Saturday, October 16, 2010

Reasoning: Iconography of Greek Theater #8, T.H. Carpenter

The second to last talk on that Friday was T.H. Carpenter. I am sure that I have read Carpenter before in some class, but I cannot remember. T.H. Carpenter teaches at Ohio University, and his work focuses on Greek art. His most recent work is on South Italian vase painting and the archaeology of Apulia.

My description of both T.H. Carpenter and his talk is not as vibrant as the others. this is because I spent most of the talk trying not to fall asleep. This is not because Capenter was boring-- his talk was actually quite fascinating. However, I had been up since 6am and I had not consumed any food or caffeine for quite a few hours by the time he got up to speak, so my notes were not as easy to interpret as usual.

If any of the factual information in this section is incorrect, I apologize. This is not the fault of Carpenter, but rather the fault of an inaccuracy in my notes or understanding. If anyone notices anything, comment or email me.
Map of Apulia from this website.

Carpenter's talk primarily concerned the Italiac settlements in Apulia (as opposed to the the Greek settlements in that region, like Taranto). He explained that although there was certainly an theater loving population in the Greek settlements [1]. However, Carpenter makes the surprising case that the Italian settlements also enjoyed Greek theater. There was something in Carpenter's air-- almost sheepish-- that at first made me want to be skeptical of his claims, but his style was engaging and his logic was persuasive so I ended up agreeing with him in the end.

Apulia is the region in the heel of the Italian boot. Taranto was a Spartan settlement in Apulia and Tarantines were supposedly addicted to theater. In the Laws, Plato talks about the Italian and the Sicilian love of theater (659b-c) when he criticises the demos-lead system for deciding upon the winners of theatrical competitions.The Athenian Stranger, the main character in the Laws, seems to see this as a system which encourages typically hedonistic mentality of those who love theater.

There is a lot of imagery that seems to relate directly to theater found in this area, but most of it was not exported. There was only 1%  of these vases outside Apulia, so market for the vases were probably not to sell in Attica. There are a lot of rich tombs in Ruvo, an Italic city in Apulia, which include vases as well as collections of gold and silver. New evidence [1], as well as the evidence from Plato and others, demonstrates that there was tragedy and comedy in this area. One of the tombs at Ruvo had seven vases, four of which had a relationship to theater. The vases came from between 450 and just after 400, and the theater vases came from around 400 which means that the vases were probably not on the second hand market before they went into the tomb. Some of the vases have Attic dialect which hints that the someone understood enough tow ant the vases in their tomb.

Carpenter's conclusion was that even the Italic settlements must have witnessed the performance of tragedy and comedy. Obviously, this seems problematic as both genres were written and performed in Greek and at tragedy contained both Attic and Doric dialect. Also, for poets such as Aeschylus, the language was elevated and formalized far beyond that of everyday speech. How would those in the Italic settlements be able to understand it? But Carpenter hypothesized that because the vases were both produced in Apulia and buried in tombs there, it seems reasonable to conclude that those who chose to have them in their tombs would have been lovers of theater rather than collectors of pottery they did not understand.

The Pronomos Vase was the only vase in the rich Ruvo tomb that was Attic in origin. Carpenter hypothesized that the vase was commissioned by a person who had fallen in love with theater in Athens and perhaps wanted to bring it back to demonstrate the importance of theater. He explains that the volume krater, the particular shape of the vase, was not popular in Athens, but it was popular in Italy where the vase was found. This became a very contentious topic during the question and answer session. Oliver Taplin among other argued that it was probably bought on the second-hand market, since it seems to be commemorating a victory of a particular poet. I am not sure which side I fall on when considering who commissioned the vase and whether or not it was on the second hand market. However, I do think it is reasonable that some of the more educated and wealthier of the Italic people might know Greek and travel to the Greek settlements for the sake of theater. Rather than to collect the Pronomos Vase in order to demonstrate the importance of theater, it might be a momento of a passion and pasttime of a particular group of elites.

  1. Plato Laws 659b-c.
  2. Oliver Taplin makes this claim in his talk, from which I will post the notes tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment