Barringer, Judith M.: The Art and Archaeology of Ancient Greece. VII-430 p., ISBN : 9780521171809, 40 £
(Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (UK) 2015)
Compte rendu par Ilona Skupinska-Lovset, University of Lodz

Nombre de mots : 1469 mots
Publié en ligne le 2016-01-31
Citation: Histara les comptes rendus (ISSN 2100-0700).
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          The publication has 438 pages in large format, all printed on glazed paper and is richly illustrated. The brown tint to the pictures and the brown color of the writingused in the book makes it pleasant to read. It is indexed, has a glossary, picture credits and a bibliography arranged as to be used for each chapter. Ithe book begins with a List of figures (page VII) followed by a List of boxes (page XVII), Acknowledgements (page XVIII) and Note on the text (page XXI). The text is divided into seven chapters arranged chronologically. The story starts with the Bronze Age and ends with the Roman period, as follows: “Introduction” p. 1; “The Bronze Age and Early Iron Age in Greece” p. 10; “The Geometric Period (c. 900 – 700 BC) and the seventh century BC” p. 66; “The Archaic Mediterranean” p. 124; “The Classical period: the fifth century BC” p.194; “The late Classical period and Alexander, c. 400–323 BC” p. 264; “The legacy of Alexander: the Hellenistic world” p. 320; “Roman conquest and the conquest of Rome” p. 382.


         Of auxiliary material the reader will find: “Glossary” p. 408; “Bibliography” p. 413; “Picture Credits” p. 418; “Index” p. 430. The text is richly illustrated with schematically drawn maps, naming the main geographical areas and chief sites, but not details and topography. The chronology is presented in tabular form, stratigraphy is often shown on pictures of the excavated areas. To illustrate chronology a timeline is applied. The illustrations are as a rule thematically connected with the text and often show a link to subjects discussed immediately before or after. As indicated by the title the main subject for the author is the art of Greece, and secondary is the way by which the objects of art were obtained – “Archaeology”.


         After a general introduction, section one deals with the cultures of the Mediterranean in the broadly understood Bronze Age, presenting the most important discoveries and interpretations in a summary way. These are presented chronologically as: Cycladic culture, Minoan culture, Helladic culture (pp. 11 – 65). A time table is always supplied before the text which facilitates the reading. The quality pictures illustrate the text in an excellent way. In the view of this author, the visual understanding could be even better with the addition of a scale with the pictures of the objects. This remark applies to all of the visual reproductions.


         Section two (pp. 66 – 123) discusses the Geometric period (dated c. 900 – 700 BC) and the seventh century BC. It opens in a general way with lists of contents and the chronological overview (the Timeline). The main issues discussed are: colonization, more common use of writing, formation of Greek temples and sanctuaries, gifts to the Gods, including ritual objects and statuettes and statues in wood, ivory, metals, clay and stone. For sculpting in stone a set of tools is presented with the demonstration of the traces they leave on stone (unfortunately the format is too small) (p. 101). The piecing together of stone sculpture , treating it with wax and paint is also mentioned, as is the marble trade, in particular the case of the popular Naxian marble.


         A separate chapter is offered for the discussion of funerary art and geometric pottery, especially objects with the provenance Kerameikos – the cemetery of Athens; another chapter discusses the painted pottery of Corinth. Further on, a chapter offers discussion of mythological subjects present on the vases, while the following chapter presents chosen creators of Attic black-figure vases: both painters and potters. The section closes with an introduction of settlements known under the name “an early polis” (pp. 121 -123).


