War as Spectacle: Ancient and Modern Perspectives on the Display of Armed Conflict 147252229X, 9781472522290

War as Spectacle examines the display of armed conflict in classical antiquity and its impact in the modern world. The c

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Table of contents :
Cover page
Halftitle page
Series page
Title page
Copyright page
List of Illustrations
Notes on Contributors
1 Introduction War as Spectacle, a Multi-sensory Event Worth Watching?1
Spectacles of war across ancient and modern genres and media
Spectacles of war in material culture
Spectacles of war on stage and in modern media
Part One Ancient and Modern Literary Spectacles of War A. Epic Spectacles
2 ‘ What if We Had a War and Everybody Came? ’War as Spectacle and the Duel of Iliad 31
The duel
The transition from duel to warfare
The warfare begins: the role of the audience
3 From Our Own Correspondent Authorial Commentary on the ‘Spectacles of War’ in Homer and in the Tale of the Heike
Authorial comments in Homer
Authorial comments in the Tale of the Heike
4 ‘The Clash of Weapons and the Sight of War’ Spectatorship and Identification in Roman Epic
The spectacle of war and the problem of spectator identification
Homeric origins
Economies of lives: the champions’ duel and spectator identification
While the men fight below: the female teichoscopy
Death from above: the male commander’s survey of the battlefield
Indistinguishable corpses and fameless ends: surveying the aftermath of battle
Conclusion: reading in peace, viewing like the gods
5 Death on the Margins Statius and the Spectacle of the Dying Epic Hero
Canonical deaths: spectacle and space
Statius’ marginal boys
Other marginal boys: Atys and Crenaeus
The crumbling edges: Hippomedon, Amphiaraus, Capaneus
Too close for comfort: Tydeus
B. Poetical, Historiographical and Philosophical Spectacles
6 Lyric Visions of Epic Combat The Spectacle of War in Archaic Personal Song
Beautiful battlescapes and the drama of war
Anti-epicizing spectacles of war
7 ‘The Greatest Runway Show in History ’Paul Violi’s ‘House of Xerxes’ and the Herodotean Spectacle of War
Cataloguing Xerxes’ army: the Herodotean archetype
Manipulating the model(s): Violi’s fashion parade
War as televisual spectacle
8 Plato’s Cinematic Vision War as Spectacle in Four Dialogues (Laches, Republic , Timaeus and Critias)
The Laches
The Republic
The Timaeus-Critias
9 Shadow-Boxing in the East The Spectacle of Romano-Parthian Conflict in Tacitus
Another world?
Shadow-boxing in the east: Part One (Annals 15.1-6)
Shadow-boxing in the east: Part Two (Annals 15.7-17)
Shadow-boxing in the east: Part Three (Annals 15.24-31)
Conclusion: intersecting worlds
10 Bodies on the Battlefield The Spectacle of Rome’s Fallen Soldiers
The dead in action and aftermath
The visible dead
The anonymous dead
Viewing the dead: commanders
Viewing the dead: fellow soldiers
Viewing the dead: women and elders
Part Two Spectacles of War in Material Culture
11 The Monument and Altar to Liberty A Memory Site for the United States’ Own Thermopylae1
The Battle of Long Island
Charles M. Higgins, classics and the Battle of Long Island
The Monument and Altar to Liberty
Preservation and the creation of memory landscapes in New York City
America’s Thermopylae
12 Triumphal Washington New York City’s First ‘Roman’ Arch1
Roman arches
European predecessors of the Washington Arch
The temporary Washington arches
The permanent arch
13 An Unwinding Story The Influence of Trajan’s Column on the Depiction of Warfare
Trajan’s Column: the emperor’s spectacle
The reception of Trajan’s Colum in antiquity
Post-classical receptions: from high status commander to the common soldier
The modern era: the shift towards the commemoration of the collective
Part Three Spectacles of War on Stage and in Modern Media
14 Epic Parodies Martial Extravaganzas on the Nineteenth-Century Stage
15 Parading War and Victory under the Greek Military Dictatorship Th Hist(o)rionics of 1967–74 1
Spectacle is power: displays of order,2 or performing tyranny
What happens in the arena? Sporting uniforms and uniformity
Teaching patriotic self-sacrifice for the ‘Revolution of 21 April 1967’
Reflecting on Greek history in rapid motion
16 The Anti-War Spectacle Denouncing War in Michael Cacoyannis’ Euripidean Trilogy1
The performance of grief as an act of resistance
Dying for Hellas and the denunciation of war
The violent legacy of war
17 Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line and Homeric Epic Spectacle, Simile, Scene and Situation
‘All things shining’: Heidegger, Homer and the Pre-Socratics
The seductions of spectacle
The ‘world outside’
Scenic and situational resonances with Homer
18 Animating Ancient Warfare The Spectacle of War in the Panoply Vase Animations
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War as Spectacle


Also available from Bloomsbury Greek Warfare, Hans Van Wees Ancient Magic and the Supernatural in the Modern Visual and Performing Arts, edited by Filippo Carlà and Irene Berti Imagining Xerxes, Emma Bridges Britain and Its Empire in the Shadow of Rome, Sarah J. Butler Origins of the Peloponnesian War, G. E. M. de Ste Croix


War as Spectacle Ancient and Modern Perspectives on the Display of Armed Conflict Edited by Anastasia Bakogianni and Valerie M. Hope

Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc


Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square London WC 1B 3DP UK

1385 Broadway New York NY 10018 USA

www.bloomsbury.com BLOOMSBURY and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published 2015 © Anastasia Bakogianni, Valerie M. Hope and Contributors, 2015 Anastasia Bakogianni and Valerie M. Hope have asserted their rights under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Editors of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organization acting on or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by Bloomsbury or the authors. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN :

HB : 978-1-47252-229-0 ePDF : 978-1-47252-453-9 ePub: 978-1-47252-755-4

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. Typeset by RefineCatch Limited, Bungay, Suffolk


To my father for introducing me to old war movies as a child, and for all his help and support during the final stages of work on this collection. Anastasia Bakogianni In memory of my grandfather (William Attride Hope) and great-grandfather (Thomas Lewis) who served in the trenches during the First World War. Valerie M. Hope



Contents List of Illustrations Acknowledgements Notes on Contributors


Introduction: War as Spectacle, a Multi-sensory Event Worth Watching? Anastasia Bakogianni

Part 1 Ancient and Modern Literary Spectacles of War

ix xi xii

1 23

A. Epic Spectacles

2 3

4 5

‘What if We Had a War and Everybody Came?’: War as Spectacle and the Duel of Iliad 3 Tobias Myers


From Our Own Correspondent: Authorial Commentary on the ‘Spectacles of War’ in Homer and in the Tale of the Heike Naoko Yamagata


‘The Clash of Weapons and the Sight of War’: Spectatorship and Identification in Roman Epic Neil W. Bernstein


Death on the Margins: Statius and the Spectacle of the Dying Epic Hero Helen Lovatt


B. Poetical, Historiographical and Philosophical Spectacles

6 7 8

Lyric Visions of Epic Combat: The Spectacle of War in Archaic Personal Song Laura Swift


‘The Greatest Runway Show in History’: Paul Violi’s ‘House of Xerxes’ and the Herodotean Spectacle of War Emma Bridges


Plato’s Cinematic Vision: War as Spectacle in Four Dialogues (Laches, Republic, Timaeus and Critias) Andrea Capra






Shadow-Boxing in the East: The Spectacle of Romano-Parthian Conflict in Tacitus Rhiannon Ash


10 Bodies on the Battlefield: The Spectacle of Rome’s Fallen Soldiers Valerie M. Hope


Part 2 Spectacles of War in Material Culture


11 The Monument and Altar to Liberty: A Memory Site for the United States’ Own Thermopylae Jared A. Simard


12 Triumphal Washington: New York City’s First ‘Roman’ Arch Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis


13 An Unwinding Story: The Influence of Trajan’s Column on the Depiction of Warfare Andrew Fear


Part 3 Spectacles of War on Stage and in Modern Media


14 Epic Parodies: Martial Extravaganzas on the Nineteenth-Century Stage Justine McConnell


15 Parading War and Victory under the Greek Military Dictatorship: The Hist(o)rionics of 1967–74 Gonda Van Steen


16 The Anti-War Spectacle: Denouncing War in Michael Cacoyannis’ Euripidean Trilogy Anastasia Bakogianni


17 Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line and Homeric Epic: Spectacle, Simile, Scene and Situation Jon Hesk


18 Animating Ancient Warfare: The Spectacle of War in the Panoply Vase Animations Sonya Nevin


Notes Bibliography Index

353 405 449

List of Illustrations 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 11.8 11.9 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 12.7 12.8 15.1 15.2 15.3

16.1 16.2

Minerva facing east The American forces in Brooklyn Battle Hill and Battle Pass The British outflank the American forces Stirling’s isolation Minerva’s plumed helmet Minerva’s Graecian accoutrements The direct line of sight between the two statues Minerva salutes the Statue of Liberty Drawing of the temporary Washington Arch erected by Washington Square Park, by Charles Graham Map of the placement of the temporary arches and permanent arch to Washington in New York City The temporary arch erected at Twenty-Third Street and Fifth Avenue at Madison Square Park The Washington Square Arch, view from the South The Washington Square Arch from Fifth Avenue, view from the North Washington at War, sculpted by Hermon MacNeil Washington at Peace, sculpted by Alexander Stirling Calder Historical photograph of the Washington Square Park Arch, showing traffic still passing through the arch A parade float drives down the Panathenaic Stadium during the ‘Festival of the Military Virtue of the Greeks’ A parade float celebrating the first anniversary of the ‘Revolution of 21 April 1967’ Poster: At the festivals of the dictatorial regime of 1967–74, Greek actor-recruits and allegorical figures embody the known sets of historical slogans and victory cries The Greek soldiers’ violent treatment of their female prisoners of war Andromache’s attempt to protect Astyanax

182 183 186 187 188 197 198 203 204 219 221 222 224 225 230 232 235 274 276

288 295 297 ix


16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 16.7 18.1

List of Illustrations

The Greek army demands action The army as spectators to the sacrifice Agamemnon’s triumphal return Aegisthus terrorizes Electra The matricide Sixth-century bce Euboean lekanis used to make Hoplites! Greeks at War 18.2 Battle-scene from Hoplites! Greeks at War 18.3 Sixth-century bce Attic skyphos used to make Amazon

302 303 306 307 309 337 343 349

Acknowledgements This collection would not have been possible without the contributions of a number of institutions and colleagues. In chronological order, the editors’ first debt of thanks belongs to the Department of Classical Studies at The Open University, and in particular Dr James Robson, for funding the colloquium at which the idea of War as Spectacle was born. Anastasia Bakogianni’s biggest debt of thanks is owed to her colleague Valerie M. Hope (The Open University) for agreeing to co-edit this collection. Without her expertise and attention to detail this project would never have come to fruition. Many thanks are also due to our two readers, Dr Sebastian Matzner (University of Exeter), and the anonymous colleague, whose suggestions and incisive critique helped the editors to improve the design and coverage of this volume. In the final stages of work on the collection, A. B. was very fortunate to be awarded a Visiting Fellowship by the Institute of Classical Studies, a member institute of the School of Advanced Study at the University of London, and is particularly grateful to its Deputy Director Dr Olga Krzyszkowska for her support, and as always to the wonderful staff of the Institute’s Library. A travel grant by the Centre for Hellenic Studies at Washington, DC , also greatly facilitated A. B.’s research. I am indebted to its director Professor Gregory Nagy for extending the personal invitation that made that visit possible. At Bloomsbury Academic we would like to thank Alice Reid for her patience and help. Last, but by no means least, the editors wish to thank the Ure Museum at the University at Reading, and in particular its curator Professor Amy C. Smith, for permission to use a section of the sixth-century bce lekanis as the cover for our collection. Dr Sonya Nevin (University of Roehampton) proved essential in this process and we are very grateful to her for pointing us in the direction of this wonderful ancient vase. Anastasia Bakogianni (Institute of Classical Studies, University of London) and Valerie M. Hope (The Open University)


Notes on Contributors Rhiannon Ash, Merton College, Oxford, has published widely on Roman historiography, especially Tacitus. Her publications include a monograph, Ordering Anarchy: Armies and Leaders in Tacitus’ Histories (Duckworth 1999), and a commentary on Tacitus, Histories 2 (Cambridge University Press 2007). She is currently completing a commentary on Tacitus, Annals 15. Anastasia Bakogianni, Institute of Classical Studies, University of London, focuses her research and publications on the reception of Greek tragedy in the modern world. She is the author of Electra Ancient and Modern: Aspects of the Tragic Heroine’s Reception (Institute of Classical Studies 2011) and editor of Dialogues with the Past: Classical Reception Theory and Practice (ICS 2013). Neil W. Bernstein, Ohio University, is author of Ethics, Identity, and Community in Later Roman Declamation (Oxford University Press 2013) and In the Image of the Ancestors: Narratives of Kinship in Flavian Epic (University of Toronto Press 2008). Emma Bridges’ research focuses on cultural responses to armed conflict in antiquity. Based at The Open University, she is author of Imagining Xerxes: Ancient Perspectives on a Persian King (Bloomsbury 2014). Andrea Capra, Università degli Studi di Milano, has published widely on Plato, Aristophanes, lyric poetry, the reception of archaic epic, and the Greek novel. Andrew Fear, University of Manchester, has research interests in the Roman Army, and the late and immediate post-Roman World, especially in the West. He is a contributor to the Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare (Cambridge University Press 2007) and has translated Orosius: Seven Books of History against the Pagans (Liverpool University Press 2010). Jon Hesk, University of St Andrews, is the author of Deception and Democracy in Classical Athens (Cambridge University Press 2000) and Sophocles’ Ajax xii

Notes on Contributors


(Bloomsbury 2003). He has also written many journal articles and chapters about Homer, Greek drama and Athenian oratory. Valerie Hope, The Open University, works on Roman funerary and mourning customs and has published widely in this area. She is the author of Roman Death (Continuum 2009), Death in Ancient Rome: A Sourcebook (Routledge 2007), and is co-editor of Memory and Mourning: Studies on Roman Death (Oxbow 2011), and Death and Disease in the Ancient City (Routledge 2000). Helen Lovatt, University of Nottingham, works on ancient epic and its reception, myth and children’s literature, and has published two books: Statius and Epic Games (Cambridge University Press 2005) and The Epic Gaze (Cambridge University Press 2013). Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York, has published widely on Roman and Islamic architecture and gardens. She is currently examining the reception of Classical Architecture in New York City. Justine McConnell, University of Oxford, is author of Black Odysseys: The Homeric Odyssey in the African Diaspora since 1939 (Oxford University Press 2013), and co-editor of Ancient Slavery and Abolition: From Hobbes to Hollywood (Oxford University Press 2011) and The Oxford Handbook of Greek Drama in the Americas (Oxford University Press 2015). Tobias Myers, Connecticut College, has written on the bucolic world of Theocritus, causation in the Iliad, and self-knowledge in the Odyssey. He is finishing a book-length analysis of the Iliad’s gods in their role as observers of the poem’s action. Sonya Nevin, University of Roehampton, recently published ‘Negative Comparison: Agamemnon and Alexander in Plutarch’s Agesilaus-Pompey’, in Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies (54: 45–68, 2014). She is currently completing Military Leaders and Sacred Space in Classical Greek Warfare: Temples, Sanctuaries and Conflict in Antiquity, with I.B. Tauris. Jared A. Simard is a PhD at The Graduate Center, The City of University of New York and an Adjunct Lecturer at Hunter College. His dissertation is on Classics and Rockefeller Center: John D. Rockefeller Jr. and the Use of Classicism in Public


Notes on Contributors

Space. He has additional publications forthcoming on the reception of the ancient world in New York City. Laura Swift, The Open University, focuses her research on archaic and classical Greek poetry and drama, and she is currently working on a commentary on the works of the poet Archilochus. She is the author of The Hidden Chorus: Echoes of Genre in Tragic Lyric (Oxford University Press 2010) and a companion to Euripides’ Ion (Duckworth 2008). Gonda Van Steen holds the Cassas Chair in Greek Studies at the University of Florida, and is the author of four books: Venom in Verse: Aristophanes in Modern Greece (Princeton University Press 2000); Liberating Hellenism from the Ottoman Empire (Palgrave 2010); Theatre of the Condemned: Classical Tragedy on Greek Prison Islands (Oxford University Press 2011); and Stage of Emergency: Theater and Public Performance under the Greek Military Dictatorship of 1967–1974 (Oxford University Press 2015). Naoko Yamagata, The Open University, is the author of Homeric Morality (Brill 1994) and a number of articles on Homer, the reception of Homer in antiquity (Plato, Xenophon and Virgil) and comparative studies of Homer and Medieval Japanese epic.


Introduction War as Spectacle, a Multi-sensory Event Worth Watching?1 Anastasia Bakogianni Institute of Classical Studies, University of London

War has always both fascinated and repelled human beings throughout recorded history. Chris Hedges, Pulitzer winning war correspondent and author, chose a deliberately provocative title for one of his books as a means of publicizing an uncomfortable truth, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (Hedges 2002). Armed conflict is often central to state formation. Wars can also be about conquest, a competition for resources and power. They are fought over religion and to impose a particular agenda. They are a means of performing state identity. But war is also a potent ‘drug’ (Hedges 2002: 3) that casts its dark spell over both those who wage it and the societies that support them. The intoxication of battle can prove addictive for soldiers, and victory, especially in wars perceived as just (Bellamy 2006), is celebrated and valorized. Those left behind eagerly follow the course of the war, but news from the front, as well as military history, can also become a form of entertainment in literature, the visual arts, and in modern media such as cinema, television, and the Internet. The prominence of war in the arts reflects the disquieting truth that war is endemic in human societies (Fagan and Trundle 2010: 1). The closing decades of the past millennium and the start of the new were unfortunately no exception. Two devastating World Wars were followed by a number of other conflicts, such as the Vietnam War, the ongoing civil strife in Africa, the Middle-East, and Palestine, the Balkan conflict and the first Iraq War in the 1990s, 9/11, and the war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. These conflicts have dominated our media and brought war into our living rooms and more recently to our computer screens. In the same period ancient Greece and Rome completed its transformation from a Western cultural reference point to a global cultural phenomenon.2 The 1


War as Spectacle

‘seduction exerted by [classical] ideas and cultures’ (Knippschild 2013: 320) is so potent that classical antiquity is often invoked in important public debates, including those on the topic of modern wars. From Greek plays performed in protest against the war in Iraq,3 to opinion pieces in newspapers, books, and online,4 the Greco-Roman classics remain in the news as a culturally significant point of reference for debates about modern conflicts. In an article written during the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War in Britain, Charlotte Higgins argues that ‘The Iliad still has much to say about war, even as it is fought today’ (Guardian, 30 January 2010).5 As James I. Porter (2008: 480) has convincingly argued, it is important for classicists to engage more fully in these public discourses to ensure not only the survival, but also the relevance of our discipline in today’s world.6 The waging of war and the way conflict and violence is portrayed, constructed and performed is one such nexus where ancient and modern debates can and do fruitfully cross-germinate. Ancient warfare has been a key area of interest for scholars ever since the formation of classics as an academic discipline in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The popularity of the topic has waxed and waned, but it is worth noting that classical texts have regularly been used as educational tools in military academies such as Sandhurst (UK ) and West Point (US ). The popularity of alternative frameworks for investigating the surviving evidence from classical antiquity, such as social history, gender issues and everyday life in antiquity, pushed ancient warfare into the background for a time, but recent decades have borne witness to an explosion of interest in the topic.7 The present volume departs from these studies in that it seeks to investigate war specifically as spectacle from an interdisciplinary perspective. Our collection engages with the portrayal of war in modern media and the role that Greek and Roman texts, and material culture can and do play in these public debates. In other words War as Spectacle is not your typical book on the subject of ancient warfare. The reader will not discover in it extended discussions of military history, battles armies, armour and weaponry, or strategy, at least not as the main focus of the discussion. Rather, the present collection examines warfare as a type of performance. It sets out to investigate the portrayal of armed conflict in ancient art and literature and in the creative and performative arts in the postclassical world. It deliberately adopts a cross-media approach to demonstrate the richness and complexity of the reception of ancient warfare both in the literature and art of its time, but also in subsequent centuries and in the modern world. An important concept for our collection is performance, which as Jon McKenzie has argued has become a key term for the twenty-first century (Brady



2012: xii). In this theoretical model the waging of war becomes a type of theatre, a spectacle performed for the benefit of an audience. According to performance theory, all human communication in all its many iterations is inherently performative: Performance theory views humans as Homo narrans, or creatures who communicate through stories as a way of crafting their social world and making meaning of it. (Davis 2009: 266)

McKenzie’s definition of ‘cultural performance’ as encompassing ‘a wide variety of activities situated around the world’ is particularly useful here, especially as it is ‘cultural in the widest sense of the word’ and includes both high and low culture (McKenzie 2001: 29). McKenzie’s list of ‘activities’ includes theatre, rituals, ceremonies, public entertainments, oral readings of literature, storytelling, social interactions, political demonstrations and social movements (as above) all of which feature in the present work. It is the innate inclusiveness and interdisciplinarity of the concept that makes this way of conceptualizing performance so useful to the present study. Moreover, performance engages with social norms, but it also has the potential to challenge them (McKenzie 2001: 30), and the present study showcases examples of both. Both ancient Greece and Rome were highly performative cultures. Ancient Greek literature was designed for oral performance. Epic, lyric, drama as well as historical and philosophical texts sought to create ‘spectacles’ in the imagination of their listeners and readers. These performances often took place in open spaces, in contrast to the enclosed spaces in which we tend to view spectacles on the modern stage, on the cinema, television and computer screens. Unlike modern indoor theatres: . . . the open-air ancient theatre is aggressively inclusive, as it forces the spectators to participate in the spectacle rather than merely to view the stage action as if it were an isolated or ‘framed’ activity. (Liapis et al. 2013: 10)

Roman literature continued this tradition of oral performance and added its own distinctive traits and institutions. Ancient audience members were also more aware of each other, so they were not only watching the performance, but also each other watching the performance. Also relevant to our thinking about performance in classical antiquity are Roman events, rituals, and ceremonies, which were performative, but not scripted or literary. The Roman triumph


War as Spectacle

(Brilliant 1999, Krasser et al. 2008), funerals (Bodel 1999), the games (Lim 1999), and the census (Parker 1999: 174) were all designed as interactive civic spectacles. Defining a working concept of spectacle for our volume proved quite a complex endeavour. The Latin derivation of our modern word ‘spectacle’ links it directly to classical antiquity: ‘spectaculum’ refers to a ‘show/sight/spectacle’, a ‘public sight or show/stage play’, ‘a place from which shows are witnessed’ or ‘a place in the theatre’, but also a ‘wonder/miracle’.8 In other words a spectacle is a type of performance that requires an audience (Christesen and Kyle 2014: 2). In ancient Rome the term’s connotations were on the whole positive (Kyle 2007: 10), as it referred to a much-anticipated event that was invested with cultural significance. In modern usage, however, the word spectacle has acquired largely negative associations (Bergmann 1999: 10–11). The association of spectacle with Juvenal’s famous phrase ‘bread and circuses’ (Satire 10.78-81), which brings to mind the bloody spectacles on display at the Roman amphitheatre, only adds to the modern negative interpretation of spectacle. A spectacle today suggests an excessive, over-blown, superficial event, geared towards the mass-consumer market. In classical scholarship spectacle is most often associated with ancient sport, and the Roman games, not warfare.9 But in ancient Greece, sport was a means of training for war (Kyle 2007: 7), and the Romans’ gladiatorial shows were viewed as professional contests of Roman male virtus (Bergmann 1999: 22). The aim of both sport and war was a good reputation/fame, the ancient Greek concept of kleos that proved so fundamental to classical antiquity. This process inherently requires an audience. By their very nature spectacles are controlled by a producer(s), who seeks to elicit particular responses from their audience. That is why modern Marxist thinkers like Guy Debord (Society of the Spectacle, 1967) warned of the dangers of the deployment of spectacle in our culture as a means of controlling the audience’s reactions. But the dynamics of performance allow for a multiplicity of interpretations, which cannot be entirely controlled by its producers. Given enough data, an overall assessment of the audience’s responses can perhaps be made, but it is important to remember that an audience is made up of individuals, each of whom will respond in his/her own personal way to the performance they are watching. In agonistic fifth-century bce Athenian theatre the tragedians competed fiercely for first prize and the audience’s applause, but they could not predict or control the outcome. As Cicero comments, in Rome the people’s feelings about particular politicians became apparent on public occasions (For Sestius 106, and see further Parker 1999: 168–71). The audience’s reaction was a



kind of ancient opinion poll; applause was a favourable verdict, while the reverse was a public loss of face. Ancient audiences thus reacted not only to the performance, but also to the presence of the state’s representatives in attendance. They could also use the event as a springboard for expressing their opinions on contemporary political issues. Ancient theatres, and spectacles were thus sites where contesting ideologies, identities and power structures met, clashed, and struggled for supremacy. Another classical aspect of the concept of spectacle that proved particularly germane for our work was as a ‘multi-media event’ (Bergmann 1999: 16) that engaged all five of the spectators’ senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. In today’s ocular-centric world we tend to privilege vision above the other senses, but in antiquity spectacles were embodied experiences that sought to immerse their audiences in the spectacle, and to make them an integral part of it. Ancient audiences were trained in active spectatorship and were not simply passive recipients, but interactive agents. Greek audiences at the dramatic festivals were notoriously riotous (Hardwick 2013: 11) and not above throwing food at the performers. Their responses did in all likelihood help to sway the judges’ opinion when it came to awarding the prizes. Audiences at the Roman games had a variety of stimuli to respond to that included reading placards, vying for tokens for food and small prizes, and interacting with the producers of the spectacle, as well as the performers on the arena sands. We cannot of course recreate the ancients’ lived experience, so it is hard to reconstruct their bodily responses to these spectacles. Vision is the dominant sense in our examination of the classical past because of the nature of the surviving evidence that we possess: the material traces of antiquity, and the vivid verbal descriptions in ancient literature that are specifically designed to help the audiences’ powers of visualization. Our fragmentary evidence does, however, contain some tantalizing traces of the fuller multi-sensory experience enjoyed by ancient audiences. A number of our contributors sought to bring these elements to the fore by analysing descriptions of battles, or more generally, the way that war was presented as a multi-sensory experience in ancient literature. Wars ‘naturally lend themselves to intense drama’ (Jeansonne and Luhrssen 2014: xi), so they make for good spectacle in modern media and the creative arts. Investigating war as a spectacle per se therefore involves examining a crosscultural, and transhistorical, performance whose reception is in a constant state of re-evaluation and transformation, as are its audiences’ responses to it.10 By focusing on transhistorical concepts, our study runs the risk of distorting what we think we know about ancient Greece and Rome. To balance out this trend our


War as Spectacle

case studies are securely grounded within their specific contexts, while the analysis of the reception of ancient models is conducted from the perspectives of both difference and continuity. The advantages of this diachronic approach far outweigh the risks, in this author’s opinion, because we are (self-)consciously acknowledging that our interpretation of our ancient evidence is mediated and shaped by the long history of their reception, which in turn impacts on the uses to which we deploy the classics in the modern world. A fundamental difference in the way we understand and interpret war today is that, for the majority of Western audiences, war is a distant event of which they have no direct experience. Ancient audiences were far more likely to have been directly involved in conflict or personally affected by it. This was of course not always necessarily the case, and different periods within classical antiquity saw the involvement of a larger or smaller segment of the population in warfare. A case in point is the history of the democratic polis of Athens. In the sixth century bce , the city was engaged in sporadic fighting usually involving border disputes (Pritchard 2010: 9). This all changed in the following century, which Athens spent mostly at war (Pritchard 2010: 6). In ancient Rome, the majority of the population was involved in war during the Republic, but became less so during the principate. Gradually war became something that happened a long way away and was reported back to the city of Rome. War is not portrayed as a good thing in classical texts as the present study demonstrates (see also Hornblower 2007: 22). Greek and Roman attitudes to war were far more complex than such a black and white picture allows for. Nonetheless warfare was viewed far more favourably, in antiquity when it was considered an essential part of life, than we acknowledge war to be today. The horrors of two World Wars led to a radical cultural shift of focus from the kleos of war to the suffering it brings. Moreover, following the devastation of the Second World War the view that democracies are inherently pro-peace and only reluctantly enter into wars grew to dominate political thought. But, as David Pritchard aptly reminds us with reference to fifth-century bce Athens, the evidence reveals that not only was the democratic polis good at waging war, it was also very bellicose (Pritchard 2010: 28–9). The world’s first democracy and the ancient model most often invoked in modern political debates was an efficient war machine that actively looked for conflicts to become involved in and aggressively sought to expand its borders and influence, just as ancient Rome did. We should not therefore simply equate democracy with pacifism. The outcome of ancient battles and wars was reported as news, but also as contested narratives that not only provided information but were also presented



as a form of entertainment. The radical changes in the way wars have been reported in modern media have been a process of on-going evolution ever since William Howard Russell, sent his first ‘live’ reports from the front lines of the Crimean War (1853–56),11 becoming in effect the first ‘embedded journalist’ going to war alongside the troops.12 Fast-forward to 1991 and CNN pioneered live television reportage during the First Gulf War. The popularity of its coverage led to what became popularly known as ‘the CNN effect’ (Robinson 2002). It shaped the way in which the war was perceived both in the US and internationally and even affected government policy (Patton 1995: 13). This radical shift in the way wars were covered in modern media led Jean Baudrillard to produce his controversial essay ‘The Gulf War did not take place’ (1991) in which he famously argued that this conflict was the first in a new type of war-making: Fake war, deceptive war, not even the illusion but the disillusion of war, linked . . . to the mental disillusion of the combatants themselves and to the global disillusion of everyone else by means of information. (Baudrillard 1995: 68, trans. Patton)

This ‘assault on the reality principle’ (Baudrillard 1995: 76) perpetrated by the media offered its global audience a simulacrum of war set in a hyper-real universe that distanced viewers and turned them into mere consumers of information (Patton 1995: 10). The media profess to offer us unmediated access to events as they happen, but the context in which these reports and images are set distorts the information and blurs the line between reality and fiction. The coverage of the Gulf War in the media helped to establish the culture of the 24hour news cycle launched in the previous decade. CNN , the first channel to offer this format, was launched on 1 June 1980, but gained its current international position with its war reports from the First Gulf War. Rather than thoughtful commentary and impartial reporting, this style of media journalism relies on sensationalism to attract and keep viewers. The attack on 9/11 and the media hysteria that followed only cemented this trend in how war is conceptualized and portrayed in modern media. This pervasive depiction of modern conflicts also inevitably affected our responses to classical texts and art and their reception, particularly in the modern world. Our own cultural framework conditions what we ‘see’ in the Graeco-Roman classics, and the details we decide to focus on. The availability of modern media and our obsession with them opened new avenues for the depiction of war and its dissemination. The Internet facilitates a disturbingly intimate portrayal of what happens in war and its aftermath. The easy access the World Wide Web grants us to what Baudrillard labelled ‘war porn’


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(2006)13 became a topic of controversy. These images and videos offered viewers personalized accounts of soldiers’ experience from the front lines and revealed the brutalizing effect combat has on them and on the way they interact with the ‘enemy’. The worst is that it all becomes a parody of violence, a parody of the war itself, pornography becoming the ultimate form of the abjection of war which is unable to be simply war, to be simply about killing, and instead turns itself into a grotesque infantile reality-show, in a desperate simulacrum of power. (Baudrillard 2006, trans. P. A. Taylor 2006)

This material brought the spectacle of war closer to non-combatants back home, and revealed the institutionalized violence of war. It also caused an explosion of debate over how soldiers should behave both in and out of the battlefield. The proliferation and popularity of such sites also brought greater urgency to a long-standing debate about the attractions of war, and violence more generally, as a form of entertainment. Linked to this discussion about the way wars are packaged for our consumption is the debate about the effects on audiences of the portrayal of fictional violence in modern media. As Gwyn Symonds rightly points out, the quickest way to grab a modern audience’s attention is ‘to beat up or kill someone’ because the portrayal of violence has now become ‘the lifeblood of contemporary storytelling’ (Symonds 2008: 1).14 The audience’s reaction depends on how realistic they perceive the violent act(s) to be (Symonds 2008: 2). The aesthetization of violence made possible by the framing and stylization of its portrayal in modern media distances the viewer sufficiently for him/her to enjoy the ‘show’ with few if any ethical qualms. It should be noted that, as our collection demonstrates, war was also used as entertainment in the ancient world, and violence was a means of grabbing the ancient audience’s attention, of course not in quite the same way as we experience today, and certainly without the same ethical unease we feel. In a case of art imitating life, David Edelstein argues that the popularity of torture movies is a symptom of the acceptance by the American public of real life torture of perceived enemies.15 Affective disposition theories originating in Media Studies offer us a useful theoretical framework from which to approach the highly controversial subject of the portrayal of violence in modern media and its popularity with audiences. This set of theories conceptualizes the ‘enjoyment of media content as a product of a viewer’s emotional affiliations with characters and the storyline outcomes associated with those characters’



(Raney 2008 online). As Garrett Fagan (2011) has demonstrated, disposition theory can prove a useful tool in the classicist’s arsenal. He applied its theoretical framework to his investigation of the Roman games and their violent spectacles with some very interesting results. In the arena, gladiators were admired for displaying Roman virtues, but they were also condemned as infames, noncitizens whose bodies were publicly displayed for profit (Benton 2002: 42).16 In other words, their bodies and everything that happened to them in the games became a spectacle for the spectators’ enjoyment. Spectators of the arena’s theatre of violence enjoyed a favoured fighter’s success (positive affective disposition). Dislike of a performer (a negative dispositional alignment) leaves spectators free to enjoy the violence inflicted on that performer, which is perceived as just (Fagan 2011: 242–3). But these affective dispositions were fluid and subject to change as the fight progressed. A bad performance was met with ‘a vitriolic counteremphatic response’ (Fagan 2011: 284), whereas the crowd’s approval and excitement increased the intensity of the contest. The crowd’s reactions to the spectacle of the arena games thus ran a wide gamut of responses making it a very dynamic and psychologically satisfying experience (Fagan 2014: 473). Latin authors like Tacitus and Lucan, who feature in our collection, sometimes use the vocabulary of the arena (including the term spectacle) when describing military combat, making the reader akin to an audience member at the games, thus helping to problematize the position of the reader/viewer. Unfortunately, repeated exposure to violence leads to ever-diminishing returns, so violent spectacles tend to become ever more graphic over time (Fagan 2011: 244). This phenomenon is observable in a disturbing trend that has emerged in the portrayal of the ancient world on the large and small screens: the intensification of the violence on display. In the early noughties, I was still in a position to tell my students that the brutality of the arena encounters in Gladiator (2000) was downplayed compared to the real thing, but since the release of Spartacus, the television series (Starz 2010–13), that no longer holds true. The depiction of ancient warfare has also become increasingly more graphic with the passage of years: Rome (HBO 2005–07), 300 (HBO 2006), and 300: Rise of an Empire (HBO 2014). It appears that classical antiquity has become a cultural space where we have displaced lurid portrayals of war and other types of armed conflict.17 Acknowledging this undermines any easy assumptions we might make about our moral superiority to the spectators of the fatal spectacles of the arena (Fagan 2014: 465–6), which in any case grew out of élite disapproval of the popularity of the games not against the violence per se. Christian moralizing accounts cemented the view that the Romans’ love of the games was a sign of


War as Spectacle

their unusual cruelty and bloodthirstiness, a judgement that persists today. It is also worth remembering that ancient sport involved a great deal of violence, and that the spell of the arena spectacles fell over all the peoples Rome ruled over, including the Greeks (Golden 2008: 72–4). It seems that something fundamental in human nature responds to violent spectacles (Jantzen 2004: 26) and we have to train ourselves to resist its dark pull. Pulling all these threads together, our volume seeks to investigate warfare in antiquity and its reception in the post-classical era as a multi-sensory spectacle. War conceptualized as spectacle leads us to question the very nature of viewership, and its moral and ethical dimensions. What happens when the spectacle of war becomes entertainment? Where lies the dividing line between the two? What are the effects on the audience? This collection hopes to contribute to these debates and to add fuel to them at a time when we are processing and analysing the impact of recent wars on our collective psyche and on the way we understand the world we live in. Ancient warfare and its reception can illuminate these modern debates, which in turn inform scholars’ approach to these fields of study today.

Spectacles of war across ancient and modern genres and media Our collection begins its exploration of war as spectacle, Part 1A, with four essays on ancient Greek and Roman epic. The Trojan War is arguably one of the most famous and well-known stories of conflict and ‘the bard Homer was its most famous witness’ (Kagan and Viggiano 2013: xi). The Iliad is therefore an appropriate starting point for our discussion. Tobias Myers (Ch. 2) opens the debate by focusing on the duel between Menelaus and Paris in Book 3 of the Iliad as a means of approaching the conflict at Troy as a ‘theatre of war’. The events being performed in this theatre of words and of the imagination were watched not only by the Olympian gods, but also by us, its contemporary audience, and all its listeners and readers in the preceding centuries. The epic’s enargeia, its emphasis on visual spectacle, has produced some of the most memorable and vivid descriptions of war. The epic creates the illusion of being part of a live public event, thus implicating its audience in its virtual war. But the Iliad conceptualizes the act of viewing as an active process, not a passive one. It subtly acknowledges that part of an event’s significance is lent to it by the very fact that an audience is viewing it. The poem’s self-reflexivity also playfully points



to its own artificiality as a piece of fiction and reminds us that we, as listeners/ readers, form yet another tier of spectators supplementing the poem’s internal audiences. The Iliad does not allow its audiences to distance themselves from the graphic violence on display. Instead it unsettles its spectators/listeners/readers by making them witness the great suffering that is the flipside of the kleos (glory/ fame) of the war at Troy. Chapter 2 builds on this foundation by examining the Iliad’s violent spectacles and their impact on the epic’s audiences ancient and modern. Such spectacles can and indeed do thrill spectators and readers. Naoko Yamagata is particularly interested in the contribution that Homeric studies can make to modern debates about the portrayal of violence in modern media and the question of the entertainment value of war. In Chapter 3, she offers readers a comparative study of the Iliad and the Japanese epic poem Heike Monogatari, or The Tale of Heike, written in the thirteenth century ce . Her chapter explores the affinities between the two epics by examining the role of the epic poet as a ‘war correspondent’, the authorial voice that guides the audience’s response to events. Homer is an elusive correspondent who rarely addresses the audience directly, but his apostrophes and comments nevertheless undermine any easy assumptions about the kleos of war. His skilful portrayal of visual spectacle juxtaposes thrilling scenes of battle with ones where the human cost of war is movingly demonstrated. In the Iliad’s obituaries, for example, the audience is stirred towards feeling sympathy for the fallen warriors on both sides, and to focus on the sense of loss, and the grief of those left behind. The Heike, like the Iliad, describes the fall of a mighty dynasty, but it does so within a Buddhist religious framework that emphasizes the impermanence of all things. The Heike does not lack for thrilling combat scenes, but the Japanese epic does not glorify war. In fact its authorial voice is a lot less subtle in its condemnation of war, especially in its portrayal of horrific battles and the suicide of the titular head of the Heike forces, the child emperor Antoku. This leads the author himself to mourn his tragic fate in a direct address to his audience. These two epics from two very different traditions are poems about war, not war poems glorifying conflict. Neil Bernstein, in Chapter 4, continues the discussion of the portrayal of war in epic with reference to Latin examples and their reworking of Greek models for new Roman audiences. Violence on the battlefield is depicted as heroic, but other perspectives are also offered: the grief of parents, women, and the common soldier’s viewpoint. Bernstein rightly reminds us that no act of viewing, listening, or reading is, or can ever be, neutral. It is the spectator and/or reader who determines how violence is interpreted. Roman epic both valorizes and questions


War as Spectacle

violent battle spectacles, especially in the form of great heroes’ duels, a Greek motif that the Roman epic poets used to differentiate their work from that of their predecessors. Bernstein demonstrates this process with reference to the duel between Aeneas and Turnus in Book 12 of the Aeneid. Later epics such as Statius’ Thebaid offer more atypical scenes of duelling. In the contest between Eteocles and Polynices the narrator actually hopes that this fight will be forgotten, because it is a distressing spectacle of civil strife. But the duel is also constructed as a form of entertainment, which implicates the viewer who is implicitly criticized for making the decision to watch. Lucan’s De Bello Civili also demonstrates how civil war erases all distinctions between the two sides complicating the interpretation of the conflict. In Valerius’ Argonautica the act of viewing becomes inextricably linked to the poem’s erotics and Medea’s destructive passion for Jason. Roman epic thus offers us a complicated picture of the impact of war, and the difficulties of interpreting what we see/hear/read. The next chapter returns to the spectacle of death in Roman epic and examines it from a de-centred perspective. Helen Lovatt focuses on the death scenes of young men in Statius’ Thebaid and how they refashion earlier epic examples to heighten their audience’s identification with these unfortunate young men, even though they do not conform to the usual masculine heroic model. Hector and Turnus died with all eyes focused on them, at the very centre of the spectacle in the Iliad and the Aeneid respectively. In Statius’ epic Parthenopaeus, Atys, Crenaeus, Hippomedon, Amphiaraus and Capaneus all die on the margins in liminal spaces like woods, rivers and other in-between places. They die too young before they can complete their transformation into warriors and are eroticized, which also effeminizes them. Statius complicates the position of the viewer by mediating between him/her and the dying young men. He emphasizes the physicality of their deaths by stimulating all of his audiences’ senses. We catch Parthenopaeus’ last breath, we join Crenaeus’ mother as she searches for his body and caresses it, and we witness Tydeus eating a corpse. It is precisely this uncomfortable push and pull between identification and distancing from these spectacles of death that make Statius’ epic so distinctive. The Thebaid forces us to face that spectatorship places us in a position of power, but it also implicates us in the spectacles we are witnessing. In Part 1B of War as Spectacle, we move on to other ancient literary genres beginning with Greek lyric. Lyric poetry is closely associated with the world of epic, but offers us a window onto the personal experience of battle in the archaic period. In her close analysis of selected lyric poems, Chapter  6, Laura Swift juxtaposes poems that portray war as a glorious endeavour that validates Greek



masculine identity, with ones that offer a non-heroic, ironic perspective. The Spartan poet Tyrtaeus presents war as a grand visual drama. In his poems, death is preferable to retreat on the battlefield, and weapons and armour are invested with great beauty and significance. In the pro-war camp, Alcaeus mourns the heroes of the past and the failings of contemporary soldiers thus exhorting them to do better. Archilochus, however, critiques the heroic ethos and reveals the sordid reality of warfare in his time. Sappho famously preferred her lover’s face to military spectacle, and Ibycus was more interested in physical beauty than military prowess. Swift argues that the context in which these poems were performed determined their content. In a private, sympotic environment, banter and a more critical approach were acceptable; but when lyric was performed on civic occasions it celebrated military success and endorsed epic heroic values. Lyric poems on the subject of war were addressed to an audience of élite males familiar with the epic landscape, who enjoyed the exploration of the theme of war that featured so prominently in their own lives. In Chapter 7, we move on to the spectacle of war in Greek historiography and a fascinating modern reception of the catalogue of Persian troops from Herodotus’ Histories (Book 7.61-99). Emma Bridges’ incisive analysis of Paul Violi’s poem ‘House of Xerxes’ (2002, in Johnson and Merians, 2011: 71–6) demonstrates how the American poet creatively borrowed from his ancient model to craft his response to 9/11. The poem reimagines the parade of Xerxes’ troops on their way to conquer Greece as a catwalk show. The humorous emphasis on clothes and equipment belies the darker reality that these are soldiers heading to war. The overwrought commentator’s voice creates the impression that the reader is watching a live event, a performance of haute couture. Violi thus signals the dangers of packaging war as entertainment to be consumed on television in the form of news reports, in video games that immerse the player in a stimulation of war, and in the war porn widely available on the Internet (see above, pp. 7–8). As classicists, Violi’s poem prompts us to re-examine Herodotus’ complex narrative, and its portrayal of Greece’s Persian enemy. Herodotus’ lengthy catalogue builds up a picture of a numerically vastly superior enemy, led by the arrogant Xerxes. This of course makes the Greeks’ victory all the more impressive, but in Herodotus there are heroes and villains in both camps. The Histories were designed for performance, but for an audience who had experienced war first hand, whereas modern audiences’ experience of war is mediated through the media. Violi’s poem, like Alice Oswald’s reworking of the Iliad in Memorial (2011), and the Theater of War project,18 are creative responses to 9/11 and its aftermath that draw on classical Greek literature as a means of re-evaluating our responses to these modern conflicts.


War as Spectacle

Plato’s famous analogy of the moving shadows projected against the walls of the cave gave rise to the influential interpretation of the cave as a type of protocinema. Plato’s legacy is particularly useful when considering the role of the cinematic audience in interpreting what they see on the screen (Rainey 2006: 98–105), a subject to which we shall return in Part 3 (Bakogianni and Hesk, Chs 16 and 17 in this volume). Andrea Capra, in Chapter 8, examines the spectacular nature of warfare in four Platonic dialogues, Laches, the Republic, and the Timaeus-Critias. The predominance of spectacle-related vocabulary in these dialogues leads to questions about the line between reality and fiction. The discussion of war also serves a didactic function. In antiquity, training men to be good soldiers was a key aspect of their education. Plato argues that young men should be exposed to the battlefield as a means of furthering their education. Their presence would also spur the Guardians of his ideal state to fight that much harder. In other words, having a young audience to set a good example for would inspire them to greater efforts in battle. In the Timaeus-Critias, Plato returns to the idea of the ‘pictures in motion’ and the importance of viewing war. But his story of the war between Athens and Atlantis is left unfinished; the spectacle of war is postponed, raising questions about its viability and truthfulness. The line between reality and fiction is also the subject of Rhiannon Ash’s chapter, which examines an example of military charades, where spectacle replaces real fighting. In Tacitus’ Annals, Rome is involved in a series of war games with its old rival, Parthia. The momentum of the Roman historian’s narrative builds up his audience’s expectation that a major conflict is about to break out. But, in fact, very little actual fighting takes place. Nero’s wily general Corbulo puts on a series of military spectacles such as troop manoeuvres, and bridge building as a means of avoiding real conflict. He is matched in wits by Vologeses, the Parthian leader, who also wishes to avoid a real war. Their shadowboxing is used by both sides to declare themselves the victors of the engagement for the benefit of their respective audiences back in Rome and Parthia. Corbulo sends dispatches and embassies to Nero skewing the news to present his actions in the best light, and Vologeses does the same when he addresses his court. Tacitus was writing when the emperor Trajan was involved in a disastrous war with Parthia. In comparison, Corbulo’s showmanship appears a more effective way of dealing with the problem. This ancient example also reminds modern readers that the news from the front is always filtered through distorting lenses that refract a version of the truth, even as they claim to be the truth. The spectacle of fallen soldiers on the battlefield is explored in an insightful Chapter 10 by my co-editor, Valerie Hope, who synthesizes evidence about the



treatment of the war dead from a variety of Roman texts: historiography, biography, and poetry. Dying for Rome was considered the ultimate act of heroism, but Roman soldiers were also despised, and viewed as a potential source of danger. Especially since the Roman army become increasingly distanced from civilian life from the early imperial period onward. In Roman eyes, their dead soldiers came to symbolize the success or failure of their mission to rule the world. In defeat, Roman corpses were left to decompose, and could be subject to desecration by the enemy. But even when they were victorious, the bodies of ordinary soldiers were cremated in mass graves. Only the bodies of commanders were highly significant and received special treatment. Status mattered even in death. The Roman writers did not tend to dwell on the gruesome spectacle of decomposing bodies, with the exception of Lucan who does precisely that in his description of the battle of Pharsalus. The evils of the civil war are thus inscribed on the rotting bodies of the Roman dead of both sides. Spectatorship of such spectacles becomes problematic as it implicates the viewer in an act of voyeurism. In Roman literature, battlefields become contaminated ground soaked in the blood of the dead, scarred forever as Ash comments earlier. Hope rightfully reminds us that war is about human bodies, and the reality of ancient, as well as modern warfare, is corpses and mangled body parts.

Spectacles of war in material culture The classical past is accessible not only through surviving texts, but also the material traces it has left behind. Our next part focuses on the impact of ancient war monuments on post-classical commemorative art. In antiquity, these monuments were designed as spectacular displays of military success, but in modern times they have also been used to enshrine loss and sacrifice. This discussion of spectacles of war in material culture opens with Jared Simard’s chapter, which examines a little known American reception of the famous battle of Thermopylae, the Monument and Altar to Liberty located in Brooklyn, New York. Charles M. Higgins was the driving force behind the creation of the monument. The Irish-born entrepreneur was passionately devoted to the goal of honouring the Battle of Long Island (27 August 1776), the first engagement in the American War of Independence (1775–83). Higgins felt that the heroes of this battle had been unjustly forgotten and began a vigorous campaign to build a classical-style monument in their honour. A key element of Higgins’ strategy for establishing the importance of this battle for the Revolutionary War, but also in


War as Spectacle

the history of war more generally, was to portray it as the American Thermopylae. He suppressed the significant differences between the two battles in favour of valorizing the Maryland regiment’s sacrifice that enabled General George Washington to escape New York with most of his forces intact. Higgins knew his audience of wealthy and educated New Yorkers, and his rhetoric was calibrated to enlist classical antiquity in the service of his personal crusade. The Kings County Historical Society triumphantly introduced the monument to its New York City public in 1920 with a spectacular dedication ceremony. The monument works in conjunction with the landscape in which it is situated to inspire its viewer with a sense of the spectacle of history and the foundational place of the Battle of Long Island in the memory infrastructure of the city of New York. To best achieve these aims, it was deliberately clothed in classical form and invested with the glamour of antiquity in rhetoric. In Chapter 12, we remain in New York City and turn to another case study of a public monument that is modelled on classical architectural forms, and inspired by the spectacle of the Roman military triumph. Elizabeth MacaulayLewis investigates the creative interplay between the Washington Arch in Washington Square Park and its Roman models, a subject that has so far received little attention in scholarship. The arch began life as a temporary edifice erected in honour of the 100th anniversary of the death of America’s first President, George Washington. Its popularity with its American public led to the decision to build a permanent arch (1895), which portrayed Washington as a victorious general and as a successful leader in peacetime, the former making the later possible. The arch was the focal point both for Washington’s anniversary celebrations (1889), and the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America by Columbus (1892). New York City’s ongoing tradition of organizing parades to celebrate key events, sporting victories, and the city’s ethnic diversity offer spectators the opportunity to experience something of the flavour of ancient festival processions, and the pomp and circumstance of the Roman triumph. The Washington Arch also serves a didactic function by acting as a visual display of early American history celebrating the United States’ foundation and its close ties to the classical past. The final chapter in this Part examines the long reception history of a famous classical monument, Trajan’s Column. Andrew Fear argues that the column’s form and iconography set the standard for how war was commemorated in subsequent centuries down to the present era. In its own time, the column sought to celebrate the Dacian Wars, and to stress the emperor’s close links to the Roman army. It was propaganda carved in stone, part of Trajan’s strategy to legitimize



his rule, as the adopted successor of Nerva, who came to power after the assassination of Domitian. The monument is unique in that it utilizes a spiral narrative format, but more importantly because it portrays not only the military triumphs of the Roman army, but also its everyday tasks and life on campaign more generally. The emperor presides over the spectacle of the army’s labours and in antiquity this was literally the case as the column was topped by a statue of Trajan. It also served another important function: to bring the spectacle of the Roman army and its military prowess to the citizens of the empire’s capital, who were far removed from the events it portrayed. The column proved an influential classical model for the celebration of war in architectural form, and of the emperor, king, and/or general’s key role as the leader of the armed forces. But, in the modern era, this emphasis on leadership was gradually eroded, and the column became the model for how to portray war as a collective enterprise. The common soldier(s) were placed centre stage and their sacrifice commemorated. The two World Wars hastened this process by suppressing the classical monument’s primary function, the celebration of military achievement. This modern misinterpretation of Trajan’s Column reveals how classical models are creatively adapted in support of new agendas.

Spectacles of war on stage and in modern media In Part 3, our collection investigates the portrayal of ancient warfare on the stage and in modern media beginning with nineteenth-century popular entertainments and encompassing television, cinema, and the World Wide Web. The nineteenth century ushered in the age of spectacle in the Western world. Justine McConnell investigates non-élite responses to war in the popular genres of French operetta and Victorian burlesque. The popularity of classical narratives inspired by Greek epic and tragedy led composers and playwrights to clothe their critique of contemporary conflicts by setting their plots in classical antiquity. Parody, satire, and humour characterized both genres and their reception of their classical models. In Jacques Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld (1858), for example, Orpheus has fallen out of love with Eurydice and is happy to lose her in the underworld. Offenbach creatively borrows from both Virgil and Ovid, but he is also mocking the genre of grand opera, the court of Napoleon III , and the French emperor’s irredentist ambitions. La Belle Hélène (1864) humorously explores the causes of the Trojan War, but teases its audience by frustrating their expectations of seeing the famous conflict staged. Both operettas enjoyed lavish productions


War as Spectacle

and the spectacle was a key component of their success. Robert Brough and Francis Cowley Burnand parodied the Iliad and the Odyssey in their burlesques and staged modernity in the midst of classical antiquity. Brough even turned Homer into a war correspondent reporting from the front, in an overt parody of war reporting during the Crimean War. Both operetta and burlesque required a good working knowledge of the Graeco-Roman classics in order for the audience to understand the allusions and to appreciate the humour. But in both, war is postponed, averted, or happens elsewhere, so it is its very absence from the spectacle that is telling. In Gonda Van Steen’s case study, Chapter 15, the spectacle of war takes centre stage again, but in a hyper-real, right-wing iteration, whose primary goal was to overwhelm the spectator and subsume his/her critical faculties. Upon their seizure of power, the Greek military dictatorship (1967–74) instituted the Festivals of the Polemic Virtue of the Greeks. These overblown spectacles were designed to legitimize their rule, by portraying it as the culmination of a series of military victories dating from antiquity to contemporary times. According to the Greek Right, these began with the Greeks’ victory over the barbarian Trojans, and later the Persians. Alexander the Great also had a star role. Defeats and hard times were excised from this triumphalist narrative that labelled all the dictatorship’s enemies, and in particular the Greek Left, as non-Greeks. The population became nothing more than a mass in need of military training with women in a supporting role. The dictators saw themselves as Greece’s rightful leaders. The festivals were part political rally, part military display, and part unquestioning re-enactment of historical events. Their visual and verbal pyrotechnics owe much to the fascist spectacles of Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. The festivals were recorded for broadcast on Greek television, thus widening the reach of their propaganda. The cult of the past offered Greeks seeking stability after years of crisis a false sense of security, but many spectators, especially the younger generations, resisted this interpretation of the classical past and Greek history more generally. Spectacle thus became not simply illusion, but also self-delusion for the Greek Right, which continued to celebrate itself, while failing to address the nation’s real problems. The next two case studies focus on cinematic spectacles of war: ‘The combination of war and film is extremely powerful, sometimes overpowering’ (Jeansonne and Luhrssen 2014: xii). The anti-war spectacles in Michael Cacoyannis’ Euripidean trilogy are designed to overwhelm the viewer, and in the process restore Greece’s reputation on the international stage. As I explain, in Chapter  16, the Greek Cypriot film-maker drew on the theatrical tradition



established in the twentieth century that performs Greek tragedy as a tool of resistance to oppose war, violence, and the abuse of power. Cacoyannis’ The Trojan Women (1971) and Iphigenia (1977), in particular, are located at the opposite end of the spectrum from the hyper-nationalistic spectacles of the Greek dictatorship, analysed in the previous chapter. The seeds of Cacoyannis’ anti-war interpretation of Euripides’ dramaturgy can be found in his earlier Electra (1962). In the second and third films of his thematically linked trilogy, Cacoyannis reclaimed the Trojan War from the Greek Right by inscribing it with an anti-war message. His powerful and moving spectacles of violence perpetrated against non-combatants and the emphasis on loss, grief, and the human cost of war are potent weapons that guide audiences towards a pacifist interpretation of the Euripidean text. The kleos of war is entirely absent from Cacoyannis’ reading of these ancient Greek dramas, because they have been reconfigured to serve a liberal political agenda. In this case, spectacle is employed as a weapon to denounce war rather than to support or glorify it. In Chapter 17, Jon Hesk offers a close analysis of Terence Malick’s subversive war movie The Thin Red Line (1998) and its rich engagement with the Iliad. The movie is set in Guadalcanal during the Second World War, a landscape explored by a number of previous, more conventional war films. There are plenty of spectacular scenes of warfare in The Thin Red Line, which led Martin Winkler, a fellow classicist, to focus in his reading on the film’s portrayal of ‘spectacle’ and ‘heroics’ (Winkler 2009: 195). Hesk, in contrast, argues that the spectacle of war is actually undermined in the movie, albeit in a more questioning spirit than Cacoyannis’ Euripidean trilogy which denounces war outright. There are no clear answers in Malick’s philosophical film, which invites the spectator to form his/her own opinion about the events unfolding before them. In a key scene, Malick adds an internal audience of generals watching a suicidal attack on the Japanese fortifications ordered by the ambitious Lieutenant Colonel Tall. The Americans bombard the enemy’s position even though they know that it is futile. Their true motive is to boost the morale of their own troops before they are ordered to attack, and to impress the watching generals. Malick thus acknowledges the seductiveness of the spectacles of war, but he also debunks them by revealing their horrific human cost paid by both American and Japanese soldiers. The film also visually contrasts human conflict and nature, which can be both cruel and kind, but offers a glimmer of hope that a better world might be possible. The ‘continued status of the war [Second World War] as the virtual automatic point of reference for the experience of catastrophe in our time’ (Crosthwaite 2009: 180) actually facilitates Malick’s questioning attitude, which destabilizes the


War as Spectacle

prevalent view of this conflict as a righteous war enshrined in American mainstream cinema. The final chapter of War as Spectacle features a twenty-first-century case study, the Panoply animations (www.panoply.org.uk), created from scenes on ancient Greek vases. This fascinating collaborative project combines the expertise of ancient Greek warfare specialist Sonya Nevin and animator Steve K. Simons. Working together they bring the static images decorating ancient vases to life. Bridging the gulf that separates the decorative arts of ancient Greece and the modern medium of animation involves a creative process of interpretation. The longest Panoply animation to date is the nine-minute long Hoplites! Greeks at War, which explores the experience of warfare in ancient Greece. The story line begins with soldiers training for war, sacrificing, leaving their city, engaging the enemy in battle, and celebrating their victory by erecting a trophy. The animation is based on a sixth-century bce Euboean lekanis, a detail of which graces our cover. In Combat, a Hoplite defeats his two opponents and kills them, while in the Clash of the Dicers the boredom of soldiers in-between battles is explored. In Amazon, a female warrior attacks a chariot, but ends up trampled underneath its wheels and killed. In today’s visual culture the animations are an attractive teaching tool, but they can also be viewed as entertainment. The viewing figures for the animations demonstrate not only the dissemination possibilities of the Internet, but also the modern public’s taste for the spectacle of ancient warfare.19 One of the most troubling revelations that emerged out of our work for this volume is how closely the theatre of war is connected to the theatre of politics. Of course, this is hardly a startling new discovery. As we saw, the institutions of ancient Greek city states, the Roman Republic, and later the Empire all sought to convince their communities of their success at waging war through judicious use of spectacle and propaganda. Ancient literature and material culture reflect these societies’ preoccupation with war and the dominant values that made the battlefield a key battleground for the formation of both state and masculine selfidentity. The creative arts offered ancient audiences alternative perspectives. Crucially, they demanded a more active type of spectatorship than we normally engage in today as we are bombarded with spectacles of war and violence in our modern media; events from which we are usually far removed, and of which we have no direct experience. In classical antiquity the spectacle of war could, and indeed often did, have a didactic function, but the most relevant lesson our classical sources can teach us is the importance of active viewership and of a questioning attitude when faced with any type of spectacle, but particularly those involving war. In today’s



money- and target-obsessed culture, this is a timely reminder of the value of classics, and of the other humanities more generally, in training us not to be passive consumers of information, but active and engaged audience members. War is never a simple matter and should never be presented as such. When it is, we should remain on high alert and question both the validity and truthfulness of the spectacle of war staged before us, and our own preconceptions about it.


