TOPIC SUMMARY: THE TROJAN WAR IN ANCIENT ART
Tabula Iliaca Capitolina, Roman artwork Rome1st century AD; This tablet is dated back to the Augustan period, circa 15 BCE) ((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabula_iliaca)
The Trojan War, replete with its famous stories and heroes, saturated the ancients via the prolific art work etched in many media, whether embedded within its monumental sculptures, the earliest noted within the pediments or metope of the Temple of Artemis at Corfu, (Weincke) a wall painting or mosaic, the countless vase-paintings both in black and red figure technique, or the Roman codices. This subject matter was intriguing. It captivated not only the Greeks, but the Etruscans and the Romans.
Each artistic endeavor renewed an ancient tradition that dated back to the Indo-Europeans. It also signifies their own autonomous act as a connection from their present time to the past, These artistic endeavors were essentially a reenactment of an long enduring artistic ritual that connected them their predecessors, attesting their faith in the deep truth of their myths and stories, The ancient artist also injected within his own work his own perspectives about love and poetry
The primary texts that convey this fascinating subject was found in Homer’s Iliad and his Odyssey, as well as Vergil’s Aeneid and the lesser poems of the Epic Cycle, of which we only have fragmented portions. Herein lays the source of great contention amongst scholars as to what inspired these artists. Is the prolific artwork inspired by the great epic poets? Each artist from every age, from ancient to modern, have matched their own ideologies and religious beliefs embedded within their respective work, creating a plethora of innovation. (Lowenstam 1)
Of all the particular scenes and heroes of the Trojan War, the most favorite theme was that of the actual Sack of Troy and the death of King Priam. From the earliest known monumental sculpture that commemorated the death of Priam within its pediment and metope, the temple of Artemis on Corfu, to the countless art media that portrayed the destruction of Troy with its outstanding depictions of the rape of Cassandra, the death of Priam and his grandson, Hector’s son, Astyanax, it was this part of the Trojan War and its corresponding art work that was most popular, even down to the Roman codices. This portion of this famous war story that is not included in Homer’s Iliad, nor the Iliad is told in one of the lesser poems, the Iliupersis, literally, the “sack of Ilium,” This was a favorite amongst the ancients. As I shall detail in the following annotations and abstracts, this subject matter is found in prolific red and black figure vase-paintings, wall painting in the homes of the Roman elite, mosaics, sculptures, as well as within the actual building and temples. According to Wiencke, they “supply us with a multitude of legendary motives and variations, which we cannot find in literature, and are the faithful reflex of the fluidity of Greek mythology, which devoid of canon and dogmatism, was a constant flux,: (Weincke 281) This fascinating theme endured for over a century and a half of Greek art.
(Note: the section on Internet Resources has a myriad of art illustrations from all modes of media.)
Lowenstam, Steven. As Wintessed by Images The Trojan WAr Tradition in Greek and Etruscan Art. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008. Print.
Wiencke, Matthew I. “An Epic Theme in Greek Art.” American Journal of Archaeology. 58.4 (1954): 285-306. Print.
ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY REFERENCES:
Apollodorus. The Library. Translated by Sir James George Frazer. Loeb Classical Library Volumes 121 & 122. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921. http://www.theoi.com/Text/Apollodorus1.html
This in an online source for one of the Epic Cycle poems, but it contains only fragments have survived. Aside from the Iliad and the Odyssey, these poems tell different stories of the Trojan War that Homer did not address. This poem, Iliou Persis, “The Sack of Troy,” of which only ten lines survive, starts with the Greek’s gift of the wooden horse to the Trojans, details the destruction of Troy, the death of Priam, Cassandra, Astyanax, and concludes with the human sacrifice of Polyxena, Priam’s daughter, at Achilles’ tomb. This poem was the most popular subject matter for artists of all media. The authorship is attributed to Arcticus of Miletus.
Homer, Iliad. Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1997. Print.
In the Iliad, Homer details only fifty-eight days of a ten war siege by the Greeks against the Trojans, choosing carefully to narrate scenes other than the ones depicted in the Epic Cycle poems. Its theme is the consequences and cost of war for those left behind. Likewise, in keeping with a tragedy it ends with a funeral, that of Hector’s. This book is the source of prolific artistic inspirations for the Greeks and some of the most popular scenes from the Trojan War are found here. (for example: the countless images of the Judgment of Paris)
Homer, Odyssey. Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2000.
