The Tippling Serpent in the Art of Lakonia and Beyond

by Gina Salapata

Hesperia, Volume 75, Issue 4
Page(s): 541-560
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25068003
Year: 2006


The iconographic scheme of a snake drinking from a cup appears on a series of stone reliefs and terracotta plaques from Lakonia depicting seated figures, now generally interpreted as dedications to local heroes. It is argued here that the drinking snake in association with human figures first appeared on Lakonian monuments during the 5th century B.C., perhaps as a way of stressing the close association of the snake with the hero and, by extension, his friendly union with the chthonic powers. This iconographic motif, which developed within the Lakonian series, was disseminated beyond Lakonia and appeared on other types of monuments, where it functioned primarily as a heroic emblem.