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Periklean Athens and Its Legacy

Periklean Athens and Its Legacy
Problems and Perspectives

21 original essays on the art, architecture, history, culture, and influence of Athens during its most important period.

August 2005
330 pages | 8.5 x 11 | 1 color and 159 b&w figures |

The late fifth century BC was the golden age of ancient Athens. Under the leadership of the renowned soldier-statesman Perikles, Athenians began rebuilding the Akropolis, where they created the still awe-inspiring Parthenon. Athenians also reached a zenith of artistic achievement in sculpture, vase painting, and architecture, which provided continuing inspiration for many succeeding generations.

The specially commissioned essays in this volume offer a fresh, innovative panorama of the art, architecture, history, culture, and influence of Periklean Athens. Written by leading experts in the field, the articles cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • An evaluation of Perikles' military leadership during the early stages of the Peloponnesian War.
  • Iconographical and iconological studies of vase paintings, wall paintings, and sculpture.
  • Explorations of the Parthenon and other monuments of the Athenian Akropolis.
  • The legacy of Periklean Athens and its influence upon later art.
  • Assessments of the modern reception of the Akropolis.

As a whole, this collection of essays proves that even a well-explored field such as Periklean Athens can yield new treasures when mined by perceptive and seasoned investigators.

  • Note on Abbreviations
  • Jerome Jordan Pollitt: A Bibliography
  • Introduction
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Perikles as General (Donald Kagan)
  • The Art of Classical and Periklean Athens
    • 2. Bail Oinochoai (John H. Oakley)
    • 3. A Farewell with Arms: Departing Warriors on Athenian Vases (Susan B. Matheson)
    • 4. The Girl in the Pithos: Hesiod's Elpis (Jenifer Neils)
    • 5. The Judgment of Helen in Athenian Art (H. A. Shapiro)
    • 6. Composition and Content on Classical Murals and Vases (John Boardman)
    • 7. The Painting Program in the Stoa Poikile (Mark D. Stansbury-O'Donnell)
    • 8. Feminizing the Barbarian and Barbarizing the Feminine: Amazons, Trojans, and Persians in the Stoa Poikile (David Castriota)
    • 9. Notes of the Subject of the Ilissos Temple Frieze (Randall L. B. McNeill)
    • 10. "Periklean" Cult Images and Their Media (Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway)
    • 11. Athena at Pallene and in the Agora of Athens (Evelyn B. Harrison)
  • The Periklean Akropolis
    • 12. The Parthenon and the Temple of Zeus at Olympia (Jeffrey M. Hurwit)
    • 13. The Parthenon Frieze and Perikles' Cavalry of a Thousand (Ian Jenkins)
    • 14. Alkamenes' Prokne and Itys in Context (Judith M. Barringer)
    • 15. Interpretations of Two Athenian Friezes: The Temple on the Ilissos and the Temple of Athena Nike (Olga Palagia)
  • The Legacy of Periklean Athens
    • 16. Alpheos to the Orontes: An Unusual Echo of the Pheidian Zeus at the Syrian Port of Seleukia Pieria (Cornelius C. Vermeule III)
    • 17. Kosmetai, the Second Sophistic, and Portraiture in the Second Century (Eve D'Ambra)
    • 18. A Rhetorical Perikles (W. Martin Bloomer)
    • 19. On Some Motives Supposed Present in Self-Portraits in Pheidias and Others (Creighton Gilbert)
    • 20. Early Photography and the Reception of Classical Antiquity: The Case of the Temple of Athena Nike (Peter J. Holliday)
  • The Legacy of Jerome J. Pollitt
    • 21. Greek Art and Culture since Art and Experience in Classical Greece (Elizabeth A. Meyer and J. E. Lendon)
  • Works Cited
  • About the Contributors
  • Subject Index

Judith M. Barringer is Professor of Greek Art and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh.

Jeffrey M. Hurwit is Professor of Art History and Classics at the University of Oregon.


Jerome Jordan Pollitt earned his B.A. from Yale College in 1957 and his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1963 under the direction of Otto Brendel. He returned to Yale to begin his teaching career and spent the next thirty-six years instructing undergraduate and graduate students in Classical and Hellenistic Greek art and archaeology.


Rising through the ranks at Yale, he was promoted to full professor in 1973 and held his first endowed chair, the John M. Schiff Professorship of Classical Archaeology and History of Art, from 1990 to 1995. In 1995 he was named Sterling Professor of Classical Archaeology and the History of Art, another illustrious chair that he held until his retirement from teaching in 1998, when he was granted emeritus status. It is a mark both of the esteem in which was held by his colleagues and of his own dedication to his university that during his career at Yale he held numerous leadership posts, including Chair of Classics, Chair of History of Art, and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.


