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Work Illyrian-style Helmet

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)

Casque de type illyrienExaleiptronLamelle en or

© 2008 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)

Author(s):
Astier Marie-Bénédicte

This Illyrian-style helmet is characterized by the absence of a nasal, a quadrangular cut-out around the face, and fixed cheek plates. It was found in a male burial site in northern Greece and dates from the middle of the fifth century BC. Discovered nearby was a small, diamond-shaped strip of gold which covered the mouth of the deceased in accordance with a funeral rite, evidence for which has been unearthed by recent excavations in the Macedonian necropolis of Sindos.

Part of the funerary trappings of a male tomb

In the course of the year 1917, the Service Archéologique de l'Armée d'Orient unearthed several burial sites at Stavroupolis (the Turkish name for which is Zeitenlik) in northern Greece. This Illyrian-style bronze helmet was among the funeral trappings discovered in the stone sarcophagus of a warrior. The Macedonian tomb, which dates from the middle of the fifth century BC, was not buried deep, and inside it was found the skeleton of a man wearing this helmet on his head, with a spear on his left side and a sword over his abdomen. A small strip of gold, a silver ring, the curved blade of an iron cutlass, and various terra-cotta vases - a goblet, a lekythos, a skyphos, and an exaleiptron - were also buried with the deceased and are now in the Museum of Salonika and the Louvre.

An Illyrian-style helmet

Particularly favored in northern Greece, the Illyrian-style helmet owes its name to ancient Illyria, a province situated in the northern part of the Balkans. It is characterized by the absence of a nasal, a quadrangular cut-out around the face, fixed cheek plates, and the demarcation of a wide central area, running along the middle of the crown, to which the crest was attached. The crown of the helmet is made up of a single sheet of metal, decorated at the edge with a delicate pattern of raised dots and two lines in relief. At a later stage of development, the cheek plates became more elongated and were placed vertically in relation to the back part of the crown. The transition, as that stage, was marked by a deep angular notch.

Macedonian funerary rites

Recent excavations carried out at the necropolis of Sindos in Macedonia have confirmed the existence of distinctive funeral practices; it would seem that the disposition of the bodies and the funerary trappings were subject to very strict rules. The pieces of armor were placed on the remains according to a custom observed in most of the tombs in the region: the spear on the left and the sword level with the chest, its tip pointing outward and to the left. As for the vases, they were arranged between the legs, according to custom. The diamond-shaped gold strip shown with the helmet was attached to the mouth of the deceased by a thong going round the back of the head. In the richest burial sites, the whole or part of the face was covered with gold leaf. The helmet might also be decorated with gold bands above the brow and along the vertical edges of the cheek plates.

Bibliography

- DESCAMPS S., Les Antiquités grecques. Guide du visiteur, musée du Louvre, Paris, 2002, p. 99.

Technical description

  • Casque de type illyrienExaleiptronLamelle en or

    Milieu du Vème siècle avant J.- C.

    Provenance : Zeitenlik (actuelle Stavroupolis), Macédoine

  • Terre cuite : CA 2221Or : Bj 103

    H. : 4,80 cm. ; L. : 17,10 cm. ; D. : 14,50 cm.

  • Fouilles du Service Archéologique de l'Armée d'Orient, 1917 , 1917

    Br 4116, CA 2221, Bj 103

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Bronzes room
    Room 32, temporarily closed to the public, works n
    Vitrine M3 : Armement grec (VIIe - IVe siècles avant J.-C.)

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