of its qualities of communicating personal aspects of an individual (gender, age, status, even mental health) and aspects of the culture he or she belongs to, have remained consistent. We have a greater range of clothing choices today, so in antiquity hair was even more important as a bearer of meaning.

​Mask from a Cavalry Helmet from Asia Minor, 75-125 CE. The J. Paul Getty Museum (72.AB.105). This mask was worn by a male soldier, but a Roman man would not have worn such long, carefully curled hair. Masks like this may also have been worn by soldiers in contests that re-enacted scenes of Greek myth and history.

JW: We say that “clothes make the man” in English, but could we say that “hair makes the man” — or woman — when speaking about the ancient Cypriots, Greeks, or Romans?

KS: The research for this exhibition brought out the high level of importance ancient hairstyles conveyed in Greece and Rome. An example is the Caryatids from the South Porch of the Erechtheion on the Athenian Acropolis. Long fishtail braids down the back, corkscrew curls from behind the ears, and additional braids wrapped around the head — this combination is unique and distinguishes these maidens who lead a religious procession. Some of the Cypriot male heads have densely textured hair pulled from the crown by a wreath only to spring into thick curls framing the face. Their vitality is evident not only in the facial expression but in the ancient hairstyles they wear. Hair arrangements were intentional and could become closely associated with famous individuals, such as Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE). Adapting his hairstyle carried with it his achievements. The same held true for several of the Roman Empresses, such as Syrian-born Julia Domna (170-217 CE), wife of Emperor Septimius Severus (r. 193-211 CE). Her distinctive hairstyle became popular enough for dolls to be made with similar hair arrangements.

MR: Yes, definitely! This is true for women of course too. For example, Roman emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty imitated Augustus’ bangs and tousled hair on the forehead to show their connection to him and his successful rule, while Augustus himself was recalling the hair of Alexander the Great. We also have a portrait head in the exhibition, lent by the Yale University Art Gallery, of a girl wearing a style made famous by Augustus’ wife, Livia (58 BCE-29 CE). She has a forehead roll (nodus) and bun, linked by a thin braid. The style would have communicated that this girl would become an ideal wife and mother, like Livia herself. This popular style’s careful control of the hair was a purposeful part of its message of morality and restraint.

​10 Drachm (decadrachm) with Arethusa from Syracuse, 405-400 BCE. The American Numismatic Society (1964.79.21). Arethusa’s hair is gathered in an ampyx, a leather or metal band just above her forehead, which is connected to a large open-work hairnet filled with her long hair. This Arethusa shows richly textured, curly hair, with short loose ends projecting outward along the top of her head along with the inscription ΣΥΡΑΚΟΣΙΟ (Syracuse). The hairnet shows long locks of hair in each section, with surfaces now partly worn, separated by small discs decorating the interstices of the net.

The beauty of ancient hairstyles and the creative approaches used especially by women in ancient Greece and Rome certainly does sound familiar in our world today. Individuality, even within societal expectations, was as prevalent then as it is now.”

JW: Ancient hairstyles and accessories could reach a wide audience through the circulation of coins, which presented a clear and formal appearance to a vast public (however idealistic it might have been). Could you contextualize the ways in which hair was an expressive vehicle for the conveyance of power and personal image via coinage?

KS: Greek and Roman coins have been excavated from Spain to India, a testimony to the movement of ideas and goods across the vast network of trade routes. If the coin was still in good condition, the portrait would have been visible and in contention to shape local fashions. Successors to Alexander the Great frequently included an image of Alexander on their own coinage. This sustained use of selective images would have made a strong impression.

​Hairpin with Eros from Dura-Europos, ca. 165-256 CE. Yale University Art Gallery (1938.862). Straight hairpins with miniature sculptures on the ends have been found all over the Roman Empire. They were used to hold a tight bun or twist in place, or as a hair ornament. These tiny sculptures would have been seen only by people close to the woman wearing them. Hairpins with women wearing fashionable hairstyles resembled miniature portraits of the wearer herself.

MR: A very good question, as coins are some of our best evidence for the ancient hairstyles of Roman emperors and empresses. As to how influential they would have been…I am not a numismatist, but just on a practical level the coins are very small the detail of the ones in the exhibit are exquisite, but they are almost mint examples — as we know, over time, details would rub off. I think portrait statues and reliefs, just like actual high-status men and women being seen wearing the styles, may have conveyed the messages more effectively.

JW: Hair in the Classical World includes an evocative section with objects from “cultural crossroads,” like Cyprus, the city of Dura-Europos in what is present-day Syria, and the city of Syracuse on the island of Sicily. How did the transmission of portable objects through international trade influence ancient hairstyles and personal adornment? Could you provide some specific examples.

