Week 9: Image-making and the Hellenistic Kings

Following the death of Alexander, control of the eastern Mediterranean was fought over by his generals (often referred to as the diadochoi or “successors”), with the result of the creation of new kingdoms, each with a leader who fashioned himself as a king in the Macedonian tradition, creating new dynasties.  The most prominent of these were the Antigonid dynasty which controlled Macedon and parts of Greece; the Seleukid dynasty which controlled the bulk of Asia; and the Ptolemaic dynasty which controlled Egypt and, at times, part of the Levant and the Aegean.  In the third century BC, a new dynasty, that of the Attalids, emerged in Asia Minor, centered around Pergamon (coopting territory from the Seleukids).  Each of these major kingdoms was eventually conquered/absorbed by Rome (in the case of Seleukid Asia, it was subsumed by both Rome and the Parthians, a central Asian people from the East).

The cast of characters – i.e. the Macedonian generals and their children – who followed Alexander had great ambitions, but one major failing – they were not part of the Argead dynasty (that of Alexander and Philip).  They attained their power through arms, but also undertook a program of image-making that transformed as the nature of the kingdoms and the threats against it transformed.  This week we’ll be looking at aspects of this.

Tuesday, March 15: Hellenistic Kingship and Portraiture

Metropolitan Museum of Art: “Art of the Hellenistic Age and the Hellenistic Tradition” (for background)  http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/haht/hd_haht.htm

Smith, R. R. R. (1988) Hellenistic Royal Portraits, pp 46-53. Smith HRP 46-53

Smith, R. R. R. 1996. “Ptolemaic portraits: Alexandrian types, Egyptian versions.” In Alexandria and Alexandrianism, 203-13.  Smith.Ptol.portraits

For Tuesday, we’ll ask similar questions about the Hellenistic kings and their image that we did of Alexander’s portraits – what elements go into the construction of these portraits? How did they use and/or alter the precedent set by Alexander? What is the nature of Hellenistic kingship, and what kinds of characteristics and messages did these kings need to communicate with their images?  We’ll look particularly at the portraiture of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt, which is notable for its dual Greek and Egyptian character, as well as the prominent place of the Ptolemaic queens.

Thursday, March 16: Pergamene Propaganda

Strootman, R. “Kings against Celts: deliverance from barbarians as a theme in Hellenistic royal propaganda,” pp 101-139 in The Manipulative Mode: Political Propaganda in Antiquity, ed. By K. A. E. Enenkel and I. L. Pfeijffer.  (note: you can skip pp 111-117)   Strootman

Gruen, E. (2000) “Culture as Policy: The Attalids of Pergamon,” in From Pergamon to Sperlonga: Sculpture and Context, ed. by N. T. de Grummond and B. S. Ridgway.  Gruen “Culture as Policy”

Philetairos, the founder of the Attalid dynasty, was a governor of Pergamon (Asia Minor) during the civil wars of the successors.  Two generations later his descendent, Attalos, decided to promote himself to King Attalos I after some (seeming) victories against the Celts.  On what basis did Attalos justify adopting the title of Basileus (“King”)? What steps did Attalos and his successors take to prop up this new status? What motivated the Attalids’ grand building projects? How does the reality of the Celtic presence in Asia Minor connect (or not) with how the Celtic threat was represented in art?

Some images of Hellenistic Rulers:



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