Author: Jesse Busby

From the Greeks to Augustus

Jesse Busby

Since the Greeks, there has been an emphasis on the human body. Whether it be exaggerated emotions and contorted posture or the idealization of the human form, we see countless reconstructions of Greek statues. The Greeks pointed sculpture in a direction it would continue to travel even through today.

Kouroi, the earliest of the large stone figures, were rigid and stiff as seen in Egyptian statues. These lifeless figures slowly evolved, and with great detail added to their musculature. Arms slowly begin to rise and their slightly leaning posture begins to bring movement to the sculptures. Eventually the Greeks get so realistic and miniscule in detail that the human form has reached perfection. This perfection didn’t emerge because the Greeks had an infatuation with perfect bodies. For the Greeks, reaching peak physical stamina was strived for. Greek city-states like Sparta and Athens placed so much emphasis on the thought of the perfect human form that they would discard infants if they didn’t meet the expectations of the time.

The sculptures of the ancient Greeks, Etruscans and Romans didn’t come about for the sole purpose of having something pretty to look at. These sculptures aren’t only alike in that they follow Greek methods, but also because they all reflect certain ideologies of the culture and society that produced them. For example: the influence the Greeks placed on physique; the light-hearted laissez-faire attitude of the Etruscans; or the importance of age, wisdom and experience for the early Romans. Every work of art we see from these societies is the direct response of their social and political way of life.

 

Dying Gaul

The Dying Gaul is an ancient Roman marble copy of a lost Hellenistic bronze sculpture. The original may have been commissioned some time between 230 and 220 BC by Attalus I of Pergamon to celebrate his victory over the Gauls, who were the people of Anatolia, which is part of what is now modern Turkey[1]. The identity of the sculptor has been attributed to Epigonus, court sculptor of the Attalid dynasty of Pergamon, may have been the creator.[2]

Dying Gaul, Roman, 1st or 2nd century AD marble, 37 x 73 7/16 x 35 1/16 in. Sovrintendenza Capitolina — Musei Capitolini, Rome, Italy
Dying Gaul, Roman, 1st or 2nd century AD
marble, 37 x 73 7/16 x 35 1/16 in.
Sovrintendenza Capitolina — Musei Capitolini, Rome, Italy

The marble statue shows a fatally wounded Gallic warrior with remarkable realism, putting emphasis on the strange posture of the body and the pain shown on the Gaul’s face. A bleeding sword puncture is visible below his right breast. The figure is shown with a torc around his neck, which represents his high status among the Gallic people.[3] He lies on his fallen shield while his sword, belt, and a curved trumpet lie beside him. An interesting aspect of this sculpture is how courageous and composed the Gaul looks, even on the brink of death. Though the Gaul does appear to be in pain, he is not represented as overly dramatic, like many other Greek statues around this time.

Laocoon and His Sons

As described in Virgil’s Aeneid, Laocoon was a Trojan priest. When the Greeks left the famous Trojan horse on the beach, Laocoon tried to warn the Trojan leaders against bringing it into the city. The Greek goddess Athena, acting as protector of the Greeks, was furious that Laocoon warned the Trojans about the horse. Athena punished Laocoon for his interference by having him and his two sons attacked by the giant sea serpents.[4]

Credit: Creative Commons Laocoön and his sons, also known as the Laocoön Group. Marble, copy after an Hellenistic original from ca. 200 BC. Found in the Baths of Trajan, 1506.
Credit: Creative Commons
Laocoön and his sons, also known as the Laocoön Group. Marble, copy after an Hellenistic original from ca. 200 BC. Found in the Baths of Trajan, 1506.

