One of a Pair of Altars with the Myth of Adonis

Late fifth-early fourth century BC

Expand All

Object Details

Catalogue Number 48
Inventory Number 86.AD.598.2
Typology Altar
Location Medma
Dimensions H: 41.8 cm; W (base): 33.4 cm; D (base): 28.8 cm; W (top): 31.5 cm; D (top): 27.8 cm; W (hollow): 1.7 cm; D (hollow): 2.7 cm


Reddish in color (Munsell 10 r 6/6–8/6) with numerous micaceous, sandy, carbonous, and calcareous inclusions of medium and large sizes; the clay is gray at the core. Pigments were applied over a layer of yellowish diluted clay and white slip.

Red (hair of the seated male figure in the center and of the female figure seated on the cista), and green pigment (drapery of the seated female figure in the middle).


This altar and its pair, cat 47, was reassembled from numerous fragments, and the polychromy is almost entirely worn away. Before acquisition, they were probably subjected to an excessively aggressive cleaning that abraded the surface at several points. Nevertheless, large areas of a pale slip remain, over which traces of pigments can be seen. Slight amounts of soil/carbonate incrustations are also visible, especially in folds and details of the figures.


– by 1984–1986, Robin Symes (London, England), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1986.


Acquisitions 1986, p. 160, no. 6; Getty 1991, p. 40; S. Settis, “Idea dell’arte greca d’Occidente fra otto e novecento: Germania e Italia,” in Settis 1994, pp. 855–902, esp. pp. 893, 896, figs. 20–21; Getty 1997, p. 42; E. Towne Marcus, Masterpieces of the J. Paul Getty Museum: Antiquities (Los Angeles, 1997), pp. 84–85; Getty 2001, pp. 42–43; Salapata 2001; Getty 2002, p. 115; D. Sacks, Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World (New York, 2005) p. 6, illus.; Getty 2010, p. 113; Getty 2015, p. 23.

Group Discussion

Pair of Altars with the Myth of Adonis (cats. 47–48)

This discussion is reproduced on each of the individual object pages.

Due to their distinctive formal and iconographic features, this pair of altars (arulae) constitutes a document of extreme importance for our understanding of the cult of Adonis in Magna Graecia.

With a rectangular shape and walls tapering inward toward the top, each altar consists of five terracotta slabs assembled using barbotine (a liquid binder of clay and water) before firing. On all four sides, the lower and upper cornices have an egg and dart molding, made by a cylinder mold.1 The altars are hollow with a reinforcing partition wall on the interior; small pieces of clay were added by the coroplast to reinforce the suture points. Vertical striations are visible over most of the surface where a tool was scraped to smooth it. There are many evident tool marks, including striations running horizontally across the inside, and the interiors show signs of being pressed and worked with hands; fingerprints are visible in several areas.2 The main side of each altar is decorated with mold-made reliefs depicting two related scenes. There the coroplast intervened with handwork on the drapery and the hair, refining the details with a potter’s rib, and completed the decoration with polychrome pigments. A hollow with a rectangular cross section breaks the cornice, opening in the middle of the inside upper edge of each altar. Especially on cat. 48, a groove and a darker stain can be seen along the interior wall, probably left by a liquid that ran into it. A hypothesis has been put forth that the hollows used to contain pins that joined the two altars, thus making the two a unified composition not only iconographically but also structurally.3 On the upper surface, a cover—probably metal—must have been provided to protect the surface from fire, as demonstrated by the regular shape of the silhouette that is visible in infrared photographs, corresponding to the area that was protected from combustion.

This type of altar is not especially widespread but is attested in Magna Graecia and Sicily. It could have been used for small votive offerings or, as is likely here, to burn perfumes and incense.4

On cat. 47, three female figures, depicted with their faces in profile and their bodies in three-quarter view, walk rapidly to the right over rocky ground; the terrain is rendered by protuberances defined through light incisions. The hands of the outer women clasp the other about her shoulders as they move in apparent procession toward the group depicted on cat. 48. Each figure, characterized by a rapt expression, is wearing a peplos that shows the form of the body beneath in a fluid interplay of folds that are ruffled at the ends. The woman in the middle has a sakkos on her head and she carries an eleven-part sistrum (percussion instrument) with both hands, while her companion on the right is holding a tympanon (drum) with her left hand.5 The hair of the flanking figures is short and curly, and they all wear hoop earrings with pendants.6

On cat. 48, a male with a youthful and effeminate appearance, turned in a three-quarter view, is seated on a rock with his legs crossed. A himation is wrapped around the legs and, leaving the torso uncovered, covers his head like a veil with a ruffled edge. The long curly hair is held back by a mitra (a Near Eastern headband) and extends over the shoulders.7 With his left hand he pulls the hem of the himation away from his face; with the right hand, he embraces the female figure seated next to him, who is depicted with torso turned frontally and ankles crossed. This figure turns her head toward the youth and wraps her left arm around his torso; her right arm is laid on her right thigh, and she is shod in sandals. Her flame-shaped locks of hair are gathered in a lampadion (knot) atop her head and curl alongside her face, in accordance with a fashion attested from the end of the fifth century BC, but already documented before then.8 On either side of this pair are two female characters: the woman on the left, shown standing behind the rocky platform, turns toward the couple; her left hand touches her head in a gesture of grief, while her right arm drops along the side of her body, her right hand holding a tympanon. She has the same hairstyle as two of the figures on cat. 47, but she wears a veil with a ruffled edge that drapes over her shoulders; her left breast is uncovered. In the foreground at right is a female figure shown in profile, seated upon a cista with side openings. Grasping her right knee with both hands, her head is bowed and her expression is doleful. She wears a chiton that drapes in flowing folds, and her hair is gathered in a sphendone (headband).

