Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reasoning: Greek History Review #5, the Minoan Palace Culture

I found (what I deem to be) a fascinating article on the emergence of the Palace culture in the Aegean. The article is called "The Emergence of the State in the Prehistoric Aegean" [1] written by John F. Cherry [2]. The article is both methodologically reasonable and provides a persuasive case for the problems with and conclusions that may be drawn from Minoan archaeology. However, I am no expert on early (or really any) Minoan culture and if anyone has a perspective on the article, I would love to hear your comments.

Cherry tries to balance between a comparative historical approach and while not generalizing the comparison so far that it yields no useful results. He argues that Aegean provides a situation within a small area in which there were multiple cycles of complex societies in which the early society completely collapsed before the next cycle (Cherry 18). He explains that it is unusual for scholars (or was in the mid-1980s) to do so, and "the lack of incentive is no doubt attributable to the feeling that there are simply too many real differences, both in general structure and particular detail, between the political systems of the Classical world and those of the Bronze Age for a unified analytical framework to be anything other than superficial" (Cherry 19). He balances against the "too much writing both about Greek Bronze Age states and about the later poleis has been bedevilled by the assumption that they are simply sui generis and thus cannot stand in comparison with other institutions" [3] (Cherry 24).

He has two aims: first, to crystalize the analysis around the central concept of the state in order to understand changes in the archeological record and second to distill a long history of analysis in different fields in order to place the 'polities of the Minoan and Mycenean worlds in the broader contests they demand" (Cherry 24).

Historical Analysis
According to Cherry, there are a number of different factors that are often included in the explanation for ancient state formation, including agriculture, the nature of the earlier settlements, etc but there are a large group of similar societies that did not develop into states (e.g. place-like cultures). Cherry's question, then, is what makes the Minoan settlements, and specifically Crete, develop unlike other areas with similar circumstances (Cherry 21-23).

The first major change is the shift from the subsistence basis of the economy in the Neolithic to the cultivation of the grape vine and the olive tree (Cherry 24) and the "secondary products revolution" using livestock for "milk, wool, riding. traction, and pack transport" (Cherry 25) rather than solely for meat. However, although this certainly boloster the economic base, it cannot be sufficient for the creation of a palatal society because many places  experienced this "secondary products revolution" and did not become full civilizations (Cherry 26-27).

Another problem with the traditional model of understanding the rise of Minoan civilization is that scholars and archaeologists usually assume a slue period of growth over 2 millennia that lead to the emergence of palace culture, including a culture of "proto-palaces." However, according to Cherry, there is little evidence of this slow growth, especially because more recent excavations and analysis shows the "proto-palaces" to be small villages rather than single manors (Cherry 27-29). This points to a quicker development, but there is little evidence of this developmental phase (Cherry 33).

One of the unique things about the evidence of Minoan society is a lack of defensive walls a militaristic culture. This lead to the dominant "'consensus' model of palace origins, in which the palaces are seen as the focal points of activities contributing to the general welfare" (Cherry 33). However, as Cherry points out, "Rather than asking 'What services did Minoan rulers provide for society', perhaps the question should be inverted: 'In spite of the fact that their activities serve their own ends, how did the elite establish and maintain their control?' No ruler can hope to retain power without using the stick as well as the carrot" (Cherry 34). So if there was not a militarism of direct force, ther must have been a strong ideological basis for the rule, although I think cherry goes too far when he compares it to the Augustan ideological reforms (Cherry 35).

The final point that Cherry makes is that the location of Crete, with easy trade-routs to the established cultures in the east might have provided the necessary edge for the development of an organized and bureaucratic palatal society (Cherry 36) based more on wealth and diplomatic contacts than military might.

