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VI. Narrative and Images


Greek pottery provides us with a fascinating, if bewildering, variety of painted scenes. It is therefore no cause for astonishment that study of imagery, iconography, narrative method, mythical and contemporary subject matter, etc. should be of major scholarly concern. Scholars work with the evidence they possess but have to keep in mind what is missing - both from literature and from art. The more closely investigated such matters are, the more obvious it becomes that we must be careful to make distinctions between the imagery of different centres of vase production, and also between the imagery in vase-painting and that in other media, especially sculpture. It is inevitable that Athens has been the area most intensively probed, and that myth has been the most attractive magnet.



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1. For some of the areas of Greek life that vase-paintings are used to illuminate, see on festivals: Parke, H. W., Festivals of the Athenians (London, 1977), Simon, E., Festivals of Attica: an archaeological commentary (University of Wisconsin Press, 1983), Pickard-Cambridge, A. W., The Dramatic Festivals of Athens , 2nd edition revised with supplements and corrections by Gould, J. and Lewis, D. M. (Oxford, 1988); for symposia: Hagenau, G., Aus dem Weingarten der Antike (Mainz, 1982), Lissarrague, F., Un flot d’images - une esthétique du banquet grec (Paris, 1987), Murray, O (ed.), Sympotica, a symposium on the Symposion (Oxford, 1990); for sex: Boardman, J. and Rocca, E. La, Eros in Greece (London, 1978), Dover, K. J., Greek Homosexuality (London, 1978), Johns, C., Sex or Symbol: erotte images of Greece and Rome (London, 1982); for death: Kurtz, D. C. and Boardman, J., Greek Burial Customs (London, 1971), Vermeule, E., Aspects of Death in Early Greek Art and Poetry (University of California Press, 1979), Garland, R., The Greek Way of Death (London, 1985). See later for such aspects as the hunt, sacrifice, etc.

2. See e.g. M. Pipili’s recent study, Laconian Iconography of the Sixth Century B.C. (Oxford University Committee for Archaeology, monograph 12, 1987).

3. Havelock, E. A., Prologue to Greek Literacy (Cincinnati, 1971), The Literate Revolution in Greece and its Cultural Consequences (Princeton, 1982), The Muse Learns to Write (Yale UP, 1986); Gentili, B., Poetry and its Public in Ancient Greece (Baltimore, 1988); Harris, W. V., Ancient Literacy (Harvard, 1989).

4. Carpenter, T. H., Dionysian Imagery in Archaic Greek Art (Oxford, 1986), xvi .

5. R. M. Cook, Clazomenian Sarcophagi (see IV, n. 14), 130.

6. See Shapiro, A. H., Art and Cult under the Tyrants in Athens (Mainz, 1989) and Francis, E. D., Image and Idea in Fifth-century Greece (London, 1990).

7. Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Graecae , ed. Kahil, L. (Zurich and Munich, 1981- ).

8. Brommer, F., Denkmälerlisten zur griechischen Heldensage 1-4 (Marburg, 1971-76) - not vases; Vasenlisten zur griechischen Heldensage, 3rd ed. (Marburg, 1973); Göttersagen in Vasenlisten (Marburg, 1980).

9. Schefold, K., Myth and Legend in Early Greek Art (London, 1966); Götter- und Heldensagen der Griechen in der spätarchaischen Kunst (Munich, 1978); Die Göttersage in der klassischen und hellenistischen Kunst (Munich, 1981); (with Jung, F.) Die Urkönige, Perseus, Bellerophon, Herakles und Theseus in der klassischen und hellenistischen Kunst (Munich, 1988); a final volume to come on the group enterprises.

10. Henle, J., Greek Myths: a vase-painter’s notebook (Bloomington, 1973), with useful bibliography; for another bibliography, see Moon AGAI, pp. 301-32. A volume by T. H. Carpenter, Art and Myth in Ancient Greece, has now appeared (1991).

11. Loeb, E.H., Die Geburt der Götter in der griechischen Kunst der klassischer Zeit (Jerusalem, 1979). See Woodford’s, S. review in JHS 101 (1981), 221-2. See also Arafat, K., Classical Zeus (Oxford, 1990), chs. 2 & 3.

12. Kaempf-Dimitriadou, S., Die Liebe der Götter in der attischen Kunst des 5. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. (AK Beiheft 11, Bern, 1979).