Jerry Pollitt's many books and articles reflect a remarkably broad range of interests and expertise and exemplify an uncommon interdisciplinary and humanistic approach to the field. For four decades he has been perhaps the most outstanding representative of an increasingly rare breed: the art historian/archaeologist who is completely conversant with Greek, Latin, and the ancient written sources. Indeed, his published dissertation, "The Ancient View of Greek Art," offers a compendium of, and commentary upon, the ancient texts on ancient art, the closest thing we have to an art history written by the Greeks and Romans themselves.


With his interest in what the Greeks thought and wrote about their own art, Pollitt pioneered and anticipated interest in the viewer's experience of art, a subject that has recently begun to occupy archaeologists and historians of ancient art more and more. Other publications include collections of translated sources on Greek art and Roman art, which are not only useful to the specialist but are also especially illuminating for the student and layman. Furthermore, these works also reflect another extraordinary aspect of his work and interests: his training and publications in both Greek and Roman art. Such ambidexterity is rare.


Perhaps his most dramatic contributions to the field(s) of Classical Archaeology and Ancient Art History are his books, Art and Experience in Classical Greece (1972) and Art in the Hellenistic Age (1986). The first marked a watershed moment in the history of the field by elegantly and succinctly introducing and applying the concept of cultural context to the study of Classical Greek art (ca. 480-323 B.C.). The second extended this method to the notoriously complex and unwieldy Hellenistic period (ca. 323-31 B.C.), with dazzling results. Both of these publications are "classics" in the field and are regularly assigned as textbooks in classrooms. Perhaps more important, they also make excellent reading for specialist and nonspecialist alike, offering thoughtful and elegant examinations of two of the richest and most productive periods of human history.


His joint appointment in Classics and History of Art at Yale University testifies to his versatility and breadth, as do his numerous professional duties and honors, which straddle the increasingly (or has it always been?) blurry divide between Classical Archaeology and Ancient Art History. He was Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Archaeology from 1973 to 1977, served on the advisory boards of both the Art Bulletin (1984-1998) and the American Journal of Archaeology (1986-1992), and was Chairman of the Publications Committee of the American School of Classical Studies from 1982 to 1985. His honorary lectureships as Howland Lecturer at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in 1980; Thompson Lecturer for the Archaeological Institute of America in 1991; Hilldale Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin in 1993; and Townsend Lecturer at Cornell University in 1995 also attest to this range.


His honors at Yale include the William Clyde DeV ane Medal from the Yale Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for distinguished scholarship and undergraduate teaching in 1984 and the prestigious Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal awarded by the Alumni Association of the Yale Graduate School for scholarship, teaching, and academic administration. Moreover, his extraordinary contributions to the profession have been internationally recognized by his election as Honorary Member of The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies in London in 1997 and as Mitglieder of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut in Berlin in 1998, two of the highest honors that any classicist can receive.


Philologist and archaeologist, Hellenist and Romanist, archaeologist and art historian, academic and now novelist, Jerry Pollitt has offered the very best of critical inquiry and sound scholarship to the profession for some forty years. His undergraduate and graduate courses at Yale on various topics of Classical and Hellenistic Greek art are justifiably legendary. His lectures vividly combined humor, clarity, and above all, erudition worn lightly and stylishly. His graduate seminars were engaging explorations of fairly broad categories, such as Greek vase painting, reflective of his broad range and depth of knowledge. One of the most successful undergraduate lecture courses at Yale was "Periklean Athens," the brainchild of Jerry Pollitt, Don Kagan, and the late John Herington—archaeologist, historian, and philologist, three colleagues, three friends. The course's interdisciplinary scope and integrated approach embodied the cultural context method that Pollitt embraced in his scholarship and enabled this trio to share their knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, this period of cultural achievement with several generations of undergraduates and their fortunate graduate teaching assistants. To all of his courses he brought dedication, wit, knowledge, and humanitas.


The collection of essays offered here by students and colleagues of Jerry Pollitt is devoted to the topic of Periklean Athens, defined quite broadly beginning with its formative stages at the close of the Persian Wars, which is, in fact, where the Yale course began, through its proper period from Perikles' ascendancy in Athens to his death in 429. The essays in the volume go on to consider the impact of Perikles and Periklean Athens on the Romans and the reception of Periklean Athens and its cultural achievements in later periods.


Appropriately, Donald Kagan begins this collection with a consideration of Perikles' military strategy and his performance as strategos. Perikles has been defended and criticized by both ancient and modern writers for his performance as general, and Kagan offers a review and reassessment of Perikles' strategy before and during the Peloponnesian War, concluding that its linear quality and Perikles' lack of perspicacity about warfare ultimately harmed the Athenian cause.


