Saturday, February 12, 2011

The "Ares Borghese" and Philippopolis

The "Ares Borghese" in the Louvre (June 2002)
Statues of Ares (unlike the Roman ones of Mars) are rare.  This type is, indeed, the only one of the last third of the 5th century: that is, it is a copy, and we have only the briefest literary allusions to the type in Athens.  Pausanias saw an Ares by Alkamenes in the sanctuary of Ares in the Athenian Agora alongside an Aphrodite by a different sculptor.  Alkamenes was Pheidias's Athenian disciple, Agorakritos being Parian.  The sanctuary that Pausanias noted, and its temple, had been transported from Acharnes and carefully reconstructed there in the time of Augustus; the masons' marks for reassembling it correctly were studied when the Agora was excavated.  That fact would help to explain why this type of Ares has a helmet that is Roman, though the style of the statue is that of a very good early Imperial marble copy of a 5th-century Athenian statue.  There would be nothing remarkable in updating the god's helmet if an Athenian copyist's atelier needed to make a new one.  And the distinctive stance and bodily expression of the Ares are extremely like the "Dresden Zeus" (whether the latter be Zeus or Hades), so, I think, it is quite certain that both copy 5th-century originals by the same artist, very likely Alkamenes.
(the Dresden statue from an old photo badly scanned but my own)
We have other copies of both of these statue types, so there is no doubt that in the Empire period they were known and admired.  Presumably both were bronze, but remember that Ares' helmet and shield  and the Zeus-Hades' scepter (the Dresden statue's forearms are restored) could have been of other materials.  There is no possibility, I think, that either or both of them were classicizing, imitative creations of the early Roman Empire.  Both have, by the way, more than one 'good' view:
(Consider, too, that the Dresden statues were in a basement gallery)
A cast-gallery photo shows how radically different a late Polykleitan stance and these actually are:
Bonn, Akad. Kunstmuseum cast collection; the Attic statue does not use the "walking pose"
Finally, let us notice that ankle band which so exercised scholars of the 19th and early 20th centuries; they took it as a mark of enslavement and wanted to prove which enslavement it pertained to.  Accustomed to macho bangles of all sorts, I have never regarded it as anything else, and it is not as if we had other statuary types of Ares to compare it with.  At least one of the die engravers at Philippopolis in Thrace, in any case, rendered it very carefully, leaving no doubt (as if the pose left much) that it is this Ares type that is shown from Hadrian to Elagabalus on their bronze coins.
There is no possibility of proofs here, but we may summarize that the "Ares Borghese" may be an Augustan version of the Greek war god who, nude and hardly armed, was quite different from Roman Mars, including the equally Augustan Mars Ultor, who is understood to have worn "anatomical" armor.  This Ares, perhaps (if the association in the Agora temple is relevant), was particularly aptly paired with Aphrodite.  It is in Antonine Rome in the reign of Marcus Aurelius that we have wealthy, very possibly funerary, portraits of a man and wife as Ares and Aphrodite (for she is of the "Aphrodite from Capua" type, the prototype for the "Aphrodite from Melos").  Showing not only rulers but others who could afford for funerary use statuary in the guise of deities, Hermes (like the one from Andros) for instance, was not new, and orators and poetesses also (like the younger Herculänerin) also served.  Ptolemaic queens had paved the way for empresses as Aphrodite (though now Hera-Juno was the proper mate for Zeus-Jupiter).  So man and wife as Ares and Aphrodite, Ares' customary mate, was new but not extraordinary in Imperial Antonine society.  Diana Kleiner in Roman Sculpture, p. 280, says, "We know from Cassius Dio (81.31) that Marcus Aurelius and Faustina the Younger were celebrated as Mars and Venus"—but the citation to Dio Cassius must be wrong, because there is no Book 81, and Book 80 is late Severan, and Book 71, which would be the right date, exists only in the epitome, which abjures such tittle-tattle.  However, one must agree that these very datable statue pairs allude to the empress and her husband, though made for perhaps their friends.  Three pairs exist, but the third, from Ostia,  is plainly Commodan.
The Louvre pair, at left, is a little later than the Capitoline pair, at right
The "Aphrodite from Capua", of course, is only half draped and quite bare-breasted, but just as the so-called "Hera  Borghese" could have been Juno when used for the body type of an empress (Livia for example) and given thin drapery to cover her shoulders and breast, but was really an Aphrodite type of c. 410 BC, so the type known to us first from Capua usually wears a thin chiton when as a Roman domina she is paired with Mars as her husband (but not on the Commodan pair from Ostia).
I do not know of this couple on a coin, but the large statuary pairs illustrate how fashionable it was in the Antonine period, and that is when, or rather with Hadrian, the "Borghese Ares" type also belongs to Philippopolis.
Philippopolis, coin of Domitian with Ares-Mars reverse
In Flavian Philippopolis, the god of war is a regular Roman bearded Mars with "anatomical" armor over a tunic almost to his knees and his right hand resting on a Roman shield.  At other Danubian mints, as for example at Nicopolis ad Istrum or Marcianopolis for Macrinus, this Roman Mars will persist, reminding us that Greece had normally no cult of her Ares: as always, myth and cult are not the same thing.
Therefore, it is impossible to decide whether, beginning with Hadrian, Philippopolis had acquired a copy of her own of the opus nobile that we know as the "Ares Borghese" as a civic agalma or to replace a Roman Mars as a statue for the Imperial cult or, least likely perhaps, for the naos of a cult of Ares as a Greek god.  Whichever it was, Philippopolis was proud of it; its governor was pleased to put it on coins for successive emperors.
