Reading Ancient Reliefs: An Approach to Interperation of Architectural Decoration in Historical and Political Context

  • Mgr. Lucia Novakova
  • Dr.Sc. BC. Štefan Drabik
Keywords: mythology, treasury, political program, relief,


Ancient treasuries promoted wealth and prosperity of the donation community. Preserved relief scenes portrayed mythological stories used for expressing certain characteristic reflection of reality (chaos, wilderness, heroism, etc.) By analyzing historical sources is possible to assign events related to the poleis in historical context. This paper shall serve as introduction of hypothetical nature of political program and contribution to the knowledge of political promotion of polis in relief decoration. Figural decoration became a form of political program, or even metaphorical ideology. The main carrier of ideological reference were figure decorated pediments and friezes. Those visualized political agenda of polis even for illiterate observers. In particular mythological stories, those that might have some ideological scheme, were preferred. They can be applied to current events of polis, but only if adequate historical sources or archaeological evidence. Mythological battles were frequent motifs. The story of Gigantomachy allowed various kind of exploitation in political ideology. The main idea was the battle between world full of chaos and world representing stability and certainty. Analogies are identifiable in the whole archaic period. The main inspiration were military confrontations with other Greek or non-Greek cities. From preserved decorative elements is possible to roughly characterize also political significance of mythological heroes. Visual display is closely related to foreign policy and inner political conflict of poleis. It is important that preserved reliefs with motives that do not deal with panhellenic scenes are lessnumerous.


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