Part One

Ancient and Modern Literary Spectacles of War A. Epic Spectacles




‘What if We Had a War and Everybody Came?’ War as Spectacle and the Duel of Iliad 31 Tobias Myers Connecticut College

How does the Iliad make spectacles of war?2 Every storyteller induces listeners to ‘see’ with the mind’s eye, and the Iliad offers its audiences a powerfully visual experience.3 From the blood spattering on Achilles’ chariot wheels, to the sun’s light flashing on myriad helmets, to the half-severed head of a warrior tilting like a poppy on a broken stem, the poem’s action is often infused with a vivid immediacy (enargeia) admired by ancient and modern critics alike. Some have described its effects by adducing comparisons with a variety of art forms, including theatre, cinema, static visual arts such as painting, and even ballet.4 In addition, warfare is marked as spectacle when it becomes the object of viewing for characters within the story, as when the gods gaze down from Olympus, or wounded Achaeans watch Trojans defeating their last defenders on the wall.5 Given the frequency, variety, and impact of such passages, it is worth asking whether the Iliad’s abiding interest in the visual possibilities of narrative poetry more broadly – its ‘optical poetics’ in the phrase of one scholar (Bakker 1993) – includes a conception of warfare, specifically, as spectacle.6 In the present work, I hope to show that the answer is yes. Many critics have noted that in Helen’s weaving of ‘many contests of the horse-taming Trojans and bronze-clad Achaeans’ (πολέας . . . ἀέθλους / Τρώων θ’ ἱπποδάμων καὶ Ἀχαιῶν χαλκοχιτώνων: 3.126-7),7 the poet offers a rich metaphor for his own work as the crafting of vivid, enduring images of war. Yet this metaphor is partial, and speaks little to audience experience of those images. I will argue here that the tapestry metaphor is pointedly developed side by side with a sophisticated alternative way of conceptualizing the Iliad’s visual character, by which audiences should think of their reception experience as attendance at a live event in which people kill and are killed before their eyes. In this way the poet provokes vicarious 25


War as Spectacle

involvement, while challenging his audience to reflect on the ethical dimensions of their role as virtual ‘viewers’ of the warfare. It is striking that the first battle actually described in the Iliad constitutes an arranged, public event viewed by a variety of audiences. That contest is the duel between Paris and Menelaus. In addition to the Trojans and Achaeans, noncombatants such as Helen are watching; so, too, are the Olympian gods, and this is in fact the first time in the poem that they are described as a group gazing down at Troy. Discussions of the duel episode have often focused on the apparent lack of logic in the scene’s placement: a duel between Paris and Menelaus would more properly belong at the beginning of the war (rather than nine years in), as would Helen’s identification of Achaean leaders for Priam, the teichoskopia, which takes place during preparations for the duel. Scholars have shown how through this, and other scenes in the early books (such as the Catalogue of Ships), the poet is able to reach beyond the poem’s narrative horizons.8 I suggest, however, that the duel episode does not only look toward the war’s beginning: it also looks ahead to and prepares for the poem’s first large-scale battle scenes, by offering an initial set of terms for conceiving of epic warfare as spectacle. In what follows, I will analyse those terms in detail, with particular attention paid to how the spectacle’s parameters are defined and the relationship of the viewer to the action. I will then show how the gods’ appearance at the opening of Book 4 facilitates the transfer of the duel paradigm of spectacle to the depictions of warfare that follow. The chapter concludes by looking at the significance of the duel paradigm for audience response. The duel of Menelaus and Paris has been carefully constructed to seem to stand for the larger war, and this is true on several levels. First, on a very basic level the duel’s mortal authors have designed it specifically as a replacement for the war. After all, the terms of the treaty to which both sides agree specify that following this fight the Achaeans will go home, and the Trojans remain at Troy, with friendship established between them.9 Further, the episode is internally constructed so as to emphasize connections between war and duel: that they represent the same conflict, stemming from the same dispute and fought for the same prizes. Within the space of ten lines, Helen is identified as the cause and prize of both the duel (περὶ σεῖο: 3.137)10 and the war (ἑθεν εἵνεκ’: 3.128), by Iris and the narrator respectively. Riches, too, are at stake in both, as is made clear elsewhere (3.91-3 and 136–8). The identity of the combatants in the duel suggests a particular narrative about the war, framing it in terms of transgression and punishment.11 With Paris as the transgressor and Menelaus the aggrieved, the death of either would remove the ostensible cause for the conflict even outside

‘What if We Had a War and Everybody Came?’


of the duel’s terms,12 and this is reflected in the structuring of the duel, which looks to the death of one or the other.13 Finally, the duel has been set in place of the war in terms of narrative sequence. Anticipation for grand and terrible battle scenes has been building since the very beginning of the Iliad’s performance, with the proem’s promise of souls hurled to Hades and bodies left for carrion (1.1-5). Midway through Book 2, that promise is apparently about to be fulfilled. An impressive series of similes evoking the movement of the Achaean armies (2.455-83) leads into the Catalogue of Ships and the corresponding list of Trojan forces, which emphasize the colossal scale of the conflict (2.484–end of Book 2). Then, as battle is about to be joined at last, and the clamorous Trojans are rushing at the disciplined and determined Achaeans (3.1-9), the poet compares the dust that is tossed up to a vision-obscuring fog: Εὖτ’ ὄρεος κορυφῇσι Νότος κατέχευεν ὀμίχλην ποιμέσιν οὔ τι φίλην, κλέπτῃ δέ τε νυκτὸς ἀμείνω, τόσσόν τίς τ’ ἐπιλεύσσει ὅσον τ’ ἐπὶ λᾶαν ἵησιν· ὣς ἄρα τῶν ὑπὸ ποσσὶ κονίσαλος ὄρνυτ’ ἀελλὴς ἐρχομένων· μάλα δ’ ὦκα διέπρησσον πεδίοιο. (3.10-14) As when on mountain peaks the South Wind pours down fog, no friend to shepherds, but better than night to a thief, and a man sees only as far as [one could] throw a stone – so the dust rose dense from under their feet as they came on – and very quickly they crossed the plain.

This last magnification or glorification of the armies also removes them from sight. That dusty blur is the poet’s last offered glimpse of the armies until Hector and Agamemnon bring them all to a halt (3.76-85) for the purpose of announcing a duel between Paris and Menelaus. In terms of narrative sequence and expectation, a small spectacle has been set in the place of the grand one.14 What is the purpose of prefacing the first representations of the Trojan war waged in earnest with a smaller representation of that conflict, conceived as spectacle, with detailed attention to audience response? I suggest that the duel episode within the Iliad is self-reflexive, a mise en abyme15 of the spectacle experience offered by the poet to his listeners. The text supports such an interpretation, pointing to the self-reflexive function of this spectacle by the unusual phrase with which Iris describes the duel to Helen when she summons her to become one of its viewers:


War as Spectacle

δεῦρ’ ἴθι νύμφα φίλη, ἵνα θέσκελα ἔργα16 ἴδηαι Τρώων θ’ ἱπποδάμων καὶ Ἀχαιῶν χαλκοχιτώνων οἳ πρὶν ἐπ’ ἀλλήλοισι φέρον πολύδακρυν Ἄρηα ἐν πεδίῳ ὀλοοῖο λιλαιόμενοι πολέμοιο· οἳ δὴ νῦν ἕαται σιγῇ, πόλεμος δὲ πέπαυται, ἀσπίσι κεκλιμένοι, παρὰ δ’ ἔγχεα μακρὰ πέπηγεν. αὐτὰρ Ἀλέξανδρος καὶ ἀρηΐφιλος Μενέλαος μακρῇς ἐγχείῃσι μαχήσονται περὶ σεῖο· τῷ δέ κε νικήσαντι φίλη κεκλήσῃ ἄκοιτις.



(3.130-8) Come here dear lady, to see the wondrous deeds [theskela erga] of the horse-taming Trojans and bronze-clad Achaeans! Those who before waged grievous Ares on each other in the field, eager for the awful warfare, those same men now sit silent – and the warfare has stopped – [they] leaning on their shields, and their long spears are fixed beside them. But Paris and war-loving Menelaus with their long spears will fight over you: and you will be called the victor’s dear wife.

By calling Helen to ‘see the wondrous deeds’ (θέσκελα ἔργα ἴδηαι: 3.130) of the Trojans and Achaeans, Iris invites her to become a viewer of the duel. Importantly, the phrase theskela erga encompasses not only the coming fight between Paris and Menelaus (3.136-8) but also the troops’ act of disarmament (3.131-5). This is clear from the fact that the disarmament is described in five full verses prior to mention of the two combatants, and that the erga are specified as being those – not just of Menelaus and Paris – but ‘of the Trojans and Achaeans’. To be sure, the fact that ‘the warfare has stopped’ (3.134) and the conflict is apparently about to be resolved may well be ‘wondrous’ (θέσκελα) to Helen. Yet the poet’s choice of phrase also suggests a paradox, for the erga of warriors on the battlefield usually constitute a display of battle prowess (πολεμήϊα ἔργα, as in 13.727). The ‘terrible work (ergon) of the Trojans and Achaeans’ (ἔργον . . . ἀργαλέον Τρώων καὶ Ἀχαιῶν: 4.470-1) should properly consist of fighting with wolf-like ferocity (4.471-2). There would appear to be some irony in calling the laying down of arms, and preparation to engage in the activity of viewing, an ergon. Yet it is hard to find a motivation for irony either on Iris’s part or the poet’s. What, then, is being intimated here? One effect of this use of erga, if no irony is intended, may be to underline subtly the fundamentally active nature of viewership, and indeed the fluidity

‘What if We Had a War and Everybody Came?’


between the two kinds of activity – the roles of fighter and spectator.17 Moreover, there is evidence that on a second level theskela erga is being used to draw audience attention to the powerful visual effects of the poetry that they are about to experience. This second level of meaning is suggested first of all by considering the resonance of theskela erga where it appears elsewhere in Homer. Apart from the present instance, theskela erga appears just twice in Homer, both times in Book 11 of the Odyssey.18 The first time it is used there, it denotes the spell-binding narrative of a poet-like storyteller: Alcinous, after comparing Odysseus to a singer of poetry urges Odysseus to continue to tell theskela erga: ‘μῦθον δ’ ὡς ὅτ’ ἀοιδὸς ἐπισταμένως κατέλεξας . . .’ (And your story – like a singer of poetry (aoidos) you’ve skilfully told it . . .: Od.11.368) ‘. . . σὺ δέ μοι λέγε θέσκελα ἔργα’ (. . . tell me theskela erga!: Od.11.374). Later, Odysseus describes the designs on the belt of Heracles’ eidolon in the underworld: χρύσεος ἦν τελαμών, ἵνα θέσκελα ἔργα τέτυκτο, ἄρκτοι τ’ ἀγρότεροί τε σύες χαροποί τε λέοντες, ὑσμῖναί τε μάχαι τε φόνοι τ’ ἀνδροκτασίαι τε. (Od.11.610-12) Golden was the baldrick, and there theskela erga had been worked: bears and wild pigs and bright-eyed lions, fierce battles and the slaughter of men.

Heracles’ belt is an artistically fashioned visual representation of wild beasts and ‘fierce battles and the slaughter of men’ (ὑσμῖναί τε μάχαι τε φόνοι τ’ ἀνδροκτασίαι τε: Od.11.612). These passages suggest that the traditional referentiality19 of the phrase includes both the power of vivid narrative description and unsettlingly20 life-like visual representations of combat: on both counts, this is precisely what a singer provides for his audience through performance of the Iliad. Significantly, Iris’ phrase theskela erga comes at a moment already charged with heightened awareness of the process of the Iliad’s performance. Only three lines earlier, when Iris comes upon Helen in her chambers, Helen is at work weaving ‘πολέας . . . ἀέθλους / Τρώων θ’ ἱπποδάμων καὶ Ἀχαιῶν χαλκοχιτώνων’ (the many contests/toils (aethlous) of the Trojans and Achaeans: 3.126-7). Critics from antiquity to today have taken Helen’s weaving as a metaphor for the poet’s craft.21 I suggest that the tapestry and the duel are juxtaposed here as complementary models of the Iliad’s functioning. That Helen’s web and the duel are both representations of the same subject – the Trojan war – is emphasized by


War as Spectacle

the language: Helen weaves ‘the many aethlous of the Trojans and Achaeans’, while Iris summons her to see ‘the theskela erga of the Trojans and Achaeans’. What is remarkable here is that each phrase points to the context in which the other appears. Aethloi, describing Helen’s weaving, suggests spectacle: while the term can mean ‘toils’ in Homer, it also frequently refers to ‘contests’ in the sense of athletic contests in front of crowds, fought for particular prizes – very much like the duel between Paris and Menelaus.22 Theskela erga, on the other hand, referring to the duel, suggests craftsmanship: aside from the theskela erga of Heracles’ belt noted above, erga often refers to such things as the works of an artisan (χαρίεντα ἔργα: Od.6.234) – or indeed to a woman’s work of weaving (6.490-2) like that in which Helen is engaged. The two phrases, so similar, positioned so closely to one another, and pointing to each other in the way just described, ask to be interpreted together. The tapestry, as Anne Bergren (1979–80: 23) has convincingly argued, emphasizes the power of epic to transcend time: the weaver captures ephemeral moments, and holds them outside of time by making them available for repeated viewings – what Bergren calls ‘metatemporal permanence’. The tapestry’s ability to ‘capture’ and preserve the moment in this way corresponds to epic’s traditionality, for it is through repeated performances over time that epic claims the power to save ephemeral moments from oblivion – to give what the poem refers to as ‘unperishing fame’ (kleos)23 to those whose deeds it recounts. Thus, to see the Iliad as tapestry is to take a step back from the current performance, and to see the poet’s craft and the poet himself as part of a larger tradition. Nevertheless, while it is a wonderful interpretive tool the tapestry model is markedly incomplete: within the text, Helen’s work has no viewers other than herself. Even the poet’s audience is denied a description of the imagery.24 Without viewers, the tapestry model conveys its sense of the eternal, of a moment that is held forever outside of time, without treating the immediacy of live performance. The duel fills these very gaps, offering a neat complement to the model of the tapestry by providing an invitation out of ‘metatemporal permanence’ and into the story-world. Here again, sequence is vital: no sooner has Helen’s weaving been mentioned, than she herself is called away from the tapestry to become one of many viewers for a spectacle happening in real time – to ‘see the wondrous deeds’ (θέσκελα ἔργα ἴδηαι: 3.130) of the Trojans and Achaeans. In this sense, Iris’ call to Helen, ‘come look!’ (δεῦρ’ ἴθι . . . ἵνα . . . ἴδηαι: 3.130), suggests also a call to the poet’s listeners to join the duel’s many audiences: to experience Iliadic combat not just as enduring art that preserves the past, but as a public event

‘What if We Had a War and Everybody Came?’


taking place before their eyes. There is an unsettling reversal in the move from the tapestry, in which the Trojans and Achaeans engage in motionless ‘contests’, to the duel, in which the Trojans and Achaeans are not cloth but flesh and blood – yet have ceased to move, becoming themselves viewers of the spectacle that is beginning. The effect of this transition is complicated and enriched by the fact that it is accomplished within the text through the figure of Helen, whose roles are multiple.25 She is the creator of the conflict at Troy in more than one sense, being a cause of the war and also the artist who depicts it. Further, she is marked as a figure of lamentation for the conflict she creates – not only in the formal lament for Hector in Book 24, but already in her speeches in Books 3 and 6, as Richard Martin has shown (2008). In Helen, too, the transition from tapestry to duel displays both rupture and continuity. In the same moment that she appears to take on a poet-like role through her weaving, she sets that weaving aside, so that her art and the poet’s part ways for a time: the tapestry is left unfinished, while the performance continues. And yet, Helen’s ‘authorial’ role is also reprised in the new paradigm; no longer a weaver, she is now a speaker, doing the poet’s duty of description, helping to set the stage for the conflict by identifying the Achaean leaders on the field, and thus bringing them before the audience’s eye.

The duel The duel provides a detailed set of terms for conceiving of the warfare as spectacle, with special attention given to the role of the viewer. The scene of preparations for the duel (3.111-329) both opens and closes with a look at the newly stationary soldiers. As soon as Menelaus accepts Paris’ challenge, the Achaean and Trojan armies rejoice (3.111-12). Then they rein in their horses, dismount, and strip off their arms and armor: καί ῥ’ ἵππους μὲν ἔρυξαν ἐπὶ στίχας, ἐκ δ’ ἔβαν αὐτοί, τεύχεά τ’ ἐξεδύοντο· τὰ μὲν κατέθεντ’ ἐπὶ γαίῃ πλησίον ἀλλήλων, ὀλίγη δ’ ἦν ἀμφὶς ἄρουρα. (3.113-15) And their horses they drew up in ranks, and dismounted themselves, and removed their armor – which they placed down on the earth one man’s beside another’s, and little space was free.


War as Spectacle

In this passage, the poet uses the warriors’ disarmament to mark a temporal contrast – between their role as fighters in the war and their spectatorial role for the duel. To conclude the preparation scene, just over 200 lines later, the poet returns in ring composition to the image of the disarmed troops. This time, he draws a different contrast, by juxtaposing a description of their disarmed state with the arming scene of Paris and Menelaus – spectators contrasted with actors: οἳ μὲν ἔπειθ’ ἵζοντο κατὰ στίχας, ἧχι ἑκάστῳ ἵπποι ἀερσίποδες καὶ ποικίλα τεύχε’ ἔκειτο· αὐτὰρ ὅ γ’ ἀμφ’ ὤμοισιν ἐδύσετο τεύχεα καλὰ δῖος Ἀλέξανδρος. . . . (3.326-9) [The troops] on the one hand, sat in their ranks, where each man’s high-stepping horses stood and where his decorated armor lay. But shining Paris for his part placed his beautiful armor over his shoulders . . .

Notably, when Iris sums up the duel to Helen she employs in quick succession those same two contrasts. First she notes the warriors’ transition – ‘those who were waging tearful war now sit quietly’ (132–4) – then proclaims that ‘Paris and Menelaus will fight with their spears’ (ἐγχείῃσι: 137), while the rest sit in silence with their own spears (ἔγχεα: 135) fixed in the ground. The two contrasts taken together would seem to provide a definition within the text of the spectacle it is describing, or at least a specific and consistent indication of the spectacle’s key elements. Importantly, the conceptual distinction between actor and viewer is constructed in spatial terms. Hector and Odysseus ‘measure out’ the space in which the duel will take place (χῶρον μὲν πρῶτον διεμέτρεον: 3.315), and this circumscribed area corresponds to the ‘middle’ space in which Paris and Hector declare that Menelaus and Paris will fight (ἐν μέσσῳ: 3.69, 90). Then, the spatial coordinates of the spectacle are re-emphasized just as the action is first beginning, following the arming of the combatants (3.329-39): Οἳ δ’ ἐπεὶ οὖν ἑκάτερθεν ὁμίλου θωρήχθησαν, ἐς μέσσον Τρώων καὶ Ἀχαιῶν ἐστιχόωντο δεινὸν δερκόμενοι· θάμβος δ’ ἔχεν εἰσορόωντας Τρῶάς θ’ ἱπποδάμους καὶ ἐϋκνήμιδας Ἀχαιούς. καί ῥ’ ἐγγὺς στήτην διαμετρητῷ ἐνὶ χώρῳ σείοντ’ ἐγχείας ἀλλήλοισιν κοτέοντε. πρόσθε δ’ Ἀλέξανδρος προΐει δολιχόσκιον ἔγχος . . .


345 (3.340-6)

‘What if We Had a War and Everybody Came?’


Then, when they had armed on either side of the throng, they marched into the middle of the Trojans and Achaeans, glaring fiercely – and as they looked on, wonder held the horse-taming Trojans and the well-greaved Achaeans. And they stood close within the measured out space brandishing their spears at each other fiercely. Paris first hurled his long spear . . .

While the armies are immobile and seated (3.68; 3.78 and 3.326-7), the actors, Paris and Menelaus, take up arms and enter the middle (ἐς μέσσον: 3.341). It is just at this point of entry that wonder strikes the armies looking on (θάμβος δ’ ἔχεν εἰσορόωντας: 3.342), spears are brandished, and the first spear-cast is made (3.344-5). The crossing of the boundary, emphasized by ‘ἐγγὺς στήτην διαμετρητῷ ἐνὶ χώρῳ’ (3.344), marks the beginning of the action: it is by their entry into the arena, their separation from the viewers who remain outside, that viewers and actors assume their roles in earnest.26 As we will see in a moment, this careful sequencing will be reprised when the poet makes the transition from duel to war. The viewers are not only a defining part of the spectacle, but are themselves frequently objects of viewing, and criticism. Iris summons Helen so that she might look at the seated armies, as well as her two husbands. In the event itself that is just what she does: the teichoskopia occupies much more of the duel episode than does the combat itself. Helen, too, appearing on the wall to watch, is immediately herself spotted (εἴδονθ’ Ἑλένην: 3.154) and remarked upon by the Trojan elders, who are awed at her beauty but hope she goes home, regardless (3.155-60). The stakes here, though, are very high, and not just for the actors – notably, all of the duel’s viewers are also a part of the larger conflict that it represents. Viewers are discussed in terms of their roles in that conflict: Helen attracts comments from the elders on her dangerous beauty (3.155-60); Agamemnon from Priam for his ability to marshal large forces (3.182-90); Odysseus from Antenor for his eloquence as an ambassador before the opening of hostilities (3.203-24).27 ‘The warfare has stopped’ but the struggle continues. Now, with so many watching, there is space for reflection upon it. By casting his work as a spectacle and elaborating on the audiences, the poet also makes that work more of a draw. A cat caught in a tree might catch one’s eye, but a cat in a tree surrounded by a crowd is almost irresistible: one is impelled to stare at what everyone else seems to find so interesting, and also to gawk at the other onlookers. In the case of the duel, the extra interest generated by a multitude of watchers is not without a certain irony. In place of the expected bloodshed,


War as Spectacle

deaths, and derring-do on the large scale, the duel is tiny, almost silly in comparison. And yet, the very number and variety of the onlookers seems to increase its significance. The irony is that in the course of adding an interesting crowd to this exciting war, the poet has momentarily removed almost all the combatants. In becoming spectacular, the war has been reduced it to its bare, unglorious essentials.

The transition from duel to warfare The action of this duel (3.340-80) is short, lop-sided, and ended by Aphrodite’s last minute rescue of Paris. Here begins a sequence of events unknown to most of the duel’s spectators – but known to the gods and to the poet’s listeners – that culminate with Paris and Helen making love in bed (3.380-448). The duel is over, but its audiences continue to expand – for it is now revealed that the gods on Olympus have been viewing the scene as well: Οἳ δὲ θεοὶ πὰρ Ζηνὶ καθήμενοι ἠγορόωντο χρυσέῳ ἐν δαπέδῳ, μετὰ δέ σφισι πότνια Ἥβη νέκταρ ἐοινοχόει· τοὶ δὲ χρυσέοις δεπάεσσι δειδέχατ’ ἀλλήλους, Τρώων πόλιν εἰσορόωντες. (4.1-4) But the gods for their part, seated beside Zeus, were assembled on the golden floor, and among them lady Hebe was the ‘wine’-pourer of their nectar. And they, with golden goblets made toasts to each other, gazing upon the city of the Trojans.

The phrase ‘gazing on the city of the Trojans’ (Τρώων πόλιν εἰσορόωντες: 4.4) carries a double valence. On the one hand, it is suggestive of the gods’ abiding interest in the conflict being waged around that city. On the other, the divine audience is being constructed as an expansion of the audiences for the duel. The phrase ‘Τρώων πόλιν’ (city of the Trojans: 4.4) may seem ill-suited to indicate the duel, which takes place on the plain between the city and ships, but in fact conveys very well the sense of smoothly expanding scale that characterizes the poet’s depiction of that spectacle. The duel’s audiences form a kind of tier arrangement: the first tier is constituted by the Trojans and Achaeans on the field, who remain outside what the poet has described as the ‘marked off space’ (διαμετρητῷ ἐνὶ χώρῳ: 3.344), and marvel as they gaze at the combatants

‘What if We Had a War and Everybody Came?’


(θάμβος δ’ ἔχεν εἰσορόωντας: 3.342). Farther away and higher up on the walls of Troy are Helen, Priam, and the Trojan elders; this second tier observes not only the combatants, but also the first tier and each other. This provides an excellent point of departure for constructing the divine audience: on Olympus, the gods are still higher and much farther away, constituting in effect a third tier of spectators. They observe not only the duel and the first ring, but also the second ring of spectators on the city walls: this expansive view is encapsulated in ‘Τρώων πόλιν εἰσορόωντες’ (gazing upon the city of the Trojans: 4.4). The effect is a continuous regression of ever more remote audiences. One might be tempted to imagine at one further remove the poem’s extradiegetic listeners, who will be aware of each of the inner tiers and perhaps have an eye on each other as well. Zeus’ speech, which immediately follows the opening lines of Book 4, confirms the connection of the divine audience to the viewers on the battlefield. The last lines of Book 3 consist essentially of a survey of audience responses to what has just happened in the duel: the Trojans are ready to see the fight finished, and would throw Paris back to Menelaus if they could see him; Agamemnon claims a victory for Menelaus; the other Achaeans voice their agreement (3.451-61). Here one might expect a reply from Hector, or another Trojan prince; instead the discussion of the duel’s outcome and implications continues on Olympus amongst the gods. Agamemnon’s assertion ‘νίκη μὲν δὴ φαίνετ’ ἀρηϊφίλου Μενελάου’ (indeed the victory clearly belongs to war-loving Menelaus: 3.457) is essentially restated by Zeus to the gods just a few lines later: ‘ἀλλ’ ἤτοι νίκη μὲν ἀρηϊφίλου Μενελάου’ (but as you see, the victory belongs to war-loving Menelaus: 4.13). Agamemnon’s ‘μὲν’ (3.457) looks ahead to his demand in the ‘δὲ’-clause that the Trojans give over Helen and the treasure (ὑμεῖς δ’ Ἀργείην Ἑλένην καὶ κτήμαθ’ ἅμ’ αὐτῇ / ἔκδοτε: 3.458-9). Zeus’ ‘μὲν’ (4.13) looks ahead to his entertainment of the idea that the Trojans be allowed to do just that (4.14ff ). The movement from Troy to Olympus is almost seamless in that the conversation is continuous, picking up above from where it left off below.28 That the divine audience is introduced as an audience for the duel is in one sense simply a matter of careful timing: to be looking down at Troy at this moment is to be looking down at the duel. Yet the gods’ role as spectators also fits the temporal contrast with which the poet and Iris have characterized the duel: those who before were active are now inactive. Just as the armies have seated themselves and put aside their arms, so too the gods who normally ‘look after’ mortal doings now sit ‘merely looking on’ (Griffin 1978: 1–2). Griffin’s terms for the divine audience can be applied to the human audience of the duel as well, since in the Iliad it is not only the gods for whom observation is


War as Spectacle

expected to lead to intervention: both gods and warriors on the field are regularly criticized for perceived failures to perform the ‘looking after’ function.29 Both have set aside that function for now, to watch – and both will soon join in the fighting. Yet the gods are different from the duel’s other intratextual viewers, for when the duel ends and the war breaks out, the gods will still be watching. Thus, the depiction of the divine audience not only bridges the two spectacles, both in terms of narrative sequence and causal connection, but also makes it possible to see the warfare as a spectacle constructed on the same model as the duel. Such an interpretation is positively encouraged by the language used to describe Athena’s descent to Troy to make the fighting begin. Following orders from Zeus and Hera, Athena darts to Troy like a comet (4.75-8), and leaps onto the ground – into the very space in which Paris and Menelaus have just been fighting: κὰδ δ’ ἔθορ’ ἐς μέσσον· θάμβος δ’ ἔχεν εἰσορόωντας Τρῶάς θ’ ἱπποδάμους καὶ ἐϋκνήμιδας Ἀχαιούς· (4.79-80) And she leapt into the middle, and wonder held those watching – the horse-taming Trojans and the well-greaved Achaeans.

Now Athena, who seventy lines earlier was an internal audience gazing on Troy (εἰσορόωσαι: 4.9), becomes the viewed (εἰσορόωντας: 4.79). The description of her entry ‘into the middle’ closely recalls the language, which earlier signalled the beginning of the duel: ἐς μέσσον Τρώων καὶ Ἀχαιῶν ἐστιχόωντο δεινὸν δερκόμενοι· θάμβος δ’ ἔχεν εἰσορόωντας Τρῶάς θ’ ἱπποδάμους καὶ ἐϋκνήμιδας Ἀχαιούς. (3.341-2) [Paris and Menelaus] marched into the middle of the Trojans and Achaeans, glaring fiercely – and wonder held those watching, the horse-taming Trojans and the well-greaved Achaeans.

The unmistakable suggestion is that a new spectacle is now to begin, taking the place of the old. The poet has gone out of his way to accomplish this effect, by making Athena go out of her way. The Trojan Pandarus, the human agent of the breaking of the truce, is surrounded by the strong ranks of his

‘What if We Had a War and Everybody Came?’


spearmen (4.90-1) amid the crowd of the Trojans (Τρώων . . . ὅμιλον: 4.86). Instead of going to Pandarus directly, Athena first symbolically enters the arena (ἐς μέσσον: 4.79). The transition between spectacles of duel and war is wonderfully fluid: the Trojans and Achaeans are momentarily held in their spectator roles, as they recognize a divine portent and wonder what the gods have decided (4.81-4). Then the familiar sequence proceeds: just as Paris struck the first blow after entering the arena (3.346-9), so now Athena will join Pandarus in striking the first blow in the larger conflict for which the duel had till now been a substitute. The parallelism between the two scenes is underlined by the fact that in both cases Menelaus is the target of attack. Accepting the invitation to conceive of the poem’s battle scenes in the terms laid down in the duel, one finds correspondences. Spatially, the ‘marked off ’ space of the duel in Book 3 corresponds to the space in which the poem’s action takes place: the city, the ships and the plain between. Within the text, this space is most clearly defined by the descriptions of the gods’ viewing activity. Thus, for example, when Zeus sits glorying on Ida he looks down at ‘the city of the Trojans and the ships of the Achaeans’ (εἰσορόων Τρώων τε πόλιν καὶ νῆας Ἀχαιῶν: 11.82); Zeus’ position outside of the ‘theatre of war’ helps the poet demarcate it as a particular area.30 As Troy corresponds to the arena of the duel, Olympus – the usual site of the gods’ viewing – corresponds to the area of viewing outside the duel’s ‘marked off ’ space. Of course, the gods are far from passive. In fact, the Iliad sometimes presents the conflict at Troy as the expression of a divine conflict, between Athena and Hera on the one hand and Aphrodite on the other (4.7-12; 24.28-30), or between opposing factions of deities (20.19-40, 54–155; 21.328-520). Yet the gods never attack one another except upon the Trojan plain – everything from Athena’s attacks on Ares and Aphrodite in Book 5 to the theomachia in Books 20 and 21 transpire at Troy. When the gods do want to take action they, like Paris and Menelaus stepping into the marked-off middle space, must typically descend from Olympus to Troy: that is, they must enter the arena.31

The warfare begins: the role of the audience Following the bowshot of Pandarus and Athena, the old spectacle on its own terms has been unmade: the armies who before sat inactively now ‘take up arms’ and ‘remember their fighting spirit’ (4.220-2).32 It is at the very moment when


War as Spectacle

this audience is gone, swept up in the expanding conflict, that the poet begins to allude to another: Ἔνθ’ οὐκ ἂν βρίζοντα ἴδοις Ἀγαμέμνονα δῖον οὐδὲ καταπτώσσοντ’ οὐδ’ οὐκ ἐθέλοντα μάχεσθαι, ἀλλὰ μάλα σπεύδοντα μάχην ἐς κυδιάνειραν. (4.223-5) Then you would not see bright Agamemnon dozing or cowering or avoiding the fight, but exceedingly eager for glorious battle.

The phrase ‘then you would see . . .’ is an example of the device sometimes called the hypothetical observer, or the would-be eye-witness, widely recognized by critics as a way for the poet to engage his audience. The placement of these would-be eyewitnesses is significant: the passage under consideration is the very first occurrence of the device in the poem, and four of the poem’s remaining eight are clustered together in these first depictions of mass combat in Books 4 and 5.33 Furthermore, their placement punctuates the structural segments of this battle episode:

1. beginning the survey of the ranks; 2. concluding the survey of the ranks (and hence in ring-composition with 1);34 3. appearing as the troops clash en masse, prior to the first sequence of individual combats;35 4. concluding the first sequence of individual combats (and hence in ring-composition with 3);36 5. appearing within Diomedes’ aristeia.37 What are the effects of this trope? In the first place, each occurrence will have its own point. In the passage just cited, the sudden direct address accomplishes a shift in focus and energy, looking forward to Agamemnon’s survey of the ranks, his praise and blame of the commanders that represent the Achaean’s preparations for battle (4.223-421). The Achaean camp in the last minutes before battle will be joined is an exciting place to be, and the poet’s use of a direct address here contributes to the mood of anticipation that will run throughout Agamemnon’s survey of the ranks and that culminates in the three consecutive similes of the armies meeting at 4.422-56.38 But the hypothetical observer technique also has a peculiar effect of its own. As other scholars have noted, in a sense invoking a hypothetical observer stages

‘What if We Had a War and Everybody Came?’


or invites the poet’s listeners into the story-world.39 I would emphasize that these invitations, or stagings, are always double-edged, on account of the optative verb on which they are founded. The phrase ‘οὐκ ἂν βρίζοντα ἴδοις Ἀγαμέμνονα’ (you would not see Agamemnon dozing . . .: 4.223) comes laden with the unspoken ‘if you could see it . . .’ and the teasing reminder that any such vision is not based on genuine autopsy but is mediated by the poet’s narration. To an audience already caught up in the storytelling, the potential optative’s reminder that they are not actually there but in fact far removed in time and space can actually register as a waking pinch on the arm. Thus, the hypothetical observer may invite listeners not so much to enter the story – they are already there at this point of Book 4, if the bard sings as well as the text reads – but rather to conceptualize the accomplished fact of their entry. A particularly rich example of such conceptualization concludes Book 4: Ἔνθά κεν οὐκέτι ἔργον ἀνὴρ ὀνόσαιτο μετελθών, ὅς τις ἔτ’ ἄβλητος καὶ ἀνούτατος ὀξέϊ χαλκῷ δινεύοι κατὰ μέσσον, ἄγοι δέ ἑ Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη χειρὸς ἑλοῦσ’, αὐτὰρ βελέων ἀπερύκοι ἐρωήν· πολλοὶ γὰρ Τρώων καὶ Ἀχαιῶν ἤματι κείνῳ πρηνέες ἐν κονίῃσι παρ’ ἀλλήλοισι τέταντο.


(4.539-44) Then no longer would a man disparage the work as he went among [the fighters], [a man] who, still unharmed, unwounded by the sharp bronze, would move about through the midst of it, and Pallas Athene would lead him taking him by the hand, and ward off the rush of missiles; for many Trojans and Achaeans on that day lay prone in the dust stretched beside each other.

The man being (hypothetically) led through the combat by Athena is there to observe and also to critique – to disparage or not to disparage. In this, his role is the audience’s role as well. By stating that a man would not disparage the fighting, the poet seems to be asking his listeners to admire the warriors’ prowess and valour, and perhaps also the poet’s skill in describing them. Though hypothetical, the man takes on greater reality as the poet spends more and more time on him, becoming almost as vivid as the battle itself, and indeed almost a part of it. The liminal position of this observer, who is simultaneously present and absent, points to the liminal position of the audience in relation to the world of the story.


War as Spectacle

To see oneself in this viewer is to accept the illusion that the tableaux one is beholding and the deeds of the heroes have an independent existence. After all, in these passages it is the outside observer, not the story characters, who is ethereal, whose presence is conditional, while the world of the story is vivid and primary. This passage suggests a model for understanding listeners’ experience of the shifting points of view supplied by the poet’s descriptions. Shifting points of view are a feature of the epic as a whole, and are exemplified in the battle scene through which this observer is understood to be moving. Unlike 4.223, the passage about Agamemnon that prefaced an especially exciting portion of the performance, the present passage directs attention backward: the fierce melée through which the observer moves is the very one that the poet has just described at length. The first view is from a distance: far enough that the armies appear to clash like rivers, and their sound resembles that heard by a shepherd who hears rivers roaring ‘τηλόσε’ (far away: 4.455) in the mountains (4.446-56). Following this broad and imaginative view of the action, the poet draws in to offer a succession of spectacles of graphic violence,40 from Antilochus’ slaying of Echepolos (4.457-62) to Aias’ slaughter of Simoeisios (4.473-89), and finally to the disembowelment of Dioreas (4.524-6) and the subsequent death of his killer (4.527-31). At this point, the bridging statement ‘many others also were being killed around them’ (4.538) entails a shift back to a somewhat wider visual perspective. There are various theoretical models one could offer of these changes in perspective.41 But the poet’s description of the man led by Athena suggests that one should understand these changes in perspective, and by extension the changes in perspective experienced throughout the epic performance, as a function of (mental) movement through the same space as that occupied by the story characters. As Pseudo-Longinus notes in On the Sublime, the hypothetical observer has the effect of ‘ἐν μέσοις τοῖς κινδύνοις ποιοῦσα τὸν ἀκροατὴν δοκεῖν στρέφεσθαι’ (making the listener seem to find himself in the midst of the dangers: 26.1). Though Pseudo-Longinus includes only the second person examples of hypothetical observers in his discussion (On the Sublime 26), his observation applies even better to this ‘observant man’ led by Athena through the fray. This model for conceiving of the audience’s mental experience finds support in the following passage in Book 15 where Hera is said to move as a person travels with his thoughts: βῆ δ’ ἐξ Ἰδαίων ὀρέων ἐς μακρὸν Ὄλυμπον. ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ἂν ἀΐξῃ νόος ἀνέρος, ὅς τ’ ἐπὶ πολλὴν

‘What if We Had a War and Everybody Came?’


γαῖαν ἐληλουθὼς φρεσὶ πευκαλίμῃσι νοήσῃ ἔνθ’ εἴην ἢ ἔνθα, μενοινήῃσί τε πολλά, ὣς κραιπνῶς μεμαυῖα διέπτατο πότνια Ἥρη. (15.79-83) And [Hera] went from the mountains of Ida to high Olympus. And as when flits the mind of a man who has travelled over many lands, and conceives an intention in his shrewd mind ‘Let me be there! – or there!’, and yearns for many things, so swiftly did queenly Hera fly in her eagerness.

In this passage, the poet represents something ineffable, which his listeners cannot experience – namely the movement of a god through space – in terms of something familiar to them, namely the speed with which a man can travel with his thoughts.42 When the man thinks ‘ἔνθ’ εἴην ἢ ἔνθα’ (let me be there! – or there!: 15.82) he can achieve not actual but virtual presence, which is also what the poem’s audience is invited to experience through enargeia. The most direct points of contact between the simile and the situation in the main narrative are these: as the man’s mind flits (ἀΐξῃ νόος ἀνέρος 15.80) and he yearns for many things (μενοινήῃσί . . . πολλά: 15.82), Hera swiftly flies in her eagerness (κραιπνῶς μεμαυῖα διέπτατο: 15.83). Interestingly, while this man’s desire is emphasized, it is not clear whether his mental activity satisfies that desire or whether his yearning is unfulfilled. On the one hand, ‘μενοινήῃσί . . . πολλά’ could easily mean the desire to actually be in places he can now only imagine. Yet the comparison in itself suggests that his ‘movement’ is in some way successful, since the point of the simile seems to be that the human imagination is comparable to the gods’ miraculous flight: by this interpretation, ‘μενοινήῃσί . . . πολλά’ denotes a successful effort of the will, and suggests a celebration of mental powers. Taking this passage and the one in Book 4 together, they seem to be advancing a connection between the gods’ movement as described within the world of the poem and the audience’s power to travel mentally in that same space: both extradiegetic audience and Olympian gods move freely, invisibly and invincibly through the Trojan plain. Thus it is here, as battle is joined at last, that the poet first draws attention to our role as virtual ‘viewers’ of the action via enargeia. The significance of the duel as preparation now becomes evident: by inviting us to conceive of our mental ‘viewing’ not merely as appreciation of timeless art, but as participation in a public event, a staged contest whose actors bleed and die before our eyes, the poet invites a special kind of vicarious participation. The duel invites us to see the war


War as Spectacle

in partisan terms, and as interested audiences to take a side. Furthermore, to be an audience, we have just been taught, is to be part of the spectacle – part of the Iliad. The duel emphasized that by becoming a viewer one becomes, potentially an object of viewing as well. Having just seen the scope of the duel expand to include many of its audiences, can we feel that we stand fully outside it? It is commonly said that the Iliad both perpetuates the fame of the warriors and gives eloquent voice to those who suffer for their exploits.43 The spectacle motif explored in this chapter asks us to confront our own role and desires as members of the ever-expanding audience for the warfare to which Homer has invited us. To the degree that we accept the pleasurable (because provocative) illusion of enargeia as spectacle, we cannot grieve for Andromache, Hector, and the rest from a safe emotional remove. After all, we came: we joined the gods in attendance at the war whose end they had already decided – and presence has the potential to feel, and be, meaningful. If epic performers succeed by delivering the most ‘emotionally engrossing narrative’,44 the Iliad succeeds in any number of ways. Here, I hope to have shown that its performance can be all the more harrowing for audiences receptive to the poem’s persistent suggestion that the viewer is complicit, and the story more than just a story. The paradox of the pleasure afforded by artistic depictions of suffering, well known to theorists, was not only known to the poet of the Iliad, as it seems, but masterfully exploited to augment the emotional impact of his wonderful and terrible poem.


From Our Own Correspondent Authorial Commentary on the ‘Spectacles of War’ in Homer and in the Tale of the Heike Naoko Yamagata The Open University

The title of this edited collection War as Spectacle indicates that war can be, and is, enjoyed as a form of entertainment.1 This gives rise to the troubling question: by reading literature on the theme of war, are we inadvertently watching and enjoying warfare as spectacle? This chapter attempts to reflect on this question through two works of literature on war, Homer’s Iliad and the Tale of the Heike (Heike hereafter) of Medieval Japan. The Iliad is arguably one of the most influential works of literature of the world on the theme of war, and Heike is equally influential in its homeland as its ‘national epic’ on war, dating from the thirteenth century ce . If they can be seen as presenting ‘spectacles of war’2 and their authors our ‘war correspondents’, the modern debate over the impact of violence in the media (and in art in general) on our behaviour becomes relevant. In August 2013, the New York Times published an article entitled ‘Does Media Violence Lead to the Real Thing?’ (Pozios, Kambam and Bender, 2013). It was written in the context of the debate over recent violent campus incidents such as the school shooting in Connecticut in December 2012 and the Virginia Tech massacre of 2007. In the article, its authors argue as follows: There is now consensus that exposure to media violence is linked to actual violent behaviour – a link found by many scholars to be on par with the correlation of exposure to second-hand smoke and the risk of lung cancer. In a meta-analysis of 217 studies published between 1957 and 1990, the psychologists George Comstock and Haejung Paik found that the shortterm effect of exposure to media violence on actual physical violence against a person was moderate to large in strength. 43


War as Spectacle

The article goes on to cite several more sources to strengthen its claim. This appears to be in keeping with what we know from our own experience. What we are exposed to in media and in art can influence the way we behave, and we cannot deny that spectacles of war and violence can and do excite us both as spectators and readers.3 This is by no means a novel observation, as can be seen in a pertinent anecdote cited by Socrates in Plato’s Republic: ‘But there’s a story I once heard which seems to me to be reliable,’ I said, ‘about how Leontius the son of Aglaeon was coming up from the Piraeus, outside the North Wall but close to it, when he saw some corpses with the public executioner standing near by. On the one hand, he experienced the desire to see them, but at the same time he felt disgust and averted his gaze. For a while, he struggled and kept his hands over his eyes, but finally he was overcome by the desire; he opened his eyes wide, ran up to the corpses, and said, “There you are, you wretches! What a lovely sight! I hope you feel satisfied!”’ (Book 4, 439e–440a)4

Eyes do feed on such sights and indulge in such guilty pleasures at times, and this story is cited to illustrate the ‘base’ side of our soul or psyche. Plato also discusses at length the use of imitation as a means of education.5 His entire educational programme presupposes the understanding that we become what we see, hear and copy, as he makes Socrates say in another passage from the Republic where he discusses musical education for the young: ‘I’m no expert on the modes,’ I said, ‘but please leave me with a mode which properly captures the tones and variations of pitch of a brave man’s voice during battle or any other enterprise he’d rather not be involved in – the voice of a man who, even when he fails and faces injury or death or some other catastrophe, still resists fortune in a disciplined and resolute manner . . .’ (Book 3, 399a–b)

The assumption is that the mood of the music that one listens to will shape one’s character. This particular passage also reminds us of one of the most important aims of ancient Greek education, i.e. to train men to be good soldiers. In this sense, to represent scenes of warfare in works of art is far from undesirable, because they are essential resources for military education. Homer’s epic poetry was indeed seen by the Greeks as the best textbook for training soldiers and generals, judging by what the rhapsode Ion said in the eponymous dialogue of Plato’s (Ion 540d).

From Our Own Correspondent


This, however, places modern readers in an uncomfortable position. Would reading Homer or Heike make us more warlike, and by teaching them at school and university, are we endorsing war as part of human tradition?6 The main question is whether or not these works actually glorify armed conflict and perpetuate mankind’s desire to conduct war. I shall examine below how the authors of the Iliad and Heike present warfare and violence and how they guide their readers towards a particular interpretation of war. These works are being examined in tandem, because despite the differences in their religious framework and worldview, they share a number of affinities. Both feature a military conflict between two groups of warriors that results in the fall of a dynasty, and has tragic consequences for both winners and losers.

Authorial comments in Homer Homer is an elusive correspondent in that he rarely speaks in his own person, a characteristic observed and highly commended by Aristotle.7 We do hear the poet’s own voice through his apostrophes, direct addresses to the Muses or to characters in his poem, and his occasional comments on the events that he describes,8 but most of the time he speaks through his characters or his apparently neutral narrative. One of these rare examples comes at the very beginning of the Iliad9: Sing, goddess, of the anger of Achilleus, son of Peleus, the accursed anger which brought uncounted anguish on the Achaians and hurled down to Hades many mighty souls of heroes, making their bodies the prey to dogs and the birds’ feasting: and this was the working of Zeus’ will. (Il. 1.1-5)

This gives an unmistakably inglorious picture of warfare and its negative consequences. The audience or readers may expect to hear that those remembered in the poem will win eternal fame (kleos) and therefore dying in war is glorious, but they get this instead. It is hard to imagine a more dispiriting overture for the audience of would-be soldiers, which describes the fate of unburied bodies left on the battlefield.10 Another theme found here, that also looms large throughout the poem, is the divine hand guiding events. Everything is under Zeus’ control, which contrasts with the helplessness of human beings. This opening does not herald a glorious war, but highlights the inevitable human suffering and death without glory.


War as Spectacle

Homer’s own view of his role is more evident when he credits the Muses as his source of information later on in the epic: Tell me now, you Muses who have your homes on Olympos – you are gods, and attend all things and know all things, but we hear only the report and have no knowledge – tell me who were the leaders of the Danaans and their rulers. (Il. 2.484-7)

This implies that the narrator is merely the mouthpiece of the Muses11 and that the purpose of his poem is to give an accurate account of what has happened. His style appears to be in keeping with this view most of the time, with no explicit sentimentality or suggestion as to how the audience or readers should feel. For example, when he describes one of the most heated moments of pitched battle: The Trojans charged forward in a mass, with Hektor at their head pressing furiously on like a boulder broken from a wall of rock, which a river swollen in winter spate has swept over the edge, when the huge flood of rain-water has broken the stubborn rock’s hold on it. It bounds in the air and goes flying down, and the undergrowth crashes beneath it: it runs straight on without check until it reaches level ground, and then it can roll no more for all its energy. So Hektor for a time threatened to sweep easily through the huts and ships of the Achaians right to the sea, killing along his path. But when he came against those close-set battalions, he pressed in hard but was brought to a stop. The sons of the Achaians faced him, thrusting at him with swords and double-pointed spears, and pushed him away from them: and he was shaken back in retreat. (Il. 13.136-48)

As can be seen in this passage, Homer often combines his description of combat with similes. Here the ostensibly objective description of the battle is given the startling visual effect through the simile, underlining the great force and speed with which the Trojans charge and the equally matched ferocity of the defending Achaeans. There is no moralizing here, and the skill of the narrator in presenting the ‘spectacle’ in front of our eyes is the most prominent feature of the passage.12 The simile intensifies the visual effect of the scene, but can also momentarily remove us from the reality of the bloody battle. It looks as if this passage is aimed at providing the thrill of the spectacle rather than a trigger to pause and question the inhumanity of the attackers as killing machines.

From Our Own Correspondent


Homer’s similes can, however, have many different nuances. Another example is the scene of the battle at the wall of the Achaeans, which adds a different layer to the narrative: Many had their flesh cut into by the pitiless bronze, both when a fighter turned and his back was exposed, and many hit right through the shield itself. All along its length the wall and battlements were spattered with men’s blood on either side, from Trojans and Achaians. But even so they could not force the Achaians to flight, but the sides held even like the scales a careful spinning-woman holds, lifting the beam with the weight and the wool on either side, so she can earn a meagre provision for her children. So the battle was strained taut and level between them, until the time when Zeus granted the greater glory to Hektor, son of Priam, who was the first to leap inside the Achaians’ wall. (Il. 12.427-38)

The deceptively detached narrative of the bloody battle is suddenly coloured by a domestic scene of maternal care, which, contrasted with the battle scene, can suggest that each death in the war will leave a grieving mother and/or wife behind who may have to earn a living for her dependants. The narrator does not make the connection explicitly, but merely presents us with the abrupt juxtaposition of war and peace, the scene of peace being overshadowed by the consequences of war.13 Homer does make more direct connections between warriors’ deaths in battle and their impact on their families in the so-called ‘obituaries’, descriptions of fallen warriors, which often mention their family members.14 One of more extensive examples comes when Diomedes kills two sons of an old man: He went then in pursuit of Xanthos and Thoön, sons of Phainops, both children late-born and loved: but he was worn by cruel age, and could father no other son to leave over his possessions. So then Diomedes killed them, and took the dear life from them both, leaving lamentation and cruel sorrow to their father, when he did not welcome them back alive on their return from the battle: and distant relatives divided the inheritance. (Il. 5.152-8)

This is as sentimental as Homer gets. His tone is factual as usual, but the poignant last line intensifies the tragedy of the two sons’ death and guides his audience towards feeling sympathy for the victims and their family. It is also


War as Spectacle

noticeable that the narrator focuses on the effect of their death on their father rather than on the actual act of killing (‘killed them’ is all that he has to say about it, no detailed description of how they die). Homer can also combine a gruesome spectacle of killing with an ‘obituary’, as in the scene in which Telamonian Ajax kills Hippothoös as the latter tries to drag Patroclus’ body away: The son of Telamon sprang forward into the mass of men and at close quarters struck him through the bronze cheek-piece of his helmet. The horse-crested helmet was torn open round the spear-point, smashed by the huge spear and the power of the hand behind it. His brains spurted from the wound and ran all bloody along the socket of the spear. His strength collapsed where he stood, and his hands let the foot of great-hearted Patroklos fall back to lie on the ground. And he fell on his face right there over the dead body, far from fertile Larisa15: and he could not repay his dear parents for the care of his rearing, but his life was cut short, brought down by the spear at great-hearted Aias’ hands. (Il. 17.293-303)

Whatever pleasure the readers might take in the graphic description of the killing16 is tempered by the poignant commentary of the narrator on the effect of his death on his parents. The memory of the warrior recorded in this way may confer on him a small piece of immortality, but in this passage that is no compensation for the loss to the family.17 Our correspondent’s report home is decidedly grim. Homer varies his approach to an ‘obituary’ in another passage by making the killer articulate the loss to the family of the victim (Il. 14.489-505). After the narrator’s brief comment that the victim, Ilioneus, was rich in flocks, loved by Hermes, and that he was an only child (490–2), a cruel scene of killing and the victor’s taunt follows: Peneleos struck him under the brow at the base of the eye, and knocked out the eyeball. The spear passed right through the eye-socket and came out through the muscle of the neck, and Ilioneus sank down stretching out both his arms. Peneleos then drew his sharp sword and struck at the middle of his neck, and sliced the head to the ground, helmet and all. The heavy spear was still in the eye-socket, and he lifted up the head like a poppy-head on its stalk, and displayed it to the Trojans and spoke in triumph over it: ‘Take my message, Trojans, to proud Ilioneus’ dear father and mother, that they should weep for him in their house – because the wife of Promachos, son of

From Our Own Correspondent


Alegenor, she too will not have the joy of her dear husband’s return, when we sons of the Achaians leave Troy and go home in our ships.’ (Il. 14.493-505)

Brutal as the killing and mutilation of the body may seem, and cruel as the victor’s message to the victim’s parents may sound, there is another side to the story. This death was in retaliation for the death of his fallen comrade whose wife is now widowed (Janko 1992: ad 14. 501–5). Homer’s coverage is even-handed here. Whatever pleasure, if any, we may draw from the bloody spectacle we are reminded of the grief of parents and wives, who will be left behind as a result. There is little rejoicing in glory even in the victor’s speech.18 Homer makes us aware of the effects of war on individuals in his own voice in more subtle ways, too. When Patroclus’ body is brought to the Greek camp, Achilles’ concubine Briseis laments over his body saying how Patroclus used to console her by telling her that he would make her Achilles’ wedded wife, and that he was always gentle (Il. 19.287-300). Just as the readers are moved by this apparently heartfelt lament, Homer slips in his commentary (301–2), ‘Such was her lament, and the women joined with their keening – the cause was Patroklos, but each of them wept over her own sorrows.’ And it is not only the captive women in Achilles’ company that lament for their own sorrows.19 Shortly after the passage above, Achilles utters his own lament for Patroclus at length (19.315-37), ending with his sorrow for his aged father Peleus who will lament when Achilles himself dies. To this the author adds the comment (338–9), ‘Such was his lament, and the elders joined with their mourning, as each remembered what he had left behind in his own home.’ These two brief comments bring home what really lies behind the ‘spectacle’ of the ritual mourning for the dead, that what one really cares about is one’s own fate and how one is personally affected by the war more than the fates of others, whether one is a warrior fighting the war or a powerless captive woman. Along with such specific authorial comments, the overall plot of Books 22 to 24, which is dominated by the mourning for the dead, seems calculated to enhance the ‘anti-war’ message of the poem. By the time we read the encounter of Achilles and Priam in which Achilles identifies the gods as those responsible for bringing good and bad fortune to human beings, and readily acknowledges his reluctant role as the bringer of misfortunes for Priam and his people (Il. 24.518-42), we have already encountered a number of passages in which the war is seen in a negative light. The ‘spectacle of war’ in Homer is heavily loaded with the message that the gods and fate drive men to war and conflict, which can flare up against men’s own wishes.


War as Spectacle

Authorial comments in the Tale of the Heike Heike is based on historical events in the second half of the twelfth century ce , focusing on the political intrigues and the civil war that eventually leads to the Heike’s downfall. Although its setting and period are far removed from Homer’s Mediterranean world in the eight century bce (which supposedly reflects the memories of Mycenaean Age in the thirteenth century bce ), there are many points of comparison between the two worlds, most notably in that they both describe military struggles which ultimately cause the fall of a dynasty and have tragic consequences for both the victors and the defeated. Heike has no shortage of ‘spectacles of war’, but its perspective on war is just as tragic as that of the Iliad. It offers its audience a much clearer moral and religious framework from which to view all the events within the story, unlike Homer’s religion, which has no standard doctrines on the formal structure of the universe or moral behaviour.20 The Buddhist principle of the impermanence of all things is the very theme of Heike, which is pronounced in the opening passage21: 1.1

The Jetavana Temple The Jetavana Temple bells ring the passing of all things. Twinned sal trees, white in full flower, declare the great man’s certain fall. The arrogant do not long endure: They are like a dream one night in spring. The bold and brave perish in the end: They are as dust before the wind.

Phrased in several different ways, with the religious symbolism of the temple bells and the sal trees (the tree associated with the death of Buddha) and with the similes of a dream and dust before the wind, the central message of this ‘proem’ is that everything changes, and military and political power, in particular, is used as an illustration of the doctrine of impermanence. This is the clearest declaration from our narrator that this work does not glorify war. This has much in common with the opening of the Iliad, which paints a grim picture of war and its consequences. This, however, is not to say that the whole work is a sombre moralizing tale of doom. On the contrary, it has its fair share of swashbuckling action, such as we see in Homer. Take the particularly memorable battle scene of the fighting monk

From Our Own Correspondent


Meishu, which takes place at a bridge over a river. Its planks are pulled down, and only its beams are left to provide a narrow passage between the two banks of the river. 4.11

The Battle on the Bridge Twelve men within bowshot died; eleven were wounded. In his quiver only one last arrow remained. With a clatter he dropped the bow, untied the quiver, let it all, kicked off his fur boots, and, barefoot, darted across the bridge on a beam. Nobody else dared to follow down this, to him, broad avenue. Six men came at him from the far end. Five he mowed down with his halberd, but the fierce clash with the sixth broke the shaft; he tossed it away, drew his sword, and went on fighting: the ‘spider strike’, the ‘twisted rope’, the ‘four-arm cross’, the ‘dragonfly’, the ‘waterwheel’ – that sword of his slashed through all the eight directions until eight men lay dead before him. On the helmet of the ninth, down it came then with such force that the blade broke at the hilt, flew off, splashed into the river. A dagger now his only weapon, in battle frenzy he faced death.

Tyler’s translation captures much of the original’s thrilling pace and rhythm. This must have been one of the highlights of any performance. There is no moralizing comment – the narrator simply focuses on the figure of the frenzied warrior. Meishu is a fighting machine without fear of death. This is undoubtedly a scene that can be labelled a ‘spectacle’, a show for the audience and readers to enjoy, which could arguably inspire future generations of warriors.22 At other times Heike offers horrific scenes from which many modern readers would recoil. One such example is the description of the night battle at Kurikara Ravine during which the Heike forces suffer heavy casualties due to the confusion


War as Spectacle

caused by the darkness; a great number plunge to their death by mistakenly ‘retreating’ into the ravine. 7.6

The Rout Down Kurikara Ravine As Yoshinaka had foreseen, the Heike, with night now coming on and the enemy threatening them front and rear, faltered and broke. ‘Shame! For shame! Turn back, turn back!’ many Heike cried, but most fled, deaf to any reproach or appeal, headlong down Kurikara Ravine. No one could see his fellows ahead; all simply clung to desperate faith that the bottom would offer a road. Down hurtled the father, down the son, down the brothers, elder then younger, down the lord, his retainer behind him: men piling on horses, horses on men, over and over, till, mounts and riders, seventy thousand of the Heike edge to edge choked the yawning ravine. Springs ran blood; the dead lay in mounds. To this day, so it is told, arrow-strike nicks and sword cuts mark the rocks up and down Kurikara.

The thought that this is not mere fantasy, but a description of a historical battle makes it even more horrifying, though no doubt there is an element of exaggeration.23 The narrator adds further pathos by focusing on the personal relationships of those who perished, sons following fathers, brothers following brothers, retainers following their masters, turning their bond into a trap that exacerbates the calamity. Our ‘war correspondent’ is not simply letting his ‘night vision camera’ record the event, but enhances the impact of the tragedy with such poignant touches. This reminds us of the ‘obituaries’ of Homer that also evoke the ties of family and make the deaths more tragic, though here the family members are dying together rather than mourning fallen warriors. Arguably the most tragic and most famous episode of the whole of Heike is that of the death of the child emperor Antoku. In the sea battle at Dan no Ura, the Genji have decisively defeated the Heike, and the eight-year-old emperor,

From Our Own Correspondent


who has fled the capital along with the Heike, his maternal family, faces capture by the Genji. Seeing that there is no way out now, his maternal grandmother (Lady Nii), the widow of Kiyomori, the great patriarch of the Heike, takes the young emperor with her into the sea.24 She tells him to prepare for death by praying to his protectors, the sun goddess Amaterasu and the Buddha. 11.9

The Drowning of Emperor Antoku Robed in dove gray, his hair in side loops like any boy’s, cheeks streaming with tears, he pressed his dear little hands together, prostrated himself toward the east, and bade farewell to the Ise Shrine,25 then turned to the west, calling the Name.26 Lady Nii said, her arms around him, ‘Down there, far beneath the waves, another capital awaits us’ – and plunged into the fathomless deep. Alas! The spring winds of transience in one brief instant swept away the beauty of this lovely blossom; the billows of a heartless fate swallowed His Sovereign Majesty.

The lamenting voice of the narrator and the lyrical phrasing of the passage are designed to stir pathos and sympathy for the young emperor. At the same time, as in the opening of the tale, the religious and didactic theme of the impermanence of human fortunes comes through strongly here, perhaps more than the hope of ultimate salvation offered by Buddhist doctrine. It is the theme of impermanence that dominates again as the narrator reflects on the seascape of Dan no Ura after the battle, littered with the Heike’s red flags. 11.11

The Mirror’s Return to the Capital Red flags and badges littered the sea like autumn leaves stripped by the wind and scattered on the Tatsuta River. Once white, the waves on the shore broke pink, Boats drifted, empty and abandoned, at the will only of wind and tide, aimlessly rocking: a desolate scene.


War as Spectacle

In this lyrical, almost melodramatic, passage the narrator laments the desolation of the scene, guiding the sympathy of his audience towards the vanquished. The war is a spectacle here, but it is a mixed picture. Human loss, waste and tragedy enhance the message that all things change and the power and glory of even the mightiest do not last forever. Heike ends on a particularly religious note, with a book entitled ‘The Initiates’ Book’,27 which tells of the story of Kenreimon-in, the mother of the young Emperor Antoku, who attempted suicide at Dan no Ura after witnessing the double suicide of her son and mother, but was rescued and became a nun. The book ends with the chapter describing her death, which she accepts calmly, trusting in the salvation offered by Amida Buddha. Prior to it is an episode entitled ‘The Cloistered Emperor’s Visit to Ohara’, in which the empress is visited by her father-in-law, the abdicated (or ‘cloistered’) emperor Goshirakawa. He was the power behind the Genji clan who toppled the Heike’s regime, but once the Genji had conquered the whole land, they excluded him from power. Old, marginalized and humiliated, Goshirakawa now thinks of the plight of his daughter-in-law, a former empress who has become a humble nun, and visits her. The exchange between Kenreimon-in and Goshirakawa explicitly reflects the Buddhist theme of Heike, accentuated by their respective falls from great power and their grief for those whom they loved, especially the late Emperor Antoku, her son and his grandson. She recounts the death of her son and her mother to Goshirakawa: The Initiates’ Book, 4. Passage Through the Six Realms Lady Nii then took him in her arms and sank with him into the deep. At the sight, tears blinded my eyes and I felt the heart within me fail. I would gladly forget but cannot; nor can I bear the memory, The shrieks and screams of those who remained sounded to me as deafening as the cries of sinners burning in hell.

