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reading people, or were dependent, as we are dependent, upon
the works of poets and historians. Artistic tradition with the
vase-painters counted for more than literary tradition. How
this artistic tradition worked we have already seen.


(3) Special Treatment. — Professor Robert, carrying out a
suggestion of Jalin, has affirmed^ that we may see on the vases,
especially those of the archaic period, a tone or manner of
treatment which may fairly be called Epic. " In all these
products of archaic workmen we may see a bright and simple-
hearted delight in portraying and in what is portrayed, a
delight that what before had only passed in song from mouth
to mouth should stand bodily before our eyes in a representa-
tion." "The tone which prevails in this archaic period is the
same that predominates in the Epic, the tone of narration full
of ease. It relates and gossips like old jSTestor in Homer, and
can never weary of relation and gossip, flowing over into
detail. This period of art indeed wants to tell the whole story
and does not heed that it cannot, like poetry, treat of the
whole history of the matter, but only of a phase." Instances
already given (such as Eig. 63) quite bear out the observations
of Robert.

These views will become clearer if we take a few character-
istic vases of good period, the subject of which is clearly
Homeric. On a kotyle of Hiero (about 480 b.c.) we have two
scenes from the Iliad which have a close connection one with
the other — the leading away of Briseis from the tent of
Achilles to that of Agamemnon, and the embassy of Odysseus
and Ajax to implore the aid of Achilles, when the Trojans had
fought their way to the ships (Fig. 72).-

We must first glance at these vase-pictures from the point
of view of space and balance. The two scenes, each of four
figures, occurring on the two sides of the vase, balance one
another, and conform admirably to the form of the vase. In

1 Bild und Lied, p. 13.

2 Mon. d. Inst., VI., 19




each we have complete balance about the middle, and corre-
spondence of figure to figure. As an example of careful adap-
tation to space, we may take the way in which the figure of
Odysseus, as he bends forward in his oratory, together with
the sword hung on the wall, fits the form of the seated

Fig. 72. — Kotyle of Hiero.

Achilles, and the fashion in which the seat in front of
Agamemnon fills the space under the handle.

Taking next the scenes one by one, we may analyze them
and compare them with the Homeric text. The embassy to
Achilles is closely parallel to the Iliad. In Book IX. it is
narrated how Agamemnon, repenting that he had vexed Achilles


by carrying away Briseis, sent an embassy to make reparation,
consisting of Odysseus, Ajax, and the aged Phoenix. When
they reach the tent of Achilles, they find him singing to the
lyre in the company of Patroclus. He receives them graciously,
and Odysseus tries to persuade him to resume his place in the
battle, but without success. The lyre-playing Achilles is not
rare in ancient art ; but on our vase Achilles sits sulking and
wrapped in his mantle. In all other points the vase-painting
is in a broad sense Homeric. The heroes are cai'efully dif-
• ferentiated. Achilles is of gigantic stature, his head when
seated being almost on a level with those of the others when
standing: this size refers rather to heroic rank than to mere
physical stature. He is still young; in all ways he presents a
marked contrast to Odysseus, whose close clustering hair and
beard are those of the typical strong man. The hat at the
back of the head of Odysseus and his boots indicate the world-
wide traveller, though here we have allusion rather to the
future destiny than to the past history of the hero. Phoenix,
as an old man with thin hair, stands wrapped in his cloak and
leaning on a staff. Ajax is far less successfully characterized :
he seems drawn by the analogy of Phoenix, whom he balances,
into an elderly man ; but hair and beard are of heroic fulness.
The other picture is according to the spirit and not accord-
ing to the letter. Agamemnon {II. I.) sent to fetch Briseis his
two heralds Talthybius and Eurybates. Achilles yielded her
without resistance, and they brought her unwilling to the tent
of their master. Pour figures were needed for the composition,
and most indispensable among these would be the figure of
Briseis herself. According to the ordinary scheme a lady led
into captivity is accompanied by two men, one to lead her, the
other to look back and repel pursuit. It might seem most
natural to complete the scene with the two heralds, and
Agamemnon waiting to receive the captive. But the vase-


painter prefers to represent Agamemnon himself as leading
Briseis, while Talthybius follows and Diomedes, armed, guards
the rear. Diomedes seems out of place ; but that hero was in
the Iliad specially prominent in the whole affair of Briseis/
and merely to insert the second herald would weaken the
picture. From the vase-painter's point of view the leading
warrior and the following warrior are essential ; it is the figure
of Talthybius which is unusual, and inserted in deference to
the Homeric story.

