Long ago in ancient times many cities were developed in the desert despite the inhospitable environment it provided. During this time mankind not only prevailed in thisharsh environment, they thrived in it, building the most miraculous cities known to this day. Some of these cities were so spectacular that they are renowned as part of the ancient wonders of the world. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are one of the seven marvelous spectacles that existed in this time period with exotic flowers and other greenery cascading from the heavens. This city demanded attention and has been documented by many with its towering walls and beautiful landscape overlooking a vast, dry desert,although its existence is still questionable today.
As the story tales by ancient sources the nature and idea of building this unbelievable feat came about through the King Nebuchadnezzar around 600 BC. The city was constructed for his wife Amytis because she was homesick from her verdant and mountainous homeland Media. She was depressed from the flat and arid landscape of Babylon, thus the elaborate garden was constructed to replicate her lush homeland (Ancient History).
New evidence provided by an 18 year study by Stephanie Dalley of Oxford University has concluded that the gardens were not built by the Babylonians but instead by the Assyrians in the north Mesopotamia. She believes that this unbelievable feature was achieved by the Assyrian king, Sennacherib. Sennacherib describes his city as an “unrivaled palace” and a “wonder for all peoples.” He goes on to describe the water – raising screw made using the new method of casting bronze. “Dalley said this was part of a complex system of canals, dams and aqueducts to bring mountain water from streams 50 miles away to the citadel of Nineveh and the hanging garden. The script records water being drawn up “all day” (The Guardian).
“A vast labour force was put to work producing mud bricks in uncountable numbers which, under the supervision of the royal architects, became palaces, temples, gates and magnificent city walls, on a scale that must have overawed visiting dignitaries and subject people alike. A particular hallmark of this architecture was the use of blue glazed bricks to face the most imposing monumnets, while similar bricks with moulded reliefs of lions, bulls and dragons were added to reinforce the splendour and power of the king’s city (Clayton and Price).”
Herodotus, a greek historian, wrote “ In addition to its size Babylon surpasses in splendor any city in the known world.” “Herodotus claimed the outer walls were 56 miles in length, 80 feet thick and 320 feet high. Wide enough, he said, to allow two four-horse chariots to pass each other. The city also had inner walls which were “not so thick as the first, but harshly less strong.” Inside these doubled walls were fortresses and temples containing immense statues of solid gold. Rising above the city was the famousTower of Babel, a temple to the god Marduk, that seemed to reach to the heavens.” Although, archaeological excavations have disputed many of his claims (unmuseums). Berossus is the only writer to credit the king Nebuchadnezzar II with the construction of the Hanging Gardens by saying “In this palace he erected very high walks, supported by stone pillars; and by planting what was called a pensile paradise, and replenishing it with all sorts of trees, he rendered the prospect an exact resemblance of a mountainous country. This he did to gratify his queen, because she had been brought up in Media, and was fond of a mountainous situation.”
Diodorus Siculus, a writer from 60-30 BC, describes the city, “The park extended fourplethra on each side, and since the approach to the garden sloped like a hillside and the several parts of the structure rose from one another tier on tier, the appearance of the whole resembled that of a theatre. When the ascending terraces had been built, there had been constructed beneath them galleries which carried the entire weight of the planted garden and rose little by little one above the other along the approach; and the uppermost gallery, which was fifty cubits high, bore the highest surface of the park, which was made level with the circuit wall of the battlements of the city. Furthermore, the walls, which had been constructed at great expense, were twenty-two feet thick, while the passage-way between each two walls was ten feet wide. The roof above these beams had first a layer of reedslaid in great quantities of bitumen, over this two courses of baked brick bonded bycement, and as a third layer of covering of lead, to the end that the moisture from the soil might not penetrate beneath. On all this again earth had been piled to a depth sufficient for the roots of the largest trees; and the ground, when levelled off, was thickly planted with trees of every kind that, by their great size or other charm, could give pleasure to the beholder. And since the galleries, each projecting beyond another, all received the light, they contained many royal lodgings of every description; and there was one gallery which contained openings leading from the topmost surface and machines for supplying the gardens with water, the machines raising the water in great abundance from the river, although no one outside could see it being done. Now this park, as I have said, was a later construction.”
Quintus Curtius Rufus, active in the 1st century AD, referred to the writings of Cleitharchus when writing his own documentation about the Hanging Gardens describing it, “The Babylonians also have a citadel twenty stades in circumference. The foundations of its turrets are sunk thirty feet into the ground and the fortifications rise eighty feet above it at the highest point. On its summit are the hanging gardens, a wonder celebrated by the fables of the Greeks. They are as high as the top of the walls and owe their charm to the shade of many tall trees. The columns supporting the whole edifice are built of rock, and on top of them is a flat surface of squared stones strong enough to bear the deep layer of earth placed upon it and the water used for irrigating it. So stout are the trees the structure supports that their trunks are eight cubits thick and their height as much as fifty feet; they bear fruit as abundantly as if they were growing in their natural environment. And although time with its gradual decaying processes is as destructive to nature’s works as to man’s, even so this edifice survives undamaged, despite being subjected to the pressure of so many tree-roots and the strain of bearing the weight of such a huge forest. It has a substructure of walls twenty feet thick at eleven foot intervals, so that from a distance one has the impression of woods overhanging their native mountains. Tradition has it that it is the work of a Syrian king who ruled from Babylon. He built it out of love for his wife who missed the woods and forests in this flat country and persuaded her husband to imitate nature’s beauty with a structure of this kind.”
Based of the lost account of Onesicritus Strabo from 64 BC – 21 AD describes the gardens, “Babylon, too, lies in a plain; and the circuit of its wall is three hundred and eighty-five stadia. The thickness of its wall is thirty-two feet; the height thereof between the towers is fifty cubits; that of the towers is sixty cubits; and the passage on top of the wall is such that four-horse chariots can easily pass one another; and it is on this account that this and the hanging garden are called one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The garden is quadrangular in shape, and each side is four plethra in length. It consists of arched vaults, which are situated, one after another, on checkered, cube-like foundations. The checkered foundations, which are hollowed out, are covered so deep with earth that they admit of the largest of trees, having been constructed of baked brick and asphalt – the foundations themselves and the vaults and the arches. The ascent to the uppermost terrace-roofs is made by a stairway; and alongside these stairs there were screws, through which the water was continually conducted up into the garden from the Euphrates by those appointed for this purpose, for the river, a stadium in width, flows through the middle of the city; and the garden is on the bank of the river (World Public Library).”
To date there is no archeological evidence proving the existence of the Hanging Gardens in Babylon, even with Dallas’ research concluding a huge garden was built by the Assyrians the true identity and whereabouts of this remarkable city are still unknown. However, there are accounts documenting this marvelous city and therefore allow it to remain as one of the ancient wonders of the world.
Since the dawn of human existence, the topics of love and death have heavily shaped many cultures. In fact, many archaeologists use grave goods and the state of burial grounds to determine the priorities of a society that they are studying. There were many classic myths from Ancient Greece that depict both of these topics, often beautifully intertwining them. One of the common tropes in the Greek mythos that displays this meshing is the death of the maiden. The tales of Orpheus and Eurydice, and The Rape of Persephone embody this trope. One tells the tale of a loss of romantic love, the other of familial love. Both myths combine both the themes of love and loss in a classic way, inspiring many works of art even to this day.
Orpheus is arguably the most famous magician in the Greek mythos, second only to the God Apollo. He was born to the muse of epic poetry, Calliope and was gifted with an uncanny ability to play the lyre. Hardy Fredricksmeyer his music as “So powerful that its influence extends beyond the human realm to enchant wild animals, stop birds in flight, and uproot rocks and trees” (Fredricksmeyer 253). He was to marry the lovely Eurydice, but on their wedding day she unexpectedly perished due to being bit by a venomous snake. In his Metamorphoses Ovid writes, “Inflam’d by love and urg’d by deep despair,/He leaves the realms of light and upper air;/Daring to tread the dark Tenarian road;/And tempt the shades in their obscure abode;/Thro’ gliding spectres of th’ interr’d go,/And the phantom people of the world below” (Ovid 10.17-22). Orpheus, consumed by grief, decided to make the descent into the underworld in order to save his beloved Eurydice. There he ran into Hades and Persephone, the king and queen of the underworld. Due to his beautiful musical prowess, he was able to charm the god and goddess into agreeing to allow him to take back Eurydice to the world of the living. There was one condition to this pact, however. Until they reached the surface and the world of the living, Orpheus would not be allowed to look back at his wife. The musician agreed to the terms and fetched his wife. Just as they were coming up to the surface, Orpheus broke his promise and turned around. There he saw Eurydice in a grotesque state of both life and death, a secret that no human should be allowed to see. Hades and Persephone reclaimed the soul of Eurydice, and Orpheus met an untimely end. Some sources say that he was torn apart, either by animals or the Maenads, and others say that Zeus himself struck him down in order to keep him from repeating the secrets of the underworld. In the terra cotta vessel pictured above Orpheus, pictured with his lyre, is awaiting his fate at the hands of the woman with the sickle. According to John MacQueen, “Eurydice has an ambiguous, and even sinister, significance. She is the thought which Orpheus sought to lead to the light above; she is also the desire which turned him back to darkness from the bounds of light” (MacQueen 261). The themes of light and dark appear often, not only during the course of lost love myths, but in tales of heroic journeys. Orpheus during the tale of The Death of Eurydice could fall into the heroic pattern, due to his journey into the underworld. This trope has been seen among many stories of heroism throughout human existence. In fact it is such a common theme that it is even a part of Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth, or The Hero’s Journey. One can even say that his performance for Hades in an attempt to gain back the soul of his late wife could fall under the stage of the monomyth called the atonement with the father. The atonement is described as the “stage the hero confronts a being with immense power that represents both the hero’s God, his superego, and his sins, his repressed id” (Reidy 215). However, Orpheus’ journey deviates slightly from the heroic format, as he is murdered at the end. One could claim that his death was not in vain, as he was finally reunited with his wife, Eurydice, in the afterlife. While the terra cotta vessel depicts and ominous scene on the cusp of the bard’s demise, the admirer must remember that his death is not the end of his story.
While the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is about the struggles of romantic love and loss, the myth of The Rape of Persephone tells about motherly love in the context of loss. Persephone, also called Kore, was a young maiden. She was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, and was much beloved by her mother. One day the girl was out with her friends, picking flowers in a meadow. In Greek mythology, meadows and flower picking tend to be symbolic of the transition from maidenhood to womanhood. Susan Deacy describes the Greek meadow as “a place of sexual allure, whose sensual pleasures emanate from the visual appeal of the flowers combined with the heady scent generated by their profusion” (Deacy). Persephone was engaging in these activities when she came upon a lovely and large narcissus bloom. When Kore went to reach for the flower, Hades sprung from the earth on his chariot and swept her away to the underworld. Demeter was devastated over the disappearance of her daughter. In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, it is said that for nine days she “wandered the earth with flaming torches in her hands, so grieved that she never tasted ambrosia and the sweet draught of nectar, nor sprinkled her body with water” (Homer 2. 44-46). As Demeter was a goddess of fertility and the harvest, her despair caused crops to die around her. With help from Helios and Hecate, Demeter was able to locate her daughter. However, since Persephone had consumed pomegranate arils in the underworld, she would not be able to fully return. Instead, Demeter and Hades struck a deal. For half of the year Persephone would stay with her mother in the world of the living and the plants would grow and prosper. For the other half of the year, Kore would remain in Hades with her husband, and the crops would wither and die. There are many facets to the tale, as it is both an explanation for a natural phenomenon, symbolism for the loss of innocence tied to maturation of women, a lamentation of a mother’s love, and a cautionary tale. In the terra cotta vessel above there is a vivid depiction of Persephone’s abduction, and the chaos that was created in its aftermath. The middle of the vase depicts Hades’ chariot: the very one used to abduct the young Kore. Around the chariot scene are many of the other gods including, Hecate with her torches, Aphrodite and Eros encouraging Hades’ lust, as well as Demeter and Athena. There are also stalks of grain, which play on the themes of fertility and growth that are heavily relied on in the myth. The tale of Persephone and Demeter also influenced one of the largest cults in the ancient world: the Eleusinian Mysteries. The cult was said to have to do with “benefits of some kind in the afterlife” (Encyclopedia Britannica). In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter the mysteries are described by saying “Happy is he among men upon earth who has seen these mysteries; but he who is uninitiate and who has no part in them, never has lot of like good things once he is dead, down in the darkness and gloom” (Homer 2.476-478). The story of Persephone and Demeter, like the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, involve a journey from maidenhood to the afterlife. This is symbolism for the loss of innocence and childhood whimsy that comes with marriage and reaching childbearing age. While it marks the end of one era, it ushers in the next. The afterlife was seen as a necessary step in the journey of life, just as marriage is to a woman. Adding to the themes of loss of innocence, the pomegranate is often seen as a symbol for testes; they are full of red and life giving seeds surrounded by milky white flesh. Between the picking of the flowers and the consumption of Hades’ arils, it is quite clear that Persephone was no longer an innocent maiden.
