With each new volume in the invaluable series Corpus delle stipi votive in Italia we recognize the limitations of our overall knowledge of votives in Italy. But, at the same time, each volume provides the important additional pieces in the puzzle which gradually allow students and scholars to evaluate the role of votive offerings as a main, and sometimes the only, evidence for many aspects of ancient religion.
The material presented by L.A. Scatozza Höricht (henceforth S.H.) comes from the peninsula of Monte Vico and from the area of the Basilica di Santa Restituta at Lacco Ameno on the island of Ischia (Pithecusa). Because of the complicated and long-term excavations at Ischia, the terracottas form only one part of the vast body of votive material from the island and we must recognize that we are not dealing with pristine ‘votive deposits’ in the traditional sense.
The format of the catalogue of objects follows that of the corpus in general. The first category (A) consists of female busts, one from Monte Vico, Scarico Gosetti, and the other from S. Restituta, for which parallels come from Sicily (Morgantina) but also from S. Aniello a Caponapoli. The second category (B) contains female heads, of which there is one example from S. Restituta. Again, parallels come from Sicily, but also from mainland Greece (Corinth, Delphi), and from a sanctuary at Ariccia, south of Rome.
Category C, masks, includes a fragment of a theatrical mask of a type known from both Magna Graecia and Sicily. Category D, statues, includes fragments of three types, a standing Aphrodite, a peplophoros, and a nude male, and category E lists fragments of uncertain attribution.
Category F contains the largest group of votive terracottas presented in this volume. These are seated and standing females, some of the Tanagra type, a fragmentary doll, standing Eros figures, heads, protomes or masks, animals (standing bull), and fruits (for example, pomegranates).
Votive pottery (category G) is sparse (a miniature thymiaterion and two small plates with reclining figures modeled by hand). Small altars (category H) are represented by one well-preserved example with the bust of Athena modeled on the front, and one small fragment. Category I (reliefs) includes a fragmentary plaque of a horse and rider of a type known from Syracuse representing one of the Dioscuri twins.
Category L (moulds/matrices) includes four fragments of a female head, two masks, and a Tanagra statuette. The last category (M, varia) contains an Archaic female head with a polos, interpreted as a patrix or positive original from which a matrix or negative mould was made, a conical stamp with the head of Athena, and a small female head.
As seen in the brief listing above, the votive material from Monte Vico and S. Restituta at Pithecusa is small in quantity and the objects are often fragmentary and, at first glance, rather insignificant. But, thanks to the expertise of the author, the votives are placed in a larger archaeological and historical context in separate chapters of the book. S.H. first discusses the topography of Monte Vico and emphasizes the long history of the promontory, as indicated by pottery and other finds. According to the late Giorgio Buchner, the nestor of Pithecusan archaeology, the peninsula contained a sacred area dating from the 8th c. B.C., for which the best evidence is a votive model of a house or temple from the Gosetti votive deposit, illustrated here as pl. V. Fragments of architectural terracottas with palmette designs further indicate the presence of a temple in the Archaic period. Blocks of tufa and later architectural terracottas (disk akroterion, Gorgon antefix) suggest continued cultic activity, perhaps centered around Athena (antefix with head of Athena pl. XXVI).
The following chapter summarizes the cults of Pithecusa, ranging from Apollo in his function as healer, Medicus, and in the company of Nymphs, to Hera, Herakles, Athena, and Dionysos. The evidence for the cults is varied, and S.H. emphasizes the connection between Pithecusa and its origin, the island of Euboea in mainland Greece, as well as its close contacts with Cumae and the cities of Campania.
S.H. further reviews the evidence for the cult(s) at Monte Vico, and emphasizes the scarcity of clear-cut evidence. A female figure shown on the votive temple/house model from the Gosetti deposit, mentioned above, suggests that the cult centered around a female deity, as do the votive terracottas listed in the catalogue. Objects such as loom weights found at Monte Vico and in the area of the kilns at S. Restituta could apply to the cult of Hera or Athena Ergane, and S.H. favors the cult of Athena as a dominant one on Monte Vico but leaves the question open, awaiting more evidence or new interpretations of the material.
Evidence of terracotta production comes from the kilns and workshops found at S. Restituta (pl. II) and S.H. postulates that this area was used for production of votive objects as well as tiles and architectural terracottas. As for the stylistic and cultural parallels for the votive material discussed in this volume, S.H. highlights connections with Cumae on the mainland for the Archaic period, Naples and other sites in Campania for the 5th and 4th c. B.C., as well as Sicily (Morgantina, Syracuse). The possible importance of Pithecusa as a place of production and distribution is indicated in a clay analysis (presented as an appendix), comparing antefixes from Pithecusa with ones from Pompeii and suggesting Pithecusa as the place of production for both sites.
S.H. concludes that in spite of the fragmentary material it is possible to emphasize Pithecusa’s historical and cultural connections with Sicily and Campania and that the island was also part of the Hellenistic globalization which ranged from Asia Minor to mainland Greece to Italy. Finally, in the 1st c. B.C. Monte Vico ceased to exist as a place of terracotta production and was submerged into the Roman occupation of Pithecusa.
This volume forms an important addition to the corpus of votive terracottas. It illustrates how a careful analysis can help place a few fragmentary pieces into a much larger context. Through S.H.’s narrative the reader is able follow the later history of the island of Pithecusa (Ischia) through the end of the Republic, and the discussion of the cults and iconography highlights Pithecusa’s place within Italy and the Mediterranean. Detailed footnotes refer the reader to previous scholarship and numerous illustrations provide tools for comparisons with votives from other sites.