Sunday, December 13, 2020

Cypriot funerary colonettes from the Roman period

Only a handful of these funerary colonettes, referred to as cippi, decorated with portrait busts, have been recovered from Roman Cyprus.  The Museum of Cycladic Art points out that this type of grave marker was used commonly from the Late Hellenistic to the Late Roman period in several parts of Cyprus, such as Limmasol (Amathous), Larnaca (Kition), Famagusta (Ammochostos) and Kyrenia but the majority are simply inscribed with the deceased name, sometimes the name of the father or spouse, and expressions of condolence such as "no one is immortal." 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art compares their appearance during this period to the development of personalized Egyptian painted portraits around the same time. I couldn't help but see the resemblence of these grave markers to chess pieces, though.There may be absolutely no connection at all but I found it interesting that the game of chess is thought to have originated around the same time (or possibly earlier) in the Gupta Empire of ancient India.  From there it spread to Persia and became part of the courtly education of Persian nobility.  Cyprus was ruled briefly by the Persians until its conquest by Alexander the Great and, eventually, the Romans in 58 BCE.  Although chess is thought to have been developed before 600 CE, its earliest origins are uncertain.

I've read a number of historical fiction novels set in ancient Rome where political maneuvers are referred to as part of "The Great Game." I can easily imagine followers of an ancient philosopher with the same viewpoint fashioning their funerary monuments to personify their lives as pieces in life's Great Game! 

Cypriot Cippus (Grave Column)  Middle-Late Roman, 100-300 CE from Tremithousa, Larnaca (Cyprus) at the Museum of Cycladic Art.

Cypriot limestone funerary cippus (tomb marker) depicting a woman named Kratea.   In an attempt to capture her individuality, she is represented with rather bony and irregular features, and her hair is parted down the middle, a convention that seems to imply that she was elderly. Her jewelry is meant as an indicator of her wealth and status.  Roman, , 2nd–3rd century CE at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Cypriot limestone funerary cippus (tomb marker) depicting  a youth is identified by the Greek inscription that reads: “Good Artemidoros, farewell”, Roman, 2nd–3rd century CE at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

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