Much insight into the Greek culture regarding its views on love and loss, as well as maidenhood and the heroic cycle just through the stories of Orpheus and Eurydice and The Rape of Persephone. Both tales place a great deal of emphasis on the severity of the cross into womanhood and the loss of a maiden’s innocence, and both are depicted many times in art throughout the years. Love, whether it be romantic or familial, is a basic human emotion; the loss of that love can wreck even the strongest man deep down into his core. Orpheus was willing to risk his life to dive into the underworld to save his beloved, and Demeter crippled herself by denying her personal needs while consumed by her grief. Even as an immortal god, her refusal of both ambrosia and nectar severely weakened her body and mind. Because of the pandering to basic human emotion, the myths resonate deeply in the souls of those who consume them. Parents gasp in horror at the idea of the literal loss of a child, and many an older parent can even relate to the idea of losing their child to marriage. Anyone who has been in love before gawks at the thought of losing their beloved, many even side with Orpheus’ actions after the loss of his wife. And while many mock him for disobeying orders and turning around to get a look at Eurydice, the deep ache of not knowing whether or not she was actually following him would be too much for the average person to bear. It is human nature to grieve, to turn around to face the unknown just to make sure that a loved one would be okay. Parent to child, lover to lover, these emotions lie within us all and shape our very lives and very world. The ideas portrayed in Ancient Greece still affect the very lives that we as a society live in today.
Fredricksmeyer, Hardy. “Black Orpheus, Myth and Ritual: A Morphological Reading.”International Journal of the Classical Tradition 14, no. 1/2 (2007): 148-75. Accessed April 12, 2015. http://www.jstor.org.libdata.lib.ua.edu/.
After Apollo’s visit to Olympus, where he was greatly admired for his beauty, the god of music travelled the Earth searching for a suitable home. His journey comes to an end at the port of Delphi, where he proclaims that he will build a temple that will serve as an oracle for men and a proxy for his revelations to them (Middleton, 285). Or, if you were to ask ancient historian Diodorus of Sicily, a goat shepherd happened upon a chasm while herding his goats and leaned his head over the divide whereupon he breathed in the vapors and went into a euphoric state and began predicting the future. Word spread amongst Delphi and soon the entire town was at the chasm predicting futures. Until citizens started falling in, that is. The danger of the abyss led the people to the genius idea of appointing a woman to the task of receiving visions from the vapor. She was sat upon a tripod over the chasm to protect her from falling in (Oppé, 218-219). Regardless of her true origins, divine or otherwise, the result of the chasm was the same: on the seventh of every month, countless people gathered to have their fortunes divined by the Oracle of Delphi from 1400B.C. – 381 A.D. (Roach). From dusk ‘til dawn, the people of Greece waited in line for the chance to hear their future. The first in line were the people of Delphi; second preference was given to a city chosen by Delphi; and the rest drew the remaining lots. Those who did not make it into the adytum that day had to come back next month and try their luck again (Parke).
While there are a number of plausible reconstructions of the Temple of Apollo, there are few, if any, of the adytum specifically. This is the area where the priestess would preform her ritual and receive her visions from Apollo over the vaporous chasm. I was inspired by the Oracle of Delphi and fascinated with the abyss that brought her divinations. My inspiration is what drew me to attempt a reconstruction of the Oracle Chambers in the Temple of Apollo. My chosen method of reconstruction is a blueprint drawing based on historical accounts and research of the temple. As an artist channeling my inner architect, I am interested in creating a historically accurate setting of the Oracle receiving revelations from Apollo. I hope to provide a context of the Oracle that helps art historians envision life in the temple during the Oracle’s golden age.
Luckily, geologists John Hale and Jelle Z. De Boer give an amazing description of the entire Temple of Apollo in their article from the 2002 November/December edition of Archeology Odyssey, “The Oracle of Delphi – Was She Really Stoned?” They describe the Sacred Way into the temple where fortune-seekers would wait all day to get into the lower chamber. If they finally made it downstairs, visitors were faced with great, golden statue of Apollo and the omphalos – or “navel” – stone. Connected to this chamber was the adytum (Greek for “not to be entered”). The adytum contained the priestess on her tripod above the fissure. Visitors would wait in the chamber outside the adytum and ask their question to a priest. The priest would relay the question to the Oracle and translate her answer back to the visitor.
Together, De Boer and Hale formed a team including chemist Jeff Chanton and toxicologist Henry Spiller to investigate Delphi. What they discovered overturned the generally accepted belief that the ancient Greeks had simply misconstrued the facts and mistaken the chasm for a nearby gorge and that the vapor emission were a myth. A.P. Oppé proposed this idea after his trip to the 1927 French excavation site of Delphi, where they found no evidence of a chasm. Amandry of the École Française d’Athènes reinforced Oppé’s belief in a 1950 publication. Amandry stated that hallucinogenic gasses could never have been emitted at Delphi because only volcanic activity could produce such fumes. What Amandry did not realize was that Delphi was actually a hot spot for tectonic activity, as Hale and De Boer’s team discovered on their expedition.
In 1996, De Boer and Hale’s team began surveying the area of the temple and discovered two intersecting faults. The first, which they named the Delphi Fault, runs east to west. The second intersecting fault, named the Kerna Fault, runs southeast to northwest. The Kerna Fault runs along the natural springs in the temple complex, the largest being the Kerna Spring for which the fault was named. De Boer conducted a study of the remaining active springs near Delphi and discovered evidence of ethylene gasses, known for causing disembodied euphoria. According to De Boer, the Delphi and Kerna faults meet underneath the Temple of Apollo. The vaporous fissure was likely caused by the crossing of these faults and has since been destroyed by the inevitable tectonic activity.
In any case, their research is vital to any discussion of the Oracle of Delphi. They set out to prove the scholarly community wrong with modern science and made amazing discoveries that prove the chasm at Delphi existed and emitted ethylene gasses. Their investigation and detailed research was essential to putting the pieces together to form my reconstruction of the Oracle’s chambers.
De Boer, Jelle, and John Hale. “The Oracle of Delphi—Was She Really Stoned?” Archaeology Odyssey, 2002.
Middleton, J. Henry. “The Temple of Apollo at Delphi.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 9 (1888): 282-322.
Oppé, A.P. “The Chasm at Delphi.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 24 (1904): 214-40.
Parke, H.W. “The Days for Consulting the Delphic Oracle.” The Classical Quarterly 37, no. 1/2 (1943): 19-22.
Roach, John. “Delphic Oracle’s Lips May Have Been Loosened by Gas Vapors.” National Geographic News, 2001. Accessed April 19, 2015. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/08/0814_delphioracle.html.
Around 575 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon constructed the eighth gate to the ancient city, the Ishtar Gate. Ancient Babylon was enclosed by tall walls that measured over forty one miles in length and today it is still debated how tall the walls would have been. It has been estimated that the walls stood 75 feet tall, and other have even described the walls as being 300 feet tall (Walls 2012). Because the walls are no longer standing it is of no real knowledge that we would be able to decipher just how tall the walls of Babylon stood. However, it is agreed that there were two walls surrounding the ancient city, with the Greek historian Herodotus claiming that a four-horse chariot could move between the two (Walls 2012).
The Ishtar Gate was built in dedication to the Babylonian goddess Ishtar and stood approximately 38 feet tall (Garcia, 2013). It was constructed of mud bricks that were created from the clay taken from the river valley. Babylon was surrounded on one side by the Euphrates river, and as a result, Babylonians constructed most of their architecture with clay bricks (Harris 2012). The Ishtar Gate was constructed on the side with the river and was accessed by the Processional Way. The Processional Way crossed over the Euphrates River and was used in religious ceremonies. Each new year, those participating in the religious ceremony would carry statues that represented the gods over the Processional Way. This ceremony honored Marduk, the patron god of Babylon (Damon, 1993). The gate displays reliefs of lions, dragons, and bulls, each representing different gods and formed from brick. The lion represented the goddess Ishtar and could be found lining the walls of the Processional Way (Garcia, 2013).
Today there is a portion of the gate that is standing in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany (King, 2008). Between 1928 and 1930, a representational reconstruction was built and transferred to the Pergamon Museum. It was created using the excavated remains of the gate. However, because of the size of the museum, they were not able to create an exact replica and the gate standing in the museum is smaller than the actual gate would have been. They only have the first gate on display, with the larger second piece in storage because of size restrictions.
During my reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate, I used artistic renderings and the Pergamon reconstruction for inspiration. I began by constructing the front half of the gate with two large pillars and the gate archway. From my readings, I had determined that the second part of the gate would have been similar to the first, except it would have been larger. I constructed my gate using playing cards because they would provide a sturdy and bendable material. They also had an interesting, blue design that I believed would look nice. Because the material I used was already decorated and on a small scale, I did not show the reliefs of the dragons, lions, and bulls. If the reconstruction were done on a larger scale, it would be easier to show the animal reliefs. I cut, folded, and glued the cards into the shape of the reconstruction found at the Pergamon museum. After achieving the desired look I constructed the second part of the gate that would have been found on the inner wall surrounding the city. I created larger columns for the second part and attached the two pieces together. After reaching completion of the large pieces of the gate I was able to measure and cut sections of brown paper for the roof of the gate and large columns. After finishing my gate I attached it to the desired base and created a path to the gate. I created a path to represent the Processional Way over the Euphrates River. I wanted the gate to be the main focus and effort of my reconstruction so I did not create an overly designed representation of the Processional Way. I also used tulle to represent the Euphrates River, which the Processional Way crossed over.
Reconstructions are important in art and history because it gives us a glimpse of what an object would have looked like when it was created. When an object is discovered or located it is not usually whole and complete. Reconstructing an object allows further study of a culture and society when we might not get a complete understanding of otherwise. The Ishtar Gate would never have been as appreciated or studied as it is today had there not been a reconstruction. It is one thing for an artist to draw what an object might have looked like, but when an object such as the gate is reconstructed, it allows people to get a better understanding of the size, shape, look, and importance of the object. As I was reconstructing the gate, I learned more about it and now have a better understanding of the city of Babylon, the gate, and the religious importance of the gate and religious ceremonies.
Damon, Duane. 1993. “The great restorer: Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon.” Calliope 4, no. 1: 34.
MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2015).
Garcia, Brittany. “Ishtar Gate,” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified August 23, 2013.