Philippopolis.  Small coin of Hadrian with "Ares Borghese" seen from proper left
This vantage point is the usual one on the coins (no palm trunk support, of course)
On this specimen of Hadrian's Ares, the shield on his left forearm is not very clear, owing to corrosion.
The Ares coins known to me for Antoninus Pius at Philippopolis are still small.
Philippopolis.  Two reverse dies of Ares for Antoninus Pius
Only the small bronzes with Dionysos reverses are commoner than the Ares
Both of these dies show the only kind of variation that we see in this series, placing the shield (though a Greek shield) on the ground and a spear in his left hand and one of them the stock patera in his right.  We recall, first, that in the statuary portraits the Ares may be given the spear, too, and second that this is the kind of casual placement of detachable attributes that we see both in the realm of copies and on coins (such as those of the Apollo Sauroktonos at Nicopolis) that represent them.  Remember, too, how from one generation to the next, freestanding statuary in churches may experience such changes, the addition of a gold crown of thorns, for example, or the placement on the ground of a heavy attribute until such time as it can be adequately re-attached.
Philippopolis.  Small bronze of Septimius Severus with Ares Borghese reverse
The portrait of Septimius looks rather early in his reign, certainly earlier than the pompous portraits on large bronzes here datable after AD 205 (when Philippopolis was given the title Metropolis).  This time the die engraver not only restores the shield to Ares' left forearm, where the Greek shield permits his holding a spear as well, but shows the body in front view and wearing a baldric (as on the Ostia portrait pair).
1980s photo of the "Ares Borghese" in what we regard as a front view
As in other representations on coins, inappropriate foreshortening, as of the shield with its edge facing the viewer, is avoided, but it has been noticed repeatedly that the foot plinth of this statue also implies its installation favoring the face nearly in side view and the face of the shield (decorated?) quite visible.  The Bonn cast stripped of restorations is useful:
Bonn, Akad. Kunstmuseum.  One of a group of teaching photos from the 1980s
Probably a decade or so later, we have the most detailed rendering, on a large die, of the Ares Borghese at Philippopolis:
Philippopolis.  Large bronze coins, in matching style and letter forms, celebrating both brothers as Augusti, laureate, Caracalla with the Ares and Geta with Nemesis (fully equipped), c. AD 209
Caracalla's Ares, though technically elegant, is, like other figure types commonly from late Severan onward, insensitive to the three-dimensional composition of the statue, especially noteworthy since it seems likely that Philippopolis actually owned one.  In other words, the old Alois Riegl observations, in his Spätrömische Kunstindustrie, that bodily three-dimensionality and the sense of a background as representing light and air in space that three-dimensional things inhabit, are increasingly denied or ignored, are by and large borne out by thousands and thousands of surviving coins.  There are many exceptions, the work presumably of older engravers or of engravers trained in workshops deep-dyed in tradition, and hints of this change can be picked out much earlier, given our hindsight, but not far into the 3rd century of our era the feeling of gingerbread men lying on a cookie sheet comes to prevail.  It is not a falling off of quality; the Caracalla and Geta are beautiful coins (as are, for that matter, the nice, big folles of the Tetrarchy and not a few Constantinian coins).  It is a radical change, as if a cultural genome had evolved to the point of producing a new species of art and of thought, I daresay.
The Caracalla Ares, notwithstanding, is the one that guarantees the identity of the type as an Ares Borghese: that ankle band!  Even for persons disposed to argue that anyone could do a figure in this pose (the sort of thing that doesn't happen, however), there is that ankle band, unique, not something that anyone would have done without a prototype.  It even shows how the Greek shield band permits Ares' holding a spear as well.
Caracalla's is not quite the last Ares Borghese at Philippopolis, though the production for Elagabalus is much smaller and it is the last from the Philippopolis mint.
Philippopolis.  Large bronze for Elagabalus, with reverse showing Concord of another nude male with the Ares Borghese statue-type.
Again, though likewise only a large bronze coin, not a medallion, no larger than a sestertius would be, this is not an ordinary issue, since it boasts a neokoria, a civic distinction rarer in the Danubian cities than in Asia Minor.  Here, certainly, the Ares is not merely the representation of a nice statue that Philippopolis had; it can stand in for her, as the Apollo Lykeios might do for Marcianopolis.  That being so, we must ask the identification of the nude warrior in 3/4 back view, helmeted with a chlamys over his left forearm and holding a spear in his left hand.  A baldric across his back suggests a parazonium suspended on it.  The naming of these handshaking figures in catalogue listings will reveal the difficulty of naming both figures on most of them, and unless the young emperor can be nude in this context, I do not know in this case.
Finally, it is possible that accidents of preservation preclude seeing the ankle band on more of the foregoing.  Finding so many as I have located has been difficult enough without fussing about perfection.
Proper full identifications for the coins are provided in the Picasa album.
Here is a short list of references for use with the statues:

