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Bronze bowl (lebes)


Height: 26.500 inches

GR 1855.8-16.1 (Bronze 560)

Room 73: Greeks in Italy

    Bronze bowl (lebes)

    Western Greek or Etruscan, about 480 BC
    From Capua, Italy

    Cacus is executed for stealing cattle

    This large and elaborately decorated bronze bowl was used as a cinerary urn, to contain the ashes of the deceased after cremation. The shape is Greek, but in Campania Greek art met the local Etruscan love of figured ornamentation, resulting in impressive hybrids. The incised scene on the body of the bowl shows the hero Herakles herding cattle, and a figure suspended by his feet from the branch of a tree. This may be Cacus, a mythical being associated with various localities in Rome and sometimes described as a monster, though he looks human here. Herakles killed Cacus for stealing some of his cattle. Here we probably see Herakles, having dealt with Cacus, recovering his cattle. The remainder of the scene shows funeral games, appropriate for a cinerary urn.

    The figures on the lid of the bowl include a male and female couple. The man may be abducting the woman, in which case an unidentifiable mythological story must be intended, though they may just be dancing. Four mounted archers encircle the lid: these are Amazons, the legendary race of female warriors. Some turn to shoot backwards in a way that was associated with Scythians in the ancient world.

    E. Macnamara, The Etruscans-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)


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    On display: Room 73: Greeks in Italy

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