The Ancient Greek temple known as the Parthenon has long since been considered a great illustration of the ideal, Classical architectural construction. This could simply be attributed to the fact that during the Classical period of Greek art, symmetry and balance were essential, which can easily be seen in the structure of this temple. Most likely, however, there is a more complex, multi-faceted reasoning behind the nature of the Parthenon becoming a part of the ideal form. Therefore, if one wants to better understand why this architectural structure is given such a title, one must understand just how important power and status, in conjunction with art, were in Greek culture. Greek society was quite focused on what it meant to be Greek, as well as being heavily considered a man’s world. This can be seen in a quote by Socrates wherein he says that one is very lucky if they are born human, not a beast, a man, not a woman, and a Greek, not a barbarian. That said, it should not seem surprising that one’s “self” was defined by where one stood in the hierarchical system within Greek society. In addition to this, the gods were central to Greek culture. Generally in art, the gods were shown in temples and cult-like areas to be used for sacrifices and religious reasons, such as Athena at the Parthenon. In terms of style, they were depicted as perfect, highly dominant forms, which set the stage for the average Greek citizen. There was a constant pursuit of that god-like appearance because they considered perfection to be the ideal form, as well as one being an integral member of society. All of that said, one can certainly see that desire to achieve perfection in Greek art and architecture, such as with the Parthenon. The Parthenon embodied that highly sought-after ideal representation of perfection and power, due in part to its classical style and functionality, as well as through statuettes such as Athena with her owl, which stood as a physical testament to Greek power and form.
The Parthenon is located in Athens, Greece, at the Acropolis of Athens. In short, an acropolis is a settlement built upon an elevated ground, generally on a hillside, for defense purposes as well as for status. Therefore, because the Parthenon was to be dedicated to the goddess Athena, it is not surprising that is located in such a position. Construction of the Parthenon began around 447 B.C.E. and was envisioned to be the centerpiece of this acropolis complex. A generation prior, the Athenians – as part of an alliance the Greek city-states formed – had led victories against Persian invaders during the Greco-Persian wars. This alliance led to a de facto empire under Athenian rule, where in numerous cities across the Aegean paid Athens huge sums of what amounted to protection money, of sorts. Basking in this new glory, the Athenians planned this new temple complex to be of an unprecedented scale (Hadingham Smithsonian). Despite its size, it only took around fifteen years to fully complete the Parthenon.
Just to get an idea of its size and scale at the time of completion, it seems necessary to address some of the technicalities of this construction. The Parthenon is a Doric peripteral temple, which essentially means that it is a rectangular floor plan with a series of steps on every side, and a colonnade of Doric order columns extending around the perimeter of the structure (Silverman Paragraph 3). The colonnade consists of eight columns at the façade and seventeen columns at the flanks (ancient-greece.org Paragraph 3). The architects that have been accredited to constructing this temple were Iktinos and Kallikrates, and as previously stated, it was dedicated to the goddess Athena. The Parthenon’s main function was to house and shelter the monumental figure of Athena that was constructed by Pheidias, and made of gold and ivory (ancient-greece.org Paragraph 1). This statue would be kept in the cella, the innermost room of the temple. Because of both the room and the statue’s unusually large scales, the front and back porches of the temple were smaller and more confined that previous temples. Therefore, a line of six columns supported the porches, and a colonnade of twenty-three columns encompassed Athena’s statue in a two-storied arrangement. Again, this was an unusual arrangement for a Doric temple, which normally only had columns surrounding the flanks, but this new design allowed for a more dramatic backdrop of columns instead of a wall (ancient-greece.org Paragraph 4). In concurrence with this dramatic atmosphere, the functionality of multiple rows of columns created an almost supernatural effect. The alternating rows would immerse the viewer in continual transition between darkness and light as they walked, creating the illusion that the columns formed a solid wall at times, then shifted to open space again. What is also important to note about temples such as the Parthenon is that common people were only allowed to see the exterior porticos and porches. The inner chambers where the statues were housed were for specific members of society. Therefore, because the exterior was seen by all members of society, there was a great amount of precedence placed on idealized forms and shapes.
What seems important to note in relation to the Parthenon and Athenian culture would be the prominent statesman, orator, and general of Athens at the time, Pericles. His influence on Athenian society was so great that a contemporary, Thucydides, named him “the first citizen of Athens” (Mark Paragraph 2). Pericles helped to form the Athenian empire and lead his countrymen during the first two years of the Peloponnesian Wars. He promoted the arts, literature, and philosophy, and as a result of this, saw the building of the acropolis and the Parthenon (Mark Paragraph 3). All of that stated, the last speech Pericles ever made in front of the Athenians seemed a noteworthy one to mention. While the citizens were in a trying time of war, Pericles’ words echoed that life-long desire for power and perfection, such as when he says, “My own opinion is that when the whole State is on the right course it is a better thing for each separate individual than when private interests are satisfied but the State as a whole is going downhill” (Adams, CSUN). Until his last days, Pericles was a strong advocate of unity among the city-states, or the polis, as it was known, which was essential to Classical Greek society.
However, what is generally regarded as one of the more remarkable sculptural features of the entire temple would be the Ionic frieze. Spanning some 525 feet, this frieze is a continuous relief that represents one of the most important and central events in Athenian social and religious life: the Panathenaic Procession (oneonta.edu Paragraph 16). The Panathenaic Festival, or “All Athens Festival” was celebrated annually, as a celebration for the mythical birth of Athena. While this festival occurred each year, every four years saw a grander celebration of which is depicted on the frieze. The Panathenaic Procession began outside the walls of the city and wound wind its way through the city, passing numerous civic spots, finally mounting the acropolis (oneonta.edu Paragraph 17). Due to the massive size of the frieze, it represents a variety of phases of the popular procession. It begins in the southwest corner where riders are depicted mounting their horses, ready to participate in the procession, and gradually moves along to the east end of the temple where it culminates with an image of a young woman offering cloth to a priest (oneonta.edu Paragraph 17 and 18). When one looks closely at the figures featured in the frieze, it becomes apparent that no two look identical. Yet, they also lack a sense of any individual identity. For example, one might observe numerous young, beardless males as opposed to older, bearded ones, and even fewer females. Therefore, it seems apparent that the artist was utilizing types rather than focusing on specific individuality (oneonta.edu Paragraph 18). This, however, fits in well with Greek logic at the time, when they felt that perfection and god-like imagery was something to aspire to so as to become a more integral part of society. All of that said, the procession is meant to be a representation of all Athenian citizens, not particular ones (oneonta.edu Paragraph 22). As Evan Hadingham says in his article for the Smithsonian’s website, “By incorporating this scene of civic celebration, the scholars suggest, the Parthenon served not merely as an imperial propaganda statement but also as an expression of Athens’ burgeoning democracy – the will of the citizens who had voted to fund this exceptional monument” (Hadingham Smithsonian). The Parthenon, as well as the frieze, were physical symbols of perfection and the ideal for the Greeks at the time, proving that when one achieved true perfection, they would attain power and status.
With all of this in mind, what seems most important to point out is how the Parthenon is viewed as an archetypal form of Classical architecture. The Parthenon is a post and lintel temple, which is a system in which two upright members, the posts, support a third member, the lintel, which is laid horizontally across the posts (Encyclopedia Britannica Paragraph 1). Therefore, it presents no engineering breakthrough, at least in terms of building construction. Instead, it is the temple’s stylistic conventions that have become the paradigm of architecture for many centuries (ancient-greece.org Paragraph 9). Its aesthetic appeal does not come from its size, but from the refinement of established norms of Greek architecture as well as the quality of the sculptural elements. As it is stated on ancient-greece.org’s article, “The Parthenon epitomizes all the ideals of Greek thought during the apogee of the Classical era through artistic means. The idealism of the Greek way of living, the attention to detail, as well as the understanding of a mathematically explained harmony in the natural world, were concepts that in every Athenian’s eyes set them apart from the barbarians. These ideals are represented in the perfect proportions of the building, in its intricate architectural elements, and in the anthropomorphic statues that adorned it” (ancient-greece.org Paragraph 10). This excerpt basically says that those ideals that Greeks focused on so heavily – perfection, the state, civic duties – are neatly and adequately expressed in the Parthenon’s stylistic elements, such as the symmetrical colonnades, or the fact that the Panathenaic frieze features everyday citizens of Greece. This was a revolutionary decision by the architects and artists to include common people in a monumental piece of architecture such as the Parthenon, and was most likely due to the fact that for the first time in history every citizen of a city was recognized as an integral member and moving force in the polis, as well as the observable universe (ancient-greece.org Paragraph 18).
In terms of physically embodying Greece’s striving for perfection, one can look to statues such as this one of Athena. She was known as the virgin goddess of wisdom, intelligent activity, arts, and literature. What made her unusual even for gods was that she was speculated to have been born without a mother, but instead sprang from her father Zeus’ head, fully grown and clad in armor. Possible due to this story, she was always depicted as fierce and brave in battle, something of which would have greatly appealed to Greek citizens. Further relating to that logic, she only took part in wars that defended the state from outside forces, allowing for celebration of that ever-strengthening polis within in Greek culture. She was the embodiment of wisdom, reason, and purity, as well as the patron of the city, handicraft, and agriculture (greekmythology.com Paragraph 1 and 2). That last fact is important to this depiction of Athena because an owl rests on her arm. It was said that her holy tree was the olive tree, and she was often symbolized as an owl (greekmythology.com Paragraph 2). In this statuette, she is depicted in an armored helmet and holding an owl, which was the emblem of her wisdom. While it is not certain, because she lacks armor anywhere else, this statuette could have been created during a time of peace for Athens. Regardless, this statuette symbols that desire for power and perfection that all Greeks were engrained to strive for all of their lives. Athena was known for her strength and bravery, so it should not come as a surprise that Athens, at the time of wartime victory, would choose to dedicate a prodigious temple to one such as her.
The Parthenon embodied that highly sought-after ideal representation of perfection and power, due in part to its classical style and functionality, as well as through statuettes such as Athena with her owl, which stood as a physical testament to Greek power and form. The Parthenon has long since been considered a prime example of that ideal, Classical architecture that one identifies with Greek society. That said, as stated in the beginning of this essay, it would appear that there is a specific reasoning and logic behind the nature of the Parthenon, from its construction, to its locale choice, and particularly to its deity choice. After completing this essay, it should seem quite clear that numerous outside forces did in fact contribute to the forming of such a complex architectural structure. As it is so adequately said on the academic.reed page, “When work began on the Parthenon in 447 BC, the Athenian Empire was at the height of its power; the Parthenon, then, represents the tangible and visible efflorescence of Athenian imperial power, unencumbered by the depredation of the Peloponnesian War. Likewise, it symbolizes the power and influence of the Athenian politician, Pericles, who championed its construction” (academic.reed.edu Paragraph 1). Essentially, that passage states that the Athenians had achieved imperial power and success from the lengthy battles, and because of that, they chose to dedicate monuments in honor of their successes. Power and perfection – the ideal form – were absolutely essential to Greek culture, particularly during the Classical period, and the Parthenon certainly encompasses that. However, the fact that it was dedicated to the goddess Athena further hammers that notion home. While the original monument of Athena may no longer exist after centuries of degradation and destruction to the area, one can still get a glimpse of her importance through other statues of her within Greece. She, much like the Parthenon, symbolized power and perfect form, something of which all Greeks were expected to embody.
Adams, John Paul. “Pericles: Last Speech (Thucydides Book II, 59-64).” Csun.edu. April 23, 2011. Accessed April 13, 2015. http://www.csun.edu/~hcfll004/thuc-sp.html.
Mark, Joshua J. “Pericles,” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified September 02, 2009. http://www.ancient.eu/Pericles/.
“The Parthenon.” Ancient-greece.org. Accessed April 13, 2015. http://ancient-greece.org/architecture/parthenon.html.
“The Parthenon.” Academic.reed.edu. Accessed April 13, 2015. http://academic.reed.edu/humanities/110Tech/Parthenon.html.
Hadingham, Evan. “Unlocking Mysteries of the Parthenon.” Smithsonian.com. February 1, 2008. Accessed April 13, 2015. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/unlocking-mysteries-of-the-parthenon-16621015/?no-ist.
“The Parthenon: Religion, Art, and Politics.” Oneonta.edu. Accessed April 13, 2015. https://www.oneonta.edu/faculty/farberas/arth/arth200/politics/parthenon.html.
Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “post-and-lintel system”, accessed April 15, 2015, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/472032/post-and-lintel-system.