The scenes depicted on the two altars summarize crucial moments of the myth of Adonis.9 According to Apollodorus, who derived his account from Panyassis, Adonis was born of an incestuous love between the Assyrian king Theias and his daughter Myrrha; Aphrodite was smitten by the infant Adonis’s great beauty and hid him in a box (cista), which she entrusted to Persephone. When Persephone opened the box, she too fell in love with the beautiful infant and decided not to give him back to Aphrodite. Zeus interceded in the quarrel between the two goddesses and ordered that Adonis should spend a third of the year with Aphrodite, a third with Persephone, and the last third wherever he liked—but Adonis chose to devote that time to Aphrodite as well.10

Well attested in the Near East, and in particular in Byblos, the cult of Adonis was brought to Greece as early as the Archaic period, probably through the Phoenician colonies and Cyprus, a major crossroads for cultural exchange between the Near East and the Greek world.11 From Greece, the cult spread throughout the West, especially to Etruria, which was sensitive to Eastern models, and to Magna Graecia. There the myth and the festivities linked to it underwent substantial modification within the context of existing political and religious institutions and in relation to specific cult requirements.12

The first figurative evidence of the myth dates back only to the first half of the fifth century BC; images of it can be found in a number of pinakes (votive tablets) from Locri and from Francavilla di Sicilia and, more widespread, in Attic and Apulian vases of the late fifth century and early fourth century BC.13 In Etruria, scenes of the myth of Adonis decorate bronze mirrors; a terracotta urn with a dying Adonis, datable to the third century BC, comes from Tuscania.14

Despite its relatively abundant iconographic and literary documentation, there is very scant archaeological evidence of the cult of Adonis. Hence the excavations conducted in the Etruscan sanctuary at Gravisca, identified as an Adonion, are of great interest,15 as are the excavations undertaken in the so-called Casa dei Leoni in Locri, where the public cult of Aphrodite was supplanted in the fourth century BC by the cult of Adonis.16

On the Getty altars, according to this hypothesis, the male figure in cat. 48 rendered with a hint of languid sensuality is Adonis. He is shown embracing Aphrodite, in keeping with the scheme of the hieros gamos (marriage between deities), in an epiphanic projection intended as the hypostasis of the nuptial union, though his veiled head and the gesture of touching the himation hem are fairly uncommon and seem to underscore the effeminate nature of the deity.17 The couple enveloped in an air of amorous complicity is in any case a recurrent image in the Attic milieu of the end of the fifth century BC;18 it is also found in the depiction of the hieros gamos between Dionysos and Ariadne, who are shown seated on a rocky base on the bronze krater with Dionysian scenes from Tomb B of Derveni in Macedonia, datable between the mid-fourth century and 330 BC, which follows an Attic prototype, perhaps pictorial, of the fifth century BC.19

In this context, to maintain narrative consistency, the woman in the foreground, seated on the cista inside which Aphrodite supposedly concealed Adonis, can hypothetically be identified as Persephone. Depicted in a melancholy posture that enhances the expressive intensity of the entire narrative, she also endows the scene with the sense of “fleeting life” that characterizes the myth of Adonis. Persephone is often associated with a cista, an iconographic attribute appropriate to this context of union and separation.20 The cista, a distinctive element of the female world and an integral part of a bride’s trousseau, takes on a powerful symbolic value in this scene by alluding to the sad fate of Adonis. Its conceptual relevance made it a privileged iconographic motif that recurs in many depictions of the myth.

The ideological and cultic nodes that link Persephone and Aphrodite are especially close in reference to the sphere of marriage and rites of passage, and it is natural that, in the context of Adonis, the goddess of the Underworld would be physically present.21 The episode of the feud between Aphrodite and Persephone is clearly illustrated also on Apulian amphora from Gorgoglione (Basilicata) and on an Apulian pelike from Canosa, dating from the mid-fourth century BC, in the Collezione Santangelo. According to Mario Torelli, the depiction of the squabble between the two deities can be explained in terms of the process of assimilation of the Eastern myth by the Greeks and, in particular, by the Western Greek colonies. The anodos (ascent), the return to life, the hieros gamos, and Adonis’s stay in Hades, in the cyclical progression of events, offered a customary scheme in Greek mythology that was easily adaptable to situations and elements in Greek culture.22

