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Home > Auctions > 25th February 2020 > Corinthian Helmet of a Greek Hoplite

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LOT 0442

GBP (£) 30,000 - 40,000
EUR (€) 35,030 - 46,710
USD ($) 38,650 - 51,540

Sold for: £100,000
(Inc. bp*)

Corinthian Helmet of a Greek Hoplite

7th-6th century BC

An exceptionally well preserved bronze combat helmet of Archaic Corinthian type, with only three similar examples published worldwide, all found in museums; with high bowl made from two separate metal sheets with a protruding neck protection; large eye openings, and arched enveloping cheek pieces; with a long, rivetted, slightly outward projecting nose protection; around the edges of the eyebrows and nose-guard are regularly spaced holes with decorative round-headed rivets for the attachment of the inner padding; an ancient repair hole visible over the left eyebrow; trace of a battle blow on the back of the skull; mounted on a custom-made display stand. 870 grams, height 22.5cm (8 3/4"). Excellent condition, complete. An extremely rare early type.

From a private English collection in 2001; acquired from Frank Sternberg, Zurich, Germany in 1993; previously in a 1980s Israeli collection; accompanied by an academic report by military specialist Dr Raffaele D'Amato; a copy of the 2001 invoice and an Art Loss Register certificate no. S00156427.
See Holloway, R.R., Satrianum; the archaeological investigations conducted by Brown University in 1966 and 1967, Brown University Press, 1970; Bottini, A., Egg. M., Von Hase F. W., Pflug H., Schaaf U., Schauer P., Waurick G.,Antike Helme, Sammlung Lipperheide und andere Bestände des Antikenmuseums Berlin, Mainz, 1988; Museo Nazionale del Melfese, Nuovi rinvenimenti nell’area del Melfese. Soprintendenza Archeologica della Basilicata, Melfi, 1996; D’Amato R., Salimbeti A., Bronze Age Greek Warrior, 1600-1100 BC, Oxford, 2011; D’Amato R., Salimbeti A., Early Iron Age Greek Warrior, 1100-700 BC, Oxford, 2016; similar helmets from Torre di Satriano e Benevento (Bottini, Egg, Von Hase, Pflug, Schaaf, Schauer, Waurick, 1988, p.72, fig.7, cat.14 p.392) and Melfi (Museo Nazionale del Melfese, 1996, p.4).
Widespread in the seventh and sixth century BC, the Corinthian helmet provided maximum protection with its nasal and its broad cheek plates. Herodotus mentions the Corinthian helmet in his Histories (4.180) when writing of the Machlyes and Auseans, two tribes living along the River Triton in ancient Libya. The tribes chose annually two teams of the fairest maidens who fought each other ceremonially with sticks and stones. They were dressed in the finest Greek panoply topped off with a Corinthian helmet. The ritual fight was part of a festival honoring the virgin goddess Athena. Young women who succumbed to their wounds during the ordeal were thought to have been punished by the goddess for lying about their virginity.

The Corinthian helmet was the most popular during the Archaic and early Classical periods, with the style gradually giving way to the more open Thracian helmet, Chalcidian helmet and the much simpler pilos type, which was less expensive to manufacture and did not obstruct the wearer's critical senses of vision and hearing as the Corinthian helmet did. Numerous examples of Corinthian helmets have been excavated, and they are frequently depicted on pottery.

The Corinthian helmet was depicted on more sculpture than any other helmet; it seems the Greeks romantically associated it with glory and the past. The Romans also revered it, from copies of Greek originals to sculpture of their own. Based on the sparse pictorial evidence of the republican Roman army, in Italy the Corinthian helmet evolved into a jockey-cap style helmet called the Italo-Corinthian, Etrusco-Corinthian or Apulo-Corinthian helmet, with the characteristic nose guard and eye slits becoming mere decorations on its face. Given many Roman appropriations of ancient Greek ideas, this change was probably inspired by the 'over-the-forehead' position common in Greek art. This helmet remained in use well into the 1st century AD.