Froma Zeitlin is one of the most influential contemporary classicists, and this all-star volume is a fitting tribute to her scholarship.
Unlike many ‘Festschriften,’ the present volume achieves a great thematic and methodological unity. Six papers discuss vases and sculptures representing tragedy (see the contributions by Lissarrague, Frontisi-Ducroux, Taplin, Most and Giuliani, Hall, and Henderson); others examine literary topics in tragedy (Pucci, Goldhill, Wilson), the reception of tragedy in the Second Sophistc (Elsner, Bowie), and tragedy on the modern stage (Foley). Three fine papers on Homer and choral lyrics (Slatkin, Martin, and Kurke), discussing visual images and performance, are less relevant to the general theme, but are not less interesting for that reason.
Tragedy is the well known forte of the dedicatee, and the present volume succeeds in reflecting several important aspects of her work (even if it does not include much on gender, identity, or religion, for instance).
Froma Zeitlin ‘delivered the Sather lectures precisely on visualization and the prose of the Second Sophistic’ (14). Her original lectures in fact also included extensive discussion of tragedy (e.g. the Iphigenia in Tauris by Euripides).1 They are still unpublished, and one hopes that author will offer them soon to the scholarly public. Visualizing the Tragic is in some ways a supplement to that unpublished work, and bears testimony to the variety of approaches and themes that have been the object of Zeitlin’s research. The editors should be complimented on finding a topic which has generated a number of excellent papers and on the careful editing. The volume is beautifully printed; the black and white illustrations are good; the indexes very detailed; misprints very rare.
I will offer a short summary of each piece, with brief comments.
Laura Slatkin (‘Notes on Tragic Visualizing in the Iliad‘: 19-34) analyses the function of visualization in the Iliadic narrative, showing how often ‘the act of seeing arrests, suspends, or dilates poetic action, authorizing the inner life of its characters’ (23). This is especially the case with the feeling of ‘wonder’,
Richard P. Martin (‘Outer Limits, Choral Space’: 35-62) focuses on an epigram which accompanied a tripod dedication, dating from 500-480 BC, from the Athenian Acropolis ( IG 3 833 bis). The epigram celebrates a victory in the (dithyrambic) ‘chorus of men’ and presents itself as a ‘boundary marker of poetic wisdom’ (
Leslie Kurke (‘Visualizing the Choral: Epichoric Poetry, Ritual, and Elite Negotiation in Fifth Century Thebes’: 63-101), in the longest and most detailed paper of this collection, discusses the ritual, literary and political interpretation of Pindar’s parthenion daphnêphorikon (fr. 94b Maheler). Pindar composed this poem for a chorus of young girls who accompanied a procession in Thebes. Pausanias and Proclus give somewhat different descriptions of the ritual. According to Pausanias, each year a young boy from a noble Theban family acted as daphnêphoros, a yearly priest, in the temple of Apollo Ismenios; the richest ones, not all of them, dedicated tripods to Apollo. Proclus, however, reports that the festival took place every eight years, in memory of the mythical battle that brought Boeotian settlers to Thebes. Proclus also describes the kôpô, an olive log adorned with laurel branches and with a krokôtós, a saffron robe.
Kurke’s splendid analysis (71-84) demonstrates that the aition reflects the tensions between Theban and Boeotian identity, also attested in other sources for the fifth century BCE. The rite itself was ‘a hybrid of symbolic elements associated with war and with marriage’; the maiden chorus and the saffron robe in particular are associated with marriage.2 Some of the details of the two descriptions and of Pindar cannot be completely reconciled, and some details are certainly post-classical (see esp. Kurke 83 n. 34 and F. Ferrari, RFIC 119 (1991) 395-396). However, Kurke convincingly suggests that the presence of the kôpô and the route of the procession were chosen in ‘an attempt to appropriate southern [Boeotian] — particularly Plataean — elements in a Theban ritual’ (81) with the aim of integrating Thebes in the larger Boeotian community. Finally, the dedication of tripods by the richest families suggests the importance of elite competition in the enactment of ritual. Kurke implies (but does not state) that the yearly priestly service as daphnêphoros, as described by Pausanis, does not entail that the ritual described by Pindar and Proclus had to take place each year (75). One could suggest that a daphnêphoros was appointed every year, but that the procession described by Proclus took place every eighth year. Only the daphnêphoros who took part in the ritual dedicated the tripods; the appointment in the special year would go to the wealthiest families. This would explain the differences between the account of Pausanias and that of Proclus. However this may be, Kurke is able to show how Pindar’s poem takes up these issues, skilfully weaving the topics of Theban and Boeotian identity, of the dangers of competition within the elite, and of the relationship between civic organisation and aristocratic power (85-99). Her last couple of pages offer much food for thought on the relationship between Athenian dithyramb and drama, on one side, and non-Athenian choral forms on the other (100-101).
