The Archaeological Collection
(Open daily, except Mon, June–Sept 8–7; Oct–May 8–3.)
This is an important, though uneven, archaeological collection—long on grave-goods, pottery and votive offerings, but short on the great sculpture of the Rhodian School which was of such renown in later Antiquity. One of the finest exhibits of the museum, however, can be visited before entering the building—in the northernmost magazine on the ground floor of the exterior façade, on the corner of the Street of the Knights: it is a display of thirteen magnificent 7th and 6th century bc, *funerary jars or pithoi, standing between 150 and 180cm in height and mostly decorated with moulded, abstract designs and elaborately fenestrated handles. They come from the Archaic cemetery at Kameiros. Notwithstanding their impressive size, these were generally (though not always) used for the burial of infants and children—as though the burial of the tiny folded body, with feet at the bot tom and head towards the entrance, was a return in death to the security of the maternal womb. Adults by contrast were mostly cremated in this period. Although the pithos was generally a household storage vessel, these ones distinguish themselves as ritual burial-receptacles by their attention to overall decoration. One of them, at the end of the room, bears a circle of small drill holes, perhaps for the application of a thin metal plaque or medallion; an other, to the right, though plain bears the name ‘ERGIAS’ on the rim. Two ancient granary pits are visible sunk be low the floor of the room.
Facing the entrance across the courtyard is a recumbent lion with the head of a bull held between its paws, carved from local Rhodian marble. It is a grave-marker of the Hellenistic period, with the unmistakable symbolism appropriate to a high-ranking military official. In front of it is a small area of the mosaic floor from the 5th century, Early Christian basilica of Eucharistos at Arkasa on the east coast of Karpathos; another *larger mosaic of remarkable decorative beauty, with a vine border and motifs of fish and bird, from the 6th century Basilica of Aghia Anastasia also at Arkasa, is displayed in the inner courtyard to the south. Though dusty today, these mosaics should be imagined with their naturally brilliant colours polished by the constant abrasion of feet and illuminated by the candlelight of the basilicas. Around the perimeter of both the courtyard and the upper gallery, decorated altars, stelai, inscribed pedestals and other epigraphic fragments are exhibited.
Upper floor—sculpture rooms
(The five rooms of the Sculpture Collection are in the south east corner of the upper floor, with access from a passage at the south end of the main Infirmary ward.)
Notable in the first hall (Room II), formerly the Hospital Refectory, are the 3rd century ad, grave stelai from Nisyros with nai―vely carved figures of the de ceased seen frontally, with one arm folded across the breast—a pose reminiscent of their Cycladic forebears of three millennia earlier. Three reliefs of a mounted Oriental deity with a club are testimony to the arrival of new eastern cults into the late Roman Empire. Room III contains the collection’s few exhibits from the Archaic and Classical periods, dominated by the well-conserved and justly famous *grave stele of Krito taking leave of her mother, Tamarista (c. 420 bc). This is the work of a period in which the dignified flow and counter-flow of the draperies are still actively felt by the artist and have not yet become mere, rhetorical pattern: a comparison with the mid-4th century bc stele of Kalliarista (to left, in the same room) illustrates this. The partial fore-shortening of Krito’s left leg and foot is also noteworthy. The room contains some fine 6th century bc, Archaic pieces from neighbouring islands, and two Cycladic marble kouroi from Kameiros probably produced in the workshops of Paros or Naxos . There is also a rare, 7th century bc perirrhanterion (a water stoup for ritual purification) incorporating in its complex design the repeated image of a female divinity standing on a crouching lion, whose tail she holds in one hand and a leash in the other.
Rooms IV, V & VI con tain sculpture from the time of the founding of the city of Rhodes (408/7 bc) to the Hellenistic and Roman Age—a period in which the sturdy volumes and strong tactile appeal of earlier sculpture were replaced by fine ‘draughtsmanship’ and elegant cutting. There is a new accent on movement, on drapery as an expression of that movement, and on the narrative aspect of a piece. The pretty Crouching Aphrodite—a 1st century bc copy in small scale of an original by the 3rd century sculptor Doidalsas of Bythinia (an artist of whom little is known for certain but who probably worked in the circle of Lysip pus)—is an example of this new decorative trend. This is not contemplative or sacred art, but rather the centre piece of a fountain or pool of water in which the attractive pose was mirrored. The mid 2nd century bc *Aphrodite Pudica, related in design to Praxiteles’s famous Aphrodite of Cnidus was, on the other hand, a cult statue perhaps from the Temple of Aphrodite by the Commercial Harbour. Immortalised by Lawrence Durrell as the ‘Marine Venus’, she was recovered from the sea north of the harbour of Rhodes . The definition of her features have an impressionistic soft-focus: this is the result of erosion by sea-water which has imparted to the marble a translucence akin to the original effect of ganosis—the waxing and polishing of marble statuary practised by the Ancient Greeks. Of the same period and school, are the two studies of a Nymph on a Rock, in different poses, differing styles and a variety of different finishes to the marble. The rooms also ex hibit some notable portraits and heads: a 3rd century bc head of Dionysos wearing a vine wreath, in rosso antico (not porphyry as labelled); a 2nd century bc head of Helios with perforations for the affixing of golden sun rays to the crown of the head, whose pose is based on the Lysippan ‘portraits’ of Alexander the Great; and from the Roman period, an interesting portrait of Antoninus Pius, and a copy of a popular 3rd century bc portrait of the dramatist Menander. The cheeks and the eyes of the latter have the remark able sensitivity of a painter’s shadows.
Room II leads out onto the terrace of the courtyard garden where there is a collection of funerary monuments, sculptures and decorative Hellenistic pieces, such as the fine, sporting dolphin. In the future this area will communicate directly with the Prehistoric and Epigraphic collections to be housed in a wing of the adjacent Villaragut Mansion.
Upper floor—funerary and votive deposits, pottery and small objects Both of the Ancient cities of Ialysos and Kameiros and their surrounding settlements have yielded an extraordinary wealth of material from their cemeteries and from the votive deposits of their respective sanctuaries of Athena. This is displayed in the 15 small rooms which form the south, west and north sides of the upper courtyard. The international provenance of some of the material and designs shows that Rhodes early on had trading and cultural links with a wide area of the lands surrounding the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The first three rooms (south side) display 8th and 9th century bc grave finds from the area of Ialysos and modern Kremasti; these are pieces with only Geometric designs of crystalline clarity, except for a few 8th century bc oenochoai with anthropomorphic spouts in the form of heads. A case with 6th century bc items in grey-ware from graves at Tsambikos includes a vase (no. 9) of beautiful form with an unusual, ‘faux marble’ type of decoration. The first two rooms of the west side have 6th century bc black-figure ware: amongst them an exquisite *circular pyxis (a small, lidded storage-vase), with clear and beautiful abstract designs to either side of a procession of Chukar partridges, depicted in varying poses around the shoulder of the piece. In the third room, amongst the mostly red-figure ware from graves, is a 5th century bc, painted marble discus with the figure of a discus-thrower, probably from an athlete’s grave.
With the long rectangular room on the west side begins the collection of votive offers from the sanctuaries of Athena, first at Ialysos. This is an extraordinary variety and display of small objects, stretching from the 8th century to the 4th century bc, often showing oriental influence in design and material: this is the first we see of objects in ivory, precious stones, bronze, glass, and glass-paste. A case with early 6th century bc figurines in limestone from Cyprus includes several examples of the ‘moscophoros’ image—a young offrand bearing a sacrificial animal, holding it with arms crossed over the chest. Offerings found at the sanctuary of Athena at Kameiros, again including Egyptian and Cyp riot artefacts, continue in the northwest corner of the north side. The next four rooms along the north side are de voted to finds from the cemeteries at Kameiros—including many of the gifts which accompanied the infant burials in the large decorated pithoi which are exhibited in the ground-floor vault of the museum (see above). These include stemmed cups and dishes of the Geometric period—at first with clear, abstract designs, then later with zoomorphic designs, such as a running hare or the small terracotta figure of a donkey carrying vessels. Other domestic items include: a painted knee-guard used in wool-working; a delicate bronze mirror; an ex traordinarily well-preserved, early 5th century bc, painted Attic vessel in the shape of a female head, signed by the potter—‘Midas made me’ (no. 30). The collection concludes with two rooms of selected 8th to 5th century bc Rhodian, Corinthian and Attic pottery of great sophis tication—many of the pieces decorated with captivating depictions of birds and running animals—and a display of bronze and glass artefacts from the graves at Kameiros.
Rhodes Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.