The two individuals who were once on opposing sides of the civil war are now facing each other, sharing their grief and talking about salvation through Amida Buddha. This quiet closing scene to the work reminds us of the end of the Iliad where Priam and Achilles come together as individuals, united in a common feeling of grief and the realization of the place of human beings in the world,

From Our Own Correspondent


within a larger religious framework. Although Buddhism holds out the hope of happiness after death unlike the Olympian gods in the Homeric epic, Kenreimonin knows that her grief for her son will never cease as long as she lives. The Iliad and Heike close in similar tragic notes and each has gained the status of a classic and of a national epic. Their lasting appeal rests on their humane message rather than solely on the depiction of the spectacle of war.28 Both the Iliad and Heike can and do excite their audiences and readers with swashbuckling action and contain within them the potential to inspire new generations of soldiers. In many passages, however, the narrator guides his viewers to contemplate the tragedy of war, with frequent references to family ties and the grief of those left behind. Each text also emphasizes the changeable nature of the human condition in general, and the tragic consequences of war in particular, thus tempering our potential enjoyment of the scenes of violence and killing. The spectacles that our ‘war correspondents’ offer us are not likely to turn us into bloodthirsty fighters, but rather to make us re-examine the idea of the glory and fame to be found in war.



‘The Clash of Weapons and the Sight of War’ Spectatorship and Identification in Roman Epic Neil W. Bernstein* Ohio University

Viewing is always potentially a metaphor for reading, and the battlefield in all its gore and glory can be one figurative representation of the epic poem. (Lovatt 1999: 126)

The spectacle of war and the problem of spectator identification Roman epic narratives frequently call attention to what characters see and how they interpret what they see. The characters’ means of viewing is generally correlated with their positions on the poems’ social hierarchy. The omniscient narrator, the gods, and the heroes typically have the opportunity to see more of the events of the narrative than lesser characters do, and it is through their diverse focalizations that the reader learns about these events. Seeing with the narrator or the gods, however, does not mean that readers now know the epic world ‘as it really is’. Fowler observed that ‘who sees?’ is as essential a question as ‘who speaks?’ in reading epic narrative (Fowler 1990).1 ‘Who sees’ the epic battlefield necessarily influences the interpretation of the violence that occurs on it. The narrator typically attempts to frame violence within a privileged tradition of heroic action (with the exception of Lucan’s narrator), yet the perspectives of the narrative’s other focalizers often do not conform to his. Looking on war as a god, a commander, an ordinary soldier, a male non-combatant, or as a woman provides a different mode of engagement with violence and a different interpretation of its consequences. Readers are accordingly obliged to construct a provisional and contestable interpretation of 57


War as Spectacle

the epic world from the information available in the competing focalizations of a diverse group of focalizers. The focalizers’ acts of viewing are never neutral but require the reader to make a series of assumptions about the character’s motives, the narrative situation, the rhetorical context, and the prior literary tradition. After a brief review of the paradigmatic duels of the Iliad, this chapter discusses the identification between spectators and the figures whom they observe in three typical battlefield scenes. These include the duels between champions; the distanced view of violence featured in the female teichoscopy (‘viewing from the walls’), and the commander’s survey of the battlefield; and the viewing of the battlefield on the morning after battle. Spectators’ focalizations reveal their degree of sympathy with the moral narrative that subtends the violence and its aftermath. These focalizations can be located on a spectrum from the commander’s identification with the cause for which he and his followers have fought, to the grieving mother’s disaffection and scepticism. As Leigh observed with respect to the conflicted viewing of Lucan’s Bellum Civile, ‘the juxtaposition of two modes of watching disrupts any sympathetic emotional continuum in the description of battle’ (Leigh 1997: 258). My readings build upon recent studies of Roman epic, which have emphasized the moral and political significance of viewing war. Such acts of observation function as indices of political engagement (Leigh 1997), social stratification (Zissos 2003), national identity (Reed 2007), moral commitment (Bernstein 2004), and gender relations (Lovatt 2006; Salzman-Mitchell 2005).2 Lovatt’s comprehensive study, the starting point for further examination of viewing in epic, offers a virtuoso demonstration of how every major aspect of epic narrative can be implicated in the simple questions ‘who sees?’ and ‘how do they see?’ (Lovatt 2013). For some observers, such as male combatants, war is a privileged spectacle that generates fame for the combatants. According to epic’s narrators and some of its characters, one of the genre’s major functions is to preserve this fame for all time. Other voices in epic, such as the bereaved victims of conflict, bitterly criticize the spectacles that they witness and focus instead on the human costs of war. Epic’s presentation of its story through a diversity of focalizations calls the reader to admire violent spectacle and also to question it.

Homeric origins Homer’s Iliad introduces many of the problems of assessing the degree of identification between the spectators and the battlefield spectacle. Two duels

‘The Clash of Weapons and the Sight of War’


near the beginning and the end of the poem bracket the major narrative of battlefield struggle between massed armies. At the beginning of Iliad 3, the two armies make their first advance against one another, but immediately halt to watch a duel between Menelaus the aggrieved husband and Paris the adulterer.3 Hector establishes the terms of the combat: the winner shall have Menelaus’ wife Helen and her wealth, and the opposed armies shall swear oaths of friendship.4 The gods refuse to allow the human beings to resolve their conflict this way, however: Aphrodite removes Paris from the battlefield before Menelaus can kill him, and Athene in human disguise goads the Trojan archer Pandarus to shoot Menelaus and thereby restart the hostilities (Il. 4.86-222). The political premise of epic duelling is an ‘economy of lives’.5 If opposed groups are able to resolve conflict through a duel between their champions, then soldiers need not continue to die in massed combat. In the Iliad, however, the gods disrupt the human beings’ effort to resolve conflict through duelling. On the political level, there is considerable variability both in the champions’ ability to serve as representatives of their factions and in the investment of various members of those factions in the outcome of the duel. The Trojans apparently do not agree that Aphrodite’s removal of Paris from the battlefield represents a fairly achieved victory by Menelaus. Athene may push Pandarus to shoot Menelaus, but there is no objection among the Trojans when he does so. Rather, they advance without need of muster (Il. 4.221), while Agamemnon is obliged to rally troops who evidently thought their champion’s victory meant that the conflict was over. The gazes of supervising authorities also supply varying degrees of legitimacy to the combats. As the king of Troy, Priam ought to watch the duel, since he has consented to be bound by its outcome. Yet as the father of one of the champions, he refuses to do so because he claims he cannot bear to see his son fight Menelaus (Il. 3.305-9). (I shall return to the teichoscopy that precedes the duel, see p. 65 below.) For their part, the gods demonstrate their physical and emotional separation from the human conflict by quaffing nectar as they watch from Olympus, like so many divine patrons of a sports bar (Il. 4.1-4). They are also quick to pass moral judgment on the duel. Zeus’ conclusion reflects the terms established by the humans, namely that Menelaus has won and so peace should result between the warring sides (Il. 4.13-19), and that Hera expresses unmerited and excessive anger in her resolve to destroy the Trojans in spite of the duel’s outcome and her husband’s declared opposition (Il. 4.30-49). The agreement to respect the outcome of the first champions’ duel in Iliad 3 fails thanks to the gods’ calculated disruption. No such agreements characterize


War as Spectacle

the epic’s final duel between Achilles and Hector in Iliad 22. Achilles has no interest in economizing lives: he only wants to take revenge on Hector for the killing of Patroclus. Furthermore, he rejects Hector’s proposal regarding the treatment of their corpses with the claim that there can be no agreements between them (Il. 22.248-72). As in the earlier duel, divine intervention once more determines the outcome. Zeus weighs the combat on scales and predetermines Hector’s defeat (Il. 22.208-13). Athene again disguises herself, this time as Hector’s brother Deiphobus. She tricks Hector into standing his ground rather than running for his life (Il. 22.226-47) and returns Achilles’ spear to him after his cast (Il. 22.273-7). Though they come from opposed armies, neither champion represents a faction. Achilles is fighting for himself, while the Trojans cannot propose or consent to agreements because they are penned inside their walls. Each of the motifs in these Iliadic duels provides an ‘example-model’ for Roman epic. The epics discussed in this chapter similarly trace the connections between the duelling champions and their various groups of spectators, which likewise include gods, kings, internally divided factions of soldiers, and noncombatants such as women and old men. Historicizing these battlefield scenes in Roman epic requires the reader to engage both with the experience of their audiences as well as with literary tradition. Virgil’s Aeneid and the Flavian epics were composed when civil war was a living memory for a significant proportion of their original audiences, survivors either of the civil wars at the end of the Republic or of the civil war of ce 69. Battlefield duels and aftermath narratives were not merely mythological fictions for many people in the original audiences of these poems but also a reflection of their lived experience.

Economies of lives: the champions’ duel and spectator identification Each scene of battlefield spectacle provides an opportunity for poets to differentiate their new work from earlier tradition. Scenes of looking are often densely intertextual. They derive some of their interpretive significance from their dialogue with earlier archetypes. The combats between Aeneas and Turnus in Aeneid 12 adapt motifs from both of the Iliadic duels discussed in the preceding section. In the first attempt at a duel between Aeneas and Turnus, the parties make a formal agreement where Lavinia and her kingdom constitute the prize. Unlike Homer’s Trojans, who do not seem disturbed by the prospect

‘The Clash of Weapons and the Sight of War’


of Paris’ death, the Rutulians are not willing to trade their champion’s life for the promise of peace. They can see that Aeneas is stronger than Turnus (Aen. 12.21618), and so ‘the fight seems unequal to them’ (impar ea pugna uideri). Turnus’ sister, the goddess Juturna, disguises herself, like her Homeric archetype Athene, in order to disrupt the combat. She appeals to Rutulian interest in victory rather than in economizing lives, ‘Aren’t you ashamed, Rutulians, to oppose a single life (unam / obiectare animam) for so many? Aren’t we equal in number and in strength?’ (Aen. 12.229-30). Though Juturna’s words may seem straightforward, the Rutulians are indeed deceived by what they have been given to see. Juturna has disguised herself as a stranger in order to avoid suspicion of partiality toward her brother, and subsequently creates an omen that the narrator claims ‘disturbed the Italians’ minds and deceived them with the portent’ (turbauit mentes Italas monstroque fefellit, Verg. Aen. 12.246). Virgil’s gods, like Homer’s, do not respect human means of resolving conflict, and disrupt human agreements through deception. Aeneid 12, however, emphasizes the deceptive sights created by the gods to a greater degree than the duel of Iliad 3. Where the Rutulians’ confidence prompted them to disrupt the first duel, Rutulian desperation creates the opportunity for the second duel between Aeneas and Turnus (see also Lovatt, Ch. 5 this volume). Saces the Rutulian begs Turnus to ‘pity [his] people’ (miserere tuorum, Aen. 12.653) and stop Aeneas’ advance on the city. When Aeneas accepts Turnus’ challenge, the narrative immediately details the reactions of the spectators, But now the Rutulians and the Trojans and all the Italians zealously directed their gazes (conuertere oculos) upon the fight, both those who were occupying the high walls and those who were striking the foundations with the ram, and they removed the armour from their shoulders. King Latinus himself marvelled (stupet) that mighty men born in separate parts of the world were coming together and seeing to the matter (cernere) with the steel. (Aen. 12.704-9)

The gods are again watching and actively intervening. As in the duel of Achilles and Hector, Jupiter weighs the outcome on the scales (Aen. 12.725-7), and both of the divine protectors, Juturna and Venus, give their relatives back their weapons (Aen. 12.783-7). Turnus, however, suffers a far worse deception at the gods’ hands than the simple ruse perpetrated on Hector. Jupiter sends a demon to incapacitate Turnus and permit Aeneas an uncontested victory (Aen. 12.843-918). The connection between champion and faction continues to be closer than in either Iliadic duel. Both Trojans and Rutulians cry out as Turnus


War as Spectacle

strikes (Aen. 12.730-1), again as Aeneas pursues Turnus (12.756-7), and the Rutulians cry out a third time as Aeneas strikes an incapacitating blow (12.9289). Turnus appeals to the legitimizing force of the partisans’ spectatorship as the grounds for his plea for mercy, ‘You have won and the Ausonians have seen me stretch out my hands in defeat’ (uicisti et uictum tendere palmas / Ausonii uidere, Aen. 12.936-7). Though the reappearance of motifs of the Iliadic duels may be familiar, the moral equation is quite different. On the one hand, divine intervention determined the outcome of the combat, as it did in the Iliad. On the other, I would argue that Aeneas is free to decide whether to accept Turnus’ supplication, in spite of La Cerda’s acerbic comments on the political impossibility of letting Turnus live (Tarrant 2012: 18). Saces’ desperate plea and the cries of the spectators have well corroborated Turnus’ claim that his partisans will respect the outcome of the duel. But as every reader of the Aeneid knows, it is still another act of spectatorship that determines the actual outcome. Aeneas is considering Turnus’ offer when he catches sight of the baldric that Turnus captured from Pallas, and promptly executes his opponent (Aen. 12.938-52). Hinc illae lacrimae these concluding lines pose the most significant interpretive crux in Latin epic.6 The open question of whether the duel in fact resolved the partisan conflict prompted Maffeo Vegio’s comforting fantasy of marriage and reconciliation in his fifteenthcentury continuation of the Aeneid. Virgil’s closest readers, the epic poets of the succeeding century, play numerous variations upon this scene of foundational violence. Ovid concludes his mockepic Perseid with a duel that replays the serious motifs of its Homeric and Virgilian exemplars as farce. The king Cepheus withdraws (Met. 5.43-5), the opponent Phineus tries to yield when his partisans are defeated (5.216-22), but a deadly scene of viewing again ends the showdown (5.223-35). In Phineus’ view, serious questions of political partisanship cannot pertain to this booze-fuelled battle over a bride in a banquet hall, ‘Neither hatred nor desire for rule pushes us to war; we are fighting for my bride!’ (non nos odium regnique cupido / compulit ad bellum, pro coniuge mouimus arma, Met. 5.218-19). Perseus’ taunt that he will enjoy viewing the Gorgon-generated monument of his victory precludes all question of achieving reconciliation through duelling (Met. 5.227-9). Lucan’s epic does not believe in heroism, and so it skips over a concluding duel of champions straight to the furtive assassination of Pompey (BC 8.595-711). Pompey’s wife Cornelia cannot watch her husband’s departure, and Pompey covers up his face rather than be viewed by Fortune and closes his eyes rather than see his assassins (BC 8.591-2, 8.613-17). In place of falling after a heroic

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combat, Pompey is stabbed in the side and then suffers ridicule (ludibrium, BC 8.710). His head is gruesomely mummified and sent to Caesar, while his trunk is abandoned to destruction by the waves before its belated rescue by a partisan. The restriction of observation, the reversal of heroic motifs, and the gulling of the victim not by the gods but by his faith in himself and in men all corroborate the major theme of the Bellum Civile that civil ‘wars bring no triumphs’ (bella . . . nullos habitura triumphos, BC 1.12). It is accordingly in Statius’ Thebaid that we find the most comprehensive reexamination since Virgil’s Aeneid of spectator partisanship in the climactic duel between the feuding brothers Eteocles and Polynices.7 As in Lucan, a combat between brothers cannot lead to heroic glory, as the winner will inevitably be a fratricide as well as a civil warrior. Partisan identification with the champions has been compromised on both sides. The Thebans are disaffected with their brutal king who trades in their lives like a merchant calculating profit (Coffee 2008), while the conflict has exhausted the Argive forces, whose survivors will slip away at the book’s end. The refusal of various authorizing figures (gods, kings, parents) to watch the combat calls further attention to its failure to serve the adjudicatory role expected of a concluding duel. Jupiter leads his fellow Olympians in turning away from the combat (auferte oculos!, Theb. 11.126), leaving the Furies in control of the battlefield and the duellists. While Jupiter’s departure may invalidate Dis’s earlier taunt that unspeakable sights such as these would please his vicious brother, the consequence is actually worse for the chief god’s moral authority. He has chosen not to view the conclusion of the war that he (inaccurately) claims to have engineered as punishment for the Thebans and Argives.8 Blind Oedipus’ physical inability to watch the combat is matched by his contempt for the participants. He regrets his curse that compelled his sons to fight only after their deaths have brought about its completion (Theb. 11.608). Through his own refusal to watch the duel (Theb. 11.441), Adrastus participates in the same disavowal of authority as the king of the gods and the former king of Thebes. He hands over to the Furies the role of marvelling spectator played by Virgil’s Latinus (Theb. 11.537-8). For his part, the narrator attempts to disclaim his function as commemorator of events. He prays for the duel to be forgotten by all except kings who should learn from its example (Theb. 11.576-9; Georgacopoulou 2005). The duel proceeds without the authorization of a watching Olympian god, king, or narrator – a thoroughly atypical scene in the hierarchized world of epic.9 Who then does watch the spectacle that the epic has repeatedly sought to forestall and characterized as the worst example of ‘the unspeakable’ (nefas)?


War as Spectacle

After so many morally pointed statements of refusal to watch, whoever chooses to stay and observe implicitly subjects themselves to criticism. The soldiers on both sides are pleased to watch (arma placent, uersaeque uolunt spectare cohortes, Theb. 11.498), but their viewing has no adjudicatory function. Unlike Homer’s Achaeans, who have a limited means of expressing their dissent from their commanders, Statius’ soldiers inhabit a world entirely controlled by autocrats. Once the kings have withdrawn from the field, the soldiers are free to watch but their reactions will have no effect on the world around them. Furthermore, Jupiter’s reference to the duellists as ‘an unspeakable pair’ (par infandum, Theb. 11.125) has earlier framed the combat as a gladiatorial spectacle. The soldiers can accordingly be analogized to the audience of the contemporary Roman gladiatorial games, who watch duels as entertainment rather than as judgements on their political future. The narrative has thematized the destruction of dynastic lines (Bernstein 2015; Bernstein 2008: 64–85), and thus it is fitting that the hostile ghosts of Theban ancestors accompany the Furies as spectators eager to exculpate themselves through viewing the spectacle (Theb. 11.420-3), ‘They rejoice that their own crimes are being outdone by their descendants’ (et uinci sua crimina gaudent, Theb. 11.423). Statius has brilliantly engineered a spectacle that leaves no viewer innocent. Those who refuse to watch have disavowed their various responsibilities, the soldiers are compromised by their pleasure in watching, while the revenant ancestors are outright evil. I have offered only a bird’s-eye view of a small subset of the complex interactions within the epic tradition of the final duel, and so efforts to anchor them to an historical context must be understood as equally summary and provisional. (Lovatt wisely forgoes such an exercise in a book that has over 1,000 years of literary tradition and at least six unique historical moments to survey; Lovatt 2013.) The internal dynamics of the tradition, furthermore, mean that the reuse of motifs may say more about the determinative force of Homeric and Virgilian epic than the politics of a given historical moment (Hardie 1993). Yet it has been frequently observed that Virgil’s concluding spectacle leaves the reader with the same questions about its consequences that the audiences of the twenties bce must have had about the events of the recent civil wars: how and when partisanship becomes meaningful, whether leaders are free to make their own decisions or are constrained by forces beyond their control, and whether reconciliation is possible after civil conflict.10 Statius’ answers to these questions may reflect the political change in the Roman world after the war of ce 69. The isolation of his partisans and their disconnection from the spectacle of the duel may reflect the priorities of a readership that viewed autocracy as the norm and

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civil war as bringing not structural change but only a new figure to the throne (Ganiban 2007: 207–32).

While the men fight below: the female teichoscopy The previous section considered the factional audiences whose fates would be determined by the duels they watch at ground level, were the gods not actively intervening to disrupt the outcome. I now consider human figures who watch the combat from a more distanced perspective: the elders and women who watch from the walls, and the commander who watches from a hill and can choose whether or not to give battle. The example-model for the teichoscopy (‘viewing from the walls’) occurs before the duel of Iliad 3, as Helen identifies the various Achaean champions for Priam (Il. 3.161-244). Commentators endeavour to explain away Priam’s apparent ignorance of the identities of the men who have been laying siege to his city for a decade as the oral poet’s means of restarting his story.11 Priam’s subsequent actions – his choice not to watch the duel for fear of watching his son Paris die and his tacit refusal to be bound by the agreement that he swore with Agamemnon – suggest that whatever their compositional origin, his ignorant questions characterize him as a detached and ineffectual leader. Helen, meanwhile, watches the combat from ‘the high wall’, surrounded by a group of Trojan women (Il. 3.384). After rescuing Paris from the duel, Aphrodite compels Helen to return to his bedroom and sleep with him. Helen rebukes both the goddess for her manipulation and her feckless lover for losing the combat (Il. 3.385-447). Iliad 3 thus presents subsequent tradition with a king who does not fully understand the context of the combat he chooses not to watch, and a captive queen named as the prize of the combat who attempts to resist the roles the two sides attempt to script for her. The complementary duel of Iliad 22 reverses the roles played by parents and wives. Here Priam and Hecuba must watch their son Hector die, though each begs him not to fight (Il. 22.38-92), while Hector’s wife Andromache does not watch and mourns for her dead husband rather than rebuking him (Il. 22.43759). Paris laughs off both the shame and the consequences of his defeat at Menelaus’ hands (Il. 3.438-46). In contrast, Hector’s soliloquy before the duel, that he knows he will lose, emphasizes the shame he will feel in the eyes of others, including women, if he does not fight Achilles (Il. 22.104-10). He knows of no other way to make good his ‘reckless actions’ that have ‘destroyed’ his people (νῦν δ’ ἐπεὶ ὤλεσα λαὸν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ἐμῇσιν, Il. 22.104). Virgil adapts many of these


War as Spectacle

motifs in his best-known teichoscopy, which occurs not after a duel but after the failed night raid performed by Nisus and Euryalus. The night raid is as ‘reckless’ as the actions Hector repents: Nisus characterizes the mission he proposes as the product of ‘dread desire’ (dira cupido) and explains that his mind cannot be at rest as he ponders it (Aen. 9.184-7). The grief of Euryalus’ mother at the sight of her son’s head paraded on a pike recapitulates Andromache’s immediate reaction to the loss of Hector.12 Like Andromache, this unnamed woman is weaving when the news reaches her and then rushes out to the wall to see her loved one’s corpse (Aen. 9.473-80; Cf. Il. 22.437-48). Her lament emphasizes her isolation and inability to be with her son at the moment of his death (Aen. 9.481-97), themes recapitulated from Andromache’s final lament for Hector (Il. 24.723-45). Where Hector perceives his obligation to participate in the duel as a consequence of his earlier failures, Virgil’s narrator praises Euryalus’ fatal mistakes in the night raid as evidence of his good fortune. ‘Fortunate pair! . . . No day shall ever erase you from remembering time’ (fortunati ambo! . . . nulla dies umquam memori uos eximet aeuo, Aen. 9.446-7), he promises both young men, in words that better describe his commemorative power as an epic narrator than the failure of their reckless mission.13 Where the narrator claims to see a pair of fortunate young men, the mother only sees her son’s head on a pike. Her anguished lament brings the Trojan army to a standstill and leads to her forcible removal by Ascanius’ henchmen. The reader is left with what might seem to be an unbalanced conflict of authority between the directly opposed perspectives of the omniscient narrator and a nameless woman. Yet few readers of the Aeneid have chosen to discount the words of Euryalus’ mother, as they make an effective rebuttal to the narrator’s enthusiastic apostrophe (Seider 2012; Wiltshire 1989). What each viewer will want time to remember about Nisus and Euryalus depends on the degree of their sympathetic identification with their actions. Where the narrator now has epic deeds to commemorate as the result of his heroes’ death, the mother only wants her son alive. Valerius’ Argonautica returns to Helen’s teichoscopy and explores the connection between viewing and erotic compulsion. Homer’s Aphrodite angrily threatens to abandon Helen to the armies fighting over her if she does not sleep with Paris immediately after his defeat (Il. 3.413-17). Valerius’ goddesses, Juno and Venus, subject Medea to an equally compelling form of manipulation, but disguise themselves as her relatives, Chalciope and Circe, rather than revealing their identities to her. Juno dons Venus’ magic girdle (cingulum) to make Medea fall in love as she watches Jason on the battlefield (Arg. 6.427-506, 575–680). Medea subsequently engages in the betrayals of family and homeland that Helen

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had already committed before her conversation with Priam in Iliad 3. The princess’s loving gaze upon her war hero sets the Roman Argonautica in a generic frame typical of post-Ovidian epic, which combines the putatively separate themes of war and love (arma and amor) (Stover 2003; Fucecchi 1997). Jason fights on Aeetes’ side against Aeetes’ brother Perses, an episode that is apparently Valerius’ novel addition to the standard Argonautic narrative (Hershkowitz 1998). The war over the throne at Colchis directly connects the mythological story to the recent experience of Valerius’ contemporary audience, survivors of the civil war of ce 69. Stover views Valerius’ poem as a celebration of the peace and stability brought by the Flavian regime (Stover 2012), but I have argued elsewhere with the mainstream of Valerian scholarship that the poem’s contemporary references cannot support such an optimistic view (Bernstein 2014; see also Zissos 2009). Medea’s viewing is more tightly restricted than Helen’s. Helen watched her husband’s fight and attempted to look for her brothers, but Juno magically redirects Medea’s attempts to do the same, ‘Wherever from her quiet face she cast her wandering gaze (tacito sparsit uaga lumina uultu), seeking either the arms of her brother or her promised husband, there only savage Jason appeared to the wretched woman (miserae)’ (Arg. 6.584-6). Factional identification, belief in a cause, awareness of the larger significance of events, or even the ability to watch her own family are no longer possible for this viewer once the hostile goddesses have her under their spell. Juno’s borrowed girdle and Venus’ kiss instead create the destructive passion that will soon cause her to conspire with Jason to steal the Fleece from her father Aeetes and flee the marriage arranged by her parents (Bernstein 2008: 55–61). Beyond the narrative of the extant Argonautica, but predicted within the narrative, come her conspiracy in the murder of her brother Absyrtus, her revenge killing of her children by Jason, and her eventual involvement of Greece in the Trojan war. The infatuation produced by Juno’s magic creates a more solipsistic and pernicious type of identification between spectator and warrior than those discussed above.

Death from above: the male commander’s survey of the battlefield The commander’s perspective on battle necessarily differs from those of the other figures that we have discussed so far. Unlike his troops or non-combatants, he must make the choice to give battle or withdraw. Such a choice tends to be more


War as Spectacle

meaningful in Roman historical epic; in mythological epic, the commander’s major concern is typically rallying troops for the attack or preventing them from breaking rather than looking for the opportunity to give battle. I therefore turn to the focalization of the battlefield by two very different commanders: Pompey at Pharsalus in Lucan’s Bellum Civile, and Fabius at Gerunium in Silius Italicus’ Punica. Both give battle not of their own choosing but at the enemy’s instigation. Pompey is soon to be defeated in this climactic battle of the civil war, one he would likely not have given had he been capable of strong and decisive leadership. The narrator unsubtly characterizes Pompey’s final view of the field before the slaughter commences as part of his passive role as a weak leader and the plaything of Fortune, As Pompey saw that the enemy bands were exiting straight ahead and that no delays were permitted for the fight but that the day had pleased the gods (sed superis placuisse diem), he stands astonished, his heart frozen; and it was an omen for so great a leader to fear battle so (tantoque duci sic arma timere / omen erat). (BC 7.337-41)

Pompey’s final address to his troops before sending them to their deaths invokes the example of the archetypal Roman heroes, including Camillus and Decius (BC 7.358-60). In the early years of the Republic, Camillus suggested not to give battle at Satricum and was overruled by a younger colleague. He withdrew as a spectator to watch the fight, but intervened when the Roman troops broke, throwing his reserve troops into the fight and rallying his defeated side (Livy 6.23). Leigh (1997: 115–18) isolates the major problem evoked by the Camillus paradigm as background to Pompey’s ‘view from the hill’. Pompey does not turn from passive spectator into rallying saviour but flees as helplessly as any of the disorderly soldiers initially routed at Satricum. He is no more a latter-day Camillus than he is the Decius who gallantly offered his own life as a ritual suicide (devotus) in order to save his troops. Silius’ Gerunium episode rehabilitates the paradigm of the viewing Roman general as Camillus. As Hannibal devastates the Italian countryside in the early years of the second Punic war, the Senate offends Fabius by removing his Dictatorship at the instigation of his upstart subordinate Minucius. Yet Fabius saves Minucius’ forces instead of allowing the Carthaginians to punish the younger man’s insubordination with defeat, and explicitly highlights the example of Camillus as his guide rather than simply listing the earlier hero as one of many famous Romans of an earlier age.14 Fabius initially watches with dismay as Minucius enters a battle that Fabius knows he cannot win on his own, ‘But the

‘The Clash of Weapons and the Sight of War’


Delayer measured out (pensabat) these matters, surveying the field with his eyes (perlustrans campos oculis) from the rampart’s mass. He grieved that you, Rome, were learning at the cost of such danger who Fabius was’ (Pun. 7.536-8). Fabius could have permitted defeat to punish Minucius’ insult. The Punica has heretofore narrated the consequences of a competitive, honour-driven culture of command. These include Flaminius’ choice to give disastrous battle at Trasimene out of the thought of his own glory and avenging earlier Roman deaths, and the criticism of Fabius’ successful guerrilla warfare as a cynical bid to prolong his command and to spare his own estates from Hannibal’s devastation. The argument to allow Minucius’ bad decision to run its course comes from an equally aggrieved spokesman, Fabius’ own son, The villain (improbus) will give worthy punishment, the man who encroached upon our fasces through blind votes (per suffragia caeca) and brought us to this crisis . . . They will repay at a great price the madness of their error and their harm to my father (et nostrum uiolasse parentem). (Pun. 7.539-41)

In instructing his son, Fabius speaks with the authority both of a father and a commander, in an effort to resolve a conflict that frequently occurs in the Punica between the demands of family and state (Bernstein 2010; Bernstein 2008: 132– 59). The traditional example of Camillus, who overlooked the insult of exile from the city and returned to rescue his countrymen from the Gauls, helps him to make the Ciceronian case that loyalty belongs first to the people, not to one’s family (Pun. 7.547-66; Bernstein 2008: 139–45). Minucius believes that he and his men are already in Hell (Pun. 7.585-6) when Fabius descends from the hill to rescue him and his men from being overwhelmed by Hannibal. ‘Reborn from the midst of death’ (e media iam morte renata iuuentus, Pun. 7.732), the grateful commander and his troops perceive Fabius as a saviour god (Cowan 2013). They ‘proceed hailing in turn with mighty shouts Fabius their glory, Fabius their salvation (Fabiumque decus Fabiumque salutem), and Fabius their parent’ (Pun. 7.734-5). Silius has reversed the tradition in which the old man’s teichoscopy is passive and befuddled, as exemplified by the viewing of Homer’s Priam and Lucan’s Pompey. Fabius’ intervention is premeditated, justified, decisive, and close enough to godlike in the eyes of his rescuees. Silius has also assigned his viewing general a cause, rescue of his fellow citizens in defence of his homeland, so well worth his loyalty that it permits him to overrule his son’s criticism and to forget his family’s dishonour. The identification between spectator and fighting men is the closest here of all the


War as Spectacle

examples surveyed in this chapter, in part because it occurs in an epic that prioritizes patriotic self-sacrifice over self-interest.

Indistinguishable corpses and fameless ends: surveying the aftermath of battle The teichoscopy more typically leads relatives to grief rather than lovers to infatuation. Homer’s Andromache and Virgil’s mother of Euryalus lament for their husband and son while viewing from the walls. Statius’ Thebaid reserves its teichoscopies for Antigone and Jocasta, and emphasizes the mother and sister’s efforts to stop the feuding brothers. The epic also replays several times the narrative moment when women gain access to the battlefield and become able to see and touch the bodies of the men they have lost in combat. Scenes of women viewing the aftermath of slaughter occur long before the pitched battles of the epic’s latter half. The first general lamentation occurs as relatives discover the corpses of the fifty ambushers massacred by Tydeus after negotiations with Eteocles to return the throne break down. Ide’s speech upon discovering her sons locked in a final embrace, pinned together by a spear hurled by Tydeus, introduces a new topos to the epic woman’s lament over a dead man. Rather than rehearse the ‘personal, feminine’ themes of loss and abandonment familiar in the earlier laments of Andromache and Euryalus’ mother (Fantham 1999),15 she evaluates her sons according to a ‘public, masculine’ scale of value, where glory can be an adequate compensation for death. Ide accordingly laments that no spectators were around during the night-time ambush to watch her sons die and confer fame upon their actions, ‘But not in the open light of battle (in luce patenti), conspicuous (conspicui) in your fate and daring deeds to live in the memory of nations, did you seek a wound for a grieving mother to tell of (memorabile); you suffered a fameless end (mortem obscuram), a death for numbering, lying, alas, in so much blood stealthily (furto), with none to praise’ (Theb. 3.160-4, trans. Shackleton Bailey 2003). As the repetitiveness of the passage suggests, fame is Ide’s overriding concern and absence of witnesses her major regret. Yet there is no glory to be gained in ambushing an ambassador who comes under a flag of peace, just as there will be no glory to be won by any of the participants in the civil war at Thebes. Though Ide does not pause to consider it, the glory she desires for her sons requires a moral context which cannot be found in the Thebaid. The Thebans exit the city en masse once more in Thebaid 12 after the Argive retreat to view what they think is the war’s aftermath, though Theseus’ assault

‘The Clash of Weapons and the Sight of War’


will come soon after.16 Their vision is inaccurate, however, as they cannot distinguish between the Theban and Argive corpses that litter the field, ‘Often deceived (decepti), they wept for enemy warriors, as Fortune jested awhile, nor had they any sure means of knowing (nec certa facultas / noscere) what blood to avoid in their misery and what to trample’ (Theb. 12.35-7, trans. Shackleton Bailey 2003). For once, neither the deceptive gods nor human vanity are to blame for a failure to see accurately. Rather, civil war has literally erased all distinctions between the dead combatants. Creon soon endeavours to impose distinctions upon these unidentifiable corpses, however, by forbidding the burial of the Argive dead. A failure of vision is again to blame for his indefensible decision that subjects the exhausted city to Theseus’ successful invasion. An hallucination of his son Menoceus grieving at the sight of Argive burial (Theb. 12.694-7) prompts Creon to refuse the Athenian embassy and so lose his throne and his life. After Theseus’ victory enables the burial of the Argives, the epic’s final scene again conjoins aftermath narrative and female lament. Markus identifies female lament as one of the ‘grim pleasures’ central to the Thebaid’s aesthetic program (Markus 2004). Pollmann argues that the Thebaid’s great concluding scene of female lament suggests a new direction for martial epic that would emphasize the consequences of violence rather than its putative glory (Pollmann 2004: 47). Statius suggests that seeing like a woman might point to a way out of the conflict that has destroyed two cities.

Conclusion: reading in peace, viewing like the gods This chapter has surveyed some of the interpretive difficulties of viewing spectacles of epic violence from Homer’s Iliad to Silius Italicus’ Punica. Rather than a single authoritative, authorizing gaze, epic offers a diversity of standpoints from which various characters view the spectacle of war. Manipulation by hostile divinities compromises human efforts to view the spectacle with full comprehension, as in the cases of the Rutulian spectators of Virgil’s concluding duel, or Valerius’ Medea’s witness of Jason’s heroic onslaught. Civil war poses a further challenge to partisan viewers, such as the Romans of Lucan’s Bellum Civile, who cannot readily distinguish between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Gender and status are important aspects of spectatorship: viewing as a woman whose fate may be determined by the conflict, in the manner of Homer’s Helen or Statius’ Argive and Theban women, is a different matter from viewing as a commander deciding on the appropriate moment to give battle, like Silius’ Fabius.


War as Spectacle

It can be assumed that the majority of this chapter’s readers have no direct experience either of combat or of war on home soil. Modern Western spectatorship of war has also changed greatly in the 150 years since the society ladies of Washington rode out in their carriages with their picnic baskets to watch the first Battle of Bull Run, only to find their exuberance tempered by the Union retreat (Burgess 2011; Furgurson 2011). We now view combat like the gods, from the perspective of a camera embedded in a bomber, missile, or drone, and we continue to do so long after the conflict has passed. For example, YouTube launched in November 2005, over two years after the fall of the Ba’athist regime in Iraq, and since then there have been several million views of ‘Shock and Awe’, CNN ’s live coverage of the coalition bombing of Baghdad in March 2003. The continuous iterability and wide dissemination of recorded spectacles of war has led to a new series of political problems with spectator identification (Hoskins 2004). Our attempts to recreate the experience of the ancient viewer of war accordingly requires as much sympathetic imagination as efforts to understand any other aspect of the lives of ancient people. The assumption is uncontroversial, however, that the majority of the original audiences of the epics discussed in this chapter (including two of the poets, Virgil and Silius Italicus) likely had seen war at first hand or close by. This chapter’s foretitle, ‘The Clash of Weapons and the Sight of War’ (strepitus telorum et facies belli, Tac. Hist. 1.85), refers to terror visited on the civilians of Rome at the very beginning of the war of ce 69. Some of Otho’s troops murdered their officers and terrorized the elites of Rome from the mistaken belief that their emperor, who had seized power in a coup a few months before, was the target of an assassination plot. Tacitus’ account of the capture of Cremona in ce 70 brings the war’s violence far closer to civilians. The Cremonese first endured a brutal assault, then plunder and slaughter at the hands of the Flavian forces. The Vitellians were humiliated by the Flavian soldiers under the command of Antonius Primus as they attempted to surrender. A four-day riot followed in which Primus’ men abused, robbed, raped, and murdered non-combatants (Tac. Hist. 3.30-4). However energetic his efforts to discredit Primus (Ash 1999: 147–66), Tacitus’ account nevertheless shows that we cannot posit much distance between the spectacle of war and its victims during the war of ce 69. The war ended with house-to-house fighting on the streets of Rome and the burning of the Capitol. Its spectacles were neither distant nor compartmentalized for the original audiences of the Flavian epics. Just like the spectators discussed in this chapter, they were the women watching from the city wall, the army watching the champion who fights in its name, and the crowd of survivors tending to the corpse.


Death on the Margins Statius and the Spectacle of the Dying Epic Hero Helen Lovatt* University of Nottingham

After Statius’ beautiful boy, Parthenopaeus, receives his fatal wound, he is carried to the edge of the battle to perform his dying moments: at puer infusus sociis in deuia campi tollitur (heu simplex aetas!) moriensque iacentem flebat equum; (Statius, Thebaid 9.877-9) But the boy, poured out on his allies, is carried to an out of the way part of the field (alas simple age!) and, dying, he was weeping for his fallen horse;

What is the significance of this move to a trackless area of the scene? In The Epic Gaze, I explored the fact that the margins of epic battle are usually reserved for female viewers, or other disempowered people (old men, children).1 The poetics of space is a growing area of study, and margins, like thresholds, are important symbols of power relations and development (of both character and plot).2 This chapter presents material left outside the main compass of The Epic Gaze and pursues further the idea of the spectacle of the dying body by considering the particular issues of marginality and liminality, a thriving area of literary and cultural studies (Mukherji 2011; Viljoen and van der Merwe 2007; Kay et  al. 2007). It focuses primarily on Statius in comparison to his predecessors, since, as I show here, Statius has a particular fondness for the margins. It also addresses the issue of the spectacle of death in Roman culture, already well explored by Catharine Edwards in relation to Seneca and Tacitus, and investigates whether epic, and Statius in particular, makes a distinctive contribution to our relationship 73


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with Roman dead bodies.3 Is the peculiar intimacy of Statian death-scenes an index of their perverted domesticity? Does this intimacy militate against the spectacular nature of epic death scenes? What defines epic death scenes as spectacular? There are methodological issues with the idea of the margin: what counts as the centre and what as the margin when spaces are not clearly portrayed and defined? In the Iliad, and other siege narratives, is the city the centre or the edge of the story? Are the walls the focus or the margin? Walls are the margins of the city; they stand between the city and the outside world. Liminality focuses on thresholds (doors, gates, windows), and emphasizes the movement through those thresholds. But margins are static spaces that remain marginal. Edges are not quite the same as boundaries: it depends on whether movement from centre to periphery is at stake, or movement from one space to another. Should metaphorical margins and thresholds be taken into account? Most frequently, liminality is applied to the transition from childhood to adulthood, or to processes of initiation into social groups (in Greek history: Vidal-Naquet 1986; Latin literature: Dyson 2001). I will refer not just to initiation, but also to apotheosis as a liminal process (moving from mortal to divine status). Death is inevitably the ultimate threshold, the moment of transition from one world to another, and one that Statius often places in spatial margins. Is this association between death, liminality and the margins inevitable, even banal? This may be the case: however, audiences, for whom the death becomes a spectacle, create for it a sense of centrality.4 By virtue of being surrounded by nested ranks of viewers, the death scene acquires its theatrical charge.5 The marginal position of some viewers is gendered, leading to the idea of viewing ‘askance’ by female gods and women on the walls, often hostile viewing (Lovatt 2013: 65–6; see also Salzman-Mitchell 2005: 25–7; Bernstein Ch. 4 this volume). Dying young men, on the brink of adulthood, in epic, are often eroticized, even arguably feminized (Lovatt 2013: 265–83; see also Reed 2007, drawing on Fowler 1987). But death on the margins, and death as an object of spectacle, does not belong exclusively to the beautiful boys. Death on the margins seems to be a particularly Statian topos, and by comparison, particularly with Virgil, this paper attempts to describe it and to suggest possible reasons why.

Canonical deaths: spectacle and space The death of Hector at the hands of Achilles is the foundational death of classical epic. Hector’s death and his dead body function as a spectacle in several ways:

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Priam and Hecuba are watching from the walls of Troy, and try to stop him fighting Achilles (Iliad 22.25-89); as Achilles chases him around the walls, they are compared to men competing in the games (22.158-66), a simile which leads directly into the viewing of the gods in Olympus (166–87); Achilles warns off the watching Greeks in case one of them interferes with his glory (205–7); when Hector dies, the Greek spectators then join in, admiring his body and stabbing it (369–74); finally the dead body of Hector is viewed by the Trojans as it is mutilated and dragged around the walls (395–515). The moment of grotesque intimacy when the other Greek warriors join in with Achilles’ kill is particularly important for our later passages: ἄλλοι δὲ περίδραμον υἷες Ἀχαιῶν, οἳ καὶ θηήσαντο φυὴν καὶ εἶδος ἀγητὸν Ἕκτορος· οὐδ’ ἄρα οἵ τις ἀνουτητί γε παρέστη. ὧδε δέ τις εἴπεσκεν ἰδὼν ἐς πλησίον ἄλλον· «ὢ πόποι, ἦ μάλα δὴ μαλακώτερος ἀμφαφάασθαι Ἕκτωρ ἤ ὅτε νῆας ἐνέπρησεν πυρὶ κηλέῳ.» Ὣς ἄρα τις εἴπεσκε καὶ οὐτήσασκε παραστάς. (Iliad 22.369-75) And the other sons of the Achaeans came running about him, and gazed upon the stature and on the imposing beauty of Hector; and none stood beside him who did not stab him; and thus they would speak one to another, each looking at his neighbour: ‘See now, Hector is much softer to handle than he was when he set the ships ablaze with the burning firebrand.’ So as they stood beside him they would speak and stab him. (trans. Lattimore 1951)

This duel is clearly at the centre of the spectators, and of the poem: the space between the Greek camp and the Trojan walls has been described by Clay (2011) as Homer’s theatre. It is also a no-man’s land, a liminal space, over which control fluctuates. However, when Achilles returns from Apollo’s diversion at 22.21-4, we have a strong sense that he is returning to the centre of the narrative. As he chases Hector he keeps him away from the gates and channels him back into the battlefield (193–8).While they finally fight, there is a claustrophobic concentration on the two of them, as if the narrative creates a close-up (247–369), with no sense of the reactions of the watchers until after Hector’s death. Virgil avoids the spectacle of the dead body in the equivalent scene with Turnus and Aeneas by stopping immediately after the killing blow. There is a


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strong sense of the duel taking place in a confined space, surrounded by various audiences: an amphitheatricality. When Turnus returns from Juturna’s diversion he comes back into the centre of the battle: rapido cursu media agmina rumpit (‘he breaks into the midst of the columns with a swift run’, 683); all eyes turn to the pair of them at 704–9, from those defending and attacking the city, to Latinus himself; Jupiter’s spectatorship is implied when he is described weighing their fates against each other (725–7); both Trojans and Latins are watching (730–1); even the landscape responds at 756–7. The sense of confinement is created at 742–5 when Turnus runs for the plain, but is shut in by Trojans, marsh and the city walls. The subsequent simile which compares him to a stag enclosed by river and ambush underlines the sense of a narrowing focus. As in the Iliad, Aeneas threatens anyone who might take away his prize: in this case, Rutulians not his own men, when Turnus calls on them to help (756–9); equally the idea that they are competing not for a prize but for the life of Turnus underlines the spectacular nature of the duel (764–5). There is no sense of being on the edge: even the stone used as a boundary marker in peacetime becomes a weapon (896–8), showing how centres and margins can be redefined in different situations. At Turnus’ final moment of self-recognition, he still looks around at many different potential sources of help (914–18): he may be isolated, but he is surrounded. Although the audience response still intrudes at 928–9, the final few lines focus even more claustrophobically than Homer on the details of Turnus’ supplication and Aeneas’ reaction to it. Turnus dies in the centre, as a spectacle for all from gods to landscape (cf. Bernstein Ch. 4 this volume), but his corpse is abandoned undescribed by the poem. Other key deaths, such as that of Pallas, or that of Camilla, are located in the thick of battle. While Turnus’ boast over Pallas’ corpse, standing with his foot pressing down on it, calls for the Arcadians to witness his despoiling, viewing of Pallas’ body must wait until Book 11, when Aeneas views his corpse, surrounded by a crowd of mourners (11.29-41). Chloreus is the spectacle that lures Camilla to ignore her own safety: as she dies her companions gather around her (805–6), and Acca is the audience of her last words (820–8). The fatal wound is described in sensual terms (‘spear drinking blood from her breast’, 11.804-5), but her body is spared scrutiny. Mezentius is removed from battle when wounded, while Lausus protects him, and is found having his wound cleaned by the banks of the Tiber (Aen. 10.833-6); there the body of Lausus is brought (841–2), but the focus is on the suicidal grief of the father, not the dying (in fact, already dead) body of the son. The Nisus and Euryalus episode is the main exception: while Turnus, Camilla and Pallas die centrally and spectacularly, Nisus and Euryalus die in the dark, on

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the margins and out of sight. Nisus and Euryalus as young men on the cusp of adulthood, taken out of the normal run of battle, in the wilderness, are often read as figures undergoing an initiation rite. Their deaths function as a failed transition to adulthood. The woods to which they escape, when the night patrol catches sight of them, are an inherently marginal space: the confusion of pathless wilderness (Aen. 9.381-5) allows Nisus to evade his pursuers, but confuses Euryalus and impedes his flight, so that ultimately he is revealed. The audience dynamic at Euryalus’ death scene is considerably complicated by the figure of Nisus, hidden and attempting in vain to intervene. His spear-throws from a position of hidden power in fact cause the death of his beloved, rather than preventing it. The audience, both internal audience, under threat from Nisus’ spear, and readers, involved through the mediating internal audiences, are very much involved in the action, not watching, but looking around in terror, not knowing whether they are about to die. Here is the description of Euryalus’ body: talia dicta dabat, sed uiribus ensis adactus transadigit costas et candida pectora rumpit. uoluitur Euryalus leto, pulchrosque per artus it cruor inque umeros ceruix conlapsa recumbit: purpureus ueluti cum flos succisus aratro languescit moriens, lassoue papauera collo demisere caput pluuia cum forte grauantur. (Thebaid 9.431-7) He was speaking such words, but the sword driven in with full strength pierced through the ribs and burst the white breast. Euryalus rolls in death, the blood runs over his beautiful limbs and the neck wilts, falling down onto his shoulders: just as when a bright flower cut down by the plough sinks down in death, or a poppy, its neck now strengthless, droops its head when by chance it is weighed down by rain.

This description bypasses the watching Latins, bringing together instead the focalization of Nisus’ horror, and the poetic audience’s pathos. Nisus and Euryalus, as Virgil explicitly marks, will be made monuments by posterity (446– 9). Volcens’ body is carried back to the Latin camp, but the heads of the two Trojans are put on pikes to form an assaultive display. There is an intense duality to these deaths in the Aeneid: Turnus (with Pallas), later and in reverse, Aeneas (with Turnus) have close relationships with the men they kill; with Camilla and Acca, Nisus and Euryalus, grief of close friends is uppermost. The audience


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experiences intimacy through those whose relationships are closest with the dying.

Statius’ marginal boys Our exploration of death on the margins in Statius begins with Parthenopaeus whose death emblematizes the loss of war at the end of the poem (Thebaid 12.805-9).6 Dewar calls this scene ‘the emotional climax of the poem’ (Dewar 1991: 218). As with Euryalus and Pallas, Parthenopaeus is a boy who does not make it through the threshold of battle to manhood. Jamset (2004) reads his death as feminization and failed initiation. Here is the initial description of his dying body: at puer infusus sociis in deuia campi tollitur (heu simplex aetas!) moriensque iacentem flebat equum; cecidit laxata casside uultus, aegraque per trepidos expirat gratia uisus, et prensis concussa comis ter colla quaterque stare negant, ipsisque nefas lacrimabile Thebis, ibat purpureus niueo de pectore sanguis. tandem haec singultu uerba incidente profatur . . . (Thebaid 9.877-84) But the boy, poured out on his allies, is carried to an out of the way part of the field (alas naive boy!) and, dying, he was weeping for his fallen horse; his head slumped, with his helmet released, and a sick grace breathed out from his terrified eyes; when his hair was grasped, three times, four times his shaken neck refuses to stand up, and, unspeakable, source of sorrow even for Thebes, bright red blood was flowing from his snowy chest. At last between gasps he addressed these words . . .

As he is carried to an out of the way part of the field (deuia campi) he is described as infusus, the liquefaction showing a loss of masculine rigidity and uprightness (see further Lovatt 2005: 219–41). The emphasis on texture creates a disturbing intimacy for the readers: focalized through his allies (the poet in heu simplex aetas!), we can feel his limpness, further brought out by his slack head (cecidit laxata). I have suggested (Lovatt 2005: 67–71) that Parthenopaeus is the beloved of his audiences, and the emphasis on breath in this scene creates the sense that the readers, through his companions, are themselves catching his final breath

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(expirat, 880; singultu uerba incidente, 884). This is combined with looking into his eyes, which are breathing out sick grace as they tremble, in what might be described as emotional synaesthesia. If spectacle is fundamentally about viewing from a distance, alienation and power, death on the margins emphasizes powerlessness and encourages a complex play of identifications. The speech of the dying Parthenopaeus via his right-hand man, Dorceus, to his bereaved mother, Atalanta, involves readers in various perspectives on his death. The phrase heu simplex aetas! moriensque iacentem / flebat equum (‘Alas naive boy! As he lay dying he was weeping for his fallen horse’, 878–9) creates both alienation and identification. His typically boyish love of his horse makes readers think of other children they know who love their animals, as well as giving us a sense of his particular character and his lack of concern for himself. The author’s exclamation makes this a general lament for those dying too young, and underlines the presence of the author and the text as mediators between the dying boy and the readers.7 The aestheticization of his death, which turns him into a spectacle is set against the personalization of his death. Direct speech, and the evocation of his particular relationships with Dorceus and Atalanta, and their actual or potential responses to that speech, continue this personalization. The evocation of memories of Parthenopaeus from earlier in the text creates a sense of him as a rounded character with an ongoing existence, while also again evoking his textuality:8 ast ubi pugna cassis anhela calet, resoluto uertice nudus exoritur: tunc dulce comae radiisque trementes dulce nitent uisus et, quas dolet ipse morari, nondum mutatae rosea lanugine malae. (Thebaid 9.699-703) But when in the breathless battle the helmet grows hot, naked with head unharnessed he rises out: then sweetly shines his hair, sweetly shine his eyes trembling with rays of light and, though it grieves him that they delay, sweetly shine his cheeks not yet changed by rosy down.

His friends remove his helmet, just as he himself did in battle, in an erotically charged moment, viewed subsequently (and sympathetically) by Theban enemies, nymphs on the surrounding hillsides, and Diana. Dewar (ad loc.) links the emphasis on his dying gaze with his shining eyes in Book 9 (repetition of uisus). Further, Parthenopaeus begins his speech with labimur, a key word from the death of Camilla: (labitur exsanguis, labuntur frigida leto / lumina: ‘She slips


War as Spectacle

lifeless, her eyes slip cold in death’, Aeneid 11.818-19). Parthenopaeus evokes his own literary ancestor, moving from the third to the first person. This fits too with his apparently telepathic knowledge of Atalanta’s dream (an equivalent of a lament before the death itself, at Thebaid 9.570-636), which puzzles Dewar (ad loc.). These improbable moments of super-awareness again emphasize textuality, while at the same time making him, like us, a reader of his own text, and potentially increasing reader identification. As the character tends towards awareness of their own status as literary characters, so they are moving away from the centre of their story-world. It is hence a particularly appropriate tendency for the dying, who could access prophetic insights (i.e. Patroclus, Hector). Parthenopaeus is on the margins of the battlefield, and on the threshold of adulthood. He is also on the edge of epic. The phrase ter quaterque (‘three times and four times’, 9.881), which is used of his neck refusing to stand no matter how many times his friends lift his head, is emotionally charged and primarily evokes the first words of Aeneas in the Aeneid.9 As Aeneas laments his imminent (unepic) death at sea, he exclaims: o terque quaterque beati (‘oh three times, four times blessed’, Aeneid 1.94), which looks back to Odyssey 5.306 (τρισμάκαρες Δαναοὶ καὶ τετράκις). In both cases, later epics recall earlier epics with a greater claim to generic centrality than themselves (ultimately the Iliad). This link creates a contrast between the mature epic hero facing the wrong death and the wilting epic boy, not living up to the genre despite his situation. Further complexity of both genre and gender is generated by a stronger link to the death of Dido: terque quaterque manu pectus percussa decorum flauentisque abscissa comas (Aeneid 4.589-90) Three times, four times, she pounds on her beautiful breast, and rips golden hair from her head by the roots.

where it precedes Dido’s fore-lament for her own death. Further the phrase recurs at Aen. 12.154, in which Juturna reacts to Juno’s speech about the imminent death of Turnus: uix ea, cum lacrimas oculis Iuturna profundit terque quaterque manu pectus percussit honestum. (Aeneid 12.154-5) She had scarcely spoken, when Juturna poured out tears from her eyes and three times, four times struck her noble breast with her hand.

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This interesting intratextual relationship suggests something about the eroticization of lament, and the feminization of epic emotion (from the despair of Odysseus and Aeneas to the love and grief of Dido and Juturna, to the love and grief of Parthenopaeus’ men, which will lead Dymas to sacrifice his life for the sake of Parthenopaeus’ body). There are also strong links to Latin love elegy, especially in Parthenopaeus’ dying speech.10 Jamset (2004: 100–1) has argued that the image of blood on snowy skin at 884–5 evokes elegiac imagery of beauty and blush. In his speech, which is closely related to the lament of Euryalus’ mother in Aeneid 9, many elements evoke elegy.11 Parthenopaeus’ instructions to Dorceus about how to approach Atalanta (888–91) mirror those of poets worrying about the delivery of their poems.12 He imagines his mother gazing longingly for his return, like a lover waiting for her beloved (895–6), just as she attempted to stop him leaving, as in the rhetoric of the elegiac sending-off poem (propemptikon) (892–3).13 The idea of the lover lying untended and dead on the cold bare earth, without his beloved, or family, is also a topos of elegiac lament.14 Other moments in the speech point to an uneasy relationship with epic: arma puer rapui (892) evokes the iconic arma virumque of the first line of the Aeneid, but emphasizes the fact that Parthenopaeus does not reach the standard of masculinity required of an epic hero (Jamset 2004: 99). The first word of his speech to his mother at 891 (merui, ‘I deserved this’) echoes both the dying plea of Turnus at Aen. 12.931 (equidem merui nec deprecor, ‘Indeed I deserved this and I am not begging for my life’), and that of Ovid’s Scylla at Met. 8.127 (nam fateor merui, ‘For I confess I deserved this’). While Turnus is centrally epic, Scylla is a key figure of my analysis of women on the margins of epic, taking the female gaze of the women on the walls to new extremes of desire, and in particular evoking elegiac love (Lovatt 2013: 234–6). In the moment of death, then, Parthenopaeus is removed from the centre of the action and the central generic markers of epic. His failed initiation leaves him permanently in the margins. He loses his status as masculine epic hero, and becomes part of the female territory of the watchers on the edges. He becomes both lover and beloved and can no longer be part of the action.

Other marginal boys: Atys and Crenaeus Parthenopaeus is the most obvious case of death on the margins in Statius. How do these issues play out elsewhere in the epic? Atys and Crenaeus are also boys


War as Spectacle

who fail to make the transition to manhood. Atys is the betrothed of Ismene, fatally wounded by Tydeus in Book 8, and carried into the domestic space of the girls in order to see his beloved as he dies. Crenaeus is the grandson of the river Ismene, whose overconfidence in the river leads to death at the hands of Hippomedon, and to the fully-fledged river battle that results. The initial mention of Atys situates him in the thick of battle: ruit primis inmixtus (‘he rushes mixed into the front ranks’, 562), but immediately signals problems by emphasizing his awareness of himself as a potential spectacle (ceu spectetur, ‘as if watched’, 564). Status and show, of himself and Ismene, are on his mind (564–8). He is no match for Tydeus, and his marginality as warrior is emphasized by Tydeus’ casual, unwarlike spear-cast (Theb. 8.584-5). Atys is wounded in the groin by a spear that drinks his blood (585–6), which assimilates him to Camilla (Scioli 2010: 202). Like Parthenopaeus, his body is moved away from battle, in this case rescued by Menoeceus and brought into the Theban palace, where the sisters Antigone and Ismene are thalami secreta in parte (‘in a secluded part of their bedchamber’, 607). Augoustakis (2010: 70–4) explores the violation of female space by the intrusion of Atys’ death-scene.15 When he is brought into the house, he shatters its peace (636–7); like Parthenopaeus, his neck droops (639). He becomes a spectacle for the women: uidet (641) and exclamant famulae (644). In contrast to Parthenopaeus, his love for Ismene enables him to lift his head and gaze on her (647–50). The intimacy of this deathscene is extreme: it has been read as a sort of sexual union, a version of the marriage for which Ismene longed, and a deflowering. The dying body of the beautiful boy transgresses the space between war and domesticity, and in his own failed initiation causes Ismene to pass straight from maidenhood to widowhood. The death of Crenaeus is entangled with that of Hippomedon, and both are situated in the marginal spaces of the river Ismenos.16 Hippomedon dies on the river-bank and Crenaeus’ body is found at the juncture between river and sea: nusquam ille, sed index desuper (a miserae17 nimium noscenda parenti!) parma natat; iacet ipse procul, qua mixta supremum Ismenon primi mutant confinia ponti. (Thebaid 9.356-9) nowhere is he to be seen, but on the surface floats – alas! all too surely must the unhappy mother recognize it! –

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the tell-tale shield; he himself lies far away, where the sea first borders with Ismenos’ final flood, mingling and changing his waters.

The shield is a visual marker for the boy and its ekphrasis substitutes for a spectacular description of him.18 Crenaeus’ dead body is doubly marginal: not just between land and sea, but between salt and fresh water and Statius’ language of changing emphasizes this marginality.19 Crenaeus’ death is a spectacle for the landscape around him, with its nymphs,20 and his last cry evokes death at sea: horruit unda nefas, siluae fleuistis utraeque, et grauiora cauae sonuerunt murmura ripae. ultimus ille sonus moribundo emersit ab ore, ‘mater!’, in hanc miseri ceciderunt flumina uocem. (Thebaid 9.347-50) The waters shuddered at the sinful deed, you woods on either side did weep, and the hollow banks resounded with deeper groans. From his dying lips this last cry came forth, ‘Mother!’: over this utterance of the poor boy’s the river-waters closed.

The last cry swallowed up by the waters is much like the death of Paetus imagined by Propertius at 3.7.21-2:21 lens tamen extremis dedit haec mandata querelis cum moribunda niger clauderet ora liquor: But weeping he gave these instructions in his final lament as the black liquid closed over his death-bound face:

The search for Crenaeus’ body transfers Statian aftermath narratives into a watery context, and when his mother returns with his body she lays it on the river-banks: illa manu ceu uiuum amplexa reportat insternitque toris riparum atque umida siccat mollibus ora comis (Thebaid 9.373-5) She carries him back as if alive, embracing him in her arms, and lays him on the bed of the banks and dries his wet face with soft hair

The intimacy that we have seen elsewhere is continued with the physicality of her connection to him; the banks of the river, boundary between water and land,


War as Spectacle

become a domestic space, and the torn hair of mourning is equated to the soft hair of lovers.

The crumbling edges: Hippomedon, Amphiaraus, Capaneus If Parthenopaeus, Atys and Crenaeus are carried away, dying or dead, to the margins, Amphiaraus, Hippomedon and Capaneus fight on the edges and die there. When Hippomedon is riding Tydeus’ horse in mid-river (9.248-51), the ferocity of battle causes the riverbanks to collapse:22 insiluere uadis, magnoque fragore solutus agger et aduersae latuerunt puluere ripae. (Thebaid 9.230-1) They jump into the shallows and with a great crash the bank is undone and the opposite banks lie hidden in dust.

To begin with he is fighting the Thebans in the river, but after the death of Crenaeus the river himself takes up the fight, and the Thebans shower weapons from above, watching the spectacle of man versus nature (488–90). Newlands (2004: 152) argues that Statius’ use of Ovidian landscapes ‘destabilizes the reader’s preconceptions of familiar epic values’: but Statius goes further than this by destabilizing the landscape itself. When Hippomedon tries to save himself by making a grab for an ash tree at 492–503 he succeeds only in pulling the tree into the river,23 and creating an image of collapse, destroying the boundaries between land and water, and creating a sea in the river in which he can replay the hero’s protest against death at sea (melding together Iliad and Odyssey). At Juno’s protest the flood subsides and he is exposed, an object (compared to a rock, 523–5) open to the hostile assaultive gaze of his Theban audience: illius exangues umeri et perfossa patescunt / pectora . . . omnisque patet leto (‘his bloodless shoulders and excavated breast lie open . . . all lies open to death’, 522–3, 528). He is part of the landscape destroyed in the violence of war, and the texture of his body is open to us in Statius’ detailed description. Like the bank he is dissolved (soluitur, 530) and loosed: cruor, aere nudo soluitur et tenues uenarum laxat hiatus, incertique labant undarum e frigore gressus. (Thebaid 9.529-31)

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his blood in the naked air is loosed and slender vents in his veins are loosed, and his uncertain steps slip from the cold of the waves.