  1. Early on in the article, Cherry addresses the problem with the anachronism and problematic model connoted by the word "state" and explains it as such: " The state can be defined as a powerful, complex, permanently instituted, system of centralised political administration; it exercises sovereignty in carrying out basic political functions (e.g. maintaining territorial rights and internal order, or making and executing decisions regarding group action) and its authority in these matters is buttressed by sovereignty in the use of force within its jurisdiction. States are also societies with relatively complex and specialised administrative organisation, involving hierarchically ordered personnel who perform specialised administrative task and make decisions" (Cherry 23).
  2. Cherry, John F. "The Emergence of the State in the Prehistoric Aegean," The Cambridge Classical Jounral: Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society. No. 210 (New Series, No. 30). 1984. p18-28.
  3. While I found myself banging my head against the wall in classes listening to wind-bag history majors making absurd claims comparing Athenian metics to 19th century Eastern European emigrants and subsequently decided that all comparative historical claims were totally bogus for the Ancient World, I realized that Cherry has a point. Restricting comparisons by location and period, as well as critically evaluating the comparative frameworks, could provide useful information that might not arise from avoiding comparative methodology entirely.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Appetitive: Roman Coins and Akkadian Epics

Just some fun things for the eyes and ears of classicists over the weekend, before some analysis on the formation of Minoan Palace society tomorrow.

For anyone who is a fan of BBC's time team or Roman history in Britain, the British Museum has digitized photos and information for it's collection of Republican Roman coinage. It is pretty fabulous. I highly recommend a look.

To feast the ears, The Ancient World Online has posted a collection of recordings of Ancient Akkadian Epics. Excitingly, for anyone who took a general ancient history class in high school or college, the recordings include the Codex of Hamerabi and the Epic of Gilgamesh. Enjoy!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Appetitive: The Sound of Ancient Greek

There is a fabulous sample of Greek pronunciation (of both poetry and prose) online. Since I would like to improve my Greek pronunciation significantly before graduate school. Propertius II directed me to The Sound of Ancient Greek. Stefan Hagel, the speaker, uses pitch accents as well as indicating the type of phrase (e.g. interrogative, declaratory) in tone and pitch. It's fabulous. I listened to the messenger speech from Aeschylus' Agamemnon and the introduction to Plato's Symposium just this morning; they are great. Enjoy!

Hagel uses one of the same texts that I am trying to read through, Vox Graeca: The Pronunciation of Classical Greek. Maybe my Greek will sound like that someday!
Vox Graeca: The Pronunciation of Classical Greek

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Appetitive: Update on Polytonic Greek and Other Geekery

So I originally had a lot of trouble with my polytonic Greek for Windows, as detailed in my previous blogpost. This is a problem that I have finally rectified. I have rectified the problem through the simple instructions for polytonic Greek on The Campvs. So I am going to write out a new version of the instructions, now for Windows XP and Windows 7 that are much easier and do not require any downloads or any dead keys (yay!).

Windows XP
  1. Go to the Control Panel
  2. Double click on Regional and Language Options
  3. Click on the Languages Tab
  4. Click on the Details button. 
  5. Click on the Add button on the Settings tab.
  6. Select Greek from the Input language list.
  7. Click to check the box next to "keyboard." Select Polytonic Greek from the drop down list. Click Ok.
  8. Back on the Settings tab, click on the Key Settings button. 
  9. Click on the Switch between input languages line of text. Click on the Change Key Sequence button and then select one of the two key sequences. Click on the Ok buttons all the way through to save your changes.
Windows 7
  1. Go to the Control Panel.
  2. Click on Clock, Language, and Region.
  3. Click on Change Keyboards or Other Input Methods under Region and Language.
  4. Click on the Keyboards and Languages tab.
  5. Click the Change Keyboards Button.
  6. Click the Add button on the General tab.
  7. Click the + on next to the word Greek and click to check the box next to Polytonic.
  8. Click Ok to save your changes.
See the cheat sheet for the ways to make all of the different accents on The Campvs.

For some more cool tech stuff, The Campvs wrote a piece on how to configure a flash drive in order to organize your scholarship and read words in Ancient Greek here.

