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NOT HERAKLES, A PTOLEMY

Author(s): DONALD M. BAILEY


Source: Antike Kunst, 33. Jahrg., H. 2. (1990), pp. 107-110
Published by: Vereinigung der Freunde Antiker Kunst
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41320924
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DONALD

M. BAILEY

NOT HERAKLES, A PTOLEMY

Amongst the fine and varied collection of ancient


bronzes bequeathed to the BritishMuseum by Richard
Payne Knight in 1824 is a figureidentifiedas Herakles
(Pl.21)1. How Knightcame by it and where it was found
are unknown2. Some 29,9 cm high, it depicts a nude
male, standingcontraposto,the weight on the rightleg,
the left slightlybent. He looks down a littleand somewhat to his right.The eyes are well-defined,the nose
straight,though possibly worn, and the mouth is small
with full lips (Pl.2iy 2). He is beardless, his hair is
arrangedin shortcurls and he is crowned with a narrow
segmenteddiadem (PL 21, 1.3). On the leftside is the lionskin of Herakles, the head restingon the shoulder of the
man, the remainderfalling down behind; the frontlegs
of the lion-skinare not depicted,and one of the rear legs
and the tail are broken and lost. The modellerappears to
have misunderstoodthe drapingof the skin, as one edge
passes in frontof the man's wristwhere his clenched fist
rests on his hip, and the rest flies behind. Also grossly
misunderstood is the left hand itself,which is shown
restingcomfortablyenough on the hip from the front,
but behind it is the handle of a weapon, now broken
away, but once at an angle quite at variance with the
hand in front. Over the right shoulder a baldrick is
slung, holding a reel-shaped object under the left arm.
The figureholds out, as though towards the spectator,a
shortand stubbycornucopia,witha knobbed tip. Emerging fromthe mouth of the horn are fruits,a pyramidal
cake, and a bunch of grapes. The surfaceof the bronze is
by no means smooth: corrosion products may have been
cleaned off by Knight, and his customarydark surface-

1Reg.no.GR 1824.4-46.13;H.B. Walters,


oftheBronCatalogue
andRoman,intheDepartment
of Greekand
zes,Greek,Etruscan,
RomanAntiquities,
British
Museum(1899)No. 1247.I wouldliketo
thankMartin
andLucillaBurnforadviceand
Price,Catherine
Johns
helpwiththispaper.
2Knight
obtained
hisbronzesfrommanysources,
or by
personally
werealsoacquired
fromSirWilliam
agentsin Italy(a largenumber
Ambassador
at Naples)and France,a fewfromfurther
Hamilton,
anddealers:M.Clarkeand
east,andmanyfromLondonsalerooms
N. Penny,The ArrogantConnoisseur:RichardPayne Knight
1751-1824
(1982)68-73.

coloration applied. The left foot is restored in bronze


fromjust above the ankle.
Knight, in the calatogue of his bronzes, stated that the
figurewas 'a verycoarse sculptureof the lower Empire',
but 'though the executionis rude, the design is good; the
figure having been probably copied from some celebrated statue of bettertimes'3;Edward Hawkins (Keeper
of the Department of Antiquities, British Museum,
1826-60) said the same, in almost identicalwords4; H.B.
Walters (a later Keeper of the Department) in his turn,
describes the figure as 'rudely executed, but probably
copied fromsome celebrated Greek original'5;the presentwritermustfollow his distinguishedpredecessorsand
agree that the figure is indeed based upon a full-scale
lost original.How far the maker of the bronze was familiar withthe archetypecan not be assessed: he may have
based his versionon other copies, perhaps distributedas
souvenirsof the cityin which it was set up; the original
itselfmay have been moved from that city,perhaps to
Italy, as happened duringthe Roman period to so many
famous or merelydecorativeworks of art. His errorsin
compositioncould have several explanations,such as the
use of a poor copy, or carelessnessif the originalwas his
inspiration.
Although hithertoidentifiedas Herakles, the figurehas
only one of the attributescommonly associated with
him, the lion-skin;the weapon held in his lefthand, but
now broken away, was thoughtby Knight,Hawkins and
Walters to be a club, but the handle remainingis clearly
that of a sword (Pl.21, j ), and this would explain the
presence of the baldrick (to hold the scabbard, most of
which is hidden by the arm and the lion-skin).Of course,
a baldrick could support a combined bow-case and quiver, as in a wall-paintingfrom Herculaneum6,and the

3R.PayneKnight,
MS Catalogue
ofBronzes,
folio136,XLVI,13.
4E. Hawkins,
MS Catalogue
oftheBronzes
intheBritish
Museum
ii,
folio321.
5Walters
op.c.(supranote1) 213.
6K.Schefold
andF.Jung,
Die Urkonige,
HerPerseus,
Bellerophon,
akles und Theseusin der klassischen
und hellenistischen
Kunst
(1988)207fig.267.