“The Parthenon.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accessed April 12, 2015. http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/10482?rpp=30&pg=1&ao=on&ft=parthenon&pos=1
“Bronze statuette of Athena flying her owl.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accessed April 12, 2015. http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/254648?rpp=30&pg=1&ft=athena&pos=4
Greek Mythology.com. “Athena.” Accessed April 16, 2015. http://www.greekmythology.com/Olympians/Athena/athena.html
Throughout the class we have learned about many different cultures and early civilizations. In essentially every one there was a period when a strong ruler came into power and created an empire, or at least stabilized the culture for an extended period under their rule. Specifically I will analyze the similarities and differences between the Greek empire that rose and fell under the rule of Alexander the Great, and the Roman Empire that emerged under the rule of Augustus Caesar. The Romans most definitely learned and adopted many traditions, styles and culture from the Greeks, but always changing them to give it a Roman twist. The building of an empire is no different. Augustus had to have been thinking of Alexander and how his empire fell after his death, so his Roman twist was building an empire that would last past his death. A few of the works that will be examined are: the Portrait of Alexander the Great, Portrait Bust of Cato the Elder and the Augustus Primaporta.
One major thing that Alexander and Augustus had in common was their influential fathers and the foundation each of them laid for their sons to take charge. Augustus’s father Julius was actually his great uncle who adopted him when his name was Octavius, it became Octavian after adoption and in 26 BCE the senate granted him the name Augustus meaning “the exalted.” Alexander, however, was raised by his birth father King Philip II to be a great leader. Aristotle tutored Alexander from an extremely early age, and at eighteen he took over as leader of the Companion Cavalry to assist his father in defeating the Athenians and the Thebans at the battle of Chaeronea. Leading up to this point King Philip had came to power in 360 BCE and in less than a decade defeated most of Macedonia’s neighboring enemies. Philip put lots of interest on innovations in military technology such as catapults and siege machines, innovations such as these laid the ground work for what Alexander would go on to do. The battle of Chaeronea was the last phase of Philip’s plan to become the sole ruler of Greece, and with the help of Alexander he accomplished it. Shortly thereafter in 336 BCE Philip was assassinated. It was now time for Alexander to take charge, and he had his father to thank for the prime foundation to expand and conquer. (Hemingway)
Augustus was not brought up the same way as Alexander. His great uncle Julius Caesar, the last ruler of the Roman Republic, adopted Augustus. Julius had laid the groundwork in similar fashion the way Philip did for Alexander, and was also assassinated before his own rule could actually begin. It wasn’t until the death of Julius that Augustus learned he was being adopted and named chief personal heir, Augustus was eighteen at the time. Augustus was involved in celebrating public games, which had been instituted by Julius, to incorporate himself into the city populous. He succeeded in winning over a substantial number of Julius’s troops to join his alliance. Essentially the main thing Julius did for Augustus was adopt him; from there Augustus made the calls. (Encyclopedia Britannica)
Soon after Augustus had won over the troops the Senate called on him for help against Antony, who was then forced to head Gaul. Augustus then made an agreement with Antony and Marcus Ledipus in which each of them got a five-year doctoral appointment to see over the reconstruction of the state. They came up with a list of political enemies and proceeded to take them out. They executed 300 senators and 2,000 knights who ranked just below the senators. Augustus continued his progression towards becoming emperor by becoming such a successful military leader, though he had some low points along the way such as his first operations against Sextus Sicilian. (Encyclopedia Britannica)
Augustus finally assumed full control of Rome after he defeated Antony’s ships at the battle of Actium in 31 BCE. As a result of the battle Antony fled with his lover Queen Cleopatra of Egypt who had come to his aid but failed miserably. The couple escaped to Egypt where they then committed suicide. With his opponents now dead, Augustus was the undisputed ruler of Rome. (Fagan)
Now that the foundation has been laid, it’s time to examine the reign of each ruler once they took power. As mentioned earlier Alexander had already become a commander at eighteen; by the age twenty he was king, and by twenty-six he had conquered the Persian Empire. Alexander died at the age of thirty-two, so the fact that he was able to expand the empire so vastly in such a short amount of time speaks volumes to his brilliance as a military leader. However, Alexander was lacking in some other areas like politics and regulation as his main interest, really his only interest was conquest. Alexander’s ambition was unmatched, but his popularity was not so great during his rule. Alexander was actually quite hated among many of the Greeks, one Athenian orator had this to see when he learned of Alexander’s death, “What? Alexander dead? Impossible! The world would reek of his corpse!” Essentially Alexander was simply interested in expanding the empire just because he could, and he has his father to thank for that because without the foundation he laid for Alexander, none of it would have been possible. (Foner)
Augustus was much more politically driven than Alexander. After he defeated Antony in 31 BCE he spent the next four years securing his rule on almost every front, he seized Cleopatra’s treasure, which allowed him to pay his soldiers handsomely to insure their loyalty. To ease the minds of the senate and other powerful classes Augustus passed laws that seemed to stretch back to the Roman Republic. He also put a significant amount of effort into the improvement and beautification of the city of Rome in order to win over the general public. Augustus reigned for forty years, basically doubled the size of the empire by adding new territories in both Europe and Asia and locking down alliances to secure his territory from Britain to India. Much of his time was spent on the move as he was strengthening his power in the provinces by establishing a census and tax system that would span the whole empire. This system led to the expansion of road networks throughout the empire, the foundation of the Praetorian Guard and the Roman Postal Service. He also built a new forum and added more practical services such as a police force and fire departments. Augustus knew he had to have the military might to first become emperor, but it was his political genius that made him such an effective ruler. (History.com Staff)
When looking at the Portrait of Alexander the Great by Lysippos the first thing that one should notice is Alexander is depicted clean-shaven. This was a huge statement because all portraits done before depicting Greek statesmen or rulers had beards. This marked a shift in royal fashion in art that stood for nearly five hundred years. That being true it highly impacted depictions of Augustus because it spanned well into the Roman Empire. The portrait discussed is one of just a few, mainly due to Alexander only choosing a small number of artist to depict his image, the biggest name being Lysippos. No paintings of Alexander survive, only sculptures and coins. The early depictions of Alexander make him appear more god-like due to his young appearance, long hair, but it does resemble his description in literary sources. Also, Alexander was young throughout his rule dying at thirty-two as mentioned earlier, so the depictions of a young Alexander would make sense because much of conquering was done early on when he was in his twenties. Later on, after his death, depictions began to show him as older and more mature; the sculptures of his younger self were done while he was alive. (British Museum Staff)
Another work that was influenced by the style change under Alexander is the Portrait Bust of Cato the Elder from the Roman Republic; the influence spans into the Roman Empire extensively, but the work analyzed in class is the Augustus Primaporta. The sculpture of Augustus reflects the more individualized and detailed depiction of the face shown in the bust of Cato. The Augustus Primaporta was most likely commissioned by Augustus’s adopted son Tiberius. It is definitely more individualized than the Portrait of Alexander the Great, but the influence is still extremely obvious. One difference besides the facial features being more detailed is Augustus is shown with shorter hair when compared to depictions of Alexander. (Museos Vaticanos)
Everything considered Alexander the Great’s success can credited in part to his father for laying the foundation needed with numerous innovations and advances in military, then the young ambitious ruler set out to conquer with all his resources and never looked back. Similarly Augustus owes partial credit to Julius Caesar for doing him the tremendous favor of adopting him and naming him heir; Augustus took advantage of the opportunity, but was genius in the way he maneuvered to gain complete control of Roman and began a lasting empire. The influence of art from Alexander the Great can be seen in the art of both the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire. Overall the Roman Empire under Augustus has many similarities with Greece under Alexander the Great ranging from origins of the respective empires to the art depicting the rulers.
A great leader can be be many things and do many things, but few if any could call themselves worthy enough to stand next to Augustus. Starting when he was only nineteen years old, he built a powerful army through his own self motivation as well as his own money. So, needless to say, he had quite a large following. Well, it was large enough that there were several monuments made for him like Augustus of Primaporta which is the particular work of focus for this discussion. The purpose is to investigate the object and how the style reflects upon the time period while also to explore Augustus’ power and how it was shown through art.
First off, I will start with a formal analysis of the object. Augustus of Primaporta, which now sits in the Vatican Museum, is a white marble sculpture of a strong and handsome young man in his armor. From the frontal view, a very detailed scene plays out upon his breastplate. He is standing with his right foot forward and his left foot slightly lifted of the behind him. He is pointing upward and to his right with his right hand as if he were pointing to the land he must now take over. His pointing hand is not balled into a fist but rather slightly opened and relaxed as if he were making a friendly and calm gesture. Augustus has an intent and focused look on his face shown by his furrowed brow and hard almost emotionless lips.
His outfit is very detailed and dramatic with high contrast from the deeply carved features and accessories like the ruffled sleeves that protrude from beneath his armor. Even more contrast of light and dark is seen in the cloth he has wrapped around his waist and left arm. The folds are highly worked to create deep spaces between the folds. Underneath the fantastically carved folds of the draped cloth falls the bottom portion of his garb which would be close to what we call skirts today, but looks very manly on Augustus. To the lower right side of Augustus is a knee high little angel that may be Cupid. There have been many copies of this particular statue and in some cases he holds a staff and sometimes is painted in very bright colors.
Sculpted in the period of Imperial Rome the style of the sculpture is not unlike other statues of the time. Shown in military clothing and carrying a baton and addressing what we can assume would be his troops, fits with the style of other leaders’ statues we have seen. The statue is obviously an idealization of Augustus for he is shown at a very youthful age and at the time this was created he would have been much older even dead. However, Augustus was the founder of the Roman Empire and the first Emperor of Rome so he could have been shown any way he pleased. Also, the forever young representation of Augustus shows that he will always have power and fits in perfectly with his propaganda goals. Powerful enough to destroy empires and take their lands, Augustus certainly had the respect to have such a statue made of him and placed in the city for all to see. It was dedicated to Augustus and placed in a public space which coincides with the political beliefs. Political figures were often publicly praised at the time.
An extremely interesting account was made in a historical document called Res Gestae Divi Augusti. Written by the hand of Augustus this account lists many great feats accomplished by the powerful ruler. Translated into English the title reads The Deeds of the Divine Augusti in which he starts by recalling a seemingly impossible task for today’s standards. “In my nineteenth year, on my own initiative and at my own expense, I raised an army with which I set free the state, which was oppressed by the domination of a faction” (Augustus translated by Thomas Bushnell, under “The Deeds of the Divine Augustus”). Afterwards he was made consul and was charged with the deed of settling the state. His power was already great, but he was just getting started. He goes on to state that he avenged his father’s death by driving out the men who killed his father and forced them into exile. He punished their crime and then they brought on a war in which Augustus “conquered them in two battles” (Bushnell). Keep in mind that he is still very young at this time. This sounds like Augustus was ruthless but he was fair. As to speak of foreign nations Augustus stated that he would prefer to preserve than to destroy. This would be the case if he could forgive the nation while not in fear of his or his people’s safety of course. Fair I would say is an accurate word for the man.
Although the artist is unknown, the statue is dated to the First Century A.D. It was discovered exactly 152 years ago on April 20, 1863 in the Villa of Livia at Prima Porta. Livia was Augustus’ wife who retired at the villa after his death. Along with this statue, which is very famous around the world, the villa was also the place of discovery for another exemplar of their type. I am speaking of the garden paintings found in the underground complex of the villa. As part of Jane Clark Reeder’s excerpt from the American Journal of Philology, who in an attempt to “illuminate the symbolic interrelationships between this augural imagery and the iconography of three features of the art and architecture of the villa-garden,” she expresses that “imagery and symbolism played an essential role not only in the decoration of the villa, but formed an important part of Augustan ideology ” ( Reeder 89-118). Such ideology was not uncommon for the statues made around this time. The statue of Augustus can be closely compared with statues like Doryphoros and Apollo. “Since one knows how important the laurel was as an age-old symbol of Apollo and as a new emblem of Augustus and since one is aware how pervasive the Apollonian propaganda became in Augustan ideology, it is no wonder that H. Kähler (1959, 12-13; 28; pl. 32) found the laurel integral to the sacral character of the statue’s image and hence restored the laurel branch in the hand of Augustus on the statue from Prima Porta.” (Reeder). Reeder also goes on to say that there is a connection with the laurel and idea of triumph for Augustus.