A further simile comparing him to a falling tree (533–6, with vocabulary of loosing: laxat, 534) makes him even more part of the landscape and its dissolution. As the climax of this death, Statius gives us Thebans too frightened to touch, scarcely believing their eyes (537–9). Hypseus finishes the process by releasing his head from the helmet: toruos laxauit casside uultus (‘he loosed the fierce face from the helmet’, 541) evokes Tydeus, to whom he is linked in Hypseus’ epitaph (544–6). The intimacy in this marginal death is between hero and landscape, antagonists and audience. Gazing leads to touching: the emphasis on hot and cold, wet and dry creates a shocking closeness for the reader. We might find an explanation (or a thematization) of this blurring of boundaries, crumbling of the edges, in the death of Amphiaraus. Dis responds to the incursion of the living Amphiaraus into the underworld by declaring that he will undermine all difference: pereant agedum discrimina rerum (‘Then let the distinctions of things perish’, 8.37). The terror of viewers links the two books, as Amphiaraus plunges into the hiatus between worlds and books: ecce alte praeceps humus ore profundo dissilit, inque uicem timuerunt sidera et umbrae. (Thebaid 7.816-17) Look, the earth jumps apart in the depths headlong with a deep gape, and in turn the stars and the shades are afraid.

The beginning of the earthquake is characterized by the confusion of watching soldiers, who think the bellow of the earth is the noise of war (797–8). Book 8 begins with the wonder and horror of the underworld at the violation (rupit . . . turbauit . . . horror habet cunctos, Stygiis mirantur in oris, ‘he broke through . . . he threw into confusion . . . horror holds all, they are amazed on the Stygian shores’, 8.3-4). When Amphiaraus drives down to the underworld (7.818-21), he literalizes the conventions of describing epic death (e.g. most famously uitaque cum gemitu fugit indignata sub umbras, ‘life fled with a groan, angered, to the shades beneath at Aen.’ 12.952 of Turnus, and 11.831 of Camilla). However the trappings of this episode evoke historiography and natural philosophy. The tag arma uirosque at 798 is set in a description of the response of those fighting that echoes Livy’s description of the earthquake at Lake Trasimene (Livy 22.5.8; see Lovatt 2010: 77–9). At the climactic moment, Statius diverts into a series


War as Spectacle

of questions about possible causes of the earthquake, a topos of Lucretian poetry.24 However, Amphiaraus himself manages a successful transition to the underworld, as if an Aeneas or an Odysseus: he does not drop his weapons or his reins and remains upright as he drives into the chasm (819–20). His final gaze at the sky evokes the death of Dido (821–2).25 Interwoven like the deaths of Hippomedon and Crenaeus, Atys and Tydeus, are the deaths of Capaneus and Menoeceus. Both stand on the walls becoming both spectacle and marginal; both bodies fall into the midst of the troops. When we first encounter Menoeceus in Book 10 he is ‘surrounded by piles of corpses’ (exanimes circum cumulantur acervi, 10.655). Capaneus too is in the thick of it, pursuing hordes of enemy fighters (739–41). When Menoeceus stands on the wall he is marked out by the removal of his helmet (exempta manifestus casside nosci, ‘he is clear, well known with his helmet removed’, 759), a sacred spectacle (sacer aspectu, 757). From the wall, looking down: seque super medias acies, nondum ense remisso / iecit (‘he throws himself above the midst of the battle lines, sword not yet released’, 778–9). His body is brought gently to earth by Pietas and Virtus (780) but is not removed from the scene, until his funeral in Book 12. The Menoeceus episode is also generically marginal, with its strong links to both tragedy and historiography (Lovatt 2010: 83–5). In contrast Capaneus is hyperbolically epic, as Statius’ more intense invocation reveals (827–36), which ends, as with the death of Amphiaraus, on a multiple explanation. The death of Capaneus is a threshold that takes Statius to the extreme edge of epic, or even beyond epic norms. As with Hippomedon, the watching Thebans are showering him with missiles, including their own masonry (10.856-9; also in Eur. Phoen. 1141–2; Williams 1972: 128). The comparison to a river in flood at 864–9 evokes Hippomedon’s dissolving riverscape.26 At 877–82 Capaneus contributes to the disintegration of Thebes by pulling it to pieces single-handedly and using the masonry as weapons. Just as the river-bank could not stand up to the battle, so the walls of Thebes are torn apart.27 The angry heavens bellow like the earth (mugire, 10.922; mugit, 7.796; also Aen. 6.256; Williams 1972: 134); like Amphiaraus, too, he stands tall and does not crumble even when burnt from inside by a thunderbolt. And as with Amphiaraus, his death straddles the book boundaries: struck at the end of Book 10, he marks the walls with his flaming trail at the beginning of Book 11, and lies, still fierce (toruus adhuc uisu, 11.10), even now clutching fragments of wall (11.9). The image of a vulture emerging from his liver, and his effect on the burning fields, gives us an uncomfortable closeness to his body, even as the narrative turns away.

Death on the Margins


Too close for comfort: Tydeus Tydeus too is moved to the margins: tunc tristes socii cupidum bellare (quis ardor!) et poscentem hastas mediaque in morte negantem expirare trahunt, summique in margine campi effultum gemina latera inclinantia parma ponunt, ac saeui rediturum ad proelia Martis promittunt flentes. (Thebaid 8.728-33) Then his sad comrades drag him desiring to fight (such fire!) and demanding spears and denying that he is in the middle of death, to breathe his last, and place him on the edge of the final field, propped up on twin shields leaning against his side, and they promise, weeping, that he will return to the battles of savage Mars.

The repeated third person verbs and accusative participles emphasize Tydeus’ passivity; he is now the object of the actions of his friends. The contrast between media in morte and summique in margine campi brings out his denial: he believes he will be back in the middle, but in fact he is in the midst of death. As with Parthenopaeus, he cannot support himself and needs props. His aristeia (episode of heroic excellence) has seen him particularly densely engaged with the enemy, taking on all the ways of writing excess in epic battle: he attacks the cuneos (ranks) protecting Eteocles (672–6); he rushes into an ingens pugna uirum (‘huge fight of men’, 688–9); he tries to fight through the columns in his way and the lesser crowd (695–6); bodies are heaped around him, and everyone tries to kill him (700–2); his armour is densely packed with weapons (704–8). He is spectacular in his suicidal battle-madness: Theban and Greek gods turn their eyes (685–6); he watches his allies encouraging him (713), and he is on the cusp of apotheosis, as Athena goes to beg Jupiter for immortality (713–15). Characterization and intimacy are created by Tydeus’ denial, and gradual realization, also expressed in terms of marginality: sed et ipse recedere caelum ingentesque animos extremo frigore labi sensit, et innixus terrae . . . (Thebaid 8.733-5)


War as Spectacle

but he himself realized that the sky was more distant and his untrammelled spirits were slipping into the final cold, and he was leaning on the earth . . .

His final speech overturns the conventions of epic death scenes: he does not care about burial or bringing his body back to Argos. All he wants is the head of Melanippus. He makes personal pleas to Hippomedon, Parthenopaeus and Capaneus in terms that promise them epic glory and question their credentials. Moti omnes (They are all moved, 745): not just emotionally, but to action. The final twist of this scene, which has been well appreciated, is that this intimacy is transferred to Tydeus’ relationship with the head of Melanippus, one corpse to another: erigitur Tydeus uultuque occurrit et amens laetitiaque iraque, ut singultantia uidit ora trahique oculos seseque agnouit in illo (Thebaid 8.751-3) Tydeus pulls up and meets him with his face and out of his mind with joy and anger, when he saw the gasping face and the eyes dragged and recognized himself in that

Desire for vengeance gives a last burst of energy, uprightness, and the two come together, one almost dead, the other hardly dead, in a moment of tragic recognition. The Fury pushes him over the edge, into physical intermingling, itself a spectacle for the horrified Athena: iamque inflexo Tritonia patre uenerat et misero decus immortale ferebat, atque illum effracti perfusum tabe cerebri aspicit et uiuo scelerantem sanguine fauces (Thebaid 8.758-61) and now Tritonia had come, after persuading her father and was bringing immortal glory to the wretched man, and she catches sight of him drenched in the gore of broken brain and his throat polluted by living blood

In one moment Tydeus’ death crosses the boundary from god to beast, from hero to criminal, from epic to tragedy, an intimate spectacle that makes the reader and viewer complicit in its horror. Tydeus is so excessively involved in battle and intertwined in death with his own killer that he goes beyond what is

Death on the Margins


acceptable epic behaviour. He is taken to the edge, but demands that his enemy is brought along too; by mingling death with continued aggression he creates a spectacle, which is also unavoidably too intimate.

Conclusion There is more material which could be added: the Hopleus and Dymas episode, Statius’ reworking of Nisus and Euryalus, which takes place on the battlefield and follows their obsession with corpses, not killing but retrieving them; they come so close to success, at dawn, just outside their camp, and die on top of each other, creating burial by embrace; the mourning of Oedipus and Antigone/Argia; the final lament scene in which Evadne throws herself on the pyre. Death on the margins and at the margins is a feature of Statian epic, much more prominent than in Virgil and Homer. At the edge of battle, in the female space of domesticity, on the river-banks, on the walls, Statian heroes are taken away from the centre of epic. Equally, transition and failed transition, from boy to man, and man to god, are recurring narrative motifs. The very ground of epic and the divisions between spaces themselves are under threat. Statian death scenes are often both spectacular and intimate, in a way that reflects the tension between identification and alienation of the reader. Statius succeeds in undermining secure distinctions, by putting the margins at the centre of the spectacle.


B. Poetical, Historiographical and Philosophical Spectacles




Lyric Visions of Epic Combat The Spectacle of War in Archaic Personal Song Laura Swift The Open University

How to be a good warrior was a profound concern for ancient Greek society at all times, but the socio-political and military changes of the archaic period make it a pressing theme for the lyric poets.1 While scholars have rightly moved away from the view that lyric poetry represents the birth of a new self-consciousness,2 it remains the case that lyric is distinctive for its focus on personal experience, and that for the aristocratic males who formed the audiences at symposia, the nature and meaning of warfare was a major point of interest in their lives. Lyric is adept at creating a snapshot and rich in its use of imagery and metaphor, and so it is not surprising that it revels in vivid and visually oriented descriptions of warfare. As such, lyric poetry offers valuable insight into how war was presented as spectacle, and the social and cultural role that this type of portrayal fulfils. Many such descriptions take epic as a reference point, whether to add grandeur to contemporary battle experiences, or to challenge the Homeric perspective and suggest an alternative way of understanding warfare.3 This chapter will use case studies from across the range of elegiac, iambic, and melic poetry to discuss the spectacle of war from two opposing perspectives. The first section examines how lyric uses visually impressive descriptions to represent contemporary warfare as equivalent to the deeds of the epic heroes. This is clear in the poetry of Tyrtaeus, which reconfigures epic morality for his contemporary Spartan setting. Tyrtaeus’ aim is to inspire his listeners to martial courage and, as we shall see, his emphasis on the glamour of war is an important part of this strategy. We find similar techniques used by other lyric poets, who encourage their audiences to imagine the visual appeal of war from the safety of their drinking couches.4 This positive portrayal of warfare, and of courage on the 93


War as Spectacle

battlefield, is part of the way in which sympotic poetry develops the bonds within the group of hetairoi, for the relaxing symposiasts can take pride in being reminded of their allure as men of action. The Homeric echoes in such language not only add grandeur, but also fulfil a political and societal function by reinforcing the valuable role played by the man who conducts himself well on the battlefield. The audience is reminded of their shared cultural values and traditions, and this enhances the unity of the drinking-group.5 However, lyric poetry represents a range of perspectives, and the poets critique the epic worldview as often as they admire it. The second part of the article therefore explores a contrasting phenomenon: how the language of war as spectacle is subverted to express a viewpoint, which challenges the traditional epic outlook. This sometimes takes the form of an ironic spin on the glamour of war: as for example in fragments by Archilochus, which satirize conventional heroic values.6 An alternative strategy is adopted by the composers of erotic poems, who allude to the spectacle of the battlefield in order to replace it with a different form of worth and beauty, that of love.

Beautiful battlescapes and the drama of war A good starting point for an exploration of war as a visual drama can be found in the elegies of Tyrtaeus, poems designed to celebrate the glory of the battlefield and encourage the listener to fight with courage. In several surviving fragments, Tyrtaeus not only valorizes the brave warrior, but does so in terms that stress the visual appeal of his heroism. His descriptions of warfare achieve an almost cinematic effect,7 reminiscent of epic descriptions of the battlefield (fr. 11.21-38 W)8: ἀλλά τις εὖ διαβὰς μενέτω ποσὶν ἀμφοτέροισι στηριχθεὶς ἐπὶ γῆς, χεῖλος ὀδοῦσι δακών, μηρούς τε κνήμας τε κάτω καὶ στέρνα καὶ ὤμους ἀσπίδος εὐρείης γαστρὶ καλυψάμενος· δεξιτερῆι δ’ ἐν χειρὶ τινασσέτω ὄβριμον ἔγχος, κινείτω δὲ λόφον δεινὸν ὑπὲρ κεφαλῆς· ἔρδων δ’ ὄβριμα ἔργα διδασκέσθω πολεμίζειν, μηδ’ ἐκτὸς βελέων ἑστάτω ἀσπίδ’ ἔχων, ἀλλά τις ἐγγὺς ἰὼν αὐτοσχεδὸν ἔγχεϊ μακρῶι ἢ ξίφει οὐτάζων δήϊον ἄνδρ’ ἑλέτω,



Lyric Visions of Epic Combat

καὶ πόδα πὰρ ποδὶ θεὶς καὶ ἐπ’ ἀσπίδος ἀσπίδ’ ἐρείσας, ἐν δὲ λόφον τε λόφωι καὶ κυνέην κυνέηι καὶ στέρνον στέρνωι πεπλημένος ἀνδρὶ μαχέσθω, ἢ ξίφεος κώπην ἢ δόρυ μακρὸν ἔχων. ὑμεῖς δ’, ὦ γυμνῆτες, ὑπ’ ἀσπίδος ἄλλοθεν ἄλλος πτώσσοντες μεγάλοις βάλλετε χερμαδίοις δούρασί τε ξεστοῖσιν ἀκοντίζοντες ἐς αὐτούς, τοῖσι πανόπλοισιν πλησίον ἱστάμενοι.



But let every man stand his ground with both feet set apart, rooted firmly to the earth, biting his lip with his teeth, his thighs and shins below and his chest and shoulders covered by the bulge of his broad shield. Let him brandish his fearsome spear in his right hand, and let the plume nod terrifyingly above his head. Let him teach himself to fight by his ferocious deeds, and let him not stand out of range of missiles, since he has a shield, but go close up and fight hand to hand, stabbing with his long spear or his sword, and bring down his foe. Place foot to foot and press shield against shield, thrusting crest to crest, helmet to helmet, and chest to chest, and let him fight his man, holding his sword’s handle or his long spear. As for you light-armed men, crouch behind the shields and throw large rocks and hurl polished javelins at them in all directions, helping the heavy-armoured troops by standing close to them.

Tyrtaeus begins by focusing on the individual warrior, whose determination is vividly captured by the detail of biting the lip (22). This focus on the individual is reminiscent of epic’s focus on the leading fighters, whose arming scenes and prowess in battle are described in detail.9 As he advances to battle (27–30), the description pans out to encompass the hoplite line as a whole (31– 5) and finally the whole of the army, including the less glamorous but indispensable light-armoured troops (35–8). The narrative sweep makes for an exciting portrayal of the battle, but it also contains political overtones, as it reminds the listener that the individual warrior achieves heroism by being a cog in the larger machine of hoplite warfare.10 The warrior’s own successes are still a matter to be celebrated, and the poet refers twice to combat between two individuals (‘δήϊον ἄνδρ’ ἑλέτω’, 30; ‘ἀνδρὶ μαχέσθω’, 33). Thus Tyrtaeus draws on the glamour associated with the epic style duelling of the past, but by depicting this personal excellence as part of the larger massed battleline, he harnesses it to the fighting techniques and values of his own world. Yet the picture of these contemporary warriors owes much to epic, for Tyrtaeus uses Homeric epithets


War as Spectacle

to describe the warrior’s equipment and appearance, while in particular the image of the terrifying nodding plume (‘κινείτω δὲ λόφον δεινόν’, 26) echoes a formula used in epic arming scenes.11 The splendour of the warrior is brought out in several other fragments of Tyrtaeus, and even his death is conceptualized as something beautiful (fr. 10.1930 W)12: τοὺς δὲ παλαιοτέρους, ὧν οὐκέτι γούνατ’ ἐλαφρά, μὴ καταλείποντες φεύγετε, τοὺς γεραιούς. αἰσχρὸν γὰρ δὴ τοῦτο, μετὰ προμάχοισι πεσόντα κεῖσθαι πρόσθε νέων ἄνδρα παλαιότερον, ἤδη λευκὸν ἔχοντα κάρη πολιόν τε γένειον, θυμὸν ἀποπνείοντ’ ἄλκιμον ἐν κονίηι, αἱματόεντ’ αἰδοῖα φίλαις ἐν χερσὶν ἔχοντα — αἰσχρὰ τά γ’ ὀφθαλμοῖς καὶ νεμεσητὸν ἰδεῖν, καὶ χρόα γυμνωθέντα· νέοισι δὲ πάντ’ ἐπέοικεν, ὄφρ’ ἐρατῆς ἥβης ἀγλαὸν ἄνθος ἔχηι, ἀνδράσι μὲν θηητὸς ἰδεῖν, ἐρατὸς δὲ γυναιξὶ ζωὸς ἐών, καλὸς δ’ ἐν προμάχοισι πεσών.


Do not flee, deserting your elders, whose legs are no longer nimble. For it is shameful when an old man falls and dies in the front line before the young men. With his head already white and his grey beard, he breathes out the last of his brave spirit in the dust, grabbing at his bloody genitals with his hands and his naked skin exposed, a shameful and disgraceful sight to see. But for a young man in the shining bloom of his lovely youth, it is entirely decorous. In life men marvelled when they saw him, and women found him lovely, and he is still beautiful when he falls in the front line.

This passage too is strikingly visual, and invites the audience to imagine the battlefield in all its gory detail. Tyrtaeus here alludes to Priam’s plea to Hector in the Iliad, where he too contrasts the sights of an old and a young corpse13: νέωι δέ τε πάντ’ ἐπέοικεν Ἄρηϊ κταμένωι δεδαϊγμένωι ὀξέϊ χαλκῶι κεῖσθαι· πάντα δὲ καλὰ θανόντι περ ὅττι φανήηι· ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ πολιόν τε κάρη πολιόν τε γένειον αἰδῶ τ’ αἰσχύνωσι κύνες κταμένοιο γέροντος, τοῦτο δὴ οἴκτιστον πέλεται δειλοῖσι βροτοῖσιν. (Il. 22.71-6)

Lyric Visions of Epic Combat


For a young man it is entirely decorous when he lies dead, fallen in battle and mangled by the sharp bronze. Dead though he is, all that is revealed of him is beautiful. But when an old man is dead, and the dogs mutilate his grey head and grey beard and genitals, it is the most pitiful thing for wretched mortals.

Tyrtaeus’ adaptation of the Iliadic passage is indicative of his broader agenda, for despite the close verbal similarities, his handling of the motif differs in crucial ways. Priam’s description of the beauty of the youthful corpse is introduced only as a foil for the horror of the elderly one. His rhetorical purpose is to persuade Hector not to fight, and he is arguing that Hector’s death will lead to the sack of Troy and to his own death. The point of mentioning beautiful and ugly deaths is to warn Hector that he may achieve personal glory through a doomed stand against Achilles, but that he will do so at the cost of the destruction of his family and wider community, a moral imparted repeatedly throughout the strand of the poem that deals with Hector’s choices.14 The function of Tyrtaeus’ poem, on the other hand, is to inspire its listeners to courage in battle, and to present death as a lesser evil compared to cowardice. Thus the death of the old man is introduced as a warning of the consequences of deserting the battleline and allowing the more vulnerable to die in one’s place (19–20). Whereas Priam envisages the old man’s death as the murder of a feeble civilian, Tyrtaeus’ old man is himself an active participant in the battle. The shame in his death is not only that it appears horrible and shameful to those who witness it, but more precisely the fact that he lays down his life while the younger men hold back (‘πρόσθε νέων’, 22).15 Tyrtaeus draws on the traditional opposition between beautiful youth and ugly old age to suggest particular disgust when the fine appearance of the young men is not matched by their moral fibre. Rather than being ‘pitiful’ like the Iliadic old man (‘οἴκτιστον’, Il. 22.76), the sight of the elderly corpse is ‘shameful and disgraceful’ (‘αἰσχρά . . . καὶ νεμεσητόν’, 26), a phrase that leaves open the possibility that the disgrace is incurred by the young men who hang back before their elders rather than referring to the corpse itself. This shift is further emphasized by the reversal in the order in which the images are presented, for the glory of a youthful death is the climax of the elegiac passage. For a young man to die in battle is not only morally appropriate (‘πάντ’ ἐπέοικεν’, 27) but even beautiful, and his body is described in language that emphasizes its erotic appeal (28–9).16 The final description of the corpse as ‘καλός’ (30) leaves space for both ethical and aesthetic interpretation, suggesting once more that the glamour of war is connected to its privileged status in terms of masculine values.


War as Spectacle

Thus Tyrtaeus makes extensive use of visual imagery in his descriptions of the contemporary battlefield, and encourages his audience to imagine warfare unfurling before them. This not only makes for an exciting narrative, but is also central to the poems’ didactic goals, for Tyrtaeus uses the spectacle of war in order to convey moral messages about how to behave on the battlefield.17 This valorization of warfare is not surprising given the martial nature of Spartan society, and Tyrtaeus’ portrayal of the combat as an immediate situation led some scholars to suggest that the poems were composed for performance in a military context.18 Yet poems whose performance context is clearly sympotic also encourage their audiences to imagine the visual appeal of war from the safety of their drinking couches. For example, Alcaeus revels in the beauty of a room filled with armour (fr. 140 V), in a poem quoted by Athenaeus as an example of how the poet prioritizes martial courage (627ab): ]. . .[ μαρμαίρει δὲ ̣μέγας δόμος χάλκωι, παῖσα δ’ Ἄρηι κεκόσμηται στέγα λάμπραισιν κυνίαισι, κὰτ τᾶν λεῦκοι κατέπερθεν ἴππιοι λόφοι νεύοισιν, κεφάλαισιν ἄνδρων ἀγάλματα· χάλκιαι δὲ πασ〈σ〉άλοις κρύπτοισιν περικεί̣μεναι λάμπραι κνάμιδες, ἔρκος ἰσχύρω βέλε͜ος, θόρρακές τε νέω λίνω κόιλαί τε κὰτ ἄσπιδες βεβλήμεναι· πὰρ δὲ Χαλκίδικαι σπάθαι, πὰρ δὲ ζώματα πόλλα καὶ κυπάσσιδες. τῶν οὐκ ἔστι λάθεσθ’ ἐπεὶ δὴ πρώτισθ’ ὑπὰ τὦυργον ἔσταμεν τόδε.




The great hall gleams with bronze, and the whole roof is adorned for Ares with shining helmets, down from which nod white horse-hair crests, adornments for the heads of men. Shining bronze greaves hang on the pegs they hide, protection against a strong missile, and breastplates of new linen and hollow shields have been cast on the floor. Next to them are Calchian swords, and next to those are many belts and tunics. These are the things we can’t forget, now that we’ve taken on this task.

Alcaeus here adapts a conventional trope of sympotic poetry, for it is common to find self-referential descriptions of the symposium that praise the location

Lyric Visions of Epic Combat


and the preparations taken by the host.19 Here, however, rather than focusing on the food, drink, or sympotic paraphernalia, Alcaeus dwells on the military equipment stored in the house, encouraging his listeners to see them as decorative objects.20 The idea that armour is intrinsically beautiful can be traced back to epic, where arming scenes dwell on the warriors’ fine equipment and its lovely decoration. Alcaeus’ poem stresses the visual appeal of the armour, described repeatedly with words indicating brightness and shining (‘μαρμαίρει’, 3; ‘λάμπραισιν’, 5; ‘λεῦκοι’, 5; ‘λάμπραι’, 10). Its beauty is also foregrounded by the expressions ‘Ἄρηι κεκόσμηται’ (adorned for Ares, 4) and ‘ἀγάλματα’ (adornments, 8).21 Both phrases infuse the armour with quasi-religious significance: it is imagined as the adornment of a deity, while ‘ἄγαλμα’ is often used of gifts to the gods.22 Yet the armour’s splendour is closely aligned with its martial function, and throughout his description, Alcaeus alludes to the context in which it will be used. The motion implied by the ‘nodding’ of the crests (‘νεύοισιν’, 6) reminds us that they will soon be on the heads of men going into battle, while the image of the greaves hiding their pegs (8–10) hints at their function of concealing and protecting the legs of their wearer. In both cases, the allusion to the armour’s purpose is closely followed by a direct reference to it (‘κεφάλαισιν ἄν-/δρων ἀγάλματα’, 6–7; ‘ἔρκος ἰσχύρω βέλεος’, 10). Similarly, the idea that the shields and breastplates have been ‘thrown’ onto the floor (‘βεβλήμεναι’, 11) suggests a rout, with the defeated enemy jettisoning their heavy equipment as they run from the battleline, while the piles of swords, belts, and tunics suggest the stripping of spoils after the victory (13–14). Behind the immediate sight of the armour in storage lies a ghostly spectacle of the armed conflict for which it is meant.23 The final lines reinforce this message, as the poet reminds his audience of the importance of arms to their current situation (some form of civic discord, though the details and background are not specified), and so hints that the time to use them lies close at hand.24 While warfare is implicit rather than directly narrated in this fragment, Alcaeus, like Tyrtaeus, draws on its associations with beauty in order to bolster his audience’s resolution. It is perhaps partly this glorification of the military rather than the peaceable aspects of sympotic companionship that caused Athenaeus to describe these lines as showing that Alcaeus was ‘more warlike than he should be’ (‘μᾶλλον τοῦ δέοντος πολεμικὸς γενόμενος’, 627ab). Yet Athenaeus’ criticism also reflects the fact that the conflict is one of political stasis rather than war with an external enemy. The splendour of the armour serves a rhetorical function, for it encourages the listener to see this conflict as a noble one and downplays the negative consequences of internal discord. Similarly,


War as Spectacle

Alcaeus makes rich use of epic language to describe the arms. Lines 4–5 are evocative of epic formulae describing an arming scene; in particular ‘κατέπερθεν ἴππιοι λόφοι / νεύοισιν’ (horse-hair crests nod from above, 5–6) recalls the Homeric ‘δεινὸν δὲ λόφος καθύπερθεν ἔνευεν’ (the crest nodded terribly from above), while the greaves’ role as ‘ἔρκος ἰσχύρω βέλεος’ (protection against a strong missile) is modelled on the epic ‘ἕρκος βελέων’ (a protection against missiles).25 The use of bronze rather than iron also presents the armour as heroized, rather than being a realistic description of contemporary equipment.26 This epicizing language has an agenda, for it presents the conflict as on a par with the great deeds of the heroes of old, rather than embroiled in murky contemporary politics. Since civic discord is usually presented as hateful in Greek thought, Alcaeus may be trying to put a positive spin on a distasteful form of conflict, and so encourage his fellow symposiasts, who were presumably members of his own political grouping. A rhetorical purpose is equally apparent in Mimnermus’ description of a brave warrior (fr. 14 W): οὐ μὲν δὴ κείνου γε μένος καὶ ἀγήνορα θυμὸν τοῖον ἐμέ͜ο προτέρων πεύθομαι, οἵ μιν ἴδον Λυδῶν ἱππομάχων πυκινὰς κλονέοντα φάλαγγας Ἕρμιον ἂμ πεδίον, φῶτα φερεμμελίην· τοῦ μὲν ἄρ’ οὔ ποτε πάμπαν ἐμέμψατο Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη δριμὺ μένος κραδίης, εὖθ’ ὅ γ’ ἀνὰ προμάχους σεύαιθ’ αἱματόεν ὑσμίνηι πολέμοιο, πικρὰ βιαζόμενος δυσμενέων βέλεα· οὐ γάρ τις κείνου δηίων ἔτ’ ἀμεινότερος φὼς ἔσκεν ἐποίχεσθαι φυλόπιδος κρατερῆς ἔργον, ὅτ’ αὐγῆισιν φέρετ’ ὠκέος ἠελίοιο.



The might and warlike spirit of that man were not like (yours), as I learn from older men who saw him routing the phalanxes of the Lydian cavalry on the plain of Hermos with his ash-spear. Never did Pallas Athena find fault with his heart’s fierce might, when he rushed through the foremost fighters in the combat of bloody war, defying the sharp missiles of the enemy. No man of the enemy remained his better, when he traversed the harsh task of war, as long as he moved in the rays of the swift sun.

The portrayal of the outstanding individual singlehandedly routing the enemy evokes the Homeric aristeia, while his description as the best of all (‘οὐ γάρ τις

Lyric Visions of Epic Combat


κείνου δηίων ἔτ’ ἀμεινότερος φώς’, 9) reminds us of Achilles, the best of the Achaeans. As well as an Achilles, this warrior is also a second Diomedes, directly supported by Athena in his triumph over the massed ranks of an Asiatic foe. Indeed, as Grethlein notes, this warrior surpasses the Homeric Diomedes, for he gives no grounds for Athena to rebuke him (vs. Il. 5.800-24) and is not wounded by an enemy missile (vs. Il. 98–100).27 The description is vivid and exciting: we are encouraged to imagine the older men’s story as a visual narrative, with the details of location, military equipment, and the hero’s dynamic movement through the battleline. Yet the underlying message is accusatory, for the purpose of the narrative is not to praise the former warrior but to criticize contemporary fighters.28 Each achievement of this warrior is introduced with a negative clause (‘οὐ μὲν δή’, 1 ‘. . . οὔ ποτε πάμπαν’, 5 ‘. . . οὐ γάρ’, 9), reinforcing the idea that the warrior’s greatness is mentioned to contrast with the failings of the men of today. Mimnermus draws on the common archaic trope that mortals are in a state of decline from a superior past; however, he does not look back to the vanished mythological world of the heroes but to the previous generation, and the mighty deeds of the warrior do not require the aid of the Muses, but can be attested by the eye-witness accounts of older men (2).29 Since we lack the poem’s wider context, we should be cautious of assuming that it was accusatory overall: if, for example, the lines were spoken by a character in the heat of battle, and were followed by a description of his companions’ courageous rallying, our interpretation of the tone would be quite different.30 Nevertheless, the fragment once again reminds us that the lyric poets’ use of the spectacle of war must be read through the filter of their rhetorical goals. While lyric poetry draws on the epic grandeur of war, such martial narratives are not told for their own sake, but embedded into a broader social and poetic context.

Anti-epicizing spectacles of war The poems discussed above are cases where poets use epic associations positively, in order to suggest a kinship between epic and contemporary warfare. Yet poets can also choose to emphasize difference rather than similarity, and the second part of this chapter will therefore explore cases where the language of war as spectacle is used to challenge the epic outlook. Perhaps the most famous example is Archilochus’ ‘Shield Poem’, a (probably complete) elegy, which draws heavily on epic martial language in order to express a distinctly non-heroic viewpoint (fr. 5 W):


War as Spectacle

ἀσπίδι μὲν Σαΐων τις ἀγάλλεται, ἣν παρὰ θάμνωι, ἔντος ἀμώμητον, κάλλιπον οὐκ ἐθέλων· αὐτὸν δ’ ἐξεσάωσα. τί μοι μέλει ἀσπὶς ἐκείνη; ἐρρέτω· ἐξαῦτις κτήσομαι οὐ κακίω. Some Saian glories in my shield, that blameless armour which I left by a bush, against my will. But I saved my own skin. What’s that shield to me? To hell with it! I’ll get another one no worse.

The poem has been read since antiquity as a travesty of martial values: thus Plutarch claims that it led to Archilochus being banned from Sparta (Instit. Lac. 34), while Critias attacks Archilochus for making his shameful behaviour public (fr. 44 DK ).31 In fact, the parody of epic battle scenes is more sophisticated than is usually recognized, and Archilochus alludes to Homeric battle narrative in order to poke fun at his own narrator, as well as to critique the traditional ethos of heroism. The poem opens in the aftermath of a military encounter, as Archilochus offers a snapshot of the barbarian warrior exulting (‘ἀγάλλεται’, 1) in the capture of the narrator’s shield. The choice of ‘ἀγάλλεται’ evokes the epic trope of the warrior rejoicing in the spoils stripped from his enemy; more specifically, it may recall the image of the Homeric Hector glorying in the arms of Achilles (Il. 17.473, 18.132). ‘ἀγάλλομαι’ tends to be used negatively in the Iliad, and this resonance encourages us to perceive the barbarian warrior as arrogant, and to focalize the situation through the narrator’s eyes.32 The epic resonance elevates the status of the enemy warrior and adds grandeur to the situation. Yet Archilochus also parodies the gulf between the world of epic and his own, for in the place of a famous hero we find an anonymous barbarian described dismissively as ‘some Saian’ (‘Σαΐων τις’), with the ‘τις’ suggesting a derogatory attitude.33 The epic language also highlights the most significant difference between the Archilochean context and the battle scenes it evokes, for rather than triumphantly stripping the armour from a defeated enemy, the Saian has found an abandoned shield left by the fleeing narrator.34 The shield is described as ‘ἔντος ἀμώμητον’ (blameless armour, 2), a formula modelled on Homeric precedent but not identical with anything in extant epic.35 The Iliad regularly uses the plural form ‘ἔντεα’ of epic armour, but ‘ἔντος’ in the singular is rare, and the use of the singular draws our attention to this individual item, whose significance has already been suggested by the placing of ‘ἀσπίδι’ as the first line of the poem.36 Calling the shield ‘ἔντος’ implies it is a piece of such importance that it can stand for the whole set of equipment (‘ἔντεα’). The shield

Lyric Visions of Epic Combat


is therefore analogous to the significant pieces of armour used to identify the great epic heroes (e.g. Achilles’ shield and great ash spear, Ajax’s boar-tooth helmet). ‘ἀμώμητον’ (blameless) is significant too, for although it is found in epic along with the alternative form ‘ἀμύμων’, both words usually describe the excellence of people rather than objects.37 Using it of the shield therefore serves to personify it and increase its significance as the central symbol of the poem; moreover, ‘ἀμώμητον’ evokes ideas of blame and shame, and so raises the question of whether the narrator is attempting to cast himself as equally blameless.38 The ambiguity of the shield comes to the fore again in the last words of the poem, where the narrator consoles himself with the thought that he can get another shield ‘no worse’ (‘οὐ κακίω’, 4). In the context of a shield, we might well expect ‘κακός’ to refer to the visual beauty of the object, and the word reminds us of descriptions of fine and elaborate Homeric armour, yet ‘κακός’ in epic commonly means ‘cowardly’, and is used of men who fail to perform on the battlefield.39 The poem’s final words, therefore, summarize the poem’s central concern as to what the shield symbolizes: is it simply an object, or is it a reflection of the moral worth of its owner, and in which of these two senses should we understand ‘κακίω’? The non-spectacular nature of contemporary warfare is depicted equally vividly in fr. 114 W, where Archilochus pokes fun at the epic image of the glorious warrior: οὐ φιλέ͜ω μέγαν στρατηγὸν οὐδὲ διαπεπλιγμένον οὐδὲ βοστρύχοιϲι γαῦρον οὐδ’ ὑπεξυρημένον, ἀλλά μοι σμικρός τις εἴη καὶ περὶ κνήμας ἰδεῖν ῥοικός, ἀϲφαλέ͜ως βεβηκὼς ποσσί, καρδίης πλέως. I have no fondness for a general who is tall and takes long strides, proud of his curls and partly shaven. No, as far as I’m concerned let him be short and bandy-legged to look at round the shins, but standing firm on his feet, full of heart.

The poem is used by Dio Chrysostom (33.17) to illustrate the importance of separating appearance from true worth.40 In epic convention, the ideal is for the two to be equivalent: hence Achilles is the handsomest of the Acheans as well as the best warrior (Il. 2.674), whereas Thersites is as bad in character as he is ugly in appearance (Il. 2.213-19). Nevertheless the Homeric poems are perfectly aware of the potential gap between appearance and reality, and there are several examples of characters


War as Spectacle

who either look handsome but are less than exemplary warriors (most notably Paris, but note also the beautiful but feeble Nireus at Il. 2.673-5), or whose humble looks belie their real ability (for example Athene’s comments on Tydeus at Il. 5.801, or Antenor’s on Odysseus at Il. 3.216-24).41 Where Archilochus differs from these models is in the derogatory way he describes the tall general: rather than being impressive on the outside (even if weak within), his good looks are presented as a mockery of dandified fashion.42 Archilochus thus overturns the conventional focus on the visual impact of a mighty warrior and instead presents his general as something inherently ludicrous. The separation between appearance and reality is not fully developed until the final surviving words, where we are told the small general is ‘καρδίης πλέως’ (full of heart).43 The two generals are described in terms that begin by reflecting each other but then diverge: the description of each one begins with a comment on his height (‘μέγαν’, tall: 1; ‘σμικρός’, small: 3) followed by one on his legs and gait (‘διαπεπλιγμένον’, takes long strides: 1; ‘περὶ κνήμας ἰδεῖν ῥοικός’, bandylegged to look at around the shins: 3–4). After this, however, the two descriptions start to vary: the tall general continues to be described in terms of his appearance (2), but the focus shifts from things that may be useful on the battlefield (size and movement) to ones which are purely decorative (his hairstyle). Conversely, the description of the little general moves from external to inner qualities: ‘ἀσφαλέως βεβηκὼς ποσσί’ (standing firm on his feet, 4) is at first glance a physical description but is also loaded with normative connotations, since it alludes to the soldier’s ability to stand his ground in battle, and the progression is complete with ‘καρδίης πλέως’ (full of heart), which is entirely about his moral worth.44 The contrasting paths of the two descriptions show us the real difference between the two generals: the tall general is superficial; in place of the small general’s courage, he can only offer his fancy curls. It would be misleading to argue that Archilochus only draws on the Homeric spectacle of war in order to undermine it, for fragments survive in which he uses epic-style cinematics to celebrate military success. For example, two fragments survive that present an epicizing account of a contemporary battle, complete with the detail that Athena herself supported the poet’s side (frr. 94, 98 W). It is no coincidence that these poems were preserved on the Sosthenes Inscription, whose aim is to celebrate Archilochus’ deeds of religious and patriotic significance, and they would have been selected because they were believed to show the poet’s love for his country. The poems themselves were plausibly composed for performance on civic occasions, for example to celebrate a military success. Conversely, it is significant that the fragments discussed above were

Lyric Visions of Epic Combat


probably sympotic, and so performed in a private context where banter and mockery would have been more appropriate. Nevertheless, cynicism is a regular feature of Archilochus’ poetry, and conventional descriptions of epic battles provide him with an opportunity to play up the gulf between the grandeur of the heroic world and the sordid reality of his own. Yet lyric challenges to the epic view of warfare can take a more positive form, and it is common for the composers of erotic poems to allude to the spectacle of the battlefield in order to replace it with a different form of worth and beauty: that of love. The most explicit example is Sappho fr. 16 V, where she explicitly rejects the splendour of war: ο]ἰ μὲν ἰππήων στρότον οἰ δὲ πέσδων οἰ δὲ νάων φαῖσ’ ἐπ[ὶ] γᾶν μέλαι[ν]αν ἔ]μμεναι κάλλιστον, ἔγω δὲ κῆν’ ὄττω τις ἔραται· πά]γχυ δ’ εὔμαρες σύνετον πόησαι π]άντι τ[ο]ῦ ̣τ’, ἀ γὰρ πόλυ περσκέ ̣θ ̣ο ̣ι σ̣ ̣α κ ̣άλ λ̣ ο ̣ς ̣ [ἀνθρ̣ώπων Ἐλένα [τὸ]ν ἄνδρα τὸν ̣ ̣ [ αρ]ιστον ̣ κ ̣αλλ[ίποι]σ ’̣ ἔβα ’ς Τροΐαν πλέoι.[σα κωὐδ[ὲ πα]ῖδος οὐδὲ φίλων το[κ]ήων π ̣ά[μπαν] ἐμνάσθη, ἀλλὰ παράγα̣ ̣γ’ α ̣ὔταν ]σαν ]αμπτον γὰρ ] ] . . . κούφωστ[ ]οη.[.]ν ̣ . .]μ ̣ε ̣ νῦν Ἀνακτορί[ας ὀ]ν ̣έμναι ̣ σ’ οὐ παρεοίσας· τᾶ]ς 〈κ〉ε βολλοίμαν ἔρατόν τε βᾶμα κἀμάρυχμα λάμπρον ἴδην προσώπω ἢ τὰ Λύδων ἄρματα κἀν ὄπλοισι πεσδομ]άχεντας.





Some say a host of cavalry is the most beautiful thing on the black earth, others infantry, and others ships, but I say it is whatever one loves. It is easy enough to make this intelligible to all, for Helen, who far surpassed all other mortals in beauty, left her fine husband and sailed to Troy, and paid no thought to her child or her dear parents, but (love) led her astray. . . . lightly


War as Spectacle

. . . it reminds me of Anactoria, who is not here . . . I would rather see her lovely walk and the bright sparkle of her face than all the chariots and armed men of Lydia.

The poem takes the glamour of war as its starting point, suggesting that most people would regard a military spectacle as the most beautiful thing (‘κάλλιστον’, 3).45 The Homeric echoes in the opening lines prime us to think of set-piece epic descriptions such as the sight of the assembled troops.46 While at this point ‘κάλλιστον’ could be taken to refer to the best thing, rather than the most beautiful, as the poem goes on Sappho makes it clear that it is visual appeal that she has in mind, for ‘κάλλιστον’ is picked up by the physical beauty of Helen (‘πόλυ περσκέ ̣θ ̣ο ̣ισ̣ ̣α κ ̣άλ λ̣ ο ̣ς’,̣ 6–7), while at the end it is Anactoria’s beauty which is compared to the experience of watching an army (17–20).47 Thus, through the slipperiness of ‘κάλλιστον’, Sappho moves from a definition based on moral and military values to one based on personal and erotic ones. This shift is encoded by the surprising nature of the priamel at the end of the first stanza, for whereas we expect the narrator to finish by putting forward her own candidate for what should be considered ‘κάλλιστον’, she instead concludes that it is a subjective matter (‘κῆν’ ὄτ- / τω τις ἔραται’, 3–4).48 The relativity of erotic love as a measure of worth is then reinforced by the myth of Helen, for while her own surpassing beauty is presented as beyond doubt, the point of mentioning her is not that she is the most beautiful of all, but that love led her to abandon a man who is presented as objectively worthy (‘αρ]ιστον ̣ ’, 8).49 The correlation between erotic and martial forms of spectacle runs throughout the poem, for despite Sappho’s apparent separation of the two, the audience can perceive the figure of Helen as a bridge between them. Helen’s prioritization of erotic desire leads to a military expedition, and the mention of the army on display (1–3) and the Asian force (19–20) evokes the armies meeting at Troy. Similarly, the ‘bright sparkle’ of Anactoria’s face (‘κἀμάρυχμα λάμπρον’, 18) recalls epic descriptions of shining weaponry and armour. Sexual beauty can operate as a kind of weapon, just as Helen’s beauty damages her loved ones, an idea that connects to the common trope of erotic lyric that presents love as a violent force.50 The replacement of a military with an erotic spectacle also lies at the heart of Ibycus’ poem in praise of Polycrates (fr. S151 PMGF ). After giving an initial outline of the Trojan War, the poet reverses tack, stating that he does not wish to sing of heroic deeds (119). Yet despite this rejection of a martial theme, Ibycus goes on to conjure up the image of an epic-style battlefield in a passage that

Lyric Visions of Epic Combat


alludes to the Homeric Catalogue of Ships, when the Achaean army is presented in all its splendour (23–26): καὶ τὰ μὲ[ν ἂν] Μοίσαι σε ̣σοφι[̣ σ]μ ̣έναι εὖ Ἑλικων ̣ίδ[ες] ἐμβαίεν †λόγω[ι · θνατ[ὸ]ς δ’ ο ̣ὔ ̣ κ[̣ ε]ν ̣ ἀνὴρ διερὸ[ς] τὰ ἕκαστα εἴποι,


The skilled Muses of Helicon could easily tell the story of these things, but no mortal man could tell each detail.

The appeal to the Muses recalls the Iliadic narrator’s plea for their help, and his claim that he can only manage to describe the Achaean army with divine intervention (Il. 2.484-93).51 The lines therefore evoke the epic spectacle of war and the glorious sight of an army in its finery. The narrator begins by following Homeric precedent, referring to the ships that came to Troy and the men who came in them (27–31). Yet after listing only the two greatest heroes, Achilles and Ajax (32–4), Ibycus deviates from the epic model in a passage, which explains his reluctance to take on heroic themes, and confirms his agenda as an erotic poet (36–48): κάλλι]στο ̣ς ἀπ’ Ἄργεος Κυάνι]ππ[ο]ς ἐς Ἴλιον ] ]. [.] . . . ]α χρυσεόστροφ[ος Ὕλλις ἐγήνατο, τῶι δ’̣ [ἄ]ρα Τρωίλον ὡσεὶ χρυσὸν ὀρειχάλκωι τρὶς ἄπε ̣φθο[ν] ἤδη Τρῶες Δ[α]ναοί τ’ ἐρό[ε]σσαν μορφὰν μάλ’ ἐίσκον ̣ ὅμοιον. τοῖς μὲν πέδα κάλλεος αἰὲν καὶ σύ, Πολύκρατες, κλέος ἄφθιτον ἑξεῖς ὡς κατ’ ἀοιδὰν καὶ ἐμὸν κλέος.



Cyanippus the most handsome . . . from Argos to Troy . . . (and Zeuxippus, whom) golden-girdled Hyllis bore, and the Trojans and Greeks likened Troilus to him as thrice-refined gold to orichalc, and judged him very similar in his lovely form. Among these men, Polycrates, you will have undying glory for beauty forever, as far as song and my fame can provide.


War as Spectacle

Whereas Achilles and Ajax were described in terms that emphasized their martial ability (respectively ‘πρ[οφ]ερέστατος α[ί]χμᾶι’, foremost with the spear: 32, and ‘ἄλκι[μος’, strong: 34),52 Cyanippus is described with the more openended ‘κάλλι]στος’.53 As the narrative moves on it becomes clear that Ibycus is interested in physical beauty rather than warrior might, for the next two men mentioned, Zeuxippus and Troilus, are exceptional for their beauty, expressed by the comparison to shining precious metals.54 Whereas the Trojan War is described as a conflict over the beauty of Helen (‘Ἑ ̣λένας περὶ εἴδει ̣ ’, 5), the Greeks and Trojans are united in their appreciation of the beautiful young men. The final lines confirm a connection between beauty and glory, for Polycrates, Zeuxippus, and Troilus will all gain eternal fame because of their looks (47).55 ‘κλέος ἄφθιτον’ is a phrase loaded with Homeric symbolism, but here it is visual splendour rather than military triumph that will confer undying glory.56

Conclusion The Homeric concept of war as visually impressive pervades Greek poetry of all types, and forms a constant backdrop to lyric descriptions of war. Epic resonances are found in lyric of all categories, yet the lyric poets have great flexibility in how they rework epic conceptions to suit their contemporary listeners. Most surviving lyric was composed for a male élite audience, for whom warfare would be a regular reality and a central part of their identity. Alluding to epic models is a strategy for flattering the listener, for it implies that his own experiences of battle, however unglamorous, can be best understood by analogy with the heroes of old, and that he too is involved in an activity, which will preserve a good reputation. From the poets’ perspective, presenting the subjects of the poems as similar to the great conflicts of epic is a way of elevating their own status and the power of their poetry, as it suggests their ability to commemorate important deeds for future generations. Individual poems differ in how critical or otherwise their approach is to epic: thus the epic battlefield can be an aspirational ideal, an unattainable fantasy, or something to be rejected outright. Yet even in poems which seem to adopt epic portrayals of war enthusiastically, we should not overlook the way in which lyric poets adapt epic convention for their own rhetorical ends. For example, Tyrtaeus refashions the epic warrior in the model of a contemporary Spartan, stressing the role of the community in achieving victory, while Mimnermus brings the heroic past into recent history in order to add weight to his criticism of his

Lyric Visions of Epic Combat


contemporaries. Similarly, Alcaeus’ epicizing description of his contemporary weapons is a tactic for presenting a partisan view of the conflict in question, since it puts a positive spin on his own faction, and presents the conflict as a laudable one which will incur praise. Whereas Tyrtaeus and Alcaeus present the epic world as a model for contemporary conflict, the gulf between the grandeur of epic and the banality of the modern world is a regular concern of Archilochus’ poetry, and his presentation of the handsome but useless general suggests the ludicrousness of a contemporary fighter styling himself as an Achilles. Erotic poetry goes still further and challenges the epic perspective by presenting erotic appeal in terms that draw on the traditional association between war and beauty. Thus Ibycus envisages a battlefield where warriors are judged by their beauty rather than their prowess, and Sappho challenges the masculine assumption that splendour on the battlefield is the highest goal. Yet all of these poems rely on the audience’s familiarity with epic battlescapes, and presuppose a lively interest among communities across the Greek world in the concept of war as spectacle.



‘The Greatest Runway Show in History’ Paul Violi’s ‘House of Xerxes’ and the Herodotean Spectacle of War Emma Bridges* The Open University

In an interview for a student literary journal in 2008, New York poet Paul Violi1 was asked about the inspiration behind his poem ‘House of Xerxes’. He recalled that shortly before it was written he had subscribed to satellite television for the first time; overwhelmed by the abundance of available channels he had found one such channel which was devoted solely to broadcasting fashion shows. At the time he was also reading Robin Waterfield’s English translation of Herodotus’ Histories.2 On reaching Herodotus’ seventh book, and its catalogue of Xerxes’ troops (7.61-99) which lists by nationality the contingents of the Persian king’s invading force after the crossing of the Hellespont from Asia into Europe in 480 bce , Violi was struck by the degree of detail with which the ancient historiographer described the dress and weaponry of each separate division of Xerxes’ army and navy. Fresh from his own recent encounter with the style and language of catwalk commentaries, the poet came to think of this part of Herodotus’ narrative as having elements in common with a fashion parade; in the interview he described the Herodotean catalogue as ‘the greatest runway show in history’. The product of this combination of influences was his ‘House of Xerxes’, a contemporary poetic reworking of Herodotus’ catalogue of troops for a twenty-first-century audience, which fuses the ancient archetype with the modern world of catwalk – or ‘runway’ – fashion. What results is a spoof commentary, imagined from the point of view of a fashion reporter, on the spectacle of soldiers marching out to war armed and ready for combat. Combining as it does a parodic sketch of the light-hearted and often outlandish elements of catwalk reporting with an updated verse rendering of a section of Herodotus’ prose narrative, the poem is on one level a humorous synthesis of 111


War as Spectacle

two very different worlds and modes of expression. At the same time, however, it also provides its own deadly serious commentary on the nature of warfare and the role which it occupies in today’s society as both a visual spectacle – via the medium of television – and a source of entertainment. This chapter examines the ways in which Violi’s poem, in its use of the Herodotean model, raises questions about the nature of the television-viewing public’s exposure to, and perceptions of, war in the modern world. ‘House of Xerxes’ first appeared in a 2002 volume commissioned by the then newly-founded New York publisher Melville House and entitled Poetry After 9/11.3 The volume was an anthology of contributions by forty-five poets from New York City, each of whom had been asked to write a poem which was not necessarily directly about the events of 9/11, but which enabled readers – and the writers themselves – to think about the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks. Six years after its first publication (when it had been republished in a 2007 volume of his work entitled Overnight), Violi himself referred to ‘House of Xerxes’ as ‘serious satire against the Iraq war’, commenting that he was ‘astounded by how the press ignored or downplayed the argument over why the US was invading Iraq, and as a blatant red herring, or so it seemed, played up “embedded” reporters who appeared more interested in what soldiers were wearing or their video game weaponry than on (sic) dealing with the reasons advanced to justify the invasion’ (Geurtsen 2008). In light of the fact that the poem was written before the US -led invasion of Iraq, these comments suggest that Violi himself saw his work as taking on fresh significance in the wake of the military action of the second Gulf War. After Violi’s death in 2011, the sentiment was later reiterated by one of the co-editors of the volume that had first featured ‘House of Xerxes’; in his obituary for the poet, Dennis Johnson (also a co-founder of the publishing house which had originally produced the work) described the piece as ‘One of the best anti-war poems ever’, suggesting that it ‘spoke to the aftermath [of 9/11] in a way no one else did’ and surmising that Violi ‘wanted to comment on the government’s rush to attack someone in return. To resort to the ultimate absurdity, as it were’ (Johnson 2011). In their foreword to a new edition of Poetry After 9/11 published to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the terror attacks, the editors would also allude to the apparent prescience of Violi’s poetic vision, writing there that ‘The late Paul Violi’s hilarious but ultimately terrifying “House of Xerxes” . . . was sadly prophetic about what was to come, which was what had come a million times before’ (Johnson and Merians 2011: vii). It is perhaps precisely this timelessness of the theme of war, as a recurrent historical event familiar to every successive generation, which makes the reinvention of an

‘The Greatest Runway Show in History’


ancient theme in a new context appealing to a contemporary writer; while the personnel, and the ideological issues or territory at stake, may change, an awareness of armed combat remains a part of the human experience in every historical era. In looking to an ancient Greek model as a means of provoking discussion concerning the impact of war upon contemporary society, Violi is far from alone. The ability of Athenian tragic drama to provoke critical thinking on the complex moral issues surrounding war is well documented;4 critics both in the US (McNulty 2004) and the UK (Billington 2004) noted the upsurge in theatrical productions of Greek tragedy from 2003 onwards in response to the Iraq war. More recently the Theater of War project and the Aquila Theatre’s Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives programme have focused in particular upon using ancient drama as a means of engaging with veterans of conflict and their families, as well as with the wider American public.5 The Homeric epics too have served as a focal point for modern creative artists’ engagement with the theme of war. Alice Oswald’s 2011 Memorial reworks in English the Iliadic catalogues of dead soldiers in such a way as to highlight the insanity of war (Womack 2011; Kellaway 2011). Meanwhile Simon Armitage, in the introduction to his play The Last Days of Troy, which premiered in the UK in 2014, describes the story of Troy as a ‘blueprint for a conflict which rages to this day’ (Armitage 2014: vi); elsewhere he has suggested that the Greeks’ pretext for the attack on Troy and all its riches – the theft of Helen – might be seen as an ancient parallel to western assertions, prior to the invasion of 2003, that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (Gardner 2014).6 The appeal of these ancient texts for modern writers and directors lies perhaps in their ability both to entertain their audience and to stimulate thoughtful and morally complex responses. While both epic and tragedy serve as performed spectacles – one as oral poetry, the other as staged theatre – neither shies away from the horror or pathos of war and each has the capacity to elicit a range of emotional reactions – among them shock, fear, sympathy and outrage – from its audience.7 Yet the Herodotean text, which Violi selected as the basis for his reworking of an ancient theme, is one which has received considerably less attention in modern adaptations than either Homeric epic or Athenian drama. Nonetheless, Herodotus’ text, like both its epic predecessors and the tragic performances of the historian’s own era, allows for a multifaceted response to the armed conflict which it describes. As orally-performed narrative, the Histories was conceived of both as a means of entertaining an audience and of seeking to explain and describe the origins and course of a conflict – the Persian Wars. The emphasis on


War as Spectacle

displaying to his audience the events of that conflict in order to maintain a lasting record is apparent from the very opening of the text, as Herodotus’ proem asserts his desire to show to his audience what has gone before; the Greek term he uses there to define his work is ἀπόδεξις, which can carry the meaning of ‘exhibiting’ or ‘showing’ as well as ‘setting forth’. This is a text which deals, therefore, both with the spectacular aspects of conflict and with its attendant moral complexities. In seeking both to explain and to entertain, Herodotus does not shy away from the horrors of war, demonstrating throughout his text that armed conflict can be a source of great pain as well as great glory (Tritle 2006). If his text is both spectacular and moralizing in its scope, then, it becomes a fitting source for a new work critiquing the way in which modern-day mass media representations of war seek to sensationalize combat at the expense of fostering critical thinking upon its moral complexities. Violi’s chosen episode – the catalogue of Persian troops observed by Xerxes, itself a snapshot of the spectacular element of military action – offers the ideal entry point for his satirical commentary upon the media spectacles of the contemporary era.

Cataloguing Xerxes’ army: the Herodotean archetype Herodotus’ descriptions of the contingents of the Persian army, upon which Violi modelled his poem, are themselves situated within a literary tradition which dates back to the epic catalogues found in the Homeric poems;8 the earliest surviving literary examples of catalogues of Xerxes’ troops, however, are those which feature in Aeschylus’ tragic play Persians, first produced in 472 bce , eight years after the Greeks’ defeat of Xerxes at Salamis. In the play’s parodos (21–58) the Chorus’ roll-call of the Persian forces and their commanders reads like an epic catalogue familiar from Homeric poetry.9 Placed at the start of the play, before the Chorus learns of Xerxes’ defeat at the hands of the Greeks, it serves to create in the minds of the audience a visual image, which emphasizes the vast size of Xerxes’ army, and the extent of the threat presented by the invading force. Later in the play, however, catalogues of Persians are not celebrations of victory and military might but are instead used to highlight the extent of the great losses suffered by the Persians at the hands of the Greeks. On his return from Persia the tragic messenger lists the Persians who lost their lives in battle (302–30), and in the play’s final scene – in which the full scale of Xerxes’ reversal is revealed to the audience – the Chorus, as part of their lamentations at the play’s close, catalogue the names of Xerxes’ now-lost comrades (956–61, 967–72, 981–5, 993–9); here

‘The Greatest Runway Show in History’


the effect is to reinforce the impression of the overwhelming reversal inflicted upon the defeated king by the victorious Greeks.10 It is in Herodotus’ prose description of Xerxes’ invasion, however, that the catalogue of Persian troops is given its most detailed treatment in extant Greek literature.11 Unparalleled in length and detail by any other such catalogue in his work,12 Herodotus’ record of the forces which accompanied Xerxes during the invasion of 480 bce comes at the point in his narrative where the king’s army makes the crossing from Asia into Greece by way of a bridge of boats across the Hellespont; this act in itself would, in the Greek tradition, come to symbolize the arrogance and transgressive behaviour of the Persian king who dared to attempt to join two continents in this way.13 Like Aeschylus’ presentation of Xerxes’ militia, Herodotus’ account also highlights the overwhelming size of the Persian armament; in his portrayal of the Persian invasion he, like many writers after him, lays stress on the fact that the Greeks were utterly outnumbered.14 In keeping with his claim that Xerxes’ army was the largest of any campaign ever known (7.20.2), Herodotus asserts, for example, that the size of the Persian force was so great that it took seven days and seven nights for it to cross the Hellespont (7.56.1). Prior to embarking upon his recitation of the catalogue of troops, the historian also gives specific figures, putting the number of Persian land forces at 1,700,000 (7.60.1) and later telling us that the king’s navy consisted of 1,207 triremes, along with transport ships (7.89.1).15 His extensive catalogue – thirtynine chapters in total – serves to display the might of Xerxes and the vast resources which the king had at his command. For Herodotus, however, the inclusion of such a catalogue is not merely a means of emphasizing Persian power and wealth; it also allows him to indulge his interest in ethnographic detail, which occasioned Violi’s comparison of the display to a fashion show. The historian, in a demonstration of his own knowledge and ability as a narrator, meticulously records the appearance of individual contingents (numbering sixty-seven in total, including infantry, cavalry and navy), providing information on the headgear, clothing and weapons of each unit as well as naming their commanders and at times offering further details about the ethnic origins of each group. An extract from the text, in this case giving Herodotus’ description of the Assyrians, offers a flavour of the type of information and the level of detail that Herodotus provides throughout the catalogue (7.63, trans. Waterfield 1998): The Assyrian contingent wore on their heads either bronze helmets or plaited helmets of a peculiarly foreign design which is hard to describe.


War as Spectacle

Their shields, spears and daggers resembled Egyptian ones, and they also carried wooden clubs with iron studs, and wore linen breastplates. These are the people the Greeks call Syrians, but they were called Assyrians by the Persian invaders. Their commander was the son of Otaspes the son of Artachaees.

