Selected and rare materials, excerpts and observations from ancient, medieval and contemporary authors, travelers and researchers about Cyprus.
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Many of the ear-rings and finger-rings are beautiful examples of the best period of Greek art, while other rings are good examples of the excellence still retained at the time of the Romans. Silver contemporaneous with the earliest period does not retain its preservation so well as gold; but there are many interesting specimens in the collection, and from the stones set in the rings, evidently productions of Phœnician artists, either indigenous or foreign, and apparently of the fourth or fifth century B.C., and as such are objects of great interest. The leaden remains are not as a rule of the same antiquity as the metals mentioned before, and a large proportion of those discovered generally belong to the class of toys, or little votive objects. Seals attached to merchandise are occasionally found, and the sling bullets of the Greek and Roman armies, with inscriptions in relief, are found, mentioning the division or corps to which they belonged. Other vases of small size, for the eye-ointments of the Roman oculists, have, however, been found in lead. They commence about the time of Alexander, and seem to end at the Augustan era. The Lawrence-Cesnola collection, however, has also leaden plates, anciently rolled up, of a nature similar to the dirce, or imprecations discovered at Athens aud Cnidus, deposited usually under the pavement of the temple, and probably about the fourth century B.c. One of these discovered at Salamis has a Cypriote inscription, and is of high interest, as it probably precedes the supremacy of the Hellenic civilisation. The oldest known objects in lead are probably the archaic weights of Athens of the Egiuetan standard, and which may be attributed to the fifth century B.C. But even for weights, lead was subsequently superseded by stone and bronze, and the last appearance of this metal in ancient art is in the bullœ, or seals, inscribed with monograms, of the age of the Byzantine Empire, as late as five centuries, and even later, after Christ, examples of which will be found in the collection. Although the use of iron implements and objects can be traced to eight and nine centuries before our era, the few remains found, owing to the rapid oxidation of the metal, are precious, although of a later period. The bronze portion of the collection contains some remarkable objects—the Phœnico-Egyptian bowl, and the bronze flute, constructed upon an unusual principle, probably of the Greek period. Amongst the weapons found at Cyprus are some of copper, which may have preceded the use of bronze, and have been found elsewhere in the island. The articles of bone and ivory found at Salamis are principally of the later Greek and Roman period, comprising spoons, hairpins, and small objects; but the ivory box protected by a lead box and two paterae, is most remarkable, and of au earlier period; along with the ivory must be mentioned the box in shape of a shell, with a Cypriote inscription,which was employed for the purposes of the toilet. Bone is, no doubt, a later substitute for ivory, as proved by the numerous plaques, tickets for the amphitheatre, and tesserae of gladiators, portions of caskets, knife-handles, and hairpins found all over the ancient world at the time of the Roman Empire. The use of ivory, indeed, is of the most remote antiquity, that beautiful, soft, and elegant material having been at the earliest period adapted for objects of decorative art. The numerous sculptures in stone, although not of the largest size, exhibit the principal vicissitudes of Cypriote art, as it passed through the transition of Egyptian, Phœnician, and Greek and Roman influences; the material employed for this purpose was principally a kind of fine limestone, resembling modern Caen stone, which easily yielded to the chisel, and has retained a worn colour on -the surface, producing a pleasing effect after centuries. The very facility of working it instead of marble, more stubborn to the chisel, without doubt modified the art, and, to some extent, prevented it rivalling the soaring genius of Athenian art or that of Asia Minor. Yet some of the effects of the Cypriote sculptor are undoubtedly happy, especially those made at a later time, when his labours were untrammelled by hieratic influences, which had the effect of producing a pseudo-archaism more interesting to the archaeologist than pleasing to the general spectator. Criteria, however, are not wanting for determining even the relative place of these sculptures as revealed by the appearance of the laurel or other wreaths upon the head, and rings upon the fingers, in costume, or the treatment of the hair, the brows, eyes, and beard, in the representation of the countenance. At Salamis have also been found those small naked female figures of Dǽdalic fabric found elsewhere distributed through the Isles of Greece, perhaps some of the oldest remains of Carian art or Phœnician sculpture in stone. The inscriptions from this island site are precious from their rarity and their belonging to the different epochs. The Cypriote have been illustrated by Professor Sayce; one at least presents either a new letter or new form of a known letter of the Cypriote alphabet, and is on stone. The precise date of the first appearance of this early attempt to write the Greek language is unknown, and has to be determined from the bas-reliefs and coins. Although its appearance is supposed to be firstamongst the ruins of Hissarlik or Troy, the doubts and difficulties are too great to enable that alone to decide the epoch.

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Created at June 2008