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Images in Mind:
Statues in Archaic and Classical Greek Literature and Thought
Deborah Tarn Steiner

Book Description | Reviews | Table of Contents

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Published by Princeton University Press and copyrighted, © 2001, by Princeton University Press. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher, except for reading and browsing via the World Wide Web. Users are not permitted to mount this file on any network servers. Follow links for Class Use and other Permissions. For more information, send e-mail to

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Chapter 1


A MINIATURE love story frames the discovery that a certain Boutades, a Sikyonian potter at Corinth, once made: he manufactured the first portrait image on behalf of his daughter, "who was in love with a young man; and she, when he was going abroad, drew in outline on the wall the shadow of his face thrown by a lamp. Her father, having pressed clay onto this, made a relief that he hardened by exposing it to fire along with the rest of his pottery" (Pliny HN 35.151).

Although doubtless fictional, the anecdote poses perhaps the most critical question that an ancient image asked of its viewers: should they perceive the manufactured object as a replacement for the missing original, or could it do no more than reproduce the model's external appearance? Read one way, the terracotta functions as a substitute for the departing lover, and so belongs together with the many statues in Greek myth and history that serve as representations of the absent and the dead, standing in for the lost party and maintaining communication between those separated by time and space. The efficacy of these kinds of images, I suggest, depends on a particular construction of the bond between the subject and the figurine, a bond that need not rest on any visible mimetic likeness, but on a notion of substitution, equivalence, or sympathy. In Pliny's tale, the beloved and his image do not so much resemble one another as exist in a relation of metonymy, both formal and more loosely defined; here the face of the youth stands proxy for his entire person, but any portion of his person, any object associated with or belonging to him, could do as well.1 The part assumed by the shadow in the episode confirms that contiguity, not similarity, plays the leading role; not an exact visible replica of the body, the umbra nonetheless forms an intimate, though separable, element of the subject's identity.2

But within Pliny's story lies a second, and potentially less positive, account of the nature and function of images. The tale belongs to an exploration of the origins of similitudines, and Pliny caps the anecdote with a discussion of the properly historical Lysistratos of Sikyon (brother of Lysippos), who distinguished himself by creating more accurate and less idealizing representations of his models than his predecessors (35.153). An emphasis on exact imitation transforms the role of the plaque and grounds its consoling powers in its capacity to furnish a portrait likeness, a "photograph," which reminds the maiden of the distant youth. Where contiguity and metonymy determined the link between the original and the representation that worked as a replacement device, now similarity and metaphor supply the necessary adhesives. The terracotta mimics the beloved, and the closer the visible resemblance, the more successful the antidote to Boutades' daughter's grief.

United in this episode, the two facets of the image show how their coexistence within a single object need not preclude a deep antinomy. If the representation can summon up the beloved through contiguity, then the shadow's role in generating the terracotta does nothing to impair its efficacy. According to the many uses to which a man's shadow may be put, it not only forms a part of himself, but also can serve as one of the most decisive expressions of his vitality:3 very much in the manner of the image, it, too, supplies a substitute or replacement for a missing party, and holds out to lovers a means of assuaging their longing for an absent object of desire.4 But if the figurine claims to offer a mirror likeness of its living subject, then Boutades' choice to work after the umbra introduces an unwanted breach between the original and the copy.5 The portrait now stands as a flawed imitation, an image of an image, a faux-semblant at two removes from the reality it claims to depict. Sharpening the distinctions between statues as metonymic and metaphoric accounts is the second defect the representation harbors. Boutades' daughter captures no more than the outlines of the lover (lineis circumscripsit), and the potter fills the mold he makes with an interior of clay. The portrait image based on resemblance fails to house the inner essence of the subject, just as a shadow traces only the contours of the body. A variant on the story introduces yet another reason for the vacuity of the final typus: even as Boutades' daughter takes the likeness, her beloved sleeps, his vital spirit absent from the body.6

