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Chapter Five – The Audience

The purpose of this chapter is to identify if the influence of Aphrodite can be viewed from whether or not she and the other gods can be seen as spectators within a vase scene. Stansbury-O’Donnell’s ‘Vase Painting, Gender, and Social Identity in Archaic Athens’ provides a detailed examination of spectators on black-figure vase painting.235 This scheme will be adapted to provide a baseline model of how gods can be viewed as spectators. It will be argued that those figures outside of the adapted model can be considered as actors within the scene. Furthermore, consideration will be given as to whether or not there is a divide between the genders in the representations on vase painting and as to whether their actions are a form of influence.

Stansbury-O’Donnells Theory of Spectators

It is noted by Stansbury-O’Donnell that there has been little systematic study of spectator characters on vases.236 The first observation on spectators Stansbury-O’Donnell recalls is that of Beazley who refers to figures as ‘onlookers, courtiers, retinue’ but more recent work makes it clear that there are a large number of vases with spectators; the figures reflect in some way the members of society and the figures have meaning.237 However, Stansbury-O’Donnell’s work focuses primarily on mortals by identifying various different types of spectator within vase painting. These are generally the same for both male and female participants: inert/inactive, spearbearing, active, very active and those leaning on sticks or sitting.238 The two schemes for both adult male and female spectators can be found in Appendix 4; Stansbury-O’Donnell does suggest a scheme for male youths but as the Olympian deities are adults no further reference will be made to this scheme.239 The first category are those spectators who are inert or inactive. Male spectators in this category are standing still and may possibly have a hand projecting from the silhouette. Female spectators are also standing still with their mantle pulled forward and possibly one hand extended.240 The second category are spearing-bearing spectators. Both males and females have very similar stances in this category, though females are smaller in number. In both instances they carry a long staff close to the body and there may be a small gesture or stride in the case of males.241 The third category are active spectators and for males this consists of those who extend their limbs further from their body, the hand and forearm are visible, hands might be open and raised above their heads but also the legs may be spread further apart than the first two categories. For females, these spectators have their hands and forearms extended (at waist/hip height, vertically or at different angles) and the palms may be open.242 In category four are the very active spectators. Male figures have their elbows and arms extend fully from body and with arms or hands being used. The feet are spread wide apart which conveys motion and the head may be turned in a different direction to the movement. Females’ arms extend at different angles (either over the head, behind or in front of the body, either side or in a gesture such as a hand on the forehead in grief) or there may also be a wreath present.243 The final two categories are spectators leaning on sticks (M5 and W5) and sitting (M6 and W6). There are no examples cited by Stansbury-O’Donnell of women leaning on sticks whereas men can be found to be standing still and may have an arm extended to the front either up or down with a bowed head. Seated spectators are for both men and women seated or reclining and maybe making a gesture.244 The segregation of participants within a scene into these categories can be transferred into those scenes representing divine figures.

2017-02-26-11In order to adapt this scheme it is necessary to break it down into component parts: observers and influencers. The first group can be considered to be observers, those who are inert/inactive, leaning on sticks or sitting; spear or sceptre bearing gods can fall into this category depending on the stance. There are a number of examples of these within the catalogue.245 Examples of this type of figure include Athena where she is located to the side in a fight scene or positioned centrally in depictions of voting for the arms of Achilles, or scenes of Achilles and Ajax playing a board game.246 There is no movement implied in these scenes or where there is a gesture it is small or replicating the stance of another figure, providing a balance to the scene. Furthermore, in one example from the catalogue, Figure 40, Athena can be seen inert observing the scene of the infant Herakles fighting the snakes. In fight scenes such as Herakles’ and Apollo’s competition for the tripod, where Athena and Artemis are depicted, they are normally positioned to the side, set away from the action, the gestures are small and they appear to frame the image (Figure 41a, b and c).247 There are some instances of Aphrodite appearing as an observer but these are fewer in number as she more frequently appears in the influencer role.248


2017-02-26-13The second category are those scenes in which a god can be seen to be influencing the scene and consist of spectators who are active or very active; depending on the stance some spear or sceptre bearing gods can be included in this category also. Instances that fall within this category would, for example, be large gestures and movement within the scene.249 Demeter can be identified in scenes in which she can be considered to be influencing mortals. In these scenes Demeter is teaching Triptolemos her knowledge of agriculture for him to share with humanity. Figure 42, for example, shows both Demeter and Persephone interacting with Triptolemos. This certainly constitutes some form of involvement with mortal affairs, however at an early stage in the mythology of human existence. Though it should also be noted that this is a different type of involvement to that of Aphrodite as it is educational, Demeter is not exerting her divine influence. There are many instances of Aphrodite’s influence within the catalogue.250 In addition to those identified, actions such as an outstretched hand holding an apple can be seen to indicate her influence as it is a reminder of her Judgement of Paris victory.251 2017-02-26-14In Figure 43a and b the movement of the body and passing of the apple to Eros is indicative of action within the scene. Where there is an accompanying gesture or movement in scenes with a sceptre-bearing Aphrodite she can be seen as influential as the sceptre provides authority. Furthermore, in these scenes she appears engaged with the activities of the mortals present with her through the painter’s positioning of her or where conversation can be inferred.252 The sceptre-bearing Aphrodite in Figure 44a leans into the scene where Eros is kneeling followed by a mortal youth (Figure 44b). The position of Aphrodite above the other two figures, the gesture and look over her shoulder indicates action and engagement with the scene. The influence and authority of the scene is further enhanced by her naked depiction.

