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date: 23 August 2019

Trophylocked

  • Luca Leoncini

Extract

Dedication of the remains of a defeated enemy, usually on or near the battlefield. This custom was practised by the Egyptians and the Sumerians as well as other peoples of the Mediterranean region and the Ancient Near East. Except in the case of some Egyptian and Mesopotamian monuments celebrating important victories, however, it was never accompanied by any special artistic production in these areas. In Greece and Rome, however, the artistic commemoration of a victorious battle became very popular.

The first trophy documented with certainty is Greek: the trophy of the Aiginetans in the Temple of Aphaia, celebrating their victory over Samos (520 bc). Trophies were mentioned with increasing frequency throughout the 5th century bc, but they became less popular in the 4th century bc and the Hellenistic age (323–31 bc). Among some of the Greeks, however, including the Spartans and the Macedonians, the custom of dedicating everything that remained on the battlefield to the gods remained for some time. For the rest of the Greeks the trophy was at once a symbol of victory, an ex-voto and a warning to the enemy. Two types of trophies are known. In the first and more common type the enemy’s arms were suspended from a post or cross, arranged as they had been worn by the soldier. This ‘anthropomorphic trophy’ was commonly connected with the figure of Victory. The second type, the ‘cumulus trophy’, was a stack of arms often placed on a pile of stones; the earliest form of trophy appears to have been a simple cone of stones. The array of enemy arms displayed in the two types symbolized the dedication of the defeated who had worn them to the gods who had given the victory. The first example of Victories connected with trophies was possibly the one on the balustrade of the ...

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