Pietro Pucci (‘Euripides and Aristophanes: What does Tragedy Teach?’ 105-126) discusses Aristophanes’ presentation of a didactic and political Euripides in the Frogs and in the Acharnians, developing the arguments of Loraux, Foley, Zeitlin and others. Pucci argues that ‘Laughter … weakens or even nullifies Aeschylus’ aggressive question [Ar. Ra. 1010-1012] … and by so doing it diffuses Euripides’ assertion that ‘”we poets make people better citizens'” into vagueness’ (116). Pucci, commenting on Ar. Ach. 455, brings out well the paradoxical eros of Aristophanes for Euripides (120-121). The ‘obsessive satire against Euripides’ miserable props opens up contradictory significations,’ as in fact Dicaeopolis ends up becoming not just ‘a disguised Telephos’ but ‘Euripides himself’: ‘it is Euripides himself who finally parodies and satirizes Euripides’ (124).
Simon Goldhill (‘What’s in a Wall? 127-147), introduces his paper with some general reflections on the symbolic meaning of walls in contemporary culture (the Berlin wall, the Great Wall of China, ghetto walls, the Israeli Security Fence). He then focuses on how Aeschylus and Euripides represent the walls of Thebes and Troy in the Seven against Thebes, in the Phoenician Women, in the Trojan Women and in the Hecuba. The walls of Thebes in the the Phoenician Women‘are constructed through both Homer’s Troy and Aeschylus’ Thebes’ (144). In Aeschylus, Eteocles insists on the city walls as a firm boundary. In Euripides only the not-so-prophetic pedagogue imagines that ‘the city is safe on inside matters at any rate’ (E. Pho. 117; Goldhill, 139). Goldhill illustrates the shifting meaning of the physically stable, but symbolically moving, walls. Some of the best observations in Goldhill’s nuanced paper concern the significance and the cultural connotations of the Athenian walls (the Long Walls and the ‘wooden walls’ of Hdt. 7.141.3) in Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon (129-130 and 144-147).
François Lissarrague (‘Looking at Shield Devices: Tragedy and Vase Painting’: 151-164) takes up a theme discussed in Zeitlin’s famous book Under the Sign of the Shield: Semiotics and Aeschylus’ Seven against Thebes (Rome 1982): the relationship between shield devices and their bearers. Lissarrague examines the representation of shield devices on classical Attic vases, with special attention to centaur devices (listed on pages 163-164). He rightly stresses that these images obey the visual logic of the banqueting vessels, and should be not taken as ‘evidence documenting the archaeology of shields’ (155); he also suggests that vase painters preceded Aeschylus in the creation of a link (or a contrast) between sign and warrior. Centaur devices often symbolise the savagery of the fighter (as in the case of Amazons, in a cup attributed to the Cleophrades painter). However, in a pelike attributed to the Harrow painter, an unusually peaceful lyre-playing centaur (probably Chiron) adorns the shield of a warrior that we might identify as Achilles. In a surprising twist, centaurs defeat a hero (Caeneus) who has a centaur as a shield device (in a crater attributed to the Cleveland painter): ‘Caeneus’ bisexuality, the centaurs’ hybridity are on a par with the half-horse on the shield’ (161). This brief and intelligent paper is part of a larger work in progress (152 n. 4). It displays Lissarrague’s usual flair and sensitivity for the visual and intellectual complexity of Attic vase painting.
