Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.08.04

Judith M. Barringer, Jeffrey M. Hurwit, Periklean Athens and Its Legacy: Problems and Perspectives.   Austin, TX:  University of Texas Press, 2005.  Pp. xxi, 306; ills. 158.  ISBN 0-292-70622-7.  $55.00.  

Reviewed by Julia L. Shear, University of Glasgow (
Word count: 2495 words

Table of Contents

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This volume of essays edited by Judith M. Barringer and Jeffrey M. Hurwit suffers from something of a split personality. Both the book's cover and the publisher's information sheet ('the specially commissioned essays ... offer a fresh, innovative panorama of the art, architecture, history, culture, and influence of Periklean Athens') suggest that these essays collectively provide a re-evaluation of Periklean Athens. Upon opening the book, however, the reader discovers that it is written in honour of Jerome Jordan Pollitt and is, in fact, a festschrift complete with the honorand's photograph and bibliography (xii-xiv) and the usual laudatory remarks typical of the genre (e.g. 'I cannot possibly hope to tell Jerry Pollitt anything new about Periklean Athens, a subject in which he is far better versed than I' and 'set against his independence of mind, his appetite for painstaking historical inquiry, and his elegant simplicity of expression, this essay serves only as a dim reflection of the luminous powers of Jerome Pollitt's work' (111, 201)). As the list of essays at the end of this review suggests, the audience of this book is (in addition to the honorand) primarily other scholars, particularly specialists on Attic vase painting, Greek sculpture, and, to a lesser degree, Athenian architecture. Several essays are worth flagging because they might not be expected in an essay devoted to Periklean Athens: there are three essays on the Stoa Poikile and its decorative programme; students of the Second Sophistic will want to be aware of the essays by Eve D'Ambra and W. Martin Bloomer, while those interested in the reception of antiquity will not want to neglect Peter J. Holliday's essay. Finally, those interested in Greek society and its rituals will want to look at John H. Oakley's article which publishes in full for the first time the only known representation in Greek vase painting of a corpse being placed in the coffin (although photographs of the vase have previously been published).

The editors' introduction to the volume sets the scenes in two ways: it provides a summary of the honorand's career and scholarly contributions, particularly in the realm of Greek art, and it gives an overview of the contents of the volume. The editors particularly stress Pollitt's scholarship, wit, humanitas, and generosity (xvi, xix), characteristics repeatedly mentioned by the other contributors. The introduction is followed by a single essay, Donald Kagan's re-evaluation of Perikles as a general. Like a number of earlier commentators, he concludes both that Perikles' military reputation is overrated and that Athens could not possibly have won the Peloponnesian War without abandoning the Periklean strategy.

The following twenty essays are divided into four sections: the art of Classical and Periklean Athens, the Periklean Akropolis, the legacy of Periklean Athens, and the legacy of Jerome J. Pollitt. The first four essays in the section on the art of Classical and Periklean Athens concern vase painting. John H. Oakley discusses the hitherto neglected bail oinochoe (a jug with a basket handle), which he identifies as a funeral vessel and the black-figure antecedent of the white-ground lekythoi. The essay contains an extensive discussion of the vase showing a corpse being placed in the coffin and an abbreviated catalogue. Susan B. Matheson looks at images of departing warriors in Attic vase painting between the second quarter and the end of the fifth century B.C. She divides the scenes into two types: hoplites departing for battle or military campaign and ephebes departing for training or the presentation of arms. By reading the latter group rather literally, she suggests that fourth-century ephebic practices were already in use in the fifth century. Jenifer Neils re-examines the only representation of Pandora's pithos containing Elpis. She argues that, in Hesiod's story, Elpis must be false expectation or hope because of her inclusion with the other evils; she also identifies several other possible representations of Elpis. H. A. Shapiro rounds off the essays on vase painting with a discussion of the judgement of Helen in Athenian art. He looks at how painters and sculptors participated in the discussions over Helen's guilt and observes that the vase painters consistently portray Helen in a human and sympathetic light and ignore or suppress versions hostile to her.

The next three essays by John Boardman, Mark D. Stansbury-O'Donnell, and David Castriota all concern the painting programme of the Stoa Poikile. Despite Boardman's observation that 'reconstructing [the paintings of] Polygnotos after Athenian vase scenes is not easy and perhaps wrong' (63), he uses this method to propose a new restoration of the Marathon painting. He also endorses the view that the Oinoe painting actually shows the Plataians arriving at Marathon and posits unattested serious damage as the reason for Pausanias' misidentification as the Athenians fighting the Spartans. On the basis of the largely unexcavated remains, Stansbury-O'Donnell re-evaluates the whole painting programme, its disposition in the building, and the size of the panels. For him, the original programme included only the Amazonomachy, Ilioupersis, and Marathon paintings; the Oinoe painting he identifies as a later addition of the 420s/410s.1 In contrast, Castriota believes that all four paintings were original and he associates the Oinoe painting with the events at Marathon. His main focus, however, is on the feminisation of the Persians and the barbarisation of the Amazons: both feminised Persians and barbarised Amazons form a strong negative portrayal in contrast to the stalwart and selfless Greeks. My overall sense is that our understanding of this monument is not advancing significantly. It can be more productively approached through victory monuments and Athenian patterns of memorialisation. At the same time, proponents of a late date for the Oinoe painting need to explain why the four paintings together form a set of interlocking pendant pairs.

Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway and Evelyn B. Harrison both look at divinities and cults in Periklean Athens (to take the essays slightly out of order). Ridgway discusses whether cult statues were necessary, and she looks at various 'temple statues' in Athens and elsewhere. Harrison focuses on Athena, whose temple at Pallene was moved to the Agora in the Roman period to become the building now known as the Temple of Ares. She argues that the Athena Giustiniani type should be identified as the Athena by Lokros of Paros, and she follows the identification of the Ares Borghese type with the Ares of Alkamenes. Pausanias saw both of these statues in the temple in the Agora.

Both Randall L. B. McNeill and Olga Palagia (again to take the essays slightly out of order) discuss the programme of the Ilissos Temple. McNeill suggests that the sculpture on all four sides should be identified with the sack of Troy, but he offers no contemporary comparisons for the iconography. Palagia re-examines previous identifications, considers the iconography in detail, and tentatively suggests that one side showed Troy taken and a second Odysseus' visit to the Underworld. As the mythological equivalent of the Persian Wars, the Trojan theme might indicate that the temple was dedicated to Artemis Agrotera, whose festival was connected with Marathon. Palagia also conducts a similar re-examine of the sculpture of the Temple of Athena Nike. Like many scholars, she identifies the south frieze as the Battle of Marathon; the west side is a historical battle between Athens and Sparta, while the north side is a mythological battle. The east side she attractively identifies as the birth of Athena. This essay is a classic example of this type of approach.

Located in the section on the Periklean Akropolis, her essay is joined by Jeffrey M. Huwit's piece on the 'competitive "dialogue"' between the Parthenon and the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. Hurwit particularly stresses the Athenian connections of the temple at Olympia. In the next essay, Ian Jenkins returns to the Parthenon frieze and its cavalry as he restates the case for 10 ranks of unequal numbers of riders on its north side.2 Judith M. Barringer considers Alkamenes' extant statue of Prokne preparing to kill her son Itys in the context on the Akropolis where it was erected. She particularly stresses the role of weaving in the story of Prokne and on the Akropolis, and she suggests that the statue group's physical setting 'was charged in multiple ways with the ideas of female preparation for marriage and motherhood' (171). For Barringer, the group is a positive image for women; I wonder: after all, Prokne did kill her son, cook him, and serve him to her husband.

Four essays make up the section on the legacy of Periklean Athens. They begin with Cornelius C. Vermeule III's discussion of several statues and representations of Zeus from or connected with Seleukia Pieria, the port of Antioch on the Orontes. With Eve D'Ambra's piece, we turn to Athens of the Second Sophistic. She examines strategies of 'being Greek under Rome' (or not) by way of three portraits of Athenian kosmetai, the senior officials in charge of the training of the Athenian ephebes; her point of departure is very much R. R. R. Smith's 1998 article on choices in portrait statues.3 She also discusses beards in the second century and particularly Hadrian's beard. W. Martin Bloomer's essay on Plutarch's Life of Perikles continues the focus on this period. Bloomer examines the ways in which Plutarch uses rhetoric and rhetorical techniques to construct a Perikles who is a model of self-composure and restraint, particularly for the young, and to provide lessons for the good and bad reader. This constructed Perikles further emphasises the importance of the literary over the physical.

With Creighton Gilbert's essay, we move into the post-antique world. Focusing particularly on scenes of the Last Judgement, he presents a brief discussion of self-portraits in Medieval and Renaissance art. Cicero's allusion to Pheidias and the shield of his statue of Athena (Tusc. 1.15.34) provides a possible lens for understanding the creation of these self-portraits. Peter J. Holliday's essay turns to the nineteenth century and its relationship to the classical past as seen in a series of early photographs of the Temple of Athena Nike. He particularly stresses the development of photography from an art form to scientific recording and also the ways in which the reception of the Greek past was governed by the concerns, political, cultural, and other, of nineteenth-century Europe.

The final essay in the volume has its own section, the legacy of Jerome J. Pollitt, and it is a curious piece: both an encomium for Pollitt's well-known Art and Experience in Classical Greece published in 1972 and, at the same time, an extraordinarily critical review of the immediate reactions to the book and much subsequent scholarship. From the comfort of the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia, Meyer and Lendon take particular aim at two groups of scholars: one based in Paris and another trained and partially still based in Cambridge. The view is evidently different on the other side of the pond (and here I should come clean: I spent four years in Cambridge as a post-doc). At the end of the day, Pollitt (of course) knows best. That not all these scholars may have had the same interests and intentions as Pollitt and that Pollitt's book, based on 'what were then the best scholarly treatments of the intellectual and religious atmosphere of the periods' (257), might perhaps be out of date (as it is on Greek religion) is not of concern to Meyer and Lendon. The nostalgia of this piece is overwhelming: the old grads, the old alums, have returned to their university and it is not the same as when they were undergraduates. At the same time, their extremely harsh criticism of other scholars sits very ill with the other contributors' repeated emphasis on Pollitt's generosity, humanity, and friendship.

