Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.27.3

οἴκημα δὲ περιφερὲς λίθου λευκοῦ καλούμενον Θόλος ᾠκοδόμηται πλησίον, θέας ἄξιον· ἐν δὲ αὐτῷ Παυσίου γράψαντος βέλη μὲν καὶ τόξον ἐστὶν ἀφεικὼς Ἔρως, λύραν δὲ ἀντʼ αὐτῶν ἀράμενος φέρει. γέγραπται δὲ ἐνταῦθα καὶ Μέθη, Παυσίου καὶ τοῦτο ἔργον, ἐξ ὑαλίνης φιάλης πίνουσα· ἴδοις δὲ κἂν ἐν τῇ γραφῇ φιάλην τε ὑάλου καὶ διʼ αὐτῆς γυναικὸς πρόσωπον. στῆλαι δὲ εἱστήκεσαν ἐντὸς τοῦ περιβόλου τὸ μὲν ἀρχαῖον καὶ πλέονες, ἐπʼ ἐμοῦ δὲ ἓξ λοιπαί· ταύταις ἐγγεγραμμένα καὶ ἀνδρῶν καὶ γυναικῶν ἐστιν ὀνόματα ἀκεσθέντων ὑπὸ τοῦ Ἀσκληπιοῦ, προσέτι δὲ καὶ νόσημα ὅ τι ἕκαστος ἐνόσησε καὶ ὅπως ἰάθη·

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Tout près s'élève un curieux édifice circulaire en marbre blanc, nommé tholos (rotonde). On y voit une peinture de Pausias représentant Éros qui dépose son arc et ses flèches pour prendre une lyre à la place. Une autre peinture représente Méthè (l'Ivresse) buvant dans une coupe de cristal. C'est aussi l'oeuvre de Pausias. On s'aperçoit au premier coup d'oeil que la coupe est de cristal, et l'on distingue le visage au travers. (Dans le peribolos sont à la fois inscrits les noms des hommes et des femmes qui ont été soignés par Asclépios, la maladie dont chacun souffrait et les méthodes de guérisons. Le dialecte est Dorique.) (Reinach, modifiée).

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Commentary

Pausias' paintings in the Tholos of the Asklepieion in Epidaurus: Eros and Methe.

  1. On the painter, Pausias (ca. 380-330 BCE), see text 324.

  2. The tholos or thymele (circular temple; thymele is called in Cavvadias 1891, no. 242 = IG IV, no. 1485 = IG IV2.1, no. 103, ll. 125; 162; cf. ll. 119; 134; 137; 139; 142 for thymeolopooi [‘the builders of thymele’]) in Epidaurus was situated close to the temple of Asclepios. It was built in the fourth century BCE (ca. 380-360 BCE. On the problem of dating the tholos: Riethmüller, 1996, pp. 85-91). The thymele was a vast building with a diameter of about 20m. The superstructure was made, on the outside, of a ring of 26 Doric columns. On the inside, in the cella there was a ring of 14 Corinthian columns. Nowadays, only the rings of the foundations are still visible. The foundations had the shape of a circular labyrinth with six concentric rings. The three inner rings were pierced by doors. Access between the foundations and the superstructure was (maybe) through a hole in the floor. In the center of the inner ring was an altar -bothros- maybe used for the cult of the dead. The purpose of the thymele was a subject of debate. According to a popular belief it housed the sacred snakes used in Epidaurus’ healing cults. A more likely hypothesis is that the thymele was dedicated to the cult of Asclepios as a hero. In fact, the thymele would have imitated the form of a tumulus erected over a funerary chamber (Elderkin 1911, p. 164; Noack, 1927; Robert, 1933; 1939, pp. 296-325; Picard, 1959; roux, 1961, pp. 187-200; Tomlinson, 1983, pp. 60-67; Riethmüller, 1996, pp. 91-108).

