APOLLO at Amyklai

.coin of King Araeus of Sparta, showing Apollo
Obv.: King Araeus. Rev.: Apollo
BMC Laconia 1

Pausanias, Periegesis Hellados III. 6:

"...On the way down to Amyklai from Sparta you come to the River Tiasa. People believe that she was the daughter of Eurotas, and beside the river is a sanctuary of the Graces Phaenna and Kleta, just as Alkman says. They think that it was Lakedaimon who built the sanctuary of the Graces here, and who gave the Graces their names.

These are the interesting things at Amyklai. There is a stone stele naming Ainetos a winner of the Pentathlon; he died, or so they say, with his head still wearing the wreath after winning at Olympia. There is a portrait of him, and there are bronze tripods. The older tripods are said to be a tithe of the spoils of the war against Messenia. Under the first tripod stands a statue of Aphrodite; under the second is Artemis; these tripods and their decorations are by Gitiadas. But the third tripod is by Kallon of Aegina, and under it stands a statue of Kore, Demeter's daughter. Aristandros of Paros made the Woman with the Harp, who is apparently "Sparta", and Polykleitos of Argos made the Aphrodite of the Amyklaians, as they call her. These tripods are larger than the others, which came from the Battle of Aegospotamoi.

Bathykles of Magnesia, who made the Throne of the Amyklaian, dedicated the Graces when he had completed it, along with a statue of Artemis of Good Thoughts. The question as to who taught Bathykles and under which Spartan king he worked is one which I leave aside, but I saw the Throne, and I will describe it. In front of it and behind it rise two Graces and two Seasons; on the left stand Echidna and Typhoeus, while on the right there are Tritons. It would weary my readers if I went through all the workmanship in detail; but, to summarize (since most of it is familiar anyway), Poseidon and Zeus are carrying Taygete, the daughter of Atlas, and her sister Alkyone. Atlas is also carved on it, and the fight of Herakles and Cyknos, and the battle of the Centaurs in the Cave of Pholos. I do not understand why Bathykles carved the Minotaur, bound and taken alive by Theseus. There is a Phaeacean dance on the Throne, and Demodokos is singing. There is Perseus, triumphing over Medusa. There is the carrying off the daughters of Leukippos, the fight between Herakles and the giant Thourios, and the fight between Tyndareus and the giant Eurytos. Hermes is carrying the infant Dionysos to Olympus, and Athena is bringing Herakles to live with the gods forever. Peleus is handing over Achilles to be brought up by Cheiron, since Achilles is said to have been one of his pupils. Kephalos is being carried off by Eos because of his beauty. The gods are bringing gifts to the wedding of Harmonia. There are images of the combat of Achilles with Memnon, and Herakles punishing Diomedes the Thracian, and Nessos in the River Euenos. Hermes is taking the goddesses to be judged by Paris. Adrastos and Tydeus break up the fight between Amphiaraos and Lykourgos, son of Pronax. Hera is looking at Io, daughter of Inachos, who has been turned into a heifer. Athena is escaping from Hephaestus, who is pursuing her. Then there is the series of the great deeds of Herakles: Herakles and the Hydra, and Herakles bringing back the Hound of Hades. Anaxias and Mnasinous are each on horseback, but Megapenthes the son of Menelaus and Nikostratos share a horse. Bellerophon is destroying the Lycian monster; Herakles is driving off the cattle of Geryon.

At the upper limits of the Throne are the sons of Tyndareus on horseback, one on either side; here are sphixes under the horses and wild beasts with their heads raised, a lioness under Polydeukes and a leopard on the other side. On the very top of the throne is the dance of the Magnesians, who worked on the Throne with Bathykles. Underneath the throne, behind the Tritons, there is the Calydonian Boar Hunt, Herakles killing the sons of Aktor, Kalais and Zetes driving off the Harpies from Phineus, Perithoos and Theseus carrying off Helen, Herakles with the lion by the throat, and Apollo and Artemis shooting Tityos. There are carvings of Herakles fighting the Centaur Oreios and Theseus fighting the Minotaur, the wrestling match of Herakles and Acheloos, the story of Hera bound by Hephaestus, the games given by Akastos for his father, the story of Menelaus and Proteus the Egyptian (from the Odyssey. Finally, Admetus is harnessing his chariot with a boar and a lion, and the Trojans are bringing jars to offer them to Hektor.

The part of the Throne where the god would sit is not a single continuous thing, but has several seats with a space next to each seat. The middle part is very broad, and that is where the statue stands. I know no one who has measured this, but at a guess you could say that it was forty-five feet. It is not the work of Bathykles, but ancient and made without artistry. Except for the face and the tips of its feet and hands it looks like a bronze pillar. It has a helmet on its head, and a spear and a bow in its hands. The base of the statue is shaped like an altar, and Hyakinthos is said to be buried in it. At the Hyakinthia, before the sacrifice to Apollo, they pass through a bronze door to dedicate the offerings of a divine hero to Hyakinthos in this altar; the door is on the left of the altar. There is a figure of (B)iris carved on one side of the altar, and Amphitrite and Poseidon on the other; Zeus and Hermes are talking together, with Dionysos and Semele standing nearby and Io beside Semele. Also on this altar are Demeter and Kore and Plouto, the Fates and the Seasons, and Aphrodite, Athena and Artemis (they are bringing Hyakinthos and Polyboia into Olympus; they say that she was his sister who died a virgin). In this sculpture, Hyakinthos has already grown hair on his face, but Nikias the son of Nikeratos had him painted as extremely beautiful, which is a reference to the fact that Apollo was in love with him. Herakles is also sculpted on this altar, being led into Olympus by Athena and all the gods. Then there are the daughters of Thestios, and the Muses and Seasons. The story of Zephyros, and how Hyakinthos was killed accidentally by Apollo, and the story of the flower, may not be true, but let it pass.

Amyklai was uprooted by the Dorians...."
June 14, 2009 8:46 PM

John Paul Adams, CSUN

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