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|Pergamon gallery 2
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Homer, the first to write about the area of Pergamon.
Marble bust, British Museum. Read more below.
|Pergamon gallery 2|
Art and architectural objects from or related to Pergamon in various museums.
||photos and articles:
© David John
|For details about the sights of Pergamon and Bergama,|
including opening times of the Acropolis, Red Basilica,
Asclepieion and Bergama Archaeological Museum,
see page 3: Practical information.
|Homer and Pergamon
|The 57.5 cm high marble bust from a herm of Homer (Ὅμηρος, Homeros), now in the British Museum, London (top of page), was found in 1780 among the ruins of the ancient city of Baiae, on the Bay of Naples, Italy . It is thought to be a Roman copy of a lost Hellenistic original of the 2nd century BC. It belongs to the so-called "Hellenistic blind-type" of depictions of Homer (see photos right), which has been compared with figures of the friezes on the Great Altar of Zeus; the original of the type may have been created for the Pergamon Library (see gallery 2, page 20).
We have no idea what Homer really looked like, since the time in which he is thought to have lived (anywhere between the 12th and 6th centuries BC, depending on whose theory you believe, but most probably around 750 to 700 BC) was long before realistic portraiture was practised by the Greeks. Not only that, it is doubted by some scholars that he ever existed at all. Notwithstanding, four Greek cities in Asia Minor, Smyrna, Chios, Kolophon and Kyme, claimed the bard as a native son.
Sculptures of the legendary poet were made as early as the Classical period, representing him as a scholarly, elderly, blind man. These works were placed in libraries and sanctuaries, a tradition which continued into Roman times. There was also a sculpture of this type in the Homereion of Alexandria, a centre for Homeric studies during the Hellenistic period. 
Around the end of the 5th century AD, the Egyptian poet Christodorus described a bronze statue of Homer in the Baths of Zeuxippus in Constantinople:
"... the features of an old man, but of a gentle old age, so much so that it gives him an even richer aura of grace: a mix of venerability and admiration, but from which prestige shines through... With his two hands supported by his staff, one on top of the other, like a real man. The right ear bent, as if always listening to Apollo, almost as if he could hear a Muse nearby..."
Anthologia Palatina, II, 311-349 
The two epic narrative poems Homer is credited with writing, the Iliad (Ιλιάς) and the Odyssey (Ὀδύσσεια), tell of legendary heroic events around the time of Bronze Age conflicts between Greeks and Anatolians, distilled into the story of the siege of Troy; and seaman's yarns of pioneer Greek military and merchant sea voyages around the Mediterranean, synthesized into the wanderings of Odysseus.
The question of how much was based on historical fact and/or age-old story-telling, and how much was newly created by the writer (or writers) will keep scholars busy for many years to come.
There is no doubt that the works are literary masterpieces, and the language, technique and style of the poetry in which they are written, as well as the narrative qualities, are still universally admired. They are also like gazeteers and a veritable who's who (or all too often who killed whom) of the ancient world. Many of the geographical, topographical and historical details have in fact been confirmed by archaeologists, historians and scientists over the last two centuries, proving at least that the author based his often incredible tales on a solid ground of facts.
Although the Mysians of northwestern Anatolia are mentioned in the Iliad ("haughty Mysians", "close-fighting Mysians", "undaunted Mysians"), the Odyssey contains the oldest known written references to the area of Mysia around Pergamon, known as Teuthrania, and the people who lived there. In Book XI, Odysseus relates the deadly doings of the Greek Neoptolemos (Νεοπτόλεμος, "New Warrior", also known as Pyrrhos), son of Achilles , during the Trojan War, and how he killed the handsome hero Eurypylos, son of Telephos, and his "Cetean warriors".
In blank verse:
Beneath him num’rous fell the sons of Troy
In dreadful fight, nor have I pow’r to name
Distinctly all, who by his glorious arm
Exerted in the cause of Greece, expired.
Yet will I name Eurypylus, the son
Of Telephus, an Hero whom his sword
Of life bereaved, and all around him strew’d
The plain with his Cetean warriors, won
To Ilium’s side by bribes to women giv’n.
Save noble Memnon only, I beheld
No Chief at Ilium beautiful as he."
The Odyssey of Homer, translated by William Cowper.
J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., London. BOOK XI, lines 628-638.
