Author: Dido of Carthage


Everyone ready for Mythology Monday? Mythological figures are a frequent fixture in engraved title pages like this one, which comes from Johannes von Meurs’s Illustris Academia Lugd-Batava, a collection of biographical sketches of notable scholars from the Dutch city of Leiden. The figure on the left is Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom – see her owl companion hiding at the bottom right of her shield? To her right is Apollo, the god of music and medicine. While he could spare people from epidemics, his arrows could also spread plague. Hmmm.


Zwei frühkykladische Marmor-Figurinen die Harfe-Spieler darstellen

2700-2400 v. Chr.


Temple of Despoina

Lycosoura, Arcadia, Greece

180 BCE

The Temple of Despoina is prostyle-hexastyle in plan and in the Doric order 

at Lycosoura on the foot of the mountain Lycaon, west of the town Megalopolis. Pausanias gives a description of this sacred place at Lycosoura. In plan, the stylobate (platform) of the temple measures 11.15 by 21.35 m and is divided between a pronaos (front portico) and a cella. The lower portion of the walls of the temple cella are built of limestone, consisting of a course of orthostates capped by two string courses; the walls are completed to the level of the roof in fired clay brick, which would have been plastered. The six columns of the façade are in marble, as is the entablature. A curious feature of this temple is the doorway in the south wall facing the theater-like area (see in the picture of the statue group). Although uncommon, side doorways are known from other temples in Arkadia: i.e. Athena Alea at Tegea, and Apollo Epikourios at Bassai.

Pedimental acroteria from the temple of Despoina

Rather than extending as steps along the four sides of the temple, the stepped crepidoma spans only the front of the temple and has returns on the sides as far as the antae. The architecture also deviates from the standard Doric schema in that its Doric frieze is 1.5x the height of the architrave. At the rear of the cella is a massive, c. 1m high stone podium designed to hold the cult statuary group, in front of which is a mosaic decorating the floor. General consensus holds that the first construction of this temple dates to the fourth century BCE. There were several repairs during the Roman period.

To the south of the temple, inset into the slope of the hill, is a theater-like area with ten rows of stone seats ranging from 21 to 29 m in length. These rows of seats are uncurved and parallel with the south wall of the temple.

Although in many fragments and not completely preserved, the colossal cult group attributed to Damophon by Pausanias has been extensively studied and described. No comprehensive study of all the remains has yet been carried out, however. The relatively small cella of the temple of Despoina was dominated by a cultic group of statues comprising four significantly greater than life-size acrolithic-technique figures as well as a highly ornate throne for the central figures of Despoina and Demeter – all in Pentelic marble. This arrangement was somewhat unusual in that the typical situation was for there to be a single cult statue at the rear of the cella that was the primary object of veneration. The central figures of Despoina and Demeter were on a colossal scale, significantly greater than that of Artemis and the Titan Anytus. The bust of Despoina is not preserved. Holes are preserved on the bust of Artemis for the attachment of earrings and other metal ornaments, and for a diadem (or rays) on the bust of Demeter. The eyes of Artemis and Anytus were inset, rather than being carved from the marble as they were in the bust of Demeter. The great goddess, Gaia, could be represented as a throne and the throne of Despoina and Demeter was decorated with tritonesses – an appropriate theme given the identification of Poseidon as the father of Despoina. This nautical reference is underscored by the presence of marine themes on the veil of Despoina as well. One of these tritonesses was replaced in the Roman period, indicating damage to the group, perhaps due to an earthquake.


Philae Temple Complex

View of the Temple of Isis and the Kiosk of Trajan flooded by the Nile river, Philae Island, Egypt, 1930s.


A scene from Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazousae.  Apulian red-figure krater, artist unknown; ca. 370 BCE.  Now in the Martin von Wagner Museum,

Würzburg, Germany.


Hamer Hill Neolithic or Early Bronze Age Stone Circle or Ring Cairn 2, Hamer Hill and Rooley Moor, Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

This is a tricky one; to the untrained eye it is likely to be missed but here there is a ring cairn with an outer ring of stones about 30m in diameter and probably Bronze Age according to early surveys. Hopefully on the first image you can see the oval of the cairn as it goes from the left of the image. The central cairn is excavated, flooded and overgrown with long grasses.


Aphrodite from the East Pediment of the Parthenon. British Museum.


This small pottery mold in Glencairn’s ancient Egyptian collection was used to produce faience amulets in the form of the healed eye of the god Horus (wedjat). Wedjat amulets were extremely popular in Egypt, and were worn as jewelry in order to promote health. 


“Bird-face" female figurines of this type, made from terra-cotta and carrying infants, date to the Late Bronze Age period on Cyprus. They are associated with Astarte, the Phoenician goddess of love, and may have served as fertility charms to ensure success in childbearing and childrearing. The large ears are pierced for earrings.


Today Eva Miller from Oxford University is working in Glencairn’s Ancient Near East collection, digitally imaging our cuneiform tablets, foundation cones, and a large foundation cylinder describing Nebuchadnezzar’s rebuilding of the walls of Babylon. The Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative is creating an open access database of cuneiform texts in collections around the world. Tomorrow Eva heads to New Haven to digitize Yale University’s Babylonian collection. Both scholars and the public have access to this important resource. More information here: