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My Favourite Planet > English > People > Medusa > part 4
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Gorgoneion antefixes
 

Gorgoneion antefix from the Temple of Hera, Corfu, Greece at My Favourite Planet

A terracotta Gorgoneion antefix (decorated end of a roof tile)
of the "horrid type" with a "beard".

According to the museum labelling, around 580 BC, although the
official guide book (see note in Medusa part 3) states 620-600 BC.

Found in 1914 at the Archaic Temple of Hera Akraia, on the Mon Repos estate, Corfu,
in the area now known as Palaiopolis (Παλαιόπολης, Old City), the site of the ancient
city Korkyra (Κόρκυρα), a colony of Corinth. This antefix was made about the same
time as the Gorgon pediment of the nearby "Temple of Artemis" (see part 3),
during or just after the rule of the Corinthian tyrant Periander (circa 627-585 BC).

Mon Repos Museum, Corfu. Inv. No. MR 730.
Formerly in the Corfu Archaeological Museum.

This one of three surviving antefixes from the Temple of Hera exhibited in the museum.
One is of white limestone with a lion's head (MR 1) that served as a water spout; the
other is a fragmentary terracotta with part of a female head in the Daedalic style
(MR 21), which the archaeologist Wilhelm Dörpfeld thought was also a Gorgoneion.

An antefix (in Greek, ακροκέραμα, akrokerama) is an ornamental ceramic plaque [1] covering the end of a roof tile (kalypter) which covered the lower edge of a wooden framed, ceramic tiled roof or the apex of a gable (sima) of a temple, mostly during the Archaic period. Rows of such antefixes, usually in the form of heads (often referred to as protomes [2]) of mythical figures, often decorated the sides of roofs. Antefixes covering apex tiles were usually larger. See the reconstruction drawing in Medusa part 2, showing the roof of the Archaic wooden temple of Apollo at Thermon, central Greece, decorated with a row of antefixes.

The technique is thought to have been invented in Corinth (but see note in Medusa part 2), and appears to have spread to other Greek cities rapidly, and was already in use in Etruria by the 7th century BC. [3] It was used on several temples in Sicily, where Gorgoneions were among the most common antefix motifs.

A now-lost primitive Archaic antefix found in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, is said to have resembled the masks found at Tiryns (see Medusa part 2), was thus dated to the 7th century BC and thought to be a Gorgoneion. Unfortunately, I have so far been unable to discover more information about the object or a photo or drawing of it. However, if it was a Gorgoneion it would have probably been the earliest example of the motif in Greek architecture. [4]

The antefixes and tiles below show a wide variety on the Gorgon theme, and artists around the Greek world - the mainland and islands of Greece, Thrace, Ionia (East Greece), Magna Graecia (Italy) and Sicily - depicted her in very different ways between the 7th and 4th centuries BC. Although there was a general tendency towards less hideous and more attractive Gorgons, the Archaic types continued into the 4th century BC, as can be seen from an Archaistic antefix from Gela, Sicily below. Antefixes based on Greek models, perhaps from Greek-made moulds, were produced by Etruscans and other Italic peoples (see note 3 and photos below). A fragment of a terracotta Gorgoneion in Milan, believed to be part of an antefix (see below), is dated as late as the 1st century AD.

With the development of architecture from the Classical period (5th - 4th century BC) and the replacement of wood and ceramics with stone, including stone roof tiles, antefixes gradually ceased to be employed. Rows of decorative stone heads (similar to gargoyles), often of lions, continued to be used as water spouts on the edges of roofs (eaves or sima) along the sides of temples and other buildings.

See also examples of Gorgons as architectural decoration
in Medusa part 2 and Medusa part 3.
 

The right side of the Gorgoneion antefix from the Temple of Hera, Corfu at My Favourite Planet

The right side of the Gorgoneion
antefix from the Temple of Hera
in Corfu, showing its construction,
the shallow relief of the decoration
and part of the attached roof tile.
 

Gorgoneion antefix from Corfu, Greece at My Favourite Planet

A terracotta Gorgoneion antefix of the "horrid type".

2nd half of the 6th century BC. From Korkyra (Corfu), a colony of Corinth.

Corfu Archaeological Museum.
 

Medusa antefix from Corfu at My Favourite Planet

A terracotta Gorgoneion antefix of the "beautiful type".

4th century BC. From Corfu.

Corfu Archaeological Museum.

"Beauty", it seems, is not only in the eye of the beholder, but also a matter of taste, fashion and cultural milieu. Interestingly, in a witty dialogue written by the Syrian essayist and satirist Lucian of Samosata (Λουκιανός ὁ Σαμοσατεύς, circa 125-180 AD), one of the characters, Lycinus (probably Lucian himself), tells his friend that he has just almost been turned to stone by the sight of a woman's beauty. The piece is thought to have been written in 162/163 AD in praise of Panthea, the mistress of Emperor Lucius Verus. As usual with Lucian, the reader is seldom sure how firmly his tongue was in his cheek, but his interlocutors appear to have stumbled on a fascinating aspect of the power of the Gorgon's stare.

"Lycinus: Polystratus, I know now what men must have felt like when they saw the Gorgon's head. I have just experienced the same sensation, at the sight of a most lovely woman. A little more, and I should have realized the legend, by being turned to stone; I am benumbed with admiration.

