Illusions Woven in Fabric: Gender Aspects and the Sublime in Fifth Century Sculptured Female Victory Images

Nava Sevilla Sadeh
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Victory won by men in the Classical 'men's club' that was Athens, was given a female appearance through the images of Nike, the victory goddess. The basic supposition of this study is that these images simultaneously offered different metaphorical illusions. They relate both to the social aspects in which the images express the typical gender perceptions of  the Classical world, using the female sex to elevate the male; and to the spiritual outlook and the concepts of 'beauty' and the 'sublime', rooted in philosophical sources. This study deals with the illusionist symbolism of the images through an examination of their gender and spiritual aspects, employing artistic analysis and analogy with the literary sources.


'We found her unraveling the splendid shroud, and then she had to finish, willy nilly – finish, and show the big loom woven tight from bean to beam with cloth. She washed the shrouding clean as sun or moonlight.'[1]


This poetic phrase in praise of Penelope's work, attained corporeality in Classical sculpture: in a relief dated to c. 420-410 BCE, shining, gleaming and flowing delicate 'fabric' enwraps the body of Nike, the goddess of victory (fig. 1), standing on the parapet surrounding her temple on the edge of the Acropolis.[2]

Although this image has been named by some 'Nike binding her sandal', she might also be unbinding it before entering the temple, as suggested by other scholars.[3] Nike's image appears several times here, decorating a tropaion, leading bulls to sacrifice, and sacrificing in front of Athena (fig. 2).

Such depictions are symbolic of her character, uniting the ritual before departure for battle with the thanksgiving ritual after the victory, as Jeffrey Hurwit puts it: 'Victory is sought, assured, and won at once.'[4] In the discussed statue, the goddess wears an Ionic chiton, which is much more flowing and delicate than the Doric one.[5] The spectacular 'fabric' flows freely in undulating folds in a multitude of lines, movement and contrasting directions that are harmoniously united.[6] The diaphanous and delicate drapery emphasizes the feminine body, revealing one shoulder. The masterly carved marble both radiates with light and casts projections of shadows, and the figure impresses the spectator with glamour and vitality. What lies behind that glamour, however, and what might the flowing folds conceal or reveal?

This discussion focuses on sculptured womanly images from the second half of the Fifth century BCE, especially the image of Nike, as well as other female akroteria images. The thesis of this article is that metaphoric illusions from two different aspects feature simultaneously in these images: from a modern-day social aspect we can perceive the images as an expression of the typical gender perceptions of the Classical world that used the female sex to elevate the male; while also reflecting aspects of the spiritual outlook and concept of the sublime held by the Ancients and rooted in their philosophical sources. Analysis of the works against the background of both the historical events of the time, and the spiritual outlook of the Fifth century BCE, reveals a duality between the seemingly contradictory gender and spiritual aspects in Classical art. In this essay I shall attempt to answer the following questions: First, what is the symbolism behind the flowing fabrics that characterize these images, and how do they serve as a metaphoric image? Second, why, in an overtly masculine society, the Athenian 'Men's Club', were goddesses whose femininity is extremely emphasized in their portrayals by the artists, chosen to symbolize a victory gained by men? And third, where does the balance lie between the socio-gender aspect and the philosophical-spiritual outlook?


The virility of the Riace warrior (fig. 3) stands in contrast to the Acropolis Nike: the bronze metal of the former could be conceived as a metaphor symbolizing the hero's strong body and soul, by which he defeats his enemies and protects the polis. His courageous and bold character is expressed in Hesiod's Bronze Men, the third race of heroes.[7] Nike's marble sculpture, by contrast, reveals extremely delicately carved surfaces that reflect femininity. What were the mythological and literary parallels to the fabric that enwraps Nike that might have arisen in the minds of the Ancients? Does Nike's sculpted fabric reflect the significance of such material in reality? What is the symbolism of fabric in relation to historical events, and how did it contribute to the concept of femininity in Classical Athens?

The motifs of fabrics, threads and weaving are very dominant in mythology. Weaving is the main occupation of women: Penelope spent the twenty years waiting for her husband's return in weaving and unpicking the shroud for her father-in-law;[8] the Bacchae in Euripides' play are women who abandoned their looms and went into the mountains to celebrate the Dionysian rites;[9] Achilles was occupied in weaving during his time in Lykomedes' gynaikeion disguised as a girl;[10] and Lysistrata used the art of weaving as a metaphor for women's talent and ability to solve the polis' problems better than men.[11] The fabrics motif is also a very prominent factor in life and death: Medea sent a gift of a poisoned wedding robe to Glauke, her husband's bride, as vengeance;[12] Dianira killed her husband Herakles in error, by giving him a tunic immersed in the centaur Nessos' poisoned blood;[13] Ariadne, in contrast, saved Theseus life by means of a ball of thread that she gave him;[14] and the Moiras spun the thread of life, determined its length and finally cut it.[15]