Another fascinating option for typing Greek on a website. The two options are Keyman Web and a website that transforms beta code into unicode.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Reasoning/Appetitive: Cerinthus Reports on the Dipylon Vase

A few days ago I posted a blog about the Dipylon Vase, or rather vases (the amphora and the krater). In the process of doing so I spent a long time looking for a close up of the burial scene. I eventually found one. What I did not realize was that one had arrived in my email a few days previous when Cerinthus posted his Athens pictures. He took this wonderful shot for me when he was standing right next to the Dipylon amphora. I am so incredibly jealous:
Cerinthus' photo: Dipylon Vase (amphora) close-up
Although the lights of the museum obscure two of the figures, the pictures shows the incredible detail of the patterns on the vase and the gestures of the figures. This photo inspires me to ask a few more questions that I could not see to ask in the smaller versions:
  1. Who are the figures under the body? Are they the family of the deceased?
  2. Are the two that are sitting on the ground (under the body) wearing skirts, and if they are, what does this this say about the gender of the mourners who are standing around the body. Should this indicate something about the gender composition of burials or this particular burial?
  3. Why is one of the figures under the vase not in a typical mourning position? Who is he and what is his roll in this prothesis?
If anyone has an answer to these questions, whether a tentative answer or a solid one, please post a comment or email me.

Update 10/28/10
Cerinthus mentioned to me that not only are the figures under the table different from the rest of the figures, but the figures immediately on each side of the body are gesturing slightly differently than than those behind them. These two figures are lifting the sides of a canopy. The canopy is a common trope in the Geometric prothesis, according to the U Texas website. The Grove Encyclopedia of Classical Art and Architecture refers to it as "the chequered shroud is lifted to reveal the deceased on the bier" in the article on the Dipylon Master [1]. My assumption, is that the figures closest to the body are the family of the deceased, as they often are on these types of vases. However, if anyone wants to add to this information, or discuss these possibilities for my previous questions, comment or email me.

  1. This link will only work for those of you who have access to the Grove Encyclopedia of Classical Art and Architecture or those of you who are accessing the web from a university or library that has this access.

Appetitive/Reasoning: Landmark Editions and Xenenphon

Looking for the Landmark Herodotus to put in my last blogpost, when I happened upon the newest book in the landmark series, The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander. Although Alexander's campaigns and the Hellenistic world are not my area of expertise or interest, I think the Landmark Series is incredible, and I am glad that they are branching out.

As someone who is not a particularly adept historian, the Landmark Herodotus and Thucydides have been invaluable tools for my classes on the two texts because they provide so much context (and most importantly, maps). As I mentioned in my last blogpost, Robert Strassler, the editor of the Landmark Series, is giving a free talk on Herodotus on May 10th for the Marathon 2500 project (online).
The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War  The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories
The Landmark Xenophon's Hellenika The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander

I have vaguely considered whether or not I would like the Landmark Hellenika (Xenophon) since my wonderful Greek History professor mentioned that Xenophon intended to finish Thucydides' unfinished work. After finishing my thesis on Plato and reading 20 of the 35 dialogues that were attributed to Plato, I decided to read Xenophon's Conversations of Socrates. It seemed to me that I should read the only other surviving work of the once popular genre of the Socratic Dialogue. However, I found that although Xenephon provides interesting fodder for a comparison to Plato, his works lack the character depth, humor, and subtlety of Plato's works and is both stilted and boring.

Most of the humor comes from laughing at Xenephon, whose Socrates feels like a bizarre melding of Socrates' caricatured personality and Xenephon's aristocratic and prudish moralizing. There are places where Socrates inserts phrases such as "and that is how best to run an estate" in a similar way to Aeschylus' insertion of "I lost my little oil bottle" into Euripides' prologues in Aristophanes' Frogs [1]. However, I realize that Xenephon is a valuable historical and literary source, especially because of his version of the Constitution of the Lakedaemonians [2] and his attempt to finish the story of the Peloponnesian Wars.

