Apulo-Corinthian Bronze Helmet
Period: late 5th century B.C.
Dimensions: H: 21.7 cm
Ex-Dr. Levy collection, Neuchâtel (Switzerland), acquired in the 1970’s.
Complete helmet in remarkable condition. Neck protection partially restored (left), dented, probably in ancient times, minor crack on the skull. Granulated surface with a beautiful green patina; traces of the original golden yellow color of the bronze still partially visible.
This magnificent helmet was cold-hammered (on a wooden or stone model) from a single sheet of bronze, thin though of even thickness. The two small holes, pierced on the horizontal rim at ear level in this example, are a distinctive feature of this type of helmet and were used to attach the strap passing under the chin. The finely executed decoration was made using a pointed metal tool and a punch (series of circles). On top, the crest holder, which is rather particular here, is composed of two vertical stalks and of a riveted strip arranged crosswise, provided with two central hooks. Apulo-Corinthian headgear is an eastern Magna Graecia variant of the archetypal Greek helmet, known as Corinthian (see n. 10); all the elements are similar, but they are arranged differently. The main changes are: a) Apulo-Corinthian helmets are smaller and their shape is more spherical and compact; indeed, they were meant to be worn on top of the head, like a cap, leaving the face of the warrior uncovered (see Italiote red-figure pottery); b) the paragnathides (cheek protectors), which are shorter than in the original Corinthian version and are separated by an increasingly narrow opening, have lost their initial function and are used henceforth as protection for the forehead; c) the eyes, the nose protector and the eyebrows are no longer in their correct location and have become the elements of a mask which, by duplicating the face of the warrior, is intended to emphasize personal decoration and to scare opponents; d) the crest on the Apulo-Corinthian helmet is most often arranged crosswise, frequently flanked by two short stalks to which feathers were attached. This helmet is high and semi-spherical, with a regular outline interrupted midway by an undulating line in low relief, which splits in two on the front and draws the shape of the eyebrows. The decoration is completed here by other details of the human face: a) two small close-set holes, with pointed corners, representing the eyes; b) a series of incised curls (bangs of the hair) followed by two rows of dots; c) the long, narrow pointed feature corresponding to the nose protector; d) hidden by the nose and barely visible, a vertical opening, all that remains of the separation between the paragnathides, inherited from Corinthian helmets. On the back, the rim of the helmet forms a small stiff nape cover which, while protecting the neck of the warrior, still allows him to move freely in all directions. The decoration of the lower part, rendered by fine incisions, is rich and complete; it shows a wildlife motif divided into two groups: a) over the forehead, a fight between a bull and a lion, where the bovid is in a defensive position, its head lowered, while the felid runs towards its prey and prepares to attack; the many anatomical details (coat, muscles, hooves, claws) incised on the bodies recall the images of animals witnessed throughout contemporary Greek iconography; b) on the nape, a pair of dolphins going head to head. Morphologically, Apulo-Corinthian helmets can be classified in three major types: open specimens (type A, with an opening separating the false paragnathides); partially closed specimens (type B, with a very narrow opening and one or more horizontal elements connecting the paragnathides); and, like here, specimens on which the paragnathides are soldered and thus practically closed (type C).
A further evolution is represented by specimens looking like a simple metal cap, without nose protection, in which the eyes are indicated only by incisions or bone inlays. Stylistically, at least three main documented workshops produced this type of headgear; with a few other examples, this helmet certainly belongs to the more recent group, which displays the highest artistic skills, inspired by Greek rather than indigenous iconographic models. Lions, bulls, dolphins, ketoi (sea monsters) and a few human (hunters) or mythological figures (Heracles, centaurs) adorn these helmets, but they are also part of the iconography of other categories of contemporary objects such as the coins of Thurio (Thurii, near Sybaris), intaglios, belts, etc. The dating of Apulo-Corinthian helmets still raises many problems; they appear in funerary contexts dated between the late 6th and the first half of the 4th century B.C. Unfortunately, the incised patterns are often stereotyped and the successive typological evolution, ranging from a form still related to Corinthian helmets to a progressive closing and simplification, does not have any definite chronological sense (the first helmets of type C, with closed paragnathides, were already common in the first half of the 5th century B.C., whereas type A survived up to the 4th century B.C.), which does not enable us to establish precise criteria for the chronology. This example dates to the last decades of the 5th century B.C
BOTTINI A., Apulisch-korinthische Helme, in Antike Helme: Sammlung Lipperheide und andere Bestände des Antikenmuseums Berlin, Mainz/Rhine, 1988, pp. 107-136 (especially pp. 120-129).
CAHN D., Waffen und Zaumzeug, Basel, 1989, pp. 27 ff. PFLUG H., Schutz und Zier: Helme aus dem Antikenmuseum Berlin und Waffen anderer Sammlungen, Basel, 1989, pp. 23-24; pp. 59-61, nos. 23-26.