The emphasis on emotional intensity and theatricality is very common among Hellenistic sculptures. The amount of pain in Laocoon and his sons’ faces is the ultimate depiction of pain. Their bodies are depicted as perfect forms, as to match the exaggerated emotions on their faces. This sculpture represents Hellenistic art at its finest. The way the bodies are contorted in uncomfortable positions and the way Laocoon’s head is rolled back, placing strain on his neck, are similar to Athena Fighting the Giants from the Altar of Zeus, another Hellenistic sculpture.[5]

Apollo- Etruscan

The Apulu of Veii is a great example of Etruscan sculpture. Apulu, the Etruscan equivalent of Apollo, is a terracotta sculpture that is slightly larger than life-size from the Portonaccio Temple at Veii. The figure was part of a group of statues that stood on the ridgepole of the temple and depicted the myth of Heracles and the Ceryneaian hind.[6] The figure of Apulu confronts the hero, Heracles, who is attempting to capture a deer sacred to Apulu’s sister, Artemis. Of the remaining figures from the temple at Veii, Apulu is the most complete statue.[7]

Credit: Creative Commons Apulu of Veii. Painted terracotta. Ca. 510-500 BCE. Portonaccio Temple, Veii, Italy.
Credit: Creative Commons
Apulu of Veii. Painted terracotta. Ca. 510-500 BCE. Portonaccio Temple, Veii, Italy.

The figure of Apulu has several Greek characteristics, but there are a few differences that set the Etruscan statue apart. The face and position of the body are similar to that of Archaic Greek kouros figures. The face is simply carved and an Archaic smile provides a link to Greek influence. The hair of Apulu is stylized and falls across his shoulders and down his neck and back in simple, geometric twists that could possibly represent braids.[8] The statue, like Greek statues of the time, was painted using vibrant colors.

Unlike Archaic Greek statues and kouros, the figure of Apulu is shown with more body movement and more stylized muscles and clothes than that of the Greeks. Apulu is shown stepping forward, with an arm stretched out, possibly holding a bow that is no longer intact. Unlike Greek sculptures and portrayals of Apollo at the time, the Etruscans have clothed the figure, draping a toga over one of his shoulders.[9] The way the toga is represented clinging tightly to his body and the stylized folds of the fabric differ from that of the Greek’s over-exaggerated realism.

 

Sarcophagus of Spouses

Credit: Creative Commons
Credit: Creative Commons

A late sixth century sarcophagus excavated from a tomb in modern day Cerveteri is a terracotta sculpture depicting a couple reclining together on a sort of couch. The sarcophagus displays not only the Etruscan Archaic style but also Etruscan skill in working with terracotta. The figures’ torsos are modeled and their heads are in a typical Etruscan egg-shape with almond shaped eyes, long noses, and an Archaic smile.[10] The hair is stylized, as seen in Apulu of Veii, and the figures are shown making gestures. The Etruscans place a large amount of emphasis on gesture, both in sculpture and painting.[11] It is believed that the woman originally held a small vessel, maybe used for wine, and the couple appears to be intimate and happy due to the fact that the two are intertwined.[12] Greek art portraying a man and woman aren’t this light-hearted and loving. Generally, Greek art showing a man and wife has a more serious tone.

 

Aulus Metellus (the Orator)

After the fall of the kings of Rome, the Republic began to form, and in turn the emphasis on realistic portrayals of public officials.[13] Fearful that the Republic could take back power from the people, seeing the statues of figures of power portrayed like a regular roman citizens restored hope that the leaders are there as an extension of the common Roman. The bronze statue Aulus Metellus was one of the statues used to speak to the people, assuring them that the Republic was working in their interests.[14]

Credit: Creative Commons
Credit: Creative Commons

The life size statue of the Roman official stretches his hand out toward the crowd he is addressing. With his arm outstretched toward the people, the official is letting the public know that he has the power and authority to help them voice their opinions.[15] The way the statue is posed makes him appear more like one of the people rather than someone that is of higher status. His toga is neatly folded and draped around his body, marking him as a governmental official, but the way his garments are shown so naturalistically also supports the idea that this figure doesn’t see himself as an elevated official.[16] The figures features and body are very common, unlike Hellenistic and other Greek figures, showing the human form in perfection. Viewers would be able to identify with this statue and place their trust in this man. The portrayal of senators and officials as caring and strong individuals helped restore trust and ease the tension on the Republic’s political system.[17]

