The Smaller Articles

The Greeks also used their skill to produce exquisite little figures only a few inches high, such as the supports or handles for bowls, the handles of mirrors and caskets, armour and a hundred other items.

The celebrated Siris bronzes, which are now in London, are in this category. They comprised the shoulder-plates of a warrior's armour, having two small lions at the top, probably with rings for fastening to the cuirass. Each figure shows a warrior defeating an Amazon. Like many other bronzes in high relief, they were beaten out of sheets by repoussé work. The face of the plate was laid against some yielding material such as pitch, and the back beaten into shape by the appropriate tools. The plate was then turned over and the ornamentation finished off by chisels, etc. In many cases the bronze sheet was exceedingly thin and it must have required extraordinary patience, judgment and skill not to pierce it accidentally. Other bronze reliefs were cast in the solid.

It was a Greek practice to deposit small votive offerings, which were often of metal, both in the temples and in private shrines, and many have been preserved. One of these portrays a contest between an Amazon and a warrior, with the Amazon in this case the victor. Mythological subjects are common on these bronzes; but the fine native sense of ridicule was never far away; thus a piece from Naples (which was one of the early Greek colonies) shows Eros playing with a goose.

Also from Italy, on the Volturno, comes a figure of Aphrodite, who was a favourite subject for many bronzes. The bronze was cast upon an iron core, with the forearms cast separately and afterwards riveted on. There is still extant an Aphrodite bronze of the 4th Century B.C., in which 'the eyes were inlaid with some material indicating their natural colour, such as a vitreous paste, ivory and ebony or gems'. (8) Of a much later date is a very fine bronze head of the Roman emperor Augustus, which was found by Garstang in 1910 in the Sudan; this had inlaid eyeballs perfectly preserved.

8 SMITH, A.H. Guide to the Greek and Roman Antiquities in the British Museum (1912), p. 182.