The Odyssey addresses life after war for those who survive as they attempt to return home and resume pre-war life. It is an account of Odysseus, cunning masterful storyteller who manipulates the truth with his web of twisted tales.. Through these we derive more details of the Trojan War omitted in the Iliad. It also is a story of homecoming, after ten year fraught with obstacles he returns to his beloved wife, Penelope and his son Telemachus, who together rid their home of potential suitors who have long overstayed their welcome. It bears the happy ending of restoration of family and justice served. Many of the highly favored art depictions, such as the Odysseus and the blinding of Polyphemus, originate from this book.
Virgil, The Aeneid. New York: Random House, Inc., 1981, 1982,1983.
This is story of the Trojan survivors, namely Aeneas and his father and son who escape Troy and set about their destined path by the gods to found Rome and its illustrious heritage. They escape Troy and are led to seek out a new homeland, Italy, It was written by Virgil, at the bidding of Augustus, in the Golden Age of the Roman Empire, to establish the auspicious founding of the Roman Empire.
West, Martin L. Greek Epic Fragment. London, England; Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2003. Print. (Iliupersis) http://www.theoi.com/Text/Apollodorus1.html
Junker, Klaus. Interpreting the Images of Greek Myths. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Print
From the Homeric age until late antiquity, Ancient Greece and Rome cultures were saturated by Greek myth image. Their art was replete with the heroes and the gods whether it be on statue, or vase painting, temple decorations, drinking vessels, or wall paintings or floor mosaics. In this book Klaus Junker, a professor of Classical Archaeology at Mainz University creates a means by which we can comprehend these pictorial images of the myths. It would be extremely useful to undergraduate and graduate students studying classical mythology and ancient art. He includes well executed case studies on Achilles and Patroclus in the Trojan War, as well as an array of many other Trojan War art scenes in various media.
Carpenter, T. H. Art and Myth in Ancient Greece. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd. London, 1991. Print.
Excellent art resource for the novice as it is an introductory text of art appreciation of myths in antiquity. It essentially walks you through how to approach art related to myth. An entire chapter is devoted to the Trojan War and it covers the full gamut of the war. It is replete with artistic depictions, whether it be vase paintings, or wall painting, as well as Roman frescoes, floor mosaics and wall paintings, a subject that consumed their collectors, especially that of the Odyssey, It includes depictions from the Epic cycles poems: and provides gives detailed explanations. It appears to be extremely helpful for artistic novices and for those wishing to establish a foundational knowledge of mythical art for many cultures.
Woodford, Susan. Images of Myths in Classical Antiquity. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print.
Professor Susan Woodford at the University of London provides a well-illustrated and indexed, thorough handbook useful for decoding the mythical art portrayed in a vast array of artistic media. She included a great deal of Trojan War themes from the Epic Cycles and Homer. This text would serve as a ongoing ready reference to the nuts and bolts of understanding myth: formulas and motifs and the creations of composition by which these myths may be adapted and transferred to other contexts. This book was very helpful for decoding works that bear no inscriptions, especially helpful to artistic novices but equally as helpful to undergraduate students studying this subject matter and for those wishing to establish a foundational knowledge of mythical art for many cultures. It covers the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Aeneid, as well as those fragmented portions of The Epic Cycle.
Bulas, Kazimierz. “New Illustrations to the Iliad.” American Journal of Archaeology . 54.2 (1950): 112-118. Print.
At the courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this author was able to publish this article on a new Trojan tablet, that had been unknown to him when he wrote his book on this subject, Les illustrations antiques de l’Iliade. (Lwow 1929) This article includes a picture (p.XVIII) of this fragmented portion of a well-known group of Trojan tablets that represent Trojan cycle episodes. They also contain explanatory inscriptions in Greek that were presumably used for teaching. Its central theme is that of the Sack of Troy and above the actual scenes are actual episodes from individual books of the Iliad. These scenes are faithful correspondents of the same scenes on the Tabula Capitalina. The article also includes illustrations from mosaics from Ceccano, Red figured vase fragments by the Peleus painter. This article is excellent and designed for those who have mastery of the Greek language as there are many references and numbering in Greek. This would be an excellent reference for graduate students.
Wiencke, Matthew I. “An Epic Theme in Greek Art.” American Journal of Archaeology. 58.4 (1954): 285-306. Print.
