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THRONUS

THRONUS The use of the throne as a symbol of kingly power or authority in general is so ancient, that any inquiry into its origin would lead far beyond the earliest records of Greece and Italy. Even on the pre-historic remains found at Mycenae and other sites in Greece and on the islands of the Aegean, seated figures are represented in a way which leaves no doubt that they are receiving homage. Unfortunately these thrones are so poorly represented, that no idea of those then used can be gained from them.

In Homer the θρόνος is distinguished from all other forms of seat [SELLA], and was used by kings and princes. It was not, however, wholly confined to them, for any guest whom the prince wished to honour was given a throne. Telemachus, for instance, shows his respect for Athene when she arrives disguised as Mentes in this way (Od. 1.130). It was doubtless on this account that we find the seats of all the guests in magnificent palaces, such as that of Alcinous or the hospitable house of Odysseus, are called θρόνοι (Od. 16.408). As might be expected from this, the seats of the gods are always θρόνοι, except in one passage (Il. 8.436), where all except Zeus sit on κλισμοί he taking a θρόνος: but this is quite naturally meant to show his supremacy. The idea, in fact, is the same as that in the mind of the artist of the Parthenon frieze. On the west side, in the assembly of the gods he has given Zeus alone a throne with back and arms, whereas the seats of the other gods are mere stools (cf. British Museum Guide to Elgin Marbles, p. 66, No. 29).

The epithets in Homer do not give much information about the shape or appearance of the thrones he mentions. It was high (ὕψηλος, Od. 8.422), and always had a footstool (θρῆνυς, Od. 1.131; 19.57). It was covered with rugs and carpets (Od. 1.130; 20.150) of the richest kind. From the epithets σιγαλόεις, φαεινός, and ξεστός, we may conclude that it was made of wood, turned and highly polished. The wood, however, was often overlaid with gold plating (χρύσειος, Il. 8.442), in the style that the gold-leaf ornaments from Mycenae have made so familiar (cf. Schuchhardt, Schliemann's Ausgrabungen, 267 foil.). There is no mention of a throne having arms; but from the account of the death of Antinous, Helbig infers that they were used (Od. 22.8-20). The earliest monuments showing thrones are the rude terra-cotta statuettes representing goddesses which are found with pottery of the Dipylon and other Geometric styles (cf. Jahrbuch des d. Arch. Inst., Boehlau, 1888). These, however, show little more than that the back was straight and ornamented, and that footstools were generally used. One may, however, trace in the magnificent throne which later ages provided for temple idols, a traditional survival of the gorgeousness of Heroic times. Two of these are the throne of Apollo at Amyclae, the work of Bathycles of Magnesia (Paus. 3.18, 19). and the throne of Zeus at Olympia, designed and executed by Pheidias (Paus. 5.11). The former, however, was not a throne in the ordinary sense, being a structure built round the old wooden idol (ξόανον), which of course could not be put in a sitting attitude. The latter, however, was in all respects, except its colossal size, a throne; the additional pillars inserted between the legs to support the enormous weight of the statue being the only difference. Pausanias (loc. cit.) gives a full description of its structure and decoration. It was made of ivory and gold, ornamented with gems and ebony, sculptured, inlaid, and painted. The back was high and surmounted by sculptured groups of the Graces and Seasons, which rose about the head of the god. Between the legs were eight crossbars, and below was a footstool, the whole covered with a multitude

Coin of Elis, showing Zeus enthroned.

of figures and groups representing mythological heroes and tales. This throne is well shown on the coins of Elis of the time of Hadrian, a small siketch of the famous statue on their reverse (cf. Journ. of Hellenic Studies, vol. 10.98). It agrees well with Pausanias, showing the high back, the Sphinx supporting the arm, the cross-bars between the legs and the footstool. It fails to show the two groups standing on the back, and of course gives no idea of the decoration. Magnificent as this throne was, there is nothing beyond its size and artistic merit which might not have been found on the seats of early Greek kings. Even the more or less commonplace forms on the monuments--the grave reliefs in particular--show much variety of design and complicated decoration.