Fabrics are symbols of female articulation: Philomela weaved into a veil her rape by her brother-in-law after he had cut out her tongue, and sent the woven veil to her sister;[16] Arachne, who weaved the gods' adultery, was punished by Athena, who turned her into a spider. The goddess stressed that from then on Arachne would weave only a spider's web and not luxurious fabrics,[17] a punishment symbolizing the silencing of the womanly skill as a vehicle for self-expression. Athena was the goddess who had granted the Athenians the gift of weaving.[18] The summit of the Pan-Athenian ritual, as portrayed on the Parthenon frieze, is the placing of a peplos upon Athena's image. That event, whether mythological, historical or symbolic, demonstrates the deep significance of weaving and fabrics in Athenian society.[19]

The glamour of Nike's gown stands in contrast to the mundane life of the Athenian women, who spent most of their times in spinning and weaving the entire family's textile needs.[20] The art of spinning and weaving was identified with diligence, proficiency and hard work. Thus, Nike's fabric would arouse in the spectator's mind the talent and diligence of the Athenian women and their contributions, such as those of Penelope and Ariadne.

The abundance of 'fabric' in Nike's chiton is very salient. This kind of opulence may have reflected the atmosphere and the unique state of mind in Athens of the time, and served as an allegorical image of the period following the victories in the Persian wars. During that period, the city had become an empire and enjoyed economic and cultural wealth, although the origins of that wealth are in dispute – Athens gained its fortune as a result of the Delian League.[21]

The style of Nike's Acropolis relief is expressed in dynamic and delicate lines of diaphanous drapery that is Ionic in its 'feminine' nature. The Athenians, although considered autochthonous, conceived of themselves and the Ionians as having a common origin: Erichthonios, the primordial king of Attica was the grandfather of Ion, the Ionians' ancestor.[22] The stylistic choice may thus be seen as a political statement, and reflects the segregation of Athens from its rival Sparta.

The profusion of Nike's illusionary fabric could therefore symbolize Athens' glorious near past, during which she had dominated her Ionic 'relatives', and her superiority over Sparta.

The superb quality of the carving and of the marble could be seen as a metaphor of the victory of the spirit over materiality, and thus of the victory of the Athenians over their enemies and their image as wiser and braver, as Pericles had boasted.[23] Another aspect in Pericles' speech that finds expression in Nike's smooth and delicate fabric is that of the hedonistic value: joy and delight were considered as part of a citizen's rights.[24] Moreover, the feminine nature of the goddess is greatly emphasized, to which the garment contributes an important part: the diaphanous drapery both exposes and conceals her body. Two other ultra-feminine images whose bodies are also both concealed and exposed by their drapery are those of a marble torso from the Palatine, which seemingly served as an akroterion portraying the Victory goddess (fig. 4), and the Nike of Paionios from the temple of Olympia.[25]

The movement and sensual nature of these images are salient and, of course, totally unrealistic. Andrew Stewart emphasizes that the declared aim of the sculptor was to persuade the spectator into believing this impression.[26] The question raised at the beginning of this discussion now becomes much more pointed: Why, in a declared male-dominated society, should goddesses of Victory be portrayed with such feminine and sensual characteristics? What was behind the sculptors' decision? According to Stewart: 'The individual Nikai are stunningly beautiful. Wearing diaphanous clothing that reveals every contour of their bodies, they seduce the spectator to fall in love with them.' Such portrayal was meant to stimulate the spectators' desire, to make them identify the goddess with their city-state, and thereby implant patriotic feelings in their heart. The sensual goddess attracts the viewer, gives him aesthetic pleasure and accordingly, pride and love for his polis. [27] Such portrayal is consistent with Pericles' command to his citizens to become erastai – "erotic lovers" of Athens.[28] Patriotism is thus placed on an erotic basis, as Paul Ludwig has shown, and beauty serves to enhance the erotic feelings toward the polis.[29] Thucydides indicates that human nature is mastered by passion;[30] this passion is eros, which is recruited to the needs of the polis.[31]

Such use of the female image in order to celebrate victories won by men, political values intended for men only, and to promote patriotic feelings for the city-state, has a dissonant tone from the gender point of view. The use of women to elevate the man in Greek culture has already been discussed: Hurwit has shown that the relief portraying Pandora's birth at the base of the Athena Partheos monument was meant to assert the superiority of men.[32] The question of why was a woman chosen to utter Socrates' speech in Plato's Symposium is resolved by David Halperin: Diotima marks the inferiority of women, who bear mortal offspring, as against the metaphoric procreation of a poetic or spiritual creation by poets and men of culture.[33]

Nike's lovely vision thus simultaneously embodies the benefits of both democracy and military victory, as Stewart puts it: 'Victory! Victory! Victory!'[34]

From the Athenian point of view, the victory was firm and abiding; however, was this a real victory? The defeat of the Persian had occurred some dozens of years before the construction of Nike's temple and relieves. It could be that the Athenians had needed that anachronistic image in order to be encouraged in the face of their more severe contemporary reality: persistent warfare with the Spartans, the failure of the expedition to conquer Sicily (415-413), and Athens' abandonment by her Ionian allies.