KS: Dr. Rose provides a very good response to your question. I can only add that this is an area of research worth exploring further in case the archaeological record preserves examples as documentation.

MR: The exhibit contains eight objects from Cyprus from The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Cesnola Collection. Cyprus, legendary birthplace of Aphrodite, had rich copper deposits (Cyprus comes from the Greek word for copper, kupros) and was a valuable location for trade and military strategy. Its art combines native Cypriot forms and those drawn from the art of immigrants, trade partners, and conquerors. The island’s especially close ties to Greece mean that the styles most often resemble ancient Greek art, although occupation by Egypt and Persia also had an influence.

​Hairnet with Medallion of a Maenad, ca. 200-150 BCE. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Gift of Norbert Schimmel, 1987 (1987.220). The luxurious nature of this gold hairnet, or kekryphalos, which would have been owned by a woman of high status, attests to the wealth of the Greek Hellenistic world. A substantial amount of hair would have been required to secure this complex and expensive accessory at the back of the head.

We have two examples of Cypriot male heads wearing wreaths, which comes from Greek culture gods and goddesses in art wear leafy wreaths as hair accessories, as do mortals engaged in sacred rituals or events. Wreaths were worn at festivals, initiations, weddings, and funerals. They were awarded to winners of athletic competitions, which took place in religious sanctuaries. For important occasions or for royalty, they were crafted in gold and silver. What is different in Cyprus is that the wreaths often include flowers. These might be linked to worship of the Great Goddess of Cyprus, an ancient fertility deity who became assimilated with Aphrodite.

JW: Hair in the Classical World showcases various accouterments, including an ancient hairnet with a medallion, in addition to a number of statuettes, coins, masks, and Attic cups.

Which of the objects on display are the most unique or unusual in your opinion? Have any attracted considerable attention on the part of visitors to the Bellarmine Museum of Art (BMA)?

​Statuette of a Running Gorgon, 540 BCE. We see Medusa before Perseus reaches her: A Greek female in the sixth century BCE wearing long hair usually represented a maiden, which was Medusa’s previous status. Here she has abundant long textured hair, both sinuous and segmented to describe wavy texture. In later Greek art, her hair will appear as intertwined snakes coiling and writhing across her head.

KS: I think visitors have looked very closely at the coins and sculptures, but also the images we have included as vinyl wall photographs such as the one of the hairnet. In general, the response has been one of surprise at the focus and importance of hair in antiquity. Some of the very elegant enhancements to ancient hairstyles, such as the hair pins Dr. Rose describes, the Hellenistic gold bun holder, and the late-fifth century BCE silver coin from Syracuse all reveal elaborate accessories to transform hair arrangements from practical into luxurious and even sensual. As for unique or unusual, the Hellenistic bun holder is rare, one of a few known. You have to wonder who wore it (a queen?), how much hair was required to fill it, and the weight of the gold.

MR: I like the Cypriot sculpted heads because to my knowledge their hair has never been examined closely before, so one looks at them from a completely new perspective. I am drawn also to the hairpins with the tiny sculptures on the ends, and the idea that almost 2000 years ago women actually wore these in their hair after dipping them in perfume.

​Head of a Cypriot Man, mid-fifth century BCE. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cesnola Collection. Purchased by subscription, 1874–76 (74.51.2826). Gods and goddesses in art wear leafy wreaths as hair accessories, as do mortals engaged in sacred rituals or events. Wreaths were worn at festivals, initiations, weddings, and funerals. They were awarded to winners of athletic competitions, which took place in religious sanctuaries. For important occasions or for royalty, they were crafted in gold and silver. Later, in the Roman Empire, military victors wore them and wreaths became symbols of government authority.

JW: Precisely because it is so resonant of socio-cultural identity, hair is curious but fulfilling lens through which to view antiquity. That being acknowledged, I suspect this was a challenging exhibition to organize and assemble.

What was the catalyst behind this exhibition, and which challenges did you face in organizing such an compelling show?

KS: The catalyst was the 2009 Caryatid Hairstyling Project in which we recreated the six ancient hairstyles. Before this we did not know if they were based in reality or creative imagination. The project, with six student models, proved to be a watershed. We made a short film of the project which has been screened in Athens four times, also in Japan, Italy, and of course here in the US. Interest in the project kept growing which led us to think about a broader theme, Hair in the Classical World, and how we could explore hairstyles through different cultures and time periods.

As any museum curator will tell you, the labels require brevity, information to hold a visitor walking by, and the need to avoid jargon. Condensing our research and information into 50 words was a great preoccupation as we prepared the installation.