Polystratus: Wonderful indeed must have been the beauty, and terrible the power of the woman who could produce such an impression on Lycinus. Tell me of this petrifying Medusa. Who is she, and whence? I would see her myself. You will not grudge me that privilege? Your jealousy will not take alarm at the prospect of a rival petrifaction at your side?

Lycinus: Well, I give you fair warning: one distant glimpse of her, and you are speechless, motionless as any statue. Nay, that is a light affliction: the mortal wound is not dealt till her glance has fallen on you. What can save you then? She will lead you in chains, hither and thither, as the magnet draws the steel."

Lucian, A portrait study (Greek, Εἰκόνες; Latin, Imagines). In: The works of Lucian of Samosata, Volume 3 (of 4), translated by H. W. Fowler and F. G. Fowler. At Project Gutenberg.
 
 

Gorgoneion antefix from the sanctuary of Chthonic gods, Akragas, Sicily at My Favourite Planet

Painted Gorgoneion antefix from the Sanctuary of Chthonic Deities,
Akragas (Agrigento), Sicily. End of the 6th century BC.

One of a number of antefixes discovered during
excavations at the sanctuary in 1953-1955.

Agrigento Regional Archaeological Museum, Sicily.
 

Gorgoneion antefix from the Oikos of the Naxians, Delos at My Favourite Planet

Semicircular marble antefix with an incised Gorgoneion, originally decorated with paint.
From the Oikos of the Naxians (House of the Naxians) in the Sanctuary of Apollo, Delos.

Around 575-560 BC. Height 18 cm, width 29 cm.

Delos Archaeological Museum, Greece. Inv. No. A 7682.

One of six similar antefixes from the oikos exhibited
in the Delos museum, Inv. Nos. A 7677 - A 7682.

The long building on the southern side of the Sanctuary of Apollo, known as the Oikos (οἶκος, house) of the Naxians, was built of large granite blocks by the people of the Cycladic island Naxos in the late 7th century BC and dedicated to Apollo. Around 575 BC it was reconstructed with white Naxian marble, and it was the first building ever to have an upper part and roof of marble.

The hall, with porches at the west and east ends, was 19.38 metres long and around 10 metres wide, and had eight Ionic columns along the centre of its long axis, supporting the sloped roof of marble tiles. The porch at the west end was supported by two Ionic columns (distyle) in antis, and that on the east end, which was added later, had four prostyle Ionic columns. There was also a doorway halfway along the long north side, outside which stood the 9 metre tall "Colossus of the Naxians", a kouros statue of Apollo, made from a single piece of marble around 600 BC. The 32 ton inscribed base of the statue still stands outside the northwest corner of the oikos, and the two surviving parts of the kouros, the torso and the pelvis, can still be seen near the remains of the building.

The Oikos may have initially served as an early temple of Apollo, and is thought to been used later as a meeting or dining hall. It has been described as a sort of "clubhouse" or "guildhall". It may have also functioned as a treasury for the storage and display of sacred vessels and votive objects.

See also an Archaic statue base and fragment of a kouros statue from Delos in Medusa part 2.
 
 

Terracotta antefix with a Gorgoneion in Mykonos at My Favourite Planet

Terracotta antefix with a bearded Gorgoneion "in a seashell". 6th century BC.

Aegean Maritime Museum, Mykonos, Greece.

Partially restored, the antefix is in a good condition, and some of the colour has survived. The strongly modelled face of the "horrid type" Gorgoneion is unusual in a number of ways. For example, the centrally parted hair above the forehead is only slightly wavy, The ends of the four braids on either side of the head resemble crabs' claws rather than snakes' heads, and the prominent nose and cheeks are unwrinkled. The sixteen petal-shaped lobes radiating from around the head, painted alternately red and blue, have been interpreted as representing a seashell.

The inside of the shell is separated from the Gorgon's head by an arched frame. Either side of the head, two flat, red-painted bands, representing snaky locks of hair, descend from behind the frontal ears and curl outwards around the lower ends of the frame (or round objects) to form circles.

The countours of the eyebrows and eyes are confidently painted with fine lines and the pupils are concentric circles of red, white and blue, similar to bullseyes. The surviving left ear is painted blue, and the round earring has six red dots around a larger central red dot. The open mouth has finely modelled lips, an even row of top teeth, upper and lower fangs at the corners, and a red protuding tongue. Below the jaw hangs a wavy "beard" (see Medusa part 2).

The excellent Aegean Maritime Museum in Mykonos town is, as the name indicates, primarily concerned with the history of seafaring - in the wider Mediterranean as well as the Aegean Sea. However, it also contains a small number of ancient artefacts not directly connected with sea travel, except in that they were found in shipwrecks or are examples of goods traded by ship. The label of the Gorgon antefix points out that Gorgoneions were used as apotropaic figureheads on the prows of ships.

The exhibits were collected by George M. Drakopoulos (Γεώργιος Δρακόπουλος), who founded the small private museum in 1983 and opened it to the public in 1985. The labelling is informative, but as with many private collections, little or no information is provided about archaeological context or provenance for the objects.

