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Whips


Material: Bronze
Provenance: Sanctuary of Zeus at Dodona (excavations by Konstantinos Karapanos)
ax. pres. length: 0.85m.
Date: ca. 300 BC
Exhibition Location: Room 36, Case 6 , inv. no . 146, National Archaeological Museum.

The excavations by Konstantinos Karapanos during the 19th century brought to light 15 pieces and fragments of long, curved sticks (inv. no. . 146-156). Unfortunately, the exact spot at which they were found is not known. All of them display a front face that has been worked and a rough rear face. Six of them have a widened handle pierced at the end. Two handles display small buttons reminiscent of the nails employed to attach sheathing to handles. A third one is decorated with an incised palmette. Incisions or impressed dots mark joinings or joints along the stick. These traits led the experts to identify these objects as whips.

Strabo (Geogr. 7.7 Fragm. 3) states that "the scourge of the Corcyraeans", three-fold and wrought in chain, was a dedication of the Corcyraeans ("the bronze gong at Dodona"). He and ancient commentators describe it in great detail. The dedication consisted of two small columns. One was topped with a statue of a man holding a bronze whip with bones strung from it, whereas the other column supported a bronze cauldron. When set in motion by the wind, the bones of the whip struck the cauldron which in its turn produced tones that lasted until the count of four hundred. These tones had a magical and oracular quality. Some scholars suggest that this kind of procedure for generating prophecies was used at Dodona from the middle of the 4th century BC onwards and that it was the successor to the system that involved interpreting the noise produced by the circle of tripod cauldrons around the sacred tree, in use during the Geometric and Archaic period.

More finds are needed to document the various traditions and theories regarding the methods of prophecy at Dodona . In any case, in view of the considerable number of whips -a miniature one just 0.075m. in length has been also uncovered- it seems reasonable that we are dealing with some dedicatory practice.

In antiquity, the striking of bronze instruments, such as bells, cymbals, had an apotropaic and protective function, whilst whipping was part of the paedagogical methods involved in the education of boys in Doric cities or was a special ritual practice.

In other ancient sources the proverbial phrase "the scourge of the Corcyraeans" became a synonym of the boundless cruelty of the Corcyraeans, after the ruthless killing each other due to civil war at the late 5th century BC.

In Aristotle's now lost The Constitution of the Corcyraeans, the Corcyraeans are said to have used large double whips with handles sheathed in ivory, different from those of the rest of the Greeks.

Bibliography: .. Cook, 'The gong at Dod',JHS 22(1902) 5-28. P. alligas, ' ', 9, (1976) 61-68. . Dieterle, Dodona. Religionsgeschichtliche und historiche Untersuchungen zur Entstehung und Entwicklung des Zeus-Heiligtums, (Spudasmata 116, Zurich-New York 2007) 62-67, 174-175.

 
 
 
   
 
 
 
 
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