13. Boreas: Simon, E.Boreas und Oreithyia auf dem silbernen Rhyton in Triest’, Antike und Abenland 13 (1967), 101-27, figs. 1-20 and colour plate, esp. 111-17. Aegina: LIMC I. 367-71 (S. Kaempf. Dimitriadou); Arafat, K., Classical Zeus (Oxford, 1990), pp. 77-88.

14. Vojatzi, M., Frühe Argonautenbilder (Würzburg, 1982).

15. Meyer, H., Medeia und die Peliaden: eine attische Novelle und ihre Entstehung. Ein Versuch zur Sagenforschung auf archäologischer Grundlage (Rome, 1980) and see IV, n. 41 (Ohly-Dumm). See also C. Sourvinou-Inwood, Theseus as Son and Stepson (BICS Suppl. 40, 1979).

16. Moret, J.-M., Oedipe, la sphinx et les Thébains: essai de mythologie iconographique (Geneva, 1984).

17. The bibliography on the Trojan saga and its aftermath is long. For some various approaches, see Moret, J.-M., ‘Le jugement de Paris en Grande-Grèce: mythe et actualité politique’, AK 21 (1978), 7698 , pls. 21-8. For Peleus and Thetis, see IV, n. 25 (Williams) and n. 26 (Stewart), and n. 3, above, ch. 1. For other themes, see Davies, M. I., ‘The Reclamation of Helen’, AK 20 (1977), 7385 , pl. 17; Batista, W., ‘Hektors Lösung’, Boreas 2 (1979), 536 ; Williams, D., ‘Ajax, Odysseus and the arms of Achilles’, AK 23 (1980), 137-45, pls. 33-6; Davies, M. I., ‘Ajax at the bourne of life’, ΕΙΔΩΛΟΠΟΗΑ, Actes du colloque sur les problèmes de l’image dans la monde méditerranéen classique, Château de Lourmarin en Provence 2-3 Septembre 1982 , ed. Metzger, H. (Rome, 1985), pp. 82117 , pls. 1-2; Moret, J.-M., L’Ilioupersis dans la céramique italiote (Geneva, 1975); Prag, A. J. N. W., The Oresteia: Iconographie and Narrative Tradition (Warminster, 1985); Brommer, F., Odysseus. Die Taten und Leiden des Helden in antiker Kunst, und Literatur (Darmstadt, 1983); The Quest for Ulysses, edd. Stanford, W. B. and Luce, J. V. (London, 1974); Rubens, B. and Taplin, O., An Odyssey round Odysseus (London, 1989).

18. Boardman, J., ‘The Kleophrades Painter at Troy’, AK 19 (1976), 318 , pls. 1-3.

19. Ahlberg, G., Prothesis and Ekphora in Greek Geometric Art (Goteborg, 1971); Fighting on Land and Sea in Greek Geometric Art (Stockholm, 1971). See also Rombos, T., The Iconography of Attic Late Geometric II Pottery (Jonsered, 1988).

20. Fittschen, K., Untersuchungen zum Beginn der Sagendarstellungen bei den Griechen (Berlin, 1969) is a full treatment. A. M. Snodgrass has looked at the problem from time to time: ‘Poet and painter in eighth century Greece’, PCPS 205 (1979), 118-30; Towards an interpretation of the Geometric figure-scenes’, AM 95 (1980), 51-8, pls. 11-14; Greece, Archaic, the age of experiment (London, 1980), 6577 ; ‘La naissance du récit dans l’art grec’, Lausanne Colloque, pp. 11-18; The first figure-scenes in Greek art’, An Archaeology of Greece (University of California Press, 1987), ch. 5 . See also Carter, J., ‘The beginnings of narrative art in the Greek Geometric period’, BSA 67 (1972), 2558 , pls. 5-12.

21. J. Boardman, ‘Symbol and story in Geometric art’, Moon AGAI, pp. 15-36 (quotation from p. 29); another view, Benson, J. L., ‘Symptom and story in Geometric art’, BABesch 63 (1988), 6976 . See also Kannicht, R., ‘Poetry and Art. Homer and the monuments afresh’, Classical Antiquity 1 (1982), 7086 , pls. 1-6.