When details such as this are reported for one nation after another in rapid succession over an extended portion of the text, the overall impression created by the catalogue as a whole is one of the sheer diversity of the nations that Xerxes had under his command. Herodotus’ account thus acts as a graphic illustration of the geographical reach of Persian dominion; as such it might be seen to reflect in textual form the visual representations of the Achaemenid kings’ subjects seen on the spectacular monumental relief sculptures at Persepolis, in which figures bringing tributes to the king are differentiated by their clothing and appearance in order to represent the subject-nations of the Persian empire.16 For the audience of Herodotus’ account, the act of reading – or, in the text’s ancient context as orally-performed narrative, that of listening to – the catalogue provides us with a striking impression of the visual spectacle of the massed Persian army marching out to war. Here the sense of scale is conveyed by the sheer length of the list of contingents that we are given; that Herodotus fleshes out the picture by offering a commentary on the appearance of each separate section of the army gives the catalogue a cinematic feel matched in the modern world by the kind of digitized renderings of Xerxes’ army on the march seen in the 2007 Hollywood movie 300, and its 2014 sequel 300: Rise of an Empire.17 Within Herodotus’ narrative, however, there is also an emphasis on the Persian king’s own viewing of the spectacle of his troops on display before him; in this respect the display of massed military might foreshadows the military parades presided over by heads of state in modern times, often – as in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union – with the intention of exhibiting power as a means of stifling opposition (see Van Steen, Ch. 15 in this volume, for a discussion of the use of such parades by the twentieth-century Greek military dictatorship). For Herodotus, this is also part of a broader element of the historian’s characterization of Xerxes, by means of which the king is presented as being acutely concerned with surveying and recording the scale of his military assets, as first exemplified in his observation of the army and navy from the vantage point of his throne at Abydus prior to the crossing into Greece (7.44-5).18 The image of the king viewing the military forces at his command is a recurring motif in the Herodotean narrative of the invasion; Xerxes’ misplaced confidence that, given the size of his

‘The Greatest Runway Show in History’


militia, he could not possibly fail in his mission to enslave Greece is a key element of the historiographer’s characterization of the king.19 Indeed, it is Xerxes’ review of his forces at Doriscus before the march onward to the Greek mainland (7.59.2-3) which provides the occasion for the inclusion of Herodotus’ catalogue of troops.20 Herodotus concludes his catalogue by relating how Xerxes, mounted in a chariot, rode among the units of the army so that he might review them individually and have his scribes record his findings; the king is then said to have boarded a ship so that he might do the same for the naval contingents (7.100).21 Just as Xerxes is said to have viewed each different division in turn we, as readers of (or listeners to) the Herodotean text, are also given a pictorial rendering of the individual sections of the massed Persian force; it is this series of vivid visual snapshots that Violi, with his modern reworking, sought to reproduce in condensed poetic form. The catwalk setting of the twenty-firstcentury adaptation forms an ideal backdrop against which the poet is able to recreate both the sense of pageantry apparent in Herodotus’ account and the visually striking impression which the text conveys to its audience; the modern catwalk is itself designed with the specific purpose of showcasing fashion (and the models who wear it) as a spectacle. Here the reader of Violi’s poem becomes both imagined listener (to the commentary of the poem’s internal narrator) and imagined viewer, either as an onlooker at the catwalk event being described, or as a spectator of a televised broadcast of the show.

Manipulating the model(s): Violi’s fashion parade Here come those splendid Persians! We were expecting fireworks And here they are! Short bows, long arrows, Colorful long-sleeve shirts Under iron breastplates – Nice fish-scale pattern on those breastplates. Just the right beach touch, very decky. Quivers dangling under wicker-worky shields, A casual touch, that. And those floppy felt caps Make it very wearable, very sporty.


War as Spectacle

Huge amounts of gold, A killer-look feel But it still says A Day at the Shore. (Violi in Johnson and Merians 2011: 71)

So begins Violi’s modern-day vision of Xerxes’ army; taking his cue from Herodotus he too introduces to us the Persian contingent as the first cohort of his poetic display. A comparison with Waterfield’s translation makes it immediately apparent that the poet has taken the vocabulary which he found there and used it as the basis for his descriptions of the soldiers’ clothing in his own fashion show (7.61.1, trans. Waterfield 1998): First, there were the Persians, dressed as follows. On their heads they wore tiaras, as they call them, which are loose, felt caps, and their bodies were covered in colourful tunics with sleeves of iron plate, looking rather like fish-scales. Their legs were covered in trousers and instead of normal shields they carried pieces of wickerwork. They had quivers hanging under their shields, short spears, large bows, arrows made of cane, and also daggers hanging from their belts down beside their right thighs.

Thus does Violi pick out the key descriptive features of Herodotus’ account in order to adorn his own Persian soldiers with felt caps, iron breastplates with a fish-scale pattern, and wicker shields; he condenses other elements of the ancient text for impact (‘Short bows, long arrows’ replaces Herodotus’ lengthier report of the weaponry) and adds further colour by giving his Persian contingent ‘Huge amounts of gold’, a detail which Herodotus provides later when he describes the appearance of the 10,000 Persian Immortals, Xerxes’ hand-picked troops (7.83.2). The abbreviated poetic format of Violi’s work, along with his concern to highlight the catwalk setting and therefore to pick out particularly colourful details, may account for his decision to dwell less on the weaponry and technology of ancient warfare than his ancient model; this contrasts with, for example, the way in which Greek epic and lyric poetry dwells lovingly on warriors’ arms and armour as part of their display of warfare.22 In addition to his core description, Violi also highlights the performative element of his speaker’s role – itself an integral part of the show being staged here for the ‘viewer’ of the scene – by adding some idiomatic phrases and gushing exclamations to convey the impression that we are listening to a live commentary on a catwalk procession and to place this ancient military parade very much in a contemporary context. Comments on the overall appearance of the soldiers – ‘Just

‘The Greatest Runway Show in History’


the right beach touch, very decky’; ‘very wearable, very sporty’ – mimic the language of fashion journalism to describe their outfits in terms appropriate to the imagined setting. The overall look, the speaker suggests, might be termed ‘A Day at the Shore’, a humorously appropriate title for this fashion collection given the coastal location of Xerxes’ review of his troops in Herodotus’ original version. What results is pure theatrical (or televisual) spectacle. Here the voice in which the narrative is related is that of a commentator utterly enthralled by his subjectmatter and absorbed by the superficial trappings of the figures he is describing, with the resultant effect that the voice we hear in the poem glosses over the fact that what we are seeing displayed before us is in fact a human killing machine. Yet Violi does hint already in this opening stanza at the looming menace of an army on the march. By using deliberately ambiguous vocabulary with a metaphorical meaning, which is not out of place in the context of the fashion parade, he reminds his reader of the real purpose of the armour and weapons; we can expect ‘fireworks’ from these models whose kit has a ‘killer-look feel’. This combination of authentic Herodotean detail with interjections from the commentator relating to the practicality or stylish qualities of the garments on display typifies Violi’s ensuing descriptions of other contingents of the army in the rest of his poem. He selects for inclusion those cohorts for whom Herodotus provides us with some of the most colourful and flamboyant detail. Next come the Assyrians with their ‘bronze helmets’, ‘plaited headgear’ and wooden clubs with iron studs (7.63.1); they are followed by the Bactrians with their ‘cane bows’ (7.64.1). The Sacae (Scythians) are given a mention for their ‘pointed helmets and loose trousers’ (7.64.2), and the cohort of Sarangae, described by Herodotus as being ‘conspicuous for their coloured clothing’ (7.67.1) features as ‘the most colorful yet’; here Violi adds his own touch of detail and has them wearing ‘A lot of lavender, a lot of white and blue’, which, in keeping with the camped-up style of the voiceover, his fashion-conscious commentator describes somewhat absurdly as ‘Colorama glamorama’. The description of the Sarangae concludes with a question which suits the exaggerated enthusiasm of the imagined speaker but which once again might also be interpreted to hint ominously at the much darker side of the militaristic display: ‘Just what are these boys up to?’ While the poetic medium used in Violi’s new work achieves its effect by condensing the Herodotean catalogue and omitting many of the contingents for whom Herodotus supplies only the barest details, the poet incorporates stanzas on several more of the peoples who are given the most attention and colour in the ancient historiographical narrative. He selects from his ancient model what is most useful to him in this new setting and reworks it to suit his immediate


War as Spectacle

purpose. Thus he appropriates Herodotus’ interest in ethnography for a new audience, choosing for inclusion the nationalities that provide him with the most scope for adding elaborate and eye-catching items of costume in order to create a vivid picture in the mind of his reader. In line with Herodotus’ text, for example, Violi gives his Ethiopians in particular close scrutiny: Oh, how can you not love These madcap Ethiopians. Leopard skins and lion pelts, Long, long bows made of palm fronds. Stone arrowheads, not iron, mind you. And matching signet rings. Details, details a must If you want to gain that total look. Spear heads made of gazelle horns. Now that is a new twist. And who thought of this – body paint! Half white chalk, half ochre. The all around mix and match A big directional, indeed. Check out the headgear! A horse’s scalp Including ears and mane For cryin’ out loud. The mane a crest, the ears stiff and upright Very jaunty, very focused. Somebody pinch me! (Violi in Johnson and Merians 2011: 73)

Once again the components of the soldiers’ outfits are based on Herodotus’ description, sometimes with a new twist to modernize the image. Here, for example, the poet makes particular play with Herodotus’ description of the arrowheads used by the Ethiopians; where Herodotus tells us that these were made not of iron but of sharpened stone of the kind usually used to engrave signet-rings (7.69.1), the poet actually gives his updated Ethiopians rings to match their arrows. The elaborate description of the warriors’ appearance is closely akin to that of the ancient text; the animal pelts, bows made of palm fronds and chalk and ochre body paint all feature in the Herodotean account, as do the headdresses made of horses’ scalps, which Herodotus tells us were worn by the Asian Ethiopians (7.70.2). Once again the poetic report is peppered with

‘The Greatest Runway Show in History’


interjections from the commentator, who observes each new item of clothing with gleeful exclamations of approval. In keeping with the genre of the fashion commentary, which Violi satirizes in the piece, it is the level of detail about the materials, styles and colours with which Xerxes’ army is adorned that initially strikes the reader. The list goes on; we are treated to the sight of leather-clad Libyans, their spears with burnt tips (cf. Herodotus 7.71), Paphlagonians wearing plaited helmets and boots reaching halfway up their shins (cf. 7.72), Thracians sporting fox-skin caps, colourful tunics and fawn-skin boots (cf. 7.75), and Pisidae with helmets shaped into ox horns and legs wrapped in red cloth (cf. 7.76). Finally, the outfits modelled by Violi’s Cyprians are an amalgamation of those worn by several different contingents in Herodotus’ account; they have the turbans which Herodotus records as having been worn by the Cyprian royal families (7.90), the clothing and weapons said by Herodotus to have been those of the Lycians (high greaves, goatskin capes, feather-trimmed felt caps, daggers and billhooks: (7.92)), and the ‘untreated ox-hide vests’ which belong in the ancient account to the Cilicians (7.91). The overall impression that is created is one of a visual feast; we, as readers, listeners or imagined viewers, are swept along by the voice-over and, like the commentator, become immersed in the trivialities of each description and the enthusiasm of the narrator’s voice, with its stream of exaggerated interpolations: ‘Now how cute is that?’ he asks as he describes the Paphlagonians’ boots; of the Thracians’ appearance he comments appreciatively – and alliteratively – ‘You know just how great / Their gorgeous garb makes them feel.’ This army has been transformed into a parade of mannequins marching not onto a battlefield but along a catwalk, with the attendant glamour and excitement; thus the ‘House of Xerxes’ of the poem’s title is not the king’s royal genealogical line – as readers familiar with the ancient historical context might expect – but becomes instead the name of a fashion label showing off its new collection for the entertainment of the viewing public.

War as televisual spectacle As a parody of the idiom and format of the catwalk commentaries that he had heard on television, Violi’s poem is highly successful; a key element of its success as a piece of comedy is the transplantation of the elements of Herodotus’ catalogue of the Persian army to an entirely contrasting context, worlds away from the original setting in time, distance and cultural milieu. Yet the reader


War as Spectacle

need not necessarily be familiar with Herodotus’ text to appreciate the incongruity of the description of a band of armed fighters set against the glitzy televisual backdrop of a fashion runway. Despite the unfamiliar names of the nations listed, and the at times archaizing detail which relates specifically to the clothing worn by Xerxes’ troops (garments made from animal skins, bronze helmets, body paint and so on), the timeless theme of armed conflict is one which is familiar to any contemporary audience. In the modern world, where media reporting of conflicts around the world is a part of the daily news offering, the television-viewing public is accustomed to watching close-up and often graphic images of war. It is in this context that Violi’s poem acts as a disconcerting commentary upon the role of the media – not in promoting the fashion industry but instead as a vehicle through which the public experiences military action from a distance. Television in particular can be a powerful tool in shaping viewers’ emotional responses to war, which is transformed into a media spectacle and played out on screen before them, as they watch from the safety of their own homes.23 The first Gulf War in 1991 was the first war to be broadcast live on television;24 when military action ended, US news network CNN cashed in on its coverage of the war by selling the ‘highlights’ on videotape (Kakutani 2003). Advances in technology and the development of new methods of news coverage have meant that since then we, as the viewing public, have been given ever-increasing access to action taking place on the front line.25 Twenty-four-hour rolling news coverage on television and the continuous availability of online media now allow us to view events in the field as they happen. Since the more recent conflict in Iraq in 2003, the practice of using ‘embedded’ journalists to report from the front line has brought viewers closer to the day-to-day work of the armed forces, at times making war reportage more akin to the genre of ‘reality television’ than to the predominantly studio-based reporting of times past; this style of journalism allows audiences to gain a far closer insight into the lives of soldiers than was previously possible.26 In this sense, then, war – real live war, as it happens – might be seen to have become increasingly a source of entertainment, no longer a rarely-seen event, but rather an ongoing and evolving spectacle which may be accessed by anyone at any time.27 At the same time, developments in modern forms of graphic entertainment – in particular video games – also allow for spectators to have ever more ‘realistic’ experiences of warfare without leaving the morally uncomplicated comfort of their armchair; games based on the events of both the first and second Gulf Wars, as well as the recent conflict in Afghanistan, have been developed.28 In its most extreme form, this notion of war as a form of

‘The Greatest Runway Show in History’


entertainment and a spectacle for the amusement of the viewer has manifested itself in recent years in the existence of online resources – so-called ‘war porn’ sites – dedicated to the apparent glorification of the bloody carnage of combat.29 One controversial website in particular, which existed from 2004 until it was shut down in 2006, and which was described by one critic as a ‘stomach-churning showcase for the pornography of war’ (Zornick 2005), functioned as a bank of images with which US troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan were invited to share their own personal photographs of violent combat scenes for the gratification of other users. Such digitized transmission of images from the front line, while offering viewers new ways of gaining an insight into events which previously were reported at one remove, can also mean that it becomes all too easy to forget that the violence is real, and has actual – and often devastating – consequences for the human participants in the action.30 Violi’s ‘House of Xerxes’ offers a satirical critique of the tendency to present the deadly business of war as just one more form of readily-available entertainment in the modern world. In the first place, Violi’s description of the Persian army marching to war is a strikingly impersonal commentary; his Herodotean catwalk show presents to us faceless groupings of fighters listed by nationality, without individual names or defining personal characteristics. In this respect his version of the catalogue of troops differs from Herodotus’ account, which does at least – in the manner of the catalogues of its poetic predecessor, the Iliad – provide the names of the commanders of each contingent (giving their patronyms too in most cases), and which on some occasions supplies further details regarding the individual leaders.31 As in the case of a voiceover describing models on a catwalk, however, the description of the catwalk warriors in Violi’s poem does not focus upon the human beings beneath the exterior adornments, but instead concentrates entirely upon their clothing and armour. So absorbed are we, the audience, in the detail of their apparel and military hardware that it would be easy to overlook the fact that the function of this massed band of warriors is not merely to act as mannequins parading the clothes they wear but to inflict damage and death upon other human beings and, in turn, to risk their own lives as they do so. The contrast of the frivolous world of fashion and the grim realities of war could not be starker. For the reader of Violi’s poem familiar with the Herodotean context of his catalogue, the contrast between contemporary depictions of warfare in the mass media and that of the ancient model also allows for further reflection on the ethical complexities inherent in communicating the stories of war to an audience. If Violi’s satirical work implies that some modern televised and cinematic


War as Spectacle

perspectives on conflict are devoid of a moral compass in providing an oversimplification which glorifies the spectacle of combat for its own sake, this serves to highlight the contrast with Herodotus’ own sensitivity both to the gruesome and moving elements of warfare,32 and to the fact that for the ancient author there can rarely be a straightforward assessment of who is right and who is wrong; for Herodotus ‘there are heroes and villains on both sides’ in the Greco– Persian conflict (Gruen 2011: 80).33 By contrast with the majority of the population of the western world in the twenty-first century, many of the members of Herodotus’ ancient audience would themselves have had direct experience of armed conflict,34 and therefore be only too aware of the realities of military action. In comparison with, for example, the grossly oversimplified ‘good versus bad’ approach seen in Hollywood’s recent interpretations of the Persian Wars in 300 (2007) and 300: Rise of an Empire (2014),35 Herodotus’ account can raise moral questions about the rights and wrongs of the actions of all parties in the conflict which it describes at the same time as entertaining his audience. Violi’s choice of model thus serves as a powerful corrective to the disturbing trend towards war as pure entertainment, which he seeks to scrutinize. In this respect ‘House of Xerxes’ demonstrates that, like both Homeric epic and Athenian tragedy, ancient historiography can serve as a stimulus for critical thinking in order to challenge an audience to reflect upon issues of contemporary moral significance. Thus Violi’s poem, in responding to and reworking the ancient text, places the past and present in dialogue with one another;36 in doing so it both encourages the reader to reflect on a contemporary phenomenon – the representation of war by the mass media – and throws into relief key elements which characterize the Herodotean narrative’s engagement with the theme of armed conflict. Violi’s work, too, seeks to bring to his readers’ attention the notion that amid the visually transfixing spectacle of war lies a more disturbing reality that can at times be obscured if our attention is focused too closely upon the display of combat for its own sake. Amid the gushing admiration that Violi’s narrator heaps upon his subjects’ appearance, there are hints throughout ‘House of Xerxes’ of the more menacing aspect of the troops’ attire; just as his Persians, with whom the poem opens, are said to wear kit with a ‘killer-look feel’, this distasteful element of the display is alluded to in the descriptions of other contingents too. As with the opening section of the commentary, Violi uses language which is not incongruous in the fashion-show setting, but which nonetheless alludes to the real function of the equipment on parade. In a brief nod to the impending carnage, for example, the Sacae (Scythians) are described as sporting a look that

‘The Greatest Runway Show in History’


is ‘apocalyptic but functional’ (the word ‘apocalyptic’ will also be echoed later, in the poem’s final stanza); further on, the Libyans with their leather gear – in a reference which hints at twenty-first-century methods of warfare as well as describing their apparel – are twice said to inspire a ‘bomber-jacket feeling’. The Paphlagonians, described in one breath as ‘cuties’, make their entrance by marching, and are described as being ‘overloaded’ with weapons, although, in a swift reminder of the imagined context for this excess of armaments, the commentator asks, with his by now customary breathless enthusiasm, ‘Why in heaven’s name not?’ It is in the poem’s final stanza, however, where the poet makes his most explicit references to the darker side of this visual spectacle: They are having a good time up there Rough and raw yet a lot of flash. Lavish, zippy, sleek. How can we take this all in? Where is it all going? An Etude for today’s world. A dressy apocalyptic beach look. A high-octane action look. A premium blend of guts And sass and imagination. Feel the frenzy. A big round of applause for the whole spectrum, For the very big directional That can’t help but whip it up. Today we’re making history. We’re raising cane. (Violi in Johnson and Merians 2011: 76)

The impact of the poem’s conclusion lies primarily in its use of terminology – ‘Rough and raw’, with a ‘high-octane action look’ – which might be more at home in a review of an action movie than on a catwalk. That the choice of vocabulary here calls to mind a form of popular entertainment whose lifeblood is largescale, often violent, spectacle is another reminder of the way in which a focus on crowd-pleasing special effects and dramatic language can glamorize or even obscure completely the realities of combat. Here Violi moves further away than before from the Herodotean model into a summary of the preceding parade in which the speaker (and therefore, by implication, the viewer) has become utterly


War as Spectacle

immersed in this spectacular prelude to the violent action of battle. Yet this, we are reminded in an echo of the earlier description of the Sacae, is an ‘apocalyptic’ vision; what is to follow will doubtless be catastrophic for those whose costume is not mere adornment to be removed at the end of the show but is instead a visible sign of the deadly mission upon which they are embarking. It is in the phrase ‘A premium blend of guts / And sass and imagination’, however, that Violi’s commentary makes perhaps its most crucial point. While the reference to ‘guts’ might have a dual meaning, relating either to the courage of the soldiers or to the blood which is to be spilled in battle, it is the reference to ‘imagination’ which alerts us to a fundamental problem that occurs when war becomes something which the public sees taking place on our television or computer screens. This image, suggests Violi, is a fantasy – an invented vision of glamour, which bears little resemblance to the horrific reality of warfare. Violi leaves it deliberately unclear as to whether the ‘frenzy’ that results from seeing this vision is that experienced by the viewer, the commentator, or the troops themselves; as our fashion critic demands a round of applause in appreciation of the display, we too become complicit in the act of perceiving the scene as a spectacle purely for our enjoyment. In this closing section, the imaginary narrator also moves from describing his subjects in the third person to, in the final pair of lines, using the first-person plural as he apparently begins to identify with the figures before him, forgetting of course that while they are in mortal danger he is experiencing the action at one remove. The note on which the poem ends is an almost triumphal one in which the speaker colludes with the spectator or reader in delight at what has gone before and, implicitly, what is to come: ‘Today we’re making history. / We’re raising cane.’37 The voice, at the peak of the speaker’s excitement, could be that of a news anchor commenting on a military campaign and keeping viewers hooked in anticipation of what is to come; this is war well and truly packaged as entertainment.38 While Herodotus too was in the business of keeping an audience – in his case one who knew already the ultimate outcome of the conflict he described – entertained, the danger highlighted by Violi is that of seeing military spectacle purely as a form of entertainment without any attendant critical thinking or moral reasoning. Twenty-first-century satellite television broadcast and the writings of an ancient Greek historiographer are worlds apart; so too are the theatres of war and the fashion industry. By fusing apparently unrelated genres in order to examine the elements of war that might be deemed to be ‘spectacular’ in both ancient and modern society, Violi’s ‘House of Xerxes’ juxtaposes the deadly serious with the indulgently trivial in such a way as to provoke timely reflection

‘The Greatest Runway Show in History’


upon the way in which today’s viewing public engages with armed conflict as it is projected by the mass media. In doing so the poet casts new light both upon the Herodotean text as a morally complex narrative of conflict and upon the need for our own society to consider the extent to which our experience of war is conditioned by the agenda of media production companies. When he first wrote the poem, Violi could not yet have predicted how the 2003 invasion of Iraq would play out on our television screens, yet his work raised the crucial question of whether continued exposure to news coverage which both glamorizes and dramatizes events might lead to a fascination with the most trivial of details, and run the risk of obscuring the bigger moral questions or leading us to forget the real and devastating consequences of war. In Violi’s own words, ‘this is warfare and we are susceptible to the excitement, the verbal and visual spectacle, which distracts us from the madness of the reality’ (Geurtsen 2008).



Plato’s Cinematic Vision War as Spectacle in Four Dialogues (Laches, Republic, Timaeus and Critias) Andrea Capra Università degli Studi di Milano

Plato’s parable of the cave touches on war only marginally, and yet I cannot resist the temptation to begin my chapter with a few words about it. Plato’s spectacular description of the conflict between shadows and reality, or between ignorance and philosophy, shares with other ancient texts a surprising cinematic quality.1 Contemporary ‘filmosophy’ abounds in references to what is arguably the Republic’s most famous passage, and as early as 1941 such a distinguished Platonist as F. M. Cornford suggested that ‘A modern Plato would compare his Cave to an underground cinema, where the audience watch the play of shadows thrown by the film passing before a light at their backs’ (Cornford 1941: 228). On the creative side, it is worth remembering that the parable seems to have a modern counterpart in a number of well-known movies, ranging from A Clockwork Orange (1971) to The Matrix (1999) and Inception (2010), not to mention dedicated animations such as that directed by Sam Weiss starring Orson Welles as the narrating voice of Plato’s parable (1972).2 Plato’s cinematic legacy, then, is rich, and yet Plato’s dream of cinema – provided that such a reading of the cave makes sense – is in fact a nightmare, or so it seems: film theorist D. N. Rodowick (1997: 136) maintains that ‘cinema fascinates Deleuze because it is by its very nature anti-Platonic’, while Gideon Nisbet, author of Ancient Greece in Film and Popular Culture, claims that: Plato’s suspicion of sensation, his contempt for crowd-pleasing spectacle, have met with some admirers at the more élitist end of film criticism; yet it would be hard to think of anyone more implacably hostile to the moving image (Nisbet 2006: 2) 129


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It is not my intention to deny that there is some truth in such claims, and yet – as is so often the case with such a complex figure as Plato – this is not the whole story. The exploration of war’s spectacular quality in the dialogues can reveal an altogether different strand, leading to opposite conclusions and turning Plato into a potential admirer of war movies.3 To this effect, I shall discuss four (or perhaps three) dialogues that have much to say about war as spectacle, following what many would take as a chronological order: the Laches, the Republic, and the Timaeus-Critias.4

The Laches The very first word of the Laches is ‘tetheasthe’, ‘you have watched’, a verb obviously related to the word ‘theatre’. In fact, the dialogues’ characters have just watched a war spectacle: a ‘man in armour’, one Stesileos, has been displaying his novel military technique to a large crowd, and spectacle-related vocabulary abounds in the opening cue: ‘theaomai’ (to watch), ‘syntheaomai’ (to watch together), ‘thea’ (view), ‘syntheates’ (spectator). Right after the show, two generals, the famous Nicias and Laches, discuss its educational merits with two anxious fathers, who are concerned about the future of their sons and wonder whether this display of warlike skill might not prove useful for their education.5 The discussion eventually turns into an inquiry about courage, with Socrates striking the middle ground between Nicias’ intellectualist approach and the traditional, no-nonsense wisdom of Laches. However, both generals have something to say about the show itself. Predictably, Nicias warmly commends the warrior’s ‘beautiful’ lesson, which, along with horsemanship, suits and even ‘beautifies’ underage prospective soldiers (182c–e). In contrast to Nicias’ ‘aesthetic’ appreciation, Laches is very sceptical, and replies by recounting a funny, if embarrassing, fight episode. During a ‘real’ naval battle, the very same Stesileos, sporting an unusual weapon, proved so grotesquely awkward that both armies burst out laughing at his poor performance: . . . Because even that Stesileos guy, the big shot showing off and saying such great things about himself, whom you watched (etheasesthe) with me in that huge crowd, I have seen him put on a better show elsewhere in real life (etheasamen en te aletheia), since that time he was not showing off willingly for once. So get this, the ship he was serving on hit some transport vessel and he was fighting with this contraption I can only describe as a spear with a sickle shaped point attached to the top, let’s call it a spythe – a ‘special’ kind

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of weapon for a ‘special’ kind of guy, if you catch my drift. I’ll leave out all the boring stuff and get straight to what I know you’re dying to hear about, how the spear/scythe thingy fared. So while he’s fighting he somehow managed to get it all caught up and tangled in the rigging of the enemy ship. So then Stesileos pulled on it, hoping to get it free. But he was not able to free it and this other ship starts passing his own. So for quite some time the guy ran along his ship clutching the ‘spear’. When at last the enemy ship passed by his own, it dragged him, still holding onto that ‘spear’, as he begrudgingly let it slip through his hands, until he was holding onto merely the very end of the shaft. As you can well imagine, uproarious laughter could be heard from the enemy ship at this scene, and when someone (to this day no one is sure whether it was friend or foe) threw a rock at his feet our hero was so startled that he actually let go of the ‘spear’! Well after that not even his comrades on the warship could hold in their laughter, watching the famed ‘spythe’ hang from the enemy ship. (183c–184a, trans. A. Hermann)

By picking up the theatrical vocabulary (etheasesthe, etheasamen) of the opening scene, Laches establishes an explicit link between Stesileos’ exhibition and his real performance, which he construes as ‘truth’ (aletheia) as opposed to . . . fiction?, falsehood?, rehearsal? In the light of the Philebus, which defines comedy – on stage and in real life – as the act of deflating incompetent people who are too weak to be threatening, we can be more precise.6 Laches’ story can be regarded as a comic show (note the reaction of both armies) as opposed to Stesileos’ pompous showing off. War is surely a spectacle, in which comedy ends up deflating the pompous and revealing the truth.7

The Republic War as spectacle, combined with a tension between fictional and real shows, resurfaces in Book 5 of the Republic. Socrates puts forward his most radical policies, which are famously compared to three ‘waves’: male–female equality, sexual communism, and rule of the philosophers. After addressing the first two ‘waves’, Socrates embarks in what may look like a digression devoted to warfare. What is actually at stake is the status of the Guardians and the education of their children, both boys and girls of course. The otherwise austere life of the Guardians is here given a more hedonistic twist: the Guardians who prove courageous at war will be honoured as Olympionikai, and will receive both material and


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honorific privileges (cf. 466a–b and passim). To describe these privileges Socrates resorts to the time-honoured notion of ‘geras’ (honorific gift), complete with Homeric and Hesiodic quotations (cf. Gastaldi 2000: 301–7). After being congratulated and ‘crowned in turn by each of the adolescents and children who are with the army’, the brave Guardians will obtain unlimited kissing rights as well as Homer’s reward for Ajax, namely the succulent ‘prime cuts of beef ’ (469b–d).8 At this point Socrates explicitly endorses Homer (peisometha Homero), only to symmetrically rehabilitate, a few lines further down, the other great victim of Socrates’ censure in Books 2 and 3. Here is how Socrates refers to Hesiod’s golden race, which he identifies with the brave Guardians: Well, won’t we follow Hesiod (peisometha Hesiodo), who says that when people of this race die, ‘Some become sacred spirits living on the earth, noble creatures, protectors against evil, guardians of mortal men’? (468e–469a)9

Glaucon readily answers in the positive: ‘We will follow him’ (peisometha). The surprising rehabilitation of the two great epic poets is designed to model the life of the Guardians after the honours enjoyed by traditional heroes both in life (Homer) and in death (Hesiod). The epic framework may help to understand a striking feature of this section, namely the presence of children at war. Children, says Socrates, must be ‘spectators of war’ (theoroi polemou), and are supposed to ‘watch’ (theontai) the Guardians’ military operations, so as to acquire military skills through ‘experience and observation’ (empeiria te kai thea: 467a–c). This is a novel policy, which is why Glaucon draws Socrates’ attention to the danger involved. While proposing a number of precautions (children will watch the war astride exceptionally fast horses), Socrates cannot deny the danger. Yet a direct experience of war is too important for the education of the children, so the risk must be run (467c–e). One striking feature of Iliadic war is precisely the fact that it seems to have a shining aesthetic quality, and Sappho seems to have epic battles in mind when she extols ‘what one loves’ and Anaktoria’s glittering gait as the most beautiful thing in opposition to the glittering beauty of men in armour (Sappho 31).10 The gods surely enjoy the show, as is clear from Zeus’ and Poseidon’s spectator-like attitude: the peaks of Ida and Samothrace are their very special bleachers when it comes to watching the Trojan war.11 Men, too, can watch the spectacle, as is the case with the Trojan elders and the teichoskopia.12 Accordingly, war can easily furnish the stuff visual art is made of: think of Helen weaving a great cloth and working into it ‘the struggles of the Trojans and the Achaeans’ (Iliad 3.125-8), or

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of the cities in war included in Achilles’ shield (18.509-40). All of this is probably in the back of Plato’s mind when he has Socrates put forward the idea of turning the Guardians’ children into ‘spectators of war’. Needless to say, as is so often the case when he adopts and adapts Homeric motives, Plato adds his own personal touch: whereas the Acheans at war are an exclusively grown-up society, in Plato’s version war becomes a show held in front of a PG audience, and the goal is overtly educational. Yet the show is ‘real’. In the Republic, too, there is no place for the likes of Stesileos, the ‘man in armour’ who is belied and deflated by real war, or, indeed, for Helen’s cloth and Achilles’ shield. The reader is guided towards the conclusion that fictitious war, be it Stesileos’ exhibition as ridiculed in the Laches or Homer’s song both censured and censored in the Republic, makes for a bad and counterproductive show. By contrast, real war can work as an entertaining as well as instructive spectacle. It elicits laughter by deflating the pompous, and it educates children by letting them witness the deeds of the Guardians – who, in turn, are galvanized by their children’s presence, as Socrates explicitly points out (Republic 467a–b). Is this Plato’s final word? Of course not. I have already mentioned that the prospective heroization of the brave Guardians entails what looks like a partial rehabilitation of Hesiod and Homer, and it is interesting to note that Plato’s quotations from the Iliad in Book 5 of the Republic are drawn from the same narrative sections in which war is construed as a spectacle to be enjoyed by Zeus and Poseidon. In what follows, I will pursue this new strand in the ensuing books of the Republic and beyond. After discussing the educational merits of spectacles of war, Socrates goes on to establish the rules of war, designed to protect Greece by distinguishing undesirable stasis (civil war between Greeks, which should avoid devastation and acts of cruelty) from inevitable ‘polemos’, in which the ‘philellenes’ Greeks fight their natural enemies, the barbarians (469b–471b).13 The final part of Book 5 is devoted to the ‘third wave’, the rule of the philosophers. This has momentous consequences for the following books as well. Book 6 revolves around the nature and quality of philosophers and attempts, among other things, to dispel the prejudices against philosophy that have arisen because of the corruption of some of their number. The final section consists of the arduous discussion of Good and the layers of reality, with the celebrated similes of the sun and the quadripartite line. Having thus established the epistemological requirements for the true philosopher, at the beginning of Book 7 Socrates goes on to recount the parable of the cave: this is a sinister show, whose dark and hellish features can be seen as forming a sharp contrast with the open-air spectacle of war described in


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Book 5. A quotation from the Iliad is turned into a memorable moment in the cave: And if they were in the habit of conferring honours among themselves on those who were quickest to observe the passing shadows and to remark which of them went before, and which followed after, and which were together; and who were therefore best able to draw conclusions as to the future, do you think that he would care for such honours and glories, or envy the possessors of them? Would he not say with Homer, ‘Better to be the poor servant of a poor master, and to endure anything’, rather than think as they do and live after their manner? Yes, he said, I think that he would rather suffer anything than entertain these false notions and live in this miserable manner. (516c–d, trans. Jowett)

The reference is of course to Achilles’ bitter words in Odyssey 11, when the hero famously says that he would rather be the lowest of servants among the living than the king of all the dead (11.488-91). This powerful quotation equates the cave, which in turn stands for human life, to Homer’s lifeless Hades. In other words, Homer’s description of the underworld, which Socrates criticizes in Book 3 by censoring (exaleipsomen) these very lines (386c),14 can prove useful after all, provided one applies it to man’s miserable life. Homer, then, is rehabilitated on the condition that his poetry is severed from its Homeric context and redirected to serve new purposes: the hedonistic and apparently un-Platonic diet of the Homeric heroes is used to surround fighting Guardians with an aura of heroism; similarly, Homer’s objectionable description of Hades is very effective in describing the miseries of human life. But how should one describe the underworld once Homer’s description of death has been displaced and applied to life? Plato’s strategy comes full circle with the eschatological myth that concludes the Republic. The introductory words are of particular interest: ‘I won’t tell you one of Alcinous’ (Alkinou) apologues, but a strong man’s one (alkimou Andros: 614a). ‘Alcinous’ apologue(s)’ was of course the traditional ‘title’ of Books 9–12 of the Odyssey, and the paronomasia ‘Alkinou’ / ‘alkimou’ marks a self-conscious opposition between Homer’s and Plato’s myth. The latter has quite plausibly been interpreted as a revised version of Homer’s underworld, whose main shortcoming is that it induces fear and cowardice in war.15 By contrast, Plato’s reimagined underworld is specifically designed to inspire courage and confidence in death, provided one has led a pious and just life.

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Plato’s overall strategy, then, can be described as an ambitious attempt to redirect, displace and replace Homer’s world. Homer’s poems provide invaluable material for anyone interested in redesigning society, if only because everybody is under his emotional spell.16 In Book 10, Socrates famously admits his own fascination with Homer, and wishes he could find a way to put his sweet poetry to good use (607e–608a).17 Displacing and replacing is a good beginning, which is all the more urgent when it comes to ruling and educating a city, since Homer, unlike Plato’s ancestor Solon, does not seem to have a ‘direction’: ‘Dear Homer, if you are not third from the truth as regards virtue, a maker of images whom we have described as an imitator, but are even second and capable of knowing what pursuits make men better in private and in public life, then tell us to the betterment of what city’s government you have contributed [. . .] What city gives you credit for being a good lawgiver and having benefited them, as Italy and Sicily give credit to Charondas, and we do to Solon? Who gives credit to you?’ Will he be able to name one? – I do not think so, said Glaucon. Even the Homeridae do not claim this for him. (599d–e, trans. Jowett)

The mention of the Homeridae is not coincidental. From the time of Pisistratus or of his son Hipparchus, the great Panathenaea, held every fifth year, were enriched by the recitation of the collected Homeric poems, and the guild of the Homeridae, which the tyrants had ‘imported’ from Chios, were in charge of this event.18 Such a context becomes crucial when we move beyond the Republic on to its ostensible sequel, namely the Timaeus-Critias.

The Timaeus-Critias The beginning of the Timaeus-Critias establishes a famously complex and ambiguous relationship with the Republic. For the benefit of his three friends, Socrates recapitulates the discussion they had the day before, and the summary points clearly to the (contents of the) Republic. The trouble is that Socrates’ interlocutors, namely Timaeus, Critias and Hermogenes, do not belong to the Republic, and even the dramatic setting is quite different. Whereas the Republic is set on the day of the Bendideia, a feast in honour of the Thracian goddess Bendis, the discussion of the Timaeus-Critias takes place on the day of the great Panathenaia.19 Even more importantly, the summary provided is extremely selective: Socrates makes no reference whatsoever to the content of Republic


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6–10, and devotes only a few hints to 1–4. The core of the summary, therefore, points to Republic 5, although he glosses over the third ‘wave’, i.e. the rule of the philosopher, Socrates revives at some length the discussion of the first and second ‘wave’, with an emphasis on warfare.20 What emerges, then, is a modified sketch of the society depicted in the Republic, with a shift from philosophy to warfare. I have used the words ‘sketch’ and ‘depicted’ on purpose, as Socrates himself resorts to pictorial metaphors when he refers to the construction of the ‘kallipolis’ in Book 5: Now, do you think that it would be a failing on the part of a good painter (zographos) if he were to paint an ideal (paradeigma) of the most beautiful human being and were to give the picture everything befitting it, but weren’t able to demonstrate that such a man could actually exist? . . . Well, weren’t we too producing in our argument an ideal (paradeigma) of the good city? (472d–e, trans. Halliwell)

The image of the painter is in fact pervasive in the Republic. In Book 2, Hesiod and Homer, who potentially damage the education of children, are compared to a bad painter (377c–e), something that foreshadows the discussion of mimesis in Book 10, where painters and poets, together with other dubious figures, are relegated to the status of second-rate, far-from-truth imitators. In opposition to the bad painter, however, a new figure begins to emerge at the beginning of Book 4, when Socrates compares his description of the Guardians to the painting of a statue (andrianta graphontas), a ‘figure’ or ‘picture’ (zoon) that would allegedly require the best colours for its best part, namely the eyes (420c–d). Finally, in Book 6 Socrates resumes the theme in an extensive comparison, whereby the philosopher is seen as someone who ‘works out the sketch of the constitution’ by looking at the forms and picking the best features in order to compose the most beautiful masterwork, until eventually Socrates calls him the ‘painter of constitutions’ (politeion zographos: 501a–c).21 The philosopher, and by implication Plato, is a painter, someone who ‘draws living pictures’ (zographos, i.e. somebody who zoa graphei). Socrates wishes that the painting could become real, which would be possible were the philosopherpainter in a position not only to paint, but also to mould (plattein) both himself and the good citizens, and yet the Republic leaves this as a mere possibility: one cannot rule out the risk that the people will oppose his proposals, at least initially (500d–e). Moreover, the very notion of ‘moulding’ is at best ambivalent, as the verb ‘platto’, like its cognate noun ‘plasma’, is commonly used to describe fantastic

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and artistic creations.22 The conditions of possibility of the ‘kallipolis’ are in fact one of the most delicate and notorious problems in Plato’s Republic: while its theoretical existence cannot be denied, Socrates cannot point to any actual instantiation of his ideal.23 Back to the Timaeus-Critias, this is how Socrates concludes his recapitulation of the ‘Republic’: I should like, before proceeding further, to tell you how I feel about the State which we have described. I might compare myself to a person who, on watching (theasamenos) beautiful living pictures (zoa) either created by the painter’s art (hypo graphes eirgasmena), or alive (zonta) but at rest, is seized with a desire of watching them in motion (theasasthai kinoumena) or engaged in some struggle or conflict to which their forms appear suited; this is my feeling about the State which we have been describing. There are conflicts which all cities undergo, and I should like to hear some one tell of our own city carrying on a struggle against her neighbours, and how she went out to war in a becoming manner, and when at war showed by the greatness of her actions and the magnanimity of her words in dealing with other cities a result worthy of her training and education. (Timaeus 19b–c, trans. Jowett, modified)

The ‘pictures in motion’ evoked by Socrates irresistibly call to mind cinema, our motion pictures. Even more to our point, what Socrates would like to watch is a war movie,24 which he envisages – as Critias’ following remarks make clear – as an unmatched achievement, one that would be fully in keeping with Plato’s strict rules for good poetry as expressed in the Republic.25 The opening pages of the Timaeus and the unfinished Critias give us the proem of this work. Plato’s relative Critias,26 himself a descendent of Solon, recounts the conflict between Atlantis and ancient Athens, whose extraordinary resemblance with the ‘kallipolis’ he explicitly notes (Timaeus 25e). The plot is provided by a true story that Solon had once learned in Egypt, but had failed to memorialize in writing owing to more urgent commitments. The poems of both Hesiod and Homer are no match for this family tradition, which Solon passed on to Critias, who is about to recount it on the day of the Panathenaia, and have it recorded in writing by Plato. On the day of the Panathenaia, which starred the Homeridae as the official interpreters of Homer’s poems, two ‘Solonidae’ are ready to challenge Homer and the Homeridae, his alleged descendants.27 The philosophers have not yet taken power, so the philosopher-painter cannot directly ‘mould’ the citizens, nor can he teach the children how to fight by directly exposing them to real war. Apparently, however, he can produce a ‘war movie’


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instead. After the Laches and the Republic, in which war ‘fictions’ are very unfavourably compared with real war, fictional war makes a spectacular comeback in the Timaeus-Critias . . . or does it? Quite apart from Plato’s (jocular?) emphasis on the ‘truth’ of the narrative, which explains why he freely mingles epic and historiographical conventions and calls it a ‘true tale’ (alethinos logos) as opposed to a ‘moulded myth’ (plastheis mythos: 26e),28 we all know that the story of the conflict between ancient Athens and Atlantis is not there. The Critias breaks off when Zeus summons the divine assembly and is ready to speak, a typical scene that usually marks the beginning of an epic poem (cf. Clay 1997). This is not the place to imagine the course of the war or to locate Atlantis – too many books, novels and movies have done just that, in an attempt to fill this Platonic gap.29 Nor is it possible to revive here the endless scholarly debate as to why the Critias looks unfinished. Was Plato as busy as his ancestor Solon, who allegedly did not find the time to write the Atlantis poem, or is he simply pulling our leg? The fact remains that we have only the opening credits of Plato’s war movie, just as we have only a poetic glimpse of Helen’s cloth and Achilles’ shield. However, Plato’s dream of war cinema lives on to this day: as the present volume testifies, the show was not cancelled, just postponed.


Shadow-Boxing in the East The Spectacle of Romano-Parthian Conflict in Tacitus Rhiannon Ash Merton College, Oxford

Another world? When the didactic poet Manilius, writing early in the Julio-Claudian principate, broadly demarcates the individual regions of the world between Europe and Asia, he memorably depicts the Parthians in Asia as inhabiting what he calls virtually an orbis alter (‘another world’, Astronomica 4.674). How Roman authors imagine and describe the spatial relationship between themselves and other peoples in relative terms can often be very revealing. By locating the Parthians in ‘another world’, Manilius tacitly acknowledges that this rival imperial power is special, but also separate: the Parthians exist, but they do so in their own sphere, one, which is markedly distinct from the orbis (‘world’) of the Romans in Europe.1 Manilius’ striking rhetorical strategy deftly leaves his Roman audience scope for legitimately claiming domination of their own orbis, while at the same time pushing the Parthians outside the boundaries of that realm: out of sight, but not out of mind. The imagery is certainly expressive; and Augustus’ consilium coercendi intra terminos imperii (‘advice about confining the empire within its boundaries’, Tac. Ann. 1.11) seems to find tangible expression in the conceptualization here.2 Yet what happens when the boundaries between these two distinct worlds break down and Romans and Parthians collide in warfare? Manilius’ fantasy needs some context.3 After Crassus and his army were decisively defeated at Carrhae in 53 bce , when the Parthians infamously captured the military standards, killed 20,000 Roman soldiers and took 10,000 prisoners (Plut. Crass. 31.7), successive Roman commanders tried and failed to get their revenge. This left Augustus with a problem when he eventually emerged from the chaos as princeps. How could he protect Roman honour without getting immersed in a 139


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costly and futile war? Despite Augustan poets writing as if a campaign against Parthia was imminent (Hor. Carm. 1.2.51, 2.9.20, 3.3.43, 3.5.1-4; Prop. 2.10.13, 3.4.1), ‘the avoidance of such a war became one of the cardinal axioms of his external policy’ (Rich 1998: 72).4 Augustus eventually used diplomacy backed by the threat of force to secure the return of the standards from the Parthian king Phraates IV (c.38–2 bce ) on 12 May 20 bce .5 This was a defining moment of his principate and an opportunity for extensive propaganda.6 It prompted the Senate to vote Augustus a triumphal arch in the Forum Romanum and, much later in 2 bce , the recovered standards were installed in the Temple of Mars Vltor (also in the Forum Romanum).7 On coinage, too, celebration was pointed, whether for the retrieval of the standards, the rescue of the Roman soldiers, or the erection of the triumphal arch.8 It was also at this point that standardized images of Parthians began to proliferate in Roman iconography: bearded figures wearing trousers and sometimes decked out in Phrygian caps.9 A classic example can be seen at the centre of the famous cuirass carved on the statue of Augustus from Prima Porta (generally thought to be a copy of an honorific statue set up in Rome in 19 bce ).10 Here, a bearded Parthian with long hair, trousers and a tunic returns a standard to a (taller) cuirassed Roman leader wearing a helmet (and accompanied by a dog).11 It is notable that the Parthian is not depicted in a position of subjugation and retains some degree of self-respect (aptly so, given that Augustus’ settlement was negotiated, rather than achieved through warfare). For one viewing the cuirass, the image allows both sides to retain some degree of self-respect, since it diplomatically suggests domestication of Parthia rather than brutal suppression. Another suggestive detail about Roman perceptions of Parthians is associated with Augustus’ triumphal arch. The arch was originally inscribed with two lists, one giving all the triumphatores from 588 bce to 19 bce , the other listing the consuls from 463 bce to ce 13. Although space was left on the list of consuls for further additions (which were duly made), the list of triumphatores deliberately ends in 19 bce with no more space, implicitly casting Augustus’ Parthian settlement as the culmination of all earlier triumphs (Rose 2005: 33). For a perceptive viewer of this list, Augustus’ message would be clear: not only is he strongly suggesting that he has decisively brought conflict with Parthia to an end, but he also implies that his own status as triumphator is an unmistakable zenith – the grand finale of centuries of Roman triumphs over the course of the Republic. Here, a diplomatic settlement is daringly recast and monumentalized as a spectacle of ultimate martial victory. So, Manilius and his contemporaries had seen Augustus brilliantly stagemanaging the Parthian problem. No fighting had actually taken place, but the

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showmanship displayed in the Roman sphere for public consumption must have made people feel that their own orbis was martially dominant, whatever the more muted reality of the negotiated settlement. This sequence of events highlights how effectively public perception of Roman engagement with Parthia could be dominated by posturing and display, provided that the right showman was in charge.12 Precisely because Parthia was so far away from Rome, the scope for spin was considerable. Warfare as spectacle is at the heart of this volume, which makes Romano-Parthian conflict a particularly rich topic for analysis in this setting. This element of safe display (with limited fighting) is arguably the most distinctive feature of Roman engagement with Parthia in the early imperial period. The aim of this chapter is to examine one particularly brilliant example of this phenomenon in action, where the ‘spectacle’ of war defines the conflict to its very core and drives events in crucial ways. Our focus will be Tacitus’ narrative of ce 62–63, the confrontation between Rome and Parthia (Annals 15.1-17 and 24–31), which will culminate in the Parthian prince Tiridates coming to Rome to receive the diadem of Armenia from Nero in ce 66.13 This narrative is distinctive, too, for Tacitus’ creative historiographical engagement with multiple constituencies of different viewers, including the Roman and Parthian armies on the ground in the east, the Roman commanders Corbulo and Paetus, the Parthian King Vologeses, the populace and élite in Rome, the emperor Nero himself, and ultimately Tacitus’ own contemporaries who look at these campaigns with the benefit of hindsight. Not everyone is seeing everything at the same time and from the same perspective – and Tacitus artfully manipulates the different degrees of such ‘partial vision’.

Shadow-boxing in the east: Part One (Annals 15.1-6) The metaphor of a ‘theatre of war’ is ubiquitous in modern analyses of conflict.14 Yet in this instance we are engaging with a narrative where that concept is peculiarly apt. This is a gaudy conflict on the surface, full of posturing on both sides and taking place on the margins during a principate shaped by Nero’s theatricality at the centre.15 As we will see, Tacitus constructs his narrative keeping the focus consistently on the impression created by appearances. He repeatedly highlights how the success or failure of military commanders is determined by their awareness (or not) of how their actions will look to other observers. The result is that readers cumulatively come to appreciate how crucial it is for both sides to strike a delicate balance between bravado (often articulated through visual and verbal display) and real conflict. In Tacitus’


War as Spectacle

narrative, we will see various different varieties of display: verbal (both oral and written), technological (bridge-building), military (assembling and manoeuvring soldiers), and commemorative (setting up trophies and arches).16 Virtually all are a misleading reflection of the political reality, which underlies the spectacle, as Tacitus allows us to see. Before we turn to Tacitus in detail, some preliminary clarification of the context will be useful, particularly since the Parthian sections at Annals 15.1-17, 23–31 are part of an evolving narrative sequence syncopated by the alternating rhythm of the annalistic structure.17 The situation in Parthia before Nero had been relatively quiet.18 In many ways, it is extraordinary that Augustus’ diplomatic settlement endured as long as it did.19 For Roman emperors to maintain a reactive stance in the region was practical up to a point, but fragile, since it counted on internal Parthian problems to maintain the status quo, and it always left the Romans vulnerable to the emergence of a strong Parthian ruler. It was Nero’s bad luck to become princeps soon after the Parthian dynasty generated just such a figure in Vologeses I (ruled c. ce 51–79/80). In ce 51 this energetic Parthian king decided to exploit an opportunity to instal his younger brother Tiridates as king of neighbouring Armenia, so often the focal point for tensions between the two imperial powers (Ann.12.50).20 Inadequate planning allowed the opportunistic Radamistus (a prince from the kingdom of Iberia, north of Armenia) to seize control briefly, but after the Parthians had expelled Radamistus (Ann.13.6.1), rumours reached Rome that Armenia was being ransacked, so in ce 54 Nero dispatched his general Corbulo (Ann.13.6-9), again following the familiar Roman pattern of reacting to trouble after the event. At this point, Vologeses was distracted temporarily from Armenia, facing a challenge from his son Vardanes (Ann.13.7.2). He also confronted a rebellion from the Hyrcani in the east (Ann.13.37.5, 14.25.2). This breathing space allowed the Romans to appoint their own tame king of Armenia, Tigranes V, formerly a hostage in Rome. Most recently before our section, the energetic Corbulo has stormed the garrison at Legerda, overseen the installation of Tigranes in Armenia, set up his own garrison, and withdrawn to his province Syria (Ann.14.23-6). For the time being then, the balance of power therefore looks favourable to the Romans, but this is a region where the equilibrium can so quickly change. Tacitus’ narrative is broadly tripartite: initially, trouble between Parthia and Rome starts to brew and there are a series of feints before both sides pull back (Ann.15.1-6); then the arrival of the bullish Caesennius Paetus leads to some real fighting, but results in his military humiliation in which Corbulo and Vologeses both seem to collude before they agree to restore the Euphrates as the boundary

Shadow-Boxing in the East


between them (Ann.15.7-17); and finally, Nero is stung into declaring war on Parthia, and Corbulo ostentatiously marches his troops into Armenia before agreeing arrangements for a peaceful settlement with Vologeses and arranging with Tiridates that he should come to Rome and receive his diadem from Nero (Ann.15.24-31). As we will see, the whole narrative is dominated by a sense of escalating conflicts, which then fail to materialize, and by wily protagonists who more often engage in robust military posturing than actual fighting. The first section (Ann.15.1-6) is dominated by two huge central and interconnected personalities, the Parthian king Vologeses, and the Roman general Corbulo. Tacitus begins his account entirely from a Parthian perspective (Ann.15.12), conspicuously and imaginatively focalizing events through Vologeses. This narrative strategy recalls other instances where Tacitus tries to reconstruct the Parthian point of view: so, when Parthian legates accept a new king Vonones from Rome, the Parthians soon feel shame for having sought a king alio ex orbe (‘from another world’, Ann. 2.2.2). This elegantly inverts Manilius’ arresting image of Parthia as another world and applies it instead to the Parthian perspective of Rome. In the case of Vologeses, Tacitus uses the focalization to clarify the irritating factors, which prompt him to act, such as wounded Arsacid pride after the expulsion of Tiridates from Armenia and the extensive attacks by the Roman candidate Tigranes on the Adiabeni.21 Vologeses is illuminatingly and sympathetically cast as being at the centre of a delicate and difficult web of complex political relations: Monobazus, the aggrieved king of the Adiabeni, works on the feelings of the Parthian chieftains, as does the ousted brother Tiridates, strongly favouring military intervention to reinstate him in Armenia. This counterbalancing of the cautious senior partner Vologeses and the warmongering junior partner, his brother Tiridates, is striking, and sets up a sharp syncrisis which will be mirrored on the Roman side in the relationship between Corbulo and Paetus. Yet despite Vologeses’ concerns, he still decides to act and delivers a short but impressive speech in oratio recta to the assembled Parthian leaders: hunc ego eodem mecum patre genitum, cum mihi per aetatem summo nomine concessisset, in possessionem Armeniae deduxi, qui tertius potentiae gradus habetur: nam Medos Pacorus ante ceperat. uidebarque contra uetera fratrum odia et certamina familiae nostrae penatis rite composuisse. [2] prohibent Romani et pacem numquam ipsis prospere lacessitam nunc quoque in exitium suum abrumpunt. [3] non ibo infitias: aequitate quam sanguine, causa quam armis retinere parta maioribus malueram. si cunctatione deliqui, uirtute corrigam. uestra quidem uis et


War as Spectacle

gloria integro est, addita modestiae fama quae neque summis mortalium spernenda est et a dis aestimatur. (Tacitus Annals 15.2.1-3) Although this man, born of the same father as myself, had conceded the supreme name to me by reason of age, I escorted him to the possession of Armenia, which is regarded as third rank in powerfulness (Pacorus had previously taken the Medes); and I seemed, contrary to the old hatreds and competitions of brothers, to have achieved a proper settlement for our family’s household gods. But the Romans are preventing it, and the peace, which they have never challenged with advantage to themselves, they are now again severing, to their own extermination. I shall not embark on denial: I should have preferred to retain by fairness rather than by bloodshed, by reason rather than by arms, the acquisitions of our ancestors. If I have failed through hesitation, I shall rectify it through courage. At least your strength and glory remain intact, with the addition of a reputation for modestness which is not to be spurned by the highest of mortals and is valued by the gods. (Trans. A. J. Woodman)22

This is an intriguing speech, and one which comes as something of a surprise from a Parthian. Despite what we might expect, Vologeses’ words seem measured and reasonable, implying that this conflict is being forced upon him by the Romans against his will. His speech is further underpinned by robust claims to laudable co-operation within his family, which is being hampered by the Romans. And his words are reinforced by ‘staging’. Before Vologeses even starts speaking, he strategically places his aggrieved but silent brother Tiridates next to him, like some sort of a stage-prop, or like the dishevelled family member serving as a stimulus to stir pity in a Roman courtroom. The speech itself is marked by Ciceronian touches (in integro est, ‘remain intact’;23 aequitas, ‘fairness’24) and by archaizing flourishes (non ibo infitias, ‘I shall not embark on denial’).25 Vologeses also uses strongly Roman terms, such as penates (‘household gods’).26 Perhaps, too, his professed reluctance to shed blood might evoke Julius Caesar (neque se umquam abuti militum sanguine neque rem publicam alterutro exercitu priuare uoluisse, ‘[he said that] he had never wanted to squander the blood of his soldiers or to deprive the Republic of either of its armies’, B Civ. 3.90.2). There may be some gentle humour in Vologeses’ final relative clause patiently explaining to the Parthians (traditionally considered arrogant by Romans) why a reputation for restraint is desirable. Moreover, while he himself provisionally takes the blame for inaction (si cunctatione deliqui, ‘If I have failed through hesitation’), he puts a positive gloss on

Shadow-Boxing in the East


exactly the same conduct in his collective Parthian audience (addita modestiae fama, ‘with the addition of a reputation for modestness’): his failure to fight is cunctatio (‘hesitation’), but the Parthians gain a reputation for restraint (modestia) by doing exactly the same thing. Finally, he further flatters his audience by implicitly classing them as summi mortalium (‘highest of mortals’), a gracious reciprocal compliment from the bearer of the summum nomen (‘highest name’, i.e. ‘king of kings’), to which he refers at the start of his speech.27 The exordium of this pithy speech is pointedly lofty. So Vologeses uses mortales (‘mortals’; 19 times in Ann. in this sense), a substantive adjective serving as an alternative for homines (‘men’), and a dignified ‘archaism popular with historians’ (Gell. 13.29).28 It is already a grand word, but the combination with summi (‘highest’) makes it even grander.29 To end this short speech with a reference to the gods is an aggrandizing finale, further adding solemnity to its peroratio.30 This speech is full of surprises: Vologeses comes across as a reluctant warrior, as a fair-minded man who is forced to defend his family honour. He is not prepared to pretend to his clearly more belligerent Parthian audience that he has always wanted war (which he implicitly deems the right way to gain their support), but instead he sets up aequitas (‘fairness’), as his preferred modus operandi. How sincere such gambits are is entirely another question, but Vologeses is clearly an adept speaker.31 Yet strikingly, his actions immediately afterwards are decidedly anticlimactic: after swiftly crowning Tiridates with the diadem, he hands over some cavalry and auxiliaries to one of the nobles (Monaeses) for evicting the Roman nominee Tigranes from Armenia, but then he himself turns his attention to marshalling soldiers within Parthia as a prelude to unleashing the moles belli, (‘the bulk of war’, Ann.15.2.4). That phrase is striking. Tacitus redeploys an expressive combination, used previously (also at the opening of a war, Hist. 3.1.2) and ominously indicating vast scale. The arresting phrase gains further gravitas through association with republican tragedy, epic, and the historians.32 The implication that this will be a massive war on a grand scale is an enticement for Tacitus’ readers and it implicitly recalls aggrandizing prefatory advance notices in historical narratives about a conflict’s magnitude.33 However, that reality will conspicuously fail to materialize in this first section of narrative (Ann.15.1-6). Except for the slaughter of a few foolhardy Adiabeni outside Tigranocerta (Ann.15.4.3), the most conspicuous feature of this opening section is that there is basically no fighting. This may well be because Vologeses and Corbulo understand each other so well. Both play by the implicit rules of the game, which require the two imperial powers to display the capacity for military clout without delivering the knock-out punch. They are creating an impression for the consumption of their war-mongering audiences


War as Spectacle

back home.34 In practice, both Corbulo (bellum habere quam gerere malebat, ‘preferred to have a war in hand than to wage one’, 15.3.1) and Vologeses (arma Romana uitandi, ‘avoiding Roman arms’, 15.5.3) seem adept at making feints, but avoiding serious fighting. Corbulo’s practical response to Vologeses’ opening gambit is also to send deputies to help the Roman nominee Tigranes, but he issues secret instructions that they should ‘conduct everything calmly rather than hastily’ (compositius cuncta quam festinantius agerent, Ann.15.3.1). Some commentators see it as expressive that Corbulo is given no parallel speech to counterbalance Vologeses’ address to his concilium.35 Yet this may well reflect Tacitus’ deft engagement with the comparative contexts in which the two commanders are operating: whereas the consumers of Vologeses’ showmanship (the Parthian nobles) are physically close at hand, so that he needs to use direct methods (the speech addressed to a concilium), Corbulo crucially is much further away from his central power base in Rome, so that his modes of communication are comparatively less immediate and direct (namely, his letter to Nero requesting that a second commander be sent from Rome, Ann.15.3.1). Corbulo, as it suits him, can exploit letters (which provide a useful written record for future reference) or ambassadors (who can also serve as eye-witnesses: the centurion sent to Rome at Ann.15.25.1 is a good example). There is a nexus of direct verbal and indirect written communication from Corbulo and Vologeses punctuating the narrative, which shows how sensitive both men are to internal audiences. And Tacitus makes it clear that people are watching, particularly at Ann.15.6.1 where conflicting reactions of Roman onlookers are given. The majority extols Corbulo’s achievement in forcing Vologeses’ unconditional withdrawal from Armenia (the pro-Corbulan view), while a few try to make sense of Corbulo’s puzzling unforced removal of Roman troops from Tigranocerta and speculate about a secret deal with the Parthians. The uninformed perspective of the majority (plures), relayed succinctly, is undercut by the longer assessment of the suspicious minority (alii), placed second and made more telling by the extended indirect speech (running from cur enim to Paetus audiebatur) apparently justifying their opinion. Tacitus, without endorsing this second assessment directly through his historian’s auctoritas, still pushes us to consider it more seriously than the first.

