ELITE HOPLITE SHIELD DEVICES FROM «MAGNA GRECIA»
A careful study of Ancient Greek pottery and numismatics leads to the conclusion that the “state” emblems started appearing on the shields of the ancient Greek hoplites by 6th century B.C. Yet the priestly clan and distinguished citizens had the right to bear some “personal” emblem. A demonstration of elite hoplites shield devices from southern Italy (Magna Grecia) is presented here
Many Italiote Hoplites belonged to the circle of Pythagoras “HOMAKOEION” The pentagram was, according to the Pythagoreans, the perfect geometric scheme that was called “HYGEIA” (health) and was composed from three triangles. It symbolized the combination of the Pythagoreans holy number –three- with the five elements of their beliefs: 1. Water 2. Earth 3. Idea 4. Energy 5. Wind. In Greek the acronym means Health. The possibility of the symbol existing on the hoplites shield devices is supported by contemporary South Italian art. The reconstruction was based on J729 Antikensammlungen (Munich) and MF150 Muse d’Art et d’Histoire (Geneve)
The Crotoniates belived their victory agains the Sybaritans was possible thanks to the guidance of the sheer Callias from the priestly clan of the Iamidae. The hero Iamos, was believed to have been schooled in the art of prophecy, by the very god Apollo himself and his descendants were thought of as great soothsayers. According to Strabo the Crotoniates gave citizenship to Callias and his relatives of military age went to battle carrying the eye as a shield device. The eye was symbol of the goddess Dike (court trial) but also of inner vision. The reconstruction was based on J729 Antikensammlungen (Munich) and 2451 Eberhard-Karls Arch. Institute (Tubingen University)
Black figure pottery item depicting a warrior’s departure. Scenes like this were common in the ancient world. Ex Albert Pilot collection (1922-2002) France. According to the Pythagoreans, numbers are the very essence of the universe and not just quantitative relation symbols, that why they are considered holy. The Unit symbolizes the Spirit and Strength. It is the source of everything. The point on the center of the hoplite’s shield symbolizes the Unit and the peripheral circle the Universe.
Grave Stele decoration from the necropolis of Taras. (Taranto). They bear the double-bodied Sphinx that was associates with the city’s aristocrats until the Roman conquest.
New York Metropolitan Museum of Art (photo Ε. Corsini)