M.A. (Master of Arts)
Department of Art
Pergamum Altar of Zeus (Sculpture)||Altars, Hellenistic||Sculpture, Hellenistic||Relief (Sculpture), Hellenistic
Associations stimulated by works of art can be extremely complex, when stimulated by life experiences. The Great Frieze of the Altar of Zeus (c. 181-159 B. C) exposes the observer to scenes from the famous battle of the Gods and Giants inspired from the Hellenic mythology. The 395 feet of sculptured relief manifests iconographical reflections of history, mythology and the psychological ideology of the Hellenic mind; it conveys in an art historical context elements of politics, history (war and peace), literature, poetry, drama, tragedy and philosophy that were predominant at the time. In this research, the iconography of each side of the Frieze is discussed starting from the West stairway Stringboards and moving North and South respectively, culminating on the East Side where the archetypes of Hellenic mythology, the god Zeus and the goddess Athena Nikephoros are presented in turbulent and dynamic movements. From the earliest times, the Hellenes in their endeavors to establish order in the chaotic world that surrounded them, developed a tradition of representing in their art mythological heroes and gods as the embodiment of the forces of order, performing magnificent labors and outstanding heroes in wars of a mythic past; these representations served to the Hellenes as allusions to the Hellenes valiant struggles and heoric achievements in the battlefields of their own historic wars. Through this practice, the mythic vehicle was usually employed to manifest a real historical occurrence; in the case of 5th Century B. C. Athens it had been the victory over the Persians, and in the case of Pergamon, war and eventually victories over the barbaric Galatians. The latter event was commemorated with the mythic Battle of the Gods and the Giants sculpted on the Great Frieze of the Altar of Zeus, still preserved to this day. Through mythology the Hellenes of the Hellenistic age were able to use their age-old theme of confrontation between forces of light and the forces of darkness. Their artistic style was rich and immersed in pathos. The ideal concepts of arete, ethos, and sophrosyne, first envisioned in the Bronze Charioteer of Delphi in the early 5th Century B.C. Athens, were being transformed as time progressed into the 2nd Century B. C., image of Alcyoneos and his timeless cry of anguish. The Classical ideal had started to wane and eventually became a display of forceful emotions that scholars have labeled the "Hellenistic Baroque." The Great Frieze serves as the epitaph of Hellenic idealism; it heralds a new realism of a new age hostile to the spirit of Hellas.
Hines, Randy L., "The Great Frieze of the Altar of Zeus at Pergamon : a manifestation of the historical, mythological and psychological ideology of the Hellenic mind" (1993). Graduate Research Theses & Dissertations. 5809.
vii, 150 pages
Northern Illinois University
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