  1. This is my all-time favorite ancient comedy and the scene I reference is particularly hilarious. I highly suggest it (although definitely read it with a cometary that explains the political references). You can download a free copy of the Greek from Project Gutenberg and a free copy of the English from Project Gutenberg (although I cannot vouch for the quality of the translation).
  2. Which can be found online here or, I think, can be downloaded from Project Gutenberg.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reasoning: Marathon 2500

The Marathon 2500 project celebrates the 2500 year anniversary of the Battle of Marathon. I found this though AWOL this morning. The Project is providing a series of live online lectures (i.e. webinars), for which one can register for free, and ask questions via email.

Paul Cartledge, a wonderful Greek History scholar who specializes in the Spartan history among other things, gives the first lecture. You can download the first lecture here, and supposedly you can download the podcast, although I cannot figure out how (if someone figures it out, please comment and let me know). The only problem with the lecture is that the sound quality is very poor. However, the successive lectures have a significantly better sound quality. The slideshow that accompanied Cartledge's lecture can be found here.

The second lecture is by Peter Krentz and can be found here. I was only able to download it via the RealPlayer extension for Firefox, but there are probably other ways to do this. The website claims that you can download it directly off the site. I know he had a slideshow, but I am not sure how to access it. If anyone figures it out, please comment.

The third lecture will take place on November 10th. It will be given by Victor Hanson and it is entitled "A Soldier's Life." Registration is free and you can listen to the event live and send in questions.

The group has also put together a Herodotus reading group (in English) using the Landmark Herodotus. Robert Strassler, the editor and compiler of the Landmark Series, will also lecture on May 10, 2011.
The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories

Monday, October 25, 2010

Reasoning: Mythology Lesson #1

I just began reading Edith Hamilton's Mythology. I have owned a copy of the book since 5th grade when I first studied mythology, but I am embarrassed to say that I had not opened it until now. I used to prefer D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths which is a wonderful, illustrated book for children. However, as a classicist and someone trying to improve my mythological background, I figured that I should read Mythology as a basic reference and a jumping off point in order to have a coherent background. I also read  The Universe, the Gods, and Men: Ancient Greek Myths, which I spoke about in a blogpost from a few weeks ago, but Jean-Pierre Vernant-- who is wonderful-- provides a limited selection of myths and tries to speak about them in some kind of chronological order lain over mythology. I have realized reading lyric and other classical poets (e.g. Pindar, Propertius) that a strong mythological background is necessary for understanding beyond and apart from good or any commentaries.
 Mythology D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths

Mythological Interpretation of a By-gone Era
Before I began this reading, I was warned that Hamilton provided a sort of stranger perspective to the modern reader, partially because it was written in 1942. However,t his did not prepare me for her attribution of religious rationality and lack of magic to the Hellenic people. I am not in much of a position to comment on the conception of magic because I am not a historian who can define magic as a cultural phenomenon. However, there is a lot of what I personally would describe as magic in Greek mythology, but I see a large amount of overlap between what I consider in literature in mythology to be "magic" and what I consider to be "supernatural." In this particular subject, I have no expertise.

Hamilton does have certain claims that trouble me more (and that trouble comes from a little more of a basis of my education). In the middle of her introduction, Hamilton contends: "the terrifying irrational has no place in classical mythology" (Hamilton 10). Really? My first classics class in college was on Euripides' Bacchae, and the lovely, very old emeritus professor who taught my class began by radically changing my view on Dionysus. He argued that there was sort of a dual view of Dionysus, at least in Athens. In the city and among the elites there was Dionysus the wine god and essentially the god of the symposium. In the rural areas around Athens, Dionysus was a very different god. Not just the god of wine he was, as  my professor put it so fabulously, the god of liquid nature (e.g. wine, milk, honey, etc). He was the god of all growing things and the changeable world of growth: both bountiful and vengeful. Imported from the East and often depicted in Eastern dress and styling (and in many stories, followed by a band of Asiatic women) Dionysus certainly represents the changeable and irrational. So Hamilton's claim seems pretty problematic to me.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Spirited: Notes on My Thesis, #2

I was walking through the corridor at the Getty in an attempt to find the stairs, when I found something amazing. This vase may not look striking at first glance-- it has muted colors and much of the paint has worn off the vase-- but to me, it is absolutely incredible. I will explain the reason behind my awe at such an unimposing object.

