Ancient Greek gold jewelry from the region of Pontika (in present-day Ukraine), formed in a Heracles-knot. Artist unknown; ca. 300 BCE. Now in the Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich. Photo credit: Matthias Kabel/Wikimedia Commons.
Hellenistic Gold Oak Wreath, c. 4th-3rd Century BC
A Greek Hellenistic diadem wreath comprising numerous projecting
sprays of sheet-gold oak leaves in two sizes with serrated edges and
veins, a large central rosette with two smaller similar roundels
flanking, laurel leaves to the rear with gold Heracles knot, the four
intersections covered by miniature gold masks modeled in the round with
varying expressions, and four more to the bands of the knot; each
element affixed to a custom-designed display stand.
The most famous of such wreaths is the example
from Vergina, (MacedoniaGreece) in the tomb of Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander
the Great. Similar wreaths have been found all over the Hellenistic
world in funerary contexts, as far apart as Asia Minor, the Black Sea
coasts and Magna Graecia. The Greek writer Demosthenes (384-322 BC)
noted that gold wreaths were worn for religious ceremonies, and the
inventories of Greek temples and sanctuaries record that they were left
as dedications by local men and women, foreign visitors, officials
approaching the end of their career, as well as foreign powers seeking a
favorable relationship. The oak leaves may symbolize the power of Zeus,
who was often represented by the oak tree. This is a finely detailed
example of the type executed with great skill.
Formed from a hollow hoop fashioned from sheet, convex on the exterior, each end with a collar terminal secured by a pin, its tip with granulation, the collars each with twisted wire filigree palmettes framed by beaded, rope and twisted wires and a fringe of petals, small birds at the outer edges of the left collar, a Heracles knot at the center formed from hollow tubes with applied twisted wire filigree tendrils along their lengths, all edged with beaded, rope and twisted wire, centered by a die-formed lion running to the left, a small frontal Pan seated to the left, playing the pipes.
Greek Silver Herakles Knot Bracelet, c. 3rd-2nd Century BC
The Herakles Knot, or marriage knot is a strong knot created by two intertwined ropes. It originated as a healing charm in ancient Egypt but is best known for its use in ancient Greece and Rome as a protective amulet. It was also used as a wedding symbol, incorporated into the protective girdles worn by brides, which were ceremonially untied by the new groom.
According to the Roman writer Pliny, the decorative device of the Herakles knot could cure wounds, and its popularity in Hellenistic jewelry suggests that it was thought to have the power to avert evil. The symbolism of the knot survived well beyond antiquity and was a very common symbol in medieval and Renaissance love tokens.
This elaborately decorated headdress (aka the Loeb Diadem) from the Crimean Peninsula is one of the most magnificent works of gold that has been preserved from the ancient world. Produced in around 150 BC, it probably served as a burial object. It is composed of multiple separately crafted pieces: The lower part is dominated by a Heracles knot made up of garnet and gold elements. The ends on both sides are encased in sheaths made of gold plating to which the two half-arches of the diadem are attached by means of hinges. The half-arches are covered with a meshed scaly pattern made up of engraved leaf ornaments the edges of which are decorated with gold wires and beads. Inlaid garnets present a sensational play of colors. On the right and the left, the half-arches are finished off with decorative capsules with rich scrolled and cord trimmings.
The front section of the headdress is decorated with tasseled pendants, all of which have the same structure: an array of rosette-studded discs, garnet pearls flanked with hemispheric flower bowls, and bundles of chains, to which gold beads and garnet, carnelian and white-banded sardonyx pearls set in gold are attached. The goldsmith created the figures that were soldered to the centre section of the diadem in one distinct design stage. Here you see two sea dragons, one on either side of the winged goddess of victory, Nike, who is wearing a girdled garment , a chiton, and is carrying an offering cup or a wreath in her right hand.