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cribes the funeral honours of Achilles ; his mother issued from the sea with her sisters of the brine, and the words of Nestor alone restrained the alarm of the Greeks; while the Nereids surrounded the body, not like those of the Xanthian tomb, in the lively action expressive of joyful palingenesia, but pitiably lamenting as became the mourners of the yet unentombed dead, the Muses nine lamented him with responsive song, and gods and men were melted at the threne. When the body was consumed, the white bones of the hero were collected in wine and unguents, and deposited with those of his dearest friend, in a vessel provided by Thetis herself. It was a golden amphora, work of Hephaistos, and the gift to the goddess from Dionusos, presented, say other authorities, in gratitude for her protection when he dived into the waves to escape the wild pursuit of Lycurgus. 48 I have no hesitation in claiming the Portland Vase, a funereal urn adorned with the marriage of the parent of the hero, as intended by the artist for a realization, though in another material, of this celebrated mythic archetype.

The satyrs heads below the handles, appear happy hints of this Dionusiac origin, though here again they lure us further ; why, it may be asked, were the ashes of the dead deposited in a vase, an amphora, a wine-vessel in fact? There must have been some symbolical justification, and the peculiar relation of the wine god as Demiurgus to the mythology of the migrating soul, and the Zodiacal vessels that marked the epochs of its course, suggest the direction where we might probably find it, were it not that the whole subject, however pleasant to speculate on, is little inviting or profitable to expound.

Inasmuch then as the male figure on the lid of the sarcophagus, from his age and conjugal relation, can have no claim to the character of Achilles, we may regard him as representing the father of the hero, and by the same rule, his wife would claim the honours of Thetis, and we are reduced to regard the vase found within their tomb, as the receptacle of the ashes of an heroic son, the proud comparison of whom to Achilles prompted their own mythological assumptions.

And here we might relinquish an enquiry already unexpectedly extended, were it not that by its spontaneous development, we find ourselves brought back to our starting point, and again

43 Odyss. xxiv. 74; Quint. Calab. iv.; Lycophron, Cass. v. 273.

confronted with the claim of the Portland Vase to be regarded as the funereal urn of the son of Mammea, 44 a claim which now appears independent of his identification with the figure reclining by his supposed mother. Assuming her identity, her companion, by the foregone deductions, must be regarded as her husband Gessius Marcianus, of whom history is negligent enough, but at least avouches his existence, an attention it has omitted in the case of some other distinguished personages of these times, as, for instance, one of the wives of Alexander Severus himself, whose name is only known from medals.

The wife of Marcianus was the last and not the least remarkable of the four Julias of Syrian blood ; Domna, Mæsa, Soæmias, and Mammea, the countrywomen of Semiramis and the future Zenobia, who, by their talents, passions, and energies, played so important a part in the history of the empire during the supremacy of Septimius Severus and his family. A great part of the better characteristics of the art of the period seems to have passed under their influence from the Eastern regions, where a little later the sublime genius of Longinus and the architectural monuments of Palmyra attest the survival of Hellenic genius. Julia Domna, patroness of Philostratus, is addressed by Oppian as Assyrian Cytherea, Selene ever uneclipsed, and the same principle of mythic identification is continued in art to such an extent, that it is quite a characteristic of the period to represent the empresses and imperial ladies as Aphrodite, &c.; the strongly marked portrait and artificial headdress, often presenting strange incongruousness with the mythical nudity. It was in accordance with the same fashion, that the assumption of the characters of old Greek heroes was carried to such extravagant lengths by the emperors at the same time. Caracalla especially affected the attributes of Hercules, and as the new Achilles, celebrated at Ilium the funeral of a freedman representative of Patroclus, not omitting even the Homeric invocation of the winds to fan the flames of the pyre.

44 Mention occurs of more than one elaborate funereal urn in connection with imperial burials in this very family,—Macrinus burnt the body of Caracalla, and sent the ashes to Julia Domna, his mother, in an urn: xánan Tivi, Herod. iv. 13, 16; and an anecdote is related of Septimius Severus

himself, calling on his deathbed for the urn that was to contain his ashes; the same apparently in which they were afterwards carried to Rome by his sons, and saluted by the senate, and variously described by Dion, Herodian, and Spartian as of porphyry, alabaster, or gold.

After the mythic heroes, Alexander the Great was a chief object of emulation, as indeed the freak of Caracalla at Ilium was a ridiculous caricature of the great Macedonian, whose imitation of Achilles, both at Ilium and at the funeral of Hephæstion, was prompted by profound knowledge of contemporary Greece, and intended to sustain the enthusiasm of the Asiatic enterprize.