In the light of this gloomy reality, the Victory, so to speak, appears to be an attempt at self-conviction, a lie, and an illusion. The fabric is again given a main role, as the creator of a false image of victory. The textile and the art of weaving as a feminine craft, could also symbolize the skills of concealing and lying: Pandora was a beautiful woman whose ornate garment concealed her vain soul; and the robe Medea sent to Glauke was revealed as a death trap. The beauty of the fabric could be compared to the beauty of the seductive song that distracts the listener's attention from the burden of reality.[35] Nike's graceful robe may thus be an exquisite metaphor covering the unpleasant truth, like the Sirens' beautiful and seductive songs. As such, the image would have had a dual meaning for the Athenians: literally, as a 'victory' image, expressing the defeat of the Persians as the Athenian imperialism spread; and as the desired future victory over Sparta. However, more broadly, as scholars agree, it could also be an anachronistic illusionary image, and an expression of escapism.[36] The style of the painted vases attributed to the Meidias Painter serve as parallels to the illusionary aspects revealed in the sculptural images. The elegant and rich style of the soft smooth fabric contours is loaded with meanings: these beautiful female images are personifications of important values, such as Eudaimonia (happiness), Hygieia (health), Paideia (education) (figs. 5, 6), and others.[37] Some of the personifications strongly reflect political values: Eunomia (good order or government) for instance, symbolizes the social order in the democratic city-state, and Peitho (temptation), the taking of decisions based upon convincing arguments.[38]

The use of female seduction for propagandist needs characterizes Nike, as has been shown; and as the goddess of Victory, the Meidias Painter's personifications, according to Burn,  are immersed in a dreamy distanced heaven, and thus also express an escapist state of mind.[39]

Nike's robe therefore obtains significance as an image that metaphorically covers and embellishes reality, a delusional scene that distracts and deceives the spectator. The illusion in Nike and the akroteria images is thus double: it is a fantastic vision of a woman that at the same time represents a deceptive reality. That illusory image calls to mind certain legendary characters in the modern world that are considered as archetypes of femininity. Are the Classical sculptured womanly images, in comparison to modern feminine sex symbols, as Naomi Wolf puts it, 'images of beauty used against women'?[40]  From a gender point of view, that might be so; however, do the beauty and charm of those celestial figures also have value and express deeper meanings? Can we perceive Nike's glamour from a non-gender perspective? What was the meaning of 'beauty' in the Classical world? Was their any deeper significance to physical beauty, and if so, can we apply it to the works under discussion?


The concept of kalokagathia connects between kalos (beauty) and agathos (the good). This connection is fundamental to the Classical outlook on beauty, which considers its core to lie in the virtues of moderation, self-control (enkrateia) and self-knowledge (sophrosyne).[41] Physical beauty was considered by Homer as a valuable and desirable quality for a warrior, and as part of his overall excellence (arete). In reality, the Greek aristocracy in the Archaic period desired its youth to have beauty of both body and spirit, and demanded a combination of a fine and cultured appearance.[42] Proper education, according to Socrates, would combine the study of poetry and music with gymnastic training, in order to attain equilibrium between body and soul.[43]

In Greek thought, there is recognition of the ability of physical beauty to attract and to please. The scale of beauty as described by Diotima in the Symposium dialogue starts with the beauty of the body, which becomes insignificant in comparison with the beauties of the soul spiritual loveliness, the beauty of laws and institution, the beauty of every kind of knowledge, beautiful thoughts and ideas and, finally, the absolute and abstract beauty - the beauty itself.[44] However, in the Phaedrus dialogue, Socrates points out that since sight is the keenest of our senses, then if wisdom were to become visible it would arouse a mighty and great love.[45] The superiority of the spiritual beauty over the physical in Platonic philosophy is fundamental, yet there is also recognition of the advantages of physical beauty, and a wish to integrate and balance the two qualities, as expressed by Socrates.[46] Socrates confronts his pupil Hippias with questions on the nature of 'beauty', and finally concludes that beauty is what is good in its essence: the useful is good, the good is the intrinsic value of things, and the beauty derives from the good.[47] The influence of beauty upon the soul is described allegorically in the Phaedrus dialogue: Before the soul was incarnated in a corporeal body, she dwelt among the divinities, and witnessed their sublime beauty. Then, when the soul entered the physical world and was incarnated, she forgot those glorious sights. However, whenever she finds beauty in another being, she feels a dim memory of the sights that she had once seen, and this fills her with great emotion and passionate love for that being. That love stems from the longing for divine beauty and the wish to merge with that beauty.[48] Eros is the embodiment of the passion that urges the soul, and thus it is, in Bruce Thornton words: 'a connecting force, energy for bridging the gap between the "'real" world and its deformed, mutable simulacra that we with our mortal bodies must inhabit'; a mediator between the human and the divine.[49] Nike, as a winged goddess and the deliverer of the victory message, is also a mediator between the earthly and the celestial worlds. On a lebes gamikos, Nike is portrayed flying on one side, with a flying Eros portrayed on the other side (fig. 7). This co-appearance on a nuptial vase symbolizes the values of marriage.[50]




