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Athenian Political Art from the Fifth and Fourth Centuries BCE: Images of Political Personifications 

Amy C. Smith, edition of January 18 2003

page 6 of 26

· Boule (Council) ·

Βουλή

Plot on a Map
Athens.
Cambridge.

Discussion: There is no evidence that the personification of Boule (the Athenian Council), received a cult in ancient Athens, but she appeared often (and perhaps exclusively) in the company of Demos (Populace), for whom there was an established cult, particularly on documents ratified by these two legislative bodies. The secure evidence for the personification of Boule (the Athenian Council) is limited to one labelled example, a relief from the second quarter of the fourth century, on which she joins Athena, and probably Demos, to crown an honorand. Carol Lawton has rightly noted that Boule would not appear without Demos, as the Council could not act independently of the Populace in ratifying the documents recorded on the reliefs (Lawton 1995, 58). Yet a number of reliefs are too fragmentary to yield any evidence of the accompanying personification of Demos. In all but two of these reliefs [7 and 14], however, Boule is also accompanied by Athena. The height of Boule is intermediate between those of the mortals and Olympian divinities, although, being a woman, she is generally shown to be a little shorter than Demos. She wears a chiton and a himation, and is veiled, except when her hair is covered by a sakkos [8]. As her appearance is similar to that of the goddess Hera, she sometimes holds her veil in the anakalypsis gesture (covering her face with a veil, or removing the veil [1]). Like Demos, she awards an olive wreath, as a crown, to the honorand. She is sometimes shown with the crown at her side [8] although she is also shown placing it directly on the head of the honorand [16]. Boule is unattested beyond her appearances on document reliefs, but I have suggested on the basis of iconographic comparison to these reliefs, that she is represented, veiled and holding an olive wreath, on a fragment of a monumental relief decorated statue base, now in Cambridge [17] (AJA 101 [1997] 333).

Plot on a Map
Eitea.

The Boule or Council of a particular deme might have been represented in the same manner on deme decrees. Boule might be conjectured as the identity of the woman shown crowning an honorand, Hippokles, on a deme decree from Eitea [15]. While this woman is certainly not a mortal, as she is larger than the honorand, her form does not suit the standard iconography of Boule: her hair is uncovered. Boule’s presence on this relief would be inconsistent, however, as neither the Athenian council nor a local council awarded the honors.

Examples (merely possible examples unless otherwise noted):

Plot on a Map
Eitea.

  1. (Certain example) Athens, NM 1473: a female figure, labelled ΒΟΛΗ , with Athena and perhaps Demos, honoring a man, on a relief from an honorary decree (IG II2, 46k), ca. 375-350 (shown above).
  2. Athens, AM 2552 + AM 2552a: a female figure standing with Hermes, a female (?) mortal, and perhaps Athena, on an relief from an honorary decree stele (IG I3, 191), ca. 420-410.
  3. Athens, AM 2429: a female figure standing with Athena on a document relief, ca. 380-370.
  4. Athens, AM 2549 + AM 2717: a female figure standing with a goddess and perhaps Demos on a document relief, ca. 400-375.
  5. Athens, AM 2427 + AM 2758: a female figure standing with Athena, and perhaps Herakles and Demos, crowning a priestess of Athena (?) on a relief from an honorary decree for a priestess of Athena (?), ca. 400-375.
  6. Athens, EM 2784: a female figure on a relief from a document (IG II2, 90), ca. 400-350.
  7. Athens, NM 2953: a female figure, perhaps crowning a man, on a relief from an honorary decree, ca. 400-350.
  8. Athens, AM 2663: a female figure, with Athena and another goddess, honoring a man, on a relief from an honorary decree, ca. 350.
  9. Athens, EM 2791: a female figure, with Demos, honoring a man, on a relief from a proxeny (?) decree (IG II2, 160), ca. 350.
  10. Athens, AM 3006: a female figure, with Athena, honoring a man, on a relief from an honorary decree, ca. 350-325.
  11. London, BM 771: a female figure, with Athena, honoring a man, on a relief from an honorary decree, ca. 350-325.
  12. Athens, AM 3304: a female figure, with Athena or Demos, honoring a man, on a relief from an honorary decree, ca. 350-300.
  13. Athens, NM 2404: a female figure, perhaps with Demos, honoring a man, on a relief from an honorary decree, ca. 350-300.
  14. Berlin Sk 808: a female figure, with Hippothoon, honoring a man on a relief from an honorary decree, ca. 350-300.
  15. Athens, EM 13461: a female figure honoring Hippokles, on a relief from a deme decree honoring Hippokles from Eitea (SEG 28.102), 332/1.
  16. Athens, EM 2811: a female figure, perhaps with Demos, honoring Asklepiodoros on a relief from an honorary decree (IG II2 367), 323/2.
  17. Cambridge, Fitzwilliam GR.99.1937: a female figure holding a wreath, on a relief from a statue base, ca. 350-300.

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