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Maze Symbolism and the Trojan Game

  • W. F. J. Knight

In his detailed account of the chambered cairn of Bryn Celli Ddu, Mr W. J. Hemp describes a remarkable pattern stone, found on the site lying flat in a floor of purple clay, as it had been deliberately placed by the builders of the monument. Mr Hemp says that ‘The recumbent position of the stone… and the disposition of the pattern inevitably suggest that it was intended to be set upright in the ground at some stage in the funeral rites in such a way as to display the pattern’. He adds that the meaning of the pattern is unknown but that some form of magic is perhaps the most obvious explanation, and cites references for the occurrence of the style in megalithic monuments of Brittany and Ireland. The pattern is incided on the stone with a leaf-shaped outline. The lines are zigzag, and the design at once suggests an inaccurately rendered maze formation.

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1 Archaeologia, 1930, 80, 179214

2 Ibid. 1971f. and pl. XLIX, figs. 1 and 3.

3 M. et E. Péquart et le Rouzic, Z. Corpus des Signes gravées des Monuments méga-lithiques du Morbihan (Paris, 1927). Cf. especially pis. 1, 3, 5, 14, 19, 23, 31, 33, 35, 50, 59, 71, 72, 73, 75 (a good example), 8off. (where wheels are suggestively shown : cf. infr.), 96, 99ff.

4 Coffey, G. Nevi Grange (Dublin, 1912); Cornwell, E.A. Procs. Royal Irish Academy, 16, 72; Frazer, W. Procs. Soc. Ant. Scotland, 27, 294.

5 Archaeologia, 1930, 80, 184, pl. XLV, fig. 1.

6 Ibid. 2oof. ; cf. pls. XLVI, fig. 2 and LIV, fig. 1.

7 Melian Stawell, F. A Clue to the Cretan Scripts (London, 1931), 4044.

8 Iliad, 17, 590ff.; Pollux, ,6 101; Tryphiodorus, 352fr. (where the scene at the entry of the wooden horse into Troy is compared with the crane dance. Cf. infr.).

9 Suetonius, , Augustus, 43, 2; Dio Cassius, , 43, 23.

10 Matthews, W.H., Mazes and Labyrinths, (London, 1922),, 23, 52, 71, 81, 88,89, 91, 93, 94, 98, 129, 151, 156, 162, 181, 197, 202, 211, 216, 225, 233. For material about mazes I confine references to this excellent and accessible book, which has many good illustrations and a good bibliography. In future I refer to it as M.

11 Livy, i, i ; Verg. Aen. 1, 48 ; Dionys. Hal. Ant. Rom. 1, 53.

12 N.H. xxxvi, 85. The whole passage (84ff.) is important. Pliny seems to consider a multicursal form, giving the possibility of mistake, original (84). ™Aen.v, 588ff.

13 Aen. 5 588ff.

14 M, 157 (after Deecke). It is countlessly reproduced.

15 Servius ad Verg Aen. 5 602

16 Plutarch, , Cizto minor, 3.

17 Rasch, F., De Ludo Troiae, (Progr. Jena, 1883), 7.

18 Galenus, , ad Pis. 930f. (ed. Kühn, D.C.G. [Leipzig, 1827, vol. 14 212]). Cf. von Premerstein, A. in Festschrift für Benndorf, (Wien, 1898), 261.

19 Colin Still, , Shakespeare's Mystery Play ; a study of The Tempest, London, 1921), 132f., citing Plato, Phaedo, 108A; Lucian, , Cataplus, 22.