MR: As for the challenges, Dr. Schwab is absolutely correct. The only challenge that comes to mind was keeping the wall labels short and concise (and therefore readable) volumes could be written on some of the topics and themes the exhibit highlights.

JW: I have learned so much about the place of hairstyles in Greco-Roman art and culture through our interview! Thank you both for speaking with me about a truly exceptional exhibition. I wish you both the best of luck and many happy adventures in research!

KS: Thank you, James, we are delighted to have this opportunity to discuss the exhibition with you!

MR: Thank you very much James, we are thrilled to share our thoughts and introduce the show to AHE’s audience!

Hair in the Classical World will remain at the Bellarmine Museum of Art (BMA) at Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT until December 18, 2015. Click here to download the Cuseum app for the Hair in the Classical World exhibition, which contains extended label information and an audio tour of select objects. Additionally, please watch the video below in which Dr. Marice Rose and Dr. Katherine Schwab take you on a tour of the exhibition’s highlights.

Dr. Marice Rose is Associate Professor of Art History at Fairfield University, where she is Director of the Art History and Studio Art programs. She is co-editor, with Alison Poe, of the collected volume Receptions of Antiquity, Constructions of Gender in European Art, 1300-1600 (Brill, 2015). Her research, published in journals such as Woman’s Art Journal, New England Classical Journal, Art Education, and The International Journal of the Classical Tradition, focuses on images of women and slaves in late Roman domestic decoration, as well as on classical reception and art history pedagogy. Her chapter on the stone finds from the Palatine East excavation in Rome is included in Palatine East: Excavations of the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma and the American Academy in Rome, Volume 2 (2014). Dr. Rose holds a PhD in Art History from Rutgers University, and a BA in French and Art History from Fairfield University. In addition to the Hair in the Classical World exhibition, she has collaborated with Katherine Schwab on an article on fishtail braids in ancient Greece and today for Catwalk: The Journal of Fashion, Beauty, and Style and also on a forthcoming chapter in the Berg Cultural History of Hair volume on Antiquity.

Dr. Katherine Schwab received her BA from Scripps College, her MA. from Southern Methodist University, and her PhD from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Dr. Schwab joined the faculty at Fairfield University in 1988 where she is both Professor of Art History in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts and Curator of the Plaster Cast Collection at the Bellarmine Museum of Art. The plaster cast collection includes gifts from the Acropolis Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, the Slater Museum, gifts and long-term loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as gifts from individuals. Dr. Schwab has been awarded three separate fellowships (both pre- and post-doctoral) by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in addition to the Robert E. Wall Award at Fairfield, as well as other honors and grants in support of her research on the Parthenon Metopes, the 2009 Caryatid Hairstyling Project, and restoration work on the plaster cast collection. Grayscale scans of her research drawings are on permanent display in the Parthenon Gallery of the new Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece. Her publications include several book chapters, journal articles and, most recently, exhibiting her original Parthenon drawings, An Archaeologist’s Eye: The Parthenon Drawings of Katherine A. Schwab. The exhibition launched at the Consulate General of Greece in NYC in January 2014, and has traveled to the Greek Embassy in Washington, D.C., the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia, the Lied Art Gallery at Creighton University, the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University. Future venues include the Timken Museum of Art in San Diego, the Nashville Parthenon, and the Forsyth Gallery at Texas A & M University. With her colleague Dr. Marice Rose, she has co-authored, “Fishtail Braids and the Caryatid Hairstyling Project: Fashion Today and in Ancient Athens,” Catwalk: the Journal of Fashion, Beauty and Style(2015), and co-curated, Hair in the Classical World, at the Bellarmine Museum of Art, Fairfield University (October 7-December 18, 2015).

All images featured in this interview have been attributed to their respective owners. Images lent to the Ancient History Encyclopedia by the Bellarmine Museum of Art (BMA) at Fairfield University have been done so as a courtesy for the purposes of this interview. Special thanks is given to Ms. Carey Mack Weber, Museum and Collections Manager at the Bellarmine Museum of Art (BMA), for her role in helping make this interview possible. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved. © AHE 2015. Please contact us for rights to republication.

Cyprus – A recent history.

