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The Iconography of Athena in Attic Vase-painting from 440–370 BC

Villing, Alexandra Claudia

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Abstract

As divine patron of the city of Athens, the goddess Athena plays a prominent role in Athenian art. The present study examines her representations in Attic vase-painting during the Classical period. In particular it traces the development of several distinctive Athena types, defined primarily by pose/action and attributes – fighting, standing, leaning, and seated – on the basis of a catalogue of some 200 selected representations. It considers their meaning and usage, their changing popularity, and their possible relationship with sculptural types. Particular attention is also paid to the considerable changes in the iconography of Athena’s dress and attributes, visible especially when charting the typology of her aegis and her helmet. It emerges that many earlier types of Athena continue through the Classical period, but some new types are also developed, such as the Leaning Athena, probably inspired by sculpture. Otherwise, however, only few clear and specific allusions to sculptural types, such as the Athena Parthenos, are in evidence. There is a general development towards a less active and more relaxed Athena, though coupled with an increased presence of attributes, emphasizing her character as a mighty goddess, protectress of heroes, particularly Herakles, and of her city. Her position as city goddess also explains why she often takes a more central position than would have been required by the particular episode represented. Her representations on vases clearly reflect the public and popular perception of the gods, rather than complex new philosophical ideas of divinity. The study was conceived as an M.Phil. thesis and is published here as it was submitted and accepted in 1992, with only minor, mostly typographical, corrections. The only major change from the original version is the reduction of the once extensive plates section to a small number of photographs representative of the figural types discussed.

Document type: Master's thesis
Date: 1992
Version: Secondary publication
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2007 15:23
Faculties / Institutes: University, Faculty, Institute > Oxford, University, Lincoln College
DDC-classification: Alte Geschichte, Vor- und Frühgeschichte, Archäologie
Subject (Propylaeum): Classical Archaeology
Controlled Subjects: Griechenland <Altertum>, Athen, Attika, Vasenmalerei, Athena, Geschichte 440-370 v.Chr.
Subject (classification): Sculpture, ceramics & metalwork
Countries/Regions: Greece (Antiquity)