The depictions of Demeter and Aphrodite are two very different types of involvement with humans. Likewise Zeus normally appears to be represented in two different ways: observer or active seducer of women.253 Zeus does not appear to exert any influence over the human race in either representation. Zeus when observing events appears inert and enthroned as witness to a scene with his sceptre in hand (for example Figure 45). Where a god is actively involved in a scene therefore they can be identified as actors.2017-02-26-152017-02-26-16

The actors of red-figure vase painting

2017-02-26-17There are a number of images within the catalogue that do not fit within the adaptation of Stansbury-O’Donnell’s model. These figures can be considered to be actively engaging within the main focus of a scene as the action depicted is not that of a spectator. Examples include Apollo struggling with Herakles, Zeus pursuing a mortal (for example Leda, Io, Europa and Ganymede) or a god enacting a punishment.254

2017-02-26-182017-02-26-19Athena’s grasp on the wheel, gesture and movement towards Ixion infers action within this punishment scene (Figure 46). Athena in this scene is not influencing Ixion but instead undertaking some form of action. In a scene of punishment therefore there is no influence over the mortal other than the execution which in itself is an act not influence. Furthermore, in the case of Zeus departing with a mortal the influence has already happened and instead the scene focuses on the action prior to the consummation of the union. In addition to the active scenes noted earlier where Zeus is seen running off with a mortal, he also appears in other contexts: for example leading a procession of the gods or battles with giants (Figure 47).255 Therefore, in these scenes Zeus appears to have exerted his influence and instead they depict an action. It is questionable whether the scenes d epict a willing departure of the mortal or their abduction; though in Figure 48 Europa appears to be departing willingly. However, regardless of this determination it is a very different act to Aphrodite as Zeus is depicted in action with the mortal that is coming with him. As it is the moment of action there is no exertion of any godly influence in the painting and therefore these figures can be considered actors and not influencers or spectators.


Vase Painting and Gender Divide

The question arises as to whether there is a gender divide between the representations of the influence that gods and goddesses have. Those gods mentioned so far appear regularly in a variety of godly mythological scenes. Furthermore, gods such as Zeus, Dionysus or Dionysus with his entourage also appear on their own with mortal lovers. When considering female goddesses a distinction must be drawn between those who are virgin goddesses such as Athena and Artemis and non-virgin goddesses such as Hera and Demeter.

2017-02-26-20Cult images of deities quite regularly appear in representations on vase painting and most frequently they are images of mortals seeking refuge.256 One example of this is the regular depiction of Athena as a statue in scenes with Ajax and Kassandra.257 In the majority of images Kassandra is grasping at the Palladion of Athena with Ajax approaching prior to her abduction and destruction of the cult image.258 Alroth suggests that cultic images on vases can be divided into three categories: mythological, cult and depictions of the deity alone.259 The presence of statues in some divine mythical scenes is explained by Schefold as a requirement to communicate the story.260 This certainly is the case with the Ajax and Kassandra scenes, for example Figure 49, as the audience know the exact point of the story and can also foresee, with the presence of Athena’s statue, what is to come. Alroth discusses two images of the abduction of the Leukippides and the statues of Aphrodite that appear on them. 2017-02-26-21The first is a hydria by the Meidias Painter depicting the abduction and the second a krater showing a rigid image of Aphrodite holding a philae and sceptre (Figure 50). The Leukippides in both scenes are located close to the cult image. As they were already betrothed to Idas and Lynkeus they can be identified as seeking refugee with Aphrodite to protect them from the Dioskouroi’s intentions. In each of these instances the cult image of Aphrodite appears in a formal front facing position. This is similar to other depictions of cultic images of Aphrodite on lekythoi.261 Alroth proposes that cultic images of Aphrodite appear more regularly on lekythoi as they may be connected to her cult of Aphrodite Ourania.262 Given the number of idol images on lekythoi, that are not depictions of myths from the literary tradition, in the catalogue, such as Figure 51, this would appear to be the case. Alroth makes a general observation that there are differences between the frequencies of representations of cult images of gods on vase painting: Athena and Apollo are far more regularly depicted as cult images.2632017-02-26-22

Depictions of mythological scenes on vase painting where statues of deities are present can be used to communicate a story, a reminder of the deity’s presence or alternatively serve no purpose. However, in each instance the statue is the deity but at the same time is not as it is inanimate and therefore removed from the scene and has no influence. In the story of Ajax and Kassandra he, for example, did not fear Athena while using violence in the sanctuary which is conveyed in the image on the vases.264 It has been noted that Aphrodite appears regularly with mortals, but usually accompanied by a member of her entourage. However, brief consideration should be given to the other goddesses.