The website of the Maritime Museum Mykonos: aegean-maritime-museum.gr (in Greek and English)

Mould-made shell-frame antefixes of this type are thought to have been invented and developed in Campania, southern Italy around 550 BC as part of a local boom in the production of architectural terracottas influenced by the work of Greek artists in the nearby colonies of Magna Graecia (see another shell-frame antefix below). A large number have been discovered at ancient Casilinum, an Etruscan city just to the northwest of Capua (ancient Etruscan Capeva), on the northeastern edge of the Campanian plain, 25 km northwest of Naples. Several types and variations have been identified. Most are decorated with Gorgoneions, although other male and female heads are also represented. The majority of finds are in the Museo Provinciale Campano, Capua, and many others are now in various museum worldwide [5].

Other examples have also been found in Latium and Etruria, suggesting that either moulds were exported or that Campanian artisans went to work there. It would be interesting to discover whether the antefix in Mykonos is from Italy, and how it ended up on an Aegean island.
 
 

A shell-frame terracotta antefix with the head of a woman at My Favourite Planet

A shell-frame terracotta antefix with the head of a woman.

Made in Italy. 5th century BC.

Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam. Inv. No. 3594.
 

A terracotta Gorgoneion antefix, Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam at My Favourite Planet

A terracotta antefix with a Gorgoneion surrounded by lotus flowers.

From Italy. Around 540 BC. Provenance not stated by museum labelling.

Displayed in 2020 as part of an exhibtion dedicated to the Egyptian god Bes,
with whom Medusa has often been compared: "The Greek Medusa resembles
Bes because she is sticking out her tongue; she is also often combined with
dangerous snakes." From the exhibtion labelling.

Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam. Inv. APM 3.592.
 

A terracotta Gorgoneion antefix from the Athens Acropolis at My Favourite Planet

A terracotta Gorgoneion antefix from the Athens Acropolis.

6th century BC.

Acropolis Museum, Athens.

One of two polychrome antefixes (Acropolis Museum, Inv. Nos. Acr. 78 and Acr. 79) discovered in 1836 in a deposit of objects beneath the southeast corner of the Parthenon, during excavations 1834-1836 led by the German archaeologist Ludwig Ross with architects Eduard Schaubert and Hans Christian Hansen (see Athens Acropolis gallery page 12). The earth around the findspot was burnt, suggesting destruction by a fire, perhaps that caused by the destruction of buildings on the Acropolis during the Persian invasion in 480 BC. It has thus been suggested that they may be from the Archaic Pre-Parthenon temple (Parthenon 2) or the Archaic Propylon, the monumental gateway to the Acropolis which was replaced by the Classical Propylaia.

In 1888 fragments of another seven antefixes (Inv. Nos. Acr. 80, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87), made from the same mould as the first two, were found at various locations to the east and west of the Parthenon. The style of the nine Gorgoneions has been described as Type IX or Ionic (East Greek) type, "in der ältesten Form geschmückt" (decorated in the oldest form), although it has also been compared to West Greek examples of the 6th century BC from Olympia (Olympia Archaeological Museum) and the metope in Selinunte (540-510 BC, see Medusa part 2). One source suggests a date of around 510-500 BC.

 

The right side of the Gorgoneion antefix from the Athens Acropolis at My Favourite Planet

Hansen's drawing of the right side
of the antefix, showing the broken
covering tile behind.

The hair on the top of the head falls in thick wavy bands, ending in a row of thirteen spiral curls above the forehead, and at each side with a row of four long beads, alternately red and black. There are no ears, but large round earrings. The face is broad, with wrinkles on the brow, at the outer edges of the eyes and at the top of the short, flat nose. She has an open grinning mouth with full lips, gums, a row of four regular top teeth, four long fangs in the place of incisors, then rows of pointed top and bottom teeth at the sides, and a potruding tongue. At either side of her chin appears a coiled snake, described as "bearded". The earrings, eyes, lips, tongue and gums are dark red. The hair, eye pupils, eyebrows and snakes are painted black turning to reddish purple. The face and background are pale yellow.

The two best preserved antefixes, Inv. Nos. Acr. 78 and Acr. 79, although broken, are almost complete and still have part of the tile.

Inv. No. Acr. 78. Height 19.5 cm, width 20 cm, length 16 cm.

Inv. No. Acr. 79. Height 21.5 cm, width 20 cm, length 15 cm.

Inv. No. Acr. 85. Only the bottom half of the Gorgnoeion has survived, from just below the eyes, and part of the tile. Height 11.3 cm, width 20.5 cm, depth 12 cm, length of tile at back 7 cm.

The fragments of the other six antefixes are of various shapes and sizes.

A fragment of a larger terracotta Gorgoneion mask (Inv. No. Acr. 88, height 11 cm, width 85 cm), probably an antefix, was also found on the Acropolis. Only an ear and part of the hair have survived, but it appears to have been worked in the round not flat like the others.

Image source: chromolithograph by J. G. Bach of Leipzig, from a drawing by Hans Christian Hansen (1803-1883), in Ludwig Ross (1806-1859), Archäologische Aufsätze, Erste Sammlung: Griechische Gräber; Ausgrabungsberichte aus Athen; Zur Kunstgeschichte und Topographie von Athen und Attika, Tafel 8, Fig. 1; text on pages 105 and 109-110. B. G. Teubner, Leipzig, 1855.

See also:

Stanley Casson, Catalogue of the Acropolis Museum, Volume II, Sculpture and architectural fragments, with a section on the terracottas by Dorothy Lamb Brooke Nicholson, pages 35, 289-290, 322, 426. Cambridge University Press, 1921.

Ernst Heinrich Buschor (1886-1961), Die Tondächer der Akropolis. I. Simen. II. Sternziegel. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin und Leipzig, 1929.
 
 

Terracotta Gorgoneion antefix from ancient Oesyme at My Favourite Planet

Terracotta Gorgoneion antefix from the sanctuary on the acropolis
of ancient Oesyme, northern Greece. 550-525 BC.

Kavala Archaeological Museum, Macedonia, Greece.
 

The ancient Thracian city of Oesyme (Οίσύμη) was located on the North Aegean coast, near the modern settlement of Nea Peramos, just to the west of Kavala (ancient Neapolis), opposite the island of Thasos. It was mentioned by Homer as Aisyme (Αίσύμη), the birthplace of Kastianeira (Καστιάνειρα), "lovely as a goddess", one of the wives of King Priam of Troy (The Iliad, Book 8, lines 253-343).

In the second half of the 7th century BC it became one of the coastal colonies of Thasos and part of the Thasian Peraia. The city's acropolis was on a fortified hill and had an Archaic temple, perhaps dedicated to Athena, which was replaced in the early 5th century BC. Oesyme also had a sanctuary dedicated to the nymphs. Following the conquest of the city by Philip II of Macedonia around 350 BC, it was renamed Emathia (Ημαθία), after the ancient name for Macedonia and its mythical founder hero.

The features of this round-headed Gorgoneion are in the style favoured around the Aegean and at Athens during the mid 6th to 5th century BC (see, for example, the "Hekatompedon" Gorgon in Medusa part 2, and the coins from Lesbos and Athens in part 1). Although Gorgoneion antefixes have also been found at Langaza, Torone (Polygyros Archaeological Museum, Halkidiki), Mesembria, Naoussa and Thasos (e.g. Thasos Archaeological Museum, Inv. No. 286π), relatively few Gorgons as architectural decoration from the Archaic or Classical periods have so far been found in the Macedonian and Thracian areas of northern Greece, and it appears that the Gorgon theme generally may not have been so popular here as in other parts of Greece, Italy and Sicily.
 

Coin of ancient Neapolis with a Gorgon's head at My Favourite Planet

Silver stater coin of Neapolis.
510-490 BC.
Obverse: Gorgon's head.

Kavala Archaeological Museum.
 

A terracotta Gorgoneion antefix from Thasos at My Favourite Planet

A fragment of a round or semi-circular terracotta Gorgoneion antefix
of the Ionian type from the necropolis of Thasos. Height 17.5 cm.

The German archaeologist Carl Fredrich (1871-1930) visited Thasos during his archaeological tour of the northeastern Aegean April-December 1904, on behalf of the Königliche Akademie der Wissenschaften (Royal Acadamy of Sciences). His reports on Philippi, Imbros and Thasos were published in 1908. The report on Thasos was illustrated by the image above, after a drawing by "Herr Lübke (Berlin)", perhaps Max Lübke.

Fredrich mentioned that he owned the antefix, which he described as Ionian and of "the old snakeless, bearded type with the wide-open eyes", and compared it to the motif on the early coins of Neapolis (Kavala), "the daughter city of Thasos". "The irises of the eyes and teeth are white, lips, gums and tongue red, the rest is black."

So far I have not discovered what happened to this antefix or its present location. It does not appear to be in the Berlin State Museums. Since Carl Fredrich died in Stettin (since 1945 Szczecin, Poland), perhaps it is there.

Source: G. Fredrich, Thasos, in Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Athenische Abteilung, Band 33, pages 215-246, Tafel X. Beck und Barth, Athens, 1908. At the Internet Archive. The volume also includes Fredrich's articles on Philippi and Imbros.
 
 

A terracotta Gorgoneion antefix from Olympia at My Favourite Planet

A Laconian type terracotta Gorgoneion antefix, with some surviving red and purple colour.

End of the 6th century BC. One of several similar fragmentary antefixes
found in the ruins of the Bouleuterion (βουλευτήριον, council chamber),
on the south side of the sanctuary of Zeus, Olympia. Width 31.8 cm.

Olympia Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 3L49.

Currently exhibited in the Museum of the History
of the Olympic Games in Antiquity, Olympia.
 

Gorgoneion antefix with traces of colour, Paestum at My Favourite Planet

A terracotta Gorgoneion antefix of the "horrid type", with traces of colour.

6th century BC. From the southern sanctuary of Poseidonia (today Paestum).

National Archaeological Museum of Paestum, Campania, Italy.

One of a number of Gorgoneion antefixes found in the southern sanctuary of Poseidonia. They are thought to have decorated smaller temples and thesauri (θησαυροί, plural of thesauros, θησαυρός, treasury, storehouse) built soon after the foundation of the city.

Five of the antefixes are exhibited in the Paestum museum. Each is of a different form and type, and the museum label suggests that they are displayed more-or-less in chronological order (see the other four in the photos below). The depictions of the Gorgon are successively less horrid.

Poseidonia, (Ποσειδωνία) in Magna Graecia (on the west coast of southern Italy) was founded around 600 BC by Greek colonists from either Sybaris (Σύβαρις, Gulf of Taranto, founded by Achaeans and Troezenians in 720 BC) or Troezen (Τροιζήν, Argolid Peninsula, northeastern Peloponnese), or perhaps by Achaeans and Troezenians together. The city was renamed Paistos by the Lucanians who conquered it at the end of the 5th century BC, and later Paestum by the Romans who took over in 273 BC.
 