In a general sense, those divinities may symbolize the unity attained through this ceremony, and as its mediators, they are also the consecrators. As a mediator and consecrator, Nike is portrayed on vase paintings sanctifying and pouring libations, or crowning the heads of victorious athletes with a wreath (figs. 8, 9).

Nike is also a permanent participant in the apotheosis of heroes such as Herakles. As a consecrator, she elevates and merges the human soul with the sublime, and her lovely appearance in sculpture appears to have been intended for that purpose of facilitating the viewer's desire to enter into an ecstatic union with the divine.

The exquisite and ultra-feminine sight of Nike may have caused the Ancients to recall another mythological mediator – the nymph, an image that can shed additional light on the meaning of Nike. Dancing nymphs represented as Caryatids appear with billowing robes made of diaphanous drapery, similar to Nike's images. Marine nymphs, or Nereids, were portrayed in architectonic sculpture with the same features as Nike, as sensual bodies with flowing robes, with only the addition of wings distinguishing the figure as a Nike or a Nereid, like the sculptures from the temple of Asklepius at Epidauros and the temple of Ares at Athens.[51]  What are the relations between the nymph and Nike?  The nymph dwells in the terrestrial world, yet her origin is divine, and she is a mediator between the sailor and the land, and between gods and mortals.[52] Nymphs are also connected to the genealogy of the Athenian nation: the primordial ancestor Erechtheus and his son Pandion married the Naiads, the nymphs of springs and fountains, and the daughters of the primordial ancestor Kekrops have nymph-like features.[53] On the north-west side of the Acropolis foundations, the Klepsidra spring ('water guard'), located in a deep cleft, was a cultic site sacred to the nymphs. Other important sacred springs in the Acropolis included Kallirohe ('lovely flowing'), which supplied water for the nuptial baths of the Athenian brides,[54] as well as several springs at the Asklepeion site on the southern slope.[55] Nymphs are descendants of the gods and therefore immortal. They dwell as natives in lands appropriated by them in ancient times, and they are free from social bonds. Nymphs are identified with abundance, vegetation, calm green meadows, wild nature, and some of them particularly with water. These latter nymphs reside in springs, rivers and lakes, supply fresh water, and therefore are healing divinities. Nymphs also inspire and prophesy.[56] The female image from the Hephaisteion akroterion (fig. 10) has been interpreted as a Nereid;[57] she wears a diaphanous robe that seems to be blown by the wind or perhaps moistened by the spring waters.

The sensual nature of that Nereid is strengthened by the baring of one breast and the slight twist of the body as if in a dancing movement. Dancing was a preferred occupation of the nymphs, and intended to sanctify.[58] The vitality of this image also characterizes nymphs in general, who symbolize immortality and eternal happiness. It would thus seem that the female akroteria as generic and archetypal images symbolize happiness, charm, vitality and goodness, inducing the spectator to become "seized by the nymphs" (nympholeptos).[59] Nike also seizes the viewer and captivates him with her charm. Just as the nymphs symbolize the sweetness of love, so too does Nike inspire the polis guardians with love. Happiness, vitality, beauty and femininity are related to the nymph Calypso in the Odyssey: she is 'the softly-braided nymph', 'magical Kalypso', 'lovely nymph', '… singing high and low in her sweet voice, before her loom a-weaving, she passed her golden shuttle to and fro'; and her island is vividly portrayed. [60] As an immortal who inspires mortals with her goodness, Calypso hosted Odysseus on her island for seven years; however, when he wanted to return to his homeland, she devotedly supported him even against her own feelings. As a mediator between the phases in his life, Calypso nurtured and strengthened Odysseus, loved him, and afterwards let him depart from her. Calypso offered Odysseus immortality, and similarly, Nike immortalizes the Athenian triumphs.

