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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Ancient rhetoric

Rhetoric, the art of persuasion through the development of arguments, has its origins in Mesopotamia. Some of the earliest examples of rhetoric can be found in the Akkadian writings of the princess and priestess Enheduanna (c. 2285–2250 BCE), while later examples can be found in the Neo-Assyrian Empire during the time of Sennacherib (704–681 BCE). In ancient Egypt, rhetoric had existed since at least the Middle Kingdom period (c. 2080–1640 BCE). The Egyptians held eloquent speaking in high esteem, and it was a skill that had a very high value in their society. The "Egyptian rules of rhetoric" also clearly specified that knowing when not to speak is essential. Their approach to rhetoric was thus a "balance between eloquence and wise silence". Their rules of speech also strongly emphasized "adherence to social behaviors that support a conservative status quo" and they held that "skilled speech should support, not question, society."

In the 4th century BCE, rhetoric was defined by Aristotle as "the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion" and since mastery of the art was necessary for victory in a case at law, or for passage of proposals in the assembly, or for fame as a speaker in civic ceremonies. He called it "a combination of the science of logic and of the ethical branch of politics" and divided it into three categories, logos, pathos, and ethos. 

In the political rise of the Roman Republic, Instruction in rhetoric developed into a full curriculum, including instruction in grammar (study of the poets), preliminary exercises (progymnasmata), and preparation of public speeches (declamation) in both forensic and deliberative genres. The Latin style of rhetoric involved a strong emphasis on a broad education in all areas of humanistic study in the liberal arts, including philosophy. Other areas of study included the use of wit and humor, the appeal to the listener's emotions, and the use of digressions. 

Quintilian (35-100 CE) organized rhetorical study into  five canons:

Inventio (invention) is the process that leads to the development and refinement of an argument.

Once arguments are developed, dispositio (disposition, or arrangement) is used to determine how it should be organized for greatest effect, usually beginning with the exordium.

Once the speech content is known and the structure is determined, the next steps involve elocutio (style) and pronuntiatio (presentation).

Memoria (memory) comes to play as the speaker recalls each of these elements during the speech.

Actio (delivery) is the final step as the speech is presented in a gracious and pleasing way to the audience, often referred to as the Grand Style. A common feature of rhetoric in the grand style is the use of a repeated pattern, often emphasizing a word or phrase at the beginning or end of a series of clauses.

In every cry of every man,

In every infant's cry of fear,

In every voice, in every ban,

The mind-forged manacles I hear:

—William Blake

Or

Where affections bear rule, their reason is subdued, honesty is subdued, good will is subdued, and all things else that withstand evil for ever are subdued. - Thomas Wilson.


Image: Bronze statue of a man mid-2nd -1st century BCE, Greek, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Honorific statues like this one were typically portraits of prominent individuals awarded by the city-state or ruler in gratitude for significant benefactions. They were the highest honor that a city could offer. This impressive figure stands in contrapposto. His right hand stretches out from the folds of his himation (cloak), with open palm and fingers curled upward in a gesture of oration. His left arm lies close to his body. The himation is kept in place in part by the tasseled weight thrown over his left shoulder, which hangs at his calf, and the indication of his musculature and anatomy continues underneath his garment. The several horizontal bands that decorate the fabric,which may have been painted or gilded, comprise a rare detail.

 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Megarian bowls

Relief-decorated pottery with scenes from epic poetry and from Classical Greek tragedy became more popular than painted pottery during the Hellenistic period. The name Megarian was first given to this type of mold-made relief bowl in the late nineteenth century, because some of the first known examples were said to have come from the city of Megara. It has since been demonstrated that bowls of this type, which were produced at a number of different centers, originated in Athens in the third quarter of the third century B.C.E. - Metropolitan Museum of Art

Unlike earlier, wheelmade wares with surfaces decorated only with slip, paint, and glaze, these bowls were made in stamp-decorated molds that added decoration in relief. This method of manufacture gave the vessels an embossed effect that may have been intended to imitate metalwork. The vessels were thrown on a potter's wheel while inside the mold in order to produce a smooth and even inner surface while allowing the outside to pick up the pattern of the mold clearly.  The molds themselves were made on the wheel and decorated on the interior with stamps. These bowls functioned as drinking cups and replaced the earlier kantharos shape. - Summer Trentin and Debby Sneed, University of Colorado

Such bowls depicting mythological scenes as well as floral bowls with figures like Eros were produced in the 3rd to 2nd century BCE.  In the 2nd century BCE, though, the floral and figural bowls were replaced by a more stylized type with repeated petal-like motifs referred to as "Long-Petal Bowls." 

