German (Probably made in Cologne)
Elephant ivory; 3/4 x 2 3/4 in. (1.9 x 7 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1916 (16.106)
This carved ivory disk is a tableman, a game piece used in tables, the medieval precursor of backgammon. Each player had fifteen pieces; traditionally one set depicted the labors of the classical hero Hercules and the other showed the feats of Samson, the Old Testament strongman. In this example, Hercules appears on the left, holding upside down Diomedes, king of Bistonia. According to the myth, Diomedes kept man-eating horses until Hercules fed them the king himself. Here the horses, who have doglike faces and lions' manes, tear into their former master.