Greek bronze large size sow
Period: 5th Century B.C. - 3rd Century B.C.
Dimensions: Length: 35 cm
Ex German private collection, collected circa 1993.
Complete and in good condition. Superficial wear and corrosion on the surface, traces of green patina; a few restorations.
Looking straight forward, open mouthed, and with ears pointed back, the cast bronze pig stands securely on its legs with prominent teats hanging from the underside of its well-rounded torso.
In Greece the breeding of domestic pigs was one of the earliest and most important agricultural practices. Thus in Homer’s Odyssey the swineherd Euamaios receives an appropriate literary mention. Mythological references to the pig occur with the arrivalof Aeneas in Italy, when he encounters a white sow with thirty white piglets, which prompts him to settle there.
The most important role of domesticated animals in the religious rituals of Greek and Italic cultures was that of sacrificial victims. Pigs, along with sheep, goats, and cattle were among the commonest species used in this manner. The pig was one of the most important sacrificial animals for Greek deities, and piglets were prescribed for ceremonial purifications. Most of the meat consumed from these animals likely would have been provided by ritual sacrifice.
In Magna Graecia pigs in particular were sacrificed to the goddess Demeter, following cult rituals established like those at the sanctuary of Demeter in Eleusis in mainland Greece. Countless small representations of the animal and terracotta statuettes depicting figures holding small piglets were found in sanctuaries of the goddess. These offerings in miniature form were substitutes for offerings of the real animal. It is possible that this bronze example, being the actual size of a piglet, functioned in a similar manner, as a more valuable and lasting votive offering that took the place of the sacrificial animal.
COMSTOCK M. – VERMEULE C., Greek Roman & Etruscan Bronzes in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 1971, p. 86, no. 92.
DAUPHIN C., Animals in the Ancient World, The Levett Bestiary, Mougins, 2014, p. 8 and p. 93
MUSTI D. et al., L’oro dei Greci, Novara, 1999, no. 97, p. 254.
ROLLEY C., Les Bronzes Grecs, Fribourg, 1983, pp. 160-1, no. 148 (for a Greek bronze doe of similar size).