Modes of Viewing in Hellenistic Poetry and Art (Wisconsin by Graham Zanker

By Graham Zanker

Taking a clean examine the poetry and visible artwork of the Hellenistic age, from the dying of Alexander the good (323 B.C.) to the Romans' defeat of Cleopatra (30 B.C.), Graham Zanker makes enlightening discoveries concerning the assumptions and conventions of Hellenistic poets and artists and their audiences. Zanker poses and responds to a few questions: How did Hellenistic Greeks examine visible paintings? How did they envision the imagery they learn in poetry? What have been the modes of viewing universal to either those varieties? while did artists and poets supply wealthy visible aspect, and while did they count on their audiences to mentally "fill in" information through recourse to shared event or cultural wisdom? Zanker deals intriguing new interpretations through heavily evaluating poetry and paintings for the sunshine each one sheds at the different. He reveals, for instance, an exuberant growth of subject material within the Hellenistic sessions in either literature and artwork, as types and iconographic traditions reserved for grander subject matters in previous eras have been utilized to issues, motifs, and matters that have been emphatically much less grand.

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Here, then, is the god, tauntingly beating (Aphrodite suggests that her son has in fact been cheating: 129–30) a personage who is to some degree his protégé. 32 Certainly the description of the god’s descent to earth to carry out his mission more emphatically presents the notion of Eros as master of all he surveys, an increasing tonal progression as the motif of his interference gains in tension. Moreover, the word with which Apollonius expresses Eros’ delight at beating Ganymedes, “with a laugh,” kagcalovwnti (124), is the same one used to describe his pleasure in wreaking havoc with human lives, kagcalovwn (286), when he pierces Medea’s heart with his arrow and love for Jason.

52 In Book 3, there is the eerie Plain of Circe, through which Jason and his followers must make their way to the palace of Aeëtes (200–209). Book 4 has the Syrtes of Libya, where the Argo runs hopelessly aground (1232–49). 55 In their turn, of course, these moments in the poetry associated with Alexandria are pre-dated by the late fourth-century Vergina tomb-paintings, especially by the hunt scene. In contrast to the quite traditional anthropocentrism of the Vergina landscapes, however, the eye of the Alexandrian poets of the following century was directed at nature far more for its own sake, as is evidenced particularly well by Apollonius’ passage on the Acherousian Headland.

The scene, with its rush couches for the guests, the elms and poplars overhead, the babbling stream of water, the sound of the cicadas, birds, and bees, the autumn smells of the fruit falling near the reclining guests, is admittedly a tour de force, and certainly succeeds in helping us place the party in a visual context (though all five senses are appealed to). At one remove, we have the emphasis on the sweetness of the setting described by Thyrsis and the Goatherd in Idyll 1, lines 1–14, though this is tone-setting, establishing the harmonious relationship of the two herdsmen, rather than scene-setting for the scene’s sake.

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