John Oakley, Susan Matheson, Jenifer Neils, and Alan Shapiro offer explorations of various topics in vase painting. John Oakley takes up the topic of funerary customs in Early Classical Athens and their manifestation in painted form on an Athenian bail oinochoe, which is unique in providing us with the sole visual depiction from the ancient Greek world of the deposition of a corpse in a coffin. Oakley argues that bail oinochoai, predecessors of Classical white-ground lekythoi, should be recognized as another class of funerary vessel. Susan Matheson sheds light on Early Classical and Classical Athenian vase paintings of warriors' departures. Reading such scenes together with literature and related depictions in their historical context, Matheson explains them as revelatory of the role of the ephebe in the polis and links them to the concept of Periklean ethos. The rare depiction of Elpis (Hope) in Pandora's jar is the subject of Jenifer Neils' paper, which looks at the only previously identified depiction of this subject, dating to the mid fifth century B.C., and then identifies two more examples. The myth of Pandora was clearly of importance to Periklean Athens—it decorated the base of the Athena Parthenos statue housed in the Parthenon—and Neils concludes her essay with a consideration of the myth's significance. Women and the trouble they cause as reflected in Greek myth also form the topic of Alan Shapiro's essay as he examines depictions of Helen in Attic vase painting, sculpture, and literature from ca. 490 to 420 B.C. As Shapiro demonstrates, vase painters provide surprisingly sympathetic portrayals of Helen, and his sensitive readings reveal keen psychological insight on the part of Classical vase painters.


The Stoa Poikile in the Athenian Agora is the subject of three contributors to this volume: John Boardman, Mark Stansbury-O'Donnell, and David Castriota, who each consider different aspects of the famed mural paintings that once adorned the Stoa's walls. Boardman begins with the relationship between painted vases and Polygnotos' mural paintings at Delphi, then moves to the Stoa Poikile paintings, with special emphasis on the Marathon scene as described by Pausanias. By means of extant vases, Boardman addresses certain elements of the Marathon painting's composition and character. Stansbury-O'Donnell turns his attention to the arrangement of the paintings based on Pausanias' account and the recent excavations at the Stoa and also speculates about later modifications to the original organization. Stansbury-O'Donnell then broadens his view to consider the role of the paintings in the career and chronology of the painter Polygnotos and suggests that Polygnotos' political views may have shaped his creative production. In his essay on the Stoa Poikile, David Castriota focuses on the subjects of the paintings: the battle of Marathon, the Amazonomachy, the Ilioupersis, and the purported battle of Oinoe. He draws on literary evidence to propose that the paintings formed a coherent thematic program designed to underscore similarities between Persians, Amazons, and defeated Trojans and to glorify Greek achievements. With the contributions of Randall McNeill, Brunilde S. Ridgway, and Evelyn B. Harrison, the collection moves to the realm of sculpture, both architectural and freestanding. McNeill takes up the old riddle of the interpretation of the Ilissos temple frieze, which he accepts as dating to the 430s. His careful examination and new observation of details lead him to endorse the view first put forward in the nineteenth century that the frieze depicts scenes from the Ilioupersis, a theme that he views as particularly well suited to the frieze's political and historical context. Brunilde Ridgway and Evelyn Harrison both consider cult statues in Periklean Athens. After refining the definition of "cult image," Ridgway questions the appropriateness of particular media to various cult statues. Bringing in material from other regions to elucidate the Athenian material, she surveys the evidence for marble, chryselephantine, and bronze, highlighting their use and suitability for particular circumstances. Harrison takes up a specific case—the report of Pausanias about cult statues he saw in the temple of Ares in the Athenian Agora—and offers several new proposals regarding the temple's cult statues. This temple, which was constructed at Pallene in the second half of the fifth century and then moved to the Athenian Agora during the Augustan period, was, according to Harrison, originally dedicated to Athena and embellished with a bronze statue of the goddess by Lokros of Paros, reflected in the Athena Giustiniani type. When the temple was moved, a statue of Ares by Alkamenes, familiar to us from the Ares Borghese type, was taken from the Areopagos and paired with the Athena in the temple newly dedicated to Ares.