((Editor’s note: This article was written, before the referendum, and before May 1 st – as such it deals with the history of Cyprus, rather than the current developments. Three Monkeys Online intends to publish a further article on the politics of current day Cyprus)

The referendum on the reunification plan for Cyprus held on the 24 th April, has once more brought that troubled eastern-Mediterranean island into international focus. The last significant event in the history of Cyprus, the Turkish invasion of 1974, was only the most recent incident in a long history of conquest and occupation. It was for this reason that Cyrpus has often been compared to Ireland. And indeed, the Greek-Cypriot illegal army, EOKA, that fought the British colonial administration in the 1950’s was considered analogous to the I.R.A. campaign against the British administration in Ireland in the 1920’s. However, the analogy misses a vital point, for where the I.R.A. fought to establish an all-Ireland republic on the island of Ireland, EOKA’s goal was that of ‘Enosis‘, i.e. to unite (or reunite as they would see it) the island of Cyprus with Greece with whom it had a long association dating back beyond pre-Christian times to the Hellenistic period of 325-50 BC. Cyprus had been a Graeco-Roman province between 50 BC and 395 AD and a province of the Byzantine Empire until 1191.

The irony is therefore, that when the Turks first invaded and occupied Cyprus in 1571, their arrival was considered a mixed blessing to the indigenous Greek-Cypriot population of the island. From 1489, prior to the Turks arrival, Cyprus had been under the control of the Venetians and, before that, from 1192, the Lusignan monarchy of French origin. The Lusignans had imposed the Latin Church and western feudalism on the Orthodox Greek-Cypriots. The Turks, on the other hand, were tolerant of other religious beliefs, recognised the Orthodox Church and re-established the Orthodox Archbishopric. Although the Turks allotted the best land to approximately 20,000 Turkish settlers, mostly soldiers, some 90,000 Orthodox Christians became peasant proprietors or free tenants, and these peasants enjoyed limited self-government.

In 1660 the Sultan of Turkey recognised the Greek Archbishop and the three other bishops as spokesmen for the non-Turkish population (This included a number of Maronites and Armenians). The Archbishop was given the right to send petitions directly to Constantinople and could by-pass the Turkish governor of the island. In 1754 the Sultan recognised the Archbishop as head of the autocephalous Church of Cyprus, in other words as Ethnarch or leader of the Greek Cypriot nation.

The Archbishop was given the task of collecting taxation a task that he and his fellow bishops carried out with such zeal that occasionally both Greek and Turkish Cypriot peasants came together to resist the imposition!

Alexander's conquests stimulated change, but what had not changed was an inclination to turn events into myth. Some would describe Alexander as having had godly powers. Persia's Zoroastrian priesthood, reeling from the damage that Alexander had done to the prestige of their religion, described him as one of the worst sinners in history, as having slain many Persian teachers and lawyers and as having quenched many sacred fires. Some others in Persia would describe Alexander as a biological member of Persia's royal family &ndash the Achaemenids. In Egypt, Alexander would become known as the son of the last pharaoh, Nectanebus. Arabs would come to know him as Iskander and would tell fanciful stories about him. And in centuries to come in Ethiopia, Christians would describe his father, Philip, as a Christian martyr, and they would describe Alexander as an ascetic saint.

An unreliable account of Alexander as he neared death describes him as offering rule to his generals. Another account describes him as putting the hand of one of his generals, Perdiccas, with the hand of his wife Roxana and naming Perdiccas as his heir. Perdiccas apparently did not wed Roxana &ndash who was pregnant with Alexander's child. Perdiccas did favor making this yet to be born child Alexander's heir if the child was to be a son. But for some Macedonians it was unthinkable that their king would be the son of a "barbarian" woman from central Asia, and this was part of the conflict that produced the break-up of Alexander's empire.

Ptolemy I, Alexander's bodyguard turned ruler of Egypt. A leader in breaking up Alexander's empire. Ancestor to the Cleopatra of Caesar's time.

Those who didn't want Roxana's child as their king favored Alexander's half brother, Philip III. He was the illegitimate son of Philip II and one of Philip's mistresses, and he has been described as an epileptic and simpleminded.

When Roxana gave birth, it was a son, and the conflict in opinions as to who should succeed Alexander intensified. War among former subordinates of Alexander was averted for a short time by a compromise in which it was agreed that Philip III and Alexander's son, Alexander IV, would reign jointly while each was supervised by a general. But agreement didn't last and soon there would be war.

The joint rule of Philip III and Alexander IV was subject to the regency of a one of Alexander the Great's old comrades: Perdiccas. Perdiccas saw holding the empire together his responsibility, but with Alexander the Great dead there was no center influential or strong enough to hold the empire together. Perdiccas came into conflict with an old general who was in charge of maintaining order in Macedonia and Greece, Antigonus, who thought he should be the empire's supreme authority. Antigonus allied with Antipater. Perdiccas died in 322, assassinated by his officers while he was leading an army and trying to assert his authority against a Macedonian in Egypt: Ptolemy.

Antipater fought attempts at independence by Greeks in Athens, Aetolia, and Thessaly – the Lamian War – which he won at the Battle of Crannon in 322. He appointed himself supreme regent of all Alexander's empire and died of an illness in 319. His son Cassander emerged as the dominant power in Greece.