22. See Hemelrijk, J. M., Gnomon 42 (1970), 166-71; Snodgrass, A. M., Narration and Allusion in Archaic Greek Art (London, 1982) and An Archaeology of Greece (University of California Press, 1987), ch. 5. See also Davies, M., ‘A convention of metamorphosis in Greek art’, JHS 106 (1986), 182-3, pl. 8, and Froning, H., ‘Anfänge der kontinuirenden Bilderzählung in der griechischer Kunst’, JDAI 103 (1988), 169-99.

23. Cook, R. M., ‘Art and epic in Archaic Greece’, BABesch 58 (1983), 110 (quotation from 6). Shapiro, H. A., ‘Herakles and Kyknos’, AJA 88 (1984), 323-9, pls. 68-9, has made a good case for the Herakles and Kyknos illustrations being based on the version in the pseudo-Hesiodic Shield of Herakles.

24. Robertson, M., ‘Geryoneis: Stesichorus and the vase-painters’, CQ 19 (1969), 207-21; Brize, P., Die Geryoneis des Stesichoros und die frühe griechische Kunst (Würzburg, 1980); Samos und Stesichoros. Zu einem früharchaischen Bronzeblech’, AM 100 (1985), 5490 , pls. 15-24 and Beil. 2.

25. See n. 18, above, 11-13 and IV, n. 26.

26. Trendall, A. D. and Webster, T. B. L., Illustrations of Greek Drama (London, 1971) gives a selection of Attic and South Italian theatrical scenes. See also March, J. R., The Creative Poet (BICS Supplement 49, 1987). For dithyrambs and vases, see Froning, H., Dithyrambus und Vasenmalerei in Athen (Würzburg, 1971) and Oakley, J. H., ‘A calyx-krater in Virginia by the Nikias Painter with the birth of Erichthonios’, AK 39 (1987), 123-30, pls. 18-19.

27. See e.g. Kossatz-Deissmann, A., Dramen des Aischylos auf westgriechischen Vasen (Mainz, 1978).

28. Simon, E., ‘Satyr-plays on vases from the time of Aeschylus’, Eye of Greece, pp. 123-48, pls. 30-40; L. Burn, ‘A heron on the left, by the Kodros Painter’, Copenhagen Symposium, pp. 99-105. See also, for a wider view, Lissarrague, F., ‘Why satyrs are good to represent’, Nothing to do with Dionysus, edd. Winkler, J. J. and Zeitlin, F. I. (Princeton, 1989), pp. 228-36, pls. 1-16.

29. Green, J. R., ‘A representation of the Birds of Aristophanes’, Greek Vases II (1985), 95118 ; Taplin, O., ‘Phallology, Phlyakes, Iconography and Aristophanes’, PCPS 213 (1987), 92104 (he also discusses the South Italian Telephos bell-krater (Thesm. 96-99), first published by A. Kossats-Deissman, ‘Telephus transvestitus’, Tainia, pp. 281-90, pls. 60-61, and now illustrated in Simon, E., The Ancient Theatre, trans. Vaphopoulou-Richardson, C. E. (London, 1982), pl. 15 ).

30. Simon, E., Menander in Centuripe (Stuttgart, 1989), with full references to other Meander representations.

31. Quotation from n. 16 above, p. 11. See also Metzger, H., ‘Beazley et l’image’, AK 30 (1987), 109-18, pls. 15-16, on Beazley’s adherence to the literary text in interpretating a scene.

32. Brommer, F., Herakles. Die zwölf Taten des Helden in antiken Kunst und Literatur, 4th ed. (Darmstadt, 1979), translated and enlarged by S. J. Schwarz as Herakles . The Twelve Labors of the Hero in Ancient Art and Literature (New York, 1980), and Herakles II. Die unkanonischen Taten des Helden (Darmstadt, 1984). See also Denkmalerlisten zur griechischen Heldensage I (Marburg, 1971) and Vasenlisten zur griechischen Heldensage, 3rd ed. (Marburg, 1973), pp. 1-209.

33. See Galinsky, G. K., The Herakles Theme (Oxford, 1972) and Vollkommer, R., Herakles in the Art of Classical Greece (Oxford University Committee for Archaeology, monograph 25, 1988).

