Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.4.1-9.4.2

Πλαταιεῦσι δὲ Ἀθηνᾶς ἐπίκλησιν Ἀρείας ἐστὶν ἱερόν: ᾠκοδομήθη δὲ ἀπὸ λαφύρων ἃ τῆς μάχης σφίσιν Ἀθηναῖοι τῆς Μαραθῶνι ἀπένειμαν. [τὸ μὲν δὴ ἄγαλμα ξόανόν ἐστιν ἐπίχρυσον, πρόσωπον δέ οἱ καὶ χεῖρες ἄκραι καὶ πόδες λίθου τοῦ Πεντελησίου εἰσί: μέγεθος μὲν οὐ πολὺ δή τι ἀποδεῖ τῆς ἐν ἀκροπόλει χαλκῆς, ἣν καὶ αὐτὴν Ἀθηναῖοι τοῦ Μαραθῶνι ἀπαρχὴν ἀγῶνος ἀνέθηκαν, Φειδίας δὲ καὶ Πλαταιεῦσιν ἦν ὁ τῆς Ἀθηνᾶς τὸ ἄγαλμα ποιήσας]. [2] γραφαὶ δέ εἰσιν ἐν τῷ ναῷ Πολυγνώτου μὲν Ὀδυσσεὺς τοὺς μνηστῆρας ἤδη κατειργασμένος, Ὀνασία δὲ Ἀδράστου καὶ Ἀργείων ἐπὶ Θήβας ἡ προτέρα στρατεία. αὗται μὲν δή εἰσιν ἐπὶ τοῦ προνάου τῶν τοίχων αἱ γραφαί

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Les Platéens ont un sanctuaire dédié à Athéna dite Areia, qui a été construit avec les dépouilles que les Athéniens leur ont données lors de la bataille de Marathon. [ La statue est un xoanon recouvert d'or, avec le visage, l'extrémité des bras et les pieds en marbre du Pentélique; pour la taille, il n'est guerre en -dessous du bronze de l'Acropole que les Athéniens ont également consacré comme prémices de la bataille de Marathon. À platée aussi, c'est Phidias qui a réalisé la statue d'Athéna.] Le temple contient des peintures : l'une, oeuvre de Polygnote représente Ulysse après le massacre des prétendants. L'autre, par Onasias, représente la première expédition contre Thèbes, commandée par Adrastos. Telles sont les peintures des murs du pronaos.

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Created by Valérie Toillon

Commentary

  1. The Shrine of Athena Areia ("Warlike Athena") was situated in Plataiai, Boiotia (Central Greece). Regarding the circumstances of the temple’s foundation, ancient written sources are contradictory. According to Plutarch (Aristides 20, 1-3; Muller-Dufeu 2002, text 803), the temple was built after the military campaign against Mardonios and his forces across the plain of Plataiai in 479 B.C. The prize of the victory (eighty talents taken from the spoils of the battle) was given by the Athenians and the Spartans to the Plataians who built the temple. Contrariwise, Pausanias says that the temple was found from the booty of the battle of Marathon. It is likely that the temple was rebuilt after 479B.C. and redecorated later, in ca. 470-460 B.C., maybe as a memorial for both Marathon and Plataiai (Francis 1990, p.74; Castriota 1992, pp. 63-65; Roscino 2010, pp. 13-14). Nevertheless, despite recent excavations at Plataiai, the temple has not been found yet. While the city was destroyed twice (in 426 and 373 B.C.), the temple was left unharmed since Pausanias visited it in the second century A.D. (Ridder 1920; R.E. 20 (2) s.v. "Plataiai", 2280-2302, 2326; Stillwell et al. 1976 s.v. "Plataiai"; Fossey 1988, pp. 102-112, esp. 108-109; Lapatin 2001, p. 61, 198; Aravantinos et al. 2003, pp. 281-289; Konecny et al. 2012).

  2. The cult image of Athena Areia was made by Pheidias, perhaps as one of his early works. According to Pausanias, the cult statue was made of gilded wood, with the face, hands, and feet of Pentelic marble (Muller-Dufeu 2002, p. 287, text 802; Lapatin 2001; pp. 61-62 and especially pp. 198-199). This part was removed from text 123 by A. Reinach in "Recueil Milliet" (because it does not concern ancient painting). Here, one can find the passage within square brackets for the sake of clarity.

  3. All the decorations, the cult statue, and the paintings, may have been added later, either in the 460/50's B.C., after Kimon’s ostracism (Yates 2013, pp. 369 and 381-382; Stansbury-O’Donnell 2014, p. 146) or earlier ca. 475/465 B.C. (Castriota 1992, pp. 64-65; Lapatin 2001, p. 198; Roscino 2010, pp. 13-14). The paintings were on the "pronaos walls", i.e. outside the "cella" (the most sacred place in Greek temples, where the cult statue was on display). This indicates that the paintings were probably frescoes rather than wooden panels. The paintings were certainly facing each other. Moreover, according to Plutarch, the paintings were still in "perfect condition" in the mid-first century AD.(Plut. Arist. 20; Reinach et al. 1921, p. 149; Moreno & Poma 1987, p. 41; Moormann 2011, p. 14).