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points to kingship,and the pose and modellingto Hellenistic times; the bronze may itself be Hellenistic, but
equally may have been made during the Roman period,
perhaps in the firstcenturya.d. In the lattercase, did the
maker knowinglycopy a portrait-statueof a Hellenistic
king (and for what purpose?) or did he regard it merely
as a figure of Herakles? There is no way of knowing.
Analysis of the bronze by Susan La Niece of the British
Museum Research Laboratory shows that it is a bronze
and not a brass, and is thus not certainlyRoman, but
could be Hellenistic, as high-lead bronze (there is more
than 15% lead in the alloy) 'came into use, particularly
for largishcastingslike this figure,in the late Hellenistic
period and continued into the Roman period. There is
nothing about the metal composition which would
exclude eithera Ptolemaic or a Roman origin'13.
If this is indeed a portrait,is it possible to make any sort
of identification?Amongst the published royal portraits
of the Hellenistic period collected by Gisela Richter14
those of the early Ptolemies stand out as probabilities,
and Ptolemy III Euergetes does so in particular.Unfortunately,recognisingPtolemies is not a precise art, and
no named portraitsof the early Ptolemies survive.Coins
are most useful, and very fine portraitsare found on
these, but they are not always consistentin their likenesses, and some are posthumousissues, where the accuracy of the physiognomymay not be absolutelycertain.
7e.g.,ibid.156fig.193;192fig.233.
The most importantwork on Ptolemaic portraitsis that
8 ibid.188fig.230.
of Helmut Kyrieleis,who has gathered togethera great
9Roscher,
ML 1,1 (1884-90)21835.^.
Herakles
4c!(A.Furtwangler).
many certain,probable and possible representationsof
In classicalGreekarthisconnection
is mainly
withthecornucopia
It
these rulersof Egypton coins, gems and in sculpture15.
whohas
todo withanepisodewithPalaimon/Melikertes,
secondary,
Ptolemies
the
that
of
work
from
seem
would
Art
of
Classical
R.Vollkommer,
Heraklesin the
suchan attribute:
Kyrieleis'
Greece(1988)43-45.
where identificationhas been made, neither Ptolemy
10O. Palagia,LIMC 4 (1988)756-58nos 555-579;andsee also 837
Soter or PtolemyPhiladelphos are likelyfor our bronze,
no.1695.
but that it is a good candidate for PtolemyEuergetes or
11A young,garlanded
in his
Herculesholdsouta smallcornucopia
LIMC 4
lefthandin a lostPompeianwall-painting:
J.Boardman,
unlikethatofourbronze,
(1988)837no.1694;theposeis otherwise
Severus
toa Herakles
ona coinofSeptimius
butis somewhat
similar
fromMaioniainLydia:SNG 27,Lydia(1947)pi-7, 237.
13BritishMuseumResearchLaboratory
12A beardedHerakles
toourfigure,
intheLouvrehasa posesimilar
Reportby S. La Niece,
28
November
of
no.
he
was
in his extended
buthe has nothing
1989.
5906/33836S
righthand,although
14G.M.A.Richter,
The Portraits
oftheGreeks3 (1965).
meantto holda cup:Palagia,LIMC 4 (1988)769no.841.
probably
15H. Kyrieleis,
ForschunBildnisse
derPtolemaer
in a sale
(= Archaologische
Comparealso a bronzeHerculessaidto be fromBritain,
no.
86.
Mortals
M.
Gods
and
gen2, 1975).
(1989)
J. Eisenberg,
catalogue:
bow is an attributeof Herakles, but such a large piece of
equipmentis not possible in our bronze. Again, a sword
is not normallythoughtof as being associated with Herakles, but he is shown using one in Athenianred-figure
vase painting7,and, indeed, is shown on a stamnoswitha
scabbarded sword dependingfroma baldrick8.A horn of
plentyseems at firstsight unlikelyfor a being with the
characterof Herakles, but he is certainlyshown withit in
Hellenistic and Roman art,if not veryoften9.Depictions
in the round or in reliefnormallyrepresenthim holding
the cornucopia in the crook of the left arm10,the standard position for such an attributewhen held by other
deities or personifications(Fortuna, Eros, Harpokrates,
etc.): no otherexamples have been tracedwhere it is held
out in his righthand11,a pose Herakles usually keeps for
his drinking-cup12.
The cornucopia was thoughtto be the
horn of the river-godAcheloos, wrenched off by Herakles duringtheirfight,and thus an appropriateattribute
(another version of the origin of the cornucopia is less
relevantto Herakles: that it was the horn of the goat
Amaltheia,who suckled the child Zeus). But the face of
our figure, although on a small scale and summarily
treated,has the appearance of a portrait,idealised perhaps, but not the idealisation of a hero. The diadem