A fragment of a Gorgoneion antefix from Linora, south of Paestum at My Favourite Planet

A fragment of a similar Gorgoneion
antefix from the sanctuary at Linora,
3 km south of Paestum.

Mid 6th century BC.

National Archaeological Museum of Paestum.
 

Modern reproduction of a Gorgoneion antefix, Paestum at My Favourite Planet

A modern reproduction of the Gorgoneion antefix above, with restored
colours, displayed in the Paestum museum for educational purposes.

National Archaeological Museum of Paestum, Campania, Italy.
 

The second Gorgoneion antefix in the Paestum museum at My Favourite Planet

The second terracotta Gorgoneion antefix in the Paestum museum.

National Archaeological Museum of Paestum, Campania, Italy.
 

The third Gorgoneion antefix in the Paestum museum at My Favourite Planet

The third terracotta Gorgoneion antefix in the Paestum museum.

National Archaeological Museum of Paestum, Campania, Italy.
 

The fourth Gorgoneion antefix in the Paestum museum at My Favourite Planet

The fourth terracotta Gorgoneion antefix in the Paestum museum.

This is the only intact antefix, and it is still attached to the tile.

National Archaeological Museum of Paestum, Campania, Italy.
 

The fifth Gorgoneion antefix in the Paestum museum at My Favourite Planet

The fifth terracotta Gorgoneion antefix in the Paestum museum.

This antefix is around twice the size of the other four. The round,
plate-like frame has been restored, but enough of the colour has
survived to give an impression of the antefix's original appearance.

National Archaeological Museum of Paestum, Campania, Italy.
 

Drawing of a Gorgoneion antefix from Selinous, Sicily at My Favourite Planet

A drawing of a terracotta Gorgoneion antefix from the Greek colony of Selinous
(Σελινοῦς; today Selinunte), on the southwestern coast of Sicily (see photo below).

One of two examples of the same type found around 1876 in the area of Temple C,
on the acropolis of Selinous. Both are now exhibited in the Palermo museum. Height 18 cm.

Antonino Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum, Palermo, Sicily.

One of several Gorgon antefixes of various styles (see another below) connected with different phases of construction on the acropolis of Selinous from the foundation of the city (circa 650-628 BC), to around the period of the building of Temple C (circa 540-510 BC). Other antefixes found there depict heads of Silenos and a youthful male.

Read more about Selinous on Demeter and Persephone part 1.

In the late 19th century, when discussing architectural terracottas discovered in Sicily, the archaeologist Reinhard Kekule von Stradonitz wrote:

"Of plastic figurative terracottas for architectural use, the most numerous are antefixes. Of these, naturally, the most uptil now come from Selinus. However, I know of others from Lilybaion, Motya, Gela, Kamarina, Syracuse and Naxos. The commonest representation is the Medusa head, which appears in various forms, including the later characterless forms. After these come Silen or Satyr heads and undefinable female heads."

Source: Reinhard Kekule von Stradonitz, Die antiken Terracotten, Band II, Die Terracotten von Sicilien, Fig. 83, page 42. W. Spemann, Berlin & Stuttgart, 1884. At Heidelberg University Digital Library.
 
 

Terracotta Gorgoneion antefix from Selinous, Sicily at My Favourite Planet

A photo of the Gorgoneion antefix from Selinous in the drawing above.

Antonino Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum, Palermo, Sicily.
 

Terracotta Gorgoneion from Selinunte at My Favourite Planet

A terracotta Gorgoneion antefix from the area of Temple C, on the acropolis of Selinous.

Antonino Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum, Palermo.
 

Gorgoneion antefix from Selinunte at My Favourite Planet

Terracotta Gorgoneion antefix from Selinous, Sicily. Around 500 BC.

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg. Inv. No. 1984.521.
Purchased with funds from the Campe'schen Historischen Kunststiftung.
 

Terracotta Gorgoneion from Randazzo, near Catania at My Favourite Planet

Part of a terracotta Gorgoneion antefix from the necropolis of Randazzo,
in the valley of the Alcantara river, Catania province, eastern Sicily.

Among artefacts, dating from the 6th to 3rd centuries BC,
excavated 1889-1890 by Antonino Salinas. The ancient Greek city
to which the necropolis belonged has not yet been identified.

Antonino Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum, Palermo, Sicily.
 

Gorgoneion antefix from Scalo Ferroviario, Gela, Sicily at My Favourite Planet

A painted terracotta Gorgoneion antefix.

6th century BC. From Scalo Ferroviario, Gela.

A remarkable and unusual Gorgon antefix, for its time finely modelled
and coloured. Not quite the "horrid type" (most of the Gorgons from
Gela not are truly horrid), but not yet of the "beautiful type". Next to the
head is some sort of note of authentication with an official wax stamp.

Gela Regional Archaeological Museum, Sicily, Italy.

The powerful city of Gela (Γέλα), on the south coast of Sicily, was founded circa 688 BC by Dorian Greek colonists from Rhodes and Crete, around 45 years after the foundation of Syracuse. According to Thucydides (History of the Peloponnesian War, Book 6, chapter 4), around 108 years later (circa 582-580 BC) the Geloans founded Akragas (Ἀκράγας, today Agrigento), further west along the coast. The modern town was founded as Terranova di Sicilia by Emperor Frederick II in 1233 AD, and renamed Gela in 1928.

