Odysseus Alone

Carnelian ring stone

There are many iconographic representations Odysseus/Ulysses with other characters or indications of setting that link him to a specific narrative: Sirens, Argos, Diomedes and Dolon, the Palladion, etc… However, it seems on gems that if you’re going to have just Odysseus/Ulysses all by himself, there are two main ways he can be represented (three if we count just a bust, but I’m leaving those aside today). One is with a walking stick and legs crossed. A rather upright example is given above (Cf. A glass paste in Munich no. 1375). Most of these cross legged Odysseus’ are more bent over and their staffs tend to be more crooked.

Gem of glass paste imitating sard, engraved with Odysseus as a beggar, with a pointed cap, chiton and crooked staff, standing to the right with his legs crossed.

Another example with an image on-line here, and also here (also cf. Munich 488 and 1374). Often the cross-legged Odysseus is described as ‘in the guise of a beggar’ this seems fairly apt, esp. when the figure is hunched over and the staff is crooked. I’m not sure, however, that the top image is ‘as a beggar’ it may just be Odysseus as traveler… that is if the traveler iconography can actually be distinguished from the beggar iconography.

The other solo Odysseus is with a cup. A LARGE cup.

Gem of glass paste imitating sard, engraved with Odysseus bending forward to the right, holding out a cup; he wears a pileus, short chiton and a sword at his side.

Another online image here (Cf. Munich 1369-1371). I’m under the impression that this might be a wee bit more common on glass pastes that on precious stones, i.e. “faux” gems of lower cost. Whereas the traveller/beggar Odysseus certainly appears on both. Why is he holding out the cup? Is this a begging action? Or might it be related to the comic Odysseus of the stage:

Or the wiley Odysseus who tricks Polyphemus with drink:

Post Script. I note that in the Wyndham Cook Collection no. 160 depicts a solo Odysseus as Archer with a legend resolved in the Catalog as ‘Nicander’.

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