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for the fourthPtolemy, Philopator; later rulers can be


ruled out as theirportraitsare verydifferentin appearance from the head of our figure.Several of the Euergetes portraitshave a distinctsimilarityto ours, particularly the Copenhagen and the Durham marble heads
(Kyrieleis C 3 and C 5); the marble head from Sparta
(C 8) and the Dresden terracottahead (C 13) are not
unlike. Of those identifiedas Philopator, only the marble head in Budapest (D 4) and the stone head in
Amsterdam(D 7) are at all similarto the BritishMuseum
bronze, but other Philopator heads are very badly
damaged. PtolemyIV on coins exhibitsa nose somewhat
pointed at the tip,not like the straightnose of our figure,
but PtolemyIll's nose, althoughstraightin some representations, is also pointed in this way on several coins
(mostlyissued under PtolemyIV). It should be said that
the small scale of the bronze and the possibilitythat the
nose is worn makes argumentsconcerningits shape of
dubious value.
Other aids to identificationare even more tenuous than
the similarities(or lack of them) of facial likenessesmentioned above. Does the cornucopia held by our figure
point to any particular Ptolemy? Except for those of
queens, the cornucopia as the main device on the reverse
of coins does not apparentlyoccur before PtolemyEuergetes, and even these are posthumousissues produced in
Phoenicia under Philopator; it does not seem to be
found (as the principal device) on coins of Philopator
himself,but recurson coins of PtolemyV Epiphanes, but
not on those of later Ptolemies, Euergetes then seems a
possibility,even though his cornucopia does not exhibit
the ear of wheat shown on coins of his queen, Berenike16,but presumablyher cornucopia was peculiar to
her alone. The sword held by the figuremay be a direct
reference,eitherto Euergetes' victoryin 246-45 B.C. in
the Third SyrianWar, or to Philopator's success in the
Battle of Raphia in 217.

16H.A. Troxell,
The American
Numismatic
MuseumNotes
Society,
28, 1983,65.

Ptolemies adopting the attributesof Herakles hark back


to Alexander the Great's assumptionof the hero's characteristics.Both Alexander and Ptolemy I Soter (and
hence the later Ptolemies) traced theirdescendance from
Herakles, and Alexander's and PtolemyII Philadelphos'
ancestryin the hero is referredto by Theocritus in his
SeventeenthIdyll. The lost elephant-hunters'inscription
at Adulis mentioned Herakles as an ancestor of
PtolemyIII17. Like other rulers,the Ptolemies sought in
thisway to legitimisetheirstatus18.Olga Palagia has discussed Herakles in rulerportraiture19
and she statesthat
'no representationof a ruler as Herakles is securely
attestedbefore Alexander'. She points out that the early
Ptolemies were anxious 'to appear as reincarnationsof
Alexander-Herakles'20.Ptolemy II Philadelphos carries
the club of Herakles, although he wears the elephant's
head of Africa, in a bronze statuette in the British
Museum21.A bronze reliefmedallion found at Galjub in
the Delta22 has a bust with a lion-skin on the shoulder
and a club. It was identifiedby Margarete Bieber as a
portraitof Ptolemy III23 and Kyrieleis agrees with her
attributionas Euergetes24.
There is thus no difficultyin postulatingthat our 'Herakles' is a Ptolemy. It seems very likelythat the British
Museum bronze statuetteis based ultimatelyon a fullscale or colossal (and probably bronze) statue of
Ptolemy III Euergetes (246-222/21 B.C.). It may have
been made duringthe reignof his 'Father-loving'successor, showing him before he earned his nickname Tryphon ('Glutton'); the profferingof the cornucopia could
representhis titleof 'Benefactor'.

17A.BoeckhandJ.Franz,CorpusInscriptionum
Graecarum
3 (1853)
no.5127; W.Dittenberger,
OrientisGraeciInscriptiones
Selectae
(1903)no.54.
18Vollkommer
op.c. (supranote9) 88-90.
19Boreas9, 1986,137-51.
20ibid.143f.
21EA 38442:Kyrieleis
op.c.(supranote15)pl.9.
22A. Ippel,Der Bronzefund
vonGaljub(1922)pl.7, 73.
23M.Bieber,The Sculpture
of theHellenistic
Age (1955) 91 and
34ifig24Kyrieleis
op.c.(supranote15) 38.

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LIST OF PLATES
PI.21

ZUSAMMENFASSUNG*

H. 29,9cm.London,British
Bronzestatuette.
Museum
GR 1824.4-46.1
British
Museum.
3. Phot.Copyright

Eine Bronzestatuetteim BritischenMuseum ( Taf.21), die


aufgrund verschiedenerEigenheiten (Diadem, Schwert
und ein Flillhornin der ausgestrecktenRechten) bisher
Herakles genanntwurde, wird hier als kleine Kopie der
Portratstatueeines hellenistischenHerrschers gedeutet.
Es konnte Ptolemaios III. Euergetes gemeint sein; das
Original war jedoch moglicherweiseeine postume,unter
Ptolemaios IV. entstandene Darstellung. Die Bronze
stammtaus ptolemaisch/romischer
Zeit.
* Ubersetzung:
Redaktion

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21

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