 

Portrait bust, Cato the Elder

The portrait bust of Cato the Elder, from Otricoli (ancient Ocriculum) dates to the middle of the first century B.C.E. The portrait is a powerful representation of a male aristocrat with a strong roman nose.[18] The figure is shown lacking emotion, letting the wrinkles and scars do the talking. The figures abundance of wrinkles, a strong brow, and sunken skin, characterize the portrait head. The Romans used this veristic style of portraiture to show how wise and experienced the figures were, which were very influential characteristics to have.[19]

Credit: Creative Commons Head of a Roman Patrician. From Otricoli, Italy. Ca. 75-50 BCE.
Credit: Creative Commons
Head of a Roman Patrician. From Otricoli, Italy. Ca. 75-50 BCE.

Though this bust may seem unappealing by today’s standards, the portrait of Cato the Elder would have made for an influential piece while participating in the elections of the Republic. The physical traits of this portrait image are meant to convey seriousness of mind (gravitas) and the virtue (virtus) of a public career by demonstrating the way in which the subject literally wears the marks of his endeavors.[20]

Augustus Primaporta

Roman art and politics often go hand in hand. This is easily visible when viewing portraits of Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire. Augustus used the power and influence of imagery in his portraits to spread his ideology across the Roman Empire.[21] One of Augustus’ most famous portraits is Augustus of Primaporta (20 B.C.E.).

Credit: Creative Commons  Flickr user: russavia Augustus of Primaporta
Credit: Creative Commons
Flickr user: russavia
Augustus of Primaporta

In this marble freestanding sculpture, Augustus stands in a contrapposto position (a relaxed pose where one leg bears weight). The emperor is wearing armor with his right arm extended, demonstrating that he may be addressing his soldiers or some sort of crowd.[22]  Already, this sculpture gives off a sense of power and status, differing from previous roman figures such as Cato the Elder and Aulus Metellus.

Delving further into the composition of the statue, an obvious resemblance to the Greek sculptor Polykleitos’ Doryphoros, is clear.[23]  Both sculptures are shown in a similar contrapposto stance, and both figures are idealized.  Like Doryphoros, Augustus is also portrayed as youthful and flawless. Augustus is shown as youthful and in great shape, though he was well past his prime at the time of the sculpture’s commissioning.[24] Augustus has tried to link himself to the golden age of the Greeks by associating himself with the idealized body and posture of the Doryphoros.[25]

Bibliography

“National Gallery of Art.” The Dying Gaul. November 26, 2013. Accessed April 17, 2015. http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/press/exh/3655.html.

“Laocoon and His Sons (c.42-20 BCE).” Laocoon and His Sons, Greek Statue: History, Interpretation. January 1, 2015. Accessed April 18, 2015. http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/sculpture/laocoon.htm.

“Archaic Art.” Boundless Art History. Boundless, 03 Jul. 2014. Retrieved 15 Apr. 2015 from https://www.boundless.com/art-history/textbooks/boundless-art-history-textbook/the-etruscans-7/early-etruscan-art-68/archaic-art-356-5528/

“Aulus Metellus, Late 2nd or Early 1st Century BCE.” Arthistoryoftheday. August 19, 2011. Accessed April 18, 2015. https://arthistoryoftheday.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/aulus-metellus-late-2nd-or-early-1st-century-bce/.

Becker, Jeffrey. “Khan Academy.” Khan Academy. Accessed April 19, 2015. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ancient-art-civilizations/roman/roman-republic/a/head-of-a-roman-patrician.

Fischer, Julia. “Khan Academy.” Khan Academy. Accessed April 19, 2015. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ancient-art-civilizations/roman/early-empire/a/augustus-of-primaporta.