Some may look at Augustus of Primaporta and say that it has a Polykleitan look or a Polykleitan style. It is definitely similar to Polykleitos’ Doryphoros. Perhaps if Doryphoros had armor or at least some clothing on, he would look almost identical to Augustus of Primaporta. Polykleitos had a very recognizable style to say the least. “It is really the Canon, then, and its illustration in the Doryphoros, that makes us think of Polykleitos as a distinctive, unusual, and important artist” (J.J. Pollitt 2). The stance of the two statues by looking at their feet are the same. The way they both stand with their hips slightly dropping to one side and one foot raised in the back is eerily similar. The contrapposto technique is the same in the way their body is positioned. Doryphoros’ stance might be a little more dramatic, but perhaps this is because he has no clothes and you can see every bend in his body.
As I stated earlier, this Augustus of Prima Porta statue is most likely a copy of the original. The original sculpture which was “ probably constructed in 20 B.C. to celebrate Augustus’ victory over the Parthians” (Karl Galinsky, under Augustan Culture). “ The Parthian empire dominated Central Asia and was a formidable power against Roman rule” (Edward Hopkins). The Parthians were a powerful adversary and were worthy of the great monument to symbolize Roman victory over them. The Romans fought the Parthians three times and lost. Humiliation was a driving factor for Julius Caesar to reclaim Rome, however his assassination cut his war efforts short. Augustus was able to do what his predecessor could not. After thirty years under Parthian Rule “ He incorporated Armenia into the Roman Empire as a client kingdom” (Galinsky). “Because Armenia ‘s geographic location, Rome gained a valuable offensive position against the Parthians” until the Parthian king requested a truce from Augustus and order was restored to Rome (Galinsky). So this was a major victory for Augustus to have done something that another Roman ruler died trying to do. To restore the Roman standard is plenty a reason to have a statue made for your savior and put into the middle of town. Augustus certainly deserved it.
“I was triumvir for the settling of the state for ten continuous years. I was first of the senate up to that day on which I wrote this, for forty years. I was high priest, augur, one of the Fifteen for the performance of rites, one of the Seven of the sacred feasts, brother of Arvis, fellow of Titus, and Fetial” (Bushnell). Augustus held many title and did many jobs for the people of his country which is why they thought he was a great leader and why we have so many art works of him. He was a powerful man and could be very influential but that does not mean he wanted to always be in charge. “When the dictatorship was offered to me, both in my presence and my absence, by the people and senate, when Marcus Marcellus and Lucius Arruntius were consuls (22 B.C.E.), I did not accept it” (Bushnell). He spoke loudly with his actions for he was seemingly a selfless person who just wanted to help the greater good of the people. He lived for the cause. What more could a civilization ask of their leader?
The artist of this amazing sculpture must have been a brilliant mind to create this image of such an important figure. Is it possible he had help from another source? Louise Adams Holland suggested that the sculpture’s design was inspired by a passage in the Aeneid. Virgil, the author of Aeneid, wrote the story of Aeneas, a trojan who went to Italy where he became the ancestor of the Romans. This could be a perfect model for a near perfect ruler. If it is true that Augustus’ statue was modeled after a description in the Aeneid, then there may be even more of reason to believe that whoever the artist was, he was an educated man.
It is not just power that is on display with Augustus of Primaporta, but also a sense of national pride is present. Being compared or modeled after the ancestor of all romans is quite a compliment. It is safe to say that there were some admirers of Augustus. He definitely has a historical significance for Rome and a great deal of the world around it. He served as Emperor of Rome from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D. when he died. He had a long and very eventful time as a ruler. He was dedicated to the country he called home. He was dedicated to the people who shared it as well. Augustus reported millions even billions of units of his own money going to various Roman causes. “I paid out rewards in cash to the soldiers whom I had led into their towns when their service was completed, and in this venture I spent about HS 400,000,000” (Bushnell). HS 260,000,000 was reportedly spent on provincial fields. He was a wealthy man but also a very generous one. He is incomparable to any man of power today. It is hard to even try to think of a leader or any man otherwise that would make some of the sacrifices Augustus made for his country. His great power was only part of the reason we have so much evidence of his life.
The money he paid out was also just a small part of what made him great. There are few men throughout history that made as big of an impact on the world as he did as young as he did. His career began when he was a teenager and lasted until his death. Augustus accomplished things before he was twenty-five years old to which other ruler could not grasp in their lifetime. “I built the senate-house and the Chalcidicum which adjoins it and the temple of Apollo on the Palatine with porticos, the temple of divine Julius, the Lupercal, the portico at the Flaminian circus” (Bushnell). He also built the Capitol and the theatre of Pompey which were both tremendously expensive. He always kept himself busy with such projects that it is hard to think of what a life he could have outside of his work.
Augustus of Primaporta is a strong and powerful piece of art, but can it come close to the power of his legacy? I think it can, in fact, it is the perfect example of a masterpiece for the artist and the model. The strength of the image will forever stay with me and will always serve as a comparison for the image of any great ruler. Although, I predict that few images can compare to the execution of this marble sculpture. The style and the technique may be replicated but the ideas that fueled the creation of this marvelous piece of art will never be. To close, the title of this paper is such because I think people genuinely seen his as divine or at least I can understand their reason why they would given his reputation.
Holland, Louise Adams. “Aeneas-Augustus of Prima Porta.” In Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, pp. 276-284. American Philological Association, 1947.
Hopkins, Edward. “Parthia.com.” (2005).<www.parthia.com> Accessed October 2005.
Galinsky, Karl. Augustan Culture. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1996.
Pollitt, Jerome J. “The Canon of Polykleitos and other canons.” Polykleitos, the Doryphoros, and Tradition (1995): 19-24.
Reeder, Jane Clark. “The statue of Augustus from Prima Porta, the underground complex, and the omen of the gallina alba.” American Journal of Philology 118, no. 1 (1997): 89-118.
Augustus, Emperor, and Thomas Bushnell. “The Deeds of the Divine Augustus.” (1998).
Note: The last citation was the primary historical document.
Throughout history, art has been used as a language to express a society’s religious and cultural values. This is no different in ancient cultures such as Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece. Faith is such an important part of life for the earliest of civilizations. The belief in multiple gods provides answers for the people of these cultures. It gave these people an incentive to provide and worship for their deities in order to obtain proper vegetation and happy lives. The gods were in control of their happiness—if they did not do what they were meant to do, the gods would punish them. If they did not perform the proper rituals, make the correct sacrifices, or worship in the correct way, it could cause famine and lead to death.
Each of these deities has a purpose in these societies. Some are gods of war, some gods of the sun, and some are the gods of fertility and mankind. Throughout this exhibition of ancient polytheistic religions (and one monotheistic one), we will learn about the role that each of these deities play part in. Beginning in Mesopotamia, we will explore first the patron goddess Inanna, the daughter of Anu and in charge of growth and vegetation. Next we will explore further into the Near East where their patron god is Shamash, the God of Justice. We will then travel to Akkad, home of the self-appointing god, Naram-Sin. After that we will travel to Egypt, where we will explore the traditional beliefs of Egyptian polytheism through the god Horus before diving into the monotheistic rule of King Akhenaten and the Aten. Next we will travel to Greece and learn about Athena, the goddess of war and patron deity of Athens. Finally we will end with the ancient Romans, a society that based their religious beliefs heavily on the Greek, and study their version of the sun god Apollo. Each of these regions has its own ways to worship its deities, and all of it is documented through art.
Inanna: The Goddess of Mesopotamia
Inanna, also known as Ishtar or Astarte, is one of the deities heavily worshiped by the people of the Mesopotamian river valley, also known as the “black-headed” people. She goes by many names and is usually accompanied by animals. She is the twin sister of the sun god Shamash and daughter of Anu, or Enki, and Aya. She came to more prestige as time went on, following the idol of her father. She is known for her lustful sexuality and often associated with the planet Venus. In the article “Ecology of the Erotic in a Myth of Inanna,” she is described as being “queen of the night sky where she flared as a living torch, and she rules the day as well, coming down to walk about in human form among her people (Grahn, 58).” The people of Mesopotamia worshipped her for being a fierce warrior and protector of her people, as well as being the decider of the ancient civilization’s political welfare. She is not “motherly” or “nurturing,” but rather a provider for her people.
She was the patron deity of Uruk, one of the world’s first civilizations of ancient Sumer and the largest city in the ancient world at its absolute height. Archeologists date the city of Uruk back to around 4500 B.C.E. It is unknown where these people came from but they are the people who first invented a written language and use a pottery wheel. Found at the sights of ancient Mesopotamian city-states like Uruk and Babylon are vast amounts of pottery, seals, and archeological remains—many of which feature ancient deities known to those cultures, like Inanna.
There are many legends surrounding her. One of the lesser known is the legend of her encounter with the human Su-kale-tuda. It is a story of one of her journeys on earth when she was inspecting her people. While napping under a willow tree, she was ravaged by a black-headed youth. After waking, Inanna realizes the horrifying truth of what has happened to her and immediately contemplates what to do about her attacker. She hunts him down for several days. When she does not find him immediately, she punished the people of Sumer by turning their water into her blood and refused to reenter her shrine until her attacker was handed to her. She eventually found him and sentenced him to death., and the myth ends with praise sung to her. It is important to note that the goddess is never self-pitying but merely outraged. She never complains of pain but only seeks vengeance (Grahn, 61). This myth is important to the people of Mesopotamia because it teaches them that she is the one who ultimately decides their fate. It also teaches the black-headed people to fear her, and to disrespect her virtue is unacceptable and punishable by death.
Inanna was believed to be in charge of keeping her land fertile and providing healthy vegetation for her people. She is also a protector. The image provided shows a winged goddess, most likely Inanna, attended by owls and lions. It is right to assume that this image is of Inanna because she was the most worshipped goddess in Babylon at the time this was made. Most of the legends that surround her happened when she was in her human form inspecting the land. In this image, she is a goddess with wings. This image shows her in her most dutiful state. Like the legend of her and Su-kale-tuda, this image also shows us her reign over the ancient Sumerian people—as a goddess and someone way more powerful than them. She is one of the oldest deities in history, and she helps start a long tradition of polytheistic religions.
Shamash: The Patron God of Ancient Babylonia
Shamash is the sun god in Mesopotamian culture. He is in charge of bringing light and warmth to his people, allowing crops to grow and flourish. He is the twin brother of the goddess Inanna and son of Anu (Enki) and Aya. He was most heavily worshipped in Babylon, where the Code of Hammurabi is believed to be a contract that was written in his favor. He had power of light over evil and was known as the god of justice for his people and governor of the universe. He also was in charge of overlooking the underworld and bestowed and light on his people. He was the great conquerer of death, often depicted flying around the heavens in his chariot, seeking justice and peace in all the lands. Unlike many of the deities in the ancient world, he is rarely depicted in human form, but always in his deified state (Britannica).