The nymphs are very significant in the Odyssey, symbolizing the departure from home and the return of the heroes; while in between, they take care of and strengthen the heroes as they continue their journey.[61] The nymphs also inspire with sanctity those who have been seized by them, and they assist in their passage from the profane world to the sacred.[62]  The Nereids were also identified with the Eleusian Mysteries, during which they danced in honor of the newly consecrated, whose souls were also 'dancing', as Socrates tells Ion.[63] The Nereids are thus connected, as noted by Judith Barringer, both to the Eleusian and the Dionysian Mysteries, since they promise eternal bliss in the afterlife.[64] Like the nymphs, Nike too is a mediator, glorifying the returning warriors and validating their victory through the ritual sacrifice and her own sanctity. The validation of the Athenian victory by such a lovely divine authority seems to have been related in Ancient times to the lofty aspirations for consecration and merging with the divine and the sublime. The notion that Nike is unbinding her sandal, mentioned previously, contributes to such a perception.[65] The desire to experience divine ecstasy is common to many ancient rituals. It would appear that Nike supplied that need to attain a godlike experience in the earthly world, since she herself was a consecrator. The illusionary aspect, thus does exist in the socio-political sense, but is even more intensive from the spiritual aspect.


In summary, this analysis of Nike's images and the female akroteria sculptures has raised the issue of symbolism in the socio-political and spiritual-religious contexts. The artistic style, characterized by the emphasis on the flowing drapery of the fabrics is interpreted as loaded with deep mythological, social and allegorical meanings. The spinning and weaving motif, which is central in many mythological narratives, is also significant from the socio-realistic aspect; with the allegorical implications constituted by metaphors of the euphoric atmosphere of victory following the Persian wars. Representation of the benefits of the democracy and the military victory by means of the image of Nike, necessarily raises the gender aspect and begs the question: Why was a male victory embodied by an ultra-feminine statue? This discussion was based upon earlier studies, such as the enigmatic relief of Pandora's birth in the Athena Parthenos monument, from the artistic aspect; and the meaning of Diotima in the Symposium, from the philosophical aspect. The symbolism of the delicate and sumptuous feminine fabric was interpreted as a metaphor for concealing and distorting the truth – the sore reality during the Peloponnesian wars. This reading of escapism is further reinforced through analogy with the personification portrayals in Classical vase paintings. Representations of feminine beauty are thus perceived as providing an illusion from several aspects: the illusion of victory, as well as the illusion created by this seductive beauty. An additional question asked here was: Can this image be defined as 'beauty used against women'? Analysis of the significance of physical and spiritual beauty in Classical thought raised other contexts and meanings. Beauty may be conceived as a revelation of the divine and as a means to attain a godlike ecstatic experience. Nike is conceived in this way as a mediator, like certain other mediating gods. Finally, comparison to the nymph helps to clarify the most important aspect contained in the images of women who deliver the message of victory: that of consecration and sanctification as a means to create an illusion of elevation and merging with the divinity, and attaining the sublime. The interpretations from the gender aspect have been offered here from a modern-day perspective, while the spiritual and the religious meanings, reflecting the aspiration to attain the sublime, express the thoughts prevalent in Ancient times. This duality appears to testify, as it does in other images and subjects in Classical art,[66] to a permanent tension between the ethical-gender and the spiritual aspects, the profane and the sacred, or the earthly and the celestial worlds, whose rules, so it seems, are different.  



   [1] Homer, Odyssey, trans. Robert Fitzgerald, New York, 1961, 24.147-148.

[2]  For a comprehensive discussion of Nike's temple in the Acropolis and the narrative and symbolic meaning of its sculptural complex see: Andrew Stewart, 'History, Myth and Allegory in the Program of the Temple of Athena Nike, Athens', National Gallery of Washington. Studies in the History of Art, Washington D.C., 16, 1985, 53-74; Jeffrey Hurwit, The Acropolis in the Age of Pericles, Cambridge, 2004,181-191.

[3] Stewart, 'History, myth and allegory', 54; Erica Simon, 'An Interpretation of the Nike Temple Parapet', In the Interpretation of Architectural Sculpture in Greece and Rome, ed. Diana Buitron-Oliver, Hanover and London, 1997, 133; Jeffrey Hurwit, The Athenian Acropolis, Cambridge, 1999, 213.

[4] Hurwit, Athenian Acropolis, 190. See also: Simon, 'the Interpretation of Architectural Sculpture ', 127-129, 135-136.

[5] Ethel Abrahams, 'Greek Dress', In Ancient Greek Dress, ed. Marie Johnson, Chicago, 1964, 59-64. The reason for preference for the Ionic chiton by Athenian women is told by Herodotus. See: Herodotus, the Histories, trans. Robin  Waterfield, Oxford [England]; New York, 1998, 5.87.