Like many Geometric vases, this vase displays a burial scene. On one side of the corpse, there are men with one hand on their heads, indicating mourning, and keeping the other hand behind them. On the other side of the corpse, there are women, shown with two hands on the top of their head, indicating mourning, and possibly, pulling of their hair as a sign of grief. A man and a woman head the procession on each side and touch the body. These are presumably relatives of the deceased and the artist indicates both their relationship and potentially elite status because they are larger than the other figures on the vase. There are two striking and exciting aspects of this depiction:
Athenian Vase from the Getty Villa [1]
  1. The vase differentiates the mourners by gender, and not only are their gestures are different, but men and women stand on opposite sides of the vase. This is exciting because it shows a marked difference from the undifferentiated mourners in Dipylon Vases in my last blogpost.
  2. There are two figures differentiated strongly through gesture from the other figures. I am not an art historian so this may be a little shaky, but I think there is a stronger sense of individualism in these figures than the ones in the Dipylon Vases.
So what does this have to do with either tragedy or Plato, you might ask (since this is called "Notes on My Thesis")? My thesis specifically focused on Plato's criticism of male lament in tragedy and the cultural context for this critique. Although there may be many earlier (I used art history surveys rather than vases  to analyze the trend of representations of mourning), this is the earliest vase that I know of which indicates not only a strict division between the sexes during prothesis [2], but also signals that there was a difference in the ritualized lamentation of women and men. Although the gestures certainly serve as a marker for the genders, the skirted women and the bare legs of the men provides a sufficient  indicator of this difference and it is only reinforced by the differences in the stances of mourning.

  1. This is "Storage Jar with a Funerary Scene," a terracotta vase made in Athens between 710-700 BCE. Photographed by Sulpicia III.
  2. The prothesis was the parading of the body as it was mourned by the family before burial.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Reasoning: Useful Internet Miscillany

Horatian Meter: I am still continuing on my quest to read Horace. Propertius II has finally succeeded in convincing me that meter is both awesome and useful, which has lead me to scan the poems I am reading. Horace employs a variety of lyric meters that he borrowed from Alcaeus and Sappho. Since I am a fairly new student to the study of meter (although I did some dactyllic hexameter in high school Greek), I do not tend to have a sense of what lyric meters go with which poem. However, I found a great page on Diotima which provides the background for and explanations of Horatian meter.

Digital Papyrology Navigator: A friend recently sent me a blogpost from AWOL: The Ancient World Online, which is a fabulous site that appears to compile vast amounts of classics data for online access. One of it's recent entries talks about the updated version of the Digital Papyrology Navigator, which allows classicists and friends to digitally search for information in papyri and suggest emendations. The blog by the people who run this awesome resource also will probably be pretty cool.

Art Index [1]: After stumbling across a semi-dormant blog called "What do I know...?," I realized that I should create a better system for organizing the art that I discuss on Platonic Psychology. So I created a new page, An Index of (Mostly) Art on Platonic Psychology, which organizes the art I have discussed by the period to which it belongs. The page is still in progress because I have not figured out a comprehensive system, but there is also a list of archaeological sites on the bottom, mostly with pictures from Cerinthus' adventures around Greece.