We see clearly how far more highly the painter valued the
idea than the fact. Had he represented the lady and the two
heralds in attendance he would have missed essential features
of the story, that Agamemnon was the author of the whole
affair, and that Diomedes took a prominent part in it. A
modern painter would have laid more stress on Briseis herself;
but she was only a captive, a pawn in the heroic game played
by the kings. Briseis in the Iliad is not at all prominent, and
the modern reader, whose ancestors have passed through the
age of chivalry, reads with a strange feeling the words of
Achilles, '^With my hands never w^ill I strive with thee or
any other for the sake of a girl.''

The scene of the event is indicated in that simple fashion
which may be called the method of abbreviation. The tree on
the right marks the plain of Troy whence the group come ; the
seat on the left the tent of Agamemnon, in which a more solid
chair would be out of place. In the same way in the opposite
scene, sword and helmet hung up, and richly ornamented camp-
stool, epitomize the tent of Achilles, and signify his determina-
tion to cease from warring. Is it possible to imagine a simpler
and more pleasing symbolism ?

We may compare with this rendering of the scene by Hiero

1 Professor Robert, in his Bild unci Lied, p. 96, suggests that Diomedes
really belongs to the embassy on the other side, and is transferred.




another, in the British Museum (Fig. 73),^ which is less domi-
nated by artistic tradition and perhaps equally charming in its
way, though inferior in technique. Here the fetching of
Briseis is divided into two scenes, each containing six figures.

Fig. 73. — Vase in British Museum.

In both, with small variations, recurs the same group of the
two heralds, of whom one precedes and leads while the other
follows BriseiSo The artist has tried to bring out as clearly as
possible the contrast between the starting-place and the goal

1 Hartwig, Meisterschalen, PI. 41.


of the journey. On one side of the vase the sulking Achilles
sits wrapped in his cloak between two of his Myrmidons, who
appear to console him as best they can. Their civic dress
shows how for the time they have laid aside the notion of
fighting, Achilles is seated in his tent, and his arms are hung
up within it. On the other side, we have a far more stately
building, represented by the two i)illars which flank the en-
trance of the palace of Agamemnon, and between which the
cortege passes. Three bearded Greek citizens stand outside
the house. Certainly to a modern mind the scene would have
been more effectively rendered if Agamemnon had stood within
his palace, and the cortege been represented as approaching it
from the left. Why this line was not taken it is hard to say.
We must not expect in our vase-painter too much originality
or logical thoroughness. Professor Robert has pointed out^
that in his representation of the tent of Achilles, the artist
has admitted the influence of which I have already spoken as
contamination. The wrapped-up figure of the seated Achilles
and the Myrmidon standing before him, leaning on a staff,
might well be close copies of a group consisting of Odysseus
addressing the sulking Achilles, as we have it on the vase last
cited. And the other Myrmidon reminds us of the Phoenix
on the same vase.

Among vases distinctly intended to portray a Homeric com-
bat, a high place is taken by the kylix from Rhodes, which I
first published in the Journal of Philology" (Fig. 74). The
vase is of the early part of the fifth century, in the severe
red-figured style. One of the scenes depicted on it is the
combat of Diomedes and Aeneas in the fifth book of the

1 Bild und Lied, p. 96.

2 XII., p. 215.




Iliad. I may briefly recapitulate the details of the combat.
Pandarus and Aeneas had driven in a chariot against Diomedes,
who was fighting that day under the special protection of
Athena. Diomedes first strikes Pandarus with his spear, and

Fig. 74. — Vase iu British Museum.

brings him to the ground ; Aeneas springs forward to protect
his fallen comrade; Diomedes hurls at him a mighty rock,
which strikes him on the hip. Aeneas however, is saved from
death by the intervention of his mother, Aphrodite, who bears
him away from the fray.