A prose version:
"And many men he [Neoptolemus] slew in warfare dread; but I could not tell of all or name their names, even all the host he slew in succouring the Argives; but, ah, how he smote with the sword that son of Telephus, the hero Eurypylus, and many Ceteians of his company were slain around him, by reason of a woman's bribe. He truly was the comeliest man that ever I saw, next to goodly Memnon."
The Odyssey of Homer, done in English prose, by S. H. Butcher and A. Lang.
In the myths, of which there are several versions, and which may have evolved before or after the time of Homer, Telephos (Τήλεφος, far-shining) was a prince of Tegea in the Peloponnese and the son of Herakles and Auge (Αὔγη), a priestess of Athena. Telephos and Auge were forced to escape from their homeland and were given refuge by Teuthras (Τεύθρας), king of Teuthrania, in Mysia, the area in which Pergamon was to be built centuries later.
Teuthras either adopted or married Auge, offered Telephos his daughter in marriage and made him his heir. Telephos thus became, at least in the imagination of later Pergamenes, the founder of a Greek kingdom.
King Priam of Troy needed the help of Telephos' son Eurypylos (Εὐρύπυλος) to fight the invading Greeks, and persuaded Astyoche (either Eurypylos' wife or mother) to bribe him with a golden vine. Hence the reference to "a woman's bribe". The handsome hero Eurypylos led his Ceteians into battle and was killed by Neoptolemos.
The Ceteians were the people who lived around the river Ketios (today the Kestel Çayı), which runs through Bergama (see gallery 1, page 25, including map).
Pausanias adds a curious postscript to the story of Eurypylos' part in the Trojan War: Because he killed Machaon, a physician and "a son of Asklepios", his name was never mentioned in the Temple of Asklepios in Pergamon, although hymns to his father Telephos were sung there. 
Pergamus was also the name of the citadel of Homer's Ilium (Troy), which was destroyed by the Greeks at the end of the Trojan War. Another of Pergamon's foundation myths tells that Achilles' son Neoptolemos/Pyrros took Andromache (Ἀνδρομάχη), widow of Prince Hector of Troy, as a concubine, and became king of Epiros, in northwestern Greece. Later, Andromache accompanied her son Pergamus to Asia, where he killed King Areios of Teuthrania in single combat, took the throne and renamed the city after himself.
The bust of Homer in the
British Museum, London.
Inv. No, GR 1805.7-3.85
A similar bust of Homer from the
Farnese collection. Antonine copy
(138-192 AD) of a 2nd century BC
Greek original, thought to have
been made by the Rhodian School.
National Museum, Naples, Italy.
Inv. No. 6023.
Replica of the Naples bust of Homer,
made by Gaetano Rossi in 1875.
Neues Museum, Berlin.
A plaster cast of a plaster cast
of a bust of Homer. This modern
copy, in the Pergamon Museum,
Berlin, was taken from the cast
in the Goethe Nationalmuseum,
Weimar, which is thought to have
belonged to Goethe.
Berlin, Abguss-Sammlung Antiker
Plastik der Freien Universität,
|Notes, references and links
1. Head of Homer found at Baiae, Italy.
Marble terminal portrait bust of the blind poet Homer, with Greek letters carved on each side.
White marble. Height: 57.15 cm (22.5 inches).
British Museum, London.
Main floor, Room 22, Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic world.
Accession number GR 1805.7-3.85 (Sculpture 1825)
The bust is in the form of a "terminus", i.e. the top part of a herm. Terminus was the Roman god who protected boundaries, and stone pillars known in Latin as terminii were set up as boundary markers in a similar way to which herms were used by the Greeks. Such busts of gods and famous humans were made for the private collections of wealthy people.
This bust was found in Baiae, Campania, Italy, and purchased in late 1780 for £80 by the wealthy English collector Charles Townley (1737-1805) from the Scottish artist and antiquities dealer Gavin Hamilton (1723-1798). It was acquired, along with around 300 ancient artefacts of the Townley Collection, by the British Museum after Townley's death.
Taylor Combe, William Alexander, George Cooke, A description of the collection of ancient marbles in the British Museum: with engravings. [Marbles in the third room of the Gallery of Antiquities] Part II. W. Bulmer and Co., London, 1815.
G.M.A. Richter, The portraits of the Greeks. Phaidon, London, 1965.
