Abstract Anthropologists have defined iconatrophy as a process by which oral traditions originate as explanations for objects that, through the passage of time, have ceased to make sense to their viewers. One form of iconatrophy involves the misinterpretation of statues' identities, iconography, or locations. Stories that ultimately derive from such misunderstandings of statues are Monument-Novellen, a term coined by Herodotean studies. Applying the concept of iconatrophy to Greek sculpture of the Archaic and Classical periods yields three possible examples in which statues standing in Greek sanctuaries may have inspired stories cited by authors of the Roman imperial period as explanations for the statues' identities, attributes, poses, or locations. The statues in question are the portrait of the athletic victor Milo of Croton at Olympia, a bronze lioness on the Athenian Acropolis identified as a memorial to the Athenian prostitute Leaina (““lioness””), and the Athena Hygieia near the Propylaia of Mnesikles.
Inscriptions on the bases of Archaic and Classical statues in Greek sanctuaries typically named the dedicator, the recipient deity, and the sculptor, but did not include the subject represented or the historical occasion behind the dedication. These ““gaps”” left by votive inscriptions would only have encouraged the formation of iconatrophic oral traditions such as the examples examined in this article.
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