A Mad Miscellany of Dedications and Votives

Votive Offerings and dedications are buildings and art that have been commissioned with the express purpose of honouring someone; be it a god, or man, or a city. Here, I chart a course of dedications from Asia Minor and how they change over time.

The Geneleos Group

Replica of the Geneleos Group at the original location

The Geneleos Group is votive offering from the Island of Samos, along the sacred way of the sanctuary of Hera. It is named after whom we think is the artist, Geneleos. In an inscription on the legs of the first two figures reads “HMAS EPOIHSE GENELEOS” or ‘Geneleos made us’, and on the last figure another inscription reveals that the purpose of the statue group “I am ….oche, who has also dedicated it to Hera.”

The dating of the statues through style is made difficult by the lack of heads, since an accurate head to body ration of 1:7 is a sign that the statues are later, as they begin to take into account realism. Happily, the use of drapery in the two standing figures is helpful in dating. The later the kore the more the drapery extenuates the shape of the body, rather than hides it. There is some attempt for the standing figures to grasp at their clothes, and although this makes the figures more immersive, it reveals that the artist was worried about arms breaking away from the statue, suggesting that it wasn’t as late as some examples on the Athenian Acropolis (Peplos kore, c.540 BC; Acropolis Kore 675, c.525 BC), where the arms have broken away due to the experimental poses that artist tried. This evidence points to a date of around 560-550 BC for the Geneleos Group, regardless, they are an exquisite example of Archaic sculpture.

The identities of the figures are hotly debated (Black. 1998) and due to the association with Hera, it has been suggested that they are similar to the Elean priestesses of Hera mentioned in Pausanias:

“Every fourth year there is woven for Hera a robe by the Sixteen women, and the same also hold games called Heraea. The games consist of foot-races for maidens. These are not all of the same age. The first to run are the youngest; after them come the next in age, and the last to run are the oldest of the maidens. They run in the following way:

their hair hangs down, a tunic reaches to a little above the knee, and they bare the right shoulder as far as the breast. These too have the Olympic stadium reserved for their games, but the course of the stadium is shortened for them by about one-sixth of its length. To the winning maidens they give crowns of olive and a portion of the cow sacrificed to Hera. They may also dedicate statues with their names inscribed upon them. Those who administer to the Sixteen are, like the presidents of the games, married women.”

The idea being that the statues represent the maidens and married women who are associated with the ritual activities, and the unusual poses of the women who flank the maidens reflect their roles in the rituals. A seated judge, and reclining figure “a highly respected individual, and she may have been an administrator of the festival” (Black (1998) iv). These postures are very different to the kore and  likely to represent the different statuses of those represented.

The Branchidae Statues – Chares Group

Chares is on the left, the further you go right, the more recent the statue

Didyma was a sanctuary to Apollo, south of Miletus, and the two centers were connected with a sacred way. Didyma was ran by a clan known as the Branchidae, they are believed to be of Anatolian origin. Along this processional route were many votive offers that included lions, and seated figures similar to the one found at Samos.

The three figures I have chosen to discuss are together in the British Museum, but due to the way they were collected it is hard to know how they were originally placed along the route. The useful thing about this group is that they are in descending order of age and the artistic developments can be seen.

I have previously mentioned the pose is associated with ritual, and on the statue known as Chares (left), the inscription says “I am Chares, Son of Kleisis, Ruler of Teichioussa. The statue belongs to Apollo.” The association with ritual is well founded, because the procession along the sacred way took several days and stopped at various points to sacrifice to sing hymns. The seated figures act as an audience to these events, and since they belong to the god Apollo, they are his witnesses.

Samos is around 40 miles away from Didyma as the crow flies, and the earliest of these statues (not pictured) is from 600 BC. It would not be a huge leap to suggest that the Didyma group influenced the work of Samos.

Going left to right, you can see the style of statue becoming more realistic and less ‘blocky.’ The posture becomes more relaxed, this is most clear with the positioning of the legs, as they spread further apart into a more comfortable position. The toes also shift into a more realistic pose, rather than as a series of cylinders in a row.

 Croesus’ Columns – Ephesus

“Croesus sent many offering to Greek shrines…the golden cow and most of the columns at Ephesus” (Herodotus, The Histories, 1.92).

The Archaic temple of Ephesus was extremely large at 115 m long, but there isn’t consensus on whether or not it was peripteral or dipteral (the later Hellenistic Temple was dipteral and had an octastyle portico).

After Croesus had conquered most of the Anatolian Peninsula, he attempted to solidify his grip over the peoples he ruled. By helping to dedicate some of the columns of the new temple he earned the favour of the Greeks, these actions were repeated when he sent envoys and dedications all across the Greek Mainland. As the cult image of Ephesian Artemis has many Anatolian features, perhaps he felt more comfortable in dealing with Ephesus, since the cross-cultural connections were already in place.

