Is the Mother of Alexander the Great in the Tomb at Amphipolis? Part 3 - See more at:

By Andrew Chugg*}
 I wrote my initial article on this question on the morning of 6th September (a day before the announcement of the discovery of the caryatids) and I wrote a second part, dealing with the caryatids and a few other issues on 20th September. In these two articles I drew a number of inferences from the evidence available:

1) Sphinxes decorated the thrones found in the tombs of two mid to late 4th century BC queens of Macedon, one of whom was Alexander’s grandmother Eurydice I

2) Greek mythology recognised Hera the wife of Zeus as the mistress of the sphinx: the 4th century BC Macedonian kings identified themselves with Zeus, so it would make sense for their principal queens to have identified themselves with Hera

 3) The female sphinxes at Amphipolis have their closest parallel in a pair of female sphinxes found by Mariette at the Serapeum at Saqqara, which were dated to the reign of the first Ptolemy by Lauer & Picard, mainly on the basis of an associated inscription: the Serapeum at Saqqara is also a strong candidate for the site of the first tomb of Alexander the Great

 4) There are strong parallels between the façades of the tombs of Philip II and Alexander IV at Aegae and the reconstructed façade of the lion monument that stood atop the mound at Amphipolis

 5) The paving in the tomb at Amphipolis closely matches paving in the 4th century BC palace at Aegae

 6) The 8-petal double rosettes in the Amphipolis tomb have an excellent match on the edge bands of the gold larnax of Philip II

7) The evidence therefore favours an important queen being entombed at Amphipolis: Olympias, Alexander’s mother, and Roxane, Alexander’s wife may both have died at Amphipolis and are the only prominent queens that accord with the archaeologists’ firm dating of the Amphipolis tomb to the last quarter of the 4th century BC

8) On the assumption that the occupant of the Amphipolis tomb is Olympias, a straightforward explanation of the caryatids would be that they are Klodones, the priestesses of Dionysus with whom Plutarch, Alexander 2 states that Olympias consorted: the baskets worn on their heads would be those in which Plutarch says the Klodones kept snakes.

 9) Plutarch, Alexander 2 tells the story of Philip having dreamt that he sealed Olympias’s womb whilst she was pregnant with Alexander with the device of a lion. This provides an explanation for the tomb having been surmounted by a lion monument.

 In this third part of my episodic commentary on this question I will put forward some evidence that the form of the baskets on the heads of the Amphipolis caryatids is consistent with the types of basket that were actually used by the ancient Greeks to accommodate the snakes used in the worship of Dionysus. Then I will show additionally that the attire, stance and overall appearance of the Amphipolis caryatids matches ancient Greek representations of priestesses of Dionysus or the female servants of Dionysus known as Maenads. It is clear that the newly discovered Amphipolis caryatids are members of the large sub-class of caryatids known as canephora: caryatids that bear baskets upon their heads (see Figures 1 and 2). Canephora are so common and so well studied as to make any other explanation of the caryatids’ headgear at least improbable. Plutarch, Life of Alexander 2, states that the Klodones of Olympias used to keep snakes in sacred baskets, which they employed in the course of their Dionysiac rites. Specifically, he uses the terminology μυστικῶν λίκνων for the Klodones’s baskets. The word λίκνων originally meant a wicker fan used for winnowing wheat, but wicker baskets used in festivals of Dionysus came to be known by this name. Although it is tempting to suppose that the type of basket referred to by λίκνων in some way resembled a winnowing fan, it is obvious that a flat basket could not have accommodated snakes (not for very long anyway!)

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About Gaby F

lectora, estudiosa de la historia antigua, especialmente la mitología germánica, indoeuropea. ".
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