Late Archaic Period
about 500 B.C.
Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), no. 006.
Overall (on mount): 18.2 x 5 cm (7 3/16 x 1 15/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Marble, possibly from Mt. Hymettus in Attica
This marble discus was once decorated with a painted tondo, 0.0613m. in diameter in the center, but the composition (once perceived as a horseman riding to the right with a lance) is now illegible.
A substantial area is missing at the middle of the inscription and two large chips have broken away on the edges opposite the main damage. There is a yellow patina on the gray and white surfaces of the marble.
It is possible that this discus was buried (and subsequently excavated) with one now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which bears the inscription “From the tumulus of Telesarchos.” The tumulus cited was probably the tomb of the victorious athlete or magistrate in whose honor the games were held. Similar types of injury and patinas suggest the site was damaged long before the objects were rediscovered.
Additional information (06/09/03):
“From the funeral games at the Eria”
The diskos was damaged on two opposite sides so that the first and second epsilon are partly and the theta and labda fully missing. It was once in the collection of E. P. Warren together with another inscribed diskos, which is now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. They were auctioned together at Sotheby in London in May 1929. Sir John Beazley read the fragmentary inscription as: ek ton a[thl]on “from the games.” Both the position of the sixth letter and comparison with other inscriptions (see below) make the reading “erion” more likely, see also IG I(3), Attica, no. 1395. There was a painted tondo in the center of the diskos but the image once perceived as a horseman riding to the right with a lance is now illegible.
Although the literal meaning of the word “erion” is “burial mound,” the phrase “ek ton erion” refers to the funerary contests held at the burial mounds (or eria). The discuses were supposedly awarded as prizes at these contests. The interpretation of the phrase “ek ton erion” receives additional support from the inscription on a terracotta ball (MFA 63.119) which dates from about 500 B.C. There are several inscriptions both painted and incised on the ball, describing the ball as the object of Myrrhine. The incised inscription on the top reads in the inner circle: “ho pais kalos” and in the outer circle “hos eoiken apo ton eion enai” “that boy is beautiful - that is how he looks as he comes from the funeral games at the Eria” (we owe this translation to Gregory Nagy). The inscription evidently refers to the handsome young athlete depicted in the decoration and seems to comment on the type of young athletes who participated in funerary contests. For further literature, see Immerwahr, Inscribed Terracotta Ball, and Roller, Funeral Games.
A fragment of an Attic red-figured askos in the MFA collection (13.169) depicts a bearded warrior rising out from a burial mound, against which leans various athletic equipment, which may reflect funerary games at the tomb.
The second diskos now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York (1985.11.4; IG I (3) Attica, no. 1394) reads:
Telesarcho ek to eri[o]
“Belonging to Telesarchos from the funeral game at the Erion.”
A third discus reportedly found in a tomb in Anavyssos previously in the Peek collection and now in the Archeological Museum of the University of Münster reads (IG I (3) Attica, no. 1397):
“ek ton erion eimi”
“I am from the funeral games at the Eria.”
"From the [funeral games at the ] burial mounds [eris]" (EKTONE[RI]ON)
Before 1928: Edward Perry Warren Collection; by 1929: with Sotheby's; sold at Sotheby's auction, May 1929, lot 89; by 1929: Albert Gallatin Collection; loaned by Albert Gallatin to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from March 14, 1930 to May 26, 1947 (letter of August 19, 1969 from Henry R. Immerwahr); 1947: returned to Albert F. Gallatin Collection; loaned by Albert F. Gallatin to MFA, September 18, 1948 (as 192.48); by 1973: Catherine Gallatin Collection; partial purchase by MFA from Catherine Gallatin and partial gift of Catherine Gallatin to MFA, December 16, 1987
Museum purchase with funds donated anonymously and partial gift in memory of Albert Gallatin