Greek philosophers and rhetoricians of the late classical and post-classical period would develop terms for the two modes of viewing that this "first" portrait image puts into play. Where the depiction is perceived as linked to its source by virtue of an intrinsic property, where it shares with the signified an essential and enduring quality, it provides an eikon, a stepping stone pointing to the original that gives the viewer access to a hidden or absent reality. To the realm of eidola , imperfect, even deceptive versions of the truth, belong figures that depend on a purely visible resemblance, that limit themselves to external contours.7 But for the statues that populate the archaic and early classical sources, these polarizations fail to capture the scenarios that the texts describe. Whether authors cite real-world images familiar to their audiences or imagine fabulous creations that come from the hands of divine and legendary artisans, the figures they envision cohabit or oscillate between the "eiconic" and "eidolic" realms. The image's relation to the original turns out to combine both metonymy and metaphor, and the manufactured work proves so handy a vehicle for poets, philosophers, and dramatists to work with precisely because it hosts the multiple and shifting positions that all representations--phantoms, words, an actor on the stage among them--occupy vis-à-vis the originals for which they stand in. That contemporary statue-makers fashion sculptures that stimulate, address, and respond to the issues posed in the texts will be the additional suggestion that this chapter makes.


The Statue as Double

Archaeological evidence that long predates written accounts demonstrates the role of the statue as a replacement figurine that doubles for the dead.8 In a grave at Midea (modern Dendra) excavators discovered a Bronze Age burial chamber inhabited by two statue menhirs occupying the place of a missing corpse. A seventh-century grave in Thera, also without a human body, contained a pair of stone images interred together with the customary grave goods,9 and a fifth-century "pot-burial" unearthed in Italian Lokri yielded a clay bust of a woman, again an apparent substitute for the dead's absent body.10 From the literary sources of the fifth century come several examples of characters of myth and history buried in effigy when their corpses could not be found. Herodotus records the Spartan custom of preparing an eidolon of a king who had died abroad in battle (and whose body presumably went missing) and of bringing the statue home for burial with due honors (6.58.3). Euripides' Helen has a similar stratagem to propose when she asks permission to conduct funeral rites for the supposedly drowned Menelaus according to the customs of her native land.11 When a puzzled Theoklymenos asks the widow how she aims to bury a mere skia (Hel. 1240), Helen replies that she will fashion a cenotaph from the garments that would normally cover the corpse (1243). Perhaps the same logic of substitution lies behind the tale preserved in later sources of the death of Alkmene: first Hermes caused her body mysteriously to disappear, and then he placed a block of stone in the chest where the corpse previously lay.12

The impetus for making a substitute for the missing person and performing his or her symbolic (re)interment may have two sources: first, the belief that the psuche of the dead cannot find its rest in Hades until the body has received appropriate burial (as Patroklos explains in Iliad 23.70-74); and second, the need to appease an unquiet soul, angry at the circumstances of its death and its deprivation of the customary honors and rites it could properly expect (the sentiment to which Orestes and Electra appeal when they attempt to rouse the ghost of Agamemnon in Aeschylus's Choephori). The Spartan general Pausanias joins this group of the wrathful dead. After he perished from starvation in the temple of Athena Chalchioikos, the Delphic oracle ordered the Spartans to escape from the pollution provoked by his end by reburying the general's body at the very spot where he died, and by "giving back two somata to the Goddess in payment for one." The city responded by dedicating two bronze statues to Athena "as a replacement for Pausanias" (Thuc. 1.134-35). Later, less sober accounts of the same event suggest that the images played a cardinal role in appeasing the anger of the general: both Plutarch and the anonymous author of the Letters of Themistocles introduce them as a device for exorcising the ghost of Pausanias that was haunting the temple entrance and terrifying people away.13

As the examples of Pausanias and others illustrate, the creation of a doubling image can correct the disturbance that certain forms of death generate. But the dead are not the sole constituents served by these replacement figures; such objects may also grant communities permanent access to the powers that certain individuals host in both life and death. In Herodotus's account of the fate of Kleobis and Biton, the two exemplary sons no sooner lay down to sleep in a temple after performing their heroic service to their mother and the goddess Hera than they "never rose more." No mention of the bodies of the youths, nor of their burial or grave site, follows; instead, the narrator rounds off his tale by noting that "the Argives made statues of them and dedicated them at Delphi, as of two men who were best of all" (1.31.5). On a second occasion, Herodotus encounters an individual whose uncanny appearances, disappearances, and death-that-is-no-death again conclude with the raising of a statue: Aristeas, or his corpse, twice vanishes from sight, and returns a third time in the form of a phasma that orders that an image be set up on the shamanlike man's behalf (4.14-15).14 In both narratives, the signal feats that the characters perform during their lives indicate their possession of a talismanic force that sets them outside the limits that men regularly observe. In each instance, too, Herodotus invests the statue that takes the place of the mysteriously missing body (and some form of translation is what the different stories seem to imply15) with a quasi-sacred status,16 suggestive of its capacity to actualize the individuals' power at the site and to make it continuously accessible to those who have erected the monument.