[1] “National Gallery of Art.” The Dying Gaul. November 26, 2013. Accessed April 17, 2015.

[2] “National Gallery of Art.”

[3] “National Gallery of Art.”

[4] “Laocoon and His Sons (c.42-20 BCE).” Laocoon and His Sons, Greek Statue: History, Interpretation. January 1, 2015. Accessed April 18, 2015.

[5] “Laocoon and His Sons (c.42-20 BCE).”

[6] “Archaic Art.” Boundless Art History. Boundless, 03 Jul. 2014. Retrieved 15 Apr. 2015

[7] “Archaic Art.”

[8] “Archaic Art.”

[9] “Archaic Art.”

[10] “Archaic Art.”

[11] “Archaic Art.”

[12] “Archaic Art.”

[13] “Aulus Metellus, Late 2nd or Early 1st Century BCE.” Arthistoryoftheday. August 19, 2011. Accessed April 18, 2015.

[14] “Aulus Metellus, Late 2nd or Early 1st Century BCE.”

[15] “Aulus Metellus, Late 2nd or Early 1st Century BCE.”

[16] “Aulus Metellus, Late 2nd or Early 1st Century BCE.”

[17] “Aulus Metellus, Late 2nd or Early 1st Century BCE.”

[18] Becker, Jeffrey. “Khan Academy.” Khan Academy. Accessed April 19, 2015.

[19] Becker, Jeffrey

[20] Becker, Jeffrey

[21] Fischer, Julia. “Khan Academy.” Khan Academy. Accessed April 19, 2015.

[22] Fischer, Julia

[23] Fischer, Julia

[24] Fischer, Julia

[25] Fischer, Julia

Enki

Enki, or Ea (Akkadian), is the Mesopotamia god of fresh waters known as apsu. He is the god of wisdom, farming, building, magic and crafts. Enki is depicted as a bearded man surrounded by flowing water (Foster, 151). Two symbols associated with Enki are the goatfish and a scepter with a ram’s head. Enki is one of the three most powerful gods in the Mesopotamian pantheon, including Anu and Enlil.

Sumerian texts about Enki often include sexual portrayals of his virile masculinity. There is a metaphorical link between the life-giving properties of Enki’s semen and the fresh water from the apsu (Horry). Enki is associated with the city of Eridu, and his temple was called E-abzu, meaning house of the apsu (foster, 643-644). Among Enki’s various roles in Mesopotamian society, he was in charge of making the lands fertile and civilizing it’s cities. The text Enki and Ninhursanga describes Enki’s role in transforming the land around the marshes of Tilum into fertile ground using water from the apsu (Horry). The Sumerian myth of Inanna and Enki tells about the rules of the universe, called the ‘me’. In the beginning, Enki controls the me. Inanna gets Enki drunk and she tricks him into giving her the me. When Enki realizes he has given Inanna the me, he tries to recover them. Inanna takes the me back to Uruk and Enki can’t get them back. The story of Inanna and Enki is believed to be about a treaty between the cities of Uruk and Eridu (Horry).

Greenstone cylinder seal of the scribe Adda ; c.2300-2200 BCE. (BM 89115). © The British Museum.
Greenstone cylinder seal of the scribe Adda ; c.2300-2200 BCE. (BM 89115). © The British Museum.

Enki can be seen on the Greenstone seal of Adda. The seal of Adda is an Akkadian seal dating back to 2300-2200 BCE (Reade). The cuneiform inscription identifies the owner of the seal as the scribe Adda. The figures on the seal can be identified as Enki, Usimu, Shamash and Inanna. The figure armed with a bow and quiver has not been identified with certainty, but may represent a hunting god like Nusku (Collon). The seal represents the gods’ roles in everyday Mesopotamian life. Enki is represented with streams of water and fish flowing from his shoulders. He is depicted this way because he is the god of water, fertility and wisdom. Behind Enki is Usimu, Enki’s two-faced minister. In the middle of the seal is the sun god, Shamash. Shamash is shown with rays of light rising from his shoulders. He also has a sword that he is using to cut his way through the mountains so he may rise at dawn (Reade). The winged goddess to the left is Inanna. She is shown with weapons rising from her shoulders and a handful of dates. Inanna is represented this way because she is the goddess of war, fertility, wisdom and love.

