Terracotta relief showing Skylla

Greek, about 465-435 BC
From Mílos, Aegean Sea; Found on Aegina

Cut-out terracotta plaques with flat backs were a speciality of the island of Mílos. They were usually pierced for attachment to other objects, probably chests or coffins.

The subjects of the plaques are mostly mythological. This one shows Skylla, a sea-monster in Greek mythology. Skylla's lair was a cave in a tall cliff face. Sailors were forced to sail close to the cliff to avoid being sucked into the terrible whirlpool of Charybdis nearby. As they did so, Skylla's six heads would lean out and snatch six victims from the decks of the ship. In Homer's Odyssey, Skylla is described as an evil monster with twelve feet; she has the bark of a new-born puppy, but each of her six heads has three rows of teeth, 'thick and close, and full of black death'.

Skylla is shown here with the head and torso of a woman and the tail of a sea-monster; her elegantly pleated skirt neatly hides the junction between the two. The snapping dogs' heads at her waist evoke both her many, man-devouring heads and Homer's description of her voice.

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More information

Bibliography

R.A. Higgins, Greek terracottas (London, Methuen, 1967)

Dimensions

Height: 12.500 cm

Museum number

GR 1867.5-8.673 (Terracotta 621)

GAA6644

Location

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