On the left side of cat. 48, the female figure, along with the rock motif, might constitute the visual link between the two altars. Having already come into the presence of the divine couple as the three other figures continue to hasten forward, this figure manifests profound grief, with her hand on her head and her garments in disarray. As attested also by literary sources, lamentations and scenes of grief were an integral part of the Adonic rite.23 The ritual also called for the display of an eidolon (image of an idol) representing Adonis and the preparation of a little garden (kepos) of short-lived, aromatic plants placed on the roofs of houses, so that with the heat of summer they might flourish and then rapidly wither, alluding to the death of the god and the brevity of life itself.24 The kepos was acknowledged as a thalamos, that is, the site of the hieros gamos between Aphrodite and Adonis, but also a space in which to display the image of the body of the young god amid vegetation, albeit now desiccated. The rite was prevalently nocturnal25 and had widespread, intense participation, including banquets, singing, and dancing to the music of flutes, krotales (cymbals), and tympana. Joyful exaltation accompanied grief, and the hieros gamos, the death, and the ritual burial of the god were commemorated, at times with loud laments and violent gesticulations, at times with manifestations of giddy rejoicing.26

The character next to the divine couple, quite similar to the first moving figure on cat. 47, might therefore be a female worshiper of Adonis witnessing the sacred wedding, a tragic prelude to the young god’s death, and bemoaning with intense mimetic force his sad fate, which is underscored by the dramatic opposition between life and death.

The three women on cat. 47, who are moving rapidly to the right, are characterized as a unified group and seem to be taking direct part in the event depicted on cat. 48, integrating themselves and converging ideally toward it with a tightly coordinated rhythmic concatenation. Together, the scenes depicted on the two altars seem to constitute a sacred representation of events, compressed spatially and temporally in order to synthesize and accentuate a number of significant moments in the rite.27

The open-air setting of this scene, suggested by the rocky outcrops on which the figures stand and sit, and the musical instruments that they carry, such as the tympanon and sistrum, suggest the context of the adonia, understood as a collective female celebration within which orgiastic music, dance, and banqueting must have constituted essential components. The female figures of cat. 47 constitute a choros and, leaning on one another with their arms around each other’s shoulders, they seem to proceed in a rhythmic step, evoking a ritual dance with a strong eschatological valence.28

Despite the absence of a reliable archaeological context for the altars, the distinctive characteristics of the clay suggests that they were made in Medma, a center of coroplastic production known not only for a large series of votive terracottas, but also for a group of arulae, decorated with subjects taken from Attic tragedies, which have stylistic affinities with the Getty’s pair of altars.29 It is significant, therefore, that in Locri Epizephyrii, the mother colony of Medma, archaeological evidence of a cult of Adonis has emerged, which is reliably dated to the middle of the fourth century BC.30 As previously noted, Syracuse may well have played a fundamental role in the importation of the Adonis cult to Locri, given the strong political and cultural ties between the two cities dating back as far as the reign of the Deinomenids.31

Although the debate over the characteristics of Italiote artistic production—outside influences versus originality—remains largely open, there can be no question that between the end of the fifth century and the beginning of the fourth century BC Syracuse became a special point of reference for the diffusion of new trends in the visuals arts. Attic style, and in particular post-Phidian mannerism, prevailed there through an intense exchange of models, developed and consolidated in continuity with earlier traditions.32

The reliance upon Attic models is also clearly evident in the style of these altars, especially in the rendering of the solid organic forms (despite occasional incongruities) and in the definition of a spatially balanced composition. The coroplast succeeded in suggesting a depth of field by arranging the figures on different planes, in part through the rocky landscape, a contrivance that clearly points to influence from developments in contemporary painting.33 The formal rendering also exhibits a taste for motion and chiaroscuro, accentuated by the fluttering draperies and the figures’ hairstyles, which lends a fluid dynamism to the overall composition and enhances its pictorial effect.34 These stylistic characteristics hark back to the same Attic context of the late fifth century BC and to certain tastes that emerged in various artistic milieus. The latter were interpreted with great originality by the first generation of Sicilian and Apulian vase-painters, influenced by Athenian artists and by the coroplasts and master die-engravers of Magna Graecia.35

The translation of Attic exempla into the coroplastic production of Medma has been recognized both in the aforementioned arulae from Medma decorated with subjects taken from Attic tragedies and in a head possibly depicting the nymph Medma and datable to the same period, now in the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva. The compactness of form, enlivened by vibrant, vivid surfaces, as well as the fullness and fleshiness of the faces found in the Geneva head suggest the prevalence of a sophisticated workshop tradition.36 Contacts between Medma and Athens may be related to the diplomatic mission of the Athenian ambassador Phaeax during that city’s ill-fated expedition to Sicily, as previously conjectured by Salvatore Settis through a careful reconstruction of the historical events.37 On the other hand, the mother colony of Locri Epizephyrii, through Syracusan mediation, may have played a role in transmitting artistic or religious traditions. It is difficult to determine with any certainty which scenario prevailed, but the current state of research suggests that the distinctive Attic imprint only partially influenced the production of Locri in the field of coroplastic art.38 Taken together, the evidence suggests that the altars date between the end of the fifth and the beginning of the fourth century BC and may come from the Medma area, possibly from a funerary context; such a context is attested for the previously mentioned Medma arulae and is also suggested by the state of preservation, though the altars may not originally have been intended for a tomb. It is more reasonable to suppose that the altars were conceived as an iconographical and structural pair that would have been used during the rituals of the adonia, as suggested by the traces on the upper edge left by a tray that protected the surface from fire.39 In any case, they can be considered an expression of that cultural and political context in the area of Medma, which for a brief period between the fifth and fourth century BC, was marked by an Athenian presence.