In Macedonia, Alexander the Great's mother, Olympias, believed that under Cassander's rule, her grandson would lose the crown. As Alexander's mother she still had some power. She had Philip III executed, and she also executed his wife and a hundred friends of Cassander. Cassander and his army marched from Greece into Macedonia, and there he won battles against Olympias' armies. In 316 he had Olympias executed, and he put Roxana and Alexander IV under guard, and in a few years he had them executed.

Cassander ruled in Macedonia and much of Greece. One of Perdiccas' assassins, Seleucus, had taken power in Babylon and extended his rule eastward through Persia and fought a war from 305 to 303 with India's Mauryan Empire. Seleucus settled with the Mauryan emperor and withdrew from what today is Afghanistan.

The new rulers in Alexander's disintegrated empire made themselves monarchs in the Macedonian tradition. Drawing from the Alexander legend, they attempted to have a striking personal appearance. They wore headbands similar to the one Alexander had worn, which became a symbol of monarchy, and they continued Alexander&rsquos use of the title &ldquoking.&rdquo In meeting visitors they postured haughtily, while visitors were obliged to gesture submission, respect and deference.

The new monarchs sought support in religion, pretending that their bloody wars were the will of the gods. As had Alexander, they claimed themselves divine. The ruler of Egypt, a Macedonian named Ptolemy, claimed that he was descended from Heracles (Hercules) and Dionysus. He staffed his administration with Greeks rather than Egyptians, and many Egyptians continued to view his rule as foreign. But he attempted to appeal to the glory of Egypt&rsquos ancient past and portrayed himself as a new pharaoh.

Political developments

Nothing shows the personality of Alexander the Great more clearly than the way in which people who had seemed pygmies at his side now became leaders of the world he had left behind. Blood still counted: the only male relative, a mentally impaired, illegitimate son of Philip, was proclaimed king as Philip III Arrhidaeus (c. 358–317), together with Rhoxane’s son Alexander IV (323–310), born after his father’s death in August both were mere figureheads. For the moment Antipater was confirmed in authority in Macedon and Greece. At Babylon power was shared by two senior officers, Perdiccas (c. 365–321) and Craterus (c. 370–321). By common consent, Alexander’s ongoing plans were abandoned. His generals had to be content with the office of governor. Antigonus Monophthalmos (“The One-eyed” c. 382–301), like Antipater, was not in Babylon at the time of Alexander’s death in 323. For almost 10 years he had been governing Phrygia and had shown himself a brave soldier and competent administrator. His firmness and tact were popular with the Greek cities. Of the generals in Babylon, it was Ptolemy (c. 367/366–283) who calculated from the first that the empire would not hold together. He secured for himself the governorship of Egypt, where he aspired to set up an independent kingdom. Lysimachus (c. 360–281) was given the less attractive assignment of governing Thrace. Two of the others, noted for their physical and military prowess, Leonnatus and Seleucus, waited on events. The soldiers discounted Eumenes of Cardia, who bore the main responsibility for civil administration, but he knew more about the empire than anyone else.

An uprising by Greek mercenaries who had settled in Bactria but wanted to return to Greece was crushed. Trouble in Greece, led by the Athenians and aimed at liberating the cities from Macedonian garrisons, was tougher to control. Sparta refused to participate, as did the islands, but a coalition of Athens with Árgos, Sicyon, Elis, and Messenia, supported by Boeotians, Aetolians, and Thessalians, was a formidable challenge to Antipater’s authority. For a time Antipater was hard-pressed in Lamía (the war of 323–322 is known as the Lamian War). Leonnatus intervened, nominally in support but in fact ambitious to usurp Antipater’s power he was killed in action, however. In the end Antipater won, Athens capitulated, and Demosthenes (the voice and symbol of anti-Macedonian feeling) committed suicide. Antipater reestablished Macedonian authority autocratically, with no nonsense about a “free” League of Corinth.

The story of the jockeying for power during the next two decades or so is inordinately complex. First Perdiccas, governing in the name of the two kings with the support of Eumenes, was charged with personal ambition and was assassinated. The armies made Antipater regent (Craterus had been killed in battle), and Antigonus, with Antipater’s son Cassander (c. 358–297) as second-in-command, was placed in charge of the armies in Asia. Ptolemy was secure in Egypt Seleucus (c. 358–281), governor of Babylon, and Lysimachus in Thrace continued to watch and wait and Eumenes, a non-Macedonian with a fortune behind him, could claim to represent the kings against the ambitions of generals and governors.

