Abstract: The Master of Animals: Divine Symbols and Local Traditions in Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean


The so-called ‘Master of Animals’ was well established in eastern Mediterranean and Aegean iconography for more than four millennia. In some cases, adversarial representations of hunts, heroic contests, and antithetical compositions featuring a central human figure grasping one or more animals signify physical prowess and supernatural control over the forces of nature; in other cases, these same qualities are embodied in theriomorphic transformations, hierarchical representations of humans on top of animals,  or even simple pastoral scenes that more implicitly highlight the domination and control of both domesticated and wild animals. Images of divine figures displaying attributes identified with a ‘Master of Animals’ characterize the iconography of Cypriote sanctuaries during the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic Period. Such images reveal the mixing of local styles and tastes with foreign (e.g., Greek, Phoenician, Egyptian) artistic elements, while also offering valuable evidence regarding artistic communication and socio-economic exchanges within the island and beyond. This lecture will trace the history of this important theme from its beginnings in prehistoric age to its role in Cypriote sanctuaries of the first millennium B.C.E. By isolating this divine aspect and attempting to focus on the importance of local and internal Cypriote responses to it, a more lucid picture of the complexity of Cypriote culture, art, and religion during these periods begins to emerge.
D. B. Counts and B. Arnold (eds).The Master of Animals in Old World Iconography(Budapest: Archaeolingua Press, 2010).
D. B. Counts, "Master of the Lion: Representation and Hybridity in Cypriote Sanctuaries" American Journal of Archaeology 112.1 (2008), 3-27.

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