  1. For similar examples in terracotta, see the cornice of a fifth-century BC arula from Gela: see P. Orsi, “Gela: Scavi del 1900–1905,” MonAnt 17 (1906), fig. 217; the motif of the egg, dart, and tongue pattern is notably also on the arula from Crotone: see L. La Rocca, “Arule e ceramiche a rilievo di produzione crotoniate,” in Kroton e il suo territorio tra VI e V secolo a.C.: Aggiornamenti e nuove ricerche: Atti del Convegno di studi, Crotone, 3–5 Marzo 2000, ed. R. Belli Pasqua and R. Spadea, (Crotone, 2005), pp. 43–52, pls. XVI–XVII; also dating from the fifth century BC are two fragments of acroteria, respectively from Metaponto and Caulonia, in E. Douglas Van Buren, Archaic Fictile Revetments in Sicily and Magna Graecia (Washington, DC, 1973), pl. XVII, figs. 69–70. See also the cornices of an Archaic arula from Naxos in Lentini 1993, pp. 99–100, and from Himera, in Belvedere 1982, pl. XXV, no. 1. 

  2. For the system of fabricating arulae, see Meijden 1993, pp. 10–11; Belvedere 1982, pp. 61–67; and D. Ricciotti, Antiquarium Comunale di Roma: Terrecotte votive, 1. Arule (Rome, 1978), pp. 8–13. 

  3. According to Salapata, because the hollows actually damaged the cornice, they must have been made later: Salapata 2001, esp. p. 25. 

  4. For similarly sized altars, see the examples from Medma dating to the end of the fifth century BC; these come from funerary contexts and depict scenes from Attic tragedies: see M. Paoletti, “Arule di Medma e tragedie attiche,” Aparchai 1982, vol. 1, pp. 372–92. Also likely from Medma, but dating from the Archaic period, is a fragment of an arula with korai and Ionic capitals: see Miller Ammerman 1985, p. 10. Compare also with the altars from Locri and Selinunte: in C. Yavis, Greek Altars: Origins and Typology (St. Louis, 1949), pp. 170–71, 174; and the three arulae, of substantial size, from the emporium of Gela datable to the first quarter of the fifth century BC, in R. Panvini, Tiranni e culti della Sicilia in età arcaica, exh. cat. (Syracuse, Palazzo Bellomo, 2001). See also the arulae from Himera originally from domestic settings in Belvedere 1982, pp. 103–6. Although mentioned in literary sources, pairs of arulae or altars are only rarely found: of note are two terracotta arulae found together in a domestic setting in Locri: see M. Barra Bagnasco, “Aspetti di religiosità domestica a Locri Epizefiri,” in Santuari della Magna Grecia in Calabria 1996, pp. 81–88. Also from Himera are two arulae of the same shape and size, datable to 430–409 BC: see Belvedere 1982, pp. 80–81, pl. XIV. On the presence of a tray on the top surface, often corresponding with a depression, see D. W. Rupp, “Greek Altars of the Northeastern Peloponnese, ca. 750/725 BC to ca. 300/275 BC,” PhD diss., Bryn Mawr College (1974), p. 502. 

  5. The sistrum held by women in Apulian iconography of the fourth century BC, frequently present in wedding and funeral contexts, was a musical instrument consisting of a series of horizontal elements, probably with metal cores, that were joined by vertical crosspieces. The sistrum produced sound either through percussion or shaking. The type shown here is more rarely seen and smaller in size than the examples depicted on Apulian vases; its horizontal and vertical elements terminate in small spheres. The horizontal elements were of varying thickness, which produced sounds of higher or lower pitch. On the origins, structure, and depiction of the sistrum, see L. Lepore, “Il sistro italico strumento, attributo, oggetto di culto,” Imago Musicae 8 (1991), pp. 95–108; and H. R. W. Smith, Funerary Symbolism in Apulian Vase Painting (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1976), pp. 126–32. 

  6. The typology of the earring with a circular silhouette with pendant is fairly common in Magna Graecia; see P. G. Guzzo, Oreficerie della Magna Grecia (Taranto, 1993), p. 247. 

  7. The mitra was also often worn by the wine god Dionysos or the mythical boatman Phaon and is a recurrent element in the iconography of deities involved in erotic scenes or scenes of passion; in this connection, see Cassimatis 1987. In fact, the iconography of Adonis between the fifth century and the fourth century BC is in many ways similar to that of Dionysos and other young lovers of Aphrodite: they are characterized by an effeminate appearance with flowing hair and are depicted in languid sitting poses. See C. Gasparri, s.v. “Dionysos,” LIMC 3 (1986), p. 414, nos. 743–45; and L. Burn, “A Dinoid Volute-Krater by the Meleager Painter: An Attic Vase in the South Italian Manner,” Greek Vases in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Occasional Papers on Antiquities 5 (Los Angeles, 1992), p. 118, fig. 7b–c. For the iconography of Adonis in the late fifth century BC, see J. Reed, “The Sexuality of Adonis,” ClAnt 14 (1995), pp. 342–46. For the position of Adonis, see the figures of Herakles seated before an altar on a stater from Crotone, datable to 420–390 BC, which recalls an image of Dionysos painted by the Karneia Painter in the late fifth century BC: R. Ross Holloway, Art and Coinage in Magna Graecia (Bellinzona, 1978), pp. 88, 138. On the gesture of the hand on the shoulder as an indication of possession and consummated union, and open to interpretation in a nuptial context, see M. Baggio, I gesti della seduzione: Tracce di comunicazione non verbale nella ceramica greca tra VI e IV secolo a.C. (Rome, 2004), pp. 203–10. 