2017-02-26-23Whilst appearing regularly as a statue Athena is also depicted as an observer of mortals: watching over Ajax and Achilles playing a game (Figure 52),265 in the presence of Heracles’ victory over the Nemean Lion266 or overseeing the voting for Achilles’ armour.267 These scenes, like the representation as a statue, separate her from the action. There are also other scenes in which Athena appears as an epiphany, unseen by the others represented but visible to the audience.268 Shapiro’s assessment of these depictions is accurate as there are several images in which Athena appears in the scene but at the same time is segregated, invisible to the others but present to the viewer. 2017-02-26-24Figure 53, for example, represents an epiphany of Athena, reminding the viewer of her mythological protection of Herakles, looking onto the action.269 Artemis, on the other hand, more often than not appears with other major deities, usually her brother (for example Figure 54).270 2017-02-26-25When depicted on her own she occasionally appears in one of two instances with mortals or is completely alone.271 The first of these instances is Artemis observing the Calydonian Boar hunt.272 In this scene Artemis is overseeing the hunt as the goddess who released the creature but also in her role as the goddess of the hunt (for example Figure 55). 2017-02-26-26The second is the death of Aktaion who in myth died at Artemis’ hand.273 The catalogue indicates that Artemis appears only on her own in the specific situations identified. Non-virgin goddesses appear to be represented in a similar way. 2017-02-26-27Hera, for example, is mostly depicted with Zeus and/or other major gods274 (Figure 56), or occasionally on her own with some minor goddesses such as Nike or Iris.275 There are only a couple of instances within the catalogue where Hera appears with a mortal on her own. 276 Therefore, it can be inferred from the data that vase painters infrequently depicted Hera without other gods. There are, as with Hera, Artemis and Athena, scenes where Demeter is completely on her own. However, as another non-virgin goddess, she is very rarely depicted on her own.277 Invariably she is represented alongside her daughter Persephone or with other Olympian deities (for example Figure 42).278 There is a particular scene type where Demeter is depicted on her own with Triptolemos (a mortal). These are just a small number of instances though: 22% of 116 vases.279 However, Triptolemos was born a demi-god and as such can be treated differently where depicted alongside a goddess because of this status.280 Furthermore, Demeter is rewarding him and providing the knowledge of agriculture for the world. This, as with Artemis’ appearance in the Calydonian Boar hunt scene, is Demeter performing a specific function as a goddess and as the interaction with Triptolemos can be seen differently.

On the one hand, it does appear that there is a gender difference in the representations of gods and goddesses on vase painting. However gods and goddesses, including Aphrodite, are depicted on their own, not necessarily equally, but not significantly differently. On the other hand, in respect of Aphrodite there is a distinction between representations of her and those of other gods and goddesses. Aphrodite is very much involved in the scene whereas for the most part other gods and goddesses are removed from the depiction. Furthermore, Aphrodite is supported by a number of lesser gods and goddesses. Whereas other Olympian deities, excepting Athena who is regularly depicted with Nike,281 are more often than not usually represented alongside each other; normally with those who they are closest to for example Hera and Zeus, Artemis and Apollo and Persephone and Demeter.

The Audience – Conclusions

Stansbury-O’Donnells’ model is a particularly useful basis for the analysis of the involvement of the gods depicted in vase painting. The adaptation of the model into two sections, observers and influencers, allows the identification of actors, enables the analysis of the images of gods and the application of a scheme to them. The model in turn shows that Aphrodite has a particularly active influencing role within the scenes in which she is depicted. Although there are some gods who have influencing roles they are more frequently depicted in scenes of action, which is not a form of influence but instead it is an action such as a punishment or assistance for humanity.