The motifs punctuating Herodotus's two tales find an echo and clarification in a context where images still more clearly function as replacement figurines designed to preserve the talismanic properties that their originals host. Miraculous disappearances, revenants, unlikely deaths, and outstanding feats of strength are all the stuff of the legends surrounding a series of athletic victors, most clustering in the early fifth century, who were elevated to the rank of cult heroes,17 and in each instance the tale makes plain the intimate, near-symbiotic bond between the athlete and his image. Theagenes of Thasos, Olympic victor in 480 and 476, was honored with a bronze statue standing in the agora of his native city. Flogged by an enemy after the athlete's death, the statue toppled down on its assailant and, on being convicted of homicide, was thrown into the sea. Famine fell on the Thasians until, on the advice of the Delphic oracle, they recovered the statue, restored it, and worshiped Theagenes with divine honors (Paus. 6.11.6-9). The statue of one Euthykles, a Lokrian victor, suffered mutilation after its subject had been charged with betraying the interests of his city. Once again, blight and famine fell on the community, and the Lokrians were instructed by the Delphic oracle to honor the dead athlete and to offer sacrifices to his statue equivalent to those paid to the image of Zeus (Callim. fr. 85 [dieg. II 5] Pfeiffer). The tales of Astylos of Kroton, double victor at Olympia in 488, and of Oibotas of Dyme, the first Achaean victor at Olympia and winner of the running race in 756, confirm the very close identification between the victor and his image that these other scenarios presuppose. The anger the Krotonians felt when Astylos had himself proclaimed Syracusan (supposedly to gratify the dynast Hieron) after his further victories in 484 and 480 prompted the destruction of the athlete's statue together with the transformation of his house into a prison (Paus. 6.13.1). Oibotas, furious at being deprived of a proper geras for his achievement, condemned the Achaeans to defeat in all subsequent Olympic games. Only with the elevation of a statue to the athlete some three centuries after the event did the Achaeans end their long exclusion from the winners' rolls; thereafter, Pausanias reports (7.17.14), all would make sacrifices at the tomb of Oibotas before competing at Olympia, and victors would wreathe his image standing in the Altis.

To punish or honor an individual by means of the treatment dealt out to his statue assumes the object's capacity to represent, in symbolic fashion, the absent original. Nowhere does this substitution work more powerfully than in the case of the lead, clay, and wax "voodoo" images already deployed in the curse rituals practiced in fifth-century Athens and other parts of Greece.18 By binding and/or mutilating the effigy, and then placing it in a box to be buried in a grave or another site, the aggressor hoped to contain or restrain his actual victim's vital faculties. One such figure excavated from a fifth-century Athenian grave has its hands twisted behind its back, while the arms of a small lead statuette of a man found in a tomb from the Kerameikos of the early fourth century are similarly pinioned behind its back.19 In other instances heads have been wrenched to one side or completely turned about, and feet twisted or bound together. The distortions do not so much seek to inflict this specific form of suffering on the victim (any more than the often crudely shaped dolls involve attempts to copy the appearance of those against whom they are deployed) as to immobilize his powers of action, speech, and thought, and so to render him impotent in those judicial, erotic, commercial, and agonistic spheres where the figurines chiefly operate.

A symbolic substitution or contiguity again determines the role of images in oath rituals in archaic and classical times. An inscription from Kyrene in Libya records how seventh-century colonists leaving for Africa from their home city of Thera would fashion images (kolossoi) from wax and throw them into the fire while pronouncing the prescribed formula: "May he who does not abide by this agreement, but transgresses it, melt away and dissolve like the images, himself, his seed, and his property" (SEG 9.3).20 The efficacy of the ritual depends on the statuettes' capacity to represent the oath-takers, and not merely to symbolize but rather to prefigure the perjurer's eventual fate.21 In a parallel, although more mild and retroactive, form of self-consecration, Athenian archons who have committed perjury must dedicate at Delphi statues of gold, of equal height or weight to their own body (Arist. [Ath. Pol.] 55.5; Plut. Solon 25.3; cf. Pl. Phdr. 235d-e). Rather than give over their persons to the god, the officials offer substitutes, "stand-ins" for the guilty parts of themselves.22

