Greek Terracottas

Greek Terracottas

Greek Terracottas

Greek Terracottas

Excerpt

TERRACOTTA means fired clay. Greek artists used decorated terracotta for many purposes such as roof-tiles, vases, plaques, models for bronze statues, large sculpture and small statuettes. I am restricting (with a few exceptions) this essay to small statuettes; I have also excluded small statuettes made in the Greek cities of Italy and Sicily; in fact the bulk of my material comes from Rhodes, Athens, Tanagra in Boeotia, and Myrina (between Smyrna and Pergamon).

These small statuettes have been found in large quantities and the places of discovery include private houses as well as graves and sanctuaries. They were evidently used for various purposes, as dedications to the gods, as offerings to the dead, and as the ornaments and toys of the living. The significance of toys and ornaments need not be discussed; but why statuettes should be given to the dead or to the gods is not so obvious to us. Two of the Greek words for statue, which could be used also for our statuettes, suggest two reasons: the original meaning of agalma is 'a source of pleasure' and the use of this word indicates that the god is expected to enjoy these beautiful or amusing figures just as man enjoys them. So too the dead man takes pleasure in the things he enjoyed in life; he may be given a little clay rider if he was a cavalryman, or a troupe of actors if he was interested in plays. The other word, kolossos (probably originally applied to statues of more than life size as a joke), takes us back to an even earlier, more magical conception of sculpture and is used for 'a substitute for somebody absent or unknown'. Substitutes are of various kinds. In Mycenaean times royal funerals were sometimes accompanied by human sacrifice. The memory of this survives in Achilles' slaughter of Trojan captives at Patroclus' funeral. In origin the statuettes in tombs may be substitutes for these human sacrifices. The statuette dedicated in a temple may . . .

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