Babylon rose to power under the leadership of their great king, Hammurabi, who began his reign around 1792 B.C.E. Hammurabi was a great king and conqueror and is most known for the creation of his code. The code is written in cuneiform, a series of line patterns and the world’s first written language. In total it contains a prologue, 282 laws, and an epilogue. The prologue explains that the gods designated Hammurabi, mainly Shamash, to write down their laws. The laws covered all three levels of society in Babylon. The three levels included the upper-class free man, or the “awilum,” the “mushkenum,” who is free but not considered upper class, and the slave, or “wardum.” According to the Hammurabi code, each citizen was divided by class and is treated to the punishment of that class. All people of Babylon were entitled to court hearings by a judge and an appeal to the king. The rules varied—some dealt with agriculture, property rights, business, or the rights of slaves; others dealt with fixed wages, prescribed duties, and personal rights. “An eye for an eye” is perhaps Hammurabi’s most popular law and is still highly referenced to this day. Many rules revolved around the crowing of crops and referred to both landowners and tenant farmers. At the time, both women and slaves were believed to be the personal property of free men, but women were surprisingly liable to certain rights and benefits under Hammurabi’s code. Slaves also had the ability to buy back their freedom, be adopted as freed people, and marry free women. Although Hammurabi’s code was not the first of its kind, it was the grandest and most detailed (Kruger).
“Shamash was not only the god of justice but also governor of the whole universe (Britannica).” He was the ultimate judge. Hammurabi’s Code was given to him from the god Shamash. As shown at the told of the eight-foot-tall stele, Shamash presents him with the laws and they are recorded on the surface below. In the detail featured on the top of the stele of Hammurabi’s code, the god is pictured holding the symbols of justice and righteousness, a staff and a ring. Ancient Babylonians believed that the Shamash decided their fate and made their laws. He controlled the consequences of their behaviors for the living and in the afterlife after death. Art historians are very lucky to have found this artifact. Not only does it present the first form of written language, it also provides a look into ancient Babylonian society, government, culture, and religion. With the addition of Shamash presenting Hammurabi with the codes, we can see the importance that the god had on ancient Babylonian people.
Naram-Sin: The Self-Proclaimed Deity of Akkad
Although Akkadian King Naram-Sin is not technically a Mesopotamian deity, he is recognized in this exhibition for his self-proclaimed god status. This status is shown in his figural representation on the Victory Stele of Naram-Sin, including his size, dress, and general nature, and also in his descriptions of his own status. The Akkadian Empire came to power roughly around 2334 B. C. E. after Sargon the Great, Naram-Sin’s grandfather, sacked the city of Ur. According to the Sumerian King List, there were five rulers of Akkad: Sargon, Rimush, Manishtusu, Naram-Sin, and Shar-Kali-Sharri, who maintained the Akkadian dynasty for 142 years before it collapsed around 2083 B. C. E. Naram Sin ruled from 2260-2223 B. C. E. Previously, the rulers of Mesopotamian regions considered themselves to be servants of the gods—higher up and more holy and legitimate than their people but still answering to the needs of the deities. He dubbed himself the King of the Universe and is considered by many historians to be the last great conqueror of Akkad.
Mears writes, “Naram-Sin was a ruthless and brilliant ruler who aspired to the greatness of his grandfather, Sargon the Great. Naram-Sin began his 36-year reign by defeating another rebellious coalition of Sumerian and neighboring kings in hoping to take advantage of the turmoil of succession (Mears, 51).” This is shown in the image above of him defeating his enemy. He conquered many regions after coming into power, many of which were regions that once belonged to Akkad before one of the kings before him lost control of the empire. His conquests expanded all around the Mediterranean, and many of them were acquired by using violent and ruthless military tactics. He eventually went too far after sacking the holy city of Nippur when trying to subside a revolt from its people. The revolt led to a divide between Naram-Sin’s army and the people revolting, and he eventually fell from power. This event is known as “The Curse of Agade (Mears, 52).”
During his rule, a new relationship between ruler and deity started to form. The rulers and deities started to look more equal. On the Victory Stele of Naram-Sin, the king is shown as a great conqueror. He has just won a battle against the Lullubi army and is sleighing the last enemy. He is larger than the rest of the people in the image, standing at the top of the mountain and basking in the sunrays of the gods. he is also wearing a horned crown on his head, which is a garment usually reserved for the gods in most figural depictions of this time. This image is an example of change in Akkadian art. After this, particularly in ancient Egyptian art, rulers seem to have a deified nature in many of their depictions. This image is the first one to do so. He eventually presented himself with the title, “Naram-Sin, the mighty, God of Agade, King of the Four Quarters (Mears, 52).” This self-deified proclamation was said to have offended the gods so much that it ultimately led to Naram-Sin’s defeat.
The depiction of a king in this manner was an art historical milestone. It represented a great change. The kings no longer had to remain mortal, but now had the ability to deify themselves. Naram-Sin was worshiped like a god for a long time before his following diminished, he was glorified by his people as a powerful immortal, and he was well respected by priests and Akkadian citizens. It is possible that he only assumed the role of deity for political purposes, but it nevertheless was a very bold move.
Horus: The Egyptian God of Sun and Sky
Horus is arguably the most well-known and powerful deity of Ancient Egypt. He is the son of Osiris and Isis and was believed to be the god of the sun and the sky, as well as in charge of Egyptian kingship. He is often depicted as a man with a falcon’s body, or in the case of the image provided, a full falcon. His right eye was said to be the sun, or morning star, and his left eye was the moon, or evening star. He is known for the legend of his 80-year-long battle over the rule of Egypt with his uncle, Set (or Seth), following the death of his father Osiris.
There are many version of the story of the battle between Set and Horus. The most complete recount of these battle comes from a surviving papyrus written during the reign of Ramses V. Legend has it that Set killed Osiris by cutting him up into many pieces and throwing his body parts into various spots down the Nile River. Set was the god of chaos and destruction—he was selfish, ruthless, and uncaring. When the two approach the sun god Re about who should take over rule of Egypt, Re does not believe that Horus is mature enough and too inexperienced to take on such a responsibility. He believes that Osiris’s brother, who is ironically also his murderer, is far more suited for the position. Re asks for help from Nieth, the goddess of creation, to tell him who is best suited. She responds that Horus is the better fit, but in return he should grant Set two of his to be Set’s wives. After this, Re is still not convinced. The two petition for the leadership of Egypt for many years. Horus’s mother, Isis, tries to help by tricking Set into saying that her son is the rightful heir. Set continually challenges Horus to many duels, and at one point Horus challenges Set to a river race, where Horus cheats without success. Finally, after many years of unresolved conflict, Osiris writes to Re and threatens to kill all human and gods and send them to the underworld if the two do not subside. Re declares Horus king, and allows Set to come with him to the sky. Set then becomes the god of thunder and storms (A Hussein).
These legends are not only documented on papyrus, but also on the walls of ancient Egyptian temples. The image shown above was found in the Temple of Horus, and it depicts a scene in which Horus is fighting Set during one of their many battles; Set is in the form of a hippopotamus. This is possibly the battle between the two that took place in the river. The two fought under water for three months, transformed as hippopotami, until the two eventually subside in order to rest. It could also be a depiction of when Set and Horus are competing in a river race; the two were supposed to both race on boats made of stone. Horus cheats by making his out of wood and disguising it as stone. When Set’s boat sinks and he realizes that his nephew cheated him, he transforms into a hippopotamus and destroys Horus’s wooden boat.
One of the many great things about Egyptian mythology is that there are so many legends and stories and so many gods to write about, and it is reflected in the art. It is clear how devoted the Egyptians were to their religion. They believed that keeping their deities happy was a necessity for a fulfilling afterlife. Wall drawing such as this one reflected their legends, and it gives historians a chance to dive into these ancient cultures.
The Aten: The Monotheistic God of Egypt
The Aten, also known as Aton, is the sun god of the monotheistic religion created in Egypt by the pharaoh Akhenaton (originally Amenhotep IV) called Atenism. Atenism is constantly referred to as a cult of the sun and sun disks. He is depicted in Egyptian art as what appears to be human hands, representative of sunrays. He is believed to be developed from the traditional Egyptian sun-god Re. In the Atom Hymn, found in one of Akhenaton’s tombs, describes the new religion:
“Men had slept like the dead; now they lift their arms in praise, birds fly, fish leap, plants bloom, and work begins. Aton creates the son in the mother’s womb, the seed in men, and has generated all life. He has distinguished the races, their natures, tongues, and skins, and fulfills the needs of all. Aton made the Nile in Egypt and rain, like a heavenly Nile, in foreign countries. He has a million forms according to the time of day and from where he is seen; yet he is always the same (Britannica).”
The Great Hymn to the Aten was most likely written by Akhenaten himself. There are many inscriptions of this poem, the most complete of which located in the tomb of King Tutankhamun’s successor, Ay. (There are some theories that Tutankhamun was Akhenaten’s son and took the throne directly after his death). When made pharaoh, King Akhenaton devoted all of his time to worship the Aton and even went so far as to erase all imagery and writings of any previous notions towards a polytheistic religion in Egypt. He moves the capital from Thebes and builds the city of Akhetaten where the Aten is to be heavily worshipped. This idea of a monotheistic belief system dramatically alters the whole fabric of Egyptian religion. It does not, however, last very long after Akhenaten’s death. After he dies the original gods are redeemed and Akhenaten’s city is abandoned.
Before Akhenaten’s reign, ancient Egyptians believed that all of the universe’s elements—the sun, the moon, the rivers, air, etc.—were actually multiple gods. They believed that the gods controlled things like weather and storms depending on their moods. When Amenhotep IV was made ruler of Egypt, he took his country in a whole new direction by introducing one single deity. He declared the Aten the only god, and even changed his name to mean “effective for the Aten (R Hussein).” Unlike many of the gods from traditional Egyptian mythology, the Aten is not a god that takes human form, but is the actual light in the world surrounding us. The physical rays of sun were believed to be the God himself touching his people. Unlike traditional temples meant for the gods, the Aten’s temple was opened at the roof so that his worshippers could be touched by his light when entering the temple. Akhenaten wasn’t only the king of Egypt, but the high priest of the Aten as well.
Images of the Aten are often consistent of three parts—the hands of the Aten, Akhenaten and/or his wife Nefertiti receiving the symbol of like, called the “ankh,” and the Aten’s worshippers. In the image provided, the image shows the Aten, represented by multiple hands, presenting either Akhenaten or Nefertiti with the ankh. It is only a fragment of the original so it is unclear whether or not Atenism worshippers were originally depicted in the image. This image is so important because shows the clear devotion that the king or queen has for this deity and how willing Akhenaten was to completely altar an entire country’s belief system that had existed for hundreds of years before him.
Athena: Goddess of Wisdom and War Strategy
Ancient Greece came out of the dark ages around 1200-800 B.C.E. and lasted until the Romans took over in 146 B.C.E. Greek culture is known for many things, especially art and architecture as well as Greek mythology. The Greeks believed that the gods lived all around them. Athena is a goddess of many things. She is the goddess of wisdom, justice, war strategy, the arts, and many more. She is the patron goddess of Athens and worshipped by many throughout Greece and Italy. The people of Athens chose her to be their patron goddess for her strength, cunning, and military tactics and dedicated the Parthenon to her. She was believed to be the favorite of Zeus’s children, born without a mother in the form of a headache on her father’s forehead. She is extremely powerful. She is the strongest of all of the female goddesses in Greek mythology, and is very heavily worshipped. Greek mythology was adopted and altered by the Romans after they took over. The Greeks worshipped many gods, but there were twelve major gods that they worshipped the most. The Twelve Olympians of Mount Olympus consisted of Zeus, the god of the sky and justice; Hera, the goddess of marriage and Zeus’s wife/sister; Poseidon, of the sea and brother of Zeus; Demeter, the goddess of the harvest; Apollo, the god of music and prophecy; Artemis, the goddess of the hunt; Ares, the god of war; Aphrodite, the goddess of love; Hephaestus, the god of fire; Hermes, the trickster and messenger for his father, Zues; Hestia, the goddess of hearth and home, as well as one of the original Olympians; and finally, Athena, goddess of wisdom and war strategy. Zeus is the king of these gods (Johnson).
Athena was never reproduced, and was later identified with virginity. Most of what we know about Greek and Roman deities comes from Homer’s novels, such as the Iliad and the Odyssey. In the Iliad, Athena fought alongside her fellow Greek heroes. Athena contrasted very heavily with Ares, the god of War, in many ways. Athena was not only tough and dangerous; she was also intelligent and civilized. She sought justice, as where Ares mostly cared for blood lust. Her heroic qualities were found on her breastplate that she often wore into battle—fear, strife, defense, and assault. She also appears in the Odyssey as the main deity of Odysseus. She is responsible for assisting Odysseus in returning home from the war (Johnson).
