The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipolis

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The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipolis

Post by Taphoi »

The recently revealed sphinxes (photo below) guarding the entrance to the vast lion tomb currently being excavated at Amphipolis are extremely interesting. Dorothy King in her blog here: http://phdiva.blogspot.ca/2014/08/lets- ... polis.html has raised the question of archaeological parallels and has mentioned the Hecatomnid Androns at Labraunda, although she notes that these are bearded, whereas the Amphipolis sphinxes seem not to have had beards.
Close up of one of the sphinxes at Amphipolis
Close up of one of the sphinxes at Amphipolis
amphipolis2.jpg (68.46 KiB) Viewed 18366 times
However, I believe there may be a more cogent parallel in the pair of Greek-style sphinxes uncovered by Auguste Mariette in excavating the dromos of the Memphite Serapeum at Saqqara in Egypt (photos below). Lauer & Picard in their 1955 book on these sculptures believed them to date to Ptolemy 1. Dorothy Thompson in her 1988 book on Memphis Under The Ptolemies suggested that the semicircle of statues of Greek philosophers and poets, also uncovered by Mariette in the dromos of the Memphite Serapeum, had guarded the entrance of the first tomb of Alexander the Great at Memphis. I elaborated on this idea in my article on The Sarcophagus of Alexander the Great published in Greece & Rome in April 2002 and in my subsequent books on Alexander’s tomb. If so, then the sphinxes found at the Serapeum were probably also part of Ptolemy’s decoration for the first tomb of Alexander. It is therefore quite striking that extremely similar sphinxes have been found guarding the entrance of the tomb at Amphipolis.
One of the sphinxes found by Mariette in the dromos of the Serapeum at Memphis
One of the sphinxes found by Mariette in the dromos of the Serapeum at Memphis
Serapeum_sphinx1a.jpg (149.14 KiB) Viewed 18366 times
The second of the sphinxes found by Mariette in the dromos of the Serapeum at Memphis in Egypt
The second of the sphinxes found by Mariette in the dromos of the Serapeum at Memphis in Egypt
Serapeum_sphinx2.jpg (115.74 KiB) Viewed 18366 times
Best wishes,
Andrew
Last edited by Taphoi on Mon Aug 25, 2014 8:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipol

Post by Alexias »

Nice to see you back, Andrew.

Here's a photo shich show the entrance a bit better and the size of the mound
ancient-tomb-greece-sphinx-macedonia.jpg
ancient-tomb-greece-sphinx-macedonia.jpg (43.47 KiB) Viewed 18423 times
In Andrew's first picture, you can see the holes where the wings were attached. As Pauline mentioned, they seem to have been removed (by the archaelogists to prevent damage, or had they already fallen off?), and they must have touched the ceiling. They would appear to have been quite small wings, perhaps to fit the curvature of the entrance. The entrance doesn't look to be a great piece of architechture though.

Why on earth would Alexander (or anyone else) have wanted to build him a tomb at Amphipolis?
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipol

Post by system1988 »

Alexias wrote:Nice to see you back, Andrew.

Here's a photo shich show the entrance a bit better and the size of the mound
ancient-tomb-greece-sphinx-macedonia.jpg
In Andrew's first picture, you can see the holes where the wings were attached. As Pauline mentioned, they seem to have been removed (by the archaelogists to prevent damage, or had they already fallen off?), and they must have touched the ceiling. They would appear to have been quite small wings, perhaps to fit the curvature of the entrance. The entrance doesn't look to be a great piece of architechture though.

Why on earth would Alexander (or anyone else) have wanted to build him a tomb at Amphipolis?
As professor Paliadeli said IT SEEMS there is something WRONG IN THE SPOT OF THE SFINGES ie someone ( In roman era?) put them there .If the spot was the original one, the wings may have touched the ceiling= impossible for tecnical and aesthetic reasons.They are big statues -they had big wings They are not removed by the archeologists, they are fallen out in antiquity and THEN someone put them there .
The entry SEEMS be in disorder-a fact- if true- not encouraging.We hope the chamber itself itsnt looted.
Alexander wanted a temple to be build in Amphipolis ( 1500 talents) but certainly not his tomb( i think). Aigai yes .
Besides all this , is a huge tomb for an very important person.
Best
Pauline
PS You all must be patient with my english as Prime Minister recommended...
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipol

Post by Taphoi »