In Italy, these thin-walled molded bowls became known as "Popilius" bowls since a number of them signed by C. Popilius have been discovered around workshops in Umbria, north of Rome on the Via Flaminia.  However, other workshops of different potters have been found in Tivoli, Cosa, and Arezzo. Some scholars point to a shift from controlled to more dramatic naturalism in their decoration.


Terracotta Megarian bowl, 2nd century B.C.E., Boeotian, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art depicting a scene from Euripides' play "Iphigenia at Aulis", a messenger, Agamemnon, who has weakened in his resolve to sacrifice his daughter to Artemis, biding his slave to take a letter to his wife, Clytemnestra, instructing her not to send her daughter to Aulis.

 
Terracotta Megarian bowl, 2nd century B.C.E., Boeotian, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art depicting a scene from Euripides' play "Iphigenia at Aulis", Agamemnon's brother, taking the letter from the messenger by force; Menelaos, with the letter in hand, blaming Agamemnon for refusing to go through with the sacrifice.

Terracotta Megarian bowl, 2nd century B.C.E., Boeotian, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art depicting a scene from Euripides' play "Iphigenia at Aulis", a messenger, bringing news to Agamemnon that Iphigenia has arrived

Terracotta Megarian bowl, 2nd century B.C.E., Boeotian, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art depicting a scene from Euripides' play "Iphigenia at Aulis", the cart that has come from Argos, bearing Queen Clytemnestra and her children, Iphigenia and the little Orestes. The story would have been continued on additional bowls.

Terracotta Megarian bowl, Greek, 165-100 BCE at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Terracotta Megarian bowl, Greek, 165-100 BCE at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Megarian bowl from a Rhodian workshop depicting scenes from the Trojan War and the Odyssey, 3d/2nd century B.C.E. at the antinkensammlung Museum in Berlin, Germany courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Marcus Cyron.

Nike crowning a trophy, Poseidon, Ariadne with Dionysos supported by a satyr, and Athena with shield and spear, Terracotta Megarian bowl, 2nd century B.C.E. at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The reddish-brown glaze of this bowl suggests it was made in Asia Minor, and perhaps more specifically, Pergamon. Red-ware, as this type of pottery is called, had a relatively short period of production. It was ultimately supplanted by red-glossed Roman terra-sigillata and Arrentine pottery beginning around the middle of the 1st century B.C.E. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Relief-moulded black Megarian bowl, c. 225-175 BCE at the British Museum, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor AgTigress.

Megarian bowl With Dionysiac thiasos from ancient Epidaurus at the Archaeological Museum of Nafplion, 200-150 BCE, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Zde.

Megarian bowl from a Macedonian workshop depicting the homecoming of Odysseus; 3d/2nd century B.C.E. at the Antikensammlung Museum in Berlin, Germany courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. (digitally enhanced)



Monday, January 18, 2021

Ancient theater in Greece and Rome

Nearly every Greek and Roman city of note had an open-air theater consisting of the orchestra, the flat dancing floor of the chorus, and the theatron, the actual structure of the theater building. Vase paintings indicate the stage stood about three feet high with a flight of steps in the center. The actors entered from either side and from a central door in the skene, which also housed the ekkyklema, a wheeled platform with sets of scenes. A mechane, or crane, located at the right end of the stage, was used to hoist gods and heroes through the air onto the stage.  

Theatrical performances were usually part of a seasonal festival and were accompanied by processions, sacrifices in the theater, parades, and competitions between playwrights. Almost all Greek tragedies were based on heroic myths although the dialogue between actor and chorus sometimes served an instructional purpose and reflected current debate in the public assembly.

"Unlike the Greek tragedy, the comic performances produced in Athens during the fifth century BCE, the so-called Old Comedy, ridiculed mythology and prominent members of Athenian society. There seems to have been no limit to speech or action in the comic exploitation of sex and other bodily functions. Terracotta figurines and vase paintings dated around and after the time of Aristophanes (450–ca. 387 BCE) show comic actors wearing grotesque masks and tights with padding on the rump and belly, as well as a leather phallus." - Art historian, Colette Hemingway

Comic characters and their masks eventually became standardized indicating the popularity not of a specific figure but of types—the old man, the slave, the courtesan, etc.—that appeared repeatedly in different plays. Terracotta or bronze figurines of these popular characters were often sold as souvenirs. Fourteen such figurines were found in one burial in Attica. Apparently the deceased was either an actor themselves or an avid theater-goer!