Antefixes were produced in Gelan workshops from the second half of the 6th century BC until the destruction of the city, either in 287 BC by an army of Italian mercenaries known as the Mamertines (Μαμερτῖνοι, Sons of Mars), or in 282 BC by Phintias (Φιντίας), the tyrant of Akragas. Phintias resettled the surviving Geloans at Phintias (today Licata), the new city he founded and named after himself, on the coast between Gela and Akragas.
 
 

Gorgoneion antefix from Monte Bubbonia, Gela, Sicily at My Favourite Planet

A terracotta Gorgoneion antefix of the "horrid type".

2nd half of the 6th century BC. One of two identical antefixes (from the same mould)
discovered at the site of a small temple in the residential area of Monte Bubbonia,
20 km north of Gela. Both have been restored, though this one is better preserved.

The site on Monte Bubbonia may be Maktorion (Μακτώριον), mentioned by
Herodotus (The Histories, Book 7, chapter 153) as "a city above Gela".
It is thought to have been inhabited by Greek and native Sicilian Sicians.

Gela Regional Archaeological Museum, Sicily, Italy.
 

Terracotta Gorgoneion antefix from Gela, Sicily at My Favourite Planet

Terracotta Gorgoneion antefix.

Greek, around 550-500 BC. Found in the sea off the coast of Gela, Sicily. It is
covered by several "worm casts" of sea creatures. Height 50 cm, width 40 cm.

Soprintendenza per i Beni culturali e ambientali del Mare, Palermo. Inv. No. 4237.

Exhibited in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, during the
exhibition "Sicily and the sea", 16 June - 25 September 2016.
 

A fragment of a terracotta Gorgoneion antefix from Sicily at My Favourite Planet

A fragment of a terracotta Gorgoneion antefix from Sicily.

Around 525-500 BC. Provenance not stated by museum labelling.

Displayed in 2020 as part of an exhibtion dedicated
to the Egyptian god Bes (see above):

Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam. Inv. APM 1.103.
 

Terracotta Gorgoneion with a krobylos, from Gela, Sicily at My Favourite Planet

Terracotta antefix depicting Medusa's head with a krobylos hairstyle.

From Gela, Sicily. Around 490 BC.

British Museum. Inv. No. GR 1899,0718.2 (Terracotta 1137, also Terracotta B 580).
Donated by the collector J. Reddie Anderson in 1899.

There are a number of antefixes of this type, known as "gorgone con krobylos", including three in Gela Archaeological Museum; the best preserved is Inv. No. 8411. All show the Gorgon wearing a wide, curved headdress or stephane (crown) above rows of black curls and the elaborate krobylos (κρώβυλος) hairstyle popular during the Archaic period, as well as large round earrings with concentric circles.

One fragment from Gela, on which the paint has been well preserved, shows the strong colours used, including "rouged" cheeks. [6] The face is quite human, although to the modern eye with something of a cartoon or clown character. There are no snakes, wrinkled nose or fangs, in fact the teeth are in perfectly even rows. The faded paint in this example suggest a faraway, distance look in the eyes, although the Gela fragment belies this illusion. However, this is not a glance that would petrify or even scare the viewer.

Like the Gorgonians in the two photos further above, this type can not be accurately described as either "horrid" or "beautiful", and it appears to cross a boundary from the type immediately above into the realm of jolly, comical or even downright silly. Whatever the Sicilian Greeks of the Archaic period thought of Gorgons, or however they considered depictions of them, it is difficult to imagine that they would have viewed such a figure with dread.
 
 

Gorgoneion antefix from the acropolis of Gela, Sicily at My Favourite Planet

An Archaistic (imitating the Archaic style) Gorgoneion antefix, harking back to
the "horrid type". From the acropolis of Gela, Sicily. End of the 4th century BC.

Gela Regional Archaeological Museum, Sicily.
 

Terracotta Gorgoneion antefix from Syracuse, Sicily at My Favourite Planet

Terracotta Gorgoneion antefix. 6th - early 5th century BC.

Excavated in the area of the railway station, Syracuse, Sicily.

An unusually well modelled, three-dimensional depiction of Medusa,
with a degree of realism heightened by the bold painting.

Paolo Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum, Syracuse. Inv. No. 84845.
 

Terracotta Gorgoneion from a temple in Naxos, Sicily at My Favourite Planet

Terracotta Gorgoneion from a temple building in the east of
the ancient city of Naxos, Sicily. First half of the 5th century BC.

Naxos was the oldest Greek colony in Sicily, founded on the east
side of the island in 734 BC by settlers from Chalcis in Euboea.

Paolo Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum, Syracuse.
 

Gorgoneion antefix from Taranto, southern Italy at My Favourite Planet

An Archaic Gorgoneion antefix of the "horrid type". Made and found in Taranto, Apulia,
southern Italy (Greek, Τάρᾱς, Taras, Magna Graecia; Latin, Tarentum). 550-500 BC.

Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam. Inv. No. 1105.
 

Terracotta Gorgoneion antefix from Rubi at My Favourite Planet

Terracotta Gorgoneion antefix of the "horrid type" from Rubi (ancient Rhyps or Rhybasteion;
today Ruvo di Puglia, Apulia, southern Italy). Made in Taranto about 490-470 BC.

British Museum. Inv. No. GR 1875.6-15.1 (Terracotta 1251 bis).

