Antique Cologne (part 3)
But the height of perfection is the glass produced in Cologne. It is impossible to pass by glass vessels with handles in the form of the Greek letter “omega”, depicting the figure of Mars. Especially striking are the bowls-diatretes. These are the most elegant and delicate products of antique glassblowers. “Diatretta” in Greek means “turned”. The vessel with the inscription around the edge was enclosed as if in an openwork green mesh. Unusually fragile and sophisticated, they were highly regarded in the late antique world. The ancients said that such glass would not have a price if it had not broken. Even portraits were made of glass. The rare, unique monuments include the head of Emperor Augustus, made of the core of crystallized frit, covered with a thin layer of glass. Despite the miniature dimensions – about 5 cm – the emperor’s appearance, the melancholic attitude inherent in him, and the calm clarity of his cold, sober mind are accurately conveyed in it.
The spiritual life of the citizens of the Claudia Colony can be judged by such monuments as a dedication and gravestone sculpture. Portraits, alas, came to us in a very damaged form. Among them is the “Head of the Barbarian”, depicting, apparently, the representative of one of the local Germanic tribes. An initiatory sculpture is an image of gods and heroes dedicated to a patron deity by a city dweller. Presenting the gift, he hoped that the deity would not leave him unattended.
To the initiates belonged a small statue of the goddess of health Gigiei. She corresponded to the ancient tradition of depicting a female deity – half-naked, holding a bowl with fruits in her hand, a serpent encircles her, the goddess rests her left foot on the bull’s head. The snake in the ideas of the ancient Greeks and Romans is closely connected with the miracle of healing. The bull, who often embodied the sun, was related to Hygiea’s power over the sun wizard. No wonder the sorceress Kirk in The Odyssey and Medea in the tragedy of Euripides are connected by family ties with the solar deity.
Of course, the Cologne statue of Hygya is inferior to Roman examples. The art of sculpture for the peripheral craftsmen was the most difficult. To create a statue expressive from different points of view is a difficult task. Therefore, relief was more common. The “altars matron” performed in this technique is a purely local art genre. It is believed that the matrons represent representatives of different clans of Germanic tribes. Axingen matrons are presented on the altar. They sit on a common bench, and the middle one does not have a round cap, characteristic of married women, killings. She has a girl hairstyle. The relief is executed skillfully, in elongated proportions and a successful arrangement of figures, the capital’s mastery of the master is felt.
Another matron in the cap is visible on a fragment of the relief. Despite its small size, the figure has a monumental shape. An expressive interpretation of the face and especially the eyes is noteworthy. In this first-class work, the Roman plastic tradition is very successfully combined with the peculiarities of the taste of the Germans.
Important information about the spiritual world of the inhabitants of ancient Cologne is given by their tombstones. Most often there were burial places of ashes in urns, stone gravestones, widespread throughout the ancient world. “Facial urns” were customary among the Germanic peoples, but the Romans of the imperial time, as far as is known, did not exist. These are ceramic vessels, on the front wall of which was depicted the face of the deceased. And their mouth and eyes were left open: although the ashes of the deceased contained in the urn, he was considered to be revived again, and his features seemed to appear through the walls of the vessel. That is how faith in immortality was expressed.