Because so many aspects of Greek life depended on the sea, a vase in the shape of a lobster claw is not surprising. It is, however, exceptional and may be a variant of the askos—a bag-shaped oil container provided with a vertical mouth and strap handle. The Dionysiac iconography of the lobster claw suggests that it was a novelty item used at symposia (drinking parties).
This monumental head, originally painted, belonged to an over-life-size statue of a votive figure or deity from Cyprus. While its exact function is unknown, the statue probably stood in a sanctuary. The amalgam of styles evident here reflects the tumultuous history of Cyprus during the first millennium B.C.: this eastern Mediterranean island was ruled by Assyria and Egypt in quick succession, and in the mid-sixth century, it developed strong ties with eastern Greece while both were part of the Persian Empire.
The sensitively modeled oval face with almond eyes, high cheekbones, and smile indicate an affinity with art from eastern Greece in the Archaic period. On the headdress a throng of maenads and silens, companions of the Greek wine god Dionysos, dance through a colonnade topped with rosettes. Whereas column capitals in the form of heads of the goddess Hathor reveal artistic kinships with Egypt, the feathered brows and the treatment of elaborately curled and patterned tresses suggest Assyrian influence.
Found beneath the floor of a temple at Khafaje, northeast of Baghdad, this imposing statuette of a bearded man stands in a posture of austere piety. His carefully patterned beard and fringed skirt identify him as either a high priest or a god. Typical of such votive statues, the figure is highly stylized with little reflection of musculature or naturalistic proportions, its head expressing devotion and power through the exaggeration of facial features. Enlarged, staring eyes made of shell inlaid in bitumen project a concentrated intensity, which is accentuated by crescent-shaped brows. Squared arms and tightly clasped hands add to the figure’s strength.
This pavement, reflecting the realistic space of late Hellenistic painting, was one of five that decorated the floor of a triclinium, or dining room, of an elegant villa from the first Roman period of the city. Fittingly, it depicts a mythical symposium, or drinking contest, with Dionysos, the god of wine, reclining at the center. Crowned with vine leaves in his luxuriant curls, the pale god displays the empty cup that he has drunk dry. A ruddy Heracles is on his knees, challenging Dionysos. Silenus, on one side, and Ampelus (a child personifying the vine), on the other, give the victory to the god, while a slave girl at the left plays the double flute.