George Mason University Plaster Cast Collection
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Cast no.12

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Cast no.12


Votive relief with fishtail braids.
Found in the 1830s by William Martin Leake (1777-1860) at Thebes in Boeotia (Greece), given to the British Museum in 1839.
Probably late Classical.
British Museum, GR 1839.8-6.4.
H 14 in., W 12 1/2 in.
Metropolitan Catalogue: Cast no. 935.
Cast Location: Robinson B359 Hallway

Two vertical braids of hair between two pilasters adorn this votive relief in the form of an aedicule (chapel). The architrave is inscribed: "Philombrotus and Apthenetus, sons of Deinomachus, dedicate this offering to Poseidon." Leake found the relief at the site of a temple to Poseidon near the sea and thus at the edge of Theban territory. Ancient literary sources attest to the practice of offering one's hair to Poseidon after surviving a shipwreck, and Leake assumed that the dedicators "were probably about to encounter, or had escaped from some peril at sea." Hair was dedicated to various gods as an act of piety, to judge from ancient literary references to the practice. The hair itself might be hung from a tree in a sacred grove, or enclosed in a container and dedicated in a sanctuary, or, as in this case, a more expensive marble dedication might be offered to Poseidon. The dedication of an image of their braids by Philombrotus and Aphthonetus might best be seen as both an act of gratitude, and a vow to dedicate themselves to Poseidon for the rest of their lives, leaving behind that physical state in which they had been close to death.
~Lucy R. Miller

Bibliographic Citation


See William Martin Leake, Travels in Northern Greece. London, 1835/Amsterdam, 1967, 360-361; James Milligen. Ancient Unedited Monuments. London, 1722, 32; C. T. Newton, ed. Ancient Greek Inscriptions in the British Museum. Oxford, 1883, 29; A. H. Smith, A Catalogue of Sculpture in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum, vol. 1 (London, 1892), 366-367, no. 798; F. Van Straten, "Votives and Votaries in Greek Sanctuaries," Le Sanctuaire Grec, ed. A. Schachter. Vandoeuvres-Geneva, 1992, 10. Fig. 12.


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