Nimatallah/Art Resource, NY

Mycenaean kings understood how to wield power effectively long before Machiavelli came along. This mid-15th-century B.C. gold cup (both sides are shown in the photo), excavated at the Mycenaean site of Vapheio, shows a bull being forcibly captured in a net. Another cup found at Vapheio depicts a bull being caught by shrewder means: A bovine seductress lures the bull into the trap. These cups can be interpreted as political allegories showing how the king gets his subjects to obey by means of manipulation.