Some Etruscan Urns in Florence

Florence’s Museo Archeologico has vast amounts of Etruscan material. It’s long on stuff, but short on explication. I walked into a room full of urns, none of them with any labels or anything! Still, I’m sure it’s possible to puzzle out the pictures over time, so I’m going to put some images up and hope for interpretive inspiration.

   

    
    

  

    
 

So these last two strike me as illustrating the death of Polites as described by Virgil in Aeneid 2. Not sure what the wheel is meant to represent.

Found online:

Around this room are many very interesting urns with reliefs of various legends, beginning from top to bottom, and again from the bottom upwards—a peculiar arrangement, in accordance with Greek tradition, as the ox draws the plough, which has here been adopted by Professor Milani. The small statues reclining on the urns, which probably contained the ashes of the dead, are in short proportions to fit the lid, and of a conventional type ; the reliefs below are generally in very superior art. The men wear garlands or coronals, and chains of a peculiar form round their necks, or twined in their head-dresses; they have rings on their fingers, and hold a Patera or sacrificial cup ; sometimes they have a tablet or diptych in their hands; the females are generally represented with a fan formed like a palm leaf, or with mirrors.
Turning to the left of the entrance, the reliefs are chiefly taken from the story of the Calydonian Boar ; Greek legend being introduced, as well as subjects which typify the journey of the soul to another world. No. 2 and No. 3 have the history of Theseus ; No. 4 and No. 5, Hippolytus, whose horses were terrified by a sea-monster sent by Poseidon, and as they ran away dragged him in his chariot till dead. From No. to to No. 18 are different representations of the story of Pelops and Hippodameia. Pelops bribed Myrtillus, the charioteer of his rival OEnomaus, to allow him to win the race for the hand of Hippodameia. In all these are typified the conflict, as well as the race or journey of life, towards a goal.
From No. 19 to No. 44 is the legend of Cadmus, who was commanded by the Oracle at Delphi to follow a cow, which led him to the spot where he built Thebes. He was about to sacrifice the cow to Athene, and went for water to a well be-longing to the god Ares, when he encountered a dragon, which he slew, and sowed its teeth in the ground, from which sprang up men who became the ancestors of the Thebans. His marriage was celebrated in the presence of the gods, and he presented his wife Harmonia with the famous Peplos, or veil. In the end Cadmus and Harmonia were changed into dragons. The story was symbolical of the migration of a race of warriors.
From No. 45 to No. 47 is the Theban legend of OEdipus, who was exposed at his birth and brought up by a shepherd, be-cause an oracle had informed his father Laius that he would perish by the hand of his child ; which oracle was fulfilled when OEdipus slew him in a fray without being aware who he was. When OEdipus became king of Thebes a series of calamities followed, which ended by his putting out his own eyes, and being expelled from the city.
From No. 48 to No. 67 the subjects are taken again from Thebes. The war in which the two sons of OEdipus, Eteocles and Polynices, quarrelled for their father’s kingdom is here represented. Polynices was supported by Adrastus, king of Argos, who was joined by five other heroes, forming the confederacy known as the Seven against Thebes. One of the most beautiful reliefs in this room is No. 64, in which Eteocles and Polynices have killed one another ; both sink to the ground, and the avenging Nemesis is seen above.
From No. 68 to No. 70 are incidents taken from the life of Paris of Troy ; No. 71 has the Rape of Helen ; and No. 72 to No. 75 the story of Telephus, the son of Hercules, who, when wounded by Achilles, was cured by the rust from his antagonist’s spear. From No. 76 to No. 78 is the story of the Sacrifice of Iphigenia ; and from No. 78 to No. 97 are other subjects relating to the Siege of Troy, such as Achilles pursuing Troilus, and the story of Patroclus ; on the relief, No. 86, he is carried to burial ; No. 82 to No. 86, Philoctetes is visited by Ulysses and Diomedes ; No. 87 and No. 88 represent the wooden horse by which Troy was taken. No. 89 has the story of Orestes ; No. 90 to No. 97 has scenes from the Odyssey : No. 97, Orestes and Iphigenia in Aulis, is one of the finest of the series. From No. 98 to No. 106 are all subjects of which the meaning has not yet been ascertained. The most peculiar is where the Orco, or Hobgoblin, in the shape of a Bear, is rising from a well.

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About Uncomely and Broken

I teach Latin and Greek at The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.
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