There are many different gods that represent a variety of things in ancient Mesopotamian culture. The people of these ancient societies used the gods to explain how and why all different aspects of life exist. The seal of Adda shows Enki, Shamash and Inanna doing their duties as gods and goddesses. Enki is shown giving life to the earth with water from the apsu. Through this seal, the people of this culture could better understand the gods and the roles they played on earth.

– Jesse Busby

Works Cited

Horry, Ruth, ‘Enki/Ea (god)’, Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses, Oracc and the UK Higher Education Academy, 2013 http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/enki/.

Foster, B.R. 2005. Before the Muses: an Anthology of Akkadian Literature. 3rd edition. Bethesda, MD: CDL Press.

Reade, J.E. , Mesopotamia (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)

Collon, D., First impressions: cylinder se (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)

Collon, D., Catalogue of the Western Asi-1 (London, 1982)

Looting The Ancient Middle East

When asked about the war in the Middle East, ancient dig sites aren’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind for most people. The harsh reality is, however, that militant groups are exploiting important archaeological sites all over the Middle East. The Middle East has lost many of its ancient artifacts throughout history, and is experiencing new loss due to conflict since the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003. Islamic militant groups such as ISIS and ISIL have been looting ancient sites in Syria and Iraq, but they aren’t the only ones to blame. Syrian government forces and groups affiliated to the Free Syrian Army have also been looting ancient sites (Mulder 2).

The most controversial topic surrounding the looting of ancient sites in the Middle East isn’t just who is responsible, but also who should be responsible for placing restrictions on these artifacts and their legality. An antiquities police force, created in 2008 to replace withdrawing American troops, is supposed to be responsible for protecting archaeological sites in Iraq. The antiquities police force was expected to have more than 5,000 officers by 2010, but the force’s officers totaled 106 (Myers A1). Not only the governments of these countries themselves should be held responsible for the looting, but international organizations like the UN also hold responsibility. Other than the governments and United Nations, the best way to stop the sale and distribution of looted artifacts is at the museums and with the dealers.

Credit: Andy Daily
Credit: Andy Daily

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looting has been and will be around forever, but could be greatly impacted using the appropriate methods. The international community could lessen looting through strong restrictions on the sale of antiquities. These restrictions can be enforced by the UN, national governments of the Middle Eastern countries, and the museums that collect the antiquities (Mulder 4). The UN or national government of the country the artifact(s) is from should take the lead on the trafficking of these artifacts. These governments should place strict policies on what antiquities can be exported, and give the dealers of the antiquities official export licenses. The UN, like it did with Iraq, could ban the sale of antiquities from Syria. Museums and galleries might have the biggest responsibility regarding the market for looted items. Museums often look over or don’t look into the trail behind an artifact. Museums are actively purchasing looted artifacts, resulting in an increase in demand of these artifacts. Museums could place responsibility on the dealers to prove the artifacts were legally attained by demanding an official export license from the country of origin (Mulder 4). Failure to comply with this demand could result in punishment, like a hefty fine, from the UN.

Starting with the national governments of the countries where the looting is taking place is a crucial point for the fight against looting. Once the national governments and the UN implement stricter policies on what antiquities can be exported and sold, the battle against museums and dealers will be much easier won. Though looting may never be completely prevented, starting at the source and working outward to the museums and dealers can greatly lessen the demand for looted antiquities.

Myers, Steven. “Iraq’s Ancient Ruins Face New Looting.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 25 June 2010. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.<http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/26/world/middleeast/26looting.html?_r=0>.

Jesse Busby