  1. Placing a feature I created after these two fabulous resources is not trying to compare my work with that of greater digital monuments, it was just a convenient place to introduce the topic. No arrogance intended.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Reasoning: Sophistocation and Idiots in Greek Art

In my first year of college I took an interdisciplinary survey course on the classical world. The class had a lecture component, in which professors gave lectures, primarily in their own field, one some aspect of the Greek or Roman world in vaguely chronological order. One of the early lectures was by an Art History professor who I will call William, since I cannot come up with an adequate late Republican pseudonym, and it concerned one of the most famous works in early Greek art: the Dipylon Vase (750-700 BCE).
Dipylon Vase from this website [1].
After the lecture, I thought to myself what an ugly vase and what a stupid lecture. Little did I know that not only would I ultimately grudgingly vindicate the ideas in this lecture that I initially excoriated, but I would also write a chapter of my thesis on the funerary images like that prominently figured on the Dipylon Vase (close up below).
A close-up of the burial scene from this website [2].

Willaim's Claim: In his lecture William claimed (almost verbatim) was that the Greeks had perspective, they just were not employing it because it was not the proper means to the end they were trying to achieve. More infuriated by the wording of the claim than anything, but specifically incensed that a tenured art history professor was allowed to make such a bogus claim.

It was not until now that I realized what he meant. He was not making the claim that the Dipylon Master [3] could achieve Renaissance-style perspective, but rather that the art of this time period had it's own particular style of representation and visual formula that it employed to depict certain recognizable images to its audience. This pottery conveyed the events in a recognizable and stylized manner because it effectively communicated to the audience, possibly more effectively than a more realistic attempt. For evidence of this, when I decided to write this blogpost, I was scouring the internet for images and happened upon the Dipylon Krater (below) and it took me about half-an-hour before I realized that this was not the Dipylon Vase which I was seeking.
Dipylon Krater (700-750 BCE) from this website [5].
Obviously I am not saying that any attempt at an accurate depiction would have been particularly life-like, especially given the almost complete absence of figure drawing in Submycenean and Protogeometric art (Hurwit 53-59) [4]. My contention is that the oddities of representation, such as the three-quarter legs, the full-frontal torso, and the profile head on the mourners, has a stylistic purpose rather than evidence of crude, "bad" art.

The tropes and stylization in this art is actually something of a bonus for scholars/students like me who are looking not for artistic sophistication, but rather evidence of burial practices. In a future blogpost, I will show images of the geometric vase that I found on display at the end of a hallway at the Getty that provides incredible evidence for early differentiation of the genders in mourning practices which is not shown in either of the Dipylon vases in this blogpost.

  1. This picture is from the University of Texas Webpage. Because there are two Dipylon Vases, this one is sometimes known as the Dipylon Amphora.
  2. I found a clean, but rather small close-up from a humanities blog. Below is a much clearer close up of a similar scene from the Dipylon Krater.
  3. Close up of burial on Dipylon Krater from this website [5].
  4. The Dipylon Master is the name given to the artist who painted the Dipylon Amphora.
  5. For a more in-depth but still succinct description of the evolution of art from the collapse of the Mycanean Palace system through the Geometric period, see Jeffrey Hurwit's The Art and Culture of Early Greece, pages 53-70.
  6. Both pictures of the Dipylon Krater are from the Glendale Community College webpage.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Reasoning: The Iconography of Greek Theater #9, Oliver Taplin

Oliver Taplin was a fascinating character. He looked very much like a typical British professor, but in precisely the opposite fashion to Alan Shapiro. While Alan looked like the prim British professor, Oliver was not disheveled, but certainly looked like he had taken more care of his work than himself. However, his appearance only added to the genuine British charm that he had. He had a wonderful exuberance that was contagious and filled the whole room.