Athena is most widely worshipped in the city of Athens, which was named after her. Legend says that Athena and Poseidon competed to become patron deity of the city before it was named. The competition was for each deity to present the city with a gift, and the better offering wins. Poseidon provided a well, but the water was salty and it was therefore no use to the people of the city. Athena was cunning, and she eventually outwitted Poseidon for the title of patron goddess by planting an olive tree, a food in which to this day Greeks cannot live without. Poseidon was not happy with the results and cursed the city. The people of Athens then build the Acropolis, a monument on top of a hill in Athens dedicated to the goddess herself (Murrin).
This image provided is of a sculpture that was found at the Acropolis. It is important because it shows us what devotion the Greeks had to their deities and how intensely they worshipped them. There is so much care and craft in this sculpture. In the Parthenon, located inside the Acropolis, there was a very large sculpture of Athena and a narrative frieze that wrapped all the way around. These Athenians worshipped their patron goddess so fiercely that they build a whole complex of architecture and narrative art just for her. This image provided is only the tip of the iceberg found inside.
Apollo: The God of Music and Prophecy
The Romans adopted the Twelve Olympians later, and the names changed to Jupiter, Juno, Neptune, Ceres, Mars, Mercury, Vulcan, Venus, Minerva, Diana, and Vesta. Apollo’s is one of the very few original Greek deities whose name does not change when translated into Roman mythology. He is so universally known that his name does not need to change (Johnson).
Like Athena, Apollo is the god of many things—music, art, poetry, sun, light, medicine, oracles, knowledge etc. He is possibly the most highly recognized Greek god after his father, Zeus. Zeus and his mother, Leto, met when they both took shape as birds and conceived Apollo and his twin sister Artemis, goddess of the hunt. He is known for protecting his people by shooting their enemies with his bow and arrows. He is the ideal, the “kouros”, in Greek and Roman art of this time that many artists based the perfect human model after. He was “the god of divine distance, who sent or threatened from afar; the god who made men aware of their own guilt and purified them from it; who presided over religious law and the constitutions of cities; who communicated with mortals through prophets and oracles his knowledge of the future and the will of his father, Zeus (Britannica).” Other than Zeus, he was the god of all gods. The other gods were said to fear him, and he was by far the most worshipped god during the Hellenic period with many cults devoted to worshipping him. Even today many people travel to sites known to Apollo, such as the famous Oracle at Delphi, to “seek advice on matters such as war and personal affairs (Johnson).”
Apollo had many love interests, most famously with Daphne, and punished them fiercely when they rejected him. Artemis, Apollo’s twin, shot Coronis, and Cassandra was forced to tell true prophecies that appeared to be untrue after she refused his advances. The story of Apollo and Daphne is very popular in Greek and Roman mythology. After teasing Hermes about his archery skills, Hermes gets his revenge by shooting Apollo with a golden love arrow; this forces him to fall in love with the nymph, Daphne, who is struck with an opposite arrow by Hermes and is therefore not interested in him. She wishes to be a virgin for the rest of her life like Artemis, Apollo’s twin sister. Apollo continues to chase her, but when he finally catches up to her, she is turned into a laurel tree. After this, Apollo declares that he will always wear a crown of laurel on his head to remind him of his precious Daphne (Johnson).
Apollo is not only very important to the foundation of Greek and Roman mythology, but is also important to ancient Greek and Roman art history. Apollo is very often the symbol of the kouros, or the ideal human figure. The kouros is represented as a young, standing male very closely related to that of typical Egyptian figures. The hint of the Egyptian was very evident in early Greek kouros statues, but became less and less evident as time went on (Britannica). In the image provided, Apollo does not appear to be frontal and rigid, but rather in a more relaxed pose. He is full of action and gesture like later depictions of Greek deities, but he is well past the days of standing stock-still in unnatural poses. This later pose was adopted by Roman art, as depicted in the image provided.
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When it comes to influential sculptors from Ancient Greece, there are many individuals that come to mind. Polykleitos, Lysippos, Praxiteles, Agesander, Athenodorus and Polydorus are few sculptors that continue to impact the art world in today’s society.
Polykleitos of Argos was famous for his precise depictions of the human body through his keen knowledge of mathematics. Polykleitos’ ideal proportions are evident in his sculpture of Doryphoros, which many people consider to be one of the most well known sculptures of the Classical Greek era. He depicted Doryphoros as an athlete with an incredibly muscular frame. The statue originally contained a spear that was propped along Doryphoros’ left shoulder.
Lysippos was known for being Alexander the Great’s personal sculptor. He was the successor of Polykleitos, and was considered to be one of the greatest sculptors of the Classical Greek period. Lysippos had a similar idealized style of the human body as Polykleitos, except he took a more representational approach through his artwork. This is evident in the facial features of his sculpture of Alexander the Great. He perceives Alexander as being perfectly symmetrical. Polykleitos definitely had an idealized approach to his work, but his figures had more human-like dimensions in comparison to Lysippos’ sculptures. Another one of Lysippos’ popular sculptures is the Weary Herakles. This sculpture depicts a nude Herakles with tokens of his feats, leaning on a club with his head held toward the ground. The muscular structure in this work is similar to the detail in Polykleitos’ representation of Doryphoros. Lysippos is also well known for his statue, the Apoxyomenos. It is also known as the “Scraper” because the statue depicts an athlete scraping sweat off his body with an instrument the Romans referred to as a strigil.
Another sculptor that shares a similar style is Praxiteles. One of his famous works is of Aphrodite of Cnidus. This work of art is often referred to as Venus Pudica, which means “modest Venus.” This name was given to in reference to the statue covering her genitalia. The statue is famous for its beauty, and for it being one of the first life sized nude representations of a female. The statue depicts Aphrodite before a ritual bath that restored her purity. One of Praxiteles less renowned works was “Hermes and the Infant of Dionysos,” also known as “Hermes of Praxiteles” and “Hermes of Olympia.” The facial symmetry in his work is similar to many of Lysippos’ sculptures.
Another work that received much notice in both the ancient world and today’s society was of “Laocoön and His Sons.” This statue was sculpted by three Rhodian artists named Agesander, Athenodoros and Polydorus. The sculpture represents the Trojan priest of Poseidon named Laocoön and his sons getting attacked by large serpents. This work displays agony similar to Lysippos’ Weary Herakles.
All of the works mentioned share a similar approach when regarding the attention to detail in the human anatomy. “The Greeks no less than we today, were obsessed with the human body. Like us, they exercised and trained, toned, and even dieted-or at least the freeborn males did. Like some of us moreover, they also assigned moral qualities to the beautiful body,” (Lapatin, 1997, pg. 138).
Polykleitos’ Doryphoros is well known for its perfect sense of geometrical dimensions, but little is known of the statue, other than that, it was created as way for Polykleitos to demonstrate his treatise entitled the Canon (the “Rule”). The Canon regards Polykleitos’ geometric attention to detail. The original was made out of bronze approximately 440 BCE. The original statue and treatise have not yet been found; however, several Roman copies in marble survived, and they convey the essential form of Polykleitos’ work. Most bronze statues from ancient Greece have been lost, so the creation of marble copies was a common practice for the Romans. There are many copies of Doryphoros, but little is known of the relation between the duplicates. There are duplicates in various locations, like the Vatican, Naples and Munich. There is even a copy Minneapolis. “Of the Doryphoros, both its beginnings and end are unknown: Where was it sited? Whom did it represent? What purpose did it serve beyond, as we are told, illustrating in bronze the proportional system enumerated in its sculptor’s treatise, the Canon, or the ‘Rule’?” (Moon, 1995, pg. 149). Considering Polykleitos was obsessed with the human body and mathematics, many of his sculptures were of incredibly athletic mean. Polykleitos’ head to body size is one to seven, which is incredibly accurate in regards to the average dimensions of a human. This was a common style from the Classical era of Greece. Doryphoros is a slightly larger than life-sized statue, standing at 6 feet 6 inches tall. The attention to detail is so realistic that Doryphoros’ left shoulder muscles are slightly tensed from he was originally holding a spear. In the marble copies, large sculpted tree stumps were created behind one of legs of the statues to support the weight of the stone. The original bronze statue would have no need for a stump because the strength of the metal would have made it unnecessary. A small bend was typically present to support the right hand and lower arm. Although it is unclear exactly who Doryphoros is supposed to represent, some scholars believe that Doryphoros depicted a young Achilles, on his way to fight in the Trojan War, while others believe that there is confusion on whether Doryphoros is supposed to represent a mortal hero or a god.
Alexander the Great
Lysippos was great sculptor from the Classical Greek era that helped the art community progress toward the Hellenistic period. He shows a similar attention to detail in comparison to Polykleitos. Lysippos made well-known sculpture that depicted Alexander the Great in a god-like manner. The statue of Alexander shows extensive muscular definition with a heroic, emotionless facial expression. In the anthology from the Milan Papyrus, “Lysippos, Sicyonian sculptor, daring hand, learned artisan,“Your bronze statue has the look of fire in its eyes, that one you made in the form of Alexander. The Persians deserve no blame. We forgive cattle for fleeing a lion.” Alexander believed Lysippos was the only sculptor fit to represent him in a sculpture. The fear of offending Alexander through creating a more realistic depiction of his sculpture may be the reason Lysippos chose to represent Alexander in such a flattering manner. There is no confirmation on the findings on any of Lysippos’ original work; however, on October 26, 2010, Greek authorities arrested two men that were in possession of several artifacts including a bronze statue of Alexander that could possibly be Lysippos’ original work. The statue is currently being tested at the laboratory of the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, where they will find out if this is truly an original sculpture of Alexander created by Lysippos.
The Weary Herakles was bronze statue created by Lysippos during the Late Classical period in approximately 330 BCE. The statue is lost, but marble copies exist to represent Lysippos’ original work. The statue is slightly larger than life size. Many of Lysippos’ common styles are evident in the Weary Herakles in regards to his extreme facial expression. He took an interesting approach by giving Herakles bad posture and a distraught facial expression. Although the sculpture of Herakles has a slouched posture, there is still a vivid attention to detail regarding the muscular structure. This conveys a completely different mood in comparison to Lysippos’ sculpture of Alexander. Herakles is depicted wearing a lion pelt (his first labor) and the Apples of the Hesperides on his back that represent the entire “dodekathlos” (Twelve labors of Herakles). Many people argue that the Apples of Hesperides is representation that the statue was not only supposed to emphasize the ideal bodily form, but also represent the mind. Kenneth Dutton argues in The Perfectible Body: The Western Ideal of Male Physical Development, that Hercules is symbolic of the search for divinity—but a divinity ‘to be attained through deeds and actions,’ not introspection and prayer.”‘ Lysippos’ inclusion of the apples of the Hesperides in the statue’s right hand—which Hercules earned by outsmarting Atlas—reminds viewers that this isn’t just about body; it’s also about mind,” (Todd, 2005, pg. 31). A copy of the Weary Herakles was said to have been created in 212-216 AD was during the construction of Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antonis’ resort, referred to as the Baths of Caracalla, (Todd, 2005, pg. 30). Approximately thirteen hundred years later after the construction of the Baths of Caracalla, .
Renaissance Italians, started to conduct archaeological excavations at the Baths.
The head of Herakles was found first, and about six years later the section containing the torso, club and lion-skin was unearthed in 1546, (Todd, 2005, pg. 30). “The Roman poet Statius’ description of a small copy he saw at the home of his friend, Vindex. gives some idea of how Lysippos’ version was viewed during this early era:
Amid his treasures . . . was a Hercules that with deep delight took my heart captive, and with long gazing I could not satisfy my sight, such a majesty was in the work, such a power was framed within those narrow confines; the god, the god was there.” (Todd, 2005, pg. 30). The Lysippos copy is on display at the Ufizzi Gallery in Florence, Italy.