"In the second half of the fourth century BCE, the so-called New Comedy of Menander (343–291 BCE) and his contemporaries gave fresh interpretations to familiar material. In many ways comedy became simpler and tamer, with very little obscenity. The grotesque padding and phallus of Old Comedy were abandoned in favor of more naturalistic costumes that reflected the playwrights’ new style. Subtle differentiation of masks worn by the actors paralleled the finer delineation of character in the texts of New Comedy, which dealt with private and family life, social tensions, and the triumph of love in a variety of contexts." - Art historian, Colette Hemingway.

Read more about it:

Hemingway, Colette. “Theater in Ancient Greece.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/thtr/hd_thtr.htm (October 2004)

Terracotta Lamp with seated Comic Actor Greek made in Egypt 125-100 BCE that I photographed at The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California.

Roman Terracotta Lamp with Reclining Comic Actor 100-200 CE that that I photographed at The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California.

Statuette of a Comic Actor Wearing an Animal Mask Roman 100 BCE-100 CE  Bronze that I photographed at The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California.

Incense Burner (Thymiaterion) shaped as a Comic Actor Seated on an Altar Roman 1-50 CE Bronze and Silver that I photographed at The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California.

Detail from a red-figured Bell Krater with a scene of Phlyax actors Greek made in Apulia South Italy 370-360 BCE attributed to the Cotugno Painter Terracotta that I photographed at The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California.

Bronze furniture decoration in the shape of theater masks Roman Imperial Period that I photographed at the Palazzo Massimo in Rome.


The Decumano Max leads to remains of the ancient Roman theater I photographed at Ostia built at the end of the 1st century BCE 

Architectural elements depicting theater masks that I photographed at the ancient Roman theater in Ostia Antica.

Male comic theater mask Roman 2nd century CE that I photographed at the Terme di Diocleziano in Rome.


Roman Actor dressed as Papposilenus father of the satyrs from the Villa of Torre Astura 1st century BCE-1st century CE that I photographed at the Palazzo Massimo in Rome.

Panoramic view of the ancient Roman theater in Orange, France, a World Heritage Site, 1st century CE that I photographed.

A theater mask carved on the corner of a Roman funerary monument that I photographed at the Musèe de l'Arles Antique in Arles, France.


Terracotta scent bottle in the form of a squatting man, perhaps a comic actor  Corinthian from Camirus Rhodes 600-575 BCE that I photographed at The British Museum.


Masked actors perform Dyskolos "The Grouch" by Menander at ancient Alexandria's theater, a screenshot I took in Assassin's Creed Origins Discovery Tour.

Cleopatra leaves the Greek theater in ancient Alexandria, a screenshot I took in Assassin's Creed Origins Discovery Tour.

Terracotta statuette of an actor, late 5th–early 4th century BCE, Greek, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Terracotta statuette of an actor, late 5th–early 4th century BCE, Greek, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Terracotta statuette of an actor, late 5th–early 4th century BCE, Greek, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Terracotta statuette of an actor, late 5th–early 4th century BCE, Greek, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Terracotta statuette of an actor, late 5th–early 4th century BCE, Greek, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Terracotta statuette of an actor, late 5th–early 4th century BCE, Greek, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.



Sunday, January 17, 2021

Achelous and the origin of the Horn of Plenty

In ancient Greek religion and mythology, the god Achelous (also Acheloos or Acheloios) was associated with the Achelous River, the largest river in Greece. According to Hesiod, he was the son of the Titans Oceanus and Tethys. He was also said to be the father of the Sirens, several nymphs, and other offspring. Achelous was able to change his shape, and in the form of a bull, he wrestled Heracles for the right to marry Deianeira, daughter of the king of Calydon, but lost.  This myth is retold in a 7th century BCE poem by Archilochus.  In the 5th century BCE, Pindar claimed Heracles broke off one of Achelous's horns, and the river-god was able to get his horn back by trading it for a horn from Amalthea, foster mother of Zeus.

In his play, Women of Trachis, Sophocles relates Deianeira's account of the courtship:

"For my suitor was a river-god, Achelous, who in three shapes was always asking me from my father—coming now as a bull in visible form, now as a serpent, sheeny and coiled, now ox-faced with human trunk, while from his thick-shaded beard wellheads of fountain-water sprayed. In the expectation that such a suitor would get me, I was always praying in my misery that I might die, before I should ever approach that marriage-bed. But at last, to my joy, the glorious son of Zeus and Alcmena came and closed with him in combat and delivered me."