The paper by Françoise Frontisi-Ducroux (‘The Invention of the Erinyes’: 165-176) is an English translation of the first part of her French article ‘L’étoffe des spectres’, Metis n.s. 4 (2006) 29-50 (see esp. 29-42), with little reworking; the author does not refer to the French publication. Frontisi-Ducroux discusses the appearance of the furies as presented in the Choephori and the Eumenides of Aeschylus. She explores topics such as the gaze, the mask, and the problem of making visible what it is impossible to look at (the Gorgon-like Erinyes). A few notes on details. Frontisi-Ducroux, following Verrall, suggests that at Choephori 1048
Oliver Taplin (‘A New Pair of Pairs: Tragic Witnesses in Western Greek Vase Painting?’ 177-196) discusses two Apulian vases and their relationship to tragedy. Taplin’s work, especially his book on Comic Angels and Other Approaches to Greek Drama through Vase-Paintings (Oxford, 1993), has been seminal in this field, and has been the obvious source of inspiration for some of the papers in this collection. The article under review anticipates and expands some problems discussed in his most recent contribution, Pots and Plays. Interactions between Tragedy and Greek Vase-Painting of the Fourth Century BCE (Los Angeles, 2007), 241-245, regarding two amphorae attributed to the Darius Painter (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts 1991.437 and Geneva, Musée d’Arte et d’Histoire [on loan]). The Boston amphora illustrates the murder of Atreus; two female figures are labelled ‘maids’ (
Luca Giuliani and Glenn W. Most (‘Medea in Eleusis, in Princeton’ 197-217) discuss a fourth century BC Apulian vase attributed to the Darius painter, now kept in the Art Museum of Princeton University (inv. 83-13). The vase shows Medea and a paidagôgos in the temple of Eleusis, surrounded (from top right, clockwise) by Demeter and Kore, Heracles and Iris, two boys on an altar (the children of Medea?), two young boys (the Dioscuri according to Trendall; ‘two anonymous visitors of the sanctuary’ according to Giuliani and Most, 199), and Athena with Nike. No surviving myth fits the image. Giuliani and Most convincingly refute M. Schmidt’s suggestion of a connection with the story narrated about Heracles and Medea in Diodorus Siculus 4.54.7 and 55.4. Trendall argued that the painter illustrated a (now lost) post-Euripidean tragedy. Giuliani and Most accept and take further Trendall’s reconstruction of the plot, developing it into an episode-by-episode summary of the play (216-217). Medea, who has not murdered her children, leaves them at the temple of Eleusis, on her way to Athens, where she intends to marry Aegeus. When the Corinthians want the children back, the Eleusinians refuse to hand them over. The Corinthians attack, but they are defeated ‘by the Athenians and Heracles’, presumably summoned by Iris (217). The military victory would explain the presence of Nike besides Athena on the vase. The reconstruction is, as Giuliani and Most put it, ‘some sort of informed guess’ (215) and the result is ‘very far from being a great tragedy’ (217): some such tragedy is however a very plausible source (see now Taplin Pots and Plays, 238-240). Many details are of course tentative. A military victory is not the only possible explanation for the very frequent pairing of Athena and Nike (see Giuliani and Most 214; Wilson, in the volume under review, 259). One can add that Heracles, Athena and the Dioscuri appear on another vase illustrating the more traditional version of Medea’s myth (Taplin, Pots and Plays, 255-256). Giuliani and Most also analyse other vases by the Darius painter, stressing close correspondences with tragic texts. Taplin arrives at similar conclusions on the Phrixos vase (see now Pots and Plays, 215-217), but not on the vase from Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale 81954 (H 3221) (another Medea: Taplin, Pots and Plays, 124-125; see also D. J. Mastronarde (ed.), Euripides. Medea, Cambridge 2002, 66-67).
Edith Hall (‘Tragedy Personified’: 221-256) discusses the personifications of Tragedy in Greek vases and literature. Her subtle analysis focuses in particular on three Athenian vases from around 440-430 BCE, and a sculpture from the fourth century BCE, from Thasos. Hall convincingly shows that, with ‘Tragedy’s escape from the specific ritual context of the Athenian Dionysia’, later iconographic sources celebrate ‘Tragedy’s divorce from satyr drama’ (248). Hall finally discusses personifications of tragedy in Ovid and Plutarch. She interweaves iconographic and literary sources, striking an elegant balance between concision and complexity of analysis. One example of personification is debatable. Hall argues that ‘the ‘mystery lady’ on the Pronomos vase in Naples […] holding a mask, is in my view none other than Tragôidia herself’ (233), a suggestion already advanced by L. Curtius. Hall rejects her identification with ‘the actor who played Hesione since she inhabits the divine sphere’ (235), sitting on the same couch as the Ariadne-Dionysus pair. This is true, but the (other) actors hold masks too. Moreover, the ‘mystery lady’ looks at Himeros (‘Desire’), who touches her, a gesture more appropriate if directed to a young heroine of marriageable age than to the personification of Tragedy. Compare the image of Eros depicted next to Hesione in the vase discussed by Taplin in this collection, 183-185, and in Pots and Plays, 243-245. By placing the female figure on the same couch as Dionysus and Ariadne, the painter suggests a similarity between her role and that of Ariadne, and perhaps hints to future heroisation.
