The Ficoroni Cista
Ca. 340—330 BCE.
Made by Novios Plautios.
Rome, National Etruscan Museum of Villa JuliaPhoto by Egisto Sani

The Ficoroni Cista.

Ca. 340—330 BCE.
Made by Novios Plautios.

Rome, National Etruscan Museum of Villa Julia
(Roma, Museo nazionale etrusco di Villa Giulia).

From Palestrina.
The center of the Etruscan bronze cista industry was Palestrina (Roman Praeneste), the findspot of the largest and finest surviving cista, the so-called “Ficoroni Cista” after its first owner, Francesco de’ Ficoroni. The archaic Latin inscription engraved on the cista lid (CIL I, 561):


states that a local noble woman named “Dindia Macolnia gave it to her daughter / Novios Plautios made it in Rome”. Plautios’ workshop was not in Palestrina but in Rome, which by this date was becoming an important cultural as well as political center.

The cista continuous engraved frieze depicts an episode from the Greek legend of the expedition of the Argonauts in search of the coveted Golden Fleece. During their journey, the sailors stopped in the land of King Amykos, who would permit them to draw water only if one of the Argonauts defeated him in a boxing match. Pollux (Etruscan Pultuce), son of Zeus and twin brother of Castor (Castur), accepted the challenge, won the contest, and then tied the king to a tree. The mythical fight between Polydeukes and Amykos was often represented on Etruscan artworks such of cistae, mirrors etc.

Scholars generally agree that the model for this composition was a fourth-century BCE Greek panel painting, perhaps by Kydias, whose depiction of the Argonauts is documented in Rome at a later date. The Greek source for the Etruscan artist’s engraving is evident in the figures seen in three-quarter and rear views, and in the placement of the participants on several levels, standard features of Classical Greek painting since the fifth century.

The main scene depicts the tree to which is tying the defeated Amykos. The other protagonists are Nike crowning the winner Polydeukes, Athena, and a winged “daimon” recognized either as Boreas or, more correctly, as Sosthenes. For the most part, the husky bearded figure seated to the left of Polydeukes and near the daimon has been accepted as Mygdon, Amykos’ brother, and looked upon as a Bebrycian counterpart to the seated Hellenic spectator (Orpheus) witnessing the contest from the opposite side.

(cc) 2015. Photo: Egisto Sani (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).
© 1945. Description: Williams P. L., “Note on the Interpretation of the Ficoroni Cista”, American Journal of Archaeology, vol. 49, no. 3, pp. 348—352.
Keywords: ελληνική μυθολογία mythologia graeca greek mythology mitologia greca griechische mythologie grecque θεά αθηνά παλλὰς ἀθηνᾶ ἀθήνη athene athena pallas goddess dea atena göttin déesse athéna athéné διόσκοροι διόσκουροι κάστωρ kastor πολυδεύκης polydeukes gemini dioscuri castor et pollux castores tyndaridae tyndarids polydeuces castore polideuce polluce dioskuren und tyndariden dioscures ἔρως έρως eros éros ετρουρία ετρουσκική etruria etruscan etrusco etruskisch etruskische etruskischer etruskischen étrusque ἀργοναῦται αργοναύτες argonautai argonautes argonautae argonauts argonauti argonautensage argonauten cista cist ciste ἄμυκος rex amykos amycos amycus king re amico könig roi μύγδων mygdon of bebryces des bébryces male footwear footgear calzatura maschile männerschuhe chaussures pour hommes ανδρικά παπούτσια corona wreath kranz couronne aspis circular round shield scudo rotondo greco griechischer rundschild rundem schild bouclier rond grec ἀσπίς ασπίδα solea sandal sandals sandalo sandali sandale πέδιλα σάμβαλα σάνδᾰλον σανδάλια σανδάλι tree albero baum arbre δέντρο bronze bronzo ορείχαλκος barba barbatum beard bearded man uomo barbuto bart bärtiger mann barbe homme barbu γενειάδα γενειοφόρος άνθρωπος hasta spear lancia speer lance δόρυ taenia tainia band ribbon fillet tenia tänie binden tænia ténia ταινία alatus alata winged alato geflügelt ailé φτερωτό palmette palmetta the ficoroni copper rame kupfer cuivre χαλκό palestrina praeneste from da von de pugil pugilis pugilator pugilist pugile faustkämpfer pugiliste boxeur πυγμάχος caestus cestus with fist leather thongs belts cinghie di cuoio sulle mani cinture a pugno faust ledergürtel ceintures cuir spearhead punta speerspitze fer αιχμή δόρατος daimon daemon demone dèmone δαίμονας bound hands tying tied legate legatura gefesselte hände attacher les mains liées δεσμευμένα χέρια δεσίματος flying volante alivolo fliegen fliegend beschwingt en volant πέταγμα novios plautios novius plautius dindia macolnia