Semi-circular Gorgoneion antefixes, made in a mould and finished with a stick, were produced
at Taranto from the mid 6th to the 3rd century BC. One of the earliest surviving examples,
made around 525-500 BC, is in the National Archaeological Museum of Taranto, Inv. No. 17580.
 

Terracotta Gorgoneion from Taranto at My Favourite Planet

Terracotta Gorgoneion antefix from Taranto. Made in Taranto about 450 BC.

British Museum. Inv. No. GR 1889.8-10.1 (Terracotta 1270).
 

Etruscan Gorgoneion antefix in Leiden at My Favourite Planet

Etruscan terracotta Gorgoneion antefix.

520-500 BC. Height 29 cm, width 30 cm.

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden, Netherlands. Inv. No. H III YYYY 38.

One of an number of Etruscan architectural terracottas, including four Gorgoneions, displayed in the museum on a very high shelf, and therefore difficult to see for most visitors. The individual exhibits are not labelled, and not all are to be found in the Collections section of the museum's website.

See: Leonhardt Johannes Friedrich Janssen, De grieksche, romeinsche en etrurische Monumenten van het Museum van Oudheden te Leyden, II. No. 424, page 101. H. W. Hazenberg en Comp., Leiden, 1848. At the Heidelberg University Digital Library.
 
 

Etruscan terracotta Gorgoneion in Leiden at My Favourite Planet

Etruscan terracotta Gorgoneion. Part of an antefix?

Unlabelled. See text for antefix above.

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden, Netherlands.
 

Etruscan terracotta Gorgoneion in Leiden at My Favourite Planet

Etruscan terracotta Gorgoneion antefix.

Unlabelled. See text for the antefix above. Height 26 cm, width 17.5 cm.

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden, Netherlands. Inv. No. RG 16.
 

A terracotta Gorgoneion in Isthmia at My Favourite Planet

A terracotta Gorgoneion. Part of an antefix? Described by the
museum labelling merely as "mask wth grotesque features".

Found in one of the deposits at the Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore, Rachi,
Isthmia (see Demeter and Persephone part 1). Late 4th - early 3rd century BC.

Isthmia Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. IM 967.
 

Terracotta Gorgoneion antefix from Mediolanum at My Favourite Planet

Fragment of a terracotta antefix with a Gorgoneion in a palmette.

Roman Imperial period, 1st century AD. Found in 1936
in Piazza Fontana, Milan (ancient Mediolanum).

An unusual late example of a terracotta antefix with an Archaistic Gorgoneion.

Civic Archaeological Museum, Milan. Inv. No. A 0.9.28492.
 
Medusa Notes, references and links
 

1. Clay, pottery and ceramics

Ceramic objects are often described as "clay", but this is technically incorrect. Clay is the raw material, but when it is fired at high temperatures in a kiln, it is transformed chemically and physically into a permanently hard substance. Although baked clay products are generally referred to "pottery", they include a large variety objects which are not pots or vessels, including tiles, antefixes, plaques and statues. The word ceramic, derived from the Greek κέραμος (keramos, pottery or pottery clay), has become the accepted word to describe objects made of fire-harned clay, as in ceramic art and ceramic artist.
 

2. Protome

A protome (Greek, προτομή, foremost or upper part of something; from the verb προτέμνειν, protemnein, to cut off the front) is a depiction of the head, bust or forepart of an animal, human or fabulous creature, usually a frontal view, in art and architectural decoration, on utensils, coins, etc.

The earliest known use of the word was by the English doctor, clergyman, antiquarian and natural philosopher William Stukeley (1687-1765), who also pioneered the archaeological investigation of Avebury and Stonehenge. The word protome was used - without explanation - in:

William Stukeley, The family memoirs of the Rev. William Stukeley, M.D., and the antiquarian and other correspondence of William Stukeley, Roger & Samuel Gale, etc., Volume III, pages 56 and 61 (extracts from diary entries for September 1737 and July 1739). Publications of the Surtees Society, Volume LXXX for the year 1885. Durham, London, Edinburgh, 1887. At the Internet Archive.

William Stukeley, The medallic history of Marcus Aurelius Valerius Carausius, Emperor in Brittain, Book I, pages 29 and 144. Charles Corbet, bookseller, London, 1757. At Google Books.
 

3. Etruscan ceramic tile roofs

"Roof terracootas from southern Etrutria and Latium
Since the 7th century BC, the Etruscans roofed their buildings with clay tiles like the Greeks. The roof fringes were decorated with colourful, ornamental and figure-shaped terracottas. Antefixes on the cullis were formed in the shape of heads or masks. Clay figures crowned the gables and roof ridges, Caere was one of the centres of this terracotta production."

Exhibit label in the Altes Museum, Berlin.

I have not yet seen an Etruscan antefix from the 7th century BC. The oldest example in the Altes Museum is from the late 6th century (see photos right).
 

4. "Gorgoneion" antefix from Thessaloniki

See: Janer Danforth Belson, The Gorgoneion in Greek architecture, pages 10-11, catalogue No. G.M. 32. PhD dissertation. Bryn Mawr College, 1981.
 

5. Shell-frame antefixes

Professor Birgitta Lindros Wohl reported that in 1995 there were around 59 Gorgon antefixes of a number of sizes and minor variations, some fragmentary, on display in the Museo Provinciale Campano, Capua, with a further unspecified number in storerooms.