Thanks, Alexias and system1988. There are quite a few photos out now. I add one that shows both sphinxes together below.
Both sphinxes in the tomb entrance at Amphipolis.
Both sphinxes in the tomb entrance at Amphipolis.
amphipolis4.jpg (66.13 KiB) Viewed 18395 times
There is quite a lot of evidence in the public domain now. It is being said that coin evidence dates the Amphipolis tomb to around 310BC, but it is not clear that the exact year has been pin-pointed. It is being said that the lion of Amphipolis is actually a lioness (no penis) and that it definitely surmounted this tomb, because parts of its base have been connected to the tomb mound. This and the royal scale of the tomb are being argued to mean that the occupant was a queen of Macedon. It is being said that there are only two that died in the right period: Roxanne (who died at Amphipolis!!! in 310BC!!!) and Olympias (but perhaps Adea-Eurydice should be considered as well). People seem to be leaning towards Roxanne at the moment. The tomb was comprehensively wrecked and probably looted in the 2nd century AD. This must have been perpetrated by a very senior Roman (the emperor? - Trajan? Hadrian? Antoninus? Marcus Aurelius? Severus? - why?), because the wrecker took the trouble to drag the lion and other parts into the river (which an ordinary tomb robber would not have bothered with.)
I don't think this type of sphinx in a funerary context is at all common. Dorothy King's struggle to find any parallel helps to show this. I have also had a quick flick through Monumental Tombs of the Hellenistic Age by Fedak (which is fairly comprehensive). Lions - including winged lions or griffins, e.g. Belevi and Ildebranda - are extremely common (and there are also early Hellenistic lions at the Serapeum), but sphinxes may prove to be virtually unique to the Amphipolis tomb and the probable Serapeum tomb. If so, it greatly reinforces the connection of both with Alexander: it potentially pushes the date of the Serapeum sculptures firmly back into the late 4th century BC (which has been much disputed, despite Lauer & Picard arguing for Ptolemy I without being aware of the possible connection with Alexander); it also potentially directly connects the Greek sphinxes of the Serapeum with a royal Macedonian tomb of the late 4th century BC located in Macedon.
Below is a photo of the dromos of the Serapeum at Saqqara during Mariette's excavations (the Greek sphinxes are among the sculptures halfway down the dromos and the photo is taken from the location of a Temple of Nectanebo II). In my April 2002 article in Greece & Rome (The Sarcophagus of Alexander the Great, available through these pages: https://independent.academia.edu/AndrewChugg) I made the connection between the Nectanebo II sarcophagus in the British Museum and the candidate for the first tomb of Alexander in the Nectanebo temple at the Serapeum noting the semicircle of Greek philopsophers and poets guarding the entrance to the Nectanebo temple.
The Greek sculptures found in the dromos of the Serapeum at Mermphis in Egypt
The Greek sculptures found in the dromos of the Serapeum at Mermphis in Egypt
semicirc.jpg (186.43 KiB) Viewed 18395 times
The interesting thing is that the Amphipolis tomb, through its sculptural parallels and assuming it really is that of somebody important from the last quarter of the 4th century BC, may now confirm my suspicion that the Greek statues at the Serapeum are all part of Ptolemy Soter's decoration of Alexander's first tomb. It may also therefore essentially confirm that the sarcophagus of Nectanebo II, now in the British Museum, was the sarcophagus used for Alexander the Great by Ptolemy. So in fact this may really be the discovery of the tomb of Alexander the Great, but at Saqqara and in London, rather than in Amphipolis!
Best wishes,
Andrew
Last edited by Taphoi on Mon Aug 25, 2014 8:55 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipol

Post by agesilaos »

Excellent link Andrew, but as you might expect I don't see the 'more cogent' parallel; the Serapeion Sphynxes have defined breasts those at Amphipolis don't they resemble these Greek examples more http://www.insecula.com/oeuvre http://www.bible-history.com/ibh/Greek+ ... 25951.html , or
a file small enough to post at last!!
a file small enough to post at last!!
sph.jpg (9.24 KiB) Viewed 18395 times
These are archaic, however whereas the Amphipolis ones are later Hellenistic or even Roman I am no expert on sculpture, especially from photos; but if, as seems likely the sphynxes were not part of the original monument, due to their wings having to be removed to fit the space, they won't tell us much about the burial mound itself; other than to suggest that it has been looted :( However, they are unlikely to have been transported far to block the entrance, so there is a possibility of that there is another tomb in the area from which they came. I don't think Ms King had her brain in gear when she mentions the similarity to the lion monument that capped the tomb, a seated animal is a seated animal so there is no necessary link, until the Greeks publish their finds it is impossible to comment on the dating, let's just hope Pauline is right and their PM will get them to act with uncharacteristic speed; it promises to be an interesting find, but my money will be on an Antigonid date and occupant(s).
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipol

Post by Taphoi »

Not sure I understand the relevance of archaic sphinx statuettes, when I was referring to monumental Hellenistic sphinx statues in a funerary context. I am not trying to suggest that Greek sphinxes are uncommon - they are not!
Whereas the sphinxes at Amphipolis may have been moved, the first assumption would be that they had not been moved far and are most likely part of the Amphipolis tomb decoration. Given where they are now, the onus is to prove that they were not originally part of the Amphipolis tomb.
Regarding breasts - only the second of the Serapeum sphinxes has breasts and the breast status of both the Amphipolis sphinxes is not clear to me from the photos alone.
Best wishes,
Andrew
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipol

Post by agesilaos »

Maybe you need stronger glasses :lol: , it seems quite clear to me that there are no breasts on either of the Amphipolis statues, are we even sure they are sphynxes, in the absence of the heads? I am unclear from the reports whether these are missing or have been moved for safe keeping. The archaic sphynxes serve to show a form closer to the Amphipolis sculptures than the Serapeion one, and thus more 'cogent'.

No one can say much until the excavators publish but if they are responsible for an alleged coin date of 310 BC I can only shake my head and groan, aside from the fact that coins can only provide a terminus post quem, just what issue is specific to 310? A dated Alexander of Ake or Sidon? Sounds more like a coin has been found and a date assigned it to match the originalspeculation that it might be Roxane's tomb, despite the fact that she was an unimportant figure secretly murdered and disposed of by someone who controlled the are for a further thirteen years; aside from Alexander I would rate the chances of it being her remote in the extreme. Alexander aegos seems to be in the Prince's tomb at Vergina, had his mother's corpse been discovered we might expect it to be with him rather than in a tomb that dwarfs Philip's own. I can see no reason for Gonatas to honour a minor wife of an ancient predecessor, honouring Alexander IV has a purpose in that it signifies a break with Kassandros' regime and piety in burying a king, maybe even the last legitimate king. None of this applies to Roxane, a foreign princess who never reigned in Macedon.
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipol

Post by Taphoi »

There is evidence of damage in the areas where breasts would be found on the Amphipolis sphinxes (photos below), so it would seem impossible to rule on this point - at least without close inspection. The sphinxes were presumably damaged in the overall depredations and attacking the breasts would be an obvious mutilation.
The archaeologists appear to have said that they are sphinxes and all the visual evidence would appear to agree with them.
Lefthand Amphipolis sphinx.
Lefthand Amphipolis sphinx.
amphipolis6.jpg (29.04 KiB) Viewed 18386 times
Righthand Amphipolis sphinx.
Righthand Amphipolis sphinx.
amphipolis2.jpg (68.46 KiB) Viewed 18386 times
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipol

Post by agesilaos »

Yes there is some damage, it does not look like the traces of a stone mastectomy to me, but as you rightly say, without inspection it is impossible to rule on the matter. I was wondering if they might not be winged lions rather than sphynxes, i can't think of an example off the top of my head any pics of those types of monument?
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipol

Post by Taphoi »

As I mentioned above, I have found examples of winged lions on the Belevi and Ildebranda mausoleums and I'm happy to post scans below as requested (the Belevi ones might be griffins). These are standing lions however, so not really a good parallel for the Amphipolis sphinxes in their sitting posture, which is I think more typical of Greek sphinxes, as the archaeologists appear to believe.
Mariette's drawing (below) of one of the serapeum sphinxes shows stubby wings that would fit beneath the entrance arch at Amphipolis. Also the wings could have extended sideways. Therefore the argument about the sphinxes having been moved because their wings would not have fitted within the arch is rather flimsy. They look perfectly symmetrically positioned and they afford space for access between them, so the suggestion that they were stuffed in by the Romans to fill the space seems dubious too.
Belevi mausoleum with winged lions (reconstructed)
Belevi mausoleum with winged lions (reconstructed)
Belevi.jpg (155.5 KiB) Viewed 18373 times
Ildebranda mausoleum with winged lions (reconstruction)
Ildebranda mausoleum with winged lions (reconstruction)
Ildebranda.jpg (114.83 KiB) Viewed 18373 times
Drawing of one of the Serapeum sphinxes
Drawing of one of the Serapeum sphinxes
Serapeum_sphinx1c.jpg (82.51 KiB) Viewed 18373 times
Obviously, the key thing at the moment is to track down parallels - i.e. other cases of early Hellenistic stone sphinx sculptures in funerary contexts matching the Amphipolis or Serapeum sphinxes as closely or more closely than they match one another. I am as interested as anyone in finding such parallels, if they exist.
Best wishes,
Andrew
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipol

