Deoudi, Maria: Die thrakische Jägerin Römische Steindenkmäler aus Macedonia und Thracia. PELEUS 51, 202 Seiten, davon 36 Seiten Tafeln, gb, ISBN 978-3-447-06213-8, € 35
(Mainz und Ruhpoldingen, Verlag Franz Philipp Rutzen 2010)
Compte rendu par Iphigeneia Leventi, University of Thessaly

Nombre de mots : 1504 mots
Publié en ligne le 2011-12-20
Citation: Histara les comptes rendus (ISSN 2100-0700).
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          This book treats the votive reliefs to the goddess Artemis/Diana Bendis portrayed as  huntress that were produced in East Macedonia and Thracia in the Roman Imperial times. Around 100 such reliefs are known but here the author Maria Deoudi presents 67 well-documented examples, accessible to her. The material comprises two groups of monuments, the rock-cut reliefs above the theatre of Philippoi in East Macedonia (in modern Greece) and votive reliefs (here referred to as stelai) found around Philippopolis (Plovdiv, in modern Boulgaria); both groups were produced exclusively in these two regions from the early 2nd to the late 3rd centuries A.D. and were used locally without being exported. Though these are low-quality provincial reliefs, they were dedicated by members of the local elite to Artemis/Diana worshipped with the cult name of the Thracian goddess Bendis, as the Latin and Greek accompanying inscriptions attest. The Thracian Bendis on these monuments was more closely assimilated to Artemis/Diana than she was to the Greek Artemis in the Classical period.


          The votive monuments to Artemis/Diana-Bendis as huntress are discussed here for their religious as well as historical-political significance in the environment where they were made and dedicated. The study demonstrates the existence of local traditions alongside Greek and Roman elements in their religious content and artistic significance, or alternatively influences from both East and West; thus they display an eclectic character. In their entirety they are considered as products of the Romanised provinces of Thracia and Macedonia, that show close affinities to similar votive offerings from other parts of the Roman world, especially Roman Greece. The first obvious phenomenon in the Romanisation of these votive monuments is their production exclusively in two cities that were in Roman times the financial, political and administrative centres of the provinces Macedonia and Thracia, respectively.


          The first chapter of the book meticulously examines the historical development of the urban centres of Philippoi and Philippopolis and its region in Roman times in association with each group of the relief monuments locally produced, and the history of their scholarly research so far.


          The second chapter is devoted to the monuments themselves and the author studies their material, production methods, inscriptions, as well as their form and architectural frames; the Bendis reliefs follow the Roman trends for apsidal or rectangular format and are assimilated to the form of funerary rather than votive reliefs from the same regions. The third chapter deals with the iconography of the goddess portrayed as huntress according to several compositional variations. The standard representation depicts Artemis/Diana-Bendis in short chiton and boots (occasionally also in mantle) equipped with the bow and arrow, the dog next to her attacking a deer, which usually runs before her. Additional elements may include an altar, a simple tree or a tree entwined with a snake placed in front of the goddess. Alternatively, she is depicted standing frontally between the dog and the deer. Other schemes show Bendis holding a spear and a torch or a branch running behind the deer, or even an epiphany with the usual weapons, or two spears or even with two torches. Bendis riding the deer or making the benedictio latina with her raised right hand is rare and rather a borrowing from the representations of the hero equitans (in this study referred to as the “Thracian horseman”), though Deoudi does not state this explicitly.


          What is striking in these relief depictions is the lack of adorants, an absence that, according to the author, is another indication of the Romanisation in cult practice and artistic depictions. The iconographical prototypes of the Bendis as huntress are oriented to the Late Classical statue of Artemis huntress possibly by Praxiteles, drawing on the general form of this statue, rather than presenting a direct copy, through the mediation of local or Eastern originals or most tangibly, coins circulating in the Roman period in Macedonia and Thracia. It is notable that here the representation of the goddess does not follow the Athenian Classical iconography of the Thracian goddess Bendis established in the late 5th century B.C. This is known mainly from Attic votive reliefs and numerous terracotta statuettes and was propagated in other regions from Northern Greece to the Thracian shore, Asia Minor and Italy or Spain, in the expansionist Athenian policy till the end of the Classical period. The deliberate choice of the pictorial prototypes for the portrayal of the huntress Bendis on the reliefs under consideration is interpreted by Deoudi as a further sign of the Romanisation that avoids the politically burdened Attic image denoting an especially Thracian goddess; that is, the Bendis images on the reliefs do not stress the goddess’ ethnicity.