In one final scenario, the statue's capacity to substitute for its model allows it to counteract the powers of a different, but no less potent, kind of double. A second law from Kyrene, first discovered in the city's Roman baths and preserved in abridged form by a fourth-century redactor, records the practice of erecting kolossoi as a means of ridding a householder of an unwanted hikesios epaktos, or visitant sent by spells, come to haunt his home.23 The third provision reads:

But if he does not know his name [he shall address him], "O anthropos, whether you are a man or a woman," and having made male and female kolossoi from either wood or earth he shall entertain them and set beside them a portion of everything. When you have done the customary things, take the kolossoi and [their] portions and deposit them in an uncultivated glen. (SEG 9.72.117-21)

By first appeasing and then removing the images that double for the hikesios, the individual effectively drives the phantom from his home. Later Greek sources confirm the use of statues in such ghost-banning rituals, most notably at Orchomenos, where the phantom of the dead Aktaion was wreaking havoc on the land. Following the injunctions of the Delphic oracle, the townspeople fashioned an eikon not of Aktaion but of the ghost (eidolon), and bound this to the rock where the revenant would regularly appear (Paus. 9.38.5). Pausanias's story not only signals the "fixative" powers of the image,24 which succeeds in trapping and holding the ghost, but suggests the deeper affinities between these two doubling manifestations: in a clear instance of a magical use of like to combat like, the eidolon finds its match in the eikon, which operates according to the same laws of contiguity. This antagonistic combination of image and ghost makes additional sense of the two bronze statues erected by the Spartans after Pausanias's death. Not only designed to appease the general, they could additionally expel the phantom that haunted exactly the spot in the temple where the victim had died. Indeed, the later sources make the ghost-repelling role of the images quite plain: as Plutarch explains in his Lectures on Homer, the Spartans summoned Thessalian psychagogoi to rid themselves of the ghost, and the anonymous author of the Letters of Themistocles states still more explicitly that a revenant of Pausanias was exorcised "by means of bronze statues" (5.15).25

Relations between the Model and Replacement Figurine

In his description of Pausanias's end, Thucydides constructs the connection between the general and the images set up on his behalf in particular fashion: the Spartans dedicate the two bronze figures to Athena "in place of" or "in return for" Pausanias (hosanti Pausaniou, 1.134.4). This turn of phrase, indicating that the statues not only stand in for the dead but also compensate both him and the goddess for a life taken away, returns in many other literary and epigraphic sources that affirm the meaning behind the expression; where statues act as replacement figurines, the emphasis often falls on their equivalence in function and/ or value to the original, and on the restitutive or recompensary powers that this bond can put into play. As Jean-Pierre Vernant explains, the object's capacity to instantiate not so much the physical appearance of its model as his properties and worth allows the image to assume a role within a larger and more extensive dynamic of exchange:

Without resembling him, the equivalent is capable of presenting someone, of taking his place in the game of social exchanges. It does so not by virtue of similarity with the external aspect of the person (as in a portrait), but through a sharing in "value," a concordance in the matter of qualities tied to prestige.26

Many of the conventions and schemata that archaic and early classical statue-makers employ follow from an object's designated role: displaying the value, status, and social connections surrounding the individual for whom it stands in, the image allows its subject and/or commissioner to negotiate and display his relations with his fellow men and with the gods.

Inscriptions on grave monuments regularly include the term anti to indicate that the marker not only functions as a sema, a metonymic sign that announces the continued presence of the deceased in the world of the living,27 but in some way replaces the cardinal properties that have been removed, and so variously compensates the dead, the individual mourner, and the community for the loss.28 But the written message often does no more than spell out the symbolic content of the image itself, which issues its own directives for the pronouncement of certain descriptive terms and acts in the manner of a visual formula. In a particularly close coincidence between a verbal epithet and fashioned form, the father of one Kleoboulos erects a kouros on his son's behalf, "to stand in place of/in return for his virtue and moderation" (ant' aretes ede saophrosunes, CEG 41).29 As discussions of kouroi regularly point out, the marble youths' physical forms supply unmistakable declarations of the very properties the description privileges, visibly displaying through their flawless physiques, upright bearing, and general air of disengagement the typically aristocratic values of arete and sophrosune. The generic qualities of the kouros further promote its ability to dictate the terms in which it should be viewed: the tenacity of the schema, the conservatism of its formal development, and the absence of any overly personalizing features all allow the statue to deliver the same culturally determined message wherever it is raised.