See: Birgitta Lindros Wohl, A Campanian Gorgon Antefix, in The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, Volume 24/1996, pages 13-20. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California, 1997. At jstor.org.

The terracotta shell-frame antefix from Campania now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, is dated around 550-500 B.C. Preserved height 27.5 cm, width 37 cm. Inv. No. 75.AD.107.

Below is a list of some of the Campanian shell-frame Gorgon antefixes in other museums. All examples are dated around 550-500 BC (some 575-500 BC), are described as Etrusucan and having been found at Casilinum, most with surviving traces of red, black and white colour:

National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 21581.

Museo Artistico Industriale, Rome. Inv. Nos. 9 and 26.

British Museum. Inv. Nos. 1877,0802.5 (Terracotta B596) and 1877,0802.4 (Terracotta B597).

Antikensammlung, Berlin State Museums. Inv. No. TC 7154.

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen. Inv. Nos. H 30 and H 30a.

Historisches Museum Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main.

Two are recorded in the Palazzo Chigi, Siena.

Several examples are catalogued in: Herbert Koch, Dachterrakotten aus Campanien mit Ausschluss von Pompei. Kaiserlich Deutsches Archäologisches Institut. Georg Reimer, Berlin, 1912.
 

6. Gorgoneion with krobylos from Gela

See: Marina Castoldi, Vera da cisterna con Gorgoneia da Gela, Numismatica e antichità classiche (Quaderni Ticinesi), XXXIX, 2010, pages 61-76.

A fragment of a "gorgone con krobylos" antefix from Gela, dated to around 500 BC, with well-preserved colours, is in the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Inv. No. 1984.522.
 

An Etruscan antefix in the form of a woman's head at My Favourite Planet

An Etruscan painted terracotta antefix
in the form of a woman's head. Part of
the curved roof tile (kalypter) can be
seen behind the head.

Caeretanian, 530-500 BC. Found during excavations in 1868-1870 at Cerveteri,
Italy (ancient Caere, Etruria).

Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. 6681.
 

An Etruscan antefix from Cerveteri at My Favourite Planet

An Etruscan terracotta antefix
in the form of a woman's head.

Caeretanian, 530-500 BC. Found during excavations in 1868-1870 at Cerveteri,
Italy (ancient Caere, Etruria).

Altes Museum, Berlin.
 

An Etruscan antefix with a protome of Juno Sospita at My Favourite Planet

An Etruscan painted terracotta antefix
with a protome of Juno Sospita. Arguably
one of the most beautiful surviving
Etruscan antefixes.

From Latium. 500-480 BC.

Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. TC 544.
Acquired in 1698 from the Bellori Collection.
 
Photos on the Medusa pages were taken
during visits to the following museums:

Germany
Berlin, Altes Museum
Berlin, Bode Museum
Berlin, Neues Museum
Dresden, Albertinum, Skulpturensammlung
Dresden, Semperbau, Abgusssammlung
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Münzkabinett
Hamburg, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe
Speyer, Historisches Museum der Pfalz

Greece
Athens, Acropolis Museum
Athens, Epigraphical Museum
Athens, Kerameikos Archaeological Museum
Athens, National Archaeological Museum
Corfu Archaeological Museum
Corfu, archaeological site of the Temple of Artemis
Corfu, Museum of Mon Repos
Corinth Archaeological Museum
Delos Archaeological Museum
Delphi Archaeological Museum
Dion Archaeological Museum, Macedonia
Eleusis Archaeological Museum and site, Attica
Kavala Archaeological Museum, Macedonia
Mycenae Archaeological Site and Museum
Mykonos, Aegean Maritime Museum
Mykonos Archaeological Museum
Nafplion Archaeological Museum, Peloponnese
Olympia Archaeological Museum, Peloponnese
Olympia, Museum of the History of the Olympic Games in Antiquity
Patras Archaeological Museum, Peloponnese
Piraeus Archaeological Museum, Attica
Pyrgos Archaeological Museum, Elis
Thasos Archaeological Museum, Macedonia
Thebes Archaeological Museum, Boeotia
Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum, Macedonia
Veria Archaeological Museum, Macedonia

Italy
Milan, Civic Archaeological Museum
Naples, National Archaeological Museum
Ostia Archaeological Museum
Paestum, National Archaeological Museum, Campania
Rome, Capitoline Museums, Palazzo dei Conservatori
Rome, National Etruscan Museum, Villa Giulia
Rome, National Museum of Rome, Baths of Diocletian
Rome, National Museum of Rome, Palazzo Massimo

Italy - Sicily
Agrigento Regional Archaeological Museum
Castelvetrano, Museo Civico
Catania, Museo Civico, Castello Ursino
Gela Regional Archaeological Museum
Palermo, Antonino Salinas Archaeological Museum
Syracuse, Paolo Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum

Netherlands
Amsterdam, Allard Pierson Museum
Leiden, Rijksmuseum van Oudheden

Turkey
Bergama (Pergamon) Archaeological Museum
Didyma archaeological site
Ephesus Archaeological Museum, Selçuk
Ephesus archaeological site
Istanbul Archaeological Museums
Istanbul, Basilica Cistern
Izmir Archaeological Museum
Izmir Museum of History and Art
Manisa Archaeological Museum

United Kingdom
London, British Museum
Oxford, Ashmolean Museum

Many thanks to the staff of these museums,
especially at Dion, Gela, Manisa and Veria.
Photos and articles © David John, except where otherwise specified.
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