This lengthy and extensively detailed article provides a thorough examination of the most popular epic themes from episodes from the lesser poems of the Epic Cycle and that of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey found in his the study of sixth century vase-painting. He does, however, devote a section, replete with excellent pictures, of the earliest example in sculpture, dated between 600 B.C. and 580 B.C, the pediment and metope of the Temple of Artemis at Corfu. He surmises that the themes from the Iliupersis, the Sack of Troy and the death of Praim, provide a long standing history within art that has been lost in the literature until Virgil’s Aeneid. He suggests that ancient art was not merely an illustration of literary composition but should be viewed as a relationship between the graphic art and the literature, to be seen as contemporaries. This resource would be useful to those seeking to narrow the broad field of art depicting the Trojan War down to the discussion of the destruction of Troy and king Priam. His work would be best suited for a serious art student and/ or for graduate research.
Susan, Woodford, and Loudon Margot. “Two Trojan Themes: The Iconography of Ajax Carrying the Body of Achilles and of Aeneas Carrying Anchises in Black Figure Vase Painting.” American Journal of Archaeology . 84.1 (1980): 25-40. Print.
This co-authored article explores two themes from the Trojan War, the iconography of the sicth century black-figured vase paintings of Ajax carrying the dead body of Achilles and that of Aeneas carrying his father, Anchises. It explores the common and contrasting features of both. This article is well illustrated indexed, easy to follow regardless of your former knowledge with its copious explanatory notes. This article evaluates both of these themes separately, and then discusses how each of these themes interacted with one another, so much so that they were sometimes mistaken for one another. The authors supply a substantial amount of vase pottery to illustrate their points, but what is especially notable is their publishing a previously unpublished neck amphora in San Simeon, where both are depicted on the very same art object, one of each side. This is an excellent, well-articulated, documented and indexed, which would make for a vital tool for further research into Trojan War art, but especially directed at the time period that seemed most popular, the demise of Troy and Priam.
INTERNET RESOURCES: http://www.google.com/search?q=images+of+trojan+war&hl=en&rlz=1T4TSNP_enUS468US468&prmd=imvns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=dw6fT7DqFYLE2wXs_cDhDg&ved=0CC0QsAQ&biw=1366&bih=563
This Google image site has a vast array of artistic works from many mediums, from paintings, and sculptures and wall paintings and floor mosaics etc. but they are not indexed according to the actual time period representative within the Trojan War Cycle. They are, however, once selected, provide a well identified reference as to its original author and source and present location. (ie: museum) This site would best be used to serve as a reference tool once you had a piece of art in mind.
This site originates from the Roman and Greek Classics department from Temple University but it actually is a collective resource/link for outside sources such as Perseus. It is well organized and thorough re: Trojan War. It indexes each section of the war, pre and post war, as well as the homecoming of Odysseus. It provides an adequate selection of art for each section. Once selected the artist, dating, time period within the Trojan War cycle and its present whereabouts etc, are provided for each.
Beautifully executed index by artists and by selected artistic mediums, for example, an indexed section of black figure vases with the subject matter listed. who depicted scenes from the Trojan War. Next to the artist is the depiction, once selected the artist, time of creation and present location is provided. This site covers artists throughout historical periods, from the geometrical to the modern era, which shows the continued interest of this particular subject throughout history. The Trojan War has intrigued generation after generation.
Wiencke, Matthew I. “An Epic Theme in Greek Art.” American Journal of Archaeology. 58.4 (1954): 285-306. Print.
This lengthy and extensively detailed article provides a thorough examination of the most popular epic themes from episodes from the lesser poems of the Epic Cycle and that of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey found in his the study of sixth century vase-painting. He does, however, devote a section, replete with excellent pictures, of the earliest example in sculpture, dated between 600 B.C. and 580 B.C, the pediment and metope of the Temple of Artemis at Corfu. He surmises that the themes from the Iliupersis, the Sack of Troy and the death of Priam, provide a long standing history within art that has been lost in the literature until Virgil’s Aeneid. He suggests that ancient art was not merely an illustration of literary composition but should be viewed as a relationship between the graphic art and the literature, to be seen as contemporaries. This resource would be useful to those seeking to narrow the broad field of art depicting the Trojan War down to the discussion of the destruction of Troy and king Priam. His work would be best suited for a serious art student and/ or for graduate research.
Susan, Woodford, and Loudon Margot. “Two Trojan Themes: The Iconography of Ajax Carrying the Body of Achilles and of Aeneas Carrying Anchises in Black Figure Vase Painting.” American Journal of Archaeology. 84.1 (1980): 25-40. Print.