  3. Pausanias mentions two paintings which decorated the tholos:

  4. the first one represents Eros about to play his lyre (on literary sources: LIMC III s.v. Eros, pp. 850-852; Gantz, 1993, pp. 3-4). Eros playing lyre is an ancient theme which one can find often in late archaic works of art, dated between 500 and 475 BCE. In this case, Eros is pictured as a naked young man holding a lyre (see for example: New-York Metropolitan Museum 40.11.12). At the time of Pausias, Eros was rather pictured as a child, with bow and arrows or sometimes holding a lyre and other objects (phialai, necklesses, a whip, an iynx and so on). Likewise, in the fourth century BCE, Eros belongs to Dionysus' procession, often placed besides Dionysus and Ariadne as guarantor of marital love (on the iconography of Eros: Pellegrini, 2009).
  5. the other painting is a personification of drunkenness, Methe (LIMC VI s.v. Methe 1). She was represented as a woman drinking from a crystal cup, while her face was visible through the vessel. This iconographical type appears in the fourth century BCE, in representations of Dionysiac thiasos (LIMC VI s.v. Methe, pp. 562-564). This type was imitated later in gems (Greek Anth. 9. 752; LIMC VI s.v. Methe 4-15; Di Marco, 2000). The peculiarity of Pausias' painting was the rendering of the transparence of the crystal. It was something which was never done before and could be mostly found much later in Roman wall-paintings (Sabrié and Sabrié, 1992; Croisille, 2005, pp. 228-244, esp. fig. 364, 366).

  6. The paintings were probably very small panels painted with the technique of encaustic (parvea tabella) for which Pausias was famous (see text 324. On encaustic technique: texts 11 to 16). On this subject, two hypotheses confront each other. On the one hand, it is possible that the paintings were placed into the tholos much later and for this reason their decorative themes (Eros, Methe) could have nothing to do with Asclepios (Defrasse, and Lechat, 1895, p. 128; Reinach, 1921, p. 260; Roux, 1961, pp. 171-200; Riethmüller, 1996, p. 85). On the other hand, according to Musti and Torelli, the paintings were made to decorate the boxes (lacunaria) of the coffered ceiling of the tholos (Musti and Torelli in Pausanias, 1986, p. 302). According to Pliny (text 324), Pausias would be the “inventor” of decorated coffered ceilings with little figures (such as Erotes), plants, and flowers. In this case, it is likely that the paintings were linked to the cult performed into the tholos, especially Methe, whose figure implies a sacred theme, maybe in relation to some "mysteries cults" (Musti and Torelli in Pausanias, 1986, p. 302; Di Marco, 2000, pp. 296-299; Burkert, 2011, p. 274 n. 102) or to healing practices (Marengo 2003; see following note). Quite recently, Sebastian Prignitz in his monograph on the Epidaurian building records, suggested that Pausias was, in fact, in Epidauros in 355-350 BCE and worked in the Tholos with the people that are mentioned in another, very fragmentary, inscription, the IG IV, no. 190 = IG IV2.1, no. 112, referring to works on the roof of the peristasis (colonnade gallery of a temple) of the Tholos, as alluded in ll. 6 (leukôsis = cover with gypsum), 121 (aggrafeis = drawings with particular directions for an individual job) and 25 (kosmos = decoration). (Prignitz 2014, pp. 163; 222-223; 246-247; 256 with bibliography on Pausias)

  7. Could the paintings be a gift by a worshipper after his healing into the sanctuary? Indeed, the relationship between Methe and Asklepios has been epigraphically attested in Kyrenaika, in north Africa. The healing deities Iatros and Iaso are well attested in that region, especially in Supplemento Epigrafico Cirenaico 165 (from Balagrai; second/third c. CE), where a dedication is addressed to them and to Methysis (‘drunkeness’), called theoi epêkooi. The connection between the worship of Methysis and that of healing deities may explain the representation of Methe in the tholos of the Asklepieion of Epidauros, too. Both Methysis and Methe may refer to the use of wine in healing practices during incubation (Marengo 2003, p. 206, fig. 1-3).

  8. Reinach in his commentary on the encaustic technique mentions the building accounts from the epigraphic record of the sanctuary of Asklepios in Epidauros (enkausios and enkausin in Cavvadias 1891, no. 242 = IG IV, no. 1485 = IG IV2.1, no. 103, ll. 38; 64-65, for the Tholos of the Asklepios; cf. Cavvadias 1891, no. 241 = IG IV, no. 1484 = IG IV2.1, no. 102, ll. 22; 29; 49; 57; 107; 149; 194; 278; 302 for the temple of the Asklepios). There, Reinach also makes a detailed reference to similar material from the Erechtheion in the Acropolis, from Delphi, Delos, Thasos and Rome (Reinach, 1921, p. 18 n. 5). The epigraphic material of building inscriptions from Delos is the richest in the ancient Greek world, but not as complete as the one in Epidauros (on the Delian building records see Hellmann 1992, pp. 87-88 [egkaiô, enkaiô, egkauma, egkausis]; Hellmann collected inscriptions dated to the third and second centuries BCE, referring to doors, statues, temple screens, painted tablets, and offering inventories). Other examples can be found in ILindos II.126 (enekause), ILindos II.420 (ikona enkaustai) and in SEG 45, 2243 = IG VII 3073 (second c. BCE, from Lebadeia; ll. 10-12: tôn grammatôn egkauseôs).

  9. Yet, in his discussion for this entry (no. 326) Reinach makes a confusing mention of painters (zôgraphoi) that are supposed to be found in the same epigraphic record of Epidauros, specifically in the records for works done in the Tholos (Reinach, 1921, p. 260). The latter, however, makes no such mention (Cavvadias 1891, no. 242 = IG IV, no. 1485 = IG IV2.1, no. 103). What the building records refer to, though, is the encaustic technique with which apparently parts of the temple of the Asklepios and the Tholos were decorated (see above for more detail; see also Prignitz 2014, pp. 52-53, notes on ll. 49 and 57 from the temple inscription; pp. 263-264 for enkausis). However, we should bear in mind that the inscription of the Tholos only mentions the task of enkausis grammatôn (i.e. ‘the use of the encaustic technique for the letters’), and based on the prices for this specific enkausis, it could possibly refer to a member of the group of scribes, charged with highlighting the inscribed letters onto the inscription with paint, rather than to a painter, like Pausias (Prignitz 2014, p. 111).

  10. The inscription of the Tholos is a long stoichedon inscription, 2,40m. in height (with its base), and 0,79m. in length. It was found in 1887, reused in a Roman building, inside the sanctuary (Cavvadias, 1891, pp. 93-105, esp. 99-100; see recently Prignitz 2014, pp. 86-122; in Prignitz's edition of the inscription the two lines that refer to enkausis are enumerated as l. 170 and ll. 196-197 respectively; see Prignitz 2014, p. 90). It is part of a group of 29 building inscriptions, dated by letter styles from 380 to 325/320 BCE (IG IV2.1, no. 98; 102 to 120; 743; 744; SEG 15, 207; 208; SEG 11, 481; Peek 1972, no. 18 to 21). They contain records for the building of the temple, the altar, the cult-statue and the tholos of Asklepios, as well as for a fountain, the theater, the stadium, hostels, water-supply, and apartment blocks (Burford 1969, pp. 53-81; Burford 1966, p. 255). It is truly a public monument in and of itself, comprising the most complete group of inscribed architectural and economic records to have survived from a Panhellenic sanctuary (Burford 1969, pp. 85-87). The encaustic method is also mentioned for the fountain (Burford 1966, pp. 271; 273 on IG IV, no. 1493 = IG IV2.1, no. 104, ll. 15; 16), perhaps for the stadium (Burford 1966, pp. 302-303 on IG IV2.1, no. 119, l. 26), as well as for the temple of Artemis (Burford 1966, IX B, l. 140 = IG IV, no. 1487+1497 = IG IV2.1, no. 106), the so-called Epidoteion (Burford 1966, X ll. 117; 145; 148-149 = IG IV, no. 1492 = IG IV2.1, no. 108), and the apartment blocks (Burford 1966, XXI A, l. 125; B, ll. 93- 94; 130 = IG IV2.1, no. 109).

Annotation Authors and Editors
Created by Valérie Toillon
Contributors:
  • Spyridon Loumakis

Tags

  • pausias
  • tholos
  • thymele
  • epidaurus
  • eros
  • methe
  • encaustic
  • asclepios

Bibliography

Burford, A. 1966. “Notes on the Epidaurian Building Inscriptions.” The Annual of the British School at Athens 61: 254-323.