[6] Harmonic composition is formed by oppositions that attract and delight the spectator See: Aristotle, Rhetoric, 3.9.8, 1410a; Aristotle, Poetics 7, 8, In: Aristotle, Rhetoric, trans. W. Rhys Roberts; Poetics, trans. Ingram Bywater, New York, c1954.

[7] Andrew Stewart, Art, Desire and the Body in Ancient Greece, Cambridge, 1997, 52-53. Hesiod, Theogony and Works and days, trans. Martin L. West, Oxford, 1999.


[8] Homer, Odyssey, 2.93-110.

[9] Euripides, Bacchae, trans. Paul Woodruff, Indianopolis, 1998, 117-118.

[10] Apollodorus, The Library, trans. James George Fraser, Cambridge, Mass.,1989 (1921), III xixi, 7-8.

[11] Aristophanes, Lysistrara, In: Aristophanes, Acharnians, Lysistrata, Clouds, trans. James Henderson, Newburyport, Mass., 1997, 569-586.

[12] Euripides, The Medea, trans. John Harrison, Cambridge, 2000, c1999, 784-789.

[13] Apollodorus, The Library, II, vii 7.

[14] Apollodorus, The Library, Epitome, I. 6-9.

[15] Hesiod, Theogony, 904-906. 

[16] Apollodorus, The Library,  III.xiv.8.

[17] Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. D. E. Hill, Warminster, Wiltshire, c1985-c2000,


[18] Claude Berard, 'The Order of Women', In A City of Images – Iconography and Society in Ancient Greece, ed. Claude Berard et al., New Jersey, 1989, 90; Ellen D. Reeder, Pandora – Women in Classical Greece, ed. Ellen D. Reeder, Baltimore and Princeton, 1995, 202.

[19] On the peplos gift to Athena, see: E. J. W. Barber, 'The Peplos of Athena', In Jenifer Neils, Goddess and polis: the Panathenaic Festival in ancient Athens, New Jersey, 1992, 112-117; Reeder, Pandora, 200. The question of whether the frieze portrays the Pan-Athenian procession as a specific historical event – which was held before the battle of Marathon in 490, or as a mythological expression in which the characters are mythological, or generic and archetypal, is resolved by Hurwit, who concludes that this is a trans-mythological-historical-realistic event beyond time and space, and a conceptual essence, which is not realistic at all, of the ritual event idea. See: Hurwit, Athenian Acropolis, 222-228.

[20] Reeder, Pandora, 200-202; Berard, 'The Order of Women', 90; Barber, 'The Peplos of Athena', 104-112.

[21] On the Delian League see: Anton Powell, Athens and Sparta: constructing Greek political and social history from 478 B.C., London, 2001, 2, 8-11, 12-22, 44-48, 59-60; Lisa Kallet,'The Fifth Century: Political and Military Narrative', in Classical Greece, ed. Robin Osborne, New York, 2000,170-196.176-178, 180-182.

[22] For autochthony, see: Nicole Loraux, The children of Athena: Athenian ideas about citizenship and the division between the sexes, New Jersey, 1993, 37-71. On the Ionians as descendents of the Athenians see: Jeremy McInerney, 'Ethnos and Ethnicity in Early Greece', 58; Rosalind Thomas, 'Ethnicity, Genealogy, and Hellenism in Herodotus', 225-228, in Ancient Perceptions of Greek Ethnicity, ed. Irad Malkin, Cambridge,  Mass., 2001.

[23] On the marble's translucent quality, see: Stewart, Art, desire and the body, 46. Athens as a school for Greece, see: Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, trans. W. Blanco, New York, 1998, II.xli.

[24] Thucicides, Peloponnesian war, II.xxxviii. Hedonism is formulated by restrictions based upon the principle of measurement. See: Plato, Protagoras, trans. C. C. W. Taylor, Oxford, 1976, 358.

[25] Martin Robertson, A Shorter History of Greek Art, Cambridge, 1989 (1981), 127; Nike of Paionios, from Olympia,. Ca. 420, Ht. 1.95 m. See: Stewart, Greek Sculpture, fig. 408; Boardman, Greek Sculpture – The Classical Period, fig. 139.

[26] Andrew Stewart, Greek Sculpture, New Haven, 1990, 92.

[27] Stewart, Art, desire and the body, 148. See also: Stewart, 'History, myth and allegory', 68-70; Stewart, Greek Sculpture, 166-167.

[28] Thucydides, Peloponnesian war, 2.43.1.

[29] Paul W. Ludwig, Eros and Polis: desire and community in Greek political theory, Cambridge, 2002, 19, 350.

[30] Thucydides, Peloponnesian war, 3.84.2.

[31] Ludwig, Eros and Polis, 153-169.

[32] Jeffrey Hurwit, 'Beautiful Evil: Pandora and the Athena Parthenos', American Journal of Archeology, 99, 1995, 171-186.