The focus of this article is the iconography of two themes from the Trojan War: Ajax carrying the dead body of Achilles and that of Aeneas carrying his father, Anchises. Both of these themes were favorites with 6 century B.C. Black figure vase painters. Both of these found their way to the neck amphora in San Simeon. The authors divided this subject matter into three sections: the themes are examined separately; secondly, they discuss how the two intertwine; lastly, they draw some conclusions as to how these affected the vase painters. Included within this well documented and thorough examination of this subject are detailed indexes within the article itself and followed by an extensive detailed attached appendix of all pertinent information. It was excellent work, easy to follow, well-constructed argument. It would be excellent resource for undergraduate research and especially a graduate student who could appreciate the unique nuances of vase composition
I selected this topic experimentally. Knowing very little of art, nor possessing the tools by which to best decipher it and its appreciation for its subtle nuances and equally a novice to the epics we read this semester, I set out to see what could be found of the Trojan War via the medium of ancient art. I am simultaneously taking a upper level Greek art course, that spans from the ancient to the modern and was absolutely intrigued by all that could be said and brought to life via a paint brush on a static medium. I got to experience firsthand what seems to be a highly contested issue regarding the source of ancient art. Who inspired who? Did the artists merely depict what the epic poets wrote of, or vice versa, or was it a combination of both, or they were contemporizes, each influenced by the work of the others? In this course we immersed ourselves within the words while in my other course; I was gleaning a unique perspective, a reflection of a long tradition of oral transmission of the magic of myth.
My research, therefore, comes from the perspective of learning the trade of what art portrayed versus the literary world. In this I found books to be far more helpful to me as they were more explanatory and instructive, easier to determine the level of complexity and necessity of prior knowledge on the subject matter. It was easier with books to determine exactly what would be discussed and how. This was the most pleasurable and productive part of this task, the many books I found user-friendly to a novice and yet beneficial to all levels of researchers. I found countless books on the subject and they were engaging, thorough, and replete with images for all of the various accounts of the Trojan War, whether they be depictions from the Epic Cycle Poems like the Kypria or the Iliou Persis for all level of researchers, I found these the most enlightening and instructive as they taught me how to approach the study of these myths, especially those that have no inscriptions contained.
The scholastic articles were not so. I found the most difficulty in finding articles that actually narrowing down a specific time period or a particular theme on the accounts of the Trojan War art in the ancient world. If I did find a good article, that was succinct and directly suited for my purpose, it was usually a review of a book or a text that I might have already selected. The databases appeared to collect too broad a field regardless of my countless attempts to narrow it. I tried from many angles and different subject titles and still I met with great difficulty. Some of the best articles that seem to fit my subject perfectly, like B. A. Spark’s article on Trojan Horse, (JSTOR) that I had counted on, as I did with several others, when I got to the library to copy there was a fee I searched through many articles on Trojan War art but I found these to be more narrowed in scope and likewise, very detailed and most suitable to one doing graduate research or a specific time period or theme within the Trojan War theme.
As a result I found myself drawn to narrow my too broad a topic to that of the Sack of Troy, and the death of King Priam, a subject that is best described in the literary world via the Iliupersis, one of the lost Epic Poems that address this specific time period. In retrospect, had I to do it again, I would have limited my studies to this topic period as I, much like the ancients, found the art work of this time segment of the Trojan War to be especially fascinating. The pictures and illustrations that I did find in the articles were replete with a great selection of art work in all forms of media, whether it be a wall mosaic or a pediment or metope of the Temple of Artemis. Clearly, these were episodes that intrigued the ancients as well as me.
I am a living testimony to the power of both the words of these great epics and the bountiful depictions in art of so intriguing a subject as the Trojan War, with its deeper message about the cost of war and its tumultuous aftermath throughout history.. In one semester my appreciation for a subject that had never interested me whatsoever, drew me in, and at times moved me to tears through the words and the art of Homer’s epics. I regret my lack of knowledge in these areas, as well as my technological inability to access countless online resources available, to better represent what has the capacity to move the human soul, even now, thousands of years later. And yet, I find it most telling that this course and my short conversation with Homer this semester, as not only a novice to these epics, but essentially void of the tools requisite to fully appreciate the prolific art of a long enduring oral tradition via the Greek bards, and the extensive literary and graphic art on the Trojan War, significantly changed my perspective on what I once found lacking. I had no idea what possibilities lay between those pages.
PRIMARY INTERNET SOURCES:
Iliupersis: Apollodorus. The Library. Translated by Sir James George Frazer. Loeb Classical Library Volumes 121 & 122. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921. http://www.theoi.com/Text/Apollodorus1.html
Homer – Odyssey: http://www.online-literature.com/homer/odyssey/