Peter Wilson (‘ Nikê‘s Cosmetics: Dramatic Victory, the End of Comedy, and Beyond’: 257-287) discusses the way in which Victory ‘does the work of beautifying after conflict’ (hence ‘cosmetics’) (261). This elegant and complex paper discusses the apparently contrasting representation of victory in tragedy and comedy. ‘Victory in tragedy is shown to cast a moral shadow that renders impossible any unambiguous celebratory sweep from the stage into the city’ (264). Wilson convincingly argues that this applies also to the ending of Aeschylus’ Eumenides, where the Erinyes ‘have not been defeated’ (line 795). Victory, especially victory in the dramatic agon (within the play) and in the dramatic competition at the festival, is central to comedy. On ancient theories discussing the voice of the tragic poet in choral lyric (265 note 30) add the scholia to Euripides, Hippolytus 1102 and Medea 823. Wilson, in a fine analysis of Acharnians (271-278), demonstrates how Dicaeopolis’ victory celebrations anticipate the victory of the play at the competition. This is however put at risk by Aristophanes’ stress on the lack of ‘communal involvement’ (278) displayed by Dicaeopolis; and yet the individualism of Dicaeopolis suggests a possible prize for the protagonist. The tension between chorus and actor, individual and community, play and protagonist, brings out the ‘critical and cautionary approach to nikê‘ (267). Wilson discusses several other classical texts and artefacts (the temple of Athena Nike, the Women at the Assembly by Aristophanes) and the public monuments celebrating victory in the competitions for dithyrambs, comedy and tragedy. He notes that ‘no single monument to comedic victory has been identified’ (285), despite the stress on victory in the text of the plays, and in contrast with the numerous monuments celebrating victory in the dithyramb competition. This may be connected with the communal aspect of the dithyrambic competition, organised by tribe. Wilson matches subtle literary analysis with a sharp eye for the cultural negotiations involved in celebrating victory.
John Henderson (‘Everything to do with Dionysus? (Medelhavsmuseet, Stockholm, inv. MM 1962:7/ ABV 374 no. 197)’: 288-305) argues that ‘extemporizing on the proto-language of imagery developed within their craft, a painter could so warp the semiotic field as to gesture towards an untenable co-presence of legible elements of mimesis at odds with marked features of distortion’ (289). Henderson’s high style, in contrast with the tamer type of writing he adopts in his books directed to a wider audience (see e.g. Classics: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford 1995, with Mary Beard), is at the same time erudite and colloquial. It is not unattractive, and often amusing, but is not calculated to make reading easy. Henderson claims that the Stockholm vase is an ‘under-appreciated coup de théâtre in Greek ceramics’ (289). He emphasises the contrast between the Apollonian side of the vase (depicting Hermes, a male figure on a chariot [Apollo?] and a saluting female figure [Artemis?]), and its Dionysian side (showing a seated Dionysus, flanked by two dancing satyrs, one of them sporting a dangling/dancing panther skin). Henderson pairs and compares this vase with a famous amphora by Amasis that displays a similar contrast between the Dionysian side and that with Athena and Poseidon. Henderson has several good points on the iconographic choices of the painter of the Stockholm vase.