Alexander Severus himself professed to adopt as his model the “great Emathian conqueror,” who occupied the first place in his chief Lararium as Achilles did in the second, and in the associations of the age, the assumption of the character of one Æacid implied that of the other; Mammea, who was called consistently, but not without some satiric allusion to her domineering character, Olympias, is found on monuments as Venus Genetrix, and Juno Augusta, and Lucina, and thus by all analogy as the mother of a new Achilles, she has obvious claim to the attributes and dignities of a new Thetis also, with which character, moreover, her relation to her less distinguished and unimportant husband would perfectly agree.

The literary notices of the period are quite in harmony with its monuments. I have already noticed that the Heroicus of Philostratus furnishes the version of the marriage of Peleus and Thetis most in accordance with the vase, Another contemporary work had for its subject that general body of myths of which this marriage was the leading type. Peisander of Laranda, who is placed by Suidas*5 in the age of Alexander Severus, composed a poem on Heroic Theogamies, or the unions of mortal men with goddesses, an extension probably of the bare catalogue of this class of contracts which closes the Hesiodic Theogony. Beginning from the marriage of Jupiter and Juno, says Macrobius, 46 he reduced the entire history of the intervening period down to his own time into a single continuous series. The scheme of the poem was probably much the same as that of the work of Ovid, in which, starting like Hesiod from Chaos, he has woven with great art the leading mythical events into the web of a narrative of metamorphoses, unites the historical and mythical period, and concludes by blending contemporary princes in the chain of transformations, and concentrates the

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entire and accumulated glories of the series on the person and family of Augustus.

If Peisander, as Macrobius asserts, really brought down his poetic history to the age of Mammea, her political and domestic position and character may well have invited a complimentary parallel to the Heroic Theogamy, the subject of our vase, which must necessarily have formed a most important member of his series. 47 The very respect for the dignity of the goddess which pervades the treatment of it by the artist, seems in keeping with such an application by a courtly poet, and it now appears but simple after what has gone before, to conjecture that it was from the details of this poem that the mythical embellishments were adopted for the receptacles of the remains of the empress, her husband, and too short-lived but illustrious


But I am insensibly falling into the tone if not acquiring the interests of a partizan in a discussion for the subject of which I must profess the most profound indifference. Interesting as the romantic story may be of the Phænician princesses who gave a dynasty to the Roman Empire at a critical period of its decline, worthy even as their history may be of deeper study, and from more diversified points of view, than has yet been devoted to it, they and their family must have been potentates of unusual interest indeed, for the question, whether we possess the very vessel that received the ashes of the best of them, to be of the slightest moment, unless in so far as it may possibly confirm a date, or aid in some indirect manner the appreciation of the genius of the artist whose large conceptions and true Hellenic spirit their funereal urn has more faithfully and worthily preserved to us.


Midsummer 1848.

47 We learn from Olympiodorus, (ad Phædr. p. 251, ed. Wyttenb.) that the marriage of Kadmus and Harmonia, that has many analogies, both superficial and profound, to that of Peleus and Thietis, was introduced by Peisander

with some peculiarities of treatment. See Lobeck's Aglaophamus, p. 1253. He corrects Welcker, who ascribed the notice to the earlier Peisander of Camirus, the poet of the Herakleia.





No. XVIII. of the Classical Museum, (p. 396-443,) contains a dissertation, by Mr. W. Watkiss Lloyd, on the Western Pediment of the Parthenon, which is directed against my explanation, printed in Vol. II. of the same Journal, and proposes an entirely new one. My opinion was formed by the impression made on me when for the first time I beheld the original groups of the two pediments, and I wrote it down in the autumnal vacation of the year 1844, during a short visit to England. The extreme kindness of Mr. Panizzi and other gentlemen connected with the British Museum, to whom I feel the most lively obligations, enabled me to compose my essay with perfect ease, and offered me the greatest facility in consulting the books of that institution ; but the proximity of the extensive collection of works of art, as well as the abundance of the treasures and curiosities of the library, naturally urged me on not to spend too much time upon my dissertation. It appeared in the Classical Museum in an English translation, from my manuscript, by my friend, Dr. L. Schmitz, Under these circumstances, I was prepared to look, in regard to the detail, for corrections and new lights from competent judges, who might be in a position to devote persevering industry to a further investigation of the subject ; but I did not anticipate that the explanation of the whole of the Western Pediment would again go astray, and abandon the simple truth, which, it appears to me, is expressed clearly and unequivocally in the words of Pausanias, no less than in the old drawing and in the fragments which perfectly agree with it. Such, however, unfortunately, is the case in the new explanation attempted by Mr. W. Watkiss Lloyd.

All the most important points in the explanation depend upon the view taken of the two principal figures in the centre; and all the errors of my opponent, which I shall combat, seem to arise from the fact that he has misunderstood the expression and

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