[33] David M. Halperin, 'Why is Diotima a Woman? Platonic Eros and the Figuration of Gender', In Before Sexuality, eds. David M. Halperin, John J. Winkler, and Froma I. Zeitlin, New Jersey, 1990, 257-308.262-263, 276-284, 288-290.

[34] Stewart, 'History, myth and allegory', 67, 70; Stewart, Greek Sculpture, 166; Stewart, Art, desire and the body, 148. See also on Paionios' own triumph in analogy to the overall atmosphere: 'Self-satisfaction was in the air, and he was not about to be excluded', Stewart, Greek Sculpture, 89-92.

[35]  Vered Lev-Kenaan examining mythical images of weavers, scrutinizes the semantic proximity between the words 'textile' and 'text'; the original meaning of the Latin word 'textum' was fabric, and only later did it receive the meaning of text. Thus, 'textile' is compared to 'text', which might be a lie. Nevertheless, Lev-Kenaan emphasizes the difference between the innocent housewife weaver such as Penelope, or the weaver of signs and codes such as Filomella, and the provocative weaver such as Arachne or Hellene. See: Vered Lev-Kenaan, 'Silent Images: The Role of the Mythological Weaver in Ancient Literary Criticism', In The Language of Silence, eds. In Siegfried Jakel and Asko Timonen,Turku, Vol. I.., 2001, 182-189.

[36] Stewart, 'History, myth and allegory', 64; Jerome Jordan Pollitt, Art and Experience in Classical Greece, Cambridge, 1972, 115-118; Jerome Jordan Pollitt, 'Art, Politics, and Thought in Classical Greece', In The Greek Miracle, ed. Diana Buitron-Oliver,  Washington, 1992, 43; Hurwit, The Acropolis in the Age of Pericles, 191.

[37] Lucila Burn, The Meidias Painter, Oxford, 1987, 97, 101, figs. 20d, 23b, 27a, b, 28a, b, 29a, b.

[38] Burn, Meidias Painter, 35-40.

[39] Burn, Meidias Painter, 36.

[40] Naomi Wolf, The beauty myth: how images of beauty are used against women, London, 1991.

[41] Plato, Protagoras, 356-357.

[42] Walter Donlan, 'The Origins of Kalos Kagathos', American Journal of Philology,  94, 1973, 365, 367, 370, 372.

[43] Plato, Republic, In The Collected Dialogues of Plato, Including the Letters, eds. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, Princeton, 1963, II.369-427.

[44] Plato, Symposium, In The Collected Dialogues of Plato, 210-212.

[45] Plato, Phaedrus, In The Collected Dialogues of Plato, 250.

[46] Plato, Republic, In The Collected Dialogues of Plato, III.401-402,.410-412.

[47] Plato, Hippias Raba, In The Collected Dialogues of Plato, 290, 291.

[48] Plato, Phaedrus, In The Collected Dialogues of Plato, 251.

[49] Bruce S. Thornton, Eros: The Myth of Ancient Greek Sexuality, Colorado, 1997, 210.

[50] Francois Lissarague, 'Figures of Women', In A History of Women, ed. P. Schmitt Pantel, London, 1992, 157.

[51] See: Dancing nymphs as Caryatids, 5th century, Delphi Museum, Alinari/Art Resource, New York. See: Page duBois, Sowing the Body – Psychoanalysis and Ancient Representations of Women, Chicago, 1988, fig. 9; Nike from the Temple of Asklepios, Epidauros, c. 380, Athens, National Museum 155. See: Barringer, Divine Escorts, Pl. 137-38; Nereid from Temple of Asklepios, Epidauros, c. 380, Athens, National Museum 156. See: Barringer, Divine Escorts, Pl. 139; Nereid from Temple of Asklepios, Epidauros, c. 380, Athens, National Museum 157. See:  See: Barringer, Divine Escorts, Pl. 140; Nike from an akroterion of the Temple of Ares, Athens, Agora, Pentelic marble, H. 1.29 m. See: Boardman, Greek Sculpture – The Classical Period, fig. 118; Nereid riding a dolphin, from an akroterion of the Temple of Ares, Athens 3397, Pentelic marble, H. 0.57. See: Boardman, Greek Sculpture – The Classical Period, fig. 119. For identification of the figures see: Judith M. Barringer, Divine Escorts, Michigan, 1995, 146-147.

[52] Irad Malkin, 'The Odyssey and the Nymphs', GAIA, 5, 2001, 11-14. 

[53] Jennifer Larson, Greek Nymphs – Myth, Cult, Lore, Oxford, 2001, 126; Apollodorus, The Library, III.xiv.6, 8.

[54] For a discussion of its doubtful location see: Larson, Greek Nymphs, 126-128.

[55] Larson, Greek Nymphs, 129-130.