But a generalized assertion of aristocratic excellence does not exhaust the meaning embedded in the appearance of the kouroi that proliferated in sixth-century Greece. Their defining physical characteristics also bear a striking resemblance to the attributes that Homer had assigned to the heroic young men who fought in the front ranks of the Achaean and Trojan forces, also young, beautiful, and long of hair;30 and legs and thighs, the locus of a warrior's speed and battle strength, receive equal prominence in both the plastic images and the poet's songs. An epitaph on a sixth-century monument to an Athenian named Kroisos (fig. 1) reiterates the visual coincidence between the epic hero and latter-day youth in verbal terms, using hexameter phrases proper to Homeric diction to lament the dead as it commemorates his service as a fighter in the vanguard where the legendary warrior also took his place: "Show pity beside the marker of dead Kroisos, whom raging Ares once destroyed in the front rank of battle" (CEG 27).31

To acknowledge the dead's proximity to the heroes of a bygone age is also to grant him a particular place and status in the community at large. Those who risk their lives for their polis or country by standing in the vanguard, as Sarpedon's remarks at Iliad 12.310-28 already make plain, and Tyrtaeus 9.23-42 affirms, are owed benefactions and honors both while they live and after their death, a conspicuous tomb among them. Not merely a statement of the martial valor of the dead, the statue presents itself as a prize justly awarded him, a recompense for his special merits and for the part that he has played in endeavors on his city's behalf.32 Both the location of many kouroi vis-à-vis their tombs, and the accompanying inscriptions, which employ the standard expressions found on other votive objects (katatithemi and epitithemi), demonstrate their additional function as gerata, offerings of particular privilege that reflect the subject's social persona and remunerate him in both symbolic and tangible terms for effort expended.33 Such self-declared gifts offer visible assertions of the continuing relationship of reciprocity between the dead, his family, and the larger community to which he belonged.

While men display their excellence in battle, marriage represents a woman's proper sphere of activity and her telos. The image that refigures and compensates the dead maiden or wife attempts to restore what has been taken away and to preserve the social relations that defined her in life. Most simply, an inscription from a mid-fifth-century grave stele found on Amorgos reads, "I lie here a Parian stone anti gunaikos" (CEG 153), while in more complex fashion the kore raised for Phrasikleia, carved in the latter half of the sixth century by Aristion of Paros, calls attention to what has been lost in death:

Deprived of the possibility of wedlock, the girl receives by way of recompense the geras of perpetual maidenhood, which the statue and its iconography visibly assert:35 itself modeled as a virgin or kore, the figure also holds a lotus at its breast by way of symbol of its continued and eternally unplucked state. Like the words of the inscription, the rosettes below each breast, and the additional lotuses, alternately half-open and closed, that wreathe the maiden's crown signal a blossoming into womanhood even as they affirm that this floraison has yet to occur. Together the different elements cohere in making the metonymic representation a visualization of the maiden in her social role,36 preserving her at the very threshold of the marriage to which she could once have aspired.

Like the kouros, too, the image of Phrasikleia offers the viewer an enduring statement of the status and economic worth of the dead, and of the transfer of wealth that the bestowal of her person on a husband would have involved. The kore's elaborate crown, her rich jewelry, and the belted peplos that she wears (featuring a meander winding around the neck and down the sleeves, and skillfully cut rosettes over the remainder of the fabric) all attest to the material resources of her family,37 and her carefully bound and styled hair matches the overall elegance of the figure. The maiden's very stance demonstrates her adherence to conventions determining the behavior of a marriageable girl from the social elite: the statue gathers its skirts as it steps in a gesture that Sappho reproaches a country girl for not knowing how to perform (fr. 57 LP).