34. The literature is now extensive. See particularly J. Boardman’s contributions: ‘Herakles, Peisistratos and sons’, RA 1972, 57-72; Herakles, Peisistratos and Eleusis’, JHS 95 (1975), 112 , pls. 1-4; ‘Herakles, Delphi and Kleisthenes of Sikyon’, RA 1978, 227-34; Exekias’, AJA 82 (1978), 1824 ; ‘Image and politics in sixth century Athens’, Amsterdam Symposium, pp. 239-47.

35. ‘Herakles, Peisistratos and the unconvinced’, JHS 109 (1989), 158-9. ‘That Greeks used their myth-history as a mirror to their life, and one which they could readily distort to suit their needs and circumstances, is a commonplace’ (159).

36. Pots and Peisistratan Propaganda’, JHS 107 (1987), 167-9. This note contains references to many extensions and counterarguments to Boardman’s ideas. One might single out R. Osborne’s ‘The myth of propaganda and the propaganda of myth’, Hephaistos 5/6 (1983/4), 61-70, pls. 1-2, and an overingenious attempt to relate ‘Herakles versus Nereus’ to Solon’s struggle against civil unrest, Ahlberg-Cornell, G., Herakles and the Sea-Monster in Attic Black-Figure Vase-painting (Stockholm, 1984). For a general comment on political symbolism, see Arafat and Morgan (V, n. 1), 231-1.

37. Brommer, F., Theseus. Die Taten des griechischen Helden in der antiken Kunst und Literatur (Darmstadt, 1982). See also Denkmälerlisten zur griechischen Heldensage II (Marburg, 1971), pp. 1-28 and Vasenlisten zur griechischen Heldensage, 3rd ed. (Marburg, 1973), pp. 210-58. For a popular treatment, see The Quest for Theseus, ed. Ward, A. G. (London, 1970). See also Neils, J., The Youthful Deeds of Theseus (Rome, 1987). See also E. D. Francis (n. 6 above).

38. See Sourvinou-Inwood, C., ‘Theseus lifting the rock and a cup near the Pithos Painter’, JHS 91 (1971), 94109 , pl. 12.

39. See Barron, J. P., ‘New light on old walls: the murals Of the Theseion’, JHS 92 (1972), 2045 , pls. 1-7; Bakchylides, Theseus and a woolly cloak’, BICS 27 (1980), 18 . For a stress on the earlier importance of Theseus, see Shapiro, H. A., ‘Theseus and the creation of an Athenian national hero’, AJA 93 (1989), 279 . For Kimonian influence on Polygnotos’ panel paintings, see Kebric, R. B., The Paintings in the Cnidian Lesche at Delphi and the Historical Context (Leiden, 1983). Kebric sees Eurymedon as the catalyst for the Cnidians’ dedication, but for another, more scabrous way of expressing Eurymedon, see the Attic red-figure oinochoe in Hamburg, Schauenburg, K., ΕΥΡΥΜΕΔΩΝ ΕΙΜΙ’, AM 90 (1975), 197–121, pl. 15 and for a different interpretation, Pinney, G. F., ‘For the heroes are at hand’, JHS 104 (1984), 181-3, pl. 8 c-d.

40. J. Boardman, ‘Herakles, Theseus and Amazons’, Eye of Greece, p. 1-28, pls. 1-6. See also Gauer (see III, n. 28).

41. E.g. Burkert, W., Structure and History in Greek Mythyology and Ritual (University of California Press, 1979); Gordon, R. L. (ed.), Myth, Religion and Society (Cambridge and Paris, 1981); Bremmer, J. (ed.), Interpretations of Greek Mythology (London and Sydney, 1987); Edmunds, L. (ed.), Approaches to Greek Myth (Baltimore and London, 1990).

42. See n. 7, above.

43. F. Brommer, Herakles. The Twelve Labors (see n. 32, above), p. 2.

44. The most entertaining introduction to this subject is Bérard, C. and others, La Cité des Images, Religion et Société en Grèce antique (Fernard Nathan - L.E.P., 1984), now A City of Images, Iconography and Society in Ancient Greece, trans. Lyons, D. (Princeton, 1989). Subjects considered are the warrior, sacrifice and the hunt, Eros as hunter, women, festivals and mysteries, wine, satyrs, and masks.