Then, in 319, Antipater died and was succeeded by a senior commander but maladroit politician named Polyperchon, who tried to win the Greeks of the mainland by a new proclamation of their liberties. The result was that the Athenians used their freedom to execute the pro-Macedonians, including the worthy but compromising Phocion. War flared up. Eumenes, allied with Polyperchon, challenged Antigonus and secured Babylon, but he was betrayed and killed in 316. Seleucus escaped to Egypt. Polyperchon’s position was weak, and he was soon ousted by the able, up-and-coming Cassander. In becoming master of Macedon and most of Greece, Cassander rebuilt Thebes and put the Aristotelian Demetrius of Phalerum in charge of Athens. Olympias, Alexander the Great’s terrible mother, had eliminated Philip III. Cassander had her put to death, while keeping Rhoxane and Alexander IV under his protection—or guard.

Antigonus was now the dominant figure of the old brigade. Cassander, Ptolemy, and Lysimachus formed a coalition against him. For four years (315–311) they fought indecisively. Antigonus showed himself energetic, resourceful, and imaginative, but he could not strike a decisive blow. The only major change came in the brilliant coup by which Seleucus succeeded in recovering Babylon. In 311 the four leaders agreed to divide the world, leaving Ptolemy with Egypt and Cyprus, Antigonus with Asia, Lysimachus with Thrace, and Cassander with Macedonia and Greece, but only until Alexander IV came of age in 305. Seleucus was left out.

Royal blood, however, was quickly forgotten in the pursuit of power. Cassander murdered Rhoxane and young Alexander in 310, soon after Antigonus had vainly tried to crush Seleucus. Seleucus, however, held on to a damaged Babylon and the eastern provinces, except for India, which he had to yield to the Indian king Chandragupta. Antigonus now had the effective support of his brilliant son Demetrius (336–283), known as Poliorcetes, or Besieger, who ousted the other Demetrius and restored the democracy and eventually the League of Corinth he was hymned with divine honours and given the Parthenon as his palace. Demetrius, also in 306, crushed Ptolemy in a naval battle and secured Cyprus and the Aegean, though he failed in a famous siege of Rhodes (305–304). Antigonus and Demetrius now proclaimed themselves joint kings in succession to Alexander. Antigonus, however, failed to conquer Egypt, and the other rulers also took the title of king. Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy formed an alliance against Antigonus and Demetrius, and at Ipsus in 301 the allies, with the help of a force of elephants brought from India by Seleucus, defeated and killed Antigonus. Demetrius escaped, retaining Tyre and Sidon and command of the sea. Lysimachus took large portions of Anatolia Seleucus assumed control over Mesopotamia and Syria, except for a part in the south occupied de facto by Ptolemy and Cassander was content with Macedonia and parts of Greece.

Cassander, who was a statesman, had founded two great cities, Cassandreia and Thessalonica, as well as rebuilding Thebes. His death in 297 was a prelude to more disturbances. Demetrius conquered most of Greece and secured Macedonia in 294, but he was ousted in 288 by Lysimachus in alliance with King Pyrrhus of Epirus (319–272). Demetrius now concentrated all his forces on winning Asia and all but succeeded. He fell ill, however, and surrendered to Seleucus, who gave him every opportunity to drink himself to death. The stage was set for a confrontation between Lysimachus and Seleucus.

Ptolemy gained command of the sea by Demetrius’ fall. He died in his bed, the only one of Alexander’s successors to do so, and was succeeded peacefully by his son Ptolemy II Philadelphus (308–246). However, a son by his first wife, Ptolemy Ceraunus, the Thunderbolt (grandson of Antipater), was stirring the waters round Lysimachus, and the latter soon lost support. Seleucus defeated and killed Lysimachus, and Alexander’s empire, except for Egypt, seemed to be his for the asking. Lysimachus’s army, however, supported Ceraunus, who assassinated Seleucus in 281. Seleucus’s son by a Sogdian noblewoman succeeded him as Antiochus I (324–261). In Greece proper the strongest powers were Antigonus Gonatas (c. 320–239), son of the brilliant Demetrius and himself a man of high character, ability, and culture, and Pyrrhus, king of Epirus. Pyrrhus was about to embark on his ill-starred expedition to Italy, where he soundly defeated the growing power of Rome but at an enormous cost to himself.

At this point, migrating Celts under the command of Bolgius and Brennus caused an added complication, not least by the defeat and death of Ceraunus. Brennus pushed down into Greece but was repulsed by the Aetolians. The dangers posed by the invading Celts led, in 279, to a treaty between Antigonus and Antiochus, who agreed not to interfere in one another’s spheres of influence. Each won a decisive victory over the Celtic invaders, who eventually settled in Serbia, Thrace, and Galatia in central Anatolia. Antigonus was able to secure Macedonia. Lysimachus’s kingdom was never revived. The three centres of power were Macedonia, Syria, and Egypt.

