Monday, March 22, 2021

Tabula Iliaca

A Tabula Iliaca ("Iliadic table") is a generic label for a calculation of the days of the Iliad, probably by Zenodotus, of which twenty-two fragmentary examples are now known. The Tabulae Iliacae are pinakes of early Imperial date, which all seem to have come from two Roman workshops.  The marble panels are carved in very low relief in miniature rectangles with labeling inscriptions typically surrounding a larger central relief. 

The border scenes, where they can be identified, are largely derived from the Epic Cycle, a collection of ancient Greek epic poems, composed in dactylic hexameter and related to the story of the Trojan War, including the Cypria, the Aethiopis, the so-called Little Iliad, the Iliupersis, the Nostoi, and the Telegony. Eleven of the small marble tablets are pictorial representations of the Trojan War portraying episodes from the Iliad, including two circular ones on the Shield of Achilles. Another six panels depict the sack of Ilium.

One of the most complete examples surviving is the Tabula Iliaca Capitolina, which was discovered around Bovillae, near Rome. The tablet dates from the Augustan period, around 15 BCE. The carvings depict numerous scenes of the Trojan War, with captions, including an image of Aeneas climbing aboard a ship after the sacking of Troy. The carving's caption attributes its depiction to a poem by Stesichorus in the 6th century BCE.

Tabula Iliaca: relief with illustrations drawn from the Homeric poems and the Epic Cycle–here from the Ilioupersis, the Iliad, the Little Iliad and the Æthiopis. Limestone, Roman artwork, 1st century BCE courtesy of the Capitoline Museum. 

A "Tabula iliaca" in the National Museum in Warsaw, the so-called "Tabula Rondanini", Roman, 1st century BCE - 1st century CE, now in the National Museum of Warsaw, courtesy of museum photographer Cyfrowe and Wikimedia Commons.


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