  4. "Odysseus after the slaying of the suitors" by Polygnotos (Od. 22, 398-418; LIMC VI s.v. Mnesteres II 25; Gantz 1993, pp. 706-707). Pausanias does not say much about this painting. Only that it was Polygnotos' work representing the aftermath of the slaying of the suitors, in accordance with the artist's style. Per se a quiet and reflexive scene, focusing on the consequences of one's actions (on Polygnotos as "ethographos" see texts 131, 132, 133). The painting was maybe one of Polygnotos' early works (Castriota 1992, pp. 64-65; Roscino 2010, pp. 15-16). Since the shrine is dedicated to the Warlike Athena, it seems normal that the goddess was pictured too, aside or near Odysseus. Moreover, Athena is Ulysses' protector and adviser throughout the entire Odyssey, therefore her presence is more than legitimate (Touchefeu-Meynier 1968, pp. 268-269). The subject of the painting acts as a metaphor for the legitimate leader taking control over traitors who had invaded and looted his home (on the misbehavior of the suitors: Saïd 1979, pp. 9-28). This recalls the invasion of Greece by the Persians but even more, it alludes to Thebes' treason (which was Persians' ally during the Persians wars) and, by extension, to every other ally to Persia such as Thessaly, Locria and Macedonia (Brunn 1889, p. 18; Schefold & Jung 1988, p. 308; Castriota 1992, pp. 73-75; Yates 2013).

  5. "The Seven against Thebes" by Onasias (Aesch. Seven; LIMC VII s.v. Septem 3). Except for the mention of Pausanias, we know nothing about Onasias. Maybe he was Beotian. As for Polygnotos' painting, Pausanias only says that the painting represents the earlier expedition of the Seven against Thebes, led by Adrastos. But in Book 9.5.11, Pausanias gives a detail concerning this painting: Onasias had certainly represented the fight between Polyneices and Eteocles in the presence of their mother Euryganeia -not Jocaste-(Yates 2013, p. 371; on the variants of the myth see: Gantz 1993, pp. 514-519). Some scholars point out an influence of Onasias' painting on the volute crater by the Bologna 279 painter dated ca. 440 BC (Ferrara, Museo Nazionale di Spina 3031, T579), representing the assault of the Seven against Thebes, but this is very conjectural since we know very little concerning the composition of the painting (LIMC VII s.v. Septem 40; Moreno & Poma 1987, pp. 44-45; Castriota 1992, pp. 68-70). This subject is fitting in order to commemorate the help brought by Plataians and Athenians to Spartans against Theban and Persian forces during the battle at Plataiai. The painting also illustrates the treason of Thebes, and therefore a somber aspect of the Persians Wars, i.e. the fight between Greeks as a result of "medism" (Brunn 1889, p. 18; Schefold & Jung 1988, p. 308; Francis 1990, p. 75; Castriota 1992, pp. 65-73; Roscino 2010, pp. 16-17; Yates 2013).

  6. More than just a display of Athenian political propaganda outside Athens, the artistic program of the Athena temple is meant to commemorate the events of the Persians Wars as remembered by Plataians, i.e. as a "civil war" between Greeks (Castriota 1992, pp. 64-65; Yates 2013).

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Bibliography

Aravantinos, V., Konecny, A. & Marchese, R.T., 2003. Plataiai in Boiotia: A Preliminary Report of the 1996-2001 Campaigns. Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 72(3), pp. 281 320.

Brunn, H. von, 1889. Geschichte der griechischen Künstler (Band 2): Die Maler. Die Architekten. Die Toreuten. Die Münzstempelschneider. Die Gemmenschneider. Die Vasenmaler, Stuttgart. Available at: http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/brunn1889bd2/0027?sid=f3bf5ba748a3085f5e8c2270cc82500e.

Castriota, D., 1992. Myth, Ethos, and Actuality: Official Art in Fifth-Century B.C., Athens, Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press.

Fossey, J.M., 1988. Topography and Population of Ancient Boiotia, Chicago: Ares.

Francis, E.D., 1990. Image and Idea in Fifth Century Greece : Art and Literature after the Persian Wars, London: Routledge.

Gantz, T., 1993. Early Greek Myth: a Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Konecny, A.L. et al., 2012. The Urban Scheme of Plataiai in Boiotia: Report on the Geophysical Survey, 2005–2009. Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 81(1), pp. 93 140.

Lapatin, K.D.S., 2001. Chryselephantine Statuary in the Ancient Mediterranean World, Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Moormann, E.M., 2011. Divine Interiors: Mural Paintings in Greek and Roman Sanctuaries, Amsterdam University Press.

Moreno, P. & Poma, M.C., 1987. Pittura greca: da Polignoto ad Apelle, A. Mondadori.

Muller-Dufeu, M., 2002. La sculpture grecque: sources littéraires et épigraphiques, Paris: École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts.

Reinach, A., Reinach, S. & Milliet, P., 1921. Textes grecs et latins relatifs à l’histoire de la peinture ancienne, Paris: Klincksieck.

Ridder, A. de, 1920. Le temple d’Athéna Areia à Platées. Bulletin de correspondance hellénique, 44(1), pp. 160 169.

Roscino, C., 2010. Polignoto di Taso, Roma: G. Bretschneider.

Saïd, S., 1979. Les crimes des prétendants, la maison d’Ulysse et les festins de l’Odyssée. Dans Études de littérature ancienne. Paris: Presses de l’école normale supérieure, pp. 9 49.

Schefold, K. & Jung, F., 1988. Die Urkönig, Perseus, Bellerophon, Herakles und Theseus in der klassischen und hellenistischen Kunst, Munich: Hirmer.

Stansbury-O’Donnell, M., 2014. Reflections of Monumental Painting in Greek Vase Painting. Dans J. J. Pollitt, ed. The Cambridge History of Painting in the Classical World. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 143 169.

Stillwell, R., McAllister, M.H. & MacDonald, W.L., 1976. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Touchefeu-Meynier, O., 1968. Thèmes odysséens dans l’art antique, Paris: de Boccard.

Yates, D.C., 2013. The Persian War as Civil War in Plataea’s Temple of Athena Areia. Klio: Beiträge Zur Alten Geschichte, 95(2), pp. 369 390.

Annotation Authors and Editors
Created by Valérie Toillon