As the names Aeneas, Diomedes, Athena, Aphrodite, are
all given, there can be no question that the vase-painter was
thinking of the passage in the Iliad ; and since we have no
other representation of this scene, it is unlikely that he had
any model to go by. It is the more interesting to watch his
procedure. The central group is of an ordinary type : a Greek
hoplite advances against a foe, who is beaten to his knees.
His victory is indicated not only by the attitudes, but also by
the fact that a spear is sticking in the body of Aeneas below
the belt, while another spear is broken against the corselet of
Diomedes. But in the Homeric text there is nothing about an


exchange of spears ; a rock is spoken of as the only weapon.
Between the warriors one sees what looks like the outline of a
rock behind. Can this be a gentle allusion to the missile ?
Aphrodite is in the act of lifting her son by both arms ; Athena
stands armed behind her protege,. Diomedes. This is a good
example of the looseness to fact and the truth to idea of Greek
artists. The defeat of Aeneas, his rescue by his mother, the
divine support of Diomedes, are all clearly portrayed ; but the
details of the contest are given without any pretence to accu-
racy. An ordinary scheme is so far modified as to have a clear
Homeric reference, that is all.

AVe have on late vases of Apulia illustrations of one of the
most stirring events in the Iliad, the carrying off of the horses
of the Thracian king Rhesus by Odysseus and Diomedes {II. X.)
and the slaying of some of the soldiers. The first vase-paint-
ing is from a cup at Berlin^ (Fig. 75); it gives us but few
figures, and tells the story in the simplest way. The artist
represents a wooded scene ; a tree and a few stones are suffi-
cient to mark the character of the landscape. In the back-
ground, amid their arms which lie around, three Thracians
are lying in constrained attitudes. Thracians, that is, they are
meant to be, but their dress and equipment are not that proper
to Thracians, which Ave find on Attic vases which represent
the death of Orpheus at the hands of Thracian women,^ but the
dress which Greek artists give to the peoples of Asia Minor,
Phrygians, Persians, and Scythians. In the foreground Odys-
seus, Avearing sailor's cap and chlamys, with drawn sword in
his hand, leads away the horses of Rhesus, and Diomedes, also
with drawn sword, walks beside him. It will be remembered
that in Homer the two heroes divide the task before them;
Diomedes is to slay the sleeping Thracians while Odysseus

1 Gerhard, Coupes de Berlin, PI. K.

2 See Roscher's Lezikon, III., p. 1180 and foil.




carries off the noble horses of E-hesus ; each thus acts according
to his nature.

But in order that we may fully understand this picture, we
must compare with it a fuller version of the same scene, which

Fig. 75. — Vase at Berlin.

is to be found on another vase of the same period ^ (Fig. 76).
In this the group of Odysseus with the horses and Diomedes
is very similar, and Thracians again occupy the background ;
but there are additions which make the interpretation clearer.
The nature of the ground, evidently a clearing in a forest, is
more clearly marked. Of the Thracians, one is standing up,
one has his head severed. A second figure of Diomedes
appears, who rushes on the reclining figures, bent on slaughter.
All these points have importance. The headless Thracian sug-

1 Wiener Vorlegebl., C. 3, 2.




gests that the constrained attitudes of the rest are meant to
show that they have been slain, and are not merely asleep.
The standing Thracian has evidently been waked, and is giving
the alarm. Homer does not tell ns that any of the Thracians
was awaked; but he comes near it, for he says that when
Diomedes came to King Ehesus he was breathing hard, for an
evil dream stood above his head. The second figure of Dio-
medes is very curious. This seems a distinct instance of that
method of continuous narration of which I have spoken above.
Diomedes is represented both in his ravening and in his retreat.


"aooo a AuottO

Fig. 76.

Dr. Engelmann has cited in connection with this duplication
the passage in which Homer represents Diomedes as hesitating
whether he should carry out the chariot or go on to slaughter
more of the foe. This citation I think misleading, and a good
exami^le of the tendency of the modern archaeologist to sup-


pose that a vase-i^ainter must work on the basis of some literary

The vase-paintings of which the subject is taken from the
wanderings of Odysseus, as detailed in the Odyssey,^ are com-
paratively few in number. The adventures with the Cyclops,
with Circe, with the Sirens, and with Scylla, all occur in various
ancient works of art, but these subjects do not form large
groups. Here then we may study the mutual workings of
artistic tradition and artistic purpose under somewhat different
conditions. I take as examples an archaic vase in which the
blinding of the Cyclops is represented, and a red-figured vase
whereon is depicted the adventure with the Sirens.