[56] Walter Robert Connor, 'Seized by the Nymphs: Nympholepsy and Symbolic Expression in Classical Greece', Classical Antiquity, 7, 1988, 160-162; Malkin, 'The Odyssey and the Nymphs', 15; Larson, Greek Nymphs, 3-8.

[57] John Boardman, Greek Sculpture – The Classical Period, London, 1991(1985), 146, fig. 116. Buitron-Oliver also identifies the figure as a Nereid, but claims that the statue seems too heavy to have been used as an akroterion, and thus it might have served as a dedication monument in the Agora. See: Diana Buitron-Olivier, The Greek miracle: classical sculpture from the dawn of democracy: the fifth century B.C., Washington, 1992, 138.

[58] Connor, 'Seized by the Nymph', 171.

[59] Connor, 'Seized by the Nymph', 155-166; Malkin, 'The Odyssey and the Nymphs', 14; Larson, Greek Nymphs, 10, 13-14.

[60] Homer, Odyssey, trans. Robert Fitzgerald, New York, 1961, 5.30, 5.78, 5.85, 5.60-74.

[61] Malkin, 'The Odyssey and the Nymphs', 21-22, 23-25. Odysseus resembles the voices of the maidens to the Nymphs voices: Homer, Odyssey, 6.122-124.  

[62] Connor, 'Seized by the Nymph', 164-165.

[63] Euripides, Ion, trans. K. H. Lee Warminster, 1997, 1080; Plato, Ion, In The Collected Dialogues of Plato, 536 b-c.

[64] Barringer, Divine Escorts, 150-151. See also: Euripides, Ion, 1074-1089.

[65] On the ritual of the Athena Nike Parapet see:  Michael H. Jameson, 'The Ritual of the Athena Nike Parapet', In Robin Osborne and Simon Hornblower, Ritual, Finance, Politics – Athenian Democratic Accounts Presented to David Lewis, Oxford, 1994, 307-319. Erika Simon cites Euripides, according to whom entrance with bare feet was required at some of the sanctuaries. See: Euripides, Ion, 22-222; Simon, 'An Interpretation of the Nike Temple Parapet', 133. According to Simon, this was not an Olympic cult but Chthonian, during which the blood of the victim was poured on the ground, and the meat was not eaten by the priests and the participants, but was burned. That cult was dedicated to the war heroes. See: Simon, 'An Interpretation of the Nike Temple Parapet', 136-139, fig. 138. The source for this cult is: Homer, Odyssey, 11.23-36, 10.527-534.  

[66] Abductions in myth and art are an example of this duality. Stewart summarizes the many aspects of abduction's symbolism, See: Andrew Stewart, 'Rape?', In Pandora, 74-90. Ada Cohen, 'Portrayals of Abduction in Greek Art: Rape or Metaphor?' In  Sexuality in Ancient Art, ed. Natalie Boymel Kampen, Cambridge, 1996, 117-135. Abductions and reflections of contemporary events, See: Karm W. Arafat, 'State of Art – Art of the State: Sexual Violence and Politics in Late Archaic and Early Classical Vase-Painting', Rape in Antiquity, London, 1997, 97-121.


List of Illustrations:

1.      Nike unbinding her sandal, relief from Athena Nike parapet, ca. 420-400, marble, ht..101 m., in Athens, Akropolis Museum, Inv. no. 973. See: Stewart, Greek Sculpture, fig. 420; Boardman, Greek Sculpture – The Classical Period, fig. 130.4.

2.      Nike in front of Athena, Atheize:11.0pt; line-height:200%;font-family:Arial'>Nike encircles heads victorious athletes with diadem, Pelike, in Brussels, 1579, See: Lexicon iconographicum mythologiae classicae, VI, fig. 99.

10.  Woman, akroterion commonly ascribed to the Hephaisteion and described as a 'Nereid', Parian marble, in Athens, Agora S182, H.1.25. See:  See: Boardman, Greek Sculpture – The Classical Period, fig. 116.




2005 – PhD: "Mythological Scenes in Roman and Early Byzantine Mosaics in Eretz Isael – Context and Meaning". Research interests: analysis of Greek and Roman art by means of a philosophical orientation; mythological mosaics from a neo-Platonic perspective; gender and art. Topics of publications: the mosaics from Sepphoris, Shechem and Scytopolis. Teaches courses in Classical concepts, gender and mythology in ancient art at Tel Aviv University. [Department of Art History, Yolanda and David Katz Faculty of the Arts, Mexico Building, Rooms 111 and 112, Tel-Aviv University, 69978 Tel-Aviv, Israel, Phone: 972-3-6408482, 972-3-6409481, Fax: 972-3-6407781, sadehnav@post.tau.ac.il ]

The Left, the Right and the Holy Spirit, October 2008