The Apoxyomenos was constructed by Lysippos during the Late Classical period in 330 BCE. Apoxyomenos represented an athlete, which is evident through its extremely detailed muscular structure (like most of Lysippos’ work). The original bronze statue was lost, but it is known from its description in Pliny the Elder’s Natural History, which relates that the Roman general Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa placed the sculpture in the Baths ofAgrippa that he constructed in Rome in 20 BCE. The emperor Tiberius grew fascinated with the figure, so he had it moved to his bedroom. However, the public grew furious and began to shout “Give us back our Apoxyomenos!” As result, Tiberius returned the statue to its original place. Like Polykleitos, Lysippos used the Canon approach to create the statues proportions. He made the proportions the Apoxyomenos head slightly smaller than Polykleitos Canon ideology. He set the ratios at one and eight rather than Polykleitos’ one and seven model.
A bronze copy of Apoxyomenos was found in the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Croatia in 1998 (Lyons, 2005, pg. 367). The copy was discovered by René Wouten. “The sculpture of Apoxyomenos was found in 1998, on the sea bottom at a depth of 45 meters, near the island of Lošinj (northern Adriatic Sea, Croatia). The sculpture was partially embedded in sediment, and the attached organisms on the sculpture belonged to complex biocenoses of a calcareous detritus-rich muddied bottom. The sculpture was raised from the sea on 27 April 1999 and immersed in a basin of fresh water for desalinization aimed toward slowing, and subsequently stopping, corrosion effects due to the presence of dissolved salts. The freshwater immersion produced an osmotic stress in the marine fouling organisms resulting in their death. After a 17-day desalinization period, the sculpture was removed from the freshwater basin and sampling of organisms and calcareous structures for instrumental analysis was performed under the supervision of experts of the Croatian Ministry of Culture, the Croatian Conservation Institute, and the Archaeological Museum in Zadar (Croatia),” (Lyons, 2005, pg.367). The head was disconnected, but none of the parts were missing.
Aphrodite of Cnidus
Praxiteles of Athens created the sculpture, Aphrodite of Cnidus in the 4th Century BCE. It was largely considered one of his most famous works because it was one the first nude female representational sculptures of its time. There are later reconstructions of Venus Pudica (modest Venus) that indicate the action of covering her breasts known as the Venus de’ Medici or the Capitoline Venus. Like many of the other works created by Praxiteles, Aphrodite of Cnidus is displayed in a naturalistic, human-like pose. According to possible accounts from Pliny, Praxiteles received funds from the citizens of Kos to create a statue of the goddess Aphrodite. Praxiteles created two versions, one was fully clothed, and the other was completely nude. The appalled citizens of Kos rejected the nude statue and purchased the clothed version. The appearance of the clothed statue is unknown because the statue was never found. Given the lack of accounts regarding the clothed statue, it is likely that the clothed Aphrodite of Cnidus did not receive much attention in comparison to the controversial nude statue. The nude statue of Aphrodite was purchased by the citizens of Knidos. Rumor has it that the statue was modeled by the courtesan Phryne, which added to its growing popularity. The statue became somewhat of a tourist attraction. A lyric from Antipater of Sidon stated “Paris, Adonis, and Anchises saw me naked, Those are all I know of, but how did Praxiteles contrive it?” A story from Erotes (section 15) gives a vivid description of the statue. “The floor of the court had not been doomed to sterility by a stone pavement, but on the contrary, it burst with fertility, as behooves Aphrodite: fruit trees with verdant foliage rose to prodigious heights, their limbs weaving a lofty vault. The myrtle, beloved by the goddess, reached up its berry-laden branches no less than the other trees which so gracefully stretched out. They never know foliage grown old, their boughs always being thick with leaves. To tell the truth, you can notice among them some infertile trees, but they have beauty as their fruit. Such were the cypress and the planes which towered to the heavens, as well as the tree of Daphnis, who once fled Aphrodite but now has come here to seek refuge. Ivies entwine themselves lovingly around each of these trees. Heavy clusters of grapes hang from the gnarled vines: indeed, Aphrodite is only more attractive when united with Bacchus; their pleasures are sweeter for being mixed together. Apart, they have less spice. Under the welcome shade of the boughs, comfortable beds await the celebrants— actually the better people of the town only rarely frequent these green halls, but the common crowds jostle there on festive days, to yield publicly to the joys of love,” (Pseudo-Lucian, Erotes).
“Hermes and the Infant of Dionysos”
Hermes and the Infant of Dionysos was created by Praxiteles in the 4th Century BCE. It is likely that this is not one of Praxiteles most famous works because their are limited accounts on the sculpture. It was discovered at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, Greece in 1877. The excavation was led by German archaeologist Ernst Curtius. The statue is now located at the Archaeological Museum of Olympia. Hermes is still missing his right forearm, two fingers of his left hand, both forearms below the elbow, the left foot and his penis, whilst Dionysus is missing his arms except for the right hand on Hermes’s shoulder and the end of his right foot. Much of the tree trunk and the plinth were lost as well. Hermes and the Infant of Dionysos are positioned in life-like manner with extreme attentions to detail throughout the statue. The sculpture also represents similar approach to the Canon, in regards to the extreme attention to detail in the figures. Even the Dionysos as an infant is extremely detailed.
“Laocoön and His Sons”
The Laocoön and His Sons was created by three Rhodian sculptors named named Agesander, Athenodoros and Polydorus. Laocoön’s sons appear significantly smaller than him, which draws most of the attention toward Laocoön. The attention to detail is incredible throughout the sculpture. The attention to detail in Laocoön muscular structure is especially significant. His veins are even visible throughout his arms. The art styling is from the Hellenistic Pargamene baroque that rose from Asia Minor. The statue was found on January 14, 1506 by a farmer named Felice de Fredis when digging up vineyards in the Esquiline Hill, (Vault, 2010, pg.401). “The Laocoon is ‘probably the most widely discussed work of sculpture which we possess from antiquity’ wrote Margarete Bieber in 1967. Its popularity shows little sign of abating,” (Vault, 2010, pg. 402). There are many different variations of the story as to why Laocoön and his sons were being attacked. “The most famous literary account of Laocoon’s story, in book two of Virgil’s Aeneid, describes how the priest and his sons are strangled by seaserpents sent by Minerva to punish him for having warned his fellow Trojans not to trust the wooden horse. His advice is ignored and his demise cast as a ‘sacrifice’, a kin to the slaughter of a bull at an altar. ‘They say that Laocoon has rightly paid the penalty of his crime.’ In this version, mortals are puppets who dance to a divine tune. Laocoon is the scapegoat. In alternative versions of the story, he is punished for the sacrilegious act of marrying and having children against the god’s wishes or, according to Servius in his commentary on Virgil, for having intercourse with his wife in the presence of the cult statue. Seen like this, the Laocoon group is neither exemplum doloris nor exemplum virtutis, but a ‘simple’ warning against transgression,” (Vault, 2010, pg. 402). This piece of art portrays an interesting look into ancient Greece’s culture. Agony regularly plays large a role throughout ancient Greek artwork. It also shows how petty ancient Greeks depicted their gods. Throughout many ancient Greek myths, the gods express human-like emotions, and its evident in the sculpture.
Laocoon’s Children and the Limits of Representation.
At the time of its construction, Athens’ Parthenon dominated the religious and civic aspects of the city, both conceptually and physically. This temple, poised above the city, served as a constant reminder of Athenian patriotism and religion. The Parthenon was constructed of white marble on a rectangular stylobate with three stairs. The temple was colonnaded with fluted Doric columns. The northern and southern sides had seventeen columns each while the East and West facing sides both featured eight columns. The latter sides additionally had a second row of columns of six apiece. Pediments were included at the conclusion of the gabled roof. These pediments housed figural sculptures. An architrave encompassed the perimeter of the structure below the roof. Under the band of stone was a frieze that featured low-relief sculpture through triglyphs and metopes. The interior cella was composed of a walled-off rectangular space divided into two separate spaces accessible on either end. The West-facing cella compartment had a small interior colonnade and housed the cult statue for the city.
Construction on the edifice began during the mid-fifth century BCE under the orders of Athenian statesman Pericles. Greece was shifting away from the principalities ruled by monarchs and instead began ruling the various city-states through a government of councils and assemblies. This change in power dynamic affected Athens not only administratively but also architecturally. Temples were being raised in honor of the city-states’ patron deities, the collective citizens’ new focus rather than the kingship. These temples were essentially homes for the gods or goddesses with an internal cult figure statue. While the temples were religious in nature, they served an equal nationalistic and civic purpose as well. The Parthenon was constructed by locally quarried stone, something of which the Athenians were vehemently proud, and was located on a site with deep historical significance, the Acropolis. This natural citadel was elevated towards the heavens and had ties to ancient Greek rulers and mythology. Legend dictated that the Acropolis was the site in which Athena and Poseidon battled to determine who would claim the land of Attica. The two gods provided a gift to the citizens who then voted for the victor. Athena’s olive tree trumped Poseidon’s salt pools, and thus the city of Athena came into existence. The Athenians demonstrated their nationalism through the construction of their patron deity’s temple at the site of her famed victory and also the depiction of the mythic story on the West pediment. Further bolstering the idea of civic nature of the temples is the idea that it was not necessary in the practices of Grecian religion to have a temple to worship. In fact, the altar was often placed outside of the temple to be accessible to the masses because the interior of the temple, the cella, was reserved only to highest religious leaders. While the Parthenon lies in ruin today, stripped of its decoration, roof, and interior walls, the ritualistic and civic significance of Athena’s temple may escape the modern viewer. It is my hope that a reconstruction of the Parthenon through an investigation of object, style, and technique may encourage a better understanding of the structure’s form and function.
To begin the reconstruction process, exact measurements were necessary. I was able to find several articles that provided detailed drawings and dimensions of the Parthenon. Working at a 1/100 scale, I drew several models and calculated my desired measurements. The ancient Greeks’ fervor for perfection and the architects’ mathematical prowess were extremely evident in my findings. Through the subtle change in column length and floor height, an optical illusion was achieved to feign perfection and counter the eye’s natural tendency to determine distance. This knowledge allowed me to tailor the columns and base to the proportions of the original Parthenon. To further assist with my reconstruction process, I discovered information regarding the rhythm, proportion, and technique utilized in Athena’s temple. This was instrumental in drafting and completion of reconstruction, particularly in reference to the restructured cella and interior colonnade.
At the completion of my data research and mathematical conversions, I began the reconstruction process. I started with a wooden rectangular base and fashioned a styrofoam stylobate as the base. Using foam board, I constructed the three sets of stairs with mitered corners. I then measured the desired distances between all of the columns and inserted a short wooden dowel into the styrofoam. Focusing on the changing dimensions, I carved fifty-eight columns out of the styrofoam and capped them with Doric capitals of the same material. The cella walls were made from the foam board and pressed into the soft base. I created the smaller interior colonnade and columns out of dowels and styrofoam. To cap the reconstruction, I made a removable roof, including the architrave and frieze, out of foam board. The pedimental sculptures were composed of adapted ‘Army Men.’ I coated the entirety of the reconstruction with white spray paint to emulate the white marble of the original Parthenon.
The development of reconstructing the Parthenon revealed clues to the original form and function of the structure. With the rebuilding of the cella walls, it became apparent the exclusivity and sanctity of the interior of the temple. Additionally, the thorough dedication to the preciseness of appearing perfect in this ancient Greek landmark divulged the values of the culture that constructed the temple. The reconstruction process of the Parthenon provided insight into its form and function based on the object, style and technique of the structure.
Agard, Walter R. “Athens’ Choice of Athena.” The Classical Weekly
38, no. 2 (1994): 14-15.
Angelopoulos, Athanasios G. Metron Ariston. Athens: Aeropos,
Encyclopedia Britannica Online, s. v. “Parthenon.” Accessed April