This traversal through the Athenian Agora leads us to the Athenian Akropolis, where Jeffrey Hurwit explores the Parthenon's architectural and sculptural relation to its immediate chronological predecessor, the Temple of Zeus at Olympia (470-456 B.C.). Tracing a kind of agon between the two buildings in the second half of the fifth century, Hurwit suggests that the Parthenon can be in part considered an artistic and intellectual response to its Olympian predecessor and that the Zeus temple in critical ways responded to the Parthenon in turn. Ian Jenkins reexamines the prominent horsemen on the Parthenon frieze against the background of Perikles' cavalry reform, which resulted in an increase in their numbers. Regarding the disposition of the sculpted horsemen in conjunction with this historical event, Jenkins provides new insights into the design of the frieze and argues that although the frieze surely alludes to the recent new organization of the cavalry, it does so subtly. Judith Barringer explores one of the sculptural dedications on the Athenian Akropolis, the group of Prokne and her son Itys of ca. 430-420, in its physical landscape. Viewed in a visual context replete with allusions to the early history of Athens, the Prokne and Itys dedication was designed, Barringer argues, to inspire and perhaps console contemporary Athenians as they experienced the tragic losses of the Peloponnesian War. In an essay concerning two related architectural sculptures, Olga Palagia revisits the Illisos frieze, discussed by Randall McNeill above, together with the friezes, particularly the east frieze, of the temple of Athena Nike on the Akropolis. Singling out details and offering fresh observations and identifications, Palagia posits iconographical interpretations for the two friezes: like McNeill, she thinks that some of the Ilissos frieze concerns the Ilioupersis but argues that Odysseus' visit to Hades is also included on the slabs, and further suggests that the temple was dedicated to Artemis Agrotera. Palagia sees the birth of Athena on the east frieze of the Athena Nike temple and concludes with a brief consideration of how these related frieze cycles, together with the Parthenon frieze, offered variety in physical disposition and narrative program during the second half of the fifth century.


The following five essays demonstrate the long shadow and profound influence of Periklean Athens in the Roman and post-Classical periods. Cornelius Vermeule presents an echo of Pheidias' Olympian Zeus, famed in antiquity, in a seated marble statue of Zeus of the first or second centuries A.D. from the Roman provincial city of Seleukia Pieria. Eve D'Ambra examines the vexing issue of the role of Greek ideology and cultural trappings in Roman self-definition in her essay on portraits of second-century A.D. Athenian kosmetai. Arguing against conventional notions of "Greek" and "Roman," D'Ambra instead suggests more nuanced readings that acknowledge the cosmopolitanism and complexities of Athenians working and living under Roman rule. Portraiture is also the subject of Creighton Gilbert's contribution, which considers the phenomenon of self-portraiture in the Renaissance. Looking for possible motivations for Renaissance self-portraits, Gilbert reviews an earlier case, the purported self-portrait of Pheidias on the shield of the Athena Parthenos statue reported by Cicero. Martin Bloomer also takes up the issue of portraiture, but in his case, the portrait is a written, not a visual one. Bloomer examines PlutarcM biography of Perikles to reveal a carefully constructed rhetorical account designed to counter critics of Perikles and shape the reception of this historical figure by a skeptical audience. Peter Holliday brings us back to the Athenian Akropolis as he discusses the reception of Classical Antiquity by nineteenth-century photographers and archaeologists. Using the Temple of Athena Nike as a focal point, Holliday explores how the past was put to use for later, more modern concerns.


Finally, Elizabeth Meyer and J. E. Lendon consider another legacy of Periklean Athens: J. J. Pollitt's Art and Experience in Classical Greece. Their provocative essay measures the response to Pollitt's groundbreaking book of 1972 and traces the course of scholarship in Classical Archaeology since then, much of which implicitly takes aspects of Pollitt's innovative approach as starting points. Meyer and Lendon's evaluations assess how well various theories explain why a particular phenomenon occurs in the visual arts at a particular moment and why art changes over time. While Pollitt's legacy may be detected in more recent scholarly trends, especially in the debate over the meaning of "culture," the authors conclude that Pollitt's cultural contextual approach, represented by his reading of Periklean Athens, continues to stand as a necessary and exemplary model of scholarship.


The contributors to this volume are just some of many beneficiaries of Jerome Pollitt's teaching, scholarship, and generosity. Many others have not been able to participate but nonetheless extend their warmest wishes to our honorand. Among these are Susan Alcock, Adolph Borbein, Gail Hoffman, Faith Hentschel, Christine Kondoleon, Amy C. Smith, and Marion True. None have benefited more from Jerry's teaching, guidance, and friendship than the two editors of this volume, which we offer and dedicate to him with profound gratitude.


Judith M. Barringer
New Haven, Connecticut


Jeffrey M. Hurwit
Eugene, Oregon



“These essays are written by a group of prominent and internationally known scholars. Individually and collectively they make an important contribution to the field of ancient art.”
Mary C. Sturgeon, Professor of Classical Art, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


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