Shadow-boxing in the east: Part Two (Annals 15.7-17) In the second section (Ann. 15.7-17), there is a distinct gear-change, both in the volume and the variety of showmanship. Now, after the failure of Vologeses’

Shadow-Boxing in the East


embassy to Nero (Ann.15.5.4) ‘the Parthians have openly taken up war’ (bellum . . . propalam sumptum a Parthis, Ann.15.7.1). Additional complexity and interest is added by the arrival of Caesennius Paetus, sent out at Corbulo’s request to take charge of Armenia.36 We already know that the adversarial and ambitious Paetus has a totally misguided set of military expectations, scornfully and repeatedly criticizing Corbulo’s ‘achievements’ as illusory: nihil caedis aut praedae, usurpata nomine tenus urbium expugnationes dictitans: se tributa ac leges et pro umbra regis Romanum ius uictis impositurum (‘insisting that there had been no slaughter or plunder, and that the ‘storming of cities’ which he [Corbulo] frequently cited were nominal only: he would impose on the vanquished taxes and laws and, instead of a mere shadow of a king, the jurisdiction of Rome’, Ann.15.6.4). The notion of imposing taxes, laws, and Roman jurisdiction on Armenia ominously aligns Paetus with Quinctilius Varus (who infamously lost three legions in an ambush). Velleius sharply criticizes Varus for his overambitious assumptions about Germany and for thinking that wild Germans posse iure mulceri (‘could be soothed by the law’, 2.117.2). Yet the irony here is that Paetus is absolutely right and that in unmasking the gap between appearance and reality in Corbulo’s campaigning, he hits the nail on the head. The trouble is that he fails to understand the delicate game being played by this experienced Roman general, who understands that real conflict is best avoided and that other techniques are more effective in this complex arena. The trajectory of Paetus’ decline in this section is pointedly marked by a succession of letters.37 Almost immediately, after some minor successes, he ill-advisedly writes a letter to Nero quasi confecto bello, uerbis magnificis, rerum vacuas (‘as if on the basis of the war’s completion – magnificent words, empty of substance’, Ann.15.8.2);38 then, after Paetus faces a real military crisis, he writes a petulant letter to Vologeses asking for peace in distinctly unfavourable circumstances (Ann.15.13.3); Vologeses’ reply that he must consult his brothers is a deftly delivered snub which puts Paetus in his place by keeping him waiting (Ann.15.14.1); and that snub is compounded when Paetus gets off his high horse and sends messengers to Vologeses. To meet them, the Parthian king pointedly sends a subordinate, the cavalry commander Vasaces, rather than going himself (Ann.15.14.2). Paetus’ grandiose historical ruminations recalling the Luculli, the Pompeii, and the Caesars fall rather flat in being addressed to an intermediary rather than to the king himself. Vasaces then points out that imaginem retinendi largiendique penes nos, uim penes Parthos (‘only the phantom of retaining or lavishing rested with us: the reality of that power lay with the Parthians’, Ann.15.14.3). Tacitus in the Annals constantly interrogates the gulf between appearance and reality, but there


War as Spectacle

is particularly sharp irony here in a Parthian candidly unmasking the true political situation to a Roman. Paetus’ spontaneous and ill-judged letters offer an obvious point of contrast with the much more guarded letters of Corbulo. With Paetus on the scene, Corbulo finally has a focus for his rivalry and competitive display, which often finds expression in his military activities. We have already seen how adept Corbulo is at creating the impression of being busy, as when he bustles around getting his men to install fortresses at springs along the Euphrates, apparently preparing for a ‘campaign’ which in reality he does not want to happen (Ann.15.3.2). Now he engages in an even more impressive demonstration of his military credentials: interim Corbulo numquam neglectam Euphratis ripam crebrioribus praesidiis insedit; et ne ponti iniciendo impedimentum hostiles turmae adferrent (iam enim subiectis campis magna specie uolitabant), nauis magnitudine praestantes et conexas trabibus ac turribus auctas agit per amnem catapultisque et ballistis proturbat barbaros, in quos saxa et hastae longius permeabant quam ut contrario sagittarum iactu adaequarentur. [2] dein pons continuatus collesque aduersi per socias cohortis, post legionum castris occupantur, tanta celeritate et ostentatione uirium ut Parthi omisso paratu inuadendae Syriae spem omnem in Armeniam uerterent . . . (Ann.15.9) Meanwhile Corbulo installed himself on the bank of the Euphrates (which he had never neglected) with more frequent garrisons; and, to prevent the enemy squadrons from creating some obstacle to the superimposition of a bridge (already they were flying over the surrounding plains in a great display), across the stream he strung ships of outstanding size, connected by timbers and heightened with turrets; and with catapults and ballistas he thrust aside the barbarians, against whom the trajectory of the rocks and spears was farther than could be matched by their countering discharge of arrows. Then the bridge was joined up, and the hills opposite were occupied by allied cohorts and afterwards by the legions’ camp – with such speed and evident strength that the Parthians, abandoning their preparations for the invasion of Syria, turned all their hopes on Armenia . . .

This passage beautifully encapsulates some important elements of war in the east, as each side tries to outdo the other in display. The Parthian squadrons are clearly trying to intimidate the Romans by flitting over the plains on the opposite side of the river, magna specie (‘in great display’). This formulation activates the visual and hints at the impressive numbers in the Parthian army (suggesting the

Shadow-Boxing in the East


‘barbarian horde’ motif: Ash 2007: 235). With the boundary of the river safely separating the Romans and Parthians, Corbulo rises to the challenge to engage in his own distinctive variety of display. Competent building of temporary bridges is a classic marker of a robust Roman general, but it has particular associations with the archetypal excellent commander, Julius Caesar, who rapidly bridges the Rhine on different occasions.39 After Caesar’s account, generals writing memoirs had a good precedent for including efficient river-crossing (especially in the face of enemy action) as a set-piece. Tacitus no doubt consulted Corbulo’s memoirs, but he could also draw on his own detailed description of the Vitellians bridging the Po, including the deployment of siege engines against the Othonians on the opposite bank (Hist. 2.34.2).40 The ships which Corbulo selects for the pontoon bridge are ‘of outstanding size’ (magnitudine praestantes), appropriately enough for the general who is corpore ingens (‘mighty in physique’, Ann.13.8.3). Tacitus’ choice and aptly polysyllabic periphrasis to express size avoids the blander adjective magnus (‘big’, which has already been used to describe the empty species of the enemy). The physical size of the ships, mirroring his own giant stature, is intended to send out an intimidating message to the Parthians. Moreover, Tacitus describes the evolving pontoon bridge elegantly in striking language (conexas trabibus et turribus auctas, ‘connected by timbers and heightened with turrets’) marked by chiasmus, homoioteleuton, and alliteration, which all bind together the description. The plural turres (‘turrets’) seems hyperbolic, since in practice, only the last ship in the chain has a turret from where the artillery fire (cf. turris . . . in extremam nauem educta, Hist. 2.34.2). Or perhaps Corbulo (whether in his memoirs or in constructing the bridge) offers his own ostentatious spectacle to intimidate the massed Parthian archers flitting about on the plains. In any case, Corbulo seems to trump that preliminary display of the bridge-building in his subsequent deployment of troops once they have crossed the river. He deliberately positions them on higher ground on the hills in a visually impressive location so that they can look down on and intimidate the Parthians below them. Finally, it is not just the size of the construction, but the speed and efficiency with which it is built (and crossed) that is designed to create an impact. Corbulo progresses tanta celeritate et ostentatione uirium (‘with such speed and evident strength’) that the intimidated Parthians turn their attention instead to Armenia (and Paetus). This is not to say that Corbulo is engaging in entirely empty display. He does build the bridge and he clearly has a strategic objective of protecting his province, Syria; but if he repels the Parthians en masse towards his rival general Paetus in Armenia and thereby triggers the need for a heroic rescue, so much the better.


War as Spectacle

Corbulo’s effective and grandiose display is impressive enough on its own, but it is heightened further when Tacitus gives us a brief description of a completely humiliating instance of bridge-building by Paetus. This comes in the immediate aftermath of his degrading agreement to leave Armenia: interim flumini Arsaniae (is castra praefluebat) pontem imposuit, specie sibi illud iter expedientis, sed Parthi quasi documentum uictoriae iusserant; namque iis usui fuit; nostri per diuersum iere. (Ann.15.15.1) In the meantime Paetus installed a bridge over the River Arsanias (it flowed past the camp) in a show of expediting a route there for himself, although in fact the Parthians had ordered it as evidence of their victory. (It was they who used it; our men went in an opposite direction.)

The Arsanias is actually an important branch of the northern Euphrates (Plin. HN 5.84, 6.128), but one would never know this from the skeletal description here, which retrospectively sets into relief the hugeness of the Euphrates and Corbulo’s achievement in crossing it. Paetus is further humiliated by Tacitus’ appended comments. His own misguided attempt at display is ill-judged, particularly since illud iter designates the retreat of the Roman legionaries from Armenia, agreed on at Ann.15.14.3. More crucial, however, is the damning sed -clause, which reveals that the Parthians had actually ordered Paetus to build the bridge in the first place. Here again Vologeses seems adept at inflicting humiliation on Paetus in imaginative ways.41 There is a further final twist: flumen Arsaniam elephanto insidens, proximus quisque regem ui equorum perrupere, quia rumor incesserat pontem cessurum oneri dolo fabricantium: sed qui ingredi ausi sunt ualidum et fidum intellexere. (Ann.15.15.3) Sitting on an elephant, he [Vologeses] charged across the River Arsanias, as did the king’s entourage on a team of straining horses, because a rumour had circulated that the bridge would yield under their weight owing to the guile of its manufacturers; but those who dared to go onto it ascertained its sturdiness and reliability.

Vologeses, it turns out, successfully belittles Paetus even further by so casually demonstrating that he does not even need the bridge, which he had forced the Romans to build. The Parthian king cuts quite a visually imposing figure on his

Shadow-Boxing in the East


elephant (elephantus is a hapax in Tacitus’ extant work), surrounded by his sizeable entourage.42 The additional detail of the false rumour is intriguing. The speculation that the bridge might have been sabotaged dolo fabricantium (‘by the guile of its manufacturers’) has a Virgilian flavour: so, doli fabricator (‘manufacturer of guile’) describes Epeos, the builder of the Trojan horse (Aen. 2.264). Paetus might have gained some advantage by using this sneaky strategy, but he seems consistently incapable of using underhand tactics even when they might have helped him. This nexus of rivalry articulated by river-crossing and bridge-building is only the most extended instance of competitive display in a narrative section peppered with such touches. So, Corbulo sets off to rescue Paetus with a massive camel-train laden with grain (Ann.15.12.1), ostentatiously showing that he, as a competent general, has thought ahead and supplied his troops with food (unlike the hapless Paetus, Ann.15.8.1);43 or in a different context, Vologeses pointedly abstains from looking at the retreating Roman legions after their humiliating surrender, since he seeks to achieve a ‘reputation for moderation’ (fama moderationis, Ann.15.15.3), whatever the reality of his ‘haughtiness’ (superbia, Ann. 15.15.3). This mock modesty is accompanied by exploitation of display in the commemoration of victory through a spontaneous monument. So, Vologeses armis et corporibus caesorum aggeratis quo cladem nostram testaretur, uisu fugientium legionum abstinuit: fama moderationis quaerebatur, postquam superbiam expleuerat (‘with arms and bodies of the slaughtered piled up to testify to our disaster, refrained from viewing the fleeing legions: he was seeking a reputation for moderation, now that his haughtiness had had its fill’, Ann.15.15.3). This is a grim monument from a Roman perspective, even if it is a temporary fixture: the assonance of armis and aggeratis enveloping an alliterative pair marks off the distressing description. For Tacitus’ readers, Vologeses’ impromptu victory mound may call to mind an earlier example from ce 16 in Germany, built by Roman soldiers (Ann. 2.18.2). Yet that monument was only constructed from weapons, not corpses. This temporary structure is one of several attempts by Vologeses to authenticate his own successes (15.14.3, Monobazus as testis, ‘witness’: 15.15.1, the bridge: 15.16.2, men sent testificando, ‘for witnessing’). He clearly sees the importance of putting markers on his own achievements when the opportunity arises. Conspicuously, this desire to commemorate is also in evidence on the Roman side, and if anything, it operates on an even bigger scale: at Romae tropaea de Parthis arcusque medio Capitolini montis sistebantur, decreta ab senatu integro adhuc bello neque tum omissa, dum aspectui consulitur spreta conscientia (‘At Rome the trophies and arches which


War as Spectacle

were being set up on account of the Parthians in the middle of the Capitoline Hill had been decreed by the senate with the war still undecided and were not now abandoned – a consideration for appearances which meant the spurning of conscience’, Ann.15.18.1.)44 Vologeses’ temporary victory mound may be gruesome, but Tacitus labels the battle that prompted it clades nostra (‘our disaster’) – strong language, which marks this Parthian achievement as genuine. So the Roman parallel to Vologeses’ impromptu monument is disturbing for a different reason: where the makeshift Parthian mound celebrates a real result, the formal Roman structures are monumentalizing prematurely and deceptively.45 Once the Romans have committed themselves, they are not prepared to dismantle their structures because (ironically) they are concerned about the impression this would create (aspectus, ‘appearance’).46 Yet Tacitus, through his cinematic ‘quick-cut’ narrative transition from the east to Rome, compels his readers to view the monuments together. As Waddell observes, ‘the sudden contrast between the actual outcome of the war and its overblown representation in Rome highlights the irony of false memorialization’.47 In terms of the spectacle of war, these concentric circles of viewers in Tacitus’ text are seeing different and conflicting images. Roman and Parthian soldiers in the east look upon a makeshift but legitimate pile of Roman corpses and weapons testifying to a real Parthian victory. Yet in Rome, civilians and emperor once again gaze upon more formal but misleading trophies and arches decreed by the senate to celebrate a Roman ‘victory’, which is quite the opposite. This current arch being erected may be the one decreed in ce 58, intended perhaps to compete with Augustus’ arch in the Forum Romanum voted for in 19 bce after the recovery of the standards (Kleiner 1985: 70). We know it from coins struck in Rome and Lugdunum between ce 64–6748: it was a grandiose structure topped by a statue of Nero in a triumphal toga carrying an eagle-topped sceptre and palm-branch while driving a four-horsed chariot and flanked by figures of Peace and Victory. Roman soldiers stand on the tops of four columns on a lower level saluting the emperor, while colossal statues of gods occupy niches on the sides of the arch. ‘Victory was thus claimed in the midst of retreat and negotiation, and for an emperor who had never seen an army’ (Champlin 2003: 217).

Shadow-boxing in the east: Part Three (Annals15.24-31) So far, both Corbulo and Vologeses have exploited appearances locally and played artfully with the boundary between conflict and peace. They have done so both

Shadow-Boxing in the East


by the shape of their written and oral communications and by their ostentatious manoeuvring of their armies. In the final section, we see a continuation of these techniques, but this time the ripples extend as far as Rome, and the war-games paradoxically lead to peace. The posturing through words reaches a new level of artfulness at Ann.15.24. This is Vologeses’ letter to Nero in which he succinctly states that the gods have given Armenia to the Parthians and graciously claims credit for sparing Paetus and his legions. Vologeses seems all too aware that for Romans the receipt of clementia can be an intense humiliation.49 Moreover, his complete failure even to mention the Roman nominee Tigranes is eloquent, as is his firm suggestion of the practical arrangements for Tiridates’ inauguration, meant to seem a fait accompli. Vologeses’ strategy here is win–win: either Nero will concede, or he will deploy the king’s old sparring partner Corbulo, who understands that a certain amount of posturing is fine, but who is unlikely to unleash a real war. Corbulo too puts on a fine verbal show, first at a contio to his army where he highlights magnifica (‘magnificent points’) about Nero’s auspices and his own achievements, and then blames the inscitia (‘ignorance’) of Paetus for any reverses (Ann.15.26.3). That polarized syncrisis before a sympathetic audience must have been effortlessly simple in comparison with the deft footwork needed in Corbulo’s response to Vologeses’ legates concerning peace. Corbulo says: nec enim adhuc eo uentum ut certamine extremo opus esset. [2] multa Romanis secunda, quaedam Parthis euenisse, documento aduersus superbiam. proinde et Tiridati conducere intactum uastationibus regnum dono accipere et Vologesen melius societate Romana quam damnis mutuis genti Parthorum consulturum. scire quantum intus discordiarum quamque indomitas et praeferoces nationes regeret: contra imperatori suo immotam ubique pacem et unum id bellum esse. (Ann.15.27.1-2) [. . .] it had not come to the point where there was need of a final contest; the Romans had had numerous successes, but some things had gone the Parthians’ way as a lesson against haughtiness. Accordingly, not only was it advantageous to Tiridates to receive as a gift a kingdom untouched by devastation but Vologeses would pay better heed to the Parthian people by a Roman alliance than by mutual losses. He knew the extent of internal disaffection and how untamed and defiant were the nations he ruled; by contrast his own Commander enjoyed an undisturbed peace everywhere and this was his only war.


War as Spectacle

Corbulo’s opening concession that so far the ‘contest’ has been evenly balanced is carefully soothing and allows Vologeses to proceed to peace with his dignity intact; and the appended ablative absolute highlighting that these events should be a lesson against haughtiness is formulated so that it can tacitly apply to both Romans and Parthians.50 It is also pointed that Corbulo omits any mention of the Roman nominee Tigranes and instead concentrates only on Tiridates (just as Vologeses did in his letter to Nero), simply presupposing that Tiridates will become king of Armenia (provided that this is a ‘gift’ from the Roman people). Both sides will make concessions, but to their mutual advantage.51 The note of warning in the coda is tangible, but mild; and in any case, Corbulo’s broad references to internal disaffection and intractable subject nations delicately evoke specific earlier problems (i.e. the challenge from Vologeses’ son Vardanes, Ann.13.7.2; the rebellion of the Hyrcani in the east, Ann.13.37.5, 14.25.2), but without rubbing salt in the wound. Corbulo emerges as a gifted negotiator with a light touch, who knows his addressee and the history of the area well. He is clearly the right man for the job. We also see in this section how Corbulo in particular continues to exploit to great effect the impression created by his soldiers moving through the landscape. So, the ‘phantom war’ sequence begins by Corbulo once again bustling around and looking intensely busy by dispatching different legions to different locations, sending some men back from Armenia to Syria and summoning others from Syria to Armenia (Ann.15.26.1). True, he has legitimate reasons for some of these movements (Paetus’ legions are demoralized), but it all helps to create the impression of intense action. We can compare here ‘Callipedes’ (Suet. Tib. 38), the popular nickname for Tiberius, coined because of his projected but deferred tours of the provinces, recalling a comic actor famous for his impersonation of a longdistance runner who stayed on the same spot. Not only does Corbulo immerse himself in complex manoeuvres of his men, but he gathers them all together at Melitene, from where he plans another ostentatious crossing of the Euphrates (Ann.15.26.3). Yet, one of the most pointed ways in which he manipulates space is by taking the same route used by the republican general Lucullus on his advance to Tigranocerta in 69 bce (Ann.15.27.1).52 This must have taken some doing, because the route had become overgrown over time, but evidently Corbulo’s desire for aemulatio (‘rivalry’, this time with a long-dead republican predecessor) is strong. Now that Paetus is off the scene, he needs a new rival; and the safely dead Lucullus is a tempting target. In addition, it may even have suited his plans very well to travel by a derelict route, which in practical terms would slow the progress of his army and thereby defer direct confrontation with the Parthians.

Shadow-Boxing in the East


The Parthians are also very aware of how significant the past history of a physical space can be. So, when Tiridates requests a time and a place for a meeting with Corbulo, he deliberately picks the location in which the legions had recently been blockaded with Paetus, ob memoriam laetioris ibi rei (‘in memory of a happier affair there’, Ann. 15.28.2). Corbulo, it turns out, is equally happy to comply so that dissimilitudo fortunae gloriam augeret (‘the dissimilarity of their two fortunes should increase his glory’, Ann. 15.28.2). Moreover, on the day of the meeting between Corbulo and Tiridates, the carefully choreographed events unfold and reach a climax magna utrimque specie (‘in a great scene on both sides’, 15.29.2), while the collective Roman onlookers are said particularly to enjoy the spectacle of Tiridates surrendering his diadem before Nero’s statue, because the chilling slaughter and blockade previously inflicted on the Roman armies is insita adhuc oculis (‘still imprinted on their eyes’, 15.29.3). The residual spectacle of battle can also have a very significant psychological impact after the event, when participants remember what happened in different circumstances.53

Conclusion: intersecting worlds We have seen how subtly Tacitus’ final Parthian narrative sequence engages with the highly creative ways in which Corbulo and Vologeses engage in a kind of verbal and martial shadow-boxing, where display is designed both to intimidate the other party and to promote the reassuring perception of onlookers that their own side is winning.54 Yet ultimately the real intention of both men is not to have to engage in actual conflict. It is a delicate balancing-act requiring mutual understanding between the two protagonists, but one that ultimately succeeds in restoring a lasting peace to the region. After the final spectacle of Tiridates accepting his diadem from Nero in Rome in 66 ce , both sides can revert to their own orbis with their honour intact.55 For this reason, we should resist qualifying this martial display with terms such as ‘empty’ or ‘meaningless’. For this choreography gets mutually satisfying strategic results.56 Yet this portrait is all the more intriguing given the contemporary context in which Tacitus was writing, when Trajan was actively engaged on campaigns in Parthia and Armenia and the whole area was once again in the Roman public eye.57 Syme argues that Tacitus narrated events in Armenia and Parthia far too extensively, but suggests that his aim in so doing was to offer a pointed critique of Trajan’s disastrous campaigns and to set on record other, more practical ways for Rome to deal with Parthia (Syme 1958: 424–6). Our current reading of


War as Spectacle

Annals 15.1-17, 24–31 particularly endorses the second part of Syme’s observation and reminds us that, as so often is the case in ancient historiography, past events are implicitly being viewed from a contemporary perspective (and vice versa).58 Tacitus constructs an exciting eastern narrative in Annals 15, but one that is also intended to be useful and to prompt debate. His characterization of the two central protagonists demonstrates to contemporaries one effective way to handle the Parthians, while the depiction of Paetus serves as a memorably negative exemplum of what can happen when Roman intervention becomes too aggressive.59 Certainly, Corbulo emerges from this Paetus episode as a selfcentred and tarnished figure, but his broad strategy is fruitful. Yet for such techniques to work, the right people need to be involved. The Tacitean Vologeses and Corbulo seem to have certain traits in common with one another and at times seem almost to collude in putting on an impressive military spectacle. Tacitus’ later sequence narrating Corbulo’s enforced suicide imposed by Nero is unfortunately missing, but it seems very likely that the death-scene would have been shaped in such a way as to reprise Corbulo’s verbal and physical showmanship and to underscore that, this time, no amount of ingenuity will allow him to escape.60 In the end, Corbulo’s real enemy was not Vologeses, but Nero. And the failure of Corbulo’s showmanship before Nero in Rome will have its contribution to make to the evolution of the civil war and the development of the principate. As Licinius Mucianus reminds Vespasian, in his speech of advice prompting him to make his imperial challenge, an excidit trucidatus Corbulo? (‘Has the killing of Corbulo slipped your mind?’, Hist. 2.76.3).61 Corbulo’s successful and substantive martial displays on the margins may avert a dangerous foreign war with Parthia, but that achievement still fails to save him when he returns to the world of empty and ephemeral display at the centre in Rome.

Abbreviations OLD = P. G. W. Glare (ed.) (1968–82), Oxford Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press. RIC I = C. H. V. Sutherland and R. A. G. Carson (eds) (1984), The Roman Imperial Coinage Volume I: 31 bc –ad 69, (revised edn.), London: Spink. TLL = Thesaurus Linguae Latinae (1900–), Munich: Teubner.


Bodies on the Battlefield The Spectacle of Rome’s Fallen Soldiers Valerie M. Hope The Open University

War is fundamentally an embodied experience, ‘war occupies innumerable bodies in a multitude of ways, profoundly shaping lives and ways of being human’ (McSorely 2013: 1). In particular, the soldier’s body is formed by societal expectations of militarism. In the Roman world, soldiers’ bodies were altered to fit their role – trained, nourished, groomed, equipped and armoured – to embody a soldier’s identity.1 Military prowess, strength and bravery were much admired, and viewed as a central tenet of masculinity (Walters 1997: 40; McDonnell 2006). Simultaneously, the over-militarized body, one made old, scarred and rugged, and under the authority of others, was regarded as lowly and even dangerous; and by the early Imperial period soldiers were often far removed from civilian life (Tac. Ann. 1.16-49; Dio Cass. 75.2.6).2 Roman soldiers were both admired and despised, and this chapter will explore how this continued if the soldier fell. A military corpse could be prized or ignored, be a spectacle or a non-spectacle, depending on the status and value of the individual. En masse, military corpses could also become, generally in exceptional circumstances, highly significant. Ancient warfare was about inflicting injury, mutilation and destruction on human bodies. Military corpses could be the nameless price of Roman expansion, or valuable assets, both actual and symbolic, and in some respects continuing actors in conflict. A corpse is a powerful symbol, and invested with meaning.3 A living, breathing body, that can be adapted, modified and displayed, is central to individual identity, but bodies are also constructed through cultural and social action.4 Death sees the loss of the self, and the corpse is something that is betwixt and between; it is, and it is not, the person who has died (Synnott 1993; Nilsson Stutz 2008). A corpse is an inanimate object, something that needs to be disposed of through accepted ritual actions, but something that can be manipulated by 157


War as Spectacle

adaptions to or deviations from those rituals (Hope 2000). Simultaneously, the corpse also has the power to act on the living; as it passes through stages of change and decay, it affects the senses.5 Previous studies have highlighted ways of viewing Roman military corpses in specific genres and works, the potency of battle death scenes and the battle aftermath.6 Here the intention will be to range more widely, not to focus on one genre or on specific inter-textual relationships between authors, but to explore the broader symbolic significance and value placed upon dead soldiers’ bodies; how military corpses were treated and how this treatment was then represented as a literary spectacle. The selected sources narrate and describe historical events, and mainly incorporate historical and biographical works, but also fictionalized, poetic descriptions. Warfare was a shared interest across genres, and for many authors battle was a literary rather than an actual experience, with interconnections between epic poetry and historiography apparent (Ash 2002: 253–4; Joseph 2012). The texts referenced here were written mainly between the first century bce and the mid-second century ce . In this period, authors looked back upon Rome’s great battles interpreting them against the shift from Republic to Empire, a backdrop of civil war, and changes in the nature and recruitment of the army. Roman military bodies were socially and culturally constructed as symbols (if not unwavering ones) that could represent Roman values, such as power and virtus. Battle could see the dismantling and even mass destruction of these bodies, and also challenges to the accepted rituals of disposal. Further, the sheer quantity of the dead could have a powerful visual and sensory effect, creating a spectacle out of the dead (compare the use of soldiers’ corpses in war movies, see Hesk, Ch. 17 this volume). Here I will consider how dead soldiers’ bodies were used during and post battle, how they were honoured or dishonoured, counted or dismissed, buried or abandoned, and how the stories of military corpses, collectively and individually, were used by varied authors to chart the success and failure of the Roman mission.

The dead in action and aftermath At the outset bodies were on display in the battle line; opponents visually evaluated each other – physical strength, facial expressions, and bodily accoutrements (armour, weapons and helmets) were on show in the pre-battle posturing. There was ever-present irony that at least some of these ostentatious

Bodies on the Battlefield


bodies would soon be dirtied, bloodied and destroyed in battle. On the plains of Elatea (86 bce ), for example, the army of Sulla faced that of Mithridates, the latter sporting expensive and terror-inspiring equipment, with armour of gold and silver, weapons of bronze and steel, and tunics of bright colours – all of which were like a flaming fire (Plut. Sull. 16); but such luxury was indicative of indiscipline and ultimately these soldiers were no match for Rome, the bodies falling in their thousands (Plut. Sull. 16–19). Similarly, confronting the Gauls in 225 bce , the Roman army was terrified by the naked warriors – men of fine physique, in the prime of life, wearing only gold necklaces and bracelets (Polyb. 2.29), but such bodies were vulnerable to the Roman javelins (Polyb. 2.30). Such anecdotes may promote the superiority of strong Roman bodies over the weak, luxuriant or effeminized bodies of their enemies, but Roman soldiers did sport expensive, distinctive and colourful kit; battle was about bodily display as well as action (Gilliver 2007). The progress of a battle could be marked by bodily changes – wounds, collapse and death. In history writing such changes may not be specifically referenced; the troops became a collective body that pushed forward or fell back; the perspective was generally one of military strategy, not the individual story of the frontline soldier. In poetry, in epic in particular, this could differ. As Silius Italicus noted of the Battle of Zama, warfare could display strange and diverse forms of death (Pun.17.481-2). Such deaths became poetic spectacles: soldiers were named (or given names) and sword blows, bloody wounds and final words were invented. These devices individualized the experience of battle, often turning it into a duel between named combatants.7 The detailed descriptions mapped the process of the change from a strong, breathing, mobile body to a dismantled, eviscerated and bloody cadaver. Lucan’s description of the naval battle at Marseille detailed both mass deaths – nameless corpses blocking the boats, men drowning in blood and brine, and a crust of gore covering the sea (Luc. 3.572-82); and specific deaths of named individuals whose bodies were pierced, mutilated, blinded and crushed (Luc. 3.583-751). The extreme brutality of Lucan’s account disturbs but also disconcerts the reader, since it blurs the boundaries between honour, sympathy and entertainment (Leigh 1997: 250–8). In epics, battles become shows on an almost gladiatorial scale with both literary characters and readers acting as the audience (Most 1992; Leigh 1997: 234–43).8 Historians could sometimes use similar, if less extreme descriptions, capitalizing on body imagery and the theme of arena entertainment. Livy’s account of the oneto-one combat between an un-named Gallic warrior and Titus Manlius, who are more like gladiators than soldiers (7.10.6), makes much of the Gaul’s huge build,


War as Spectacle

physical agility, multi-coloured clothes and golden embossed armour, which is then contrasted with the piercing of his belly and groin, the crash of his fall and the despoiling of his corpse (Livy 7.10.7-13). As battles progressed, the living fought among the dead (e.g. Plut. Marc. 24.5). Ammianus Marcellinus pictured tight battle lines, where the dead could not fall to the ground (18.8.12; cf. Dio Cass. 38.50.4; Luc. 4.787). When they did fall, corpses could become a topographic feature of the on-going battle. Blood could make battlegrounds slippery and corpses could impede troop movements; bodies could accumulate thickly in trenches and around defensive walls and ramparts; and sometimes the bodies assisted either their own side or the enemy, piled up they could provide access up walls, or fill up trenches, rivers or lakes easing the passageway of troops.9 The merging of bodies with the landscape, a feature that in itself could aid or hamper victory (see e.g. O’Gorman 1995: 126–7; Campbell 2012: 163–7), emphasized the disintegration of bodies and their brutal return to nature. The accepted boundaries between men and earth (or water) were destroyed, as bloodied corpses were trampled, altering the topography temporarily, before dissolving into the soil (or water) more permanently (see below pp. 168–9). Specific bodies (and body parts) could also be used strategically during the course of a battle. The head, which was a particularly prized trophy both by Roman soldiers and their enemies, could be subject to a range of indignities – display, mutilation, mummification, and even use as a vessel (e.g. Livy 23.24.12).10 Livy tells that the promise of rewards for taking an enemy head slowed the course of one battle against the Carthaginians (Livy 24.15). Caesar’s troops used severed heads, displayed on sword tips, to frighten the enemy (Caes. Bell.Hisp.32); the head of Hasdrubal was thrown into the camp of his brother Hannibal as a menacing message (Livy 27.51.11; Sil. Pun. 15, 813–23); while the head of Crassus’s son was paraded by the Parthians in order to un-nerve his father and his troops (Plut. Crass. 26.4). Dio Cassius recorded how Caesar’s troops campaigning against those of Gnaeus Pompey in Spain (45 bce ) used dead bodies to build a wall to prevent prisoners from escaping (43.38.4); and Lucan pictured bodies being hurled at assailants (6.170-1). The use of bodies added graphic details to battle narratives by illustrating the transgressions of war, in a range of genres, but it rarely drew explicit moral comment. Valerius Maximus did characterize Hannibal’s use of the bodies of Roman soldiers to bridge the river Vergellus as cruel and criminal (9.2. ext. 2), whereas Caesar’s use of enemy bodies to build a rampart at Munda was a decision occasioned by necessity (7.6.5). More generally, decapitation and fragmentation of bodies, both actual

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and imagined, could serve as literary metaphors for the destructive nature of war and the moral and political disintegration of peoples and places.11 Once the battle was over the corpses became, most often, a statistic. The enumerating of the dead was a stock feature of battle descriptions, especially in history writing. Numbers were a simple and effective way of summing up the outcome; the number of dead was shorthand for Rome’s successes, and occasionally failures, and the overall impression created could be more important than accuracy (Campbell 2002: 68–70). Indeed, Livy often complained of the difficulty of establishing the number of battle dead with any certainty since different sources contained divergent figures (e.g. 27.1.13; 33.10.7-10; 36.38.6-7). Often these (inaccurate, approximate or inflated) tallies were all that was said about the dead on either side of the conflict. Sometimes the number of Roman tribunes, or men of senatorial or equestrian rank, would be noted and occasionally named (e.g. Caes. B Civ. 3.71; Caes. Bel. Alex. 40; Livy 21.59.9-10; 30.18.14-15; 35.5.14). Centurions, men who had risen through the ranks, could also be included in such lists (e.g. Caes. B Civ. 1.46; 3.99), but the vast majority of the fallen could not be identified. In epic poetry, individual bodies might be named (or names invented), but these often served to emphasize the anonymity of the majority. The dehumanizing nature of the tally was not above comment. Lucan has one soldier note the loss of identity in becoming a statistic of war, ‘When the dead lie thick upon the field, each death is merged in a common account’ (conferta iacent cum corpora campo, in medium mors omnis abit, 4.490-1). Post-battle autopsies did, occasionally, do more than just count the fallen, and could include descriptions of the appearance of the field. Such descriptions focused, in varied combination, on four common elements: discarded weapons, mutilated corpses, severed limbs, and blood-stained earth.12 Sometimes rivers and waterways could also be pictured turning red with blood and filled with corpses (e.g. Val. Max. 3.2.23b; 9.2.1; Luc. 7.700; Sil. Pun. 1.131; 6.12-13; Plut. Mar. 19.6; Sull. 21.4). Silius Italicus, at the start of the Punica, used the common motifs, in tandem with water, to anticipate the great Roman defeats of the Punic War: the banks of the Ticinus will overflow with the dead; the Trebia will be blocked by blood, weapons and corpses; Lake Trasimene will be darkened with blood and gore; and the Aufidius (at Cannae) will be slowed by shields, helmets and severed limbs (1.45-54). This combination of corpses, limbs, weapons and blood was suitably effective, a generic checklist that summed up defeat or victory and the associated carnage.13 It was a spectacle that could be characterized as ghastly or terrifying (spectaculm horribile, Sall. Iug. 101.11; foedam spectandum, Livy 22.51.5; atrox spectaculm, Tac. Agric. 37; foedum et atrox spectaculum, Tac.


War as Spectacle

Hist. 2.70). The bodies and body parts that contributed to these descriptions were generally anonymous. These were the nameless dead; it was sheer quantity that created the effect that as far as the eye could see the ground had been temporarily scarred. Indeed the extent of this ground coverage could be highlighted. Following Sulla’s sack of Athens, it was said that so many were slaughtered that the blood flowed through the city out through the gates and into the suburbs (Plut. Sull. 14.4); in 58 bce Caesar pursued the Germans for forty miles as far as the Rhine and the whole area was filled with 80,000 bodies (Plut. Caes. 19.5); after the defeat of the German Cherusci tribe (ce 16), ten miles were covered with arms and bodies (Tac. Ann. 2.18). Pre-, during and post-battle, bodies, alive, dying and dead, were central to battle narratives. The corpses were not just a product of the battle, but could continue to be players – changing the terrain and landscape, affecting the course of the battle, and emblemizing its consequences. Such corpses were most often generic and anonymous, and descriptions of battlefields, across genres, employed similar motifs. When this standard aftermath format was elaborated upon, when details were added about the scene, such as the identification of individual bodies or spectators, the battlefield dead gained heightened significance, as will be explored below. Burying bodies, abusing them or simply looking became a significant method for judging both the living and the dead.

The visible dead The ideal was long forged that to die in battle for Rome was honourable, and a source of glory. Horace claimed that, ‘It is sweet and proper to die for the fatherland’ (dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, Hor. Car. 3.2.12), even though in the following lines Horace noted that the soldier who runs away suffers the same fate. The themes of glory, duty, immortality and even beauty, in a military death were frequently echoed (e.g. Polyb. 6.54; Cic. Tusc. 1.15.33; Cic. Fin 3.64; Cic. Phil. 14.12.32; Sall. Cat. 7; Livy 9.4.10; Virg. Aen. 2.316-17; 6.660; 9.399-401; 11.646-8; Sil. Pun. 2.324). Dying for Rome was a visible sacrifice that ensured honour, prestige and renown. Such a death was taken to the extreme in the idealized act of devotio, in which a military commander would ride into the enemy line to appease the gods and inspire his troops (Enn. Ann. 200–2; Livy 8.9; 10.28; Val. Max. 5.6.5-6). Such a sacrifice was only effective if it was witnessed (Edwards 2007: 26); military deeds could only become a worthy and glorious spectacle if there was a suitable audience (actual and literary).

Bodies on the Battlefield


Bravery, leadership and command needed to be seen. Generals wore the commander’s cloak, the paludamentum, and lesser officers could don distinctive garb so they could be identified by their troops during the action (Gilliver 2007: 12). Such visual cues might, however, become problematic when things went wrong, allowing the targeting of key individuals by enemies. If pinned down by the enemy, the final moments of a commander could make for a dramatic scene, undercut by the fact that such a death generally signalled a Roman defeat. To save honour it was better for the commander to die fighting or commit suicide rather than fall into enemy hands.14 But it was not just the act of dying, but also what followed, that could hold the gaze. The corpses of fallen commanders could retain a certain potency that was readily protected or exploited. These corpses could incorporate the wider identity, power and success (or failure) of the army. It could be perceived as the duty of the rank-and-file soldier to protect their general; and those who failed to do so could be condemned (Val. Max. 2.7. 15d). Bodies of fallen generals might be retrieved and protected during the course of battle to prevent them falling into enemy hands (Livy 9.22.19; cf. Sil. Pun. 5.584-5; Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 11.27). Following his devotio in 340 bce , the body of Decius was searched for until the light failed. The following day it was recovered from amid a huge pile of enemy dead, and was honoured with a suitable funeral (Livy 8.10.10). Silius Italicus pictured the bodies of men falling on top of that of the consul Flaminius, at Trasimene, concealing and protecting their commander, they created a close-packed heap of corpses for a tomb (5.665-6). Until the Social War (90 bce ), the corpses of commanders could be returned to Rome for public and familial burial (App. B Civ.1.5.43). We can imagine that members of Rome’s élite families who were killed in battle would have received the type of funeral outlined by Polybius – being placed among images of their ancestors and lauded in the Roman Forum (Polyb. 6.53-4). The political charge of such events, especially during war, may have been a factor in why the return of bodies to Rome was eventually discouraged. For the most prominent, burial in Rome may have continued, at least in exceptional circumstances. The consuls, Aulus Hirtius and Gaius Vibius Pansa, who both fell in the civil war of 43 bce , were buried at public expense in adjacent tombs on the Campus Martius (Livy Per 119; Vell. Pat. 2.62.4-5; Val. Max. 5.2.10; Cic. ad Brut. 1.15.8; Gerding 2008); and Mark Antony had the cremated remains of Brutus sent to his mother (Plut. Brut. 53).15 In general it became standard practice that commanders who died on the battlefield were buried on the battlefield. Military status still brought privilege and individual treatment. Bodies were searched for, identified and given


War as Spectacle

honourable, and separate disposal (e.g. App. B Civ. 1.43; Livy 10.29.19-20; Tac. Hist. 2.45; Amm. Marcell. 31.7.14). The enemy could even be asked to identify and bury the distinguished Roman dead. In 148 bce , during the Third Punic War, a request was sent to Hasdrubal that the bodies of fallen military tribunes be afforded burial. These bodies were identified by their gold rings and then appropriately honoured, while the remaining Roman soldiers were left unburied (App. Pun. 8.15.104). The corpses of generals, and their suitable disposal, could be a symbolic focus for the troops, although there could be implications for morale. Appian noted that during the Social War bodies of patricians were no longer returned to Rome for burial in case the sight deterred others from military service (App. B Civ.1.5.43). Plutarch claimed that Brutus had Cassius’ body sent out of the camp for disposal since he did not wish the army to be overcome with grief at a funeral (Plut. Brut. 44.3).16 When the bodies of commanders could not be recovered this was seen as particularly shocking, the sign of a devastating defeat. Lucan suggested that Curio became carrion for birds in Africa (4.809-10) and Valerius Maximus indicated a similar fate for the body of Crassus (1.6.11). Lack of burial could be compounded by corpse abuse if the body fell into the hands of the enemy. The head of Crassus, for example, was abused and mocked by the Parthians (Plut. Crass. 33). Such fears could encourage defeated commanders to commit suicide and request rapid disposal of their remains. Varus, for example, committed suicide and was hurriedly, and inadequately, cremated (Vell. Pat. 119.3-5). Pliny the Elder noted that the preference for cremation sprang from the fear that inhumed military corpses could be disinterred by enemies, and also reported how Sulla dug up and abused the corpse of his rival Marius (Plin. HN 7.54.187; Cic. Leg. 2.22.57). How the corpses of military commanders were treated and looked upon was a recurring narrative theme, and was not just a tale of abuse. To show respect for an enemy could be the sign of good leadership, morality and humanity. The consul Lucius Cornelius, in the First Punic War, buried the Carthaginian Hanno, providing him with a lavish funeral (Val. Max. 5.1.2; cf. Plut. Ant. 3.6). Mark Antony treated Brutus’s body with respect, wrapping it in his own scarlet cape (Plut. Brut. 53; Ant. 22; Val. Max. 5.1.11). To face the body, or sometimes only the head, of a long-term opponent was a test of character. To gloat in the face of a dead enemy, to enjoy the sight, was a telling flaw. It was to Pompey’s credit that he did not think it appropriate to look upon the body of Mithradates (Plut. Pomp. 42; cf. Val. Max. 9.2.2). By contrast, how Julius Caesar would come to look on Pompey’s head was the subject of contested narratives. In most accounts, Julius

Bodies on the Battlefield


Caesar did not accept or look at Pompey’s head when it was offered to him; Caesar did not wish to be complicit in the assassination, and he shed tears for his father-in-law (Plut. Pomp. 80; Caes. 48; Val. Max. 5.1.10). By contrast, Lucan claimed that Caesar did look upon the head of Pompey and any tears were false since his heart rejoiced (9.1035-9).17 Such head-focused narratives play with sight – the eyes of the living look, or choose not to look, into the eyes of the dead, and the reader becomes a spectator also faced with the dilemma of looking or looking away. In the context of civil war, the viewing of Pompey’s head problematized the discomfort of a Roman killing a Roman (even if indirectly). External enemies, by contrast, could be expected to glory in the death of fallen Romans, epitomized by action against the corpses of the Roman commanders, but when this did not happen this too could be problematic. Rome’s greatest enemy, Hannibal, was said to have recovered and disposed of the bodies of several Roman consuls (Lucius Aemilius Paulus died at the Battle of Cannae in 216 bce ; Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus killed in an ambush in 212 bce ; Marcus Claudius Marcellus died in skirmish in 208 bce ). But why Hannibal did this, and indeed whether he did it, could puzzle and challenge authors.18 Livy’s discomfort, and perhaps disbelief, that Hannibal could behave so is suggested by his brief, and often sceptical references. For Marcellus, Livy simply records that Hannibal found and buried the body (27.28.1); after Cannae Livy comments that some sources state that the Roman consul was sought out and accorded burial (22.52.6; cf. Val. Max. 1.6.6); for Gracchus, Livy observes that reports vary, some say that Hannibal had him cremated and delivered praise, but others say that his head was cut off, and a funeral held for him in the Roman camp (25.17.4-7). In the Punica of Silius Italicus, such incidents become part of Hannibal’s posturing as a general, they represent deliberate manipulation of the dead, to create the (false) impression that Hannibal is fair and just; he buries Gracchus to appear humane (12. 473-4); and for Paulus he is proud of displaying honour to a dead enemy (10.559). Paulus’ pyre is impressive, and Hannibal speaks well, but the consul’s body is still deprived of the presence of his wife, family and ancestor masks, and the narrative focus falls upon Hannibal rather than Paulus (10.565-8; Erasmo 2008: 76); later Paulus’ spirit is made to shed tears to hear of his burial by the enemy (13.716). Plutarch makes much of Hannibal’s treatment of Marcellus, seeing it as a sign of respect. Hannibal admires the strength and beauty of the dead body, wraps it in a fine robe, sees to its cremation, and places the remains in a silver urn. Ultimately the remains are scattered and Hannibal is made to remark that nothing can be done against the will of the gods (Plut. Marcell. 30; see also


War as Spectacle

App.  7.6.35). Valerius Maximus and Cicero also take a positive view of the actions of Hannibal. The latter may have been Rome’s bitterest enemy but he could demonstrate mercy; humanity can find its way even into savage minds (Val. Max. 5.1 ext. 6; Cic. Sen. 75). This is a view shared by Diodorus Siculus, who claims that the Carthaginian troops would have hacked the body of Gracchus to pieces, an action prevented and condemned by Hannibal, who was in awe both of the bravery of others and the vicissitudes of Fortune (26.16; cf. App. Hann. 8.50). For Lucan the difficulties of squaring Hannibal’s humanity with his status as an enemy are toyed with when Hannibal’s actions post-Cannae are contrasted with Julius Caesar’s actions post-Pharsalus. It is Caesar who is now Rome’s enemy since in failing to bury the dead he has shown himself worse than Hannibal (see below pp. 171–2). The visible bodies on the battlefield were those of the commanders and the élite. These bodies were distinguished by dress and the symbols of status, and thus in death were also readily identified by both friend and foe. Corpses of fallen commanders were to be treated with respect, identified and disposed of. When this was not possible, and the body fell into enemy hands, it could become a victim of abhorrent practices; and even if it was treated with respect this could be represented as problematic in terms of defining Rome’s enemies. In accounts of Roman defeat, the corpses (and heads) of commanders became a locus for myth making, with the merging of fact and fiction, as authors imagined and interpreted how the treatment received reflected on the character of the dead and the character of the living.

The anonymous dead Following death in battle, the rank-and-file soldier was probably not singled out for individual burial or commemoration. What happened to the corpses of fallen soldiers was generally not recorded and in most cases cannot be securely established. It is possible that when casualty numbers were low bodies could be identified, and afforded some individual attention (Peretz 2005).19 When casualty numbers were high, it is more likely that the bodies of soldiers would have been stripped, gathered together, cremated en masse, and that the shared graves of the resulting remains were not marked or monumentalized (Giorcelli 1995; Hope 2003; cf. customs in fifth century bce Athens, see Arrington 2014).20 This basic treatment met the demands of common decency and hygiene, and the essential religious requirements. The disposal probably incorporated due rituals, centred

Bodies on the Battlefield


around the mass pyre(s), but there is no direct evidence for this (cf. Virg. Aen. 11.183-203; Sil. Pun. 10.524-57). Most records of battles in historical sources stated the number of dead (see above p. 161), but provided no further reference as to how the dead were collected and disposed of. It is clear, however, that overseeing the burial of the dead was one of the expected duties of a general. To neglect this duty was a failing in command, not just an insult to the dead, but a cause of concern to the surviving soldiers (Onasander 36.1). Commanders were expected to use breaks in hostilities to claim the dead and clear the field (e.g. Caes. B Gall. 1.26; B. Afric. 40; Livy 1.1.13; 23.46.5; 27.2.10; 39.21.8; Tac. Ann. 15.28.2; Plut. Marcell. 24; App. Syr. 11.6.36; cf. Livy 38.2.14). This was at odds with how the élite battle dead, civilian dead or even peacetime dead soldiers might be treated: not for the common soldier was the identification and retrieval of his body for singular disposal; nor an individual grave marked with an inscribed tombstone – a common feature of military forts during the first two centuries ce ; nor the civilian idealized good death of dying in the arms of a loved-one, who would provide a last embrace and kiss, and see the corpse cremated singly. Lucan has soldiers weary of campaigning under Julius Caesar complain about just this, ‘suffer us to sink into the arms of a weeping wife, and to know that the pyre stands ready for one corpse alone’ (coniugis inlabi lacrimis,unique paratum scire rogum, 5.281-2; see also 4.490-1; cf. 6.153-4). Sentiments echoed by Pompey’s men after his death and non-burial, ‘let our old age look forward to due funeral rites; civil war can hardly provide graves even for its leaders’ (mors eat in tutum, iustas sibi nostra senectus prospiciat flammas; bellum civile sepulchra vix ducibus praestare potest, 9.233-6).21 Sometimes even basic mass disposal was not achieved (e.g. Tac. Ann. 15.15.3). In hostile terrain, and in defeat, the dead might be abandoned upon the field. Livy noted that after the Battles of Trasimene and Cannae, Hannibal separated the corpses of his own dead from those of the Roman enemy, and had them buried, the implication being that the Roman corpses were left on the field (Livy 22.7.5; Livy 22.51.6; Sil. Pun. 10.524-5).22 The spectre of unburied bodies was the symbol of some of Rome’s greatest defeats, but it could also indicate an army’s weakness, that it was on the point of failing due to loss of nerve or sickness. During a night’s respite fighting the Parthians under Crassus, the Roman troops were so dejected that they did not bury the dead (Plut. Crass. 27.3). Lucan claimed that soldiers dug in at Dyrrachium (48 bce ) succumbed to illness, and those that perished were left unburied and in contact with the living (6.100-2; cf. Sil. Pun. 13.610-12). Silius Italicus had soldiers observe that it would be better to lie unburied, post battle than be conquered by disease (14.632-4).


War as Spectacle

Post the immediate battle aftermath (see below pp. 170–6), the longer-term fate of the unburied dead was not generally explored. Tacitus suggested that corpses were in a state of putrefication (putres) when Vitellius visited the site of the battle of Bedriacum some forty days post event (Hist. 2.70; see below p. 172). Suetonius also noted the stench of these bodies, with Vitellius drinking a large quantity of wine, and encouraging his retinue to do the same, in order to numb the senses, and flippantly remarking that a dead enemy did not smell so bad, if he were a fellow citizen (Vit. 10). Julius Caesar, in describing the blockade of Pompey’s troops at Dyrrachium, noted how the health of the living was adversely affected by the foul odour of dead bodies (B Civ. 3.49). The slow disintegration of unburied soldiers’ bodies, however, was generally not created as a spectacle; odours and putrefaction, the sensory impact of large-scale death, was not common subject matter.23 In non-military contexts abandoned bodies, such as those of the homeless and the executed, became carrion (e.g. Cat. 64, 152–3; Juv. 14.79; Apul. Met. 6.32; Hor. Ep. 5.93), but this was rarely explored or inferred for dead military bodies (though see Amm. Marcell. 31.7.14; Val Max 1.6.11).24 Vultures, as omens of doom, could sometimes be pictured as plaguing armies (e.g. Dio Cass. 47. 40. 8; Plut. Brut. 39.5), but in general the non-burial of bodies lay outside accepted cultural and social norms, it was something alien or insulting, problematic for Rome’s soldiers and not closely examined. Silius Italicus observed that in contrast to Roman custom, the Celts did not bury their dead soldiers, leaving them on the field to be devoured by vultures (3.340-3; Paus. 21.7; cf. Sil. Pun.2.265-9). Most authors do not allow their readers to imagine or dwell on the sight of rotting military corpses. The author who does go against the grain and graphically explores the idea of putrefaction and the dismantling of soldier’s bodies is Lucan. Not only does Lucan observe that Curio’s noble body will feed the birds of Libya (4.809-10), but he focuses upon the rotting corpses after the Battle of Pharsalus. Lucan describes the fields as pestilential or stinking (olentes, 7.821) and the decay (tabentes, 7.823) of the dead. He continues to imagine bears, lions, dogs, birds and every creature that could smell the death-scented air flooding the plains of Pharsalus; the sky is filled with vultures, dropping blood and flesh, thereby polluting the faces and standards of the conquerors. Even with the aid of such an animal host, it is mainly the sun and rain that dissolves away the Roman dead (7.825-46). Lucan’s imagery of the stench of death, of corpses being torn apart, fed upon, disintegrating and finally dissolving provides a parallel to the pollution, corruption and disintegration of the civil war riven Roman state. The idea of a battlefield permanently (or some years after the battle) still being somehow stained, and or scattered with human remains (no longer rotting

Bodies on the Battlefield


or malodorous), was a more common motif than tracing the disintegration of bodies in the first weeks and months. The extent to which (in)famous battle sites were permanently marked and visited in the ancient world is hard to judge.25 Pausanias, writing in the second century ce , reported that people still visited the site of the battle of Marathon (490 bce ) centuries after the great Greek victory, drawn by stories of ghosts, since at night the neighing of horses and sounds of men fighting could be heard. Pausanias assumed that these were the ghosts of the Persian dead who were buried inadequately (Paus. 1.32.4). Much would have depended on the outcome, and location, of the battle as to whether the site was readily remembered or forgotten. Two hundred years after the battle of Orchomenus, Plutarch claimed that swords and armour could still be found embedded in the ground (Plut. Sull. 21).26 Plutarch also noted that after the defeat of the Ambrones by Marius, it was said that the people of Marseille fenced their vineyards with the bones of the dead, and for years the ground was richly fertilized as a result of the rotting flesh. Plutarch continued to claim that heavy rain was common after battles and this cleansed the earth (Plut. Mar. 21).27 Literary images draw on the idea that land was marked, contaminated and sometimes enriched with blood. Lucan can claim that Carrhae was stained (maculavit) with Roman blood (1.105; cf. 7.473), as were other grounds and waters associated with Roman losses (e.g. Hor. Carm. 2.1, 29–35; Sil. Pun. 6.553; Sen. Clem. 11.1). The thought of human bones (de-fleshed, and thus no-longer pestilential) continuing to lie unburied was also drawn upon. It could form part of the rhetoric of revenge, something to spur troops onto victory, by allowing them to imagine fellow soldiers, or even relatives left unburied in defeat (e.g. Sil. Pun. 5.154-6). The imagery of whitening bones could also act as a negative legacy of Roman defeat. Hannibal, for example, can be made to comment that thanks to him, far and wide, Roman bones are whitening the ground (lateque refulgent ossibus, Sil. Pun. 9.190-1) and when Germanicus reached the site of the Varian disaster the troops found bleached bones (albentia ossa, Tac. Ann 1.61; cf. Amm. Marcell. 31.7.14). Propertius also acknowledged that civil war battlefields, including in Italy, held the abandoned and un-buried bones of fellow citizens, that had been too readily forgotten (1.21; 1.22; 2.15, 44; cf. 3.3, 45–6; cf. Ovid Fasti 3.708). Sometimes commanders did seize the opportunity to put right a previous wrong and to cleanse the earth of an earlier Roman defeat. Pompey campaigning in the east came across the unburied remains of Roman soldiers who had been defeated in 67 bce . Pompey gave them a fine funeral with all the proper honours, something that his predecessor Lucullus had failed to do (Plut. Pomp. 39.1). The


War as Spectacle

most famous example is that of Germanicus who, six years after the Varian disaster, visited the battle ground and gave burial to what was left of the dead. The episode was reported in Tacitus to create pathos for the fallen and explore the characters of Germanicus and Tiberius (Ann. 1.61-2). Germanicus sought to honour the dead and avenge the defeat, but his attempts were ultimately unsatisfactory; the old bones may have been moved, but they remained on the edges of empire, and the on-going conflict was not fully resolved (Pagán 1999).28 The corpses of rank-and-file soldiers were marginalized; these bodies were not singled out, not identified and not buried individually. In historiography these men were largely rendered invisible, submerged in one large number, a statistic of war. Most battle casualties were afforded a basic burial, one that was sufficient to meet the standards of common decency. Non-burial – occasioned by defeat – drew more comment than burial. The sight of rotting bodies, feed for birds and animals, was a disturbing one, if rarely explored in full. More common was the general sense that infamous battlefields were stained with blood and covered with whitening bones. There were few attempts to put right such wrongs; and when this did happen it highlighted the failings of others in not acting sooner. In general the bodies of the rank-and-file had considerably less political and moral capital than those of the élite, but when they fell in large numbers, and with disastrous consequences, the anonymous corpses on the battlefield could become a significant sight.

Viewing the dead: commanders The oversight of the post-battle field lay with the military commander. Surveying the field, dividing the spoils, enumerating the dead, tending the wounded and burying the fallen were the responsibility of the general in charge. Thus, for an author, the commander’s gaze could facilitate an effective method of summing up the battle, and providing moral commentary on the success or failure of both the battle and the commander. In victory, the gaze could fall upon the enemy dead. As the dead of the victorious side, which were generally few in number, were retrieved and disposed of, the corpses of the enemy might remain upon the field and become an object of fascination, and even admiration. Julius Caesar in fighting Scipio in Africa was struck by the remarkable corpses of the Gauls and Germans, bodies of wonderful size and appearance (B. Afric. 40). Hannibal, after the Battle of Trasimene, is made to note how the fallen Roman soldiers still grasped their

Bodies on the Battlefield


weapons, ‘Let our soldiers look and see how these men died’ (hos, en hos, hos obitus nostrae spectate cohorts, Sil. Pun. 5.672). Visiting, viewing and tending the wounded was perhaps more important for a good general than focusing on the dead. Plutarch stressed how Antony’s sympathy towards his men, and his readiness to share their sufferings, was an essential aspect of how he engendered loyalty. While campaigning in Parthia (35 bce ), Antony visited the injured, and his affection for his men brought tears to his eyes (Plut. Ant. 43.1). Few commanders, however, were seen to shed tears over dead soldiers, except in the context of civil war. Cato – the reluctant soldier – was alleged to have wept and covered his face at the sight of the enemy (Roman) dead (Plut. Caes. 41.1). Caesar was said to have groaned and complained that they had made this happen on viewing the dead in the Pompeian camp after Pharsalus (Plut. Caes. 46.1); although Lucan painted a very different picture (see below pp. 171–2).29 In defeat the sight of dead soldiers could be more complex. Before the battle of Cannae, Silius Italicus uses it as a portent of defeat, by having Paulus, who fears the outcome, envisage the aftermath and the field strewn with Roman corpses – he is stunned and senseless by the imminent disaster before his eyes (9.40-4). As Curio’s battle in Africa draws to an end, Lucan has him survey the dead men on the ground around him, and Curio decides to die with them (4.793-6), but at least Curio is spared the full spectacle of civil war that will be Pharsalus (spectandumque tibit bellum civile negatum est, 4.803-4). In defeat the gaze of the commander may not be that of the Roman commander. After Cannae, Silius Italicus has Hannibal ride over the battlefield, ‘feasting his eyes upon wounds’ (pertractans vulnera visu, 10.451); the sight is a welcome one to the cruel eyes of the Carthaginians. But reversal awaits, Hannibal will witness the sight (miserabile visu) of his army overthrown – just as he had once witnessed fields strewn with Roman corpses (17.600-3). In civil war the battle aftermath can become particularly complex. There may be a clear Roman victor, but the dead on the battlefield are all Roman too. Here the gaze of the commander on the dreadful spectacle becomes a powerful means for exploring morality and the corruption of political power. Lucan’s Julius Caesar seems to glory in the spilling of Roman blood, and his gaze ‘objectifies and dehumanizes the dead’ (Lovatt 1999: 131). Prior to the battle of Pharsalus, he anticipates the aftermath – rivers of blood, kings trodden under foot, mangled bodies of senators, and whole nations enduring carnage (7.291-4). Then postbattle Caesar treads on corpses piled high (7.722) and the following day at dawn his eyes dwell on the battlefield and feast on the sight (7.786-93). Enjoying the


War as Spectacle

spectacle (spectacula), Julius Caesar does not bury the ‘enemy’ dead, and he lacks the humanity of Hannibal who cremated the Roman consul after Cannae (7.797-803). Ultimately he is forced from the sight by the stench of the corpses (7.782-4), looking has its limitations, ‘it is a distanced and distancing sense and it is overcome by the potency of directness that other senses can marshal’ (Lovatt 1999: 134). Similarly, Tacitus has the emperor Vitellius visiting Bedriacum some forty days after the battle, the field presenting a revolting and ghastly spectacle (foedum atque atrox spectaculum). Tacitus focuses on the sights more than the smells (cf. Suet Vit.10.3; Morgan 1992, pp.26–9) and to emphasize the visual Vitellius’ visit is placed between accounts of gladiatorial shows, providing an arena spectacle context for the spectacle of the dead (Keitel 1992; Haynes 2003: 81–4). The course of the battle is explained to the emperor, and the soldiers accompanying him also marvel at the sight, some at least being moved to pity, but Vitellius does not avert his eyes or show any sign of horror at citizens still unburied (at non Vitellius flexit oculos nec tota milia insepultorum civium exhorruit, Hist. 2.70; 3.39). As a non-participant in the battle, Vitellius experiences the battle vicariously and becomes a true voyeur, but in some respects he looks but does not see because he remains ignorant of the political and moral significance of the sight (Manolaraki 2005: 260).30

Viewing the dead: fellow soldiers Those who would have been closest to the bulk of the dead, both in the conflict and aftermath, would have been fellow rank-and-file soldiers. It would have been these men, or appointed burial parties drawn from them, who would retrieve the wounded, strip the dead, collect the corpses and build the pyre. Authors were rarely interested in this perspective, and references to soldiers mourning fellow soldiers (beyond immediate family – see below p. 173) were unusual. Silius Italicus pictured soldiers grieving after the battle of Cannae with cries of sorrow (10.402), and Tacitus captured a sense of mourning among those who visited the site of the Varian disaster who, though removed by time from the event, viewed the dead as friends and brothers, even if this also increased their fury against the enemy (Ann. 1.62). Rarely would the common soldier have the opportunity to gaze upon the battle or aftermath from the same vantage point as military commanders. This sense of both seeing (by being in the midst of it) but being unable to view from a distance is toyed with in accounts of the Battle of Trasimene (217 bce ), where

Bodies on the Battlefield


a heavy mist descended. Six thousand Roman soldiers occupied a knoll, and could hear the battle occurring on the plain below, but it was only as the mist cleared that they could see the hideous slaughter; they had gained a vantage point usually reserved for a commander, and it was they rather than the fallen general who took in the spectacle of defeat (Livy 22.6.9-11; Polyb. 3.84). When the perspective of being among the dead, in the blood and the gore, on the field of battle aftermath was noted, it was to create pathos and or gruesome vignettes, which complemented the individualizing of the battle narrative, especially in epic poetry. Silius Italicus imagined named survivors among the dead; the standard bearer Bruttius awaking the morning after Trasimene, raising himself from a huge pile of corpses, burying the eagle in the blood-drenched earth, before breathing his last (6.15-40); and at Cannae, Cloelius whose horse galloped to him across mangled corpses and slippery blood (10.455-71). Such scenes echo Livy who after Cannae had the Carthaginian army, not just Hannibal, gaze on the carnage, viewing men who had suffocated themselves to escape suffering, or in their dying state had continued the battle by gnawing the facial features off their enemies (22.51.5-9). A more common motif than soldiers looking on fellow soldiers’ bodies is the narrative of families destroyed and divided by war. Soldiers who witness the deaths of relatives and friends (e.g. Luc. 3.723-51; Sil. Pun. 5.303-4); those who fight on opposing sides (e.g. Sall. Cat. 61. 8–9; Luc. 4.169-252); and, most powerful of all, family members slaying each other, thereby challenging the expected bonds of pietas (Tac. Hist. 3.25; 3.51; Val. Max. 5.5.4; Luc. 7.626-30; Bannon 1997). The latter can be marked by the need of the survivor to bury the dead, to expunge their sin by performing the rituals that could otherwise be denied to dead soldiers. Silius Italicus takes this motif to the extreme on the eve of the Battle of Cannae, when a father (of Italian origin, but fighting for the Carthaginians) unwittingly despoils his own son and is then killed by his surviving son, who is searching for his brother’s body. Father and son are reunited as the father breathes his last, but despite his father’s reassurances that he has done no wrong, the son kills himself falling upon his father’s corpse (9.66177). Tacitus too uses this theme, in some respects inverting it as part of the horrors of the civil war of ce 69, by removing the expected piety and remorse. In one anecdote, Tacitus tells that the soldiery were shocked to hear that a man had killed his father in the course of battle, but despite their indignation the soldiers carried on stripping dead bodies (Hist. 3.25); and later Tacitus records that another soldier who had killed his brother instead of burying him sought a reward (Hist. 3.51.1). The reality of the rank-and-file soldier’s battlefield


War as Spectacle

experience may rarely be traced;31 but such soldiers, and the way that they look at the dead, can be exploited to emphasize the moral corruption of war.