Jas Elsner (‘Philostratus Visualizes the Tragic: Some Ecphrastic and Pictorial Receptions of Greek Tragedy in the Roman Era’: 309-337) is the author of some of the finest recent work on ecphrasis. In this excellent paper, he discusses the descriptions of the death of Pentheus, the death of Hippolytus, the madness of Heracles, and the madness of Cassandra in the Imagines by Philostratus the Elder (see respectively 1.18, 2.4, 2.23, 2.10). Philostratus describes visual representations that are in turn based on literary texts by Euripides ( Bacchae, Hippolytus, Heracles), Aeschylus ( Agamemnon), and (for Cassandra) Homer ( Odyssey). The paragone between art and literature is here made doubly complex by the presence of two literary texts: the tragic and the ecphrastic. Elsner explores with subtlety the artistic strategy of Philostratus. For instance, Elsner shows how Philostratus, in the ‘madness of Heracles’, describes not simply what is visible in the painting, and what Heracles sees, but also what Heracles thinks he sees (328). Elsner also stresses the interaction between viewer and reader, on which Philostratus plays by inviting the reader to ‘look’ at the (absent) image. Furthermore, he notes how ecphrasis takes up the synchronic representation of visual artefacts, but creates a diachronic experience for the reader, thus alluding to the diachronic narrative text on which the artefact was based (310). The language of Philostratus is imbued with theatrical terms. He gives us an instance of the word
Ewen Bowie, in his learned and wittily titled paper (‘Pulling the Other? Longus on Tragedy’: 338-352), offers a very useful list of tragic intertexts which could be relevant for Longus. He lists cases ‘where a tragic intertext might [my emphasis, L. Battezzato] be argued for on grounds of language or (less often) content’ (340). Since he includes a large number of potential cases, and since he also discusses examples adduced by other scholars, not all instances are equally cogent, as Bowie’s own comments often note. For instance, at Longus 3.20.2, the mere presence of the adjective
Helene P. Foley (‘Envisioning the Tragic Chorus on the Modern Stage’: 353-378), another Sather professor, takes up a topic that is related both to her Sather lectures on ‘Reimagining Greek Tragedy on the U.S. Stage’ ( classics.berkeley.edu) and to a recent paper by her on the chorus (‘Choral Identity in Greek Tragedy’, Classical Philology 98 (2003) 1-30). The tragic chorus is often a problem on the modern stage, not only because of its cost (as in antiquity), but also because the audience is used to a realistic mode of acting. Foley discusses how choral sections are handled by directors such as Suzuki Tadashi, Peter Stein, Yukio Ninagawa and Peter Sellars, and in adaptations of Greek tragedy by contemporary playwrights such as Peter Morris, Lee Breuer, Charles Mee, Richard Schechner, and John Barton. Her focus here is not simply on the American stage; she addresses Japanese, German, Greek, Polish and Romanian performances. The ‘engagement with multicultural world theatre traditions and techniques’ (377) has made audiences more open to unfamiliar and unrealistic stage action, and has provided directors and playwrights with new dramatic tools to stage the tragic chorus. Readers working on reception and theatre studies will find much of interest in her fine paper.
Two short texts by the late Jean-Pierre Vernant and by the late Pierre Vidal-Naquet close the volume (see respectively ‘Rencontre avec Froma’: 381-387, and ‘Présence de Froma Zeitlin’: 388-397). They both describe the intellectual excitement caused by reading (and, in the case of Vernant, ‘stealing’)3 an offprint of her now famous article on ‘The Motif of the Corrupted Sacrifice in Aeschylus’ Oresteia‘ ( TAPA 96 (1965) 463-508). This experience was, in the words of Vernant, a ‘coup de foudre intellectuel’ (383) (Leofranc Hoford-Strevens demurely translates this as ‘an intellectual thunderbolt’ (386), rather than ‘intellectual love at first sight’). The meeting of these particular schools of French and American research was to prove crucial to the evolution of scholarly debate, especially on themes such as civic identity, the political dimension of theatre, and the relationship between visual arts and literature. The aura of the French language and the authority of Vernant and Vidal Naquet is such that these two texts are printed in the original French as well as in an English translation.
Froma Zeitlin, write the editors, ‘is fantastic at bringing people together, and at seeing the potential of others’ (14). The volume under review is an expression of her personality and her scholarship in a measure that is rarely found in ‘Festschriften.’ It is also a token of how much she has influenced research on Greek literature in the last forty years.
1. I write this as someone who sat in the audience for the whole series.
2. Kurke also claims that the footwear of the daphnêphoros has military symbolism: its name ( epikratides or iphikratides) is ‘associated in various late sources with the fourth-century Athenian general Iphicrates’ (83). This supposition, however, works only if the traditional footwear, worn in Pindar’s time, had later changed name.
3. ‘Ferreting through the Kleins’ library [the American friends of Vernant, who had just introduced Froma Zeitlin to him], I put my hand on a little work that its author, Froma Zeitlin, had presented to her friend Marousia. It was a study of Iphigenia and the corrupted sacrifice in Aeschylus’ Oresteia. Curiosity overpowered my scruples. I put it in my pocket, persuading myself that I should return it to its owner once I had cast an eye over it’ (386).