Category: Research and Analysis

A Glimpse into the Mysterious Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Hanging Garden of BabylonLong 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 this harsh 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 famous  Tower 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.

Love and Loss in Ancient Greece

By Carly Gagstetter

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.

Image subject to fair use through the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s OASC program.
Image subject to fair use through the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s OASC program.

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.

Image subject to fair use through the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s OASC program.
Image subject to fair use through the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s OASC program.

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.











Works Cited

MacQueen, John. “Article by John MacQueen.” Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800 20 (1993): 261. Accessed April 12, 2015.


Publius Ovid Naso, Metamorphoses, trans. Garth, S.; Dryden, J.; et al. London. 1717.


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.


Reidy, Brent. “Our Memory of What Happened Is Not What Happened.” American Music 28, no. 2 (2010): 211-27. Accessed April 12, 2015.


Evelyn-White, H.G. “Homeric Hymns.” Classical E-Text: THE HOMERIC HYMNS 1. January 1, 2011. Accessed April 13, 2015.


Deacy, Susan. “From “Flowery Tales” to “Heroic Rapes”: Virginal Subjectivity in the Mythological Meadow.” Arethusa 46, no. 3 (2013). Accessed April 12, 2015.


“Eleusinian Mysteries.” Encyclopedia Britannica.





The Parthenon, Athena, and the Ideal Greek

Allison Lee

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.


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Metropolitan Museum of Art. Copyright and Proprietary Rights. The text, images, trademarks, data, audio files, video files and clips, software, documentation or other information contained in these files, and other content on the Websites (collectively, the “Materials”) are proprietary to the Museum or its licensors. The Museum retains all rights, including copyright, in the Materials. Copyright and other proprietary rights may be held by individuals or entities other than, or in addition to, the Museum.

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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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’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” ( 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 ( Paragraph 18).

Digital image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection, The Collection Online.   Metropolitan Museum of Art. Copyright and Proprietary Rights. The text, images, trademarks, data, audio files, video files and clips, software, documentation or other information contained in these files, and other content on the Websites (collectively, the “Materials”) are proprietary to the Museum or its licensors. The Museum retains all rights, including copyright, in the Materials. Copyright and other proprietary rights may be held by individuals or entities other than, or in addition to, the Museum.
Digital image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection, The Collection Online.
Metropolitan Museum of Art. Copyright and Proprietary Rights. The text, images, trademarks, data, audio files, video files and clips, software, documentation or other information contained in these files, and other content on the Websites (collectively, the “Materials”) are proprietary to the Museum or its licensors. The Museum retains all rights, including copyright, in the Materials. Copyright and other proprietary rights may be held by individuals or entities other than, or in addition to, the Museum.

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 ( 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 ( 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” ( 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.


Allison Lee









Works Cited

Adams, John Paul. “Pericles: Last Speech (Thucydides Book II, 59-64).” April 23, 2011. Accessed April 13, 2015.

Mark, Joshua J. “Pericles,” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified September 02, 2009.

“The Parthenon.” Accessed April 13, 2015.

“The Parthenon.” Accessed April 13, 2015.

Hadingham, Evan. “Unlocking Mysteries of the Parthenon.” February 1, 2008. Accessed April 13, 2015.

“The Parthenon: Religion, Art, and Politics.” Accessed April 13, 2015.

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “post-and-lintel system”, accessed April 15, 2015,

“The Parthenon.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accessed April 12, 2015.

“Bronze statuette of Athena flying her owl.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accessed April 12, 2015.

Greek “Athena.” Accessed April 16, 2015.

Final Research Project: Every Empire Needs an Emperor

Shelby Watford

ARH 351

Final Research Paper

21 April 2015

Every Empire Needs an Emperor

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. ( 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.


Works Cited

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Augustus”, accessed April 20, 2015,

Hemingway, Colette and Seán Hemingway. “The Rise of Macedonia and the

Conquests of Alexander the Great”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.

New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2004)

Fagan, Garrett G. “Augustus (31 B.C. – 14 A.D.)”

Foner, Eric and Garraty, John A. “Alexander the Great.” Houghton Mifflin

Harcourt Publishing Company, 1991. Staff, “Augustus” 2009. A&E Networks, 2009.

British Museum Staff, “Portrait of Alexander the Great.”

Museos Vaticanos, “Augustus of Prima Porta.”

Augustus of Prima Porta

Augustus the Divine

by Josh Ford

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.


Works Cited


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. “” (2005).<> 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.


Image Citation