Bryn Mawr Classical Review 04.05.44


Karl Schefold, Gods and Heroes in Late Archaic Greek Art. Translated by Alan Griffiths. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Pp. 375; 361 black and white illustrations. ISBN 0-521-32718-0.


Reviewed by H. A. Shapiro, University of Munich.

Karl Schefold's Götter- und Heldensagen der Griechen in der spätarchaischen Kunst (1978) was the second in his series of books on Greek iconography that has now grown to five. The first in the series, Frühgriechische Sagenbilder (1964) appeared soon after in English as Myth and Legend in early Greek Art (1966). It is to be hoped that this splendid new translation by Alan Griffiths, a Hellenist at University College London, will be followed by the remaining three, and sooner rather than later. S.'s books are already indispendible to anyone interested in Greek art and myth for their large and well-chosen selections of illustrations alone. How much better if students without German could also profit from his thoughtful and sensitive commentaries on these images.

This second volume picks up chronologically where its predecessor left off, roughly in the second quarter of the sixth century, and continues to the end of Archaic Greek art, ca. 480. Unlike the next three volumes, which cover Classical and Hellenistic art and are thematically limited (one for myths of the gods; one for the four Urkönige Perseus, Bellerophon, Herakles, Theseus; and one for three epic cycles: Argonauts, Thebes, and Troy), this one attempts to be encyclopaedic for the chronological phase as defined. The organization is quite straightforward, almost hierarchical. About a dozen myths of the gods are grouped at the start, though an occasional hero may appear too (e.g. the Introduction of Herakles to Olympos). Then come the heroes, all treated in accordance with their popularity in Late Archaic art. Thus, the prolific Herakles has 24 separate sub-sections, while Perseus, Bellerophon, and Oedipus are all lumped into one short chapter. The Epic Cycles come last, with more than a dozen from the Trojan saga receiving full treatment.

S.'s concluding chapter, a fairly dense 20 pages, has been, I suspect, the least read part of the book, because unillustrated, but contains a wealth of brilliant insights and synthetic commentary on a variety of topics. These include a breakdown of the Late Archaic into three phases, "epic," "dramatic," and "lyric," which for S. have distinct characteristics in visual narrative and choice of subject. There is also a useful comparison of Attic with non-Attic art, some observations on individual painters, and a discussion focussing on the evolution of the Epic Cycle. Not all philologists may agree with S.'s insistence that the period of Solon was the crucial one for the final composition and writing down of epic poetry, both Homeric and other.

The illustrations are drawn primarily from Attic black- and red-figure, though non-Attic vases, sculpture, and bronzes are included wherever possible. The many textbook vases by Exekias, Euphronios and others are well balanced by less well known but interesting examples. For the scholar there is a full apparatus of footnotes, as well as a handy short commentary on each illustration that leads to more detailed bibliography. For this translation, the notes have been updated with a number of references between 1977 and 1986, by no means exhaustive but welcome nonetheless. In a few instances the picture captions might have been updated as well: fig. 18 is now in the J. Paul Getty Museum; fig. 155 is now in the Berlin Antikenmuseum; fig. 300-301 is now in the Metropolitan Museum; and fig. 318 is in the Sackler Museum (not Fogg) at Harvard.