  8. The lampadion hairstyle has, in general, been dated to the beginning of the fourth century, but in Sicily it can also be found in coroplastic material assigned to the last years of the fifth century BC; in this connection, see Spagnolo 2000

  9. For a bibliography on the myth and cult of Adonis, see Torelli 1997, pp. 233–91; by studying the iconographic and literary sources available, the author was able to interpret the so-called delta building of Gravisca as an Adonion, identifying each part of the structure with a specific phase of the ritual. For the iconographic documentation, see Servais-Soyez 1991

  10. Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, 3.14.4–5. 

  11. On the relations between Adonis and the East, see Ribichini 1981, pp. 21–27, 145–70; S. Ribichini, Poenus advena: Gli dei fenici e l’interpretazione classica (Rome, 1985), pp. 50–54. 

  12. The spread of the cult of Adonis in Greek territory, according to Torelli, was encouraged by those distinctly eastern aspects of the god’s myth pertaining to royalty and the exercise of power, which found resonance in the Archaic Greek context; in this connection, see Torelli 1997, p. 245. 

  13. For the pinakes from Locri with the scene of the “youth with a ‘cista mystica,’” see Torelli 1997, p. 264; and H. Prückner, Die Lokrischen Tonreliefs: Beitrag zur Kultgeschichte von Lokroi Epizephyroi (Mainz, 1968), pp. 31–36; for Francavilla, see U. Spigo, “I pinakes di Francavilla di Sicilia: Nuova classificazione e brevi note sugli aspetti cultuali,” in Damarato 2000, pp. 211–12, types xix and xx; U. Spigo, entry no. 167, in Pugliese Carratelli 1996, p. 647. For the iconography of Attic and Apulian vases, see Torelli 1997, p. 233, notes 3–6; Servais-Soyez 1991, nos. 1, 5, 8–11, 27, 45–49. 

  14. For Etruscan mirrors, see Servais-Soyez 1991, pp. 223–28, where Adonis is often depicted bare-chested, with long hair, sitting on a rock; see also Rallo 1974, no. 6, pl. XVI, no. 1. For the urn from Tuscania, see B. M. Felletti Maj, s.v. “Adone,” EAA 1 (Rome, 1984), pp. 68–71. 

  15. For the Adonion of Gravisca, see Torelli 1997, pp. 234–44. 

  16. See Barra Bagnasco 1994

  17. For the iconography of the theogamia represented by the seated embracing couple, see Cassimatis 1987, pp. 77–80. See also the group of Dionysos and Ariadne depicted in Attic vases from the first half of the fourth century BC in Berti 1991, nos. 10, 12–13. Adonis is depicted lifting a himation with his left hand on a volute krater by the Baltimore Painter: see A. D. Trendall, Red-Figured Vases of South Italy and Sicily: A Handbook (London, 1989), fig. 251. 

  18. In this connection, see Servais-Soyez 1991, p. 229. A comparable iconographic scheme can also be found in a bronze relief from the early Hellenistic period, found in Paramythia (Epirus) and perhaps depicting Aphrodite and Anchises on Mount Ida, for which a Tarentine origin has been conjectured; see C. Tzouvara-Souli, “Cults and Temples in Epirus, Magna Grecia and Sicily,” in La Magna Grecia e i grandi santuari della madrepatria, AttiTaranto 31, 1991 (Taranto, 1992), pp. 116–19, pl. IV, no. 4. For the seated male figure, depicted in three-quarter view, with legs crossed in a relaxed position, a figure found also in the coinage of Magna Graecia of the late fifth century BC, see R. Ross Holloway, Art and Coinage in Magna Graecia (Bellinzona, 1978), pp. 58–59, 138; L. Massei, “Schemi statuari nella ceramica apula,” Aparchai 1982, vol. 1, pp. 483–500; see also the group of Ariadne and Dionysos (or a satyr) sitting on a rock in a Tarentine mold that was probably used for the decoration of arulae, vases, or thymiateria (incense burners); here too the male figure has his legs crossed and long hair: A. Muller, “Petite plastique de Tarente: Modeleurs et moulers,” Genava 48 (2000), pp. 37–54; see also the terracotta group of Aphrodite and Adonis from Nisyros, now in the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe, published in Antike Terrakotten, ed. J. Thimme, Bildhefte des Badisches Landesmuseum (Karlsruhe, 1960), fig. 18. 

  19. For the Derveni bronze krater, see C. Rolley, “Les bronzes grecs: Recherches récents,” RA 2 (1987), pp. 335–60, esp. pp. 352–57; E. Youri, Ho Krateras tou Derveniou (Athens, 1978), and B. S. Ridgway, “Court and Hellenistic Art,” in Ridgway 2004, pp. 158–84. See also M. Pfrommer, “Italien-Makedonien-Kleinasien: Interdependenzen spätklassischer und frühhellenistischer Toreutik,” JdI 98 (1983), pp. 235–85. 