         The third section carries the title “The Archaic Mediterranean” (pp. 125 -193). In it the main focus is archaic Athens, although its starts with a description of the Heraion at Olympia and continues with the presentation of Doric temples in Italy (on the Apennine peninsula) and on the islands lying close to the western coast of Greece (Epirus) such as the Artemis temple on Corfu. The Ionic temple, typical of the Eastern Mediterranean, is presented with the example of the Artemis temple of Ephesus, the largest and the most elaborate temple of this kind (50 m x 115 m). On each of the long sides the temple had 21 columns, some of the type “columnae coelate”. The interior of the temple was open to the sky. In connection with this temple a description of the process of the archaic building technique in stone is presented. Sanctuaries connected with athletic games are presented on the examples of the Olympic and Pythian games. Next, the statues of kouroi and korai are presented as examples of aristocratic monumental sculpture (pp. 149 – 159) followed by the presentation of Attic pottery, black and red figures, here also the goal and the history of the study of pottery is sketchily drawn (pp. 159 -173)


         The study of Athenian art and architecture are viewed in an historical perspective under the heading “Athens: tyranny, to democracy, The Persian Wars” leading to the Classical period, which is presented in Chapter 4 (p. 194 -263). This chapter starts with a summing up of the Greek experience taken from the Persian wars, and the building of the Athenian leadership in the Mediterranean. Early Classical art is defined using the example of the temple of Aphaia of Aigina, civic spaces and civic heroes in Athens, Olympia and elsewhere. The description and interpretation of the Zeus temple in Olympia and the Olympic games is given a prominent place (pp. 204–214). The temples from Magna Graecia with sculpture and vase painting are presented as well. A special place is given to the ”Doryforos” by Polykleitos from Argos, created ca. 450 BC, and known only from Roman copies.


         The classical art and architecture of Athens is discussed in relation to the Acropolis (pp. 225 – 249); the Hephaisteion is given space as the best preserved Greek temple (pp. 249 – 254). Funerary customs are described in relation to Kerameikos. The chapter ends by pointing out the fact that the defeat of Athens in the Peloponnese War changed the architecture of Athens – as famous architects and artists had to look for commissions elsewhere. The last work by Iktinos, one of the architects of Parthenon, is therefore less prominent and its decoration, although more dramatic in gesture, is less careful as to the details. The author sees in these changes an effect of diminished self-confidence resulting from the defeat in the war.


         Chapter five is entitled “The Late Classical Period and Alexander, c. 400 – 323 BC” (pp.264- 319). The chapter offers space for the presentation of the healing god Asklepios and his sanctuary in Epidaurus. Tholos of Epidauros as well as other constructions on the plan of a circle are discussed in the following (such as Philipieion in Olympia, built in remembrance of the battle of Cheroneia). Of funerary art the mausoleum at Halikarnassus is worth mentioning, the remodeling of the Theatre of Dionysos in Athens marks the investement in cultural life. Of sculpture the works of Praxiteles, especially his statue of Hermes with the child Dionysos is worth mentioning; creations by Skopas and Lysippos are presented; the so-called “Alexander sarcophagus” marks funeral art, the Alexander mosaic from Pompeii shows ambitious decoration projects, the pebble mosaics, the wall paintings from tombs at Vergina, Apulian and Paestian craters mark the craftsmen creations.


         Chapter 6 (pp. 320 – 381) is entitled “The legacy of Alexander, the Hellenistic world”. In this period cultural novelties occurred in a changed world, as political centers moved to the East – Egypt became governed by Ptolemies, Syria and the Near East by Seleukids, Macedonia remained in the hands of Antigonids. – With geopolitical changes cultural trends became modified. The interest in the expression of emotions may be noticed in contemporary sculptures (portraiture and mythological alike)they show delight, curiosity, awe, absence, deep sleep and many other psycho-physical states. Royal architecture – palaces and constructions of sacral and funerary function- is impressive by it's size and decoration. A standard example is the Altar of Pergamon. Faraway places are discussed such as the settlement Ai Khanoum in Baktria (today Afganistan) founded by Macedonians (ca. 305 -300 BC) under Seleukos I – a hierotheseion of Antiochos I (ca. 50 – 35 BC) on the top of Nemrud Dagh is also discussed.


         The last chapter has the rather telling title “Roman conquest and the conquest of Rome. (p. 381-407). It is short compared to the chapters preceeding it, and concentrates on pointing out how much the Greek culture inspired the Romans; since, as the authors says,: “ It is difficult, even misguided, to talk about an end to Greek art” . Such is also opinion of the present reviewer. The reading of the book was inspiring and this reviewer recommends it warmly.