He is a professor emeritus at Magdalen College, University of Oxford and he has written a plethora of incredible books and articles, including The Stagecraft of Aeschylus which I read about half of for my class on the Agamemnon and was fortunate enough to receive as a birthday gift this year. Two books he edited which I would love to read are The Pronomos Vase and its Context and Pots & Plays: Interactions between Tragedy and Greek Vase-painting of the Fourth Century B.C..
The Stagecraft of Aeschylus: The Dramatic Use of Exits and Entrances in Greek Tragedy (Clarendon Paperbacks) The Pronomos Vase and its Context Pots & Plays: Interactions between Tragedy and Greek Vase-painting of the Fourth Century B.C. (J. Paul Getty Museum)

Taplin opened his talk by explaining that he would be considering three questions.
  1. What was the importance of traveling players in Ancient Greece?
  2. How did those traveling players influence art?
  3. Did traveling players manage to reach a non-Greek audience [1]?
Taplin started with the first question. He explained that scholarship has, for centuries, analyzed the unique Athenianness of theater. According to Taplin, this ignores a portion of the extant evidence that we have for theater. According to Taplin, the earliest evidence that we have for re-performance of plays comes from Herodotus, who explained that one of the penalties on Phrynikos for his play The Sack of Miletus [2] was that it was banned from re-performance.

Beside this, Aeschylus spent time a Heiron's court in Syracuse, both before he wrote the Oresteia [3] and during the end of his life (in fact, he died there [4]). Hieron, the tyrant of Syracuse at the time, commissioned a play at the founding of Aetna, The Women of Aetna [5]. Euripides died in Macedonia and may have written the Bacchae there [6].

Furthermore, vases containing theatrical imagery have been found in burials at Phanagoria, Cyrene, Korinth, Olbia, and Ruvo. In the non-Greek areas, scholars often dismiss the pots and assume that people just liked the pictures. Taplin, and especially Carpenter, seek to challenge this assumption.

According to Taplin, between Hieron and Alexander the Great, there was an increase in the theater outside of the festival of Dionysus at Athens. First, there were rural Dionysias in the outer demes [7]. These were serious cult events in the 5th century. In Republic 475d, Socrates disparages those theater-goers who do not miss any Dionysian in the cities or villages. Demosthenes, according to Taplin, also criticizes Aischenes for going to the lesser theater competitions. Furthermore, actors came from all over the Mediterranean, not just from Athens. Taplin cites Aristedemus from Metapontion as an example [8]. By 440, there were at least five regular theatrical festivals, and there is some evidence for 14 all together, although many of these were not held in traditional stone theaters.

Furthermore, Plato provides evidence of dramatic competition in outside of Athens. In Laws 659b-c, Plato disparages the demos-centric way that the judges decide competitions in Italy and Sicily (i.e. judges were swayed by public opinion). This provides evidence that there was some kind of theatrical competition that took place in these areas. Taplin argues that the actors in these competitions were probably from traveling troupes, and that these performers would respond to invitations to various festivals. He hypothesizes that there would be three actors, with a possible fourth actors playing the chorus. In the third century, according to Taplin, choruses would travel with the bands, but probably not before that. He notes, in reference to Kowalzig, that the Dithyramb was part of Hellenic culture, and it makes sense that choruses of all types would be part of civic coherence not just in Athens, but also Magna Graeca.

Taplin claims that the vases from Syracuse, Lukania, and other places in the Greek world serve as material evidence of traveling troupes [9]. Tombs in around Magna Graeca contain vases with theatrical imagery that appear to be made outside of Athens.

At the end, Taplin addressed Carpenter's case for Greek plays in the Italic areas of Apulia. Taplin agreed with Carpenter, saying that 10% of the dramatically related vases in Italy come from Ruvo. However, Taplin believed that the Pronomos Vase must have been bought on the secondhand market and brought back to Ruvo, possibly by someone who got to see the theatrical competition in Athens and bought it as a keepsake.