          This chapter also constitutes an effort to classify the reliefs chronologically, using paleographical clues and especially the stylistic assessment of the relief figures themselves as criteria. Female haircuts that follow the imperial modes are also useful in this respect. The reliefs that show a better understanding of plastic quality and rendering of the anatomy are those of the Hadrianic period, while in the 3rd century figures become gradually inorganic and schematised. The peak of the production falls in the second half of the 2nd century A.D., a parallel phenomenon to the production of other kinds of reliefs in Roman Greece and other provinces of the Roman world. The numbers dwindle in the end of the 3rd century, and the Bendis reliefs finally vanish in the 4th century A.D., obviously as a result of the appearance of Christianity.


          In chapter four Artemis/Diana-Bendis is investigated using her votive reliefs as evidence for her cult. Greek literary sources, additionally, indicate that Bendis is venerated as a kourotrophos goddess, protector of the family and the fertility of couples and a saviour goddess par excellence. Her attributes, apart from the aforementioned weapons, can include torches, which imply her assimilation to Hekate and denote her character as saviour with mystical connotations. The tree and the snake are thought to draw on the more common iconography of the hero equitans, but they may have also a special meaning as references to her cult locations, that could have been open-air sanctuaries and groves. Deoudi makes a case for the latter in the absence of any documented sanctuary of the goddess with architectural remains. The altar on the reliefs is interpreted rightly as alluding to the impending sacrifice of the victim of Bendis with the goddess acting as a votary, according to Deoudi. But the author does not develop the full implication of this characterisation, which displays the goddess as a paradigm for the devotee in her cult. 


           The adorants of Bendis who dedicated these reliefs were women, who are, in a few cases, discernible as priestesses, but also men and sometimes whole families as the relief iconography attests. According to the inscriptions the devotees belonged to the upper class of the local communities and to all parts of the population, whether Roman, Greek, or Thracian.


           The final chapter five reviews the evidence for Romanisation in the cults of the two cities Philippoi and  Philippopolis in connection with the strong survival of  Greek and Oriental traditions as attested by various sources along with the votive reliefs to Bendis that were locally produced and dedicated. The book is completed by a general summary (chapter six) and a substantial catalogue (part VII, 102-140), where all 67 reliefs are described and illustrated. Not all the photos are of good quality, however. Each chapter is accompanied by a summary at its end. Respectively, each catalogue entry concludes with comparanda for dating and iconography. The bibliography at the end is full but some typing errors could have been avoided by better editing (e.g. Kostidou instead of Kotsidu, Keraucon and then rightly Kersauson, Mπακηρτσής instead of Mπακιρτζής, Τσιφάκη instead of Τσιαφάκη, Επιτάφεια instead of Επιτάφια in Στεφανίδου-Τιβερίου 1986, Ostbalkanraues instead of Ostbalkanraumes in Oppermann 2006).


          All in all this book meets its aims and gives a comprehensive treatment of these particular monuments trying to interpret them in their historical, geographical and cultural environment, though it does not answer the main and difficult question of why they were produced exactly in these two cities and nowhere else in Macedonia and Thracia. Could one think e.g. of special religious associations, such as the Attic cult thiasoi of Bendis that may have operated in these two regions? Obviously, we do not have evidence here for an especially popular cult with wide geographical dissemination. On the contrary, the reliefs of the hero equitans that have a long tradition dating back to the Classical period in Southern Greece display a vast geographical diffusion in Macedonia and Thracia in Roman times.  Finally, this study is an important contribution that makes the Bendis reliefs, so far neglected in relation to the better researched subject of the monuments of the hero equitans, familiar to the academic world.