The best known of the grave reliefs of the type in which the dead man appears enthroned and receiving the homage of his descendants is the Harpy tomb from Lycia, at the British Museum. It shows us no less than five thrones, the most typical of which are those on the slab, where two seated ladies receive offerings from three women. The lady to the left is on a throne with legs of turned work strengthened by crossbars. The arm which is visible is also of turned wood, and, as in the case of the Olympia throne, is supported by a Sphinx. The lady to the right sits on a throne with very solid square legs, which end above in an early form of the Ionic volute (cf. Puchstein, Das Ionische Capitell), and are decorated in the middle with a palmette [p. 2.838]ornament. The arm ends in a ram's head, and the top of the back is bent over and carved into the shape of a goose's head. Both thrones are thickly cushioned, and both have a footstool. On the other sides of the tomb we see other varieties, one seat having no back, another no arms, while the third has an arm supported by the figure of a Triton, and front legs carved

Thrones, from the Harpy Tomb. (Murray.)

like the fore-legs of a lion. This imitation of a lion's legs and paws is very common, but only in the case of the fore-legs. A series of gravereliefs however, from Sparta and the neighbourhood (cf. Mittheilungen des Ath. Inst. 1877), shows all four legs carved in this way, the back legs being shaped as hind paws. Studniczka has pointed out that this curious feature is only seen elsewhere on vases of the Cyrenaic class, and that it is the pattern in which almost all Egyptian thrones are carved. This leads him to derive the fashion from Egypt (Cyrene, p. 9), and the remarkable coincidence of several other shapes makes the hypothesis a probable one.

Egypt, however, was not the only country from which the Greeks borrowed their models of thrones, for the connexion with Assyria and the East is even stronger. This is especially to be seen in the use of certain primitive forms of the Ionic capital and the very peculiar variety of the palmette ornament, in which two elliptical cuts are made on each side of the leg, leaving a narrow bar which is used in the decoration as the stalk of a double palmette. Both these are shown by the second throne described above, and both are very common in vase-paintings, of all periods except the very latest. The natural inference is that the work of Oriental cabinetmakers, travelling through Greece proper, was the source from which the Greek carpenter derived his patterns and ornament. Not that he copied slavishly; for the bewidering variety of thrones on vase-paintings makes any simple description impossible, and shows that much invention was bestowed on their manufacture. Some of the fantasy, it is true, must be the artist's; for he gives himself free hand in the matter, and omits backs, arms, and footstool as it may happen to suit his design.

Much more reliable are the copies in stone of actual seats, in which statues were frequently carved; as, for instance, those from the sacred way of Branchidae, now in the British Museum. Such thrones were used by men of authority, such as priests, judges at the games, and teachers in schools (cf. Bullettino dell' Instituto, 1890, i. p. 1, “Parodia d'una scena di scuola” ). It was with thrones such as these that the Greek of classical times, to whom the insignia of royalty were scarcely known, was acquainted. In later times, especially under the Roman Empire, it became the custom to dedicate honorary seats or thrones in public places, generally the theatre, to the use of distinguished people. Such are the seats of benefactors, priests, archons, generals, and other officials, which still remain in the theatre of Dionysus at Athens (cf. C. I. A. 3.240 seq.; and Miss Harrison, Mythology and Monuments of Ancient Athens, pp. 273-277). Besides these ceremonial seats, each head of a house had a chair in which he sat and entertained guests, which was not unlike the old θρόνος in shape and went by its name.

Such also was the case at Rome, where the solium was only used by the paterfamilias, who sat in it of a morning when giving audience to his clients (Cic. de Leg. 1.3, 10: “Cum praesertim non recusarem quominus more patris sedens in solio consulentibus responderem” ). The solium was in form practically the same as the Greek θρόνος and, like it, was the seat of gods. The seat of the teacher, however, was not called solium but cathedra; a word which is otherwise used as a translation for δίφρος, not θρόνος. Solium is also the name for a peculiar kind of bathing chair, in which the bather sat and had hot water thrown over him. Such chairs are to be seen in many museums (cf. Daremberg et Saglio, Dict., art. Balncae, fig. 768). Some, however, seem to have been rather of the nature of a hip bath, and are frequently mentioned by medical writers (Celsus, 7.26, 5, “in solium . . . aquae calidae resupinus demittendus est;” cf. Festus, p. 298 b, 22 M., “Alvei quoque, lavandi gratia instituti, quo singuli descendunt solia dicuntur.”

(Baumeister, Denkmäler, art. Sessel; Iwan Müller, Handbuch, pp. 381, 385; Overbeck, Plastik, i. 56, 74 foll.; Blümner, Kunstgewerbe in Alterthum, i. p. 111, ii. p. 41; Buchholz, 3.2.138; Hermann-Blümner, Privatalterthümer, p. 158; Helbig, Das homertsche Epos, pp. 108, 118 foll., 378; Becker-Göll, Charikles, 3.82.)

[W.C.F.A]

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