For the Ares, see Evelyn Harrison's article "A Classical Maiden from the Athenian Agora" in Hesperia: Supplement XX (Studies in Athenian Architecture Sculpture and Topography) 1982, pp. 40-53, pls. 4-8 for a whole education on dating--as usual, the article contains much more than the title promises.  This is where I first became interested in the comparison of the Ares Borghese with the Dresden Zeus or Hades, which is real, no matter how you identify and attribute the originals of the statue types.

J. J. Pollitt. The Art of Ancient Greece: Sources and Documents, rev. ed., Cambridge UP, 1990.  For sources cited, in translation.

John Boardman, Greek Sculpture: The Classical Period, 1985, pl. 223.  For further notes, p. 247, beginning near end of first column.

Claude Rolley, La Sculpture grecque, vol. II, 1999, pp. 148-149, for the Ares; his notes, more extensive and up to date than Boardman’s, are in the margin of each page.

Diana E. E. Kleiner, Roman Sculpture, Yale UP, 1992, pp. 280–283, for the Antonine portrait pairs.

Luigi Todisco, Scultura greca del IV secolo, Milan, 1993, pl. 12, for a really good photo of the Dresden statue.

Ivan Varbanov, Greek Imperial Coins, III, English edition, Bourgas, Bulgaria, 2007.  So long as we have no real monograph for Philippopolis, this is the best we have for Philippopolis, the online provisional edidtion for the Antonine volume of Roman Provincial Coins at the Ashmolean Museum itself being limited for the time being.

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