Viewing the dead: women and elders In accounts and descriptions of historical battles and their aftermaths, nonmilitary witnesses are rarely acknowledged. This is a contrast with mythological epic poetry in particular, where women and elders often spectate from the walls or the edge of the battle; and post-battle can flood the battlefield looking for dead family members, and subsequently be influential in voicing the desire for revenge, and thus the continuance of war.32 The Roman army on the march was supposed to be unencumbered. Battles were also rarely taken to the walls of Rome. Tacitus does make much of one occasion when the Flavian forces take the city from Vitellius. Tacitus compares Rome’s inhabitants to spectators at the games (aderat pugnantibus spectator populous, atque in ludicro certamine) and places the dissolute city life – baths, drinking, shops, prostitutes – alongside blood and corpses to pass judgement on a morally corrupt city that seems indifferent (Hist. 3.83); thereby recalling how not long before Vitellius too had looked upon the corpses at Bedriacum (see above p. 172). Women and families can be used as imaginary battle spectators or prospective mourners in battle exhortations. Appian claims that before the Battle of Cannae the Romans were asked to remember their parents, wives and children (Hann. 7.4.21). Lucan has Pompey encourage his men to imagine that the Battle of Pharsalus will be witnessed in Rome, that aged senators and matrons, with hair dishevelled, are watching from the topmost walls of the city (7.369-73; cf. Livy 7.40.12). Post-battle, especially following military disasters, female reactions could also be used as an expression of Rome’s vulnerability. After the battles of Trasimene and Cannae, Livy uses the reactions in Rome as a gauge of the depth of the despair and anxiety, but also ultimately of the need for Rome to recover and to regain order and control. The grieving of the women symbolizes the danger that Rome is in, and if not checked (by men) it, as much as the military loss, will bring disaster to the city (22.7; 22.55; cf. Sil. Pun. 6.552-73; App. Hann. 7.5.27; Val. Max. 1.15). However, these women are not on the battlefield, weeping over the dead and tending the corpses; they are removed from the bloodiness of the scene and are without the bodies of their dead. The impact of this – the absence of the corpse for the bereaved – is a matter upon which the sources are generally silent. The exception is Cicero who in Philippics 14 refers to familial

Bodies on the Battlefield


mourners in a rare acknowledgement of the inadequacies of battlefield burial, and its potential impact on the survivors. Cicero proposes that those killed at the battle of Forum Gallorum, fighting against Mark Antony (43 bce ), should receive a memorial and thus those bereaved will know that their loved ones are not left unburied – usually not a pitiable fate if for the sake of one’s homeland – or disposed of with only humble funeral rites (Phil. 14.34.13). The emotional needs of military families were little noted, except in Cicero’s attempt to justify an unusual monument that in the end was never built (Hope 2003; Cooley 2012). Women are usually then removed and distanced from the battlefield and its aftermath, but when cities fall, whether due to siege or battles in close proximity, women (more often of the enemy than ‘Roman’) can become drawn into the fray. Julius Caesar notes that at Marseille (49 bce ) the battle was spurred on by the tears and entreaties of the older men, the women and the girls (B Civ 2.4); and at the defeat the grief was so great that it was as if the city had been captured at that very moment (B Civ. 2.7). Lucan imagines, in his account of the same battle, the tears being shed by parents, and the laments of mothers, as they look upon the dead but cannot recognize them; faces are so disfigured that wives mistake Roman corpses for their husbands, and fathers argue over headless bodies (Lucan 3.756-61; cf. Joseph. BJ 2.5. 325–8; Stat. Theb. 12.35-7, with Bernstein, Ch. 4 this volume). For non-combatant onlookers there is a danger (especially in civil war) that friend and foe may merge, that the all-important distinctions that drive conflict may be lost. The presence of women, children and the elderly can be a feature of siege narratives, where enclosed with the troops they too can become victims. This is most graphically explored in Josephus, who describes people slowly starving to death, corpses unburied, rites neglected, the stench of the dead, with bodies piled high or thrown over the ramparts (BJ 4.377-87; 5. 5 33-5; Reeder 2013). In such narratives women, children and the elderly slowly turn into corpses and live among them, there is no distinction between military and civilian, between the battlefield dead and familial onlookers (BJ 5.3. 512–18). At the end of such sieges the troops may sally forth, in one last ditch stand, leaving the women and the frail as spectators once more. The fall of Saguntum (219 bce ) was often retold with dramatic female content. Appian has the women watching the slaughter of their men from the walls, some killing themselves at the sight (App. Hann. 6.2.12); Silius Italicus pictures the matrons crying out together from the high walls as they see their men fall (2.251-5). Such female grief can be portrayed as uncontrolled and destructive.33 Silius Italicus explores this at the fall of Saguntum through the bereaved Tiburna, albeit allowing her to be possessed by a Fury. Tiburna, haunted by a vision of


War as Spectacle

her husband’s mangled corpse (2.561-3), stirs up the crowd to mass suicide (2.614-66), Tiburna killing herself with her husband’s weapons (2.665-80). Saguntum prefigures Rome’s own great losses at Trasimene and Cannae. These will not be witnessed by the women from the walls, but Silius Italicus claims that as the consul Varro returned after the Battle of Cannae he felt the destructive anger of bereaved parents (10.637).34 In historical battle narratives women and elders were rarely direct witnesses, rarely had access to the corpses, but could still be in the shadows – a reminder of the true cost of war.

Conclusion Ancient warfare was a spectacle of corpses and body parts. War pushed the human body to extremes not only of physical strength and display, but also of physical suffering and destruction. Victory and failure could be narrated through the body. Here the focus has fallen upon military corpses, both what happened to the bodies of dead Roman soldiers, and also what stories, themes and motifs were woven around them. Battle narratives, with historic battles as subject matter, provided both fact and fiction, and regardless of genre were designed to entertain as well as to inform. Establishing what happened to real soldiers’ bodies remains difficult. The total number killed might be given (or estimated), but if and how the dead were collected, disposed of, grieved over and commemorated was generally not recorded. Instead, the shock value of the dead is exploited with corpses providing stock elements to battles and the immediate aftermath, such as blood-soaked ground, waterways choked with bodies, scattered severed limbs and corpses piled up or trampled underfoot. Most of these dead bodies remained anonymous, it was the sight of the corpses en masse that was most significant; and in general the gaze did not remain long upon them. Corpses could add colour to battle narratives, but once the battle was over the view of the battlefield was generally quickly sanitized. Whether the dead were subsequently buried or left unburied was rarely noted, and descriptions of rotting Roman bodies were not a focus, though once de-fleshed the bones, and blood, of Rome’s fallen could be revivified as symbols of unresolved Roman conflicts. Certain individual corpses did gain attention, and were politicized and manipulated. Most often these were the bodies of men of distinction, consuls, commanders and generals, whose death in battle was symbolic for both victors and the defeated. These bodies could be singled out – their dying moments recorded, bodies identified, recovered and then either honoured or abused. Less

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frequent, but also highly significant, were the mass of anonymous corpses resulting from large-scale military defeats and civil war; the non-burial of these dead transgressed accepted boundaries and provided a less sanitized perspective on warfare. The spectre of the unburied citizen corpses of Trasimene, Cannae, Carrhae and the Varian disaster, alongside those resulting from civil war (e.g. Pharsalus and Bedriacum), cast a long shadow. The precise details of how these dead had been abandoned, and their slow disintegration, may not have been focused upon (with the exception of Lucan), but they were still an oft-used vehicle for exploring social, moral and political disorder. Across genres, authors looked back on these problematic events, using the fate of Roman corpses as a symbol for the wider Roman state. Authors either idealized the soldiers as citizens or problematized their role as citizens in civil discord. The narratives were fuelled by who looked upon the corpses and how. Military commanders, fellow soldiers and civilians could all be used as spectators, each presenting different perspectives but all equally problematic, disturbing and even dangerous. The unburied bodies, and gazing upon them, highlighted the unresolved nature of these conflicts and defeats, especially the dangers of civil war.35 Unburied and abandoned military bodies became the skeleton in the closet of Rome’s collective psyche, the real and haunting cost of Rome’s mission. The focus here has fallen upon the place of corpses in descriptions of historical battles in a range of genres, while not investigating in full the inter-textual relationships between these works, or wider influences (particularly from epic poetry with mythological content). This is not to deny differences in how corpses were used, described and exploited by different authors, or cross-fertilization between the genres. My intention has been to explore the overall symbolic significance of these corpses. Soldiers’ bodies were often side-lined in the dominant narrative, so when military corpses, beyond those of the élite, were focused upon this was outside of the norm and the bodies became politically and morally charged. In saying this, there is a danger of implying that military corpses were simply either ignored or exploited by authors, and had no value or role beyond this. As we have seen, it is very difficult to access the frontline experience, or establish how most soldiers’ corpses were treated, but at the very least we can note the continuing agency of the corpse: in particular, its appearance and smell strongly affected the living (and most authors did not confront this fully), and en masse corpses could (temporarily at least) transform landscapes. The corpse was an object that could be exploited by others, whether physically by enemies or metaphorically by authors, but through its materiality it also had a certain power in its own right. Thus the spectacle of war was both written onto and written by the corpses of Rome’s soldiers.


Part Two

Spectacles of War in Material Culture




The Monument and Altar to Liberty A Memory Site for the United States’ Own Thermopylae1 Jared A. Simard The Graduate Center, The City University of New York

On 27 August 1920, Charles M. Higgins dedicated the Monument and Altar to Liberty in commemoration of the 144th anniversary of the Battle of Long Island, the first major engagement of the Continental Army with British forces during the Revolutionary War (Fig. 11.1). The effort to preserve the land on which the battle took place and the monument’s dedication ceremony are a dramatic appropriation of the Battle of Thermopylae. This reception of Thermopylae is unique in its recreation of the battle both in the landscape, through a commemorative monument and preservation of the historic battle site, and in the way Higgins’s reception of the ancient battle represents an explicit syncretization of war spectacles. Thermopylae reinforces and intensifies the United States’ own national narrative of patriotism, freedom and liberty. The use of Thermopylae in the context of the preservation movement in New York City in the early 1900s additionally heightens the prestige of the forgotten American battle. Thus, the visitor to the monument experiences a landscape that has itself become a spectacle preserved and reified in monumental and figurative form.

The Battle of Long Island The Battle of Long Island was fought on the morning of 27 August 1776. It was the first engagement between American and British forces since the United States had declared independence the month prior. It was also the largest engagement between the two sides in the entire Revolutionary War. While other engagements, like Bunker Hill, are better known and commemorated, the Battle of Long Island has been overshadowed despite being considered by many 181


War as Spectacle

Figure 11.1 Minerva facing east.

historians as one of the most significant battles of the entire war for independence (Heller and Stofft 1986; Gallagher 1995; Fischer 2004). This was precisely the view that Higgins held in the early twentieth century. He thought it was a grave dishonour to the soldiers who died during the battle that there was no monument to commemorate their sacrifice. The battle itself was brief, barely lasting to midday, but preparations had been underway during the months leading up to 27 August. Beginning in March of 1776, General George Washington had been building various fortifications along the Hudson River, in Manhattan and on Long Island in preparation for a British invasion. He amassed the bulk of his forces in a heavily fortified section of Brooklyn (Fig. 11.2). The stakes were high for both sides. If the British won, they could gain control of the Hudson River. This would allow the British in New York City to connect north along the river with their forces in British Canada, thereby separating the New England colonies from the southern ones. The British might even wipe out the entire Continental Army and thereby crush the rebellion. On the other hand, if the Continental Army defeated the largest gathering of British forces to date, they could send a clear message to the Crown (Gallagher 1995: 73–80). The Americans faced several disadvantages in this battle, which made the prospects for their defeat all the more likely. The American forces in Brooklyn were severely outgunned, compared to the heavy cannons on the British warships

The Monument and Altar to Liberty


Figure 11.2 The American forces in Brooklyn. From The Battle of Brooklyn 1776 by John J. Gallagher, copyright © 1995. Reprinted by permission of Da Capo Press, a member of The Perseus Books Group.

in the harbour, and heavily outnumbered (Gallagher 1995: 77). Washington had only 11,000 citizen-soldiers at peak, many of whom returned home before the battle began, and few of whom actually participated in the battle. By comparison, the British, led by Sir William Howe, had anchored off Staten Island in New York harbour with the largest fleet that the British Empire had ever fielded up to that


War as Spectacle

point. The flotilla included thirty warships, 400 transport vessels, 32,000 soldiers, 10,000 sailors, and 2,000 Royal Marines (Gallagher 1995: 60–7). The Americans were also largely ill-equipped and had no professional training. The exception was the regiment from Maryland, which was fully equipped and trained. Its members also had bayonets, which were uncommon in the Continental Army at that time (Balkoski 1991: 3–23). To make matters worse, Washington had continually changed who was in command of the American forces in Brooklyn, and, thus, their defensive strategy. Washington’s final choice, General Israel Putnam, chose a more traditional fighting approach, which would only aid the British (Gallagher 1995: 58–60). Moreover, Putnam knew nothing of the geography and topography of Brooklyn. The majority of American forces were not from New York and were equally ignorant of Brooklyn’s layout (Gallagher 1995: 59, 98). With these disadvantages, it would seem a foregone conclusion that the Continental Army would be crushed, and the British would defeat the rebellious colonies that had just declared their independence. By contrast, British General Henry Clinton, who came up with the British strategy to attack New York, was the son of the former Governor of New York. Furthermore, several of the top British commanders had served in New York or previously visited it, and the British forces were being fed information by Loyalists throughout the preceding months (Gallagher 1995: 97). During a visit to Brooklyn on 24 August, Washington, aware of his forces’ disadvantages, ordered Putnam to send only the best troops to the front lines and to keep the militias inside the fortifications (Gallagher 1995: 92). Up to this point, it is easy to see the similarities between the Battle of Long Island and Thermopylae. Like the Spartans, the American forces were heavily outnumbered. Both Americans and Spartans were also fighting in unknown territory with an enemy who had better knowledge of the terrain and secret passes. In addition, both battles had all the air of a definitive face-off that could ultimately decide the outcome of the war. This potential was further enhanced by the imbalance in forces, with the invader having the advantage in numbers. Equally important, both the Americans and Spartans sent their best fighters forward to face such daunting odds. This final point would have the effect of heightening their sacrifice in subsequent collective memory and commemoration. For the Battle of Long Island, the ramifications of the disadvantages that the Americans faced materialized when the two sides began to implement their respective strategies on 24 August. Putnam implemented a stop and fight strategy that placed the best American fighters at the most strategic locations outside of the fortifications in Brooklyn. Putnam placed Lord Stirling, also known as

The Monument and Altar to Liberty


William Alexander (Reno 2008: 42–3), and the finest troops in the whole Continental Army, the regiment from Maryland, near to the highest natural point in Brooklyn. This spot was called Battle Hill, now part of Green-Wood Cemetery, and the location of Higgins’s monument. Putnam placed General Andrew Sullivan at the narrows of Battle Pass located just to the east of Stirling’s position (Gallagher 1995: 110–14) (Fig. 11.3). Thus, Putnam and the American forces were stationed with the assumption that the British forces would march directly north after crossing over from Staten Island, which did, in fact, happen. The British, however, more aware of the terrain than the Americans, sent the bulk of their forces on a silent march through the night of 26 August to encircle and flank the American forces at their rear and put immediate pressure on the American fortifications head on (Gallagher 1995: 97) (Fig.  11.4). By the time dawn broke on 27 August and before any fighting had taken place, Stirling and Sullivan’s forces found themselves stuck between the vast British army now to their rear and north. Any possibility of retreat to the American forts was cut off, and the forces of British General James Grant and the Hessian forces of General Leopold Philip de Heister began attacking from the south. Nonetheless, the American forces under Stirling and Sullivan were well trained and equipped, and they did have the advantage of occupying strategic positions in and around Gowanus Heights. Next, as Stirling and the Maryland regiment became aware of their precarious situation, the key engagement of the Battle of Long Island occurred – the event that Higgins’s monument memorializes. Stirling and roughly 400 men from Colonel William Smallwood’s Maryland regiment, then under command of Major Mordecai Gist, and another 100 men from John Haslet’s Delaware battalion under the command of Major Thomas McDonough, faced Grant’s forces marching north (Gallagher 1995: Appendix A; Reno 2008: 44–156). After being reinforced by 2,000 Royal Marines, Grant had roughly 9,000 British soldiers marching under his command (Gallagher 1995: 124). Initially, some of Stirling’s forces held their ground on Battle Hill during the first assault by Grant.2 By mid-morning, however, Stirling retreated north with the bulk of his forces after seeing Sullivan’s forces routed by the Hessians and Howe’s forces appearing surprisingly in their rear, blocking retreat to the American fortifications. Stirling re-formed his forces near the open ground toward the north. He ordered them to hold their ground and not fire until British forces were within fifty yards. Grant pursued and proceeded to bombard Stirling from a distance with cannon and rifle fire. It is said that the British at first shirked approaching Stirling’s forces any closer when they saw how they stood their ground under fire (Onderdonk


War as Spectacle

Figure 11.3 Battle Hill and Battle Pass. From The Battle of Brooklyn 1776 by John J. Gallagher, copyright © 1995. Reprinted by permission of Da Capo Press, a member of The Perseus Books Group.

The Monument and Altar to Liberty


Figure 11.4 The British outflank the American forces. From The Battle of Brooklyn 1776 by John J. Gallagher, copyright © 1995. Reprinted by permission of Da Capo Press, a member of The Perseus Books Group.

1849: 147; Gallagher 1995: 125). Stirling, of course, was saving his first volley for when it would have the greatest effect, at close quarters. As Howe’s and Charles Cornwallis’s troops closed in on Stirling and the Maryland Four Hundred, stragglers from Sullivan’s defeated forces were running for safety. At this point, the only way back to the American lines was by wading across the Gowanus canal and marshland, which bordered the fortifications to the south (Fig. 11.5). Stirling re-grouped again near to what was then called the Vechte-Cortelyou or Old Stone House. Stirling’s already minimal forces were increasingly diminishing as they were now attacked by the entire British army on nearly all flanks, from the south by Grant, from the east by the Hessians and from the north by Howe and Cornwallis. Stirling did what he could to stop the British forces from slaughtering those retreating across the canal, and six times re-grouped the


War as Spectacle

Figure 11.5 Stirling’s isolation. From The Battle of Brooklyn 1776 by John J. Gallagher, copyright © 1995. Reprinted by permission of Da Capo Press, a member of The Perseus Books Group.

Maryland regiment and charged Cornwallis himself at the Old Stone House. Twice, Stirling’s assaults were so strong that they drove the British from the Old Stone House. On the final assault, however, Stirling’s men faced an even larger number of British soldiers as Cornwallis was fully reinforced with the remainder of the forces under Howe and the Hessians. As a result, Stirling’s few soldiers broke formation, each man fending for himself. In the end, the Hessians captured Stirling, who would only surrender to von Heister and refused to surrender to Cornwallis. Of Stirling’s 400 men, the majority of accounts record 256 died and another 100 were wounded or captured (Gallagher 1995: 127–37). The actions of Stirling and the Maryland Four Hundred saved countless American lives and prevented the British from continuing to directly assault the American fortifications. Although the Battle of Long Island was a great victory for the

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British, who killed nearly all of the American forces outside of the forts, Washington and the remainder of the Continental Army were able to retreat safely to Manhattan and then later across the Hudson River and to continue the fight for independence. Furthermore, Stirling and the Maryland Four Hundred’s valour inspired all of the American forces watching from the forts, leaving Washington to remark: ‘Good God! What brave fellows I must this day lose!’ (Gallagher 1995: 133). The majority of the Maryland Four Hundred were buried where they lay, and another group of mostly riflemen, under the command of Generals Samuel Parsons and Samuel Atlee, who provided cover from Battle Hill for Stirling’s forces as they re-grouped in the north, may have been buried on the battlefield (Johnston 1878; Lewis 2009: 106–7). The actions of Stirling and the Maryland Four Hundred and their effect on future engagements in the war on the surface mirror those of Leonidas and the Spartan Three Hundred. The numerical strength of the Maryland troops resembles those of the Spartans. They were the best warriors. They fought from a tactically advantageous position. They were outnumbered, encircled and died. Furthermore, despite losing the battle, their sacrifice helped save the remaining forces from total defeat and boosted confidence and morale in those who saw and later heard of their valour. Key details about the account of the battle of Long Island, however, diverge from the narrative of Thermopylae in important ways. The most glaring difference is the superficial equivocation of Stirling with Leonidas. All the evidence points to Stirling never setting foot on Battle Hill, which Higgins would later make the equivalent of the narrow pass at Thermopylae. In addition, in Stirling’s final skirmishes, although his actions had all the bravado of one about to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country, he actually surrendered. Higgins would ultimately enhance the similarities between the two battles, while simultaneously erasing any differences in a syncretization of war spectacles.

Charles M. Higgins, classics and the Battle of Long Island The Battle of Long Island and its important legacy for Americans became an obsession for Charles Higgins in the early twentieth century. Much of Higgins’s early life is known only from his obituaries in local newspapers. According to one, Higgins was born in County Roscommon, Ireland, on 4 October 1854 and came to the United States at the age of six. He left school at nine and educated himself through avid reading (Brooklyn Times, 23 October 1929b). As an adult, Higgins was a member of the Brooklyn Ethical Association (Higgins 1926a: 22).


War as Spectacle

He was best known for having invented a special drafting ink, which he sold through his company, Charles M. Higgins & Company. This made Higgins very wealthy (Brooklyn Eagle, 1929), and he used his money and subsequent influence to become a high profile social figure in Brooklyn, New York, during the early twentieth century. Although he was never politically active, he self-published a series of pamphlets that addressed many political issues of his time. These pamphlets provide a glimpse into Higgins’s beliefs. The pamphlets have two things in common. First, the positions held within them are almost all based upon Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. In particular, Higgins quotes the phrase ‘unalienable rights’ frequently as justification for his views. Second, regardless of the issue, Higgins also justifies his position by appeals to history and, in particular, Graeco-Roman history. Thus, the obituaries and pamphlets point toward Higgins carefully crafting a public image as a successful entrepreneur, self-educated in civic patriotism and antiquity. Higgins published pamphlets on a variety of topics (1900, 1920, 1926a). For example, on 25 November 1919, one year prior to the dedication of the Monument and Altar to Liberty, Higgins published ‘Unalienable Rights and Prohibition Wrongs’ (1919). In it, as is clear from the title, Higgins argues against any form of prohibition – the Prohibition Era started in 1920 by means of the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution and lasted until 1933 when it was repealed by the 21st Amendment – as the government’s infringement on an individual’s freedom and right to imbibe alcohol based upon Jefferson’s ideals as stated in the Declaration of Independence. Higgins also demonstrates knowledge of Graeco-Roman history and uses the example of the Romans, whom he calls the ‘Latin Race’, to further his argument against prohibition: . . . and these great races from which we have taken most of our ideas in civilization, law, religion, literature, art, government and morals, would probably consider the total prohibition [of alcohol] . . . as a rather incredible piece of alimentary, legal and moral fanaticism. (Higgins 1919: 17)

Higgins demonstrates his awareness of how central Roman history, culture and government were to the founders of the United States and its continued legacy for his own contemporaries. Higgins strengthened his argument by referencing the impact of Rome’s civilization on the United States. Thus, Higgins used the classical past to bolster his own rhetorical stance on contemporary policy issues, at once conferring on them the grandeur of the classical past, while also demonstrating that he was an educated businessman, even if he was self-taught.

The Monument and Altar to Liberty


Higgins spent the majority of his time during the first decades of the twentieth century raising awareness about the Battle of Long Island and advocating for its proper commemoration. Higgins deftly equated the battle with Thermopylae on several occasions as a means of both enhancing the historical significance of the battle and also to arouse feelings of patriotism and obligation in his audiences and readership in order to gather support for his plans to commemorate this great battle. There are no fewer than four documents that reveal Higgins’s fixation on the Battle of Long Island. The oldest two were published (Higgins 1910, 1916), the last two were semi-private (Kings County Historical Society 1920; Higgins 1926b). These four documents taken together provide the clearest picture of Higgins’s views on the Battle of Long Island and represent a long-form argument for the battle’s commemoration. On 8 February 1910, Higgins addressed the Prospect Heights Citizens’ Association at the Montauk Club, which was composed of members of Brooklyn’s high society. Higgins was also a long-time member (Brooklyn Daily Times, 22 October 1929). On this occasion, he addressed the society on ‘Brooklyn’s Patriotic Sacrilege and Historic Shame’, and the speech he delivered was published as a pamphlet a few months later with a new title (Higgins 1910). In the address, Higgins retells the story of the Battle of Long Island and advocates for its commemoration. He also mentions Georgia Fraser’s new book, The Stone House at Gowanus (1909), whose publishers credit Higgins with spear-heading its promotion in public speeches like this one before the Montauk Society (Higgins 1910: 12). For Higgins, Fraser’s book was the first ray of hope that the ‘desecrated and unmonumented graves’ of Stirling’s heroes would capture the public’s imagination and help to generate an outcry to remedy the situation. Higgins ends his speech by lamenting that there are no poems about what he calls ‘The Battle of Brooklyn’. Moreover, he adds that patriotic pilgrims go to Bunker Hill but none travel to Brooklyn, which he considers a more sacred battle site for the United States (Higgins 1910: 17–19). A series of documents were adjoined to the pamphlet that detail Higgins’s early efforts advocating that the State of New York purchase the land where he thought Stirling’s soldiers were buried, namely the area around the Old Stone House and Battle Hill, and designate it as a public park in order to preserve the sites against future development. The documents point out that in 1907 several local Brooklyn societies passed resolutions advocating this position. Furthermore, Higgins himself, then chair of the South Brooklyn Board of Trade, also had that body pass resolutions advocating for the sites of the Battle of Long Island to become a park (Higgins 1910: 24–30). The very idea that the battle


War as Spectacle

should be commemorated in poems and in monument has its own classical origins. As early as Homer, there exists the notion that poets sing of the soldiers’ kleos. Some scholars have even argued that to sing of a warrior’s kleos is to sing of your own kleos as a great poet (de Jong 2006). Higgins, then, in advocating for a fuller remembrance of the Battle of Long Island in both poetry and location, is also demonstrating his own learnedness and kleos. Furthermore, in the political context of the time and given the fact that he emigrated to America as a boy, he is also demonstrating his patriotism. Six years after his address at the Montauk Club, Higgins published ‘Brooklyn and Gowanus in History’, in the Kings County Historical Society Magazine (Higgins 1916). This was by far Higgins’s most elaborate, detailed and strongest call to arms in raising awareness of the Battle of Long Island, its historic importance for the United States and in advocating for its proper commemoration. Higgins’s comparison of the battle to Thermopylae is striking. He begins by echoing his previous remark that the battle is ‘unmarked and unmonumented’, and that this is an act of ‘extraordinary historic neglect or patriotic sacrilege’. Higgins offers, for the first time, an explanation for this neglect, namely that the Battle of Long Island was a defeat. Higgins compares the Battle of Long Island to other military defeats in history, saying: Bunker Hill in our own history and Thermopylae in Greek history were both defeats, yet so glorious and significant to the defeated and so embarrassing to the victors that their fame has thundered down the ‘corridors of time’ ever since. (Higgins 1916: 1–2)

For Higgins, the Battle of Long Island is equal to Thermopylae in terms of historic importance. That both battles ended in defeat is a technicality. In the case of the Battle of Long Island, Higgins valourized the sacrifice of the Maryland Four Hundred for preventing the British from attacking the main forts where Washington and the remainder of the Continental Army were stationed. At this point, they were completely vulnerable to further British attack both on land and sea. The Marylanders’ brave sacrifice stopped the British, and the Continental Army was able to safely retreat that night. Furthermore, Higgins’s comparison to Thermopylae realigns Americans’ interpretation of the battle with the ancient view of Thermopylae, as presented by Herodotus. Both fought for freedom. Both fought bravely. Their defeat in a war eventually won by their own side had the subsequent Greeks and Americans recast their sacrifice as what Matthew Trundle (2013) calls a ‘glorious defeat’.

The Monument and Altar to Liberty


In Higgins’s view the situation was exacerbated when the arch in Prospect Park, the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Monument, was finished, as it commemorated the Civil War on the site of the most important Revolutionary War battle (Higgins 1916: 2). In a revealing statement, Higgins argues that monuments should educate visitors by explaining the historic importance of a specific location and expounding on the patriotic lessons it could offer (Higgins 1916: 2–3). For Higgins, monuments inform visitors about events and inspire them to emulate the heroic and patriotic actions of past generations. Thus, monuments can reveal the debt of obligation that one generation owes to another (Francis et al. 2002). In Higgins’s analysis, Stirling’s sacrifice should be commemorated because he saved Washington and prevented the British from crossing the Gowanus canal and breaching the American fortifications where the whole Continental Army was located (Higgins 1916: 4). Thus, Americans all owe a debt to Stirling and the Maryland regiment. The location of the Gowanus canal is equally important for Higgins because it is the location of Stirling’s final valiant effort: . . . and here the 300 Maryland martyrs, who like the old Spartans, would not retreat, laid down their lives at this most strategic spot to wither the vain boast of the English General and show him how Americans could fight for their Liberty and Independence. (Higgins 1916: 7)

The boast of Grant, described below, is associated with Xerxes’s boastful arrogance. As in Herodotus’s account, the Spartans were fighting for the very independence of the Greek city-states. This analogy in Higgins’s account puts the British in the role of the Persians, equating King George with Xerxes. In this view, Spartans and Americans were both fighting for independence against evil and barbaric empires. Where they fell is thus sacred ground. It should be noted that Higgins refers to the Maryland Three Hundred, but nearly all modern scholars are in agreement that the number was closer to 400. Higgins must have deliberately chosen 300 in order to reinforce the historical parallel he was attempting to create. Moreover, Higgins knew about the Maryland Memorial in Prospect Park, discussed below, which clearly gives 400 as the number of the Maryland fighters. Thus, for Higgins, the account of the Spartan Three Hundred is an advantageous parallel for illustrating and rhetorically framing the valour and sacrifice of the Maryland regiment and investing it with the glamour of classical antiquity. Towards the close of his article, Higgins notes that the Battle of Long Island was not entirely forgotten, at least not by foreigners. He argues that the French


War as Spectacle

were so keenly aware of the historic importance of this battle as the place where ‘liberty’ was actually won that they placed their gift of liberty, the Statue of Liberty or Liberty Enlightening the World, facing the hills of Brooklyn as a reminder to those entering New York harbour of this very fact (Higgins 1916: 10–11). Higgins ends the article with a peroration to the ‘Glory of Gowanus’ in which one stanza reads ‘To our Leonidas Stirling and his Maryland Spartans who fought and fell on this battlefield to win our Liberty and Independence’ (Higgins 1916: 11). It could not be clearer that Higgins viewed the Battle of Long Island as America’s Thermopylae. Higgins was not the only one who viewed it this way either. In 1896, Martha Flint published a history of Long Island in which she summarizes the Battle of Long Island in these terms: ‘It was a new Thermopylae’ (Flint 1896: 397). Higgins’s final statement thus represents more than a comparison. It is a powerful syncretization of the two battles with both generals and both groups of soldiers becoming one and the same. In some ways, the American battle loses its own identity as that of Thermopylae is overlaid as a filter for understanding its significance. This syncretization also serves to strengthen the rhetoric in favour of commemoration. Since independence is such an important concept in the founding of the United States, any fight in the service of independence should be preserved and commemorated. Higgins’s initial failure through public speeches to preserve the Old Stone House, the site of America’s Thermopylae, led to an even greater success in preserving Battle Hill, the other important site in the Battle of Long Island. In this more personal effort some years later, Higgins purchased several burial plots in Green-Wood Cemetery on the summit of Battle Hill. There, he commissioned a statue of Minerva and an accompanying altar. Higgins was now in a position to reinforce the comparison with Thermopylae in ways that were historically inaccurate, but rhetorically even more powerful than his original syncretization of the two battles. Part of that new power came from the remaking of space, poem, monument and spectacle in a tour de force that commemorated the United States’ own Thermopylae. If Higgins’s article in the Kings County Historical Society Magazine is his most detailed rallying cry for the commemoration of the Battle of Long Island, the actual dedication ceremony of his Monument and Altar to Liberty is the highest profile engagement yet in Higgins’s decades-long endeavour to commemorate the battle (Kings County Historical Society 1920). The ceremony took place on 27 August 1920, and marks not only the 144th anniversary of the battle but also the fruition of Higgins’s efforts. Higgins created a spectacle that was replete with all the pomp and circumstance of a 4 July Independence Day parade including their ancient roots (see Macaulay-Lewis, Ch. 12 this volume). Fulfilling Higgins’s

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wish to honour the dead in poetry, several poems were composed for the occasion that commemorate the battle and Stirling’s heroic efforts in it, and these were printed in the programme. For example, and most importantly for my purposes here, the programme published a prize-winning poem by Patrick Joseph Coleman titled ‘Stirling and Brooklyn’ (Kings County Historical Society 1920: 21). In the poem, Coleman compares Brooklyn to Thermopylae and Marathon, emphasizing that they are places worthy of being sung by poets. The reason being that patriots sacrificed their lives at these locations, freedom showed her strength and great men like Stirling gained everlasting honour. Of course, the explicit comparison from the title is that Stirling and Brooklyn are equivalent to Leonidas and Thermopylae. Higgins must have approved. That the poem is published in the programme of ceremonies serves to underscore the historic nature of the Battle of Long Island in Higgins’s eyes, his desire for such forms of commemoration, themselves echoes of the Homeric concept of kleos, and his own astute appropriation of poem and monument as forms of commemoration. Furthermore, the appropriation of Thermopylae to heighten the battle’s stature is made even more apparent when one looks at who attended the dedication. The list of dignitaries who addressed the crowd reads like a political convention. The current governor of New York, a United States Senator from New York, the former mayor of Brooklyn and then Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt were all in attendance and addressed the crowd during the dedication ceremonies (Kings County Historical Society 1920: 18–19; Riis 1920). The stature of the dignitaries present, the military band marching in procession up the hill, the salute from warships in New York’s harbour and the fly-by of warplanes attest to the spectacular nature of the dedication ceremony in Brooklyn. The fanfare went a long way towards satisfying Higgins’s passion to ensure that the Battle of Long Island was fittingly commemorated (Riis 1920). Thus, the propagandistic use of poem, monument, political speeches and martial demonstrations created a ceremonial spectacle. The final document that sheds light on Higgins’s beliefs and strong convictions about the sacredness and importance of the Battle of Long Island is his ‘Last Request and Duty’ (Higgins 1926b). This document can only be regarded as part of his will and is clearly addressed to his family and heirs. The statements contained within it read like a manifesto and come from a man firm in his convictions and proud of his accomplishments. Of all the things Higgins became known for in his life, he believed his greatest accomplishment was the construction of the monument on Battle Hill. Higgins states that he wanted his own heirs to remember him by this achievement:


War as Spectacle

There is no spot or monument more sacredly historic than this in the whole country. I therefore regard the Monument and Altar to Liberty which I have erected on Battle Hill, facing the Statue of Liberty and dominating the battle ground as a sacred Shrine, national, historical, political and ethical. (Higgins 1926b)

Higgins goes on to state that he has taken measures, by means of an endowment in his will, for the care of the monument in Green-Wood Cemetery in perpetuity (Higgins 1926a; Green-Wood Cemetery 1922, 1927). Higgins continues by saying that the family mausoleum built near the monument (Fig.  11.1) is a ‘Temple of Religion and a Shrine for the three great basic principles of religion which I consider are the Golden Rule, the Text of the Prophet Micah [Micah VI 8] and the Declaration of Independence’ (Higgins 1926b). These three principles and several other quotes are emblazoned on the inside walls of the mausoleum either in stained glass or chiseled into the marble. This document ends by stating that the foremost of these three principles is the ‘unalienable rights’ of the Declaration of Independence. In support of that statement, Higgins says: This is a double and foremost Monument and should be honoured accordingly: First, to the Battle of Long Island, the first battle of the Nation, and Second, to the Declaration of Independence, our first National Document. (Higgins 1926b)

Higgins was a thoughtful and concerned citizen who did not take anything for granted, and he certainly lived by the principles he expounded. Higgins blended ancient learning and modern thoughts on liberty to turn Thermopylae into a paradigm among battles for independence, and in so doing raised the status of America’s Battle of Long Island to equal that of Thermopylae. In building his own mausoleum on this sacred ground, he also sought to establish his own kleos for successfully commemorating this battle in poetry, in the form of a monument and as a ceremonial spectacle, thereby seeking for himself the same immortality and honour he thought was due to Stirling and the Maryland Four Hundred.

The Monument and Altar to Liberty Higgins spent the better part of two decades publicly advocating for the commemoration of all the important sites of the Battle of Long Island. His mission ultimately succeeded, at least in part, with the dedication of the Monument and Altar to Liberty. The Kings County Historical Society officially

The Monument and Altar to Liberty


dedicated the monument in accordance with Higgins’s specifications, although Higgins paid all the expenses (Higgins 1920). The monument was built by Davis Granite Co (Kings County Historical Society 1920), and the sculptor was F. Wellington Ruckstuff (Riis 1920). In this section, I will discuss the monument in detail, its iconography and its own situatedness, in order to highlight the many ways in which its classical characteristics are judiciously used to heighten its status as a commemorative war monument. The monument itself consists of a statue of Minerva standing next to an altar. Both are located on a two-tiered platform. The top tier has the words ‘Altar to Liberty’ chiseled on the west face (see Fig. 11.1). Minerva wears a plumed helmet, decorated with laurel leaves in the front and a winged Pegasus on each side, with the plume attached along the spine of a sphinx that crowns the helmet (see Fig. 11.6). The laurel leaves are a symbol of victory. Minerva faces west and her left hand is raised as if waving. In her right hand she holds a laurel wreath that rests on the top of the altar to her right, as if she were placing it there (see Macaulay-Lewis, Ch 12 this volume). She is wearing flowing Grecian garments and a breastplate bordered with snakes and emblazoned with the head of Perseus (see Fig. 11.7). This clearly identifies her as Minerva, as do the plaques on the altar. Her expression is rather muted. Despite the helmet and breastplate, her usual martial iconography is absent as she carries no weapon or shield. In the United States at this time, the Roman names for the gods were used more

Figure 11.6 Minerva’s plumed helmet.


War as Spectacle

Figure 11.7 Minerva’s Graecian accouterments.

frequently and represented a conflation of Greek and Roman deities. The choice of Minerva is significant. As a well-known deity from antiquity, she was in fact once a common choice for representing the United States (Fleming 1967). As ‘America’, a more civic-oriented portrayal of Minerva was not uncommon (see Macaulay-Lewis, Ch. 12 this volume). The most important aspects of the statue are her raised left hand, her location and her gaze. The monument is located on Battle Hill and the information on the plaques guides the visitor towards an understanding of the monument’s meaning and purpose. The altar is located in the centre of the raised platform (see Fig. 11.1), and it is rather generic and square, with very little ornamentation. Festoons decorate the upper portion above the bronze plaques on each side, which are one of the most important elements of the monument. The plaques are designed to be didactic and to educate visitors about the purpose of the

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monument, reflecting Higgins’s thoughts on the role of monuments and his own views on the importance of the Battle of Long Island. The synergy of text and material culture is also reminiscent of ancient monuments that educated the viewer and conveyed symbolically the achievements of the state through powerful imagery (see Macaulay-Lewis, Ch. 12 this volume). On the plaque facing west is inscribed: ALTAR TO LIBERTY / 1776 – 1919 / on this battle hill , facing the / statue of liberty, this altar is erect - / ed to commemorate the battle of / long island, the first engagement of / which was fought on this site , august / 27, 1776, between general lord stirling / with 2000 americans and general grant / with 6000 british . this was the first / battle of the nation and the first / stroke for our great american charter / of rights and liberties / the declaration of independence . / ERECTED – 1919

‘Altar to Liberty’ matches the inscription at the base of the raised platform. Higgins here again connects the Battle of Long Island to Jefferson’s ideas about liberty, but in new ways. Stirling and his men secured liberty for the nation. Higgins also transfers the comparisons he made earlier with Thermopylae to the events that occurred on Battle Hill, but some of the details no longer parallel each other as closely as they did before. For example, many sources indicate that Stirling himself never fought on Battle Hill. In other ways, however, the engagements on Battle Hill had more in common with Thermopylae than those at the Vechte-Cortelyou house, since the numbers of Americans fighting were smaller, held strategic ground, were surrounded, wounded and killed more enemies than any other regiment, and eventually many died on the spot. The implication of the plaque’s reference to the altar’s position in relation to the Statue of Liberty, and the fact that Minerva is facing that way and appears to be waving, is that the visitor should also turn around and face west. Thus the monument acknowledges the many ways in which liberty has been expressed in the United States. It is important to note, however, that when facing the monument head on, the viewer is also greeted by Higgins’s family mausoleum, located directly behind the Monument and Altar to Liberty (see Fig.  11.1). Higgins draws attention to his presence as the benefactor of the monument and is himself interred inside his mausoleum on Battle Hill. That so many burial plots were purchased sets the monument and mausoleum apart from the rest of the cemetery. Thus, Higgins makes his own kleos in commemorating the battle a part of the commemoration itself.


War as Spectacle

Moving around the monument, visitors end up facing north looking at the left side of Minerva and reading the plaque that faces south. The inscription on this plaque says: DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE / JULY 4, 1776. / the wisest document, ever written , / of human rights and liberties , basic / ethics , civic religion and democratic / government. all these are express - / ed in this one essential paragraph / “we hold these truths to be self- evident / that all men are created equal , that they / are endowed by their creator with certain / unalienable rights , that among these are / life , liberty and the pursuit of happiness , / that to secure these rights , governments , / are instituted among men , deriving their just / powers from the consent of the governed.” / EQUALITY–LIBERTY–HUMAN RIGHTS

Just as on the west-facing plaque, Higgins emphasizes Jefferson’s ideas about liberty, exemplified in his view by the Maryland Four Hundred. In 1920, visitors would have had a commanding view of the battlefield that lay to their north when reading this plaque. Printed photos in the original dedication pamphlet show the landscape as it was in that time (Higgins 1920: 6). The bucolic landscape of the period mirrored that of colonial times and was in and of itself a spectacle worth seeing. Higgins’s efforts to preserve the battlefield, and to emphasize its aesthetic beauty, served to reinforce his view of the importance of the sacrifice of Stirling’s men. Thus, this plaque is designed to remind the visitor that his or her liberty and freedoms were won by the actions of such men, and not by words alone. This synergy between text, material culture and landscape creates a powerful spectacle, of which Higgins took full advantage (see Macaulay-Lewis, Ch. 12 this volume). Moving to the south, visitors could view the north-facing plaque, on which is inscribed: STIRLING’S VOW / “here and along the slopes of greenwood ’s hills / our patriots for the first time faced their foe / in open field ; and well we stood the test. / ‘men !’ cried lord stirling , as we formed our line , / ‘this grant who comes against us once declared / in England ’s house of commons – i sat there / and heard – that given him five thousand men / he ’d cross our continent from end to end ! / he has his number now, i doubt not ; we / a fourth as many, yet i promise you /

The Monument and Altar to Liberty


he ’ll march no farther through our continent / than Brower ’s mill ponds yonder .’ ” / from prize poem by sarah j. day / 1913.

Day’s poem is another example of the type of commemoration that Higgins wanted for the battle and complements Coleman’s poem published in the programme. It also represents the supremacy of the physical monument over oral poetry in the early twentieth century as opposed to the sentiments expressed by ancient poets that their poetry will live on longer, if not forever, compared to monuments. This plaque assigns to Stirling the role of general and citizen-soldier who led a small band of Americans, namely the Maryland Four Hundred, against the British and thereby saved the entire Continental Army in a memorable display of bravery. This singling out of Stirling is not unlike the singling out of Leonidas among the Spartan Three Hundred. Higgins had already equated Stirling with Leonidas, so the focus here reinforces that rhetoric. By recording Grant’s taunt and Stirling’s words to his soldiers, the plaque further emphasizes Stirling’s accomplishment. Higgins shifted the comparison with Thermopylae to this part of the battle, despite the fact that it is unlikely that Stirling, the Maryland Four Hundred and Grant fought on Battle Hill. With history, text, and monument complementing one another, however, this location was more advantageous for Higgins’s purposes. As visitors again move around the monument, they now face west and are viewing the east-facing plaque, on which is inscribed: “THE PLACE WHEREON THOU STANDEST / IS HOLY GROUND” / glory to the memory of our first / national heroes who fought and / fell on this battle ground to win / our liberty and independence ! / minerva, the goddess of wisdom , / glory and patriotism , here salutes / the goddess of liberty and enwreaths / this altar in tribute to the heroes / of american liberty and to the / wisdom of american institutions .

The quotation marks reinforce the fact that this phrase is borrowed. It appears in several places that Higgins may have been aware of. The phrase is identical to some translations of Exodus 3:5. The New York Society for Ethical Culture has the phrase ‘the place where people meet to seek the highest is holy ground’ carved in their auditorium. Given Higgins’s previous statements on religion, ethics and morality, it would seem that in the context of the monument he is both acknowledging that visitors to the monument would recognize the biblical


War as Spectacle

and ethical overtones of the phrase and at the same time he is utilizing the phrase to further identify Battle Hill as a place of similar importance for civic patriotism. The visitor is in the most semiotically meaningful position when facing west, for herein lies the monument’s most potent message. One can interpret the statue of Minerva as the abstract representation of the United States, honouring the fallen soldiers, who first defended her. She also salutes the Statue of Liberty across the harbour. That America herself would humbly lay a wreath in tribute to her fallen citizen-soldiers is symbolically overwhelming and is a powerful spectacle made permanent in the axial relationship of these monuments. The overt religious language that this is ‘holy ground’ further reinforces that message (Linenthal 2001). While Herodotus’ account frames Thermopylae as Hellenes versus barbarians, freedom versus tyranny, Higgins frames the struggle on Battle Hill as a patriotic sacrifice for liberty. The viewer’s position, however, contains the most powerful unwritten message of the entire monument and indicates that Higgins had a sophisticated awareness of how to manipulate space, landscape and the viewer’s gaze in a grand spectacle that fully embodies and communicates his message. Visitors standing behind Minerva can see the recipient of Minerva’s wave. The Statue of Liberty, as was frequently noted by Higgins, faces east towards the hills of Brooklyn, i.e. Battle Hill, the very spot the visitor is standing upon. Liberty holds up her torch and gazes towards Brooklyn, as the French intended her to, in order to proclaim to those entering New York harbour that Liberty was won on Battle Hill during the Battle of Long Island (New York Times 1877; Glassberg 2003). Minerva then reciprocates the raised torch of the Statue of Liberty in a compelling direct line of site (see Fig. 11.8 and Fig. 11.9). The vista in the 1920s would have been striking, as the monument stands at the highest natural point in Brooklyn and had a commanding view of all of New York City. Higgins was well aware of the potential to further exploit the vista, which would also have afforded the visitor a view of the entire battlefield of the Battle of Long Island. In addition to purchasing the plots atop Battle Hill in Green-Wood Cemetery for his mausoleum and the monument, Higgins also purchased a plot of land directly west of the monument, down the slope of Battle Hill located outside of the cemetery. He intended to build a monumental observatory tower, much like the one at Bunker Hill, in order to give the visitor even more spectacular views (Kings County Historical Society 1920: 16). The tower was never built, and for several years during the first decade of the new millennium a contemporary real estate developer almost blocked the historic vista with a new apartment building. Fortunately, the vista was preserved thanks to a public outcry (Collins 2006).

The Monument and Altar to Liberty


Figure 11.8 The direct line of sight between the two statues.

Despite his failure to build the observatory tower, Higgins created a space and utilized the landscape and other monuments already located within it to commemorate what he firmly believed was the most important battle in American history. He hoped to create a symbolic spectacle in honour of America’s fallen soldiers made permanent through preservation and physical monuments. Its didactic message was also addressed to new immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, also in view from Battle Hill in the 1920s. It informed them of an important battle in United States history that they can now participate in honouring.


War as Spectacle

Figure 11.9 Minerva salutes the Statue of Liberty.

Preservation and the creation of memory landscapes in New York City Higgins was a product of his times, and the context of his efforts to commemorate the Battle of Long Island is equally important for understanding the complex nature of his undertaking in the early decades of the twentieth century. He was an Irish immigrant who became financially successful and used that financial success to gain social and cultural status in Brooklyn in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Higgins used his position and connections to argue for particular policies, as well as to convince and even impose his views of the Battle of Long Island on others (Schwartz 1982; Shackel 2001; Kammen 2003). For example, as a founding member of the Kings County Historical Society, Higgins was an early advocate for preservation efforts in New York City. The Monument and Altar to Liberty is thus a product both of Higgins and of the preservation movement in New York City in the 1900s. In addition, the dedication of the monument in 1920 occurs just a few years after the close of World War I. The years following witnessed the birth of new forms of commemorative war monuments (Inglis 1992; Piehler 1994, 1995; Winter 1995). Thus, Higgins’s monument was dedicated at a time of remarkable change in the history of preservation and war monuments in the United States. Randall Mason’s recent work argues that the preservation movement in New York City began in the late 1800s and early 1900s (Mason 2009), and a

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substantial part of early preservationists’ efforts was the creation of what Mason calls ‘memory sites’. Memory sites are specific instances – restored buildings, historic sites, commemorative events, landscapes – that make up a ‘memory infrastructure’ or the results of preservationists’ efforts in building cultural and civic identity (Mason 2009: 1–62). Furthermore, Mason argues that early preservationists in New York City utilized existing historical sites or created memory sites as a means to impose their own moral agenda on the general public. Historic sites, statues, and buildings could be agents both of cultural change and new social stability. Often, these changes had a patriotic or civic dimension to them (see Macaulay-Lewis, Ch. 12 this volume; Mason 2009: 31–45). Higgins was very much a part of this preservation movement, and the Monument and Altar to Liberty is a typical example of this form of preservation, since Higgins creates meaning out of the landscape to commemorate a key moment in American history. At the time of the dedication of the Monument and Altar to Liberty there were already several other monuments related to the Battle of Long Island and the Revolutionary War in New York. One of the earliest of these was the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument, designed by Stanford White and dedicated in 1908 (Mason 2009: 38–41). The majority of the prisoners of war, who suffered in British captivity, were captured during the Battle of Long Island. A decade prior, in 1895, Stanford White also designed the Maryland Memorial located in Prospect Park, which marks one of the locations where the Maryland Four Hundred might be buried. The monument was paid for by the Maryland Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (Parks Department). Plaques had also been placed nearby with money left over from the Maryland Memorial (Higgins 1910: 22; Brooklyn Daily Eagle 1897). Together, these monuments began to construct, to use Mason’s term, a memory infrastructure for the Battle of Long Island. Higgins was aware of these other efforts at commemoration, but viewed them as inadequate since plaques did nothing to ensure that the physical site was protected from future development. Moreover, the Martyrs’ Monument commemorated Americans held prisoner, not the battle itself, or the heroic deeds of Stirling and his regiment. The Maryland Memorial did satisfy Higgins’s requirements for commemoration, but represents just one of the many important sites of the Battle of Long Island that he thought should be commemorated. Higgins wanted all of the major sites of the battle to be memorialized and protected (Higgins 1916: 3–6). Battle Hill, moreover, was left un-commemorated even though it marked one the first engagements that Stirling’s forces fought.


War as Spectacle

Thus, Higgins added to this memory landscape with the Monument and Altar to Liberty, which in his mind fulfilled his aims for a proper commemorative monument that was ethical, didactic and patriotic and afforded the opportunity to make stronger connections between the battle and Thermopylae.

America’s Thermopylae Higgins astutely utilized classical iconography to elevate the stature of his monument. In the many literary references both prior to and during the dedication of the Monument and Altar to Liberty, Higgins made further use of classical motifs, namely the imagery of Leonidas and the Spartan Three Hundred at Thermopylae, in order to recast the Battle of Long Island, in particular the fighting that took place on Battle Hill, Stirling and the Maryland Four Hundred as an American Thermopylae. The first comparison of the two battles in Higgins’ article for Kings County Historical Society Magazine notes that both battles were defeats. The Spartans lost, as did the Americans. The defeat, however, is less significant than the fact that despite such uneven numbers, the Spartans and Americans held out for as long as they did. The ‘defeat’ then is but in name only, since Higgins, like the ancient Greeks, reframes the loss into a victory. The Spartans’ actions at Thermopylae allowed the Greeks to fight another day, and Stirling’s actions saved Washington and the Continental Army from total defeat. The military defeat thus becomes a ‘moral victory’ (Dillery 1996). The Spartans were one of the best groups of Greek fighters just as the Marylanders under Stirling were one of the best regiments in the Continental Army.3 Both show their courage and bravery, and thus their martial worth, by staying and facing a numerically superior enemy, and by doing so they win the war long-term. Higgins uses the lens of Thermopylae to re-situate the Battle of Long Island in the history of battles for independence and thereby amplify its contemporary value. Higgins focuses on the reduction of the events at Thermopylae to Leonidas and the Spartan Three Hundred and similarly reduces the Battle of Long Island to Stirling and the Maryland Four Hundred. In Higgins’s several accounts of the battle, he barely mentions the numerous other forces fighting alongside Stirling, or the other generals who first engaged with the British on the morning of 27 August on Battle Hill (Manders 1978: 43–6; Gallagher 1995: 58–60; Lewis 2009). Higgins’s reframing of the battle is representative of preservationists’ practices during the 1900s, who preserved only portions of historical events,

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while obliterating others (Shackel 2001). By choosing to focus on Stirling and the Maryland Four Hundred, Higgins could more directly create a parallel with the ancient battle. Educated contemporaries would have been familiar with the story of Thermopylae. The focus on freedom, liberty and Leonidas as a national hero are common motifs used in many different appropriations of Thermopylae.4 These are precisely the focal points that Higgins uses to reinforce his commemoration of the Battle of Long Island. Higgins repeatedly emphasized that this battle was the first defence of the United States’ newly independent status. On the monument itself, liberty, as an abstract concept, is referenced on nearly all four plaques and is strengthened by the line of sight with the Statue of Liberty. Finally, the north-facing plaque continues to emphasize Stirling’s actions and his ability to lead the Maryland Four Hundred in defence of their new country. In re-focusing the Battle of Long Island as he does, Higgins is able to defend his view of it as the United States’ most important battle, but also as one of the most important conflicts in world history, and in the history of those fighting for freedom, liberty and independence, on par with Thermopylae. Higgins takes his historical parallel one step further by the deliberate location of the monument on Battle Hill. The choice of Battle Hill benefited Higgins’s reframing of the Battle of Long Island as an American Thermopylae in a number of ways. It afforded those visiting the monument commanding views of all of New York City, including the battlefield, and was thus a practical choice. This particular location of the first engagements in the battle was yet to be commemorated. The views atop Battle Hill also allowed Higgins to make a powerful connection with the Statue of Liberty. As the location was now in Green-Wood Cemetery, Higgins himself could be interred on the spot. Most importantly, the Monument and Altar to Liberty not only commemorates the Battle of Long Island, Stirling and the Maryland Four Hundred, but it also represents one final parallel to Thermopylae. The Spartans who defended Thermopylae were buried on a nearby hill. The monument is, in effect, a tropaion or trophy, a monument commemorating the war dead. A section of the American forces remained on Battle Hill as Stirling’s forces retreated to the Old Stone House, and must have provided cover, as Grant’s troops pursued the Americans north. They may have also been buried on the spot. In an interview, Jeff Richman, Green-Wood Cemetery historian, acknowledged the sources’ information, but noted that the cemetery has never been able to confirm whether Revolutionary War soldiers are indeed buried at the location (Richman 2013, pers. comm., 4 December). Higgins was aware of several other potential burial locations of


War as Spectacle

Stirling’s men in the surrounding area, and must have also been aware of the report of a burial on Battle Hill. This information reinforced his sacred language regarding the site, and recasts the monument as both a commemorative war memorial and a universal burial marker for the war dead.5 Thus, carrying the parallel with Thermopylae one step further, Higgins replicates the practice of erecting trophies after major battles (Picard 1957, West 1969, cf. Hope, Ch. 10 this volume).

Conclusion The Monument and Altar to Liberty is a striking example of the reception of Thermopylae in the United States. Charles Higgins was an astute student of history and philosophy and expressed a reverence for liberty that was likely both genuine and propagandistic. He combined these characteristics and championed an appropriate commemoration of the Battle of Long Island. Ultimately, this task fell on Higgins himself and the commissioning of the monument afforded him the opportunity to deploy his classical learning as a means of heightening the status of the monument, the battle that it commemorates, and his own role in that effort. By creating direct parallels to Leonidas and his Spartans at Thermopylae, Higgins elevates the importance of the battle not only in the history of the United States, but also in world history. Furthermore, the complex manipulation of landscape, lines of sight, and material culture creates a space designed to inspire the viewer with its spectacle of the historical events that took place there. The Battle of Long Island thus becomes the American Thermopylae.


Triumphal Washington New York City’s First ‘Roman’ Arch1 Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis The Graduate Center, The City University of New York

When one thinks of New York City architecture, skyscrapers, such as the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the ATT (now the Sony) Building, or modernist feats of architecture, like the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum or the Whitney Museum of American Art, a Marcel Breuer creation, dominate the mind’s eye. Classically inspired architecture does not immediately come to the forefront in the context of New York City, as it might in Washington, DC , or Philadelphia. The architectural landscape of New York City is, in fact, more diverse and complex than it is often perceived to be. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the peak of the Beaux Arts movement, which saw the erection of many of New York City’s greatest buildings, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Station, Grand Central Terminal, and the New York Public Library’s monumental Forty-Second Street Branch. Many of these buildings drew upon, or were inspired by, the forms, monuments and spectacles of the classical world.2 These structures are part of a larger architectural tradition in New York City, where architects deployed diverse architectural forms in order to create impressive public monuments and buildings, alongside private residences and tombs.3 A prominent aspect of New York’s architectural landscape was the Roman-inspired arches that appear at specific points throughout the city. These arches, which have never been subject to detailed study, reflect the lasting influence that classical architecture had on New York’s architectural landscape. Therefore, this chapter analyses the first of New York City’s permanent arches that utilized and re-interpreted the architectural form and iconography of Roman arches: the Washington Arch in Washington Square Park and its temporary predecessors. In order to understand the larger tradition of 209


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monuments inspired by Roman arches, a brief summary of monumental Roman arches and their history is presented. The European arches which derived their inspiration from these Roman models as early as the ninth century ce are then considered in order to provide architectural and historical context for the Washington Arches in New York City, because nineteenth-century American architects often looked to Europe for inspiration and models (Reynolds 1984; Andrews 1995: xi–xxiii). I then examine the historical circumstances behind the erection of temporary arches to celebrate the centennial anniversary of George Washington’s inauguration as the first President of the United States of America. The permanent arch, designed by Stanford White, and its sculptural programme are analysed in detail. The iconography of the arch refers to warfare, specifically Washington as a general, and the placement of the arch in the landscape alludes to the spectacle of militaristic triumph. White’s original plans for the sculpture of the arch and its surrounding placement were also more militaristic in their aims, and these original plans will also be discussed. The spectacle of warfare is often presented in isolation from peace, but here warfare is balanced by an iconography of peace and the depiction of Washington as a civic leader. The intertwined nature of war and peace and its iconographic presentation is also considered. The permanent arch and its sculpture can be interpreted as a large-scale piece of installation art that was designed to forge collective memory and to educate New York’s diverse and growing population, many of whom immigrated to the United States, about the origins and history of the United States of America. And finally, the arch’s position within the larger landscape of New York City and its contribution to the formation of New York City’s ‘Memory Infrastructure’ (Mason 2009) is explored.