Lusignan Dynasties

The French-speaking lord of Cyprus, Guy de Lusignan, established a lengthy dynasty that brought mixed fortunes to the island. He died in 1194 and was buried at the Church of the Templars in Nicosia and succeeded by his brother, Amalric.

Guy had invited Christian families who had lost property in the Holy Land to settle in Cyprus, many of whom were still concerned with the territorial affairs and disputes in Jerusalem. This proved to be a great economic strain on Cyprus, until the fall of Acre (Akko) in 1291.

For 100 years or so thereafter, Cyprus enjoyed a period of immense wealth and prosperity, with current-day Famagusta the centre of unrivalled commercial activity and trade. Many of the Byzantine castles were added to in grandiose style, and fine buildings and churches were erected. The Church of Agia Sofia in North Nicosia (Lefkoşa), Bellapais Abbey near Kyrenia and Kolossi Castle, near Lemesos (Limassol), were completed during this period.

Lusignan descendants continued to rule the Kingdom of Cyprus until 1474. The island’s prosperity reached its zenith under King Peter I (r 1359−69), who spent much of his time overseas at war. He squashed many attempts at Turkish piracy raids, before mounting a counterattack in 1365. During this unsuccessful crusade, he only managed to sack the city of Alexandria. Upon his assassination at the hands of his nobles, the fortunes of the Lusignans took a turn for the worse.

Eyeing Cyprus’ wealth and strategic position as an entrepôt, Genoa and Venice jostled for control. Genoa ultimately seized Famagusta and held it for 100 years the fortunes of both Famagusta and the island declined as a result. The last Lusignan king was James II (r 1460−73), who managed to expel the Genoese from Famagusta. He married Caterina Cornaro, a Venetian noblewoman, who went on to succeed James. She was the last queen of Cyprus and the last royal personage from the Lusignan dynasty. Under pressure, she eventually ceded Cyprus to Venice.

Laocoon and His Sons (c.42-20 BCE)

An icon of Hellenistic art, the figurative Greek sculpture known as the Laocoon Group, or Laocoon and His Sons, is a monumental statue which is on display at the Museo Pio Clementino, in the Vatican Museums, Rome. It is a marble copy of a bronze sculpture, which - according to the Roman writer Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) - depicted the Trojan priest Laocoon and his two sons Antiphas and Thymbraeus being killed by giant snakes, as described by the Roman poet Virgil (70 BCE - 19 CE) in his epic poem the Aeneid. The statue, which was seen and revered by Pliny the Elder in the palace of Titus Flavius Vespasianus (39-81 CE), the future Roman Emperor Titus (ruled 79-81), was attributed by Pliny to three sculptors from the Greek island of Rhodes: Hagesander, Athenodoros and Polydorus. This attribution coincides with an inscription on a fragment from other similar marbles discovered separately from the Laocoon itself. Despite persistent uncertainty as to its date and details of its original provenance, Laocoon and His Sons is considered to be one of the greatest works of Greek sculpture of the Hellenistic Period - see in particular the Pergamene School (241-133 BCE) - and, aside from the Venus de Milo, is probably the most famous sculpture from Ancient Greece.

History and Discovery

The Laocoon statue was discovered in January 1506 buried in the ground of a Rome vineyard owned by Felice de' Fredis. One of the first experts to attend the excavation site was Michelangelo (1475-1564), the famous Renaissance sculptor. Pope Julius II, a lover of Greek art, ordered the work to be brought immediately to the Vatican, where it was installed in the Belvedere Court Garden. Not surprisingly, given Pliny's comment that it was "superior to all works in painting and bronze", the Laocoon statue had a significant impact on Italian Renaissance art in general and Renaissance sculptors, in particular.

In fact, the Laocoon rapidly became one of the most studied, revered and copied works of ancient art ever put on display. Other famous treasures in the Vatican Museums, like Leochares's Belvedere Apollo (c.330 BCE) and Apollonius's heroic Belvedere Torso (1st/2nd Century BCE) were outshone by comparison. Since its discovery in 1506, many copies have been made of the Laocoon, including a bronze version by Baccio Bandinelli (1493-1560), now in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, and a bronze casting, made by Francesco Primaticcio (1504-1570) for the French King Francis I, now at the Louvre in Paris. Other copies can be seen in the Grand Palace of the Knights of Saint John in Rhodes, and at the Archeological Museum of Odessa.