Where the funerary monument seeks to compensate the dead, the votive image aims to return something in kind to the gods who have granted, or are encouraged to grant, a desired good, and more generally promotes continuing relations of reciprocitybetween the divine and human parties to the exchange. The object has two chief stratagems for achieving its several ends: its visual and verbal demonstration that it is commensurate in value to what has been, or will be, received, and its visible reenactment of the original donation, which perpetually reminds the god of the favor given and might additionally persuade the recipient to behave in kind. For a votive image which stands proxy for the benefaction itself and so declares the dedicator solvent vis-à-vis the gods, ps.-Aristotle cites the statue of one Diphilos set up by his son on the Acropolis and records the inscription carved on the piece: "Anthemion, the son of Diphilos, has dedicated this statue to the gods, when from the status of thes he had been raised to the status of a knight (thetikou anti telous hippad' ameipsamenos)" (Arist. [Ath. Pol.] 7.4).38 The image, portraying the individual accompanied by his horse, confirms the change in social and economic standing and presents to the gods by way of thanks an object that displays exactly the rank they have given to the donor. Anthemion, of course, enjoys an additional benefit from the design he has selected; the statue also announces his status to mortal visitors to the sacred site and follows the examples of other offerings that still more patently boast the social standing of the donor.39

Other images announce themselves equivalent to some aspect of the gift bestowed, again restoring parity between the partners to the transaction. As votive object, the kore, exhibited in its fine clothing and rich ornaments, supplies a fitting return for economic benefits, and the accompanying inscription frequently reiterates its visual fulfillment of this role. So a potter named Nearchos dedicates a kore "as a tithe of his works to Athena" (CEG 193), and a fisherman celebrates an exceptionally good venture by setting up "this kore as a tithe of the catch that the ruler of the sea with the golden trident gave him" (CEG 266; cf. 205).40 The small bronze statuette dedicated by one Mantiklos around 700 also offers the god a portion of the donor's wealth, but does so not only to satisfy an earlier vow (as the term "tithe" probably implies),41 but also in the hope of stimulating an answering, and commensurate, gift: "Mantiklos dedicated me to the far-shooting Lord of the Silver Bow, a tithe. You, Phoibos, give some pleasing favor in return" (CEG 326).

The terms of Mantiklos's petition are carefully chosen: asking for a "pleasing return (chari Fettanamoib[an])," the figurine signals its participation in the bonds of charis and chreos that join parties to a gift exchange (cf. CEG 371). Other dedications similarly invite the gods to appreciate the gift's beauty and worth in order to affirm their role as vehicles or catalysts for the two-way transaction. An image destined for Artemis on Paros and presented by Demokudes and Telestodike at the end of the sixth century uses standard archaic votive diction when it describes itself as an agalma, an object that through its high quality and craftsmanship inspires delight in its viewer and should prompt the goddess's own reciprocal gift of charis (CEG 414); and a contemporary boustrophedon inscription from Boeotia styles its gift a "beautiful thing of delight (kalon agalma) for Far-Darting Apollo," and then goes on to make its request for arete and wealth (CEG 334). Just as the prayer formula regularly establishes the speaker's credentials before framing its wishes, so the image, which supplies a visible manifestation of these credentials, proclaims its fitness to petition the god.

The visual schemes adopted by many archaic and early classical votives still more immediately announce and realize these relations of give and take. Alongside the common ex-votos that take the simple form of a replica or depiction of the sacrificial animal or food brought to the god, more elaborate representations appear, showing the worshiper bringing these gifts.42 Sometime around 560, one Rhonbos set up on the Athenian Acropolis an approximately life-sized marble statue featuring an individual (Rhonbos himself?) devoutly bearing his sacrificial calf to the sanctuary, and the larger-than-life ram-bearer from Thasos (c. 600) seems engaged in the same act of devotion. Whether the donor really had offered up such a animal or had only commissioned a statue depicting such a deed, the image lastingly reenacts the moment of dedication and invites both immortal and mortal viewer to appreciate the petitioner's status, wealth, and privileged relation to the god. In like fashion, many korai dedicated on the Athenian Acropolis carry offerings of crowns, fruits, flowers, rabbits, or birds; often holding the objects in their outwardly extended hands (and perhaps these hands would originally have pointed toward the altar),43 the maidens perform a visually focalizing gesture that patently declares the act of giving. An inscription from an early archaic statue group from Samos made by one Geneleos (fig. 2) affirms that in many instances the gift-bearing korai were more precisely designed to stand in for their absent donors: identifying one such kore and her function, the extant lines read, "I am . . . oche, who has also dedicated it to Hera."44

By leaving an enduring simulacrum of his or her votive-bearing person in the sacred space, the petitioner guaranteed that the god would witness the offering on his visits to the sanctuary and, seeing and accepting the gift, enter into the desired relationship with the giver. The votive reliefs that first appeared around the end of the seventh century and came to serve as more affordable alternatives to the expensive, frequently large-scale images contribute a fresh element to the scheme: by including a depiction of the god in the act of accepting the offering, they not only perpetuate the original moment of donation, but also signal the gift's successful receipt.45 Whether set up to thank the deity for answering an earlier prayer or to lend tangible presence to a newly framed petition, the relief shows that contact between mortals and immortals has been established, and that the god, by virtue of attending the ritual, and even on occasion receiving the object the mortal holds out, is now obligated to respond. Perhaps the scenes depicted on the plaques possess one further dimension: parallel to the prayer whose midsection or argumentum aims to cajole and even compel the deity to grant the request, representations of the gods in the moment when they willingly receive the proffered gift and listen to the euche accompanying the gesture seek to persuade and manipulate the divine viewer into adopting precisely this stance.46

For one final instance of a coincidence between a statue's visual configuration and its assumption of the role, social status, and divine and human relations its subject possesses, I return to the victory images cited earlier. Chiefly commemorative in intent, the statues raised in the Altis, the sacred precinct of Zeus at Olympia, seem also to have had a votive function: as many commentators note, Pausanias's use of the term anathemata to describe the images sits oddly with his statement that they were among the honors bestowed on the athletes rather than dedications to Zeus (5.21.1, 5.25.1), and the bases of early victor monuments found at Olympia regularly employ the standard votive formula anetheke to evoke how the objects were set up.47 Since, as Pindaric odes endlessly assert, the athlete owes his win as much to divine favor as to his own efforts, the deity requires a thank-offering for answering the contestant's spoken or unspoken prayers.48 The earliest preserved epigram from an Olympic victory monument dating to the first half of the sixth century suggests the precise nature of the return that is owed: declaring itself "equal in height and thickness to the victor" (CEG 394), the life-sized image substitutes for the person of the athlete who hazarded his person in the competition, and whose triumphant emergence from the agon stands testament to the tutelary presence of the god presiding over the event.

Whether set up at the site of the competition and or in the victor's native town, such a monument also tangibly embodied a different relationship of reciprocity: in its function as geras, the victory image gave return for the athlete's effort and financial outlay not just on his own but on his city's behalf, and supplied a marker of the community's gratitude for (and pride in) an achievement whose glory enhanced its own local and national standing.49 Because the chreos that the city owed its native son appears embedded in the statue, the artifact becomes an obvious lightning rod when the two-way flow of goods and services suffers dislocation. In several of the tales surrounding heroized athletes, citizens angry at an athlete's failure to act as public benefactor vent their wrath on his image, sometimes mutilating the object, sometimes destroying it or expelling it from the community. The Lokrian Euthykles, whose statue was defaced, stood accused of receiving bribes to betray his city, while the Krotonian Astylos, whose statue was pulled down, had deprived his fellow citizens of their due portion of glory when he had himself proclaimed Syracusan instead of from his native town. The flogging dealt out to the image of Theagenes of Thasos, which was subsequently thrown into the sea, may have been a mark of the political divisions within the city, and of the athlete's participation in the pro-Athenian faction during his lifetime.50 Only a renegotiation of the roles of both parties within the relationship through the person of the replacement image restores the broken equilibrium and guarantees that the reciprocal benefactions will resume their flow.

To look upon the victory monument was instantly to apprehend how the image embodied not just the athlete's achievement, but also this network of relations of charis and chreos binding him and his fellow citizens. Manifesting the physical excellence and beauty (external or internal) that are the sine qua non of triumph in the games,51 the statue also regularly wears either the victor's fillet, bestowed on him immediately after the win, or the crown that he received in the concluding ceremonies; additional emphasis falls on the ribbon or wreath when the sculptor imagines his subject with his hand raised to touch the ornament, as does the Motya charioteer (fig. 3) or the copy of the lost Diadoumenos of Polykleitos (fig. 4). The focus on one or other of these two literally "crowning" moments closely coheres with the function that victory images were designed to fill. If the bestowal of the ribbon or wreath signaled the individual's acquisition of the quasi-talismanic force that legends and anecdotes assign to him,52 then the reenactment of the event in plastic form visibly declares the image invested with the same status and powers, and draws attention to its capacity to represent the original as a source of beneficial power that can foster the community's well-being.