  20. The typological scheme with the knee grasped by crossed hands generally recurs in funerary contexts and the pose can express either grief or meditation; for female characters, see the two deities generally identified as Demeter and Kore sitting on a cista in the eastern pediment of the Parthenon: O. Palagia, The Pediments of the Parthenon, 2nd ed. (Leiden, 1993), p. 20. Also, a coin of Elis depicts the figure of Nike seated with crossed legs in a funerary context: L. Lacroix, “La Nike des monnaies d’Elis,” Études d’archéologie numismatique (Paris, 1974), pp. 13–21. See the figure of Elektra in the scheme of the weeping woman on a panathenaic amphora in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples: A. D. Trendall, The Red-Figured Vases of Lucania, Campania, and Sicily (Oxford, 1967), p. 115, no. 597. But it is in the Attic white-ground lekythoi that this pose recurs frequently; see, for instance, D. C. Kurtz, Athenian White Lekythoi: Painters and Patterns (Oxford, 1975), pls. 38.2, 44.1. The pose can also be found in male characters; for example, in the figure of Amphiaraos engraved on an Etruscan mirror and in the figure on the Faliscan krater with the myth of the Argonauts, dating from the first half of the fourth century BC: Rallo 1974, pls. I, no. 1, pl. II, nos. 1–2. Hermes is depicted in the same pose on a red-figured kylix: see T. Dohrn, “Gefaltete und verschränkte Hände,” JdI 70 (1955), pp. 50–80. The seated figure on cat. 48 has also been identified as an attendant of Aphrodite, perhaps Peitho, the embodiment of erotic persuasion, who has carried the bridal chest for the wedding: see Salapata 2001, pp. 40–41. 

  21. The type of the rectangular box with a flat lid and four small feet, in some cases quite large in size, is well attested in Magna Graecia from the second half of the fifth century and in the fourth century BC: see G. M. A. Richter, The Furniture of the Greeks, Etruscan and Romans (London, 1966), pp. 74–76. In the pinakes of Locri, the cista is a specific attribute of Persephone and emphasizes the powerful connection of the goddess of the Underworld with the world of women and marriage; see Sourvinou-Inwood 1978, pp. 110, 116–18. Also, see a statuette from Medma, possibly depicting Persephone seated on a throne, holding a small box in her right hand: R. Miller, “The Terracotta Votives from Medma: Cult and Coroplastic Craft in Magna Graecia,” PhD diss., University of Michigan (1984), p. 306, no. 23. For the presence of the box in depictions of the adonia in Attic and Apulian vases, see in particular the examples in Servais-Soyez 1991, nos. 45, 46; and Atallah 1966, figs. 41, 42, 49. See also F. Lissarrague, “Women, Boxes, Containers: Some Signs and Metaphors,” in E. Reeder, Pandora: Women in Classical Greece, exh. cat. (Baltimore, Walters Art Gallery, 1995), pp. 91–100. 

  22. For the depictions on the two vases, see Torelli 1997, pp. 272–74; on the significance of the anodos of Adonis in connection with the ritual celebration, see pp. 269–70, 272–73. 

  23. In this connection, consider Sappho’s fragment 140 concerning a lamentation of the death of Adonis: see E. M. Voigt, ed., Sappho et Alcaeus: Fragmenta (Amsterdam, 1971); see also the references in Thucydides (6.30) and Plutarch’s Lives: Alcibiades 18. For the manifestations of grief in the adonia, see Torelli 1997, pp. 263–65. In the context of Magna Graecia, Nossis, a female poet from Locri who was often linked to Sappho because of their mutual affiliation with a “female circle” dedicated to the handsome Adonis, in her sixth epigram urged the korai to beat their breasts and rend their chitons; in this connection, see M. Gigante, “Nosside,” PdP 154–155 (1974), pp. 22–39. The ritual burial accompanied by funeral chants is also discussed in E. Di Filippo Balestrazzi, “Il giovane di Mozia: Una nuova ipotesi interpretativa,” Numismatica e antichità classiche: Quaderni ticinesi 24 (1995), pp. 133–64, n. 124. 

  24. For a structural analysis of the myth and the ritual, see M. Detienne, I giardini di Adone (Turin, 1975), which emphasizes the contrast between agrarian rites in honor of Demeter and the adonia, which were bound up with the concept of infecundity and fleeting sexual pleasure. Women participating in the rite, as an essential requirement for union with the deity, had to climb upstairs to the roof of the house, as is extensively documented in Italiote vase-painting. 

  25. Alciphron (4.14) tells of a certain Philomena who, in the middle of the night, joined her friends to take part in the ritual of the adonia

  26. In the fifteenth Idyll, dedicated to a description of an adonion celebrated in Alexandria in the third century BC, Theocritus reveals that, on the day after the celebration, women supposedly carried the body of Adonis to the seashore and, beating their breasts with disheveled hair, intoned a lamentation and tossed the simulacrum of the god and the “gardens” into the sea as a purification rite, awaiting the return of the young god: see Theocritus Idylls 129–33; see also the commentary in Atallah 1966, pp. 112–13. It is evident that the adonia could either take on the nature of a public celebration, as in Alexandria in the third century BC, or preserve a private and more licentious character, as documented on Attic and Italiote vases, especially those depicting the preparation of the “gardens” on the roofs of the houses. These were special occasions that offered women a measure of free expression, including sexual expression, outside of the rigid social boundaries by which they were restricted in Greek society. In this connection, see the vase-paintings in Servais-Soyez 1991, nos. 45, 49. 