As a result of its enduring fame, the Laocoon statue was removed from the Vatican by Napoleon, in 1799, taken to Paris where it was installed in the Louvre as an exemplar of Neoclassical art. It was returned to the Vatican in 1816, by the British authorities in Paris, following the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.

In 1957, sculptural fragments belonging to four marble groups portraying scenes from Homer's epic poem the Odyssey (8th/9th century BCE) were unearthed at Sperlonga, Naples. The site of the discovery was an ancient banquet hall formerly used by the Roman Emperor Tiberius (ruled 14-37 CE). One of the fragments, a bust of Odysseus, is stylistically very similar to Laocoon and His Sons, while the names Hagesander, Athenodoros and Polydorus were inscribed on another fragment.

In 1906, Laocoon's right arm (missing from the original find in 1506) had been discovered by chance in a builder's yard in Rome by the archeologist Ludwig Pollak, director of the Museo Barracco. Believing it might be the lost arm in question, Pollak donated it to the Vatican Museum, where it remained for over fifty years. Then in 1960 museum experts verified that the arm belonged to the Laocoon. Accordingly, the statue was reassembled with the new arm attached.

The Laocoon statue, standing some 8 feet in height, is made from seven interlocking pieces of white marble. Its exact date of creation is uncertain, although - in line with several inscriptions found in Rhodes dating Hagesander and Athenedoros to some time after 42 BCE - experts now believe that it was sculpted between 42-20 BCE. More importantly, it is not known for certain whether it is an original Roman sculpture or a copy of an earlier Greek sculpture. That said, experts now believe that its three sculptors - Hagesander, Athenodoros and Polydorus - were highly-skilled copyists who specialized in producing replicas of original Greek figures for wealthy Roman customers. Thus, in all probability, the Vatican Laocoon is a copy of a Greek Hellenistic bronze - almost certainly from the Pergamon School, see similar drama, straining muscles and contorted faces in the Great Altar of Zeus (c.180 BCE, Pergamon, Turkey). This conclusion is also consistent with the findings of several renovations performed on the statue. Who commissioned the Laocoon replica is not known.

The latest theory, proposed in 2005 by Lynn Catterson, is that the Laocoon is a forgery created in 1506 by Michelangelo. This has been dismissed as "non-credible" by Richard Brilliant, in his book My Laocoon.

As described in Virgil's Aeneid, Laocoon was a Trojan priest. When the Greeks, who were holding Troy under siege, left the famous Trojan Horse on the beach, Laocoon tried to warn the Trojan leaders against bringing it into the city, in case it was a trap. The Greek goddess Athena, acting as protector of the Greeks, punished Laocoon for his interference by having him and his two sons attacked by the giant sea serpents Porces and Chariboea. In the sculpture, one son can be seen to break free from the snakes, and looks across to see his father and brother in their death agonies.

Michelangelo himself was especially impressed by the huge scale of the work, as well as its expressive aesthetics, so typical of Greek sculpture from the Pergamon School of the Hellenistic period. Similar emotive qualities reappear in Michelangelo's own works, such as Dying Slave (1513-16, Marble, Louvre, Paris). But see also David by Donatello (1440s) for an Early Renaissance interpretation of the standing male nude, and David by Michelangelo (1504) for a High Renaissance interpretation.

The emotionalism in Laocoon and His Sons was highly influential on later Baroque sculpture (c.1600-1700) and Neoclassical sculpture (1750-1850). The German art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-68) saw the statue as the embodiment of Neoclassical nobility and heroicism, although he admitted the inherent difficulty - for any observer of Laocoon - of appreciating beauty in a scene of death. Winckelmann's comments were afterwards adopted by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, in his influential treatise Laokoon (1766).

All in all, the statue has retained a continuing fascination for succeeding generations of sculptors: a phenomenon brought fully up to date by the 2006 Vatican exhibition, marking the 500th anniversary of its discovery, and the 2007 exhibition held at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds (UK), entitled Towards a New Laocoon.

Ancient Greek Sculpture

For more about the main styles and movements of plastic art in ancient Greece, see the following resources:

Ancient Greek Sculptors

For biographical details of the greatest 3-D artists from classical antiquity, please use the following resources:

• Myron (active 480-444 BCE)
Early Classical sculptor.
• Phidias (c.488-431 BCE)
High Classical artist.
• Polykleitos (active 450-420 BCE)
From the High Classical school of sculpting.
• Callimachus (Active 432-408 BCE)
High Classical Greek artist.
• Praxiteles (375-335 BCE)
Artist of the Late Classical Period.

Antique sculpture can be seen in some of the best art museums and sculpture gardens throughout the world.

• For information about classical art from Ancient Rome, see: Roman Art.
• For more about sculpture from Classical Antiquity, see: Homepage.

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