2. The Homereion of Alexandria
See: Rosanna Cappelli and Annalisa Lo Monaco, The National Archaeological Museum of Naples (guide book), page 24. Mondadori Electa S.p.A., Verona, 2014.
3. Christodorus on the statues in the Baths of Zeuxippus in Constantinople
Christodorus (Χριστόδωρος) was a Greek epic poet from Coptos in Egypt who flourished during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I (491-518 AD). He wrote an ekphrasis (from Ancient Greek ἔκφρασις, description), a poem in 416 hexameters describing 80 statues of deities and famous mortals in the Baths and Gymnasium of Zeuxippus in Constantinople.
The public baths-gymnasium was originally built by Roman Emperor Septimius Severus (reigned 193-211 AD), in the centre of the city near the Hippodrome, and decorated over time with artworks shipped from various parts of the Roman Empire. These works were probably destroyed when the building was burnt down during the Nika Riots in 532 AD. Archaeologists discovered inscribed statue bases at the site which relate to works described in the poem. In 1556 the Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan built the Haseki Hürrem Sultan Hamamı (Turkish baths) on the site.
Christodorus' Ekphrasis, Ἔκφρασις τῶν ἀγαλμάτων τῶν εἰς τὸ δημόσιον γυμνάσιον τα ἐπικαλουμένον τοῦ Ζευξίππου, forms the second book of the Anthologia Palatina (Palatine Anthology), II, 311-349. The manuscripts of this collection of Greek poems and epigrams, compiled around 980 AD by four scribes, were discovered in 1606 by Claudius Salmasius (Claude de Saumaise, 1588-1653) in the Palatine Library in Heidelberg, Germany.
You can read the description of the statue of Homer in Greek, with a translation in English at:
By the time of Christodorus ekphrases had become a literary genre, and many such poems described works of art, monuments and cities. One of the oldest examples of ekphrasis is Homer's description of Achilles' shield in the Iliad (Book 18, lines 478–608, at the Internet Classics Archive).
Christodorus also wrote Πάτρια (Patria), poems about the early histories of the cities Thessaloniki, Nakle, Miletus, Tralles, Aphrodisias and Constantinople, and Λυδιακά (Lydiaka), a history of Lydia.
See Greek vase paintings depicting Neoptolemos killing the Trojan princess Polyxene and King Priam on the Homer page in the MFP People section.
5. Pausanias on Eurypylos
Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 3, Chapter 26, Sections 9-10.
At Perseus Digital Library.
"The Apotheosis of Homer". Hellenistic relief. Parian marble. 117 x 80 cm.
British Museum. GR 1819.8-12.1 (Sculpture 2191).
Also known as "the Relief of Archelaos", signed by the sculptor Archelaos, son of
Apollonios of Priene, it is thought to have to have been made in Alexandria, Egypt
in the 3rd or 2nd century BC, and was discovered near Rome in the 17th century.
The religious ceremony in which Homer is elevated to divine status by deities, muses
and mythical characters was a popular subject in the art of antiquity. The bard, enthroned
before an altar, holds a sceptre and a scroll. The scene is observed from above by Zeus.
|Key to the Apotheosis of Homer
1 Zeus with his eagle
2 Mnesmosyne ?
3 Muse (Klio ?)
5 Muse (Erato ?)
6 Muse (Euterpe ?)
8 Muse (Terpsichore ?)
9 Muse (Ourania ?)
10 Muse (Polyhymnia ?)
11 Apollo Kitharodos
13 statue of a poet ? *
14 Oikoumene (Arsinoe III) ?
15 Chronos (Ptolemy IV) ?
16 The Iliad
18 The Odyssey
19 Mythos (Myth)
20 Istoria (History)
21 Poiesis (Poetry)
22 Tragodia (Tragedy)
23 Komodia (Comedy)
24 Physis (Nature)
25 Arete (Virtue)
26 Mnem(e) (Memory)
27 Pisti (Good Faith)
28 Sophia (Wisdom)
* Possibly Apollonius, 2nd century BC, author of the Argonautica
Detail of the Apotheosis of Homer, British Museum.
|Maps, photos and articles: © David John,
except where otherwise specified.
Additional photos: © Konstanze Gundudis
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Some of the information and photos in this guide to Pergamon
originally appeared in 2004 on davidjohnberlin.de.
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