Every one will remember the delightful fairy tale which tells
how Odysseus, after drugging the Cyclops with wine, cut a
piece from his club and hardened the point of it in the fire, and
then with the help of his comrades burnt out the one eye of the
monster, thus reducing him to helplessness. In depicting this
episode the one essential feature which the vase-painters can-
not miss is the actual blinding ; the Cyclops must be reclining,
and two or three men driving the hardened pole into his eye.
We have several early vase-pictures of the subject. In the oldest
of all, the vase of Aristonophos,^ the scene is as simply rendered
as possible. The painter of a kylix of the Cyrenaic class ^
adds two curious touches — the Cyclops has in his hands the
severed legs of one of Odysseus' companions, and the hero is
in the act of offering him a bowl of wine. Three distinct times,
the meal of the Cyclops, his drunkenness, and his blinding are
thus amalgamated. Quite as complete is the anachronism in

1 They are put together in Miss Jane Harrison's Myths of the Odyssey.

2 Engehnaun's Bilderatlas zur Odyssee, PI. VI.
^ Mon. d. List., I., 7.




the black-figured Attic vase which I engrave (Pig. 77).^ Here
Odysseus figures twice ; his hat, his sword, and his spotted chi-
ton being identical in both representations. On the left he is
hardening the pole in the fire, on the right he is directing
it into the eye of the Cyclops, This pole indeed appears
thrice, since it is represented also as a club in the hand of

The monster is no monster, as he is in Etruscan and Pora-
peian art, save for size; he has apparently two eyes, and a


Fig. 77. — Attic vase.

good Greek profile. Here we have the inevitable Greek dis-
like to the monstrous triumphant. It is noticeable that in the
Odyssey the deformity of the Cyclops is not dwelt on. He is
called Tre'Xwpo?, but this word only means ''huge," and is indeed
often applied to the gods. Homer does not, like Hesiod, state
that the Cyclops had but one eye, though, of course, if Poly-
phemus could be blinded by one push of the sharp stake, he
can in logic have had but one eye. The fact is that the writer
of the Odyssey has not the concrete imagination of Greek plastic

1 Gazette ArcJieoL, 1887, PL 1.



art. His descriptions of the strange beings whom Odysseus
encounters are often vague; the Cyclopes and the Laestrygones
are only spoken of as gigantic. The companions of Odysseus,
when bewitched by Circe, do not, as they are represented in
the vases, turn into animal-headed men, but into very swine.
The Sirens are not said to be unlike ordinary women in form.
Only Scylla is frankly spoken of as monstrous, as having
twelve feet and six heads, as being, in fact, a six-fold being,
and seizing on six of the companions of Odysseus. Scylla in
Greek art is in the form of a mermaid, with dogs about her
middle. The gap between the vague story-telling of Homer
and the definite and concrete spirit of Greek art is very

In the vase which I have described, then, we may see a tra-
ditional scheme, varied by the desire to get in as much as pos-
sible of the Homeric tale.

In the next vase-painting we have a representation of the
passing of the Sirens from an amphora in the British Museum
(Fig. 78).^ The ship with furled sail rows swiftly on, with
Odysseus tied to the mast, according to his own directions.
Two Sirens, in the form of human-headed birds, one called
Himeropa, are standing singing on the rocks, a third with closed
eyes is falling headlong into the sea. We have here three in-
teresting sets of facts: (1) Homeric reminiscence, (2) artistic
tradition, (3) continuous narration. (1) In the fact that the sails
are furled while the rowers ply their oars we may perhaps see
a reminiscence of the Homeric lines (XII., 170-172), which tell
how the mariners j)ulled down their sails and took to their oars ;
but again the coincidence may be fortuitous. The binding of
Odysseus to the mast is, of course, of the essence of the story,
and could not be missed. (2) Artistic tradition is visible
chiefly in the forms of the Sirens, who are here not sweet-
1 Mon. d. List., I., 8; Brit. Mus. Cat., III., 268.




voiced women, as in Homer, and on some Eoman sarcophagi,
but birds with human heads, an art form which in Egypt
stood for the soul, but was otherwise used among the Greeks.
Here, as in many cases, the Greeks, to repeat the phrase of
Brunn, borrowed the letters of art from the East, but used
them to spell out their own ideas. It must be confessed that
in these bird-women there is nothing terrible ; one would ex-
pect a warrior like Odysseus to make short work of them. The


o r f^

Fig. 78. — Vase in British Museum.