Burford, A. 1969. The Greek Temple Builders at Epidauros. Liverpool Monographs in Archaeology and Oriental Studies. Liverpool: University Press.

Burkert, W. 2011. La religion grecque: à l’époque archaïque et classique. Antiquité/Synthèses, 13. Paris: Picard.

Cavvadias, P. 1891. Fouilles d’Épidaure. Volume I. Athens: S.C. Vlastos. Available at: http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/kabbadias1891bd1/0001?sid=c75fcb0028c6ff784835afebb8785b96

Croisille, J.-M. 2005. La peinture romaine. Les manuels d’art et d’archéologie antiques. Paris: Picard.

Defrasse, A. and Lechat, H. 1895. Epidaure: restauration et description des principaux monuments du Sanctuaire d’Asclepsios. Paris. Available at: http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/defrasse1895 (Last accessed on May 5th, 2017).

Di Marco, M. 2000. ‘« Methe » in un epigramma incerti auctoris dell’« Anthologia Palatina » (9, 752) : Asclepiade o Antipatro di Tessalonica ?’, in Studi Privitera, pp. 289–303.

Elderkin, G.W. 1911. "Tholos and Abaton at Epidauros." American Journal of Archaeology 15(2): 161-167.

Gantz, T. 1993. Early Greek Myth: a Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Hellmann, M.-Ch. 1992. Recherches sur le vocabulaire de l'architecture grecque, d'après les inscriptions de Délos. Bibliothèque des Écoles françaises d'Athènes et de Rome; 278. Athens: École française d'Athènes.

Marengo, S.M. 2003. “L’iscrizione votiva di Claudio Lykos.” Quaderni di Archeologia della Libya 18. pp. 205-210.

Noack F. 1927. ‘Der Kernbau der Tholos von Epidauros’, Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, XLII, pp. 75–79.

Pausanias, 1986. Guida della Grecia. Libro II. La corinzia e l’Argolide. Translated by D. Musti. Fondazione Lorenzo Valla. Arnoldo Mondadori.

Peek, W. 1972. Neue Inschriften aus Epidauros. Abhandlungen der Sächsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, Philologisch-Historische Klasse; Band 63, Heft 5. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.

Pellegrini, E. 2009. Eros nella Grecia arcaica e classica: iconografia e iconologia. Bretschneider Giorgio.

Picard, C. 1959. ‘La crypte de la « Tholos » d’Épidaure’, Revue Archéologique, 2, pp. 118–119. Available at: http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.library.tufts.edu/stable/41753857 (Last accessed on April 27th, 2017).

Prignitz, S. 2014. Bauurkunden und Bauprogramm von Epidauros (400-350). Asklepios Tempel, Tholos, Kultbild, Brunnenhaus. Vestigia 67. Munich: C.H. Beck.

Reinach, A. 1921. Textes grecs et latins relatifs à l’histoire de la peinture ancienne. Paris: Klincksieck.

Riethmüller, J. W. 1996. ‘Die Tholos und das Ei : zur Deutung der Thymele von Epidauros’, Nikephoros : Zeitschrift für Sport und Kultur im Altertum, 9, pp. 71–109.

Robert, F. 1933. ‘La destination cultuelle de la Tholos d’Épidaure’, Revue des Études Grecques, 46(215), pp. 181–196. doi: 10.3406/reg.1933.7122.

Robert, F. 1939. Thymélè: recherches sur la signification et la destination des monuments circulaires dans l’architecture religieuse de la Grèce. Bibliothèque des Ecoles françaises d’Athènes et de Rome ; fasc. 147. Paris: de Boccard.

Roux, G. 1961. L’architecture de l’Argolide aux IVe et IIIe siècle avant J.-C. Bibliothèque des Ecoles françaises d’Athènes et de Rome ; fasc. 199. Paris: de Boccard.

Sabrié, R. and Sabrié, M. 1992. ‘Un thème décoratif des peintures murales romaines : le vase de verre’, Revue archéologique de Narbonnaise, 25(1), pp. 207–222. doi: 10.3406/ran.1992.1405.

Tomlinson, R. A. 1983. Epidaurus. London: Granada.

Annotation Authors and Editors
Created by Valérie Toillon
Contributors:
  • Spyridon Loumakis