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Myth, Ethos and Actuality: Official Art in Fifth Century B.C. Athens

Myth, Ethos and Actuality: Official Art in Fifth Century B.C. Athens (Hardback)

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Synopsis

"Myth, Ethos, and Actuality" examines the depiction of mythic themes on Athenian public monuments in the period following the Persian Wars, during the second and third quarters of the 5th century BC. Using material remains, as well as the evidence of contemporary Greek history, rhetoric and poetry, David Castriota interprets the Athenian monuments as vehicles of an official ideology intended to celebrate and justify the present in terms of the past. Castriota focuses on the strategy of ethical antithesis asserting Greek moral superiority over the "barbaric" Persians, whose invasion had been repelled a generation earlier. He examines how, in major public programmes of painting and sculpture, the leading artists of the period recast the Persians in the guise of wild and impious mythic antagonists to associate them with the ethical flaws or weakness commonly ascribed to women, animals and foreigners. The Athenians in contrast, were compared to mythic protagonists representing the excellence and triumph of Hellenic culture.

Castriota's study attempts to break new ground in emphasising the ethical implication of mythic precedents, which required substantial alterations to render them more effective as archetypes for the defence of Greek culture against a foreign, morally inferior enemy. The book looks at how the patrons and planners sought to manipulate viewer response through the selective presentation or repackaging of mythic traditions.

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