"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."
-- Proverbs 29:18, King James Bible (KJV)

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The Portland Vase Deciphered as Classical Astronomical Gods of Ancient Rome

In the archaeological news currently is the famed ca. 2000-year old Portland Vase, an ancient night-dark-blue-backgrounded/white-figure-overlaid artefact of undeniable "heavenly" beauty, originally excavated in Rome, and now found in the British Museum in London.

See the photos of the Portland Vase at Wikimedia Commons.

The Portland Vase has harbored two major secrets over the millennia:

• the first secret was how the vase was made, and
• the second secret was who are the procession of figures represented on that vase and what is their meaning.

The first secret may have been solved now, based on recent news reports, for which see:

• New Atlas, where David Szondy reports:
How was the Portland Vase made? New evidence challenges long held theories.

• Phys.Org News, which provides essential background about the very convincing
New challenge to centuries-old theories on Roman glass.

Our own expertise, however,  concentrates on an unraveling of the second secret, as revealed in our newly made "astronomical" decipherment of the procession of white figures on the vase as depicting ancient mythical Roman gods in their heavenly starry abodes in the night sky.

Others before us in Classical Studies have in fact suggested that the vase figures depict ancient gods, i.e. "Olympians", but it was not known what exactly was being depicted by those figures as ancient "gods".

We suggest now, for the first time in modern academia, that the depiction is quite clear -- when viewed, with sufficient deliberation, from the standpoint of ancient artistic stargazers depicting their "heavenly" gods in the stars, via the background of a dark-blue firmament as the sky.

Our astronomical "heavenly" decipherment
of the Portland Vase is easily followed and is surely correct in its general explanation, even if many details may yet remain to be explained.

• The stars of Boötes are represented by the male figure standing in the hall column having only one upright pillar to the left and one lintel (viz. (chief) beam, epistyle or architrave) extending to its right.

• Boötes holds the stars of Serpens Caput in the hand of his lowered extended right arm [to the left from the viewer's perspective].

• The stars of Virgo are represented by the female figure below and to the right of Boötes [from the vase viewer's perspective].

• The stars of Coma Berenices (or is this Ursa Major ?) are represented above Virgo by a winged cherub.

• Virgo holds the head of what others have identified as a (water) serpent (Hydra ?), but it could very well be a long-necked swan at Leo.

• The "Y-shape" of the stars of Cancer is shown as an upward extending tree of life.

• Gemini is shown as a young man representing also the astronomical lower "twins", as in the more ancient cultures before them, which saw Castor and Pollux as the "upper" twins of the Gemini rectangle.

• Auriga is a head to the right of Gemini (from the vase viewer's perspective).

• Perseus follows as a young male god with his arms and left elbow marking the shape of Perseus.

• The gaze of Perseus is on Andromeda, who here marks the stars of the Great Square and what we today call Pegasus.

• Here the tree extending upwards marks the stars of what we modernly call the astronomical constellation of Andromeda, with the stars of Cassiopeia represented by the butterfly-shaped leaf bunch above Perseus and the stars of Cygnus and/or Aquila represented by leaf clusters on the other branch of the tree.

• The left arm of Andromeda holds a straight sash down to the bucket of Aquarius.

• The young god holding a staff (Serpens Cauda) is Ophiuchus and Hercules above Sagittarius.

The calendric seasons of this era may also be marked on the Portland Vase by the positions of the trees and figures, but for now, we wanted to keep it simple.