Nostalgia is, perhaps, an appropriate place to end this review. The editors, the authors of the essays, and the readers of this review will probably tell me that a festschrift is about nostalgia, about looking back on a scholarly life well-lived. Yet, at the end of the volume, which I realise most people will not read from cover to cover, my overwhelming sense was one of missed opportunity. The great and the good are well represented here. This book could have been a showcase for the excitement of Athenian culture in the second half of the fifth century B.C., the kind of collection that one gives to young students to show them how fresh and stimulating this material is and why they should choose to work on this period and no other. Instead, we are presented with a book into which scholars will dip for other scholars' work, one which will be used primarily in research libraries. Scholars reading it will have to do much flipping around because the University of Texas Press has placed the notes as endnotes at the end of each essay with a composite bibliography at the end of the volume. Readers may also have to squint a bit at some of the rather small illustrations, but they will find items of use in these pages dedicated to Jerome J. Pollitt.4

Authors and titles of essays:

Judith M. Barringer and Jeffrey M. Hurwit, 'Introduction', pp. xv-xix.

Donald Kagan, 'Perikles as General', pp. 1-9.

John H. Oakley, 'Bail Oinochoai', pp. 13-21.

Susan B. Matheson, 'A Farewell with Arms: Departing Warriors on Athenian Vases', pp. 23-35.

Jenifer Neils, 'The Girl in the Pithos: Hesiod's Elpis, pp. 37-45.

H. A. Shapiro, 'The Judgement of Helen in Athenian Art', pp. 47-62.

John Boardman, 'Composition and Content on Classical Murals and Vases', pp. 63-72.

Mark D. Stansbury-O'Donnell, 'The Painting Program in the Stoa Poikile', pp. 73-87.

David Castriota, 'Feminizing the Barbarian and Barbarizing the Feminine: Amazons, Trojans, and Persians in the Stoa Poikile', pp. 89-102.

Randall L. B. McNeill, 'Notes on the Subject of the Ilissos Temple Frieze', pp. 103-110.

Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway, '"Periklean" Cult Images and Their Media', pp. 111-118.

Evelyn B. Harrison, 'Athena at Pallene and in the Agora at Athens', pp. 119-131.

Jeffrey M. Hurwit, 'The Parthenon and the Temple of Zeus', pp. 135-145.

Ian Jenkins, 'The Parthenon Frieze and Perikles' Cavalry of a Thousand', pp. 147-161.

Judith M. Barringer, 'Alkamenes' Prokne and Itys in Context', pp. 163-176.

Olga Palagia, 'Interpretations of Two Athenian Friezes: The Temple on the Ilissos and the Temple of Athena Nike', pp. 177-192.

Cornelius C. Vermeule III, 'Alpheos to the Orontes: An Unusual Echo of the Pheidian Zeus at the Syrian Port of Seleukia Pieria', pp. 195-200.

Eve D'Ambra, 'Kosmetai, the Second Sophistic, and Portraiture in the Second Century', pp. 201-216.

W. Martin Bloomer, 'A Rhetorical Perikles', pp. 217-232.

Creighton Gilbert, 'On Some Motives Supposed Present in Self-Portraits of Pheidias and Others', pp. 233-236.

Peter J. Holliday, 'Early Photography and the Reception of Classical Antiquity: The Case of the Temple of Athena Nike', pp. 237-252.

Elizabeth A. Meyer and J. E. Lendon, 'Greek Art and Culture since Art and Experience in Classical Greece, pp. 255-276.


1.   To the bibliography on the date of the Battle of Oinoe and the date of the painting, add A. H. Sommerstein, 'Argive Oinoe, Athenian Epikouroi, and the Stoa Poikile', in Greek Art in View: Essays in Honour of Brian Sparkes, eds. S. Keay and S. Moser, Oxford, 2004, pp. 138-147.
2.   On Agora I 7167 (not 17167), add J. L. Shear, 'Atarbos' base and the Panathenaia', JHS 123 (2003), 164-180.
3.   R. R. R. Smith, 'Cultural choice and political identity in honorific portrait statues in the Greek east in the second century A.D.', JRS 88 (1998), 56-93. For the epigraphically minded, I should note that D'Ambra's first example, Athens, National Museum 384, is IG II2 2021 and her third, Athens, National Museum 387, is IG II2 3744. The inscriptions do not play as large a role in the discussion as they might.
4.   I found some of the illustrations for Ian Jenkin's essay particularly small. The volume contains few typos and most will not cause problems. I would, however, note the following: 116 note 6: J. G. Miller 1996 is not in the bibliography; 154, fig. 13.9: the images does not look reversed as the caption and text indicate; 174 note 15 and 176 note 75: Hall 1989 is not in the bibliography; 199 note 8: Vermeule and Comstock 1988 appears to be listed in the bibliography as Comstock and Vermeule 1988; 286: MacDowell, D. M. Gorgias. Encomium of Helen should read MacDowell, D. M. 1982; 292.

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