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Can iconography help to interpret Lycophron’s description of the ritual performed by Daunian maidens (Alexandra 1126-1140)?


In the Alexandra, Lycophron mentions a cult celebrated in Daunia, the northern part of Puglia in Southern Italy. This paper presents the result of an attempt to find an iconographical parallel for the Daunian ritual described by Lycophron. In particular, it focuses on how iconography can help to achieve a better understanding of Lycophron’s description. Bearing in mind the idea that an image is always a symbolic construction rather than a picture of reality, I ask whether there is a figurative heritage that presents affinities with the cult described by Lycophron. First, I consider the figured pottery found in the Daunian necropolis of Salpia Vetus, where the cult would have taken place according to Lycophron’s text; second, I enlarge my research to include the rest of Apulian red-figure vases, because their iconographic repertoire mirrors the interests and tastes of a native Apulian market; third, I incorporate in my analysis a different class of materials, namely votive plaques belonging to Southern Italian and Sicilian contexts (i.e. the sanctuary of Persephone-Aphrodite at Locri Epizephyri and the sanctuary of Persephone at Francavilla-Naxos).

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