  1. This is the same subject, on a larger scale, as Carpenter's talk. Near the end, Taplin directly responded to Carpenter, and he agreed with everything except Carpenter's discussion of the Pronomos Vase.
  2. See this in Herodotus' Histories section 6.21. However, I think it's important to note that there is no indication in this that the plays would be re-performed outside of Athens, but also no indication that they would only be reprised in Athens. For context, Phrynikos' play, the Sack of Miletus (not extant), was the last play that depicted an real, current, tragic event (with the possible exception of the Persians because I am not sure of the comparative dates and also because the Persians was slightly different in tone and perspective). It was a play about the devastating Sack of Miletus and, according to Herodotus, the entire audience burst into tears. For causing such a disturbance, Phryikos was fined and the play was banned from ever being performed again.
  3. There are some fascinating similarities in the description of fire/gold in Pindar's Olympian I and the opening speech of the Agamemnon, but I will save this discussion for another time.
  4. The story of Aeschylus' death has functioned somewhat as an urban myth and has even invaded modern popular culture. I have heard two versions of the story. Both are premised on Aeschylus being bald. The first version says that as Aeschylus was walking along the beach in Sicily, an eagle mistook his bald head for a tortoise and dropped a rock on it to break it open. The second version, which I believe is at some point retold by Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard on NCIS, is that an eagle, carrying a turtle, mistakes Aeschylus' head for a rock and drops the turtle on it to crack open the shell. Whether he died in one of these ways or not, it makes for a great story.
  5. All that remains is a fragment.
  6. There is a wonderful moment about this in Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy, but I cannot seem to find it. If anyone knows where it is, comment or email me.
  7. A deme is much like a village that is part of the polis.
  8. I am not sure about the spelling on either of these names.
  9. A vase depicting the Medea shows the version of the story in which Medea slaughters her children. According to Taplin (citing Mastronarde), this was not a version of the myth in popular culture until Euripides' version.

Reasoning: Google Will Provide Access to the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in a cave in the 1940s, provide vital documentary evidence for life in Biblical times and the advent of Christianity. Previously, the access to these scrolls was restricted, but now Google is partnering with the Israel Antiquities Authority to upload clear photographs of the scrolls as well as an English translation that will be accessible for free online.
From the Yahoo! News article

Read the article here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Reasoning: The Gela Krater and Corrections

My apologies for not posting the notes from Oliver Taplin's talk yet. They are taking longer than I expected due to the need to decipher my notes and having various other chores to which I must attend. It will be up within the next 36 hours (and probably fairly soon).

The Gela Krater [1]
Today was the last day that the Gela Krater was housed at the Getty Villa and my mom and I ventured out to see it, as well as to wander around the other exhibits. The Gela Krater was featured in an exhibit that showed vases with depictions of scenes from the Trojan War, and primarily scenes from Homer's Iliad.

The Gela Krater is an Athenian-made krater which archaeologists discovered in Gela, a city in South Sicily. According to the Getty Website, it is "attributed to the Niobid Painter (Greek, active about 470–445 B.C.), [and] this monumental red-figured volute krater was produced in Athens between 475 and 450 B.C." (Getty's Press Release).

One of the great things about the Getty having immense amounts of money is that they can create mechanisms for conservation and protection and give them away to places that need them. For example, the Gela Krater now has a new display case that will help protect it in the case of an earthquake:
"Before installing the Gela Krater at the Getty Villa, the Museum's conservation team collaborated with conservators from Agrigento's Museo Archeologico Regionale to construct a custom seismic isolation base and pedestal.When the krater returns to Sicily, it will be accompanied by its new pedestal and earthquake-resistant mount for display in its home museum" (Getty's Press Release).
A similar and even more impressive project is MEGA, a computer network to catagorize and mark artifacts and systematize their protection which I discussed in an earlier blogpost.

So when I was listening to the lectures at Artists and Actors Conference, I heard a lot of talk about volute kraters (a particular shape of large vase, demonstrated by the Pronomos Vase). I misheard this as a "volume" krater, but it is actually volute krater. My apologies.

  1. © 2010. The J. Paul Getty Trust. All rights reserved.

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.