Abstract: Myth into Art: The Reception and Translation of Greek Myth in Archaic Cyprus

Lecturer: Derek Counts

Votive sculptures dedicated in Cypriote sanctuaries illustrate rather clearly the predisposition of Cypriote artists to appropriate and transform borrowed divine images and assimilate them into a local, yet multifaceted religious tradition. The ambiguity that arises from the liberal borrowing, mixing, and reconstitution of divine representations characterizes the visual record of Cypriote religion as early as prehistory. For example, divine figures bearing the trademarks of the traditional Greek Herakles–the lion, bow, and club–are found in nearly every artistic media present in the archaeological record of Iron Age Cyprus. In sculpture, this so-called “Cypriote-Herakles” (to distinguish him from his Greek counterpart) first appears in the role of a divine archer. At around the same time, representations of a triple-bodied, armed warrior, identified with the Geryon of Greek mythological fame also appear in certain Cypriote sanctuaries. This paper will examine the relationship between these two divine images, with special attention given to their function within a Cypriote religious context. While the borrowing of Herakles’s and Geryon’s iconography and the associated mythological narratives seems undeniable, Cypriote religious conservatism demanded that these attributes translate into a local, Cypriote religious ideology.

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