  27. This tendency to portray the myth of Adonis as a stage drama, in keeping with the dynamics of ritual, can be clearly seen as well in vase-paintings and in scenes on Etruscan mirrors; see Torelli 1997, p. 275. 

  28. For the ritual dances, see also L. Todisco, “La Tomba delle Danzatrici di Ruvo,” in Pittura e ceramica figurata tra Grecia, Magna Grecia e Sicilia (Bari, 2006), pp. 17–40. The presence of the tympanon in the adonia, often associated with a sistrum, is attested in vase depictions: Servais-Soyez 1991, p. 224, no. 10; pp. 227–28, no. 48; and Torelli 1997, p. 256, figs. 22–23. On the role of music and aromas in rituals honoring Adonis, see Ribichini 1981, pp. 73–80, with special reference to the Eastern context that the Greeks adopted in interpreting this myth. For the presence of tympanon in terracotta female statuettes from Hellenistic period, frequently connected to the cult of Demeter, Kore, and Artemis, see A. Bellia, Coroplastica con raffigurazioni musicali nella Sicilia greca, secoli VI–III a.C. (Rome, 2009), pp. 163–65. For the role of the dance in the cult of Adonis, see H. A. Shapiro et al., s.v. “Dance,” ThesCRA 2 (2004), pp. 299–343, esp. p. 318. 

  29. On the coroplastic art in Medma, see S. Settis, s.v. “Medma,” EAA, 3 suppl. (Rome, 1995), pp. 580–82. For arulae, in particular, see M. Paoletti, “Arule di Medma e tragedie attiche,” in Aparchai 1982, pp. 372–92. On the dispersal of the terracottas of Medma onto the antiquities market and into private and museum collections, see Paoletti 1981, pp. 47–92. 

  30. For the cult of Adonis in Locri see Barra Bagnasco 1994; for the role of Locri in the establishment of the religious system of Medma, see M. Paoletti, “I culti di Medma,” in Santuari della Magna Grecia in Calabria 1996, pp. 95–97. A myth of Eastern origin that featured Aphrodite and Persephone—deities who in Locri were strongly connected but also contrasting—was likely to find an enthusiastic reception in a context steeped in Eastern characteristics, where the central role of women in both religious cults and social life was well attested; see for this connection, Sourvinou-Inwood 1978

  31. In this connection, see E. Manni, Sicilia pagana (Palermo, 1963). At the end of the fifth century BC, the tyrant Dionysius I of Syracuse, who married a woman from Locri, composed a tragedy dedicated to Adonis. In addition, as mentioned in Idyll 15 of Theocritus, the two women who participate in the Alexandrian adonia were in fact Syracusan. For attestation of the cult of Adonis in Sicily as early as the first half of the fifth century BC, see U. Spigo, “I pinakes di Francavilla di Sicilia: Nuova classificazione e brevi note sugli aspetti cultuali,” in Damarato 2000, pp. 211–12. 

  32. For cultural and artistic influences in Locri, see M. Barra Bagnasco, “Apporti esterni ed elaborazione locale nella coroplastica locrese tra V e IV secolo a.C.,” BdA 25 (1984), pp. 39–52. Regarding the Locri area, consider the private aspect of the cult of Adonis identified by Barra Bagnasco in the “Casa dei Leoni,” which is similar to Athenian ritual of the fifth century BC: see Barra Bagnasco 1994

  33. The depiction of space would become an especially important theme in the Tarentine reliefs as well; for the influence of the coroplastic production on subsequent stone sculpture, see Carter 1975, pp. 28–29, 36–37. 

  34. A combination of “pictoricism” and plasticity characterizes a number of Attic works; for instance, see Ridgway 1997, p. 6, for the stele of Dexileos. The locks of hair with their sinuous curls are reminiscent of the style of the Chequer Painter, active in Sicily between the end of the fifth century and the beginning of the fourth century BC; he was influenced by such Attic artists as the Meidias Painter and was especially in tune with the echoes of post-Phidian mannerism. In this connection, see M. De Cesare, “Il Pittore della Scaccheria e la nascita della ceramografia figurate siceliota,” in Ampolo 2009, pp. 277–94; and A. D. Trendall, “New Vases by the Chequer Painter,” in Kotinos: Festschrift für Erika Simon, by H. Froning and T. Hölscher (Mainz, 1992), pp. 301–5. Similar characteristics can also be found in coroplastic work, such as the dancing maenad of Locri: see P. E. Arias, “La menade di Locri,” in Alessandria e il mondo ellenistico-romano: Studi in onore di Achille Adriani (Rome, 1983–84), pp. 677–79. For the mannerism of the drapery, see the stele from Kos, from the end of the fifth century BC, in A. M. Comella, I rilievi votivi greci di periodo arcaico e classico: Diffusione, ideologia, committenza (Bari, 2002), p. 89, fig. 83. 

