After you’ve done the reading, look at the images here of the Gigantomachy (Battle of the Olympic gods vs. the Giants) from the Great Altar at Pergamon, as well as statues of the Celts (thought to be later Roman copies of Pergamene victory monuments). Write a brief response regarding the effectiveness of style and composition to communicate a political/philosophical message in either the Gigantomachy or the two statues of the Celts.
Gigantomachy on the Great Altar: The frieze running around the Great Altar at Pergamon depicts the epic mythological battle between the Olympian gods and the Titans/Giants (“Gigantomachy”). As noted by Gruen, “the Gigantomachy carries clear echoes of the Parthenon friezes [i.e. the metopes], thus associating the Attalid achievement with that of classical Athens, standard-bearer of order against chaos, of Hellenic civilization against barbarism.” How do the sculptors of the Gigantomachy achieve this stylistically? Look at the manner of composition, relationships between figures, expressions, textures, sense of movement, and the techniques used to achieve these.
The “Suicidal Gaul” (currently housed in the Palazzo Altemps, Rome) and the “Trumpeter/Dying Gaul” (currently housed in the Capitoline Museum, Rome): These two statues are believed to be Roman-era copies of figures that formed part of a Pergamene victory monument. The Celts are the barbaroi par excellence (worse than the Persians!), feared and loathed by Greeks and Romans alike (at least in the literature of this period). How do we know just from looking that these figures are Celts/Gauls? How have the sculptures used style to present a narrative/commentary on these Celts? Pay attention to the physique – what does it mean that these Celts are shown with such impressive physiques? What is the Pergamene (or Roman) viewer meant to feel when viewing these statues?
Note: The labels “Celt” and “Gaul” are used interchangeably to refer to these invaders from the North who settled in Greece and Asia Minor.
**Due by 10 pm, Wednesday March 16**
“Dying Gaul (Trumpeter)” (first 5 images) & “Suicidal Gaul” (last three images):
The Gigantomachy Frieze from the Great Altar:
Download images here: Great Altar – Gigantomachy
For more information about the Gigantomachy frieze and the Great Altar more generally, go here:
I don’t normally recommend wikipedia articles, but this one is is unusually well researched and cited, and is probably the best thing available on the web.
Here’s a translation of the relevant section of Hesiod’s Theogony, which describes the battle between the Gods and the Giants/Titans: