Polis and Personification in Classical Athenian Art


In this study Dr Smith investigates the use of political personifications in the visual arts of Athens in the Classical period (480-323 BCE). Whether on objects that served primarily private roles (e.g. decorated vases) or public roles (e.g. cult statues and document stelai), these personifications represented aspects of the state of Athens—its people, government, and events—as well as the virtues (e.g. Nemesis, Peitho or Persuasion, and Eirene or Peace) that underpinned it. Athenians used the same figural language to represent other places and their peoples. This is the only study that uses personifications as a lens through which to view the intellectual and political climate of Athens in the Classical period.

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Biographical Note
Amy C. Smith, PhD (1997) in Classical Archaeology, Yale University, is Senior Lecturer in Classics and Curator of the Ure Museum, University of Reading. She has published widely on Graeco-Roman art in the spheres of politics, myth, and religion.
Review Quotes
" The volume has high production values, with crisply laid out text and glossy plates with over 90 black-and-white images. Illustration of some less familiar pieces, such as the Makaria Painter's name-vase in Reading's Ure Museum, is especially welcome. (...) Altogether, though, this is a useful contribution to the growing literature on Greek personification, particularly for its treatment of material not covered by Shapiro 1993, and for the attention it draws to the potential political connotations of these figures." Emma Stafford, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2016.04.32.
Table of contents
Bibliography & Abbreviations
List of Illustrations

Chapter One Introduction: Viewing personifications in Classical Athens
The relevance of literature in the study of personifications
Civic and political
Overview of previous scholarship

Chapter Two Names or comments? The Birth of Political Personification in Greece
Prosopopoeia, allegoria, and hyponoia
Personifications in myth and cult
Greek personifications before the Classical period
Parallels in Classical Athenian literature
Political personifications in old comedy
Symbolic figures in the visual arts of early Classical Athens
The use of labels with personifications
Chapter Three Humanising Greek places and spaces: Local Personifications and Athenian
The family of Okeanos
The daughters of Asopos
Eleusis and more eponymous heroines
Nymphs, Nereids, and maenads

Chapter Four Goddess before personification? Right and Retribution
From epic to Athens

Chapter Five The independence of epithets: Kharites, virtues, & other nymphs in the
‘Gardens of Aphrodite’
Civic virtues in the Classical Athenian polis
Hygieia and a healthy city
Peitho in the polis
Civic Harmony
Other personifications in the realm of Aphrodite
Civic expressions in public processions
Chapter Six Aristocracy or democracy? Eukleia and Eunomia between the gods
A joint cult of Eukleia and Eunomia at Athens?
Chapter Seven Visual personifications in literature and art: Aristophanes’ Eirene and her
Opora and Theoria
The benefits of Peace
Chapter Eight Ephemeral personifications: Civic festivals and other peacetime pleasures
Basileia and Soteria
Pompe and Athenian festivals
Panhellenic festivals87
Fin-de-siecle ephemera
Chapter Nine Masculine people in feminine places: The Body Politic at home and abroad
Athens and Attika
Tribes and neighbourhoods
Aspects of the Athenian Demos
Personifications of cities regions outside Attika
Local personifications in the public eye
Chapter Ten The mother of wealth: Eirene revisited
Kephisodotos’ statue of Eirene and Ploutos
Wealth and Fortune
Ploutos at Eleusis

Chapter Eleven From oikos to polis: Democracy and more civic virtues in fourth century
Homonoia and Arete
Chapter Twelve Conclusion
Document reliefs
Monumental paintings
Miscellaneous reliefs
Vase paintings
Political terms
Other personal names
Topographical index
General index
Students and scholars interested in the origins of personification, its political and religious role in the society of Ancient Athens, and especially its allegorical and symbolic uses by ancient Greek artists.
Index Card
Collection Information