  35. For the influence of Attic vases in Sicily, see F. Giudice, “La ceramica attica del IV secolo a.C. in Sicilia ed il problema della formazione delle officine locale,” in La Sicilia dei due Dionisi 2002, pp. 169–201; U. Spigo, “Il problema degli influssi della pittura vascolare attica nella ceramica a figure rosse,” in I vasi attici ed altre ceramiche coeve in Sicilia: Atti del convegno internazionale: Catania, Camarina, Gela, Vittoria, 28 marzo–1 aprile 1990, Cronache di archeologia 29–30 (Catania, 1996), pp. 51–65. The “omega” folds can be found in figures by the Painter of Bologna 501 dating from the first half of the fourth century BC; the refined definition of the folds in the draping cloth would become a stylistic motif in the work of such vase-painters as the followers of the Tarporley Painter and the artists of the Long Overfalls Group; see A. D. Trendall and A. Cambitoglou, The Red-Figured Vases of Apulia, vol. 1 (Oxford, 1978), pp. 63–68, 79–80; for the Painter of Bologna 501, see pp. 97–98. The sensitive modeling, especially noticeable in the profiles and the treatment of the eyelids, as well as the fluent rendering of the hairstyles, is also reminiscent of the female heads found in the series of coins made by Kimon and Euainetos in the late fifth and early fourth centuries BC; see G. K. Jenkins, Coins of Greek Sicily (London, 1976), pp. 52–58, figs. 68–70. For the Attic influence in the coinage of Magna Graecia at the end of the fifth century BC, see N. Franco Parise, “Le emissioni monetarie di Magna Graecia: Dalla fondazione di Thuri all’età di Archidamo,” in Settis 1994, pp. 403–19, figs. 15–17. 

  36. In the arula from Medma with a representation of Pirithous (king of the Lapiths), similar characteristics are found, such as the jutting rocks; the female figure, seated and lost in thought; the position of Pirithous; and a naïveté in the rendering of the poses and certain details; see Paoletti 1981, pl. 96, no. 1; S. Settis, “Bellerofonte a Medma,” in Settis 1987, pp. 250–58; for the female head in Geneva, see S. Settis, “Una testa di Medma da Atene a Ginevra,” in Settis 1987, pp. 263–83. 

  37. S. Settis, “Una testa di Medma,” pp. 269–70, 280. 

  38. For the Athenian influences in the area of Locri and the diffusion of the Adonis cult, see M. Barra Bagnasco, pp. 326–33 in Mito e storia in Magna Grecia: AttiTaranto 36 (1997); on the affinity between Locrian and Attic pinakes, see M. C. Parra, “L’arte greca in Italia meridionale, tra scoperte, riscoperte e ricezione” in Catoni and Settis 2008, pp. 79–91, esp. pp. 84–85. On the derivation of Locri’s pinakes from Syracusan models, see M. C. Parra, “Pinakes di Hipponium,” Annali della Scuola normale superiore di Pisa (1989), pp. 559–65. Compare also a stele from Crotone datable to the end of the fifth century BC, deeply derivative of an Attic model: E. Lattanzi, “Osservazioni su una stele funeraria in marmo con scena di commiato,” in R. Belli Pasqua and R. Spadea, Kroton e il suo territorio tra VI e V secolo a.C.: Aggiornamenti e nuove ricerche: Atti del Convengo di Studio, Crotone 3–5 marzo 2000 (Crotone, 2005), pp. 19–23; and M. Corrado and R. E. Malena, “Esperienze di scultura attica post-fidiaca in Magna Grecia: Esame tecnico di una presunta stele funeraria polimaterica da Kroton,” BdA vol. speciale, International Congress of Classical Archaeology: Meetings between Cultures in the Ancient Mediterranean (Rome, 2008), pp. 57–67. For the cultural exchanges between Locri and Medma with regard to the distribution of terracottas, see Miller Ammerman 1985, pp. 5–19. On the possible intermediary role played by Syracuse in the spread of Attic art to Locri, see P. E. Arias, “L’arte locrese nelle sue principali manifestazioni artigianali: Terrecotte, bronzi, vasi, arti minori,” in AttiTaranto 16 (1977), pp. 503–5. On the array of problems linked to Attic influences in the context of pottery workshops in Sicily and Locri, see also U. Spigo, “Composizione e racconto: Documenti di cultura pittorica nella ceramica siceliota del IV secolo a.C. dalle necropoli di Lipari,” in Studi di archeologia classica dedicati a Giorgio Gullini, ed. M. Barra Bagnasco and M. C. Conti (Turin, 1999), pp. 186–87; see also F. Giudice, Vasi e frammenti “Beazley” da Locri Epizefiri e ruolo di questa città lungo le rotte verso l’Occidente (Catania, 1989), pp. 90–91, 96–105. On relations between Athens and South Italy in the context of pottery production and the comparative iconographical choices in the second half of the fifth century BC, see L. Todisco, “Atene e Magna Grecia: Percorsi iconologici,” Ostraka 6, no. 1 (1997), pp. 135–53. 

  39. As pointed out above, burning incense or other aromatic substances must have been an integral part of the rituals honoring Adonis.