20 Still, ibid.

21 Ibid. 27.

22 Aen. 6, 24ff.

23 Knight, W.F.J. in Classical Review, 1929 43 212–13.

24 M, 54ff.

25 M, 66ff, where possible uses are discussed.

26 M, 6o, 64, 66, 68.

27 M, 57 ; cf. 68.

28 M, 53, 96, 194 ; cf. Knight, ibid.

29 M, 164ff.

30 The maze symbolism seems somehow to be associated with maidenhood. Cf. M, 150, for the name ‘Nun’s Fence‘. A vignette on the Tragliatella oenochoe seems to require this explanation : if it has relevance to the magic walls of the Truia, it may represent the correlatively opposite magic. In North European and other mythology the overcoming of difficulties by a hero, often with the help of a magical horse (v. infr.), frequently precedes union with some hidden princess. Cf. Cox, G.W. The Mythology of the Aryan Nations, (London, 1870), 1, 115, 115, 151ff., especially 154 ; Laistner, L. Das Rätsel der Sphinx, (Berlin, 1889), 2, 51, 117f., 143ff.; de Gubernatis, A. Zoological Mythology, (London, 1872), 293ff., 297, Cf. Jones, E. On the Nightmare, (London, 1931), 269ff. Cf. Hommel, E. in Orientalistische Literaturzeitung, (London, 1919), 26, 63ff.,who from Babylonian and Cretan evidence connects the spiral labyrinth with human anatomy and with the underworld, the one being the microcosm of the other.

Mr W. J. Hemp tells me that in his opinion the suggestion made by MrCyriax, T. in the Archaeological Journal, 1921), 78, 205–15, that there is reason to suppose anatomical and genetic symbolism in the form of some barrows, is strongly supported by the plan and certain details of Bryn Celli Ddu. At the same time he considers that the plan represents a step in a long process of development, and that many of its features cannot be associated with any such symbolism. Cf. especially Cyriax (ibid. 211) : ‘To enter the next world, therefore, the spirit would have to be re–born’ . . . ‘The object of the tomb–builder would have been to make the tomb as much like the body of a mother as he was able’. The article is important and seems convincing.

31 Servius ad Verg Aen. 5 596

32 Servius ad Verg ad. Verg. Aen. 5 598: ‘rettulit : innouauit quod ante iam fecerat’

33 Harrison, J.E. Themis 2 (Cambridge, 1922). Part of the function of the Salii, who are comparable to the Curetes, may have been in somesense to frighten away evil spirits with their noise. On the Tragliatella oenochoe dismounted performers may have long drumsticks. On the place of the Salii in ancient circle magic and their con-nexion with the Troia cf. Eitrem, S. Opferritus und Voropfer der Griechen und Römer (Christiania, 1915). 27f.

34 von Premerstein, A. in Festschrift für Benndorf, 265.

35 Lucan, , Phars, 1, 592606. Canon Stacy Waddy has suggested that in the Hebrew Psalms, interpreted as liturgies of service, the mention of the shield usually implies a ritual ‘march round’ some sacred person or object: cf. Psalms, v, 12, XVIII, 3of., XXXIII, 20, LXXXIV, 9. Wheels seem to be defensive symbols sometimes; cf. Simpson, W., The Buddhist Praying Wheel (London and New York, 1896), 116, 258, etc., and supr., note 3.

36 Meyer, E., Kleine Schriften, 1924, 2, 283, citing C.I.L. 1, pt. i2, 234 (the fasti Praenestini; accepting the view of von Premerstein, 264, which had been criticized by Toutain, J. in Daremberg et Saglio, Dict, des Ant. 5, 493–97, s.v. Troia.

37 Festus, 329A.

38 Verg. Aen. V, 545fr., etc.

39 Gruppe, O., Griechische Mythologie und Religionsgeschichte (München, 1906), 1, 199, note II; Salius danced ‘in honour of Alesus (ibid. note 12: cf. Athena “Alea”, which probably means “defender”) son of Poseidon’ —who is of course guardian of city walls. Cf. ibid. 225. D. Servius (ad Verg. Aen. II, 325), says that the Salii were at first called Sai, when they looked after Penates in Samothrace. This function—they were penatium antistites—betrays defensive connotations.

40 Cf. Warde, W. Fowler in Anthropology and the Classics (Oxford, 1908), 174, etc. Cf. Eitrem, 6, 18, 29fr., on the question whether the original purpose of these rites was cathartic, as he thinks, or apotropaic, according to Eitrem a developed function.

41 M, 73,78,87,92: cf.201.

42 M, 150f. In North Europe ‘stone fence’, ‘nun’s fence’, ‘round castle’, ‘giant’s castle’ are found: there is also a ‘stone dance’ connected with mazes.