Greeks carried their dislike of the horrible in art sometimes to an
extreme length. (3) I am disposed to see contamination and con-
tinuous narration in the introduction of the dead Siren falling
into the sea, for there was a story current after the Homeric age,
that when the Argonauts passed the islands of the Sirens, Or-
pheus entered into a musical contest with them, and defeated
them, on which they threw themselves into the sea in despair.
This story seems to have been transferred by the vase-painter


into the myth of Odysseus. In this case the second Siren, she
on the right, would be depicted at two different moments, first
as singing, second as throwing herself into the sea, and indeed
as already dead. It may be to some extent a confirmation of
this interpretation that Homer mentions but two Sirens; but this
is, of course, not conclusive ; and nymphs and daemons of this
class commonly go in threes.

I have already observed that the subjects of vase-paintiugs
are far more frequently taken from the other poems of the
epic cycle than from the Iliad or the Odyssey. Something
must be said about this large class of paintings. But as we
have no actual text of the cyclic writers for comparison, it will
be best to reserve one of the most ordinary and typical subjects
of representation, the Judgment of Paris, for full treatment in a
later chapter.

I will take one more example, from the Homeric Hymns,
which though they belong of course to a later age than the
Homeric, are perhaps best treated of here.

In the seventh hymn we find a charming tale of how Diony-
sus, when wandering by the shore of the sea in the guise of a
beautiful youth, was seized and carried off by Tyrrhenian
pirates. But as soon as they started, wine began to flow on
the deck, vine and ivy to twine round the mast, and presently
the deity took the form of a raging lion, for fear of whom the
pirates s^^rang into the sea and were transmuted into dol-

This story is represented in the reliefs of the well-known
monument of Lysicrates at Athens, which are closely analogous
in composition to paintings. But everything is translated so
as to suit the artistic conditions. In a long narrow field a ship
could not well be the scene of the event ; so it takes i)lace on
the land. The agent of the wrath of Dionysus is not a lion,
but the faithful Satyrs who usually attend him, though accord-


ing to the tale in this case they were conspicuously absent.
Some of the pirates are being captured or beaten ; others are
leaping into the sea, and as they leap are becoming dolphins :
and this last fact is really almost the only one common to
hymn and relief. In a vase-painting we should expect a some-
what nearer approach to the tale of the hymn, but our example
is very characteristic of Greek artistic methods.




Lyric Poetry. — We return once more to the observations of
Jahii as to the influence of poetry on X3ainting, and have to
consider whether either in method of representing a story, or
in general tone, vases reflect the influence of that lyric poetry
of Greece which succeeded the epic. In some cases the lyric
poets did not accept the epic version of a tale, but preferred a
refinement of their own invention. Could versions of myth,
which were due to some innovating poet, find a place in art ?
From what has already been said as to the relations of litera-
ture and art this would seem unlikely. Nor do I think we
have any satisfactory examples of it, though some have been
suggested by archaeologists. One of the greatest poetical inno-
vators was Stesichorus of Himera, who lived about 600 e.g.,
and who is said to have introduced new elements and new
motives into current and Homeric myth. Among other such
innovations, he declared that Helen had never really been at
Troy, that the Trojans held but a ghost or simulacrum of her,
while the real Helen tarried in Egypt. Thus he tried to save
the reputation of the heroine. He also found difficulties in the
tale that Artemis had turned the inquisitive Actaeon into a
stag, to be pulled down by his own dogs, and feigned rather
that the goddess had merely thrown a stag's skin over his
shoulders. It is most unlikely that such rationalism as this



would find a way into tlie representations of Greek art. Pro-
fessor Kobert has maintained that the figure of Actaeon on the
well-known metope of Selinus takes the form it does in conse-

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