The terms found in some of the inscriptions included on the statue bases suggest a second message issued by the visual design. Following what seems to be standard diction in the classical and postclassical period, an epigram dated to the first half of the fifth century directs the viewer to look at the Olympic victor Theognetos, "who crowned the city of good fathers" (Ebert 35 3 Anth. Pal. 13.15). The formula has a literal as well as metaphoric significance, alluding to the common practice whereby the victor would, on his return home, dedicate his prize at the shrine of a local god or hero,53 and so symbolically share the glory he had acquired with the city at large. The image's appearance, with its hand raised to touch the marker of the win, would denote its subject's readiness to make the viewer participant in his kudos and to allow him to reap his share of the benefits accrued. The honor the citizen has granted the athlete in permitting the setting up of an image on his behalf has been duly answered by a reciprocal act of charis on that statue's part.


"Seeing In"

The victory statue does not rely on iconography alone to transport the viewer back to the original crowning ceremony and its aftermath; just as the messages included on votive objects reiterate the prayers spoken on the occasion when the donor presented his gift, so the inscriptions accompanying the images closely match the words that the sacred herald delivered as the winner stood to claim his prize, and recreate the audible as well as visual milieu belonging to the bygone event. Together the several elements combine to make the subject of the monument present in the viewer's own space (or, more properly, the viewer present in the athlete's), eliding and even annulling the distance between the inanimate object and a living reality. But the act of "presentification," which many of these replacement images seem so effectively to perform, does not exclude their possession of a second dimension: the inscriptions that designate the votive, funerary, and honorific statues agalmata, or cite the name of the artist and mention the occasion of their setting up, recall their character as material and aesthetic objects, the products of the craftsman's shaping hand and a source of pleasurable viewing for mortal and divine audiences.

The double response that these artifacts invite repeats itself still more prominently in a second group of images that exist outside the ritual, ceremonial, and magical contexts drawn on so far, and whose impact, the sources suggest, depends not least on their capacity exactly to transcribe a visible reality, to act as accurate imitations of the appearances of the things they portray. First conceived in the fantasies that epic poets weave, such skillfully modeled objects possess an almost miraculous verisimilitude and semblance of life. But unlike the eidola critiqued by later philosophers, these representations do not set out to mask their "factural" nature, nor do they seek to dupe their audiences by persuading them of the reality of the pictured scene; instead, they combine their ability to call an absent body or event most vividly to mind with an emphatic declaration of their own materiality and poiesis, the process of manufacture that imposes itself on the spectator and actually enhances the pleasure he experiences from the work.54 In the terms developed by modern critics, the viewer is prompted to see the object in the image, rather than the image as the object it represents; far from mistaking the replication for reality, he apprehends both the material and representational aspects of the account.55

The cunningly fashioned brooch that the disguised Odysseus cites in his conversation with Penelope wins the viewers' applause:

Godlike Odysseus wore a purple cloak of wool, double thick; but on it was fashioned a pin of gold with double clasps, with a daidalon in front: a hound was holding in its forepaws a dappled fawn, preying on it while it struggled.
All were marveling at it, how though they were gold, the one preyed on the fawn throttling it, but the other struggled with its feet as it tried to flee.

Combined in the single piece, several kinds of image "magic" are at work. For the poet's listeners, there is no mistaking the doubling (or "eiconic," to use the later term) power of the brooch, which so neatly foreshadows Odysseus's attack on the helpless suitors in the home and anticipates his address to his dogged heart after his conversation with Penelope is done. But what impresses the internal audience, whom the speaker includes in his narrative, is the seeming animation of the animals.56 Dog and fawn engage in a continuing struggle, each moving and reacting to the other's motions.

In his description of the viewers' response, the beggar pinpoints the source of their enjoyment more minutely: juxtaposed with and punctuating the account of the "life" that the figures in the brooch seemingly possess, the object's artistry (its character as daidalon) and its materiality ("how though they were gold") emphatically appear. The "dappled" quality of the fawn spans the two dimensions: most immediately referring to the appearance of the animal's variegated or spotted hide, it also calls attention to the quality of poikilia, the element of adornment and embellishment that all fine works of art should display. It is the meeting of these two facets that prompts the wonder that the audience experiences: it marvels at how a prominent and self-assertive techne can coexist alongside, and in no way dilute, an act of presentification, a creation of phusis from inanimate matter.

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File created: 8/7/2007

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