BMCR 2005.09.29

Il deposito dall’Acropoli di Cuma, Corpus delle stipi votive in Italia XVI. Archaeologica 138

, , , Il deposito votivo dall'acropoli di Cuma. Archaeologica, 138. Rome: G. Bretschneider, 2002. 124 pages, xxvii pages of plates : illustrations ; 30 cm.. ISBN 8876892028. €180.00.

The ancient site of Cuma (Cumae) continues to attract the attention of scholars and students devoted to the study of Vergil as well as to the long and complex history of the city. As can be expected, votive deposits were part of the archaeological remains of the city, and we are indebted to Mario Torelli and Annamaria Comella for their efforts in making such deposits known and published in the Corpus delle stipi votive in Italia.

As presented by the authors of this volume, the votive deposit from the lower terrace of the acropolis at Cuma was first discovered and excavated in 1911 under the direction of Vittorio Spinazzola and his assistant, Guido Scifoni. The excavation records indicate that the deposit contained a large number (unfortunately not specified) of terracotta feet, hands, heads, masks, statuettes, body parts, and small altars, as well as other fragments of terracotta, including a plaque in relief, and a few bronze objects (coins, nails, and a foot of a bronze statuette).

Like so many votive deposits from other areas of Italy, the one from Cuma has suffered from the vicissitudes of the 20th century, including the Second World War, as documented in the introduction by M. Catucci. Allowing for the objects no longer extant, the present publication addresses 226 objects that can be attributed to the votive deposit from the acropolis, of which the majority are housed at the local depository at Cuma and the rest at the Archaeological Museum at Naples.

The main part of the volume is organized according to the classification used in other volumes of the Corpus, designated as A — Heads, B — Statuettes, and C — Anatomical votives. Each main category is further subdivided by groups (male heads, female heads etc.) and classified according to the modeling, free-hand, or mold-made and arranged by mold sequence. The objects are further identified by the type of clay, identified by the corresponding Munsell color classification. Black-and-white photographs of each object and site plans follow the text.

The first category, Heads, is represented by only three objects, of which the best preserved is preserved only in a photograph from the excavation of the deposit. Stylistically it belongs to the ‘central-italic’ tradition, with examples found also on sarcophagi. For the two fragments of male and female heads, Catucci and Jannelli cite parallels from Capua, the sanctuary of Dea Marica at Garigliano, Tarquinia, and Gravisca.

The second category, Statuettes, comprises almost half of the preserved objects from the deposit. According to Sanesi Mastrocinque, the male statuettes consist of three groups, standing figures clad in a ‘Manteltoga’ or ‘Schrägtoga’ (according to the classification by Hafner), and standing nude or seminude figures. Stylistic parallels for the clad figures come from the Tanagra and Myrina statuettes, as well as from Capua, the Tiber, and Fregellae. The nude or seminude figures represent two stylistic origins, one Greek-inspired, following models by Praxiteles or Skopas, and the other more schematic, with parallels from Mondragone, the Mefitis sanctuary at Valle d’Ansanto, the sanctuary of Dea Marica at Garigliano, and Pompeii. It should further be noticed that all the statuettes were found without heads, probably indicating that the heads were removed as part of the ritual offering.

The female statuettes, presented by Catucci and Jannelli, represent five different types: standing, wearing a himation; draped figures of the Tanagra type; standing nude figures; kourotrophoi; and a miscellaneous group. Stylistic parallels for these types come from Greece proper, but also the immediate area of Cuma, Capua, central and southern Italy.

The third category, anatomical votives, also presented by Catucci and Jannelli, represents the remaining half of the votive material. As is often the case, the excavation records indicate several more types than are currently preserved, thus making it difficult to interpret the purpose of the deposit. In addition to four hands and fifty-eight fragments of fingers, the preserved objects include three leg fragments (knees), forty feet, and four male genitalia. Most pieces are mold-made, but there are also examples of modeling by hand. The frequency of hands and feet, and the types represented correspond with the numerous deposits of anatomical votives, primarily from Etruria and central Italy, for which see the recent overview by J. Turfa in THESCRA, vol. I (2004), pp. 359-368.

Following the catalogue, Catucci provides an interesting and useful analysis of the votive material from Cuma, dating from the fourth to the mid-second century B.C. Not surprisingly, considering Cuma’s location and history, the stylistic influences for the terracotta production can be attributed to Greece, central Italy, and the area of Cuma proper. While Cuma had played a major role in the interaction between Greeks and non-Greeks from earliest times, the city came into contact with its neighbors to the north, including the Romans, after the construction of the via Appia (312 B.C.), and the foundation of the Roman colonies at Minturnae and Sinuessae in 295 B.C. As a result, votive terracotta heads and anatomical votives became part of Cuma’s repertoire.

In the second part of the publication, Jannelli presents the history of the excavations and the topography of the sanctuary followed by a discussion of the cult. This information and analysis are particularly valuable since the find contexts of votive deposits are often unclear. Cuma had never ceased to be recognized as one of the most important Greek sites in Italy, but earlier excavations focused on the lower part of the city rather than on the acropolis. The remains on the top of the acropolis had been associated with the temple of Apollo until an inscription found on the lower terrace in 1817 identified this location as the sanctuary of Apollo. Excavations undertaken in 1910 by Ettore Gabrici documented the remains of a large temple, followed by Vittorio Spinazzola’s campaigns in 1911 and 1916-1917. Due to subsequent use, the periods of use, including medieval remains, are difficult to identify but include at least four phases, Greek, Samnite, Imperial Roman, and Christian. The Greek phase is documented by architectural terracottas dating from the second half of the sixth century B.C., followed by a remodeling documented by column bases and perhaps Ionic capitals. During the Roman period the temple received a large pronaos with columns and decoration suggesting an Augustan date. The Christian phase is documented primarily by tombs. Features from the temenos are difficult to interpret, including the so-called Greek cistern, and, to the north, a section of the fortification wall of the acropolis. It was along this wall that the votive material was discovered, to the immediate north of a small rectangular building oriented east-west. Although the exact findspot of the votives can thus be determined, the preserved records do not specify the nature of the deposit.

The composition of the votive material corresponds with Comella’s definition of an Etrusco-Latial-Campanian type, dating from the fourth to the mid-second century B.C. The presence of anatomical votives points to a healing cult with components of fertility, further reinforced by the statuettes of kourotrophoi. In all, the votives indicate the importance of social roles, male and female, in the execution of the cult. To name the deity to whom the cult was directed is, however, difficult. Since the votives were found far from the main temple (at a distance of 45 m.), it is less likely that they were related to the cult of Apollo. Instead, Mario Pagano has proposed that the rectangular building served the cult of Artemis, and the votives could very well apply to this deity in her role as healing deity. There is, however, little or no evidence to tie the deposit directly to Artemis, and the many links between the sphere of Apollo and different aspects of healing may instead suggest that the votive deposit, on the outskirt of the sanctuary to Apollo, indeed represents the strength of healing, perhaps in the hands of Asklepios, son of Apollo.

As is often the case with votive deposits, it is not the absolute numbers or artistic quality of the individual pieces that produce exciting interpretations. Instead, the authors of this volume have taken great pains to evaluate and analyze the material, fragmentary both in terms of numbers and state of preservation, and have carefully examined the specific find context and the general history of Cuma. This votive deposit, then, provides interesting evidence for Cuma and its inhabitants at the cusp of social and political exchange at a critical time in Italy’s history, on the threshold of Roman expansion and dominance in the Greek south.