The Roman poet, Ovid, in his account of the struggle in his poem, Metamorphoses (8 CE), describes how Achelous fights Heracles, and loses three times: first in his normal (human?) shape, then as a snake, and finally as a bull. Heracles tore off one of Achelous's bull-horns, and the Naiads filled the horn with fruit and flowers, transforming it into the "Horn of Plenty" (cornucopia).  Diodorus Siculus and Strabo explain the myth as an offshoot of an actual event.  According to Diodorus, Heracles diverted the Achelous River's course, while according to Strabo, some writers "conjecturing the truth from the myths" said that, to please his father-in-law Oeneus, Heracles confined the river by means of "embankments and channels". In this way, Heracles defeated the raging river, and in so doing created a large amount of new fertile land of the Achelous River delta which came to be known as Amaltheia's horn of plenty.

From at least as early as Homer, Achelous was apparently considered to be an important divinity throughout Greece. A commentary on Iliad 21.195, preserved on Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 221, contains a fragment of a poem, possibly from the Epic tradition, which mentions "the waters of silver-eddying Achelous" being the source of "the whole sea." The Oxyrhynchus Papyrus also mentions  "many people sacrifice to Achelois before sacrificing to Demeter, since Acheloios is the name of all rivers and the crop comes from water."  According to the early 4th-century BCE Greek historian Ephorus, the oracle at Dodona usually added to his pronouncements the command to offer sacrifices to Achelous, and that, while people would offer sacrifices to their local river, only the Achelous river was honored everywhere, with Achelous's name often being invoked in oaths, prayers and sacrifices. Achelous was also an important deity in the Etruscan religion, intimately related to water as in the Greek tradition but also carrying significant chthonic associations. Man-faced bull iconography was first adapted to represent Achelous by the Etruscans in the 8th century BCE, and some scholars think the Greeks later adopted this same tradition. Seer-healers and mercenaries during the Iron Age, used iconography of Achelous as a man-faced bull for centuries.

Closeup of Hercules battling Achelous in the form of a serpent  by François-Joseph Bosio, 1824, at The Louvre courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Juanedc

Full Length Hercules battling Achelous in the form of a serpent  by François-Joseph Bosio, 1824, at The Louvre courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Carole Raddato.

Acroter of Achelous from the southern sanctuary of Pyrgi, an ancient Etruscan port in Latium, central Italy, to the northwest of Caere 510 BCE, at the Etruscan Museum in the Villa Giulia in Rome courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Sailko.

Mask of the River God Achelous. Marathon (Attica, Greece), marble, around 470 BC. Antikensammlung Berlin (Altes Museum) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Zde.


 Pendant necklace in the shape of Acheloos head. Gold. Circa 480 BCE courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Tangopaso.


Ivory plaque depicting Hercules and Achelous (in the form of a bull), 1670, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

Etruscan bronze protome of Achelous from Tarquinia, 500-475 BCE, at the Etruscan Museum in the Villa Giulia in Rome courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Sailko.


Vase in the form of a head of Acheloos from east Greece, terracotta, 550-525 BCE at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Hercules Battling Achelous, ivory, mid-17th century CE, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


The vertex stone of an arch with a depiction of the river deity Achelous, from Pula, 2nd - 3rd century CE, on display in the Temple of Augustus, Colonia Pietas Iulia Pola Pollentia Herculanea, Histria courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Carole Raddato.

Bronze Etruscan shield with head of Achelous 6th century BCE that I photographed at the Dallas Museum of Art in Dallas, Texas.

Achelous was often depicted as a bearded mask such as in this Roman floor mosaic from Zeugma, Turkey courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Achelous terracotta mask (patron deity of the Achelous River), 1st century BCE, Monsters. Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth Exhibition, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Carole Raddato

Etruscan antefix representing the river god Achelous, 4th century BCE courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Keramion.




 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Janiform art in Greece and Rome

 Called Janiform after Janus, the two-faced Roman god associated with doorways and beginnings, two-faced head herms, flasks, or vases were produced as early as the 8th century BCE in Athens, though, and a god with two faces appears repeatedly in Sumerian and Babylonian art dating back to the third millenium. The ancient Sumerian deity Isimud was commonly portrayed with two faces facing in opposite directions. Unlike Janus, however, Isimud is not a god of doorways. Instead, he is the messenger of Enki, the ancient Sumerian god of water and civilization. In Hinduism the image of double or four faced gods is quite common, as it is a symbolic depiction of the divine power of seeing through space and time. The supreme god Brahma is represented with four faces. Likewise the Scandinavian god Heimdallr looks similar to Janus and his abode is said to define the limits of the earth and the extremity of heaven.

