AN EARLY GREEK REPRESENTATION OF THE THESSALIAN CENTAUROMACHY
The article deals with a bronze relief from Olympia dating back to the third quarter of the seventh century BC. The scene on it depicts two Centaurs battling against Caeneus. The composition of the relief scene is symmetrical. The main thematic detail of the depiction, which has aroused great controversy, is that Caeneus fights the Centaurs with a pair of swords, one in each hand. On every other Greek representation of the legend, Caeneus fights the horse-men either with only one offensive weapon (a spear or a blade) or with a threatening weapon plus a defensive one (a shield), but he is never shown accoutered with two offensive weapons.
The most significant feature of the bronze relief from Olympia is not simply the double-sword motif, but the distinctive Orientalizing style in its entirety, of which the double-sword motif forms only a part. The Orientalizing style of the depiction is perceptible in its symmetrical, proportionate, balanced, and static composition with a central figure and a pair of aggressors, one on each side, which certainly is a direct adaptation of two Near Eastern three-figure combat schemes: “a hero grasping and dominating a pair of animals” and “two beating a powerful enemy.” The distance in time and space between the bronze relief from Olympia and the Syro-Hittite artifacts revealing affinities with it can be filled in by the contacts and the cultural exchanges which continued after the Dark Ages in ever-increasing volume.
Keywords: Thessalian centauromachy, bronze relief from Olympia, Caeneus, two sword motif, Neo-Hittite artistic motifs