Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Detail of Ariadne, with satyr and winged cupids, from Constantinople, 6th Century. Ivory miniature (about 5" tall), Museum of Middle Ages, Paris. This beautiful little miniature is fascinating for its sad expression and mixture of Byzantine and classical elements. So is this Ariadne AFTER she's abandoned by Theseus? Note she's holding a staff (symbol of power or healing?) and a bowl (allusion to water?), with one breast exposed (reference to Amazons?). Many miniatures of this period and place (Constantinople) were of the Christ or religous themes, but here we find a classical theme, retelling the famous story of Ariadne, the woman who told Theseus how to find his way through the labyrinth, following her thread. His mission: to kill the dreaded Minotaur, ending the annual sacrifice of 7 pairs of maidens and young men, tribute from Athens to Knossos, also marking the shift of political power from the island of Crete to Greece.

Today is a quiet day, with many papers to read. Tomorrow we talk about Mesoamerican culture in humanities; perhaps that's the connection for we always wind up talking about human sacrifice. Time for tea. Beth

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