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“The crest was supported by a sphinx,” the significance of which he promises to explain afterwards. The statuette confirms that. Then Pausanias goes on : "On each side of the helmet was a gryphon,” whereupon he runs off into the old tale of how the gryphons were animals having the body of a lion, but the wings and beak of an eagle, which guarded heaps of gold in a far-away country against a race of men called Arimasps, who had each only one eye. Apparently he had thought that the gryphons had been introduced on the helmet with reference to the amount of gold employed on the statue. Anyhow the statuette shows us winged horses or Pegasi, not gryphons, on the sides of the helmet. There must be some explanation. It does not seem at all possible that Pausanias could have mistaken a horse for a gryphon, or that the copyist of the statuette would have ventured to put winged horses in the place of gryphons. Besides, the presence of horses supporting the side crests is confirmed by a cameo in the British Museum and by other evidence, especially two large gold medallions in St. Petersburg, which were found in a Greek tomb in the Crimea (Pl. XV.). Both the cameo and the medallions show on the cheek-piece of the helmet a gryphon, and probably the explanation is that Pausanias had overlooked the horses in his haste to tell the story of the fabulous gryphons. The winged horses would represent Pegasus, whom Athenè caught and bridled, when he had sprung into existence from the decapitated body of the Gorgon. The copyist of the statuette has omitted the gryphons on his cheek-pieces, and we must here mention another omission on the part both of the copyist and of Pausanias. Neither of them takes notice of the decoration along the brow of the helmet, which we find in our cameo and on the St. Petersburg medallions, consisting of a row of horses or of alternate deer and gryphons springing forward, but visible only in the foreparts. The joint evidence of the cameo and the medallions is sufficient to prove the existence of that rich element of decoration above the brow of the Athenè. How splendid the effect must have been of all this sculptured ornament on the helmet executed on so colossal a scale is now more than we can realise.
On the breast of the Athenè was her aegis of gold covered with scales, and having a fringe of serpents. The scales both of the aegis and the serpent had been enamelled, doubtless. In the middle of the aegis was inserted in ivory the mask of the Gorgon Medusa. How Athenè came to have the head of the Gorgon on her breast was a question which sometimes perplexed the Greeks. They knew that Athenè had helped Perseus to cut off the Gorgon's head, and to escape with it hid in his wallet. They knew also that she was sometimes called “Gorgophone,” or Gorgon-slayer, but that title might have been earned by the assistance she gave to Perseus. Herodotus (iv. 189), who was a contemporary
of Pheidias, had an idea that the aegis on the statues of Athenè had been borrowed from the people of Libya, on the north coast of Africa, where the women wore goat-skins wrapped about their shoulders. Aegis means ordinarily a goat's skin, and of course Libya was the habitat of the Gorgon. Apparently Herodotus had put these two facts together, and made his own inference from them.
ATTITUDE AND ACCESSORIES
But we have in the Museum an engraved gem which throws new light on the relations of Athene with the Gorgon, illustrating, as it does, a part of the myth which seems to have been lost with so much else in Greek literature. Athenè, after slaying the Gorgon, has flayed the creature. Like Heracles, who, when he had slain the lion, flayed it and wrapped the skin round his shoulders, so Athenè stripped the Gorgon of her skin and feathers and wrapped them round her body. Behind her neck is to be seen the face of the Gorgon ; lower down its snakes and wings; behind her feet three drops of blood fall to the ground. There should only be two drops—the one to destroy, the other to curethe bane and antidote, as they were called by the Greeks. But the gem engraver was probably thinking less of that than of illustrating the freshness of the slaughter by means of the dripping blood. The gem is archaic, possibly a century older than the Parthenos, and is therefore interesting as representing an older and more realistic rendering of the myth, which in time had been superseded by the conventional aegis and gorgoneion on the breast of the goddess.
According to Pausanias, the left hand of Athenè held a spear.
In the marble statuettes there is no spear. It would have been inconvenient to insert one, and we are the less surprised by the absence of the spear when we see that her left hand is occupied in holding upright on its edge the shield at her side. It has therefore been customary to suppose that the spear had been placed leaning against the left arm, and not held by the left hand, as Pausanias says. But he is proved to have been right by an engraved gem in the British Museum, where the