Evidence for Homer?  The Importance of the Siamese Twin Figure in Attic Geometric Pottery

Allisa J. Stoimenoff

University of Arizona

The Siamese twin figure in Geometric art has been a source of debate among scholars.  It appears at the beginnings of figural art during the Iron Age around the same times as scholars believe the Homeric epics were being composed.  Unlike pottery during the historical periods, Geometric artists did not use inscriptions or attributes to identify the characters involved.  Identification has been further hindered by the fact that Geometric artists rendered scenes in silhouette.  Because of these limitations the Siamese twin figure may be the only truly recognizable character in Geometric art.  Its relative popularity throughout the Peloponnese as well as the archaeological evidence (for example, the fact that votives begin being deposited in the dromoi of Mycenaean tholos tombs) indicate a sudden interest in the Heroic past; however, I am most concerned with its occurrence in Athens where the figure appears most often.  Here it is rendered differently than it is in the Peloponnese and seems closely tied to Nestor.  It has been proposed by scholar such as Nicholas Coldstream that the twin served as the family crest of the Neleid family, who according to Herodotus came to Athens from Pylos and displaced the descendents of Theseus in the generation preceding the Trojan War.  Many prominent historical families claimed to be descendents from this family including the Peisistratids.  In this paper I intend to argue that prominent families in Athens during this period sought a means of connecting themselves to the Mycenaean past and Nestor.  Its popularity was a product of the fact that it was one of the few characters easily identified in Geometric art and it is for this reason that when the conventions of Geometric art were disposed of, the figure fell out of favor.


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