43 M, passim, especially i47ff.

44 M, 92, attributing the suggestion to W. H. Mounsey, who made it in 1858. I owe the following information to the kindness of Professor J. E. Lloyd. In old Welsh literature the city of Troy is sometimes styled ‘Caer Droia’; and the same name is also applied, for reasons difficult to apprehend, to a maze or labyrinth. On the second point Professor Lloyd refers to a notice, with plan, furnished by Roberts, Peter, Cambrian Popular Antiquities (London, 1815), 212f.; who also suggests that the real connexion of the name is not with Homeric Troy, but with the word ‘tro’, ‘turning’. Mr W. J. Hemp kindly contributes the following note:— ‘The ordinary Welsh word for “to turn” is “troi”. The best dictionary (Anwyl) reads as follows:–“Troi: to turn, to revolve, to stir, to convert, to become, to plough. There is also:—tro -ion -tau; turn, curve, screw, twist, time, occasion, walk, tour, conversion. Troad; bend, turning, flexion”’.

45 R.H., Klausen, Aeneas und die Penaten (Hamburg, 1839-1840) 2, 82off. Rasch (De Ludo Troiae [Progr. Jena, 1882], 7), commenting on this, suggests a root meaning ‘turn’. Toutain (Dar. et Sagl. s.v. TROIA) accepts some such origin for the name.

46 M, 71, 78, 90, 173, 230.

47 I have made it already in a letter to The Morning Post (13 September 1930), and in Classical Philology, 1930, XXV, 362, note 3.

48 Sophocles, , Ajax. 1129ff.; Euripides, , Andromache, 107; Verg. Aen. I, 483, cf. II, 272; Quin tus Smyrnaeus, I, 12, 112.

49 Paton, W.R. in Classical Review, 1912, 27, 45fr.

50 Cf. Simpson, W., The Buddhist Praying Wheel, 88ff., 103, 146f, 152, 180, 183, 188, 290f.

51 Culex, 324. Cf. Plin. N.H. VIII, 161.

52 Troades (Teubner text, ed. R. Peiper and G. Richter, Leipzig, 1921), 777fr.

53 Gruppe, , vol. 1, 199 note 11; and other references at note 39, supra.

54 Halliday, W.R. in Liverpool Annals of Archaeology and Anthropology, 1924., 11, 20.

55 D. Servius ad Verg. Aen. II,296; cf. ad 325 and in, 12 (where the Samothracians are said to be akin to the Romans).

56 Plutarch, Cato Minor, in, is sometimes thought to suggest this: but it is by no means a legitimate inference from what Plutarch says.

57 Allcroft, A. Hadrian, in Archaeological Journal, 1921, 78, 325ff. Cf. Eitrem, 23, 27.

58 Cf. Knight, W.F.J. in Classical Philology, 1930, 25, 365, note 4.

59 Malten, L. in Arch. Jahrb., 1915, 29, 179ff. I owe my knowledge of this refer–ence to the kindness of Professor A. D. Nock. I have investigated the incident of the wooden horse, regarded as a magical attack on the wall of Troy, in Vergil’s Troy, (Oxford, 1932), 105ff.

60 Malten, 25ff., 254.

61 Ibid. 253f.

62 I, 84.

63 The wall was called ἰερὸ ν κρήδε μνον; κρήδε μνον means a veil or the seal of a jar, literally a ‘head binding’. ( Paton, W.R. in Classical Review, 1913, 27, 45).

64 For the point of contact between stone circles and foundation rites, cf. together especially M, chap, XVII, Stone Labyrinths and Rock Engravings, 147ff., with figs. 124ff, and Burdick, D.L., Foundation Ceremonies and Some Kindred Rituals (New York, Abbey Press, 1901), chap. XL, Circular Movements and Symbols, 149ff. Burdick’s book is unfortunately out of print and I have not found a copy in England. I owe my know–ledge of the text of it to the very great kindness of Dr Eugene S. McCartney of the University of Michigan. The comparison of these two chapters strongly suggests that the principle of the magic circle, and ideas of exclusion represented also by maze forma–tions, were of great importance in the plans of the builders of early stone monuments. The Trojan game was itself performed as part of the funeral rites of Anchises, according to Vergil. After its revival, it was sometimes performed at funerals; for example round the graves of Caligula and Drusilla (Dio Cassius LIX, II). Cf. Pliny, N.H. XXXVI, 84: he thinks a labyrinth specially suitable either for a palace or a burial, or—as according to him most people believed—as a structure sacred to the sun. Probably all the suggestions are partly right. Cf. ibid. 90fr., where he quotes Varrò on the labyrinth at Porsenna’s tomb. With 92, where bells are mentioned, many uses of bells apparently defensive may be compared.

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