To the Romans, Janus frequently symbolized change and transitions such as the progress of past to future, from one condition to another, from one vision to another, and young people's growth to adulthood. He represented time, because he could see into the past with one face and into the future with the other. Hence, Janus was worshipped at the beginnings of the harvest and planting times, as well as at marriages, deaths and other beginnings. He represented the middle ground between barbarism and civilization, rural and urban space, youth and adulthood. Having jurisdiction over beginnings, Janus had an intrinsic association with omens and auspices, particularly important to the Romans. 

This artform was particularly favored for herms which were used to mark crossroads or directions, such as in the agora or forum, in sanctuaries, at the entrance to the Acropolis in Athens, and in the doorways of private homes. Widespread during the Hellenistic period, janiform objects with Dionysiac subjects were particularly popular because of Alexander the Great's visit to the Siwa oasis which gave rise to the myth that Alexander was declared the son of Zeus Ammon and thereafter portrayed in juxtapositon to emphasize his divine nature.  Artwork expressing a dual nature, often with divine subjects, continued to inspire classical art through the Roman Period including a satyr paired with a maenad, Herakles with Omphale, a young and old Aristotle. etc.

"Many combinations of heads for janiform herms are well attested and numerous deities were represented in that form. Herms similar to this example were found at Pompeii in the House of the Golden Cupid, the House of Marcus Lecretius, and the House of the Vettii, where they were mounted on slender columns and decorated the gardens of these villas. Such specialized works of art were even more popular at Herculaneum, where herms surmounted by double heads lined garden paths and were placed in the center of gardens or near fountains or pools. The reflection of these sculptures in garden waters increased the visual enjoyment of them and created a spacial effect similar to the illusion of space seen in Roman paintings that decorated the walls of these villas. Within a natural garden environment provided by plantings of boxwood, laurel, ivy, rosemary and evergreens, as cited by ancient literary sources, such herms added an element of man-made beauty and contributed to the fine sense of aesthetics for which the horticultural designs of Hellenistic and Roman gardens are known." - Phoneix Ancient Art.

Double herm of Homer (Apollonius of Tyana type) and Menander. Pentelic marble, Roman copy from the Neronian or Flavian period after a Hellenistic originals. From the Barbuta area in Rome courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Marie-Lan Nguyen.

Double bust of Dionysos as a youth and an adult at the Palatine Museum courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Carole Raddato.

Herm of Metrodorus of Lampsacus (the younger) leaned with his back against Roman, Imperial Era, (2nd-half of the 2nd century CE?). Found in Rome, Italy. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Erc Gaba. Profile photo part of the Françoise Foliot collection.

Cast of Portrait double (twin) herma of Herodotus and Thucydides, archetype from 400-350 BCE at NAMA Naples (inv. 6239) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Zde.

Head of Janus, Vatican Museum, Rome, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Loudon dodd.

Double Headed Janus Flask (right) and Head Flask Roman 100-200 CE that I photographed at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California.

Double Headed Janus Flask (right) and Head Flask Roman 100-200 CE that I photographed at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California.

Double Herm depicting Dionysus and a Satyr Roman 100-199 CE Marble that I photographed at the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon.

Double herm at the Panathenaic Stadium. Athens, Attica, Greece courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor LBM1948.

Double portrait of Aristotle with view as old man Roman copy of 4th century BCE Greek original NAMA 3772 that I photographed at "The Greeks" exhibit at The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois.

The Socrates side of a double portrait of the philosopher Socrates and Seneca with ancient name inscriptions, 3rd century CE, Roman copy of a 1st century CE original, Neues Museum, Berlin courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Carole Raddato.

The Seneca side of a double portrait of the philosopher Socrates and Seneca with ancient name inscriptions, 3rd century CE, Roman copy of a 1st century CE original, Neues Museum, Berlin courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Carole Raddato.

Terracotta vase with janiform heads, 4th century B.C.E., Etruscan, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This Etruscan vase is unique because both heads are made from the same mold but are painted to appear different, one representing a satyr with pointed ears and a beard, the other a black man.

Terracotta vase with janiform heads, 4th century B.C.E., Etruscan, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This Etruscan vase is unique because both heads are made from the same mold but are painted to appear different, one representing a satyr with pointed ears and a beard, the other a black man.

Double portrait of the philosopher Socrates and Seneca with ancient name inscriptions, 3rd century CE, Roman copy of a 1st century CE original, Neues Museum, Berlin courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Marcus Cyron (digitall enhanced).

A cylinder seal depicting the gods Ishtar, Shamash, Enki, and Isimud, who is shown with two faces (circa 2300 BCE) courtesy of the British Museum Collections and Wikimedia Commons.