Roman stray cat on one of the two statues of Bes —Egyptian deity present in the Nile Valley since the Old Kingdom (ca.2686-2181 BC), later extended to Syria, Persia and Rome— that flank the strange, mysterious Alchemical Gate of Piazza Vittorio. Photo by Elliott Erwitt ~ 1959
AMASTRIS (c. 340/39-285 BCE) was a niece of the Persian king Darius III (r. 336-330 BCE) through her father Oxyathres. She was married in succession to Alexander’s general Craterus, the tyrant Dionysius of Heraclea, and finally to Lysimachus of Thrace. She founded an eponymous city in Paphlagonia and was the first queen to issue coins in her own name.
Amastris was the mother of four children, was supposedly divorced so that Lysimachus could marry Arsinoe II, and was allegedly murdered by her sons for interfering in their affairs. Despite their divorce, Lysimachus still avenged her death by killing her sons. Scholars have mostly ignored Amastris and left the few known details of her life as contradictory as the ancient sources present them. Yet, the little-known queen is arguably the first true Hellenistic queen as she embodies the entanglement of Persian and Greco-Macedonian traditions.
As the daughter of prince Oxyathres, the brother of the last Persian king Darius III Codomannus, Amastris was in effect the last surviving Achaemenid princess. Although her mother is unknown, the only woman associated with her father is an Egyptian concubine called Timosa. After the Battle of Issus (333 BCE), Alexander the Great found Amastris among the other royal and noble women left by Darius at Damascus. During the grand wedding ceremony at Susa almost a decade later (324 BCE), when the Macedonian high commanders were married to Persian and Median women, Alexander gave Amastris to his general Craterus – the only companion besides Hephaestion to wed a Persian princess. Historians maintain that Craterus, famously devoted to Macedonian tradition, repudiated Amastris in order to marry Phila, the daughter of the Macedonian regent Antipater. As Macedonian royalty and nobility practiced polygamy, Craterus did not have to separate from one wife to marry another. Craterus, at any rate, would soon fall in battle (321 BCE).
Giorgio de Chirico, 1888-1978
Oedipus and the Sphinx, 1968
Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico, Rome
Fernand De Filippi (Italian, born 1940)
The poet tree (L’albero poeta), 1994
Mixed media on canvas, 70 x 50 cm
Edouard Manet, 1832-1883
The surprised Nymph (Study), 1860, oil on canvas, 46×36 cm
Nasjonalgalleriet. Sentrum, Oslo