45. The French/Swiss have been some of the foremost proponents of the new approaches; of those concerning themselves with art, one might mention Bérard, C., Lissarrague, F., Durand, J.-L. and Schnapp, A.. There have been many recent conferences (Rouen, Provence, Paris) that have been devoted to the subject of myth and its interpretation. Of those scholars writing in English, one might single out a German, Hoffmann, Herbert: Sexual and Asexual Pursuit. A structuralist approach to Greek vase-painting (RAI, Occasional Paper 34; London, 1977); In the wake of Beazley’, Hephaistos 1 (1979), 6170 ; Iconography and Iconology’, Hephaistos 7-8 (1985-6), 6166 ; The cicada on the omphalos: an iconographical excursion’, Antiquity 62 (1988), 744-9; Why did the Greeks need imagery? An anthropological approach to the study of Greek vase-painting’, Hephaistos 9 (1988), 143-62 (cf. A. Schnapp, Why did the Greeks need images?’, Copenhagen Symposium, pp. 568-74).

46. Gordon, R. L. (ed.), Myth, Religion and Society (see n. 41, above), ix (Buxton).

47. Snodgrass, A. M., An Archaeology of Greece (California, 1987), p. 135 .

48. Gordon, R. L. (ed.), Myth, Religion and Society (see n. 41, above), xi (Buxton).

49. Hoffman, H., ‘Hahnenkampf in Athen. Zur Ikonologie einer attischen Bildformel’, RA 1974, 195220 ; Hephaistos 9 (1988) (see n. 45, above).

50. Schnapp, A., ‘Images et programme: les figurations archaïques de la chasse au sanglier’, RA 1979, 195218 ; Lissarrague, F. and Durand, J.-L., ‘Les entrailles de la cité’, Hephaistos 1 (1979), 81108 , pls. 1-3; Schnitt, P. and Schnapp, A., ‘Image et société en Grèce ancienne: les représentations de la chasse et du banquet’, RA 1982, 5774 ; A. Schnapp, ‘Héraclès, Thésée et les chasseurs: les ambiguïtés du héros’, Lausanne Colloque, p. 121-30. See also n. 44, above. For the larger view, see Burkert, W., Homo Necans. The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth, trans. Bing, P. (California, 1983).

51. Sourvinou-Inwood, C., Theseus as Son and Stepson (BICS Suppl. 40, 1979); ‘Menace and pursuit: differentiation and the creation of meaning’, Lausanne Colloque, pp. 41-58; A series of erotic pursuits: images and meanings’, JHS 107 (1987), 131-53, pl. 2b-3; ‘Myths in Images: Theseus and Medea as a case study’, L. Edmunds (ed.), Approaches to Greek Myth (see n. 41, above), pp. 393-445; C. Bérard, ‘Le chassaresse traquée: cynégétique et erotique’, Kanon, 280-4, pls. 83-4. See also n. 44, above.

52. See Carpenter, T. H., Dionysian Imagery in archaic Greek art (Oxford, 1986); Lissarrague, F., Un flot d’images, une esthétique du banquet grec (Paris, 1987); Hoffman, H., ‘Rhyta and Kantharoi in Greek Ritual’, Greek Vases IV (1989), 131-66. For satyrs, see n. 28, above.

53. Tyrrell, W. B., Amazons, a study in Athenian mythmaking (Baltimore and London, 1984); Hardwick, L., ‘Ancient Amazons - heroes, outsiders or women?Greece & Rome 37 (1990), 1436 .

54. Kahil, L., ‘L’Artémis de Brauron: rites et mystère’, AK 20 (1977), 8698 , pls. 18-21; La déesse Artémis: mythologie et iconographie’, Greece and Italy in the Classical World. Acta of the XI International Congress of Classical Archaeology (London, 1979), pp. 7387 , pls. 31-6; Le “cratérisque” d’Artemis et le Brauronion de l’Acropole’, Hesperia 50 (1981), 253-63, pl. 62; ‘Mythological Repertoire of Brauron’, Moon AGAI, pp. 231-14; Sourvinou-Inwood, C., Studies in Girh’ Transitions (Athens, 1988); Dowden, K., Dream and the Maiden. Girls’ Initiation Rites in Greek Mythology (London and New York, 1989).

55. J. Boardman, ‘Image and Politics in Sixth Century Athens’, Amsterdam Symposium, p. 241.

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