Alexander at Priene

“King Alexander Dedicated the temple to Athena Polias” (authors own translation)

This inscription is interesting for many reasons. The first being that Alexander cared enough to dedicate a temple in a reasonably sized city during the height of his campaign in Asia Minor, Thonemann suggests that this is because his message of Greek Liberty against Persian Tyranny (2016, 118) and since he dedicated to Athena ‘Protector of the City’, reinforcing his message of liberation.

The second is that this inscription is part of a vast collection of inscriptions from Priene that are located within Sanctuary to Athena, with this one taking pride of place as the first one inscribed. What this suggests is that the dedication continued to have power after the death of Alexander and the collapse of his empire. The temple complex became an archive of decisions Priene had made, the sanctuary thus expanded its original purpose and evolved with the needs of a Hellenistic state; references to alliances and messages of power between states.

Gaius Julius Zoilos of Aphrodisias – the dedicator becomes the dedicated

Zoilos was freedman of the emperor Augustus and a native of Aphrodisias. Once he returned to his hometown, he was seen as a friend of Rome and this allowed him to gain many positions of power within the city. With this power he was able to do many things for the city, such as restoring the theatre and the temple of Aphrodite. He also built a new stoa in the Agora. These dedications were for the benefit of the people of the city, and, to increase his own standing. Additionally, due to Rome’s ‘special relationship’ with Aphrodisias – the Romans saw Venus, i.e. Aphrodite as their ancestor – anything that benefited Aphrodisias would also benefit Rome and its image in the East.

After his death, Zoilos was treated as a hero in his home city, and the tomb granted to him was lavish. Unfortunately, I can’t find any images of the tomb that are licenced under Creative Commons, so I will describe it. It was similar in shape to the Nereid Monument, and likely had a pyramidal roof. The surviving portion of frieze, going left to right, depicts Andreia (bravery personified as a women) gifting a shield to Zoilos, who is wearing a toga and holding a scroll, both symbols of public office and of a learned man. To his right Timē (Honour, again personified as a women) turns to the left and is crowning Zoilos. Demos is also crowning Zoilos, this time dressed in a Greek style travelling cloak and boots, whilst Polis looks on. This scene is dominated with a theme of symmetry but through opposites. Timē and Demos both have their upper body exposed and are crowning a Zoilos. There is a ‘Greek’ Zoilos and a ‘Roman’ Zoilos, and the scene is framed by fully clothed female figures who are looking at Zoilos. As a monument it fits together very nicely and complements the various aspects of Zoilos’ identity, whilst also highlighting the good he has done for the city.


Primary Sources

Herodotos, Histories, trans de Sélincourt, A. (Penguin Classics: Harmondsworth 1954).

Pausanias, Description of Greece, trans. Jones, W.H.S. Loeb: Cambridge MA 1918).

Secondary Sources

Black, E .1988. Cult and gender in the Geneleos Group from Samos. Ontario; McMaster University. via MacSphere.

Boardman, J. 1978. Greek sculpture: the archaic period: a handbook Oxford; Oxford University Press.

Greaves, A.M, 2010. The land of Ionia : society and economy in the Archaic period. West Sussex, U.K. : Wiley-Blackwell.

Smith, R. R. R., and Christopher Ratté. “Archaeological Research at Aphrodisias in Caria, 1993.” American Journal of Archaeology, vol. 99, no. 1, 1995, pp. 33–58.

Thonemann, P. 2016. The Hellenistic Age. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Figure 1 Replica of the Geneleos Group at the original location, by Tomisti. From Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Figure 2 Chares is on the left, the further you go right, the more recent the statue (authors own photo)

Figure 3(a) Fragments of the columns from the Archaic temple of Artemis at Ephesus. When reconstructed it says “KROISOS BASILEUS ANETHEKEN” or ‘King Croesus dedicated this’ © 2017 Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
from https://britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?assetId=1570386001&objectId=460235&partId=1

Figure 3(b)  Fragments of the columns from the Archaic temple of Artemis at Ephesus. When reconstructed it says “KROISOS BASILEUS ANETHEKEN” or ‘King Croesus dedicated this’ © 2017 Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
from https://britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=460236&partId=1&searchText=croesus&page=1

Figure 4 “King Alexander Dedicated the temple to Athena Polias” (authors own photo)

Figure 5 The Theatre of Aphrodisias by Nihat1988. from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

Figure 6 The Temple of Aphrodite by Levork, from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Figure 7 Panarama of the Aphrodisian agora from Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

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