235 Stansbury-O’Donnell 2006
236 Stansbury-O’Donnell 2006:5
237 Beazley, Korte-Konte, Carpenter, Scheibler, Brijder, Wees and Barringer all cited as part of Stansbury-O’Donnell’s 2006:5-8 review of earlier works on spectators.
238 Stansbury-O’Donnell 2006
239 Stansbury-O’Donnell 2006:146-86
240 Stansbury-O’Donnell 2006:131-4 for male and 189-91 for female spectators. These are labelled M1 and W1 on the chart in Appendix 4.
241 Stansbury-O’Donnell 2006:134-8 for male and 193-7 for female spectators. These are labelled M2 and W2 on the chart in Appendix 4.
242 Stansbury-O’Donnell 2006:138-9 for male and 197-203 for female spectators. These are labelled M3 and W3 on the chart in Appendix 4.
243 Stansbury-O’Donnell 2006:139-42 for male and 203-10 for female spectators. These are labelled M4 and W4 on the chart in Appendix 4.
244 Stansbury-O’Donnell 2006:142-46 for male and 210-2 for female spectators. These are labelled M5/6 and W5/6 on the chart in Appendix 4.
245 Artemis standing still BA 31639, 42053. Artemis hand slightly projected BA 214371, 230421. Artemis leg bent BA 9030613. Athena arm slightly projected BA 200002, 200175. Athena standing still 318, 207405, 215389. Demeter seated BA 230312, 230431. Demeter with a slightly outstretched arm 214290, 216190, 260097. Hera seated BA 11777, 15922, 201960, 204134, 212127.
246 BA 200002, 200472, 202049, 204538, 204696, 205336, 214735
247 BA 29120, 200175, 200211, 201036, 275000
248 Aphrodite seated BA 10078, 215006, 220497
249 For example Athena’s gesture: BA 203901; movement of Aphrodite: BA 200503; communication with the mortal such as Demeter and Triptolemos: BA 206326; the presence of gifts for example Aphrodite bestowing a wreath on Helen: BA 206130; use of a personification, Aphrodite and Eros in BA 206757.
250 Aphrodite’s influence can be seen through her movements within the scene such as Figure 36 but also in BA 1199, 13295, 202631, 206130, 206757, 213495 and LIMC Aphrodite 210, 1206, 1364, 1569
251 LIMC Aphrodite 1487, 1523
252 BA 202509, 217492 and LIMC Aphrodite 1560
253 Zeus enthroned BA 6306, 202519, 202576, 208343, 214704; Zeus as seducer BA 10877, 201906, 206127, 214039, 214041
254 BA 97, 491, 679, 973, 5448, 10877, 205561, 212127, 214840, 217926
255 BA 308, 3700, 3858, 5297, 7207, 15295, 15922
256 Picón 1978:65
257 BA 5042, 7564, 7930, 8482, 207119, 9032554
258 Proclus Chrestomathia ii
259 Alroth 1992:6
260 Schefold cited in Alroth 1992:5
261 BA 22925, 22926, 220605 and LIMC Aphrodite 42, 44, 46, 52, 53
262 Alroth 1992:33
263 Alroth 1992:33
264 Eur. Tro. 69-71
265 BA 1616, 200000, 200472, 200503, 202049, 204696
266 BA 16201, 200003, 200004, 200010
267 BA 203901, 204538, 204692, 205070, 205118, 275946
268 Shapiro 1994:45-6
269 BA 200519, 214640, 215604
270 BA 15823, 44979, 47084, 206883, 206925, 207013, 207022, 207228, 207045, 213661, 215308, 215693
271 The catalogue contains fifty-seven records of Artemis alone or on her own with mortals. The majority of the depictions are of Artemis completely alone examples include BA 3430, 9230, 10361, 22209, 24261, 30156, 41877, 46014, 46647, 200581, 201673, 202598
272 BA 7876
273 BA 202576, 202595, 213562, 213566
274 BA 204106, 204109, 204110, 207431, 207471, 207476, 207477, 207552, 212194
275 BA 3700, 7207, 15295, 17333, 29547, 41074, 46260, 46950, 11777, 15922, 206697, 206782, 207204, 203012, 204108, 207107, 207146
276 BA 205548, 212194
277 BA 6178, 9666, 15401, 20211, 46635, 202021, 205501, 206038, 207573, 207574, 209843, 275792
278 78% of 116 vases of Demeter are with gods, goddesses (normally her daughter) and in the majority of instances a mortal. BA 560, 7250, 10438, 12953, 28880, 41041, 44271, 44303, 44393, 46123, 50001, 203800, 205638, 206326, 206374, 206842, 206972, 207745, 213388, 213389, 213420, 213475, 213483, 214781, 214782, 214826, 230426, 275756, 204683
279 BA 3646, 16388, 201877, 201905, 201921, 201999, 202580, 205799, 205990, 206841, 206998, 207138, 213756, 214289, 214290, 275094, 352484, 206992, 202613, 205593, 206833, 207059, 211205, 216190, 275294
280 There are many different parents identified for Triptolemos: Okeanos and Gaia: Paus. 1.14.3; Trokhilos and Eleusis: Paus. 1.14.2; Dysaules: Paus. 1.14.3; Rharos and daughter of Amphictyon: Paus. 1.14.3; Eleusinos and Kothonea: Hyg. Fab. 147.
281 BA 1925, 3700, 203075, 9018451, 9030613

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