Abstract: The Un-Heroic in Archaic Greek Art

A review of early scenes depicting episodes from the Epic Cycle confirms what has long been known, that non-Homeric scenes were more common than Homeric ones in archaic art. What is surprising, however, is the emphasis there on “un-heroic” and even sacrilegious episodes – the rape of Kassandra, the murder of Troilos, the death of Astyanax and the suicide of Ajax to name a few - rather than on heroic duels and the like. These “un-heroic” scenes would not have maintained their popularity had they not spoken to the patrons who obtained them. What about the scenes attracted the patrons? Did they have broad moral implications? How might this change our understanding of archaic Greek perceptions of the “heroic?” To address these questions we also have to keep in mind that epic subjects chosen by Cycladic, Laconian and Corinthian artisans are often quite different from those chosen by Attic vase painters.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

G. Ahlberg-Cornell, Myth and Epos in Early Greek Art: Representation and Interpretation (Jonsered, 1992)

M. Anderson, The Fall of Troy in Early Greek Poetry and Art (Oxford, 1997)

S. Lowenstam, As Witnessed by Images: The Trojan War Tradition in Greek and Etruscan Art (Baltimore, 2008)

A. Snodgrass, Homer and the Artists (Cambridge, 1998)

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