Post by agesilaos »

Thanks, I would agree that they do seem more like sphynxes;hink Mariette is showing broken rather than 'stubby' wings in his sketch and outstretched wings are not viable in stone, they break off under their own weight, a problem with human arms as well, hence the Venus de Milo (according to one line of thought). I meant to ask where you get the early second century date for the lion being dumped in the rivert must be a piece I have missed.
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipol

Post by Taphoi »

agesilaos wrote:Thanks, I would agree that they do seem more like sphynxes;hink Mariette is showing broken rather than 'stubby' wings in his sketch and outstretched wings are not viable in stone, they break off under their own weight, a problem with human arms as well, hence the Venus de Milo (according to one line of thought). I meant to ask where you get the early second century date for the lion being dumped in the rivert must be a piece I have missed.
I think the 2nd century AD date for the wrecking of the tomb is being referred to in a number of places, but I haven't seen any evidence mentioned, so cannot vouch for it. One early mention was by Dorothy King, who has a friend on the archaeology team. That is here http://phdiva.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/ne ... polis.html
The wings were evidently separate from the body - you can see the round peg hole where one fitted in the photos. They could have been supported by iron bars or have been made of wood or iron. So their existence does not prove that the sphinxes have been moved. The Victory of Samothrace might be mentioned in this context too.
Image
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipol

Post by Taphoi »

A bit more on sphinxes in royal Macedonian tombs around 300BC: there is a royal tomb from Aegae called the Rhomaios Tomb after its excavator, which is currently usually dated to the early third century BC, but was originally dated to the late fourth century BC (I think there is room for argument because the dating seems to be on "stylistic" grounds - frequently found to be inaccurate, because styles often overlapped). It had been ransacked in antiquity, but it contained a truly magnificent marble throne with arm rests supported by sphinxes (see photo) and I think some other sphinx decorations, although sources are a bit thin on this. This was found in pieces, but its reconstruction form is believed to be accurate. The throne also has several royal Macedonian starbursts across the top of its back. This tomb is very close to the tomb of Alexander's grandmother Eurydice (which also contained a magnificent throne, but was built around half a century earlier) in a part of the necropolis which mostly contains female tombs. Clearly the sphinx decorations in this tomb do not compare with the monumental stone sphinxes found at Amphipolis in their scale at least, but the closeness in date, the potential royalty of both tombs and that the Rhomaios tomb was placed so close to Alexander's grandmother (hinting that the occupant was another powerful queen of Macedon?) makes it of potential relevance to the Amphipolis situation, I think. Another very interesting point is that it is believed that the Rhomaios Tomb was never covered by a mound, which is very unusual at Aegae. Could that mean that it was never occupied?
The marble throne with sphinxes from the Rhomaios Tomb at Aegae
The marble throne with sphinxes from the Rhomaios Tomb at Aegae
RhomaiosTombThrone.jpg (196.11 KiB) Viewed 18005 times
Best wishes,
Andrew
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipol

Post by system1988 »

Hi all

Here is a link to some photos of ancient greek art sphinxes I thought you would want to see. The one with the female breasts is from the hellenistic era. The rest are from archaic and classic eras.

http://s1246.photobucket.com/user/IamSy ... sort=3&o=0


Best

Pauline
Last edited by system1988 on Mon Aug 18, 2014 6:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Sphinxes Guarding the Lion Tomb Entrance at Amphipol

Post by Taphoi »

Thanks, Pauline!

The Hellenistic one is indeed very interesting. The sphinxes are on the lid of one of the group of four tremendous sarcophagi found in the Royal Necropolis at Sidon, one of which was the Alexander Sarcophagus itself (the sphinxes one - called the "Lycian" - was found in the chamber next door to the chamber containing the Alexander Sarcophagus). Both are now in Istanbul. Presumably this belonged to a member of King Abdalonymus's family and dates to around 300BC. Fascinating that we have an Alexander connection and a funerary connection again for a pair of sphinxes at the end of the 4th century BC! These Sidonian sarcophagi were consciously and deliberately adopting Macedonian imagery.
Image
and the Alexander sarcophagus.
Image
and a plan of the Necropolis.
Plan of the Royal Necropolis at Sidon
Plan of the Royal Necropolis at Sidon
Sidonecropolis.jpg (105.18 KiB) Viewed 17942 times
Best wishes,
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