Roman arches The spectacle of warfare in ancient Rome was celebrated in the triumphal procession, when victors, captives and booty were paraded from the Campus Martius through the streets of Rome into the Forum and finally up to the Capitoline Hill. Military triumph was memorialized in some of the greatest architectural monuments of ancient Rome (Dillon and Welch 2006): numerous temples, the imperial Fora, the rostra, columns and other monuments in the Roman Forum, as well as monumental arches. Arches, in Latin arcus, fornix or ianus, were erected from 198 bce onwards. These arches soon began to replace columns topped with a sculpture of a victorious general, which had been the

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dominant form of honorific monuments in the early Republic. The exact number of arches erected in Rome is unknown. Richardson lists forty-one arci, five fornicis and two iani in his topographical dictionary of Rome (Richardson 1992: 22–31,153–4, 208–9). As an architectural form, the number of arches from across the Roman Empire seems to have exceeded 800, of which only thirty were decreed by the Roman Senate (Cassibry 2008: 418, n. 5). Of these thirty, twentyone were erected in the city of Rome, and the rest were in the provinces (Cassibry 2008: 418, n. 6). Arches were reportedly invented as an alternative base to the monumental column (Plin., HN , 34.27; Richardson 1992: 22–3). The form of the arch allowed ample opportunity for the inclusion of sculpture, on the pillars, under the bay, and atop the arch, which enabled the monuments to convey more complex, multi-faceted messages than a column or other architectural forms could. During the Empire, arches were the primary artistic commemoration of victory of a successful Emperor. Although none of the statuary that once stood atop Roman arches survives today, coins depict sculptural groups, giving us a functional knowledge of the sculpture of arches in antiquity (Hill 1989: 49–55). Roman arches were typically erected either as commemorative or triumphal monuments. The distinction between honorific and commemorative arches and triumphal arches was not always clear-cut in antiquity. Triumphal arches were those that celebrated military victories of a present or previous emperor (Touchette 2014), even if the arch was not explicitly linked to a triumphal procession. The circumstances around the erection of the Arch of Titus on the Sacra Via on the approach to the Forum Romanum in Rome highlights how the meaning and aims of commemorative arches could overlap with those of triumphal arches. In 80–81 ce , the Senate erected an arch to Vespasian and Titus to commemorate the capture and destruction of Jerusalem. This arch, which does not survive, was reportedly located in the Circus Maximus (Richardson 1992: 30) and appears on Trajanic coins that depict the circus, such as the Bronze sestertius, that is now in the British Museum (CM BMC 853; also see Hill 1989: 48, figs 72–3). When the Emperor Domitian ascended to the throne in 81 ce , after the death of Vespasian in 79 ce and then the death of Titus in 81 ce , he lacked the military experience of his more famous brother and father. Domitian, thus eager to associate himself with the illustrious deeds of his older brother, Titus, constructed this arch in 81 ce to commemorate Titus and his important role in the suppression of the Jewish revolt of 69–73 ce (Joseph. War, 7.158-62), which established the Flavian Dynasty as the rulers of Rome.4 The bas-reliefs in the single-bayed arch, which was restored in the nineteenth century, depict Titus’


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triumphal procession into Rome and the carrying off of the menorah from the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The erection of the Arch of Titus not only connected Domitian to the military successes of his brother, but the iconography of the arch’s bas-reliefs also articulated the Flavian view of the circumstances around their ascent to the throne. Specifically, that the family’s claim to power was based on their suppression of the Jewish Revolt, a foreign people, rather than in a victory over Romans in a civil war.5 Two of the most famous arches of the late Empire also chronicled the militaristic successes of the emperor. The Arch of Septimius Severus (203 ce ) in the Roman Forum detailed the emperor’s campaigns in the Parthian Wars and celebrated his and his sons’ achievements (Lusnia 2006: 272–99; Newby 2007: 202–6, figs 12.1–3). While not standing on the Triumphal route, it has a prominent location next to the Capitoline Hill in the Roman Forum. The early fourth-century, three-bayed Arch of Constantine, located along the Via Triumphalis in Rome, is among the most famous triumphal arches.6 The arch’s sculptural programme, which included spolia, reused sculptural reliefs and architectural elements, from Hadrianic, Trajanic and Antonine monuments, was full of rich iconography that celebrated Constantine’s defeat of Maxentius at the Milvian bridge in 312 ce and articulated Constantine’s position as emperor, while also alluding to the successes of past emperors and portraying Constantine as their successor. The arches that honoured Constantine, Titus, Vespasian, and Septimius Severus glorified war and victory by visualizing Roman warfare for the capital and its population. The sculptural programmes of the arches were a form of propaganda that promoted the aims and achievements of the emperor. These arches were located at critical urban junctures in Rome, identifying transitions of space, for example, along the Via Triumphalis and the Sacra Via, or within the Roman Forum itself, and marking these arches and their artistic programmes a major component of the urban fabric of ancient Rome. Honorific arches did not always celebrate an emperor solely for his military exploits. The Arch of the Argentarii was a private dedication set up by the cattle merchants and the argentarii, who may have been the money lenders to the cattle merchants, sometime between December 203 and December 204 in the Forum Boarium, Rome (Newby 2007: 218). The Imperial family was depicted in various stages of worship; however, certain figures on the arch, such as Geta, were removed, suffering a damnatio memoriae (Elsner 2005: 83–98; Newby 2007: 218–22, esp. n. 43, figs 12.11–13). The Senate and People of Rome or a specific city could also celebrate an emperor or an individual by erecting an arch (Cassibry 2008: 418, nn. 5–6). The Arch of Trajan at Beneventum, Italy, commemorated Trajan’s military and civic

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duties, while also marking the physical start of the road that he constructed from Beneventum to Brindisi, the Via Traiana, in 109 ce .7 Arches were erected throughout the Roman Empire from Thamugadi (modern-day Timgad), Algeria, to Salonika (modern-day Thessaloniki), Greece, to convey the achievements and messages of the Emperor. For example, a commemorative arch to Hadrian was erected at Jerash, Jordan, in 130 ce to celebrate the emperor’s visit in 129/130 ce (Thomas 2007: 101). Like the arches in Rome, these monuments typically maximized their position within the urban landscape, for example the famous tetrapylon at Lepcis Magna, Libya, which features reliefs of Septimius Severus and his family, stands over an important crossroads in the city. While this arch honoured Septimius Severus and emphasized the Severan dynasty’s link to Lepcis Magna, the north-western panel on this arch shows the emperor in a triumphal procession with captives and the spoils of war (Newby 2007: 207–8, fig. 12.4). In the provinces, individuals and communities also erected arches as commemorative monuments for their families or important individuals, as votive offerings, or as expressions of civic pride (Kähler 1939: 465–7; Cassibry 2008: 419–20). These examples are highly selective, and there is an extensive bibliography on arches that can be consulted (Kähler 1939; Mühlenbrock 2003). This summary provides a brief account of the sculptural programmes, the architecture and the position of triumphal and honorific arches in the city of Rome and in the Roman Empire. These monuments conveyed the triumphal and honorific messages that primarily lauded the military achievements of the emperor or an individual. One theme that did not feature largely in these arches was peace, the outcome of warfare. While peace (pax) was honoured with the Augustan Ara Pacis and with a temenos and an altar in the Templum Pacis by Vespasian, peace and its lasting impact were largely absent from the iconography of these monuments. These arches were also educational tools, whose iconography conveyed the achievements, victories, political narratives and even social policies of the Emperor to vast swathes of Romans who would never visit Rome. Likewise the position of these monuments at prominent locations within each city or region physically impressed the Emperor’s view of events and his agenda on the population.

European predecessors of the Washington Arch Because many of these arches survived the collapse of the Roman Empire, Roman arches have served as a continual source of inspiration for honorific,


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commemorative and triumphal monuments in Europe since the ninth century (Sear and John 2013). Due to their imperial pedigree and triumphal overtones, the European powers first recognized the arch as a potent architectural form that could celebrate the success and victories of individual emperors, kings, generals, armies or a nation. A very early example of a monument inspired or influenced by Roman arches is the Torhalle, or entrance gatehouse at Lorsch Abbey, Germany (c. 800 ce ), which led to one of the council chambers of the Holy Roman Emperor. Another Medieval example is the Porta Capua, or Capuan Gate, in Pulgia, erected by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (1194–1250) (Gardner 1987: 208; Vagnoni 2006), who intentionally reused the forms of classical architecture. The arch served as the city gate of Capua, so that everyone who visited the city had to pass through Frederick’s great arch, symbolically making everyone who entered the city submit to his authority. The arch was built in 1234–39 and seems to be modelled on Roman examples from Turin or Spello (Gardner 1987: 208; Fengler and Stephany 1981: 146). The Spanish destroyed it in 1557; however, drawings of it, including one in a 1507 manuscript now in Vienna (Man. 3528, folio 51 verso), gives a sense of its appearance (Fengler and Stephany 1981: 147–8, figs 1–2), and many pieces of sculpture from the arch are now in the Museo Campano of Capua. There were four major statues, three of which had inscriptions and a series of smaller sculptures on the city façade of the arch, but none of the descriptions or sketches of the arch have recorded their subject matter (Fengler and Stephany 1981: 146, n. 13). Other early examples of arches inspired by Roman arches were a series of elaborate temporary triumphal arches erected along the processional route of King James I for his coronation into the City of London in 1604, where he was heralded as a new Augustus (British Museum 2013; Stevenson 2006: 35–74); in the seventeenth century, temporary arches were erected to welcome monarchs, such as Christian IV of Denmark in July 1606, as well as royal brides and mothers-in-law (Stevenson 2006: 63, n. 1). Charles II also entered the City of London through temporary arches in 1661 as part of his coronation (Stevenson 2006: 63, n. 1). The erection of these arches was grounded in a knowledge of the classical texts, such as Vitruvius’ De Architectura, and in the desire to appropriate classical architecture for specific purpose: to welcome a triumphant new king or royal personage. In doing this, these temporary arches and the processions that passed underneath them evoked the triumphal spectacles of the ancient world. These medieval and early modern monuments are merely highlights from a larger canon of European monuments.

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The arches of eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries Europe, such as the Brandenburg Gate (1788–91), Berlin, the Arc de Triomphe (1806–36), Paris, as well as Wellington Arch (1825–27) and Marble Arch (1828–30), London, continued the tradition of celebrating war, peace, or great men through the adaptation and re-interpretation of the Roman arch form.8 Most European and American architects viewed Roman arches as triumphal arches and used this form to commemorate military success and peace. These arches also monumentalized the cityscape through the considered position of these arches within their own respective cities. The diversity of these monuments in time and space attests to the potency of the arch as a commemorative architectural form. The use of triumphal arches as commemorative and celebratory monuments began in the United States with the erection of a series of temporary arches to George Washington along the route of his celebratory tour of prominent eastern cities after his inauguration in 1789 (Cooper 1993: 238). In Philadelphia, thirteen classically-inspired, temporary arches were later erected to honour the tour of the Marquis de Lafayette in 1824–25 (Richard 2009: 35; Cooper 1993, 239–40; fig. 192). Of the thirteen arches erected, the most ornate was the arch modelled on the Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome that was placed in front of Independence Hall. It was even crowned with wooden statues of Justice and Wisdom (Cooper 1993: 239). Therefore, the Roman arch was established early on within the corpus of American architecture and art as a form that could commemorate, celebrate and honour. However, it is unclear if these arches were known to those who proposed to erect temporary arches to celebrate the centennial of Washington’s inauguration. There appears to be a considerable gap in the erection of arches until the end of the nineteenth century in the United States. The use of classically-inspired triumphal arches was resumed with the events that celebrated the centennial anniversary of George Washington’s inauguration as the first President of the United States in New York City in 1889 and with the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Brooklyn (constructed between 1888 and 1892). It continued until 1937 when the New York State Memorial to Theodore Roosevelt, which included a triumphal arch, was largely completed in New York City. Before the temporary arches, only a single stone arch had been erected; this was the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch, in Hartford, Connecticut, between 1884 and 1886. Designed by architect George B. Keller, the arch was medieval in inspiration and featured gothic-styled turrets on each corner (Kahn 1982: 216, fig.  5). Another arch was proposed as a Civil War monument in Buffalo, NY; this arch, which was designed by H. H. Richardson in 1874, was never built (Kahn 1982: 216). These arches, however, do not seem to


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have had the lasting impact that the temporary or permanent Washington Arch had and were not replicated widely. The late adoption of the arch as a major form of commemorative architecture in the United States may be explained partially by the popularity of the column or obelisk as a commemorative monument in the mid- to late nineteenth century (Kahn 1982: 213). After the American Civil War, the columns had both funerary and commemorative properties, while obelisks had a commemorative function in antiquity. Thus, both monuments had a certain appeal to the well-educated individuals of nineteenth-century America. In the nineteenth century, the commissioners of American architecture seemed to be in search of an architectural tradition with a usable past to convey the important political and cultural achievements of the day. The classical world with its rich past, as well as stunning architectural and artistic forms, was an obvious model, which had an enduring legacy and already had been successfully used in Europe. By the late nineteenth century, American architecture had already drawn upon classical forms, utilizing both Greek and Roman temple forms as architectural models for public and private buildings. Such monuments include Federal Hall, originally a Customs House (built on the site where George Washington took the oath of office as president in 1789) on Wall Street, which opened in 1842, in New York City, or Thomas Jefferson’s Virginian residence, Monticello, which was completed in 1808, or the United States Capitol Building, whose construction started in 1793 and whose iconic dome was added in the 1850s. For most of the nineteenth century, the use of classical models in the creation of commemorative monuments was limited to funerary columns and obelisks; however, the use of arches in New York City changed this, bringing classical models to the forefront of commemorative architecture. Surprisingly, the transatlantic adaptation of the triumphal arch, as a form of commemorative and monumental architecture, has been virtually ignored. The recent scholarly interest in monuments, sparked by the success of Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial, has resulted in a large output of theory and literature about monuments and commemoration (Shaya 2013: 83, nn. 2–4; Savage 2006). However, this discussion has failed to include the monumental arches of New York City. Thus, the time is opportune to turn our attention to the monumental arches of New York. New York City is home to three permanent ‘triumphal’ arches, as well as a plethora of columns that celebrated great American achievements, like the discoveries of Christopher Columbus, erected in 1892 (City of New York, Central Park – Columbus Circle 2013), and Henry Hudson, erected in 1939 (City of New York, Henry Hudson Park – Henry Hudson 2013;

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Henry Hudson Memorial 2013). Columns commemorated those who had fought and died in various American conflicts, such as the Bronx Victory Memorial, erected in 1932 and dedicated in 1933, which honoured 947 soldiers from the Bronx who had died in World War One (City of New York, Pelham Bay Park – Bronx Victory Memorial 2013). The scope of the chapter does not allow me to explore these columns or the later examples of triumphal arches in New York City, which include the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch at the Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn and the New York State Memorial to Theodore Roosevelt, which serves as the main façade and entrance to the American Museum of Natural History, the temporary Dewey Arch and World War One Arch. The Washington Arch was created through an active transformation of a Roman architectural form and through the reworking and adaptation of classical iconography to suit the specific needs and meaning of the monument. The arch is a large-scale piece of installation art, strategically located, that was designed not only to celebrate and commemorate George Washington but also to educate new Americans and to forge a collective memory and vision of the past. The position of the arch in the landscape also contributes to the formation of a memory infrastructure within New York City that persists today.

The temporary Washington arches On 30 April 1789, George Washington took the Oath of Office in the City Hall of New York City, which served as the nation’s first capital building, on Wall Street to become the first President of the United States of America. The year 1889 saw nation-wide centennial celebrations of Washington’s inauguration, many of which were held in New York City. William Rhinelander Stewart, a well-known attorney and a principal in the Rhinelander Real Estate Empire and a member of the New York establishment, took a leading role in organizing the New York City celebrations. In March 1889, he began to raise money for the erection of a temporary triumphal arch to be placed on Fifth Avenue, just north of Washington Square (Folpe 2002: 170–1), near his home between Clinton Place (Eighth Street) and Washington Park, as part of the celebrations on the parade route (Folpe 2002: 170–1). In order to build the arch, he raised $2,765 from his neighbours around Waverly Place, Washington Square and Fifth Avenue (Folpe 2002: 170–1). He involved Stanford White, who was working on a Rhinelander family memorial at the Church of the Ascension on Fifth Avenue. Stanford White, the famed architect and a principal in the legendary architectural firm, McKim, Mead and White,


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agreed to provide plans and supervise the construction of the arch at no charge (Folpe 2002: 171). Rather than undertaking the construction of a stone arch, Stewart and White decided to build a temporary arch made of staff, a wood framework covered with a thick icing of moulded white plaster over straw. Temporary arches were also well attested in Europe from the medieval period onwards (Sear and John 2014), as noted above in the case of the coronations of both James I and Charles II in London. Before the Arc du Triomphe was erected, Napoleon and his wife, MarieLouise, entered Paris, passing underneath a full-sized model of the planned arch, which was made of wood and painted cloth. The temporary arch was placed on the foundations where the permanent stone arch would be completed. In the UK , a temporary arch, called the Royal Arch, was also erected when Queen Victoria visited the Dundee Harbour in Scotland in 1844; this arch remained standing until 1963 when it was demolished (Dundee-Royal Arch 2013). When Queen Victoria celebrated her golden jubilee of fifty years on the throne in 1887, temporary wooden arches were erected around London (Broderick 2010: 308). While these arches were cheaper and quicker to erect, especially when creating a monument for a specific event, like the visit of a monarch or the celebration of a president’s inauguration, they were still visually powerful. Joseph Cabus, a cabinet and architectural woodworker, executed the New York arch at the cost of $1,743 (Folpe 2002: 172; original contract held in Archive-NYHS ). White modelled his arch on Roman precedents and referred to it as a ‘grand triumphal arch’ (Archive-NYHS , Unsigned and undated document). At the same time, he integrated American architectural traditions into the monument, by drawing upon Colonial and early Republic architecture (ArchiveNYHS , Unsigned and dated document). White also incorporated details from nearby Greek Revivalist buildings (Folpe 2002: 172). The arch was 50 ft wide, the width of Fifth Avenue, 71 ft high and a 10 ft statue of Washington stood atop (Fig. 12.1) (Folpe 2002: 172). On Tuesday, 30 April 1889, a large military parade progressed from Fifty-Seventh Street south through the arch to Washington Square (Folpe 2002: 172). The massing of troops in an organized fashion to parade was reminiscent of the Roman triumphal procession. Likewise, the passage through the arch was a direct evocation of origin of the military processions: the triumphal procession of antiquity. The decoration of the arch was triumphal and celebratory. The parade arch was covered with garlands and laurel wreaths of staff. Laurel wreaths were closely associated with victory in antiquity. Therefore, their inclusion is an allusion to the victory and military achievements that Washington had achieved and that

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Figure 12.1 Drawing of the temporary Washington Arch erected in Washington Square Park, by Charles Graham. Printed in Harper’s Weekly, p. 344 (Author’s collection).


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were the foundation of his career. Bunting and flags brought colour to the arch, while white streamers also embellished it. Stuffed American eagles were placed on the keystone, and the aforementioned larger-than-life size statue of George Washington crowned the arch. Flags, belonging to different military units and battalions, were often displayed in connection with the commemoration of successful generals. Flags of several of the battalions that fought under General (and later President) Ulysses S. Grant in the American Civil War are displayed in two small rooms in Grant’s Tomb, highlighting the close tie between generals and their troops. Therefore, such details allude to the military successes that gave Washington his position in early American society and enabled him to be elected the first President of the United States of America. The position of Washington atop the arch evokes the placement of sculptural figures atop Roman triumphal and commemorative arches. Roman coins depict the three-bay Parthian Arch of Augustus, which was located in the Roman Forum, featured figures, possibly Victories with laurel branches that flanked a quadriga (Hill 1989: 53–4, figs 83, 86).9 He was the great victor and statesman watching over all. Furthermore, the placement of the arch within the landscape turned the arch into a spectacle, the term used by the Sun newspaper to describe the arch (Folpe 2002: 175). White, ever the showman, illuminated the arch by hanging small electric white lights on the monument, thus making it a true marvel. Together the good proportions of the arch and its decoration made the arch ‘an appropriate tribute to the man it is meant to honour [sic]’ (Archive-NYHS , Unsigned or dated document). Although the elements quickly damaged the temporary arch, the monument, aglow at night, transfixed New York’s population. Even before the end of the celebrations, there were calls to make the arch permanent. Thus, the arch’s iconography, its placement in the landscape, as well as the fact that a military parade passed underneath it, evoked the military triumphs of ancient Rome and created a powerful spectacle, rich with militaristic allusions, to remind a new generation of the importance of Washington’s deeds. Two other temporary arches were also erected for the celebrations (Fig. 12.2): one was at the foot of Wall Street; one was placed at Twenty-Sixth Street, near the Presidential viewing platform at Twenty-Third Street. These arches, which ranged from hanging canvas with bunting rope (Wall Street) to a medieval-style arch (the Twenty-Third Street arch), were met with critical derision (Fig. 12.3) (Folpe 2002: 175). While the reception of these arches was poor compared to that of the Washington Square Arch, it is clear that the arch had entered into the American architectural vocabulary as a form that could honour and commemorate the deeds of great men.

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3 2


Figure 12.2 Map of the placement of the temporary arches and permanent arch to Washington in New York City. Author and Alison Wilkins. (1) The temporary arch erected on Wall Street. (2) The permanent arch at the northern entrance to Washington Square Park. (3) The temporary arch erected at Eighth-Street and Fifth Avenue. (4) The temporary arch, medieval style, at Twenty-Third Street and Fifth Avenue.


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Figure 12.3 The temporary arch erected at Twenty-Third Street and Fifth Avenue at Madison Square Park. Courtesy of Met Life Photo Archive.

The permanent arch Raising funds and original plans for the Washington Square Arch The success of the arch encouraged Stewart to erect a permanent arch at Washington Square Park. By May 1889, the Committee on Erection of the Memorial Arch at Washington Square, with Stewart at its helm, was formed to raise the funds to build a permanent marble arch. Stanford White again agreed to provide plans free of charge; the committee would try to raise $100,000 for the costs of the arch and $50,000 for the sculpture (Folpe 2002: 175). Originally the committee wanted to build the arch on the footprint of the temporary arch, but the stone piers of a permanent arch were deemed to be too large and would occupy too much sidewalk space. Such a decision reflects an awareness of the urban framework and the needs of pedestrians. White gave the committee three designs, which they returned to him, saying that they would trust his judgment; however, the committee did offer amendments to the design, which are discussed below. From the outset, White conceived of the arch to Washington not merely being in a ‘classical style’ (Archive-NYHS , ‘Description of the Washington Memorial

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Arch’), but specifically as ‘Roman’ (Archive-NYHS , Untitled document). While White readily acknowledged the debt of the Washington Arch to the form of the Roman triumphal arch, a term which he used to discuss his arch, he was careful to note that the arch differed from ancient arches: it would be larger than its classical predecessors and, in his words, ‘lighter’ in terms of sculptural decoration, the ‘prominence of the frieze’ and exclusion of the classical orders on the pillars (Archive-NYHS , Untitled document). The original plans for the decoration of the arch were even more embellished and militaristic than those erected. White originally intended the arch to be flanked by four columns of Victory, each 33 ft high (Archive-NYHS , ‘Description of the Washington Memorial Arch’). In this ‘Description of the Washington Memorial Arch’, two of these columns are shown on the letterhead of the ‘Washington Memorial Arch. Subscriptions’. Each features an eagle with outstretched wings atop a globe on what appears to be a Corinthian column. While the decision not to include columns flanking the arch is not discussed in the documentation, cost may have been the likely answer, since the proposed sculptural groups atop the arch were abandoned for these reasons. This idea, however, of including columns stayed with White and was adapted for the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Brooklyn, where a plaza with columns (topped with globes and eagles) flanked the southern face of this arch. At least one of the subscription reports includes an image of the arch with a series of five figures crowning the arch; three of them ride horses and two stand, flanking the central three (Archive-NYHS ). Such a composition clearly evoked the sculptural groups – quadriga and sculptures – that topped triumphal arches in antiquity. A letter from Stewart to White, dated 16 April 1891 (Archive-NYHS ), offered several suggestions about the proposed design, including the removal of sculpture atop the arch, because Stewart could not raise the funds for such a design during his life time. While financial concerns clearly shaped the outcome of the sculptural and iconographic program of the Washington Arch, many of the aspects of militaristic iconography were still incorporated. White’s conceptualization of the arch before its construction demonstrates that the classical tradition informed his choices, but did not dominate his artistic decisions. Such influences ensured, in White’s words, that the design of the arch would allow it to ‘stand for all time and to outlast any local or passing fashions’ (Archive-NYHS , Untitled document). Thus, the forms of classical architecture were seen as having a timeless quality that other architectural periods lacked. In 1890 they finally broke ground on the arch. The cost of the arch had already ballooned to $128,000, which Stewart had fully raised by June 1892 just after the


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arch’s completion (Fig. 12.4 and Fig. 12.5). On 5 April 1892, the single-bay arch was completed (Broderick 2010: 310), but the sculptures, discussed below, were not installed until World War One (Durante 2007: 63–7). The dedication of the arch (77 ft × 62 ft) on 4 May 1895 featured a parade down Fifth Avenue, ceremony and speeches (Broderick 2010: 311). However, before this, the arch played an important role in the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America in October 1892. During the opening parade, held on 11

Figure 12.4 The Washington Square Arch, view from the south (Author).

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Figure 12.5 The Washington Square Arch from Fifth Avenue, view from the north. Source: Flickr User Librarygrover: CC BY 2.0.

October 1892, 25,000 school children and college men passed through the arch, in view of the mayor and thousands of viewers perched along Fifth Avenue (Folpe 2002: 185). The arch’s position monumentalized the parade route, providing a visual focal point for viewers, just as triumphal arches had in


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antiquity. While it was not located right at the northern entrance to Washington Square Park, its position just three blocks to the north over Fifth Avenue, meant that it became a de facto visual entrance to the park from the north, marking a transition between Fifth Avenue and the park. Thus, the decision to honour the inauguration of the first President of the United States and New York with an arch and the arch’s placement in the cityscape, on one of New York’s major arteries, were unequivocal uses of the classical past to a specific aim.

The inscriptions and sculpture of the Washington Square Arch The inscriptions and sculptures, which were eventually added to the arch, drew heavily upon the vocabulary of classical architecture, but included distinctive American elements.10 The southern side of the arch, which faces the park, features less sculptural ornament than the north and an English inscription, akin to the large Latin inscriptions found on Roman arches, dominates its attic. This quotation reads: LET US RAISE A STANDARD TO WHICH THE WISE AND THE HONEST CAN REPAIR THE EVENT IS IN THE HAND OF GOD * WASHINGTON

This quotation is attributed to a speech by Washington that was delivered at the Constitutional Convention, 25 March 1787, where he urged the delegates to draft a document to replace the flawed Articles of Confederation (Durante 2007: 64). The Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation, the first set of laws by which the newly founded United States of America was governed. In a letter from Stewart to White, dated 23 February 1892, Stewart selected the inscriptions on the monument (Archive-NYHS ). The inscription not only served as a reminder of the vital role that Washington played, as president of the Constitutional Convention, in crafting the Constitution of the United States in 1787, but it is also educational. For immigrants who were new to New York City and America, the inscriptions and sculptural programme of the arch served as a concise visual introduction to American history and a salient event in American history: the creation of the Constitution. Two bas-reliefs of garlands hung between candelabras frame the inscription atop the arch. Below the inscriptions, the entablature is filled with laurel wreathes (Archive-NYHS , Untitled document) that alternate with a W framed by a laurel branch and an oak branch (Archive-NYHS , Untitled document), a specific reference to Washington. White notes that thirteen stars, including those on the

Triumphal Washington


two keystones, represented the thirteen original states (Archive-NYHS , Untitled and undated document). The entablature ends with tendrils of acanthus on both sides. These motifs continue on the northern side of the arch. Even the choice to use a ‘V’ to represent ‘U’ in the inscription was intended to replicate ancient inscriptions, as a letter from Stewart to White, dated 12 March 1892, demonstrates (Archive-NYHS ). The laurel wreaths, as well as the inclusion of laurel and oak branches, on the arch were symbolic of victory, honour and civic duty – all of the qualities that Washington embodied. In ancient Rome, oak branches were used to create corona civica, which were given to a Roman citizen who had saved the life of another, and the Emperor Augustus also wore it as a symbol of his victory in ending the Civil War. Thus, the iconography is overwhelmingly classical and its meaning is similar. These details celebrate George Washington as a statesman and successful general and as a founder of the United States of America. The question of audience is worth addressing for a moment: a viewer without a classical education would not have probably recognized these highly specific details and their militaristic overtones. However, a viewer with a classical education, such as Stewart and his social equals, would likely have understood their significance. The southern spandrels are filled with winged figures by the Paris-based American sculptor, Fredrick MacMonnies (Clark 1984a: 6–25; Clark 1984b: 71–2); these have been identified as Fame with a trumpet and War with a trident and laurel wreath (Durante 2007: 66). However, these figures are probably better identified as Victories, as they have the same iconography and form as the two Victories on the northern face of the arch. The presence of Victories in the spandrels of the arch is a clear deployment of military iconography. Such winged Victories appeared regularly on the triumphal arches of ancient Rome and often in the spandrels of the arches, as they do here. On each face of the arch, an American eagle, executed by Philip Martiny, stands with wings spread atop the arch’s keystone. Thus, the sculpture of the arch, even the more mundane details, is awash with Roman motifs. While details of the arch are thoroughly classical, Stanford White adapted and combined them in a unique way, thus making the monument inspired by its Roman predecessors rather than a mere copy of them. The two large seals belong to New York City on the south-western pillar and the arms of New York State on the south-eastern pillar. Originally these seals were planned as reliefs of trophies, which were ancient symbols of victory and typically consisted of armour mounted on a stake or tree. The letterhead of the ‘Committee on Erection of the Washington Arch at


War as Spectacle

Washington Square’ shows trophies on the pillars of the arch (Archive-NYHS ). Even though the original design, which included trophies, was modified, the decorative elements that surround the seals are militaristic. Two crossed swords are placed beneath the seals. Standing behind both sets of crossed swords is an individual arrow, whose shafts appear to recall the fasces, or bundles of rods, which with an axe symbolized the power bestowed upon Roman magistrates who had imperium. Below this are two crossed gunpowder horns. Also included are arrows and flags, and at the centre there is a globe, enclosed by a laurel and an oak wreath (on the western and eastern piers respectively). Thus the details of the sculpture on the southern side of the arch allude to the military successes upon which America was founded. Indeed, Washington’s comment at the Constitution Convention, inscribed in the attic of the arch, could never have been spoken without his military victories. War brought peace and the founding of the American nation. Below these runs a register of meanders, which continue around the pillars. Meanders, while a popular decorative element in both Greek and Roman art, do not appear on any Roman arches. White refers to this detail as ‘Greek fret’ (Archive-NYHS , Untitled document). This element, which would have been in keeping with a lot of the details of the Greek Revivalist houses in the area, also demonstrates that White included details that created visual links with the preexisting neighbourhood, thus integrating the monument into the urban fabric of New York. The northern side of the arch continued these sculptural details. A large inscription announced the function of the arch, just as Latin inscriptions did in ancient Rome (Fig. 12.5). It reads: TO COMMEMORATE THE ONE HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE INAUGURATION OF GEORGE WASHINGTON AS THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES .


This dedicatory line perhaps echoes SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romanus), which accompanied nearly all dedications on triumphal arches. Winged Victories, modelled after Stewart’s and White’s wives in the western and eastern spandrels respectively, were added to the northern spandrels (Undated letter from Stewart to White, after 6 March 1893; letter from Stewart to White, dated 8 January 1894, Archive-NYHS; also Folpe 2002: 185; Broderick 2010: 310). These Victories, like

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their counterparts on the southern façade of the arch, again alluded to the victories that had been achieved by Washington and the men who had fought for the Colonists in the American War of Independence. On the north-eastern pillar is Washington’s coat of arms with his Latin motto (Exitus acta probat or ‘the end justifies the means’); on the north-western pillar the Great Seal of the United States, which would have been recognizable to most viewers, while Washington’s coat of arms might have been more obscure. Again the details that surround the seals are militaristic in nature: spears, swords, flags, and wreaths frame the seals and allude to the role of warfare in the creation of the United States of America. The arch remained like this for almost two decades, because the committee raised only enough money to construct the arch, including the sculptural decoration in the spandrels and the ornaments. Frederick MacMonnies created sketches of two high relief sculptures of Washington, as General of the Army at War and as President of the Republic at Peace. In a series of letters to MacMonnies, dated 28 February 1895 and 25 January 1895, White considered MacMonnies’ sketches for the proposed sculpture (Archive-NYHS ). While the committee accepted these drawings, they could not afford them in the 1890s. In 1912, one David H. Knott, who lived at Hotel Carle, 103 Waverly Place, expressed his interest in raising the money for the sculpture and his ability to do so in a letter sent to McKim, Mead and White, dated 8 March 1912 (Archive-NYHS ). The committee again tried to raise funds to erect the sculptures, and by 1913 these attempts were successful; however, White, MacMonnies’ great patron, was long dead, murdered in 1906 by a lover’s jealous husband. After discussion with McKim, Mead and White, the committee withdrew the proposed commission from MacMonnies, which had never been finalized. A letter from Stewart to MacMonnies, dated 8 June 1914, lays out the clear reasons why the committee was not beholden to him or his designs; a series of letters between the interested parties was exchanged in 1914 (Archive-NYHS ; also see letters to Stewart from MacMonnies, dated 25 March 1914 and the letter to Stewart from McKim, Mead and White, 18 May 1914, from McKim, Mead and White, 30 March 1912, McKim, Mead and White, 30 March 1912, Archive-NYHS ). Instead, Hermon MacNeil and Alexander Stirling Calder were selected to create the decoration for the two north-facing piers. Part of this decision may lie in the fact that MacMonnies’ proposed sketches were very similar to the sculptural groups erected at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Brooklyn, which he also created. In two letters from McKim, Mead and White to McNeil and to Calder, both dated 30 March 1912, the sculptures by MacMonnies were described as ‘not at all of the right character’; indeed, McKim, Mead and White felt that they needed to be ‘much more classic’ (Archive-NYHS ).


War as Spectacle

Washington at War On the north-eastern pillar of the arch, like a Roman general, Washington stands dressed for war with his cape draped over his shoulders and wearing his tricorn hat (Fig.  12.6). Hermon MacNeil completed his 16-ft tall sculpture of

Figure 12.6 Washington at War, sculpted by Hermon MacNeil (Author).

Triumphal Washington


Washington in 1916 (Durante 2007: 63).Washington looks calm, yet commanding and ready for any challenge (Durante 2007: 65). At his feet are a cannon and a cannon ball, again a direct reference to his role as Commander in Chief. The two figures, carved in low relief and flanking him, are Fame (on the left) and Valour (on the right); these identifications are specifically mentioned in the correspondence about the arch in a letter to H. A. McNeil from McKim, Mead and White, dated 30 March 1912 (Archive-NYHS ). Wisdom, Justice and other personifications were also identified in this letter. Fame carries a palm branch and a trumpet, which symbolize peace and fame respectively (Durante 2007: 65). Valour wears a helmet, bears a sword in his left hand, and holds a branch with oak leaves (which are visible by his left shoulder). A blank shield, enclosed by a wreath, is located behind Washington’s head, which helps the viewer to concentrate on Washington’s head, making him the focal point of the sculptural composition. Allegorical figures have been a staple of Western art since the classical period, so it is unsurprising to see them deployed on a Roman-inspired monument. Here the classical vocabulary of personifications is refigured to serve the sculptural needs of the monuments; Fame and Valour, not classical personifications, help convey the qualities that made Washington a great general. Valour is strongly associated with warfare, who helps generals and their armies perform remarkable actions of bravery, which in turn brings fame. Thus, the personifications that flank Washington allude to his achievements as a successful general and remind the viewer that his position as the father of the United States was due to his military successes. He deserved his fame and, as importantly, Americans born after his death and who owed their freedom to him should remember him for his military victories. Indeed he was worthy of the undying fame that the famous heroes of antiquity sought in the Iliad, Odyssey and many of the other epic poems of ancient literature.11 A natural corollary of war is peace. Through warfare, humanity has often sought to achieve peace. In the case of the United States, a just war was the only way that the colonists, who in their view were oppressed by the British crown, could assert their rights and be truly free men. Thus, it is unsurprising that the sculpture of Washington at War is balanced by a depiction of Washington at Peace.

Washington at Peace On the north-western pillar of the arch, Washington appears, dressed in the clothes of his era, with his knee bent and his left hand resting on a lectern


War as Spectacle

(Fig. 12.7). Sculpted by Alexander Stirling Calder, Washington at Peace, also 16 ft tall, was completed in 1918 (Durante 2007: 63). Here, he is a public figure (Durante 2007: 65), America’s great leader. On this pillar, Wisdom (on the right) and Justice (on the left) flank him. Wisdom can easily be identified by anyone with a knowledge of the Classics, because she has many of the attributes of

Figure 12.7 Washington at Peace, sculpted by Alexander Stirling Calder (Author).

Triumphal Washington


Athena, specifically a helmet, aegis (or cloak) and scroll. Justice, whose eyes are closed, is identified through the sword and scales of justice that he holds. While Justice is more typically represented by a blind-folded woman with a sword and holding the scales of justice in American public sculpture (Figures of Justice 2013), many of the great law givers of history were men and they appear in the friezes of the courtyard of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC (Office of the Curator, Courtroom Friezes: South and North Walls 2013). Male personifications are well-attested in Roman art, specifically as captured nations or river gods; for example, the River Jordan appears as a reclining male figure that is carried in a triumphal procession on the small frieze of the Arch of Titus. However, such personifications do not typically represent ideals or abstract ideas; Victories, for example, are always winged women. The inclusion of Justice as a male personification establishes an explicit connection between Washington and Justice. Washington played an important role in shaping the Constitution, the basis of the American legal system. Just as Washington’s success as a general was dependent on his valour and its resulting fame, his success as a president lay in being wise and acting justly. For Washington to be a good leader – either at war or at peace – he had to fulfill certain expectations and to act by certain standards. In a sense, this is no different than the presentation of Roman emperors on the triumphal and commemorative arches that honoured them. It was the emperors’ organization and planning for battle, their strategy on the battlefield and their leadership that forged the empire. Likewise, it was their commitment to Roman morals and values – clemency, honour, and piety – that made them successful peace-time emperors. In antiquity and in nineteenth-century America, war and peace still went hand-in-hand. Therefore, the arch with it capacity for multiple sculptural displays and inscriptions remained a powerful monument to express such sophisticated ideas.

The uneducated and classically educated viewer Just behind Washington’s head, a Latin inscription carved on the pages of an open book, reads, Exitus acta probat, ‘the end justifies the means’, Washington’s motto. Many, if not most, viewers in 1918 could not read the inscription; however, to a select group of educated men (and women), typically the socio-economic élite of New York who could read Latin, the meaning was clear. The use of Latin and the symbolic nature of the sculptures, which required knowledge of classical art, established a second level of viewing.


War as Spectacle

At the turn of the twentieth century and continuing today, certain viewers, who can read Latin or have a reasonable knowledge of American history and art, can decipher the symbolism of the sculptures behind Washington on both piers. Another set of viewers would be able neither to understand the Latin nor to identify the personification. However, the highly recognizable sculptures of George Washington and the quotations from Washington make the arch’s messages clear: George Washington was the United States’ greatest leader – a general and civil leader who valued democracy. Thus, the monument became legible to almost any American viewer, regardless of their education or background. Not only was the arch’s iconography easily understood, but the sculptural programmes of the arch also presented new immigrants in New York City with a clear narrative and interpretation of a key figure in American History and by doing so indoctrinated them into the collective memory and existing view of Washington as the great American – a patriot both in peace and war. Like the Roman arches that honoured and promoted the Emperor in the provinces, this arch projected a specific view of Washington as the founder of the nation, which was achieved through a just war that guaranteed peace and freedom. Sculptors and patrons of this monument clearly saw the visual vocabulary, specifically personifications, of classical art and the architectural form of the Roman arch as suitable to convey the importance of Washington’s achievements in the founding of the United States. Thus, by being honoured with a monument inspired by a Roman triumphal arch, Washington was also proclaimed to be a leader and general on par with any European. Therefore, the sculpture, inscriptions and form of Washington Square Arch make the monument an American refiguring of a Roman architectural tradition.

Placement in the landscape The placement of the arch in the landscape was particularly striking. On a practical level, its erection at the entrance to Washington Square Park rather than at Eighth Street across Fifth Avenue did not impede pedestrian traffic, which was an important consideration (see Fig.  12.2). The placement of the arch at the entrance to Washington Square Park was also a better visual outcome. Historical photographs show that it provided a monumental entrance to the park even when traffic still passed through (Fig.  12.8). The arch also dominates the park from the south. From the north, Fifth Avenue and its four lanes of traffic now terminate at the foot of the arch. This change was proposed

Triumphal Washington


Figure 12.8 Historical photograph of the Washington Square Park Arch, showing traffic still passing through the arch from the north and no sculpture, meaning that the photograph dates from before 1916. Author’s collection.

in March 1935, in a letter by Amyar Embury, who was the consulting architect of the Parks Department, to Lawrence White of McKim, Mead and White (Archive-NYHS ). The arch creates a focused and powerful vista for anyone walking or driving down Fifth Avenue; the topographical contours of Manhattan slope downwards, as one progresses south on Fifth Avenue; thus, in the 1920s and when looking southward, one can see the arch when there is no traffic. The arch is unavoidable and so the importance of Washington and his achievements is underscored by the placement of the arch in the landscape, which demands that all those passing by the arch appreciate it. The Washington Square Arch was hugely popular, and its success firmly established the arch as a meaningful honorific form in New York City. This arch also forms a part of what Randall Mason has identified as New York’s ‘Memory Infrastructure’ (Mason 2009: 1).12 Mason argues that each city has a Memory Infrastructure – a collection of sites, buildings, spaces and works


War as Spectacle

of art – that was actively constructed to serve the ‘social needs and political desires’ of the city or its élite (Mason 2009: 1). In New York City, this infrastructure developed during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when historic preservationists, such as Andrew Haswell Green, sought to preserve important sites and buildings. Historic preservation efforts of this era were based in a belief that significant buildings and sites, such as revolutionary battlefields, needed to be maintained in order to educate new immigrants, often Catholic and nonEnglish-speaking, in American history and to instil in these new immigrants, be they German or Italian, the protestant values of America’s English-speaking patrician élite (Mason 2009: 1–62). History, or at least a curated vision of it, was seen as a vital way to integrate immigrants into the traditions and values of the United States of America. Thus, monuments that celebrated famous Americans or American deeds were landmarks that educated future generations and the new immigrants about how to define an exemplarily American lifestyle. Thus, the Washington Arch serves as a large-scale piece of installation art whose physical presence in New York was an educational platform that conveyed memory of the achievements of Washington as a general and statesman to successive generations of Americans and those new to the United States. Through its position across Fifth Avenue, a major artery in New York City, and at the entrance of a prominent New York Park, Washington Square Park, the arch connected people to their past, even if this past were a newly gained heritage for the immigrant populations of New York.

Conclusions The Roman arch was a potent symbol of victory in antiquity. The erection of an arch celebrated a triumph or honoured an emperor. The arch’s architectural form, which could dominate an urban landscape, as well as its ability to serve as a platform for highly meaningful sculpture, made it as appealing in antiquity as in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America. American patrons and architects refashioned Roman arches to suit their own needs and purposes rather than creating mindless copies; non-classical elements played as important a role as the classical elements did. The use of classical forms was not simply a passive reception, but rather one of active choice and engagement. William R. Stewart’s letter, dated 5 May 1892, to Stanford White encapsulates how the architects and patrons perceived their classically inspired monuments:

Triumphal Washington


Where-ever you have departed from strictly classical ideas about this Arch I think you have made it more original and better. I do not wish to be understood, however, as criticizing the ancient too severely, but you and the Arch are both nineteenth-century products, and nineteenth-century ideas ought to have full play. (Archive-NYHS )

Roman architectural style has a resonance for the architects and patrons, especially those educated in the classics in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Winterer 2002). The forms were seen as enduring and timeless, because they had the gravitas that such monuments required. At the same time, classical forms were also flexible; Minerva or Athena could be transformed into a modern personification of Wisdom if appropriate. Such malleability allowed architects, sculptors and patrons a wide scope for creativity and adaptation, which ensured the monuments that they created would be significant and meaningful for their own era. The placement of the arch in the landscapes alluded to the spectacle of warfare. Its position on a major thoroughfare meant that it dominated the landscape, reminding everyone of the man it honoured and of his achievements. The parades that passed under both the temporary and permanent arches made a powerful reference to the triumphal processions of antiquity and were a physical reminder of the parades that honoured Washington and other famous Americans. The iconography of the arch, and in particular the dual depiction of Washington at war and at peace, conveyed one of the monument’s most significant messages that war and peace are intertwined. Success and fame comes from warfare, but also from governing well when peace has been achieved. While arches are no longer erected to celebrate military victories, peace, or great generals, the spectacle that these arches inaugurated lives on through New York City’s still-flourishing tradition of parades. Annual events, such as the St Patrick’s Day Parade, Veterans’ Day Parade or the Puerto-Rican Day Parade, serve as focal points for different communities within New York City to take to the streets to celebrate their heritage, traditions, or service to their country. The parades, however, which may best embody the continued connection between warfare and spectacle, are the ticker-tape parades. Since the late nineteenth century these have celebrated the achievements of great New Yorkers. In the late twentieth and early twentieth-first centuries, it has not been military victory, but athletic victory that these parades have celebrated. In 2012, the New York Giants, the American football team, paraded through the streets of New York, lined with


War as Spectacle

cheering crowds, after winning the Super Bowl. The New York Yankees and the New York Mets, both baseball teams, have also marched through the streets of New York after winning the World Series. These athletes are hailed as modern victors. Thus, in New York City, the triumphal processions of the classical world live on, first refigured in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to celebrate generals, presidents and veterans, and second in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, as a spectacle to celebrate sport, which is often considered war by other means.


An Unwinding Story The Influence of Trajan’s Column on the Depiction of Warfare Andrew Fear University of Manchester

The carvings depicting the Roman army on Trajan’s Column rank as one of the most striking visual spectacles of warfare in the ancient world: some 2,500 soldiers are arranged on a spiralling frieze which, if unrolled, would be some 200 metres long. Despite initially forming only a minor part of a much larger commemorative complex – Trajan’s Forum, which was built to commemorate the Emperor Trajan’s Dacian Wars of ce 101–102 and ce 105–106 – the Column and its carvings, themselves sometimes argued to have been an afterthought introduced by Hadrian,1 have had a major and lasting effect on the way that warfare has been presented in public art. Indeed, according to Jon Coulston, the Column is ‘the most influential and published single monument in Roman art and architecture’.2 With the passage of time, however, the Column’s reception has taken some strikingly divergent forms. This chapter seeks to demonstrate how the message intended by the Column’s original creator has been radically revised by later audiences who have re-interpreted what they saw in front of them. By looking at later monuments and artefacts inspired by the Column, it is possible to see how this re-interpretation was a response to the style of the Column’s bas reliefs and, that as the Column was regarded as a definitive statement from the classical past of how war should be commemorated, it in itself served to re-enforce these reinterpretations and help create new monuments where the style of the original monument was deliberately used in new ways. Thus the Column has had a major and continuing impact on both the way that the fallen in war are commemorated and how war should be depicted and presented to society as a whole. This chapter emphasizes that the original purpose of the Column was to celebrate the victories of the Emperor Trajan in Dacia; it was commissioned as 239


War as Spectacle

but one piece of a much wider display of imperial propaganda which firmly focused on glorifying the emperor’s person and his conquests. Seeking to understand the original audience of the column – who would have seen it, what they could see and how they may have reacted – highlights considered decisions in this presentation of the spectacle of war (and its command). This chapter will then investigate the reception of the Column across a wide time span, from classical antiquity to the modern era. The innovative style of the Column led to it becoming a model for a very different form of commemoration where the spectacle of war is presented to viewers not to acclaim war leaders, but rather the troops that served under their command. The receptions of the column are related to their contemporary contexts and changing perceptions of war and military leadership, and also changes in audience expectations for the display and commemoration of conflict.

Trajan’s Column: the emperor’s spectacle Dedicated during the emperor’s lifetime in ce 113, the Column was an innovative work of art in its own day, both in terms of the form it took and what was presented in that new form (Lehman-Hartleben 1926: 3; Hamberg 1945: 120). The spiralling nature of its frieze is itself suggestive of a narrative, taking, as it does, the form of a gigantic scroll. It differs from other Roman carvings on columns where no narrative is intended as these are rendered in horizontal bands running around the column drums.3 Moreover, the treatment of Roman troops on the column who are always depicted marching in the same direction, along and up the spiral from left to right, as a reader’s eyes would pass along a page, also engenders in the viewer the notion of a narrative and of progress towards a fixed, and triumphant, goal. It is likely, therefore, that there is a coherent story to be found on the column. The obvious candidate for such a story is the one written by the emperor himself in his own account of the two wars, the Dacica.4 It is possible that the emperor insisted that his account of the wars be told in the complex, and that the new format of a spiralling frieze was the answer found to accommodate such imperial vanity within the space available. The distinctive nature of the Column’s approach can be seen by comparing it to another contemporary monument depicting the Dacian Wars, namely the Tropaeum Traiani erected at Adamklissi in modern Romania. This latter monument, designed to replicate on a massive scale the trophy of arms traditionally erected by a triumphant army on the field of battle, is decorated

An Unwinding Story


around its base with fifty-four metopes.5 Each of these depicts an isolated scene of warfare – there is no overall narrative for the viewer to absorb here, just a sequence of snap shots of the triumphant campaign. Another decorative element of Trajan’s Forum, the ‘Great Trajanic Frieze’, was probably rendered in the same way as the Tropaeum Traiani. The ‘Great Trajanic Frieze’ is a portmanteau term for the sculpture that appears to have been mounted on the rear wall of the complex’s basilica that faced onto the small plaza containing the Column at its centre (see Leander Touati 1987; Packer 2001). Originally it would have extended to over thirty metres in length, but now only survives in the small fragments that were looted and re-used in the Arch of Constantine. In the largest of these we see the emperor heroically riding down his enemies in the thick of the battle in a manner that reminds us, quite intentionally, of Alexander the Great’s exploits.6 Apart from some carved captive Dacians, this is all that survives of the frieze which in its original state would have been, as we shall soon see, much more easily visible to viewers than the Column and have occupied a far more prominent place in the minds of the complex’s original audience. The Frieze and the Column could not have been more different in the way that they depict the Dacian Wars. While the Great Frieze follows a tradition of glorifying the heroism of a given individual through a selection of specific, unconnected incidents, Trajan’s Column with its mass of figures departs radically from such an approach. Although the Column cannot cover the complete story of the two wars, it turns them into a visual spectacle. Less than a quarter of its carvings depict combat scenes, the majority show the rest of the army’s more mundane labours on campaign. There are, for example, amid others, scenes of troops clearing woodland, building forts, and carrying supplies. It is the amount of this material, as well as its presence, that is startling. It is not just military triumph, but military life as a whole that is being offered as a spectacle to celebrate. This holistic approach departs radically from the Roman norms of depicting war, which centred on the moment of triumph in battle, the triumphant imperator, and the spolia that he had won.7 This departure is true even of the first section of the spiral that would have been the most visible part of the Column to the public. This section depicts the crossing of the Danube and an address by the emperor, followed by a scene of fort building. In fact, despite the spiral frieze’s careful carving, the Column’s message would not have been easy to see in detail since it was not constructed with ease of viewing in mind. The narrative does not start at ground level, but over six metres in the air, making close inspection even of the beginning of the spiral difficult.


War as Spectacle

Adding to the problem of its physical location, the shallow engraving of the figures on the frieze and the fact that they are found amid a plethora of background detail, which has been of great use to students of the Roman army,8 create yet more difficulties for the viewer. Lepper and Frere illustrate this problem when they describe how the early-twentieth-century student of the Column, Karl Lehmann-Hartleben, ‘prowled round the Column with a powerful telescope’ (Lepper and Frere 1988: 3). Most modern studies of the Column have centred on the photogravure plates of the frieze’s carvings made by Conrad Cichorius in the 1890s and these were taken not from the Column itself, but a series of castings commissioned by Napoleon III .9 These have now been supplemented by several websites containing detailed photographs of the monument.10 In Roman times perhaps the two adjacent libraries lying on either side of the plaza where the Column was to be found afforded some viewing points and it is possible that the original colouring of the frieze would have made its narrative slightly clearer than it is today,11 but nevertheless any attempt to follow the spiralling story in earnest would have been made in vain. There was simply no way to follow it from the ground, nor any continuous viewing point at any level. Despite these problems, the spiral’s carvings are far from impressionistic, rather they are hyper-detailed and carefully coded and the various units of the Roman army and their opponents are immediately identifiable by their standard equipment.12 This coding does not detract from the overall verism of the work. The troops look like real individuals, no two are posed in the same way, many sport beards in defiance of the fashions of the day, but as they would have done on campaign. The quality of the carvings led Sir Ian Richmond to the conclusion that an official war artist must have been embedded with the troops during the Dacian Wars: The scenes must be the result of working up the contents of an artist’s wartime sketchbook . . . each is based clearly upon a careful sketch, which must have been made in the war area from factual details on the spot, because nowhere else can such things have been seen or imagined in accurate combination. (Richmond 1935: 3)

This is a fanciful and anachronistic notion, but a powerful testimony to the quality and style of the column’s frieze. In fact the minor details of the spiral suggest that its creator was not familiar with the minutiae of the Roman army (Coulston 1989). Nevertheless, he brought the campaigns and the troops’ life in the field, with all their hard work as well as their glory, vividly to life.

An Unwinding Story


The inclusion, indeed predominance, of these ‘unheroic’ details on the frieze naturally gives rise to the question that if we are looking at an early version of a graphic narrative, what sort of story are we being told? In one sense it is a version of the detached spectacle as described by Guy Debord (1995), as, although a few veterans from the war may have viewed the column, by the time of its erection most legionaries were recruited, and lived, far from Rome (Mann 1983; Keppie 1997). The majority of its viewers would have had no direct contact with the army. In part, therefore, the Column allowed its audience to participate in the emperor’s conquests vicariously. The approach taken to this second-hand experience is remarkable. At first sight, an over-heroized account would appear to be the ideal, indeed the expected, way of representing the subject, but this is not what we find. Such an unusual departure from the style of previous monuments has provoked a great deal of debate. One suggestion is that the Column is a collectivist monument that, instead of celebrating the achievements of the commander, presents the army as the hero of the campaign (Richmond 1935: 1). It can be argued that the Column paved the way for these new styles of commemoration and the change of sentiment that underlay them. It seems, however, unlikely that the ancient design was not primarily intended to glorify the emperor. Here the most visible parts of the Column – its top and bottom rather than the central spiral – are important. The Column was surmounted by a statue of Trajan, not a nike or eagle, that suggests it was the emperor’s achievements in particular rather than Rome’s in general that it aimed to celebrate. The eyes of a spectator trying to follow the upward march of the army on the Column would finally come to rest on this statue as the culmination of the story. The Column’s base too focuses the viewer’s mind firmly on Trajan. Its shaft does not rise directly from the ground, but is built on top of a small cella. This, by far the most visible part of the structure to the public, is decorated with the spolia of the defeated enemy, a standard Roman practice; there is no stress on the army as a whole here, the focus is firmly on the Emperor as a victorious imperator. The cella’s interior was to be the last resting place of the emperor who was thus, Christopher Wren-like, buried in the midst of his greatest triumph and the fact that the cella was prepared in Trajan’s lifetime shows how the emperor wished his personal commemoration to be entwined with these wars.13 Above the door of the cella is a dedicatory inscription. This written testimony would be clear to anyone who came to view the Column, much more so in fact than the carvings of the spiral, and it is not a note of thanks from the emperor to the army, but rather one from his people to the emperor.14 Having passed this inscription and


War as Spectacle

the emperor’s remains, visitors could then walk up the spiral staircase, mindful of, though unable to see, what was carved on the outside of the column, to the top. Here, emerging from the spectacle of war as practised, they encountered another, demonstrating its results.15 While there was no viewing platform for the Column itself, it carried one at its summit, allowing spectators to look back over the whole forum complex whose layout could then be seen to resemble the headquarters building of a legionary fortress (Rodenwalt 1926). According to Aulus Gellius: Everywhere along the roof of the colonnades of Trajan’s forum gilded statues of horses and images of military standards have been erected, and underneath is the inscription ‘from the spoils of war’. (NA 13.25.1)

The spectator is thus invited to praise Trajan’s triumphs and to note the benefits that they have provided for the population as a whole.16 This piece of propaganda on stone emphasizes the role of the emperor, a theme that is not neglected on the carved shaft of the Column; on the spiral frieze Trajan is a constant presence, with the figure of the emperor appearing almost sixty times. Like his troops, he is coded for the viewer and easily identified by his deliberately simple uniform – this is the emperor’s spectacle and he firmly presides over it. However, unlike on the great frieze, Trajan is never depicted heroically in the midst of battle. In one sense this is not surprising, Roman commanders did not fight on the frontline in battle (Onasander, The General 33; Goldsworthy 1996: 149–63) but it is a break from the convention of depicting the martial emperor as a heroic individual.17 Instead of being shown as a hero, the all-pervasive, but unostentatious and never dominant, figure of Trajan plays the role of a pater militum who witnesses, and so gives his blessing to, all the endeavours of his troops. This identification of a commander with his troops’ labours was unusual, but not new; it is a recurrent feature of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, and Trajan may have taken care to echo this aspect of the earlier work in his Dacica. One reason for this approach must have been an attempt to curry favour with the army. The two Dacian Wars were bloody, hard-fought affairs and the first could perhaps be termed a failure. The Column, however, portrays non-stop success and the effort that went into creating that success. We cannot know whether the column is meant, given Domitian’s popularity with the army, to emphasize that Trajan shared his predecessor’s concern for his troops. After all, his rise to power had taken the form of a veiled coup d’état when he had been the governor of Germania Superior, and, despite his wish to appear as a ‘citizen

An Unwinding Story


emperor’, the foundation of his power rested with the army. If so, we can see the Column as presenting a careful image that demonstrates his close relationship with his troops, but in a style which is carefully muted in order to avoid upsetting senatorial sensibilities.18 The majority of the Column’s audience, however, would have had no connection with the army and we should look for a message addressed to them in the Column’s carvings. The depiction of the army performing tasks that would have seemed familiar to many of them could have helped to re-create a sense of identity between soldier and civilian, which was gradually being eroded. These scenes could therefore have been intended to bring the two groups closer together and to help integrate them within Roman society. They also demonstrated that the emperor was not a dictator who relied on an alien group for his grip on power.19 The emphasis on ‘everyday’ labour could also have fostered the feeling that all work contributed to the grandeur that was Rome and built up an emotional link between the viewer and Roman victories in Dacia. However, whatever its message and regardless of how visible it was, the Column’s frieze still remains a monument to imperial glory.

The reception of Trajan’s Colum in antiquity Trajan’s Column, despite being only a minor part of the emperor’s commemorative complex for the Dacian Wars, spawned several imitations in antiquity. The emperor Commodus also erected a column to celebrate the wars fought by his father Marcus Aurelius. This new column was, however, an individual monument rather than part of a larger building complex. In a way, it is a spectacle of a spectacle, as its predecessor would be an ever-present memory for its original viewing public. The first few scenes, those that would have been most visible to spectators, appear to have been directly copied from the earlier monument and it incorporates other elements from its predecessor, such as the break in the sculpted narrative in the centre of the frieze (perhaps as a means of distinguishing between the emperor’s German and Sarmatian campaigns). Disingenuously, these echoes helped to imply that Marcus Aurelius’ campaigns across the Danube, which did not expand Roman territory, paralleled Trajan’s conquest of Dacia. However, the spectacle the new column presents to its viewers is quite different from its earlier model. Some of the changes we encounter might have been intended to correct practical difficulties that arose out of attempts to view Trajan’s Column. On the newer column the figures are fewer in number, much more deeply carved, and set against a less cluttered background. All of


War as Spectacle

these alterations make it easier to view the new column from the ground. The central figure of Victoria was also enlarged, so that it was clearly visible to spectators. But apart from these practical modifications, the subject matter depicted has also changed. This column shows a return towards a more traditional depiction of war. There is a far greater emphasis on fighting and bloodshed,20 and the emperor dominates the new column’s spiral frieze to a much greater degree than had Trajan on the original. Although the form of Trajan’s Column had been taken into the mainstream of Roman art, its style and approach to warfare had not. The late empire also saw further imitations of the Column erected at Constantinople under Theodosius and Arcadius. Sadly, both monuments are now lost but appear to have continued this trend.21

Post-classical receptions: from high status commander to the common soldier In the Middle Ages, Trajan’s and Aurelius’ columns became known as the Columnae Cochlides,‘the spiral columns’, and while the carvings on their exteriors drew praise, it is noteworthy that equal attention was paid to their internal spiral staircases (Beckmann 2002: 352–3). Of the two monuments, it was Trajan’s Column that attracted the greatest attention. In part, no doubt, this was because it is a work of much higher technical achievement, but Trajan’s growing reputation as a great soldier and a ‘good’ pagan also played a role here.22 The Column appears in the lists of the mirabilia of the City of Rome, written in the Middle Ages, and contemporary imitations of it began to appear. In the early eleventh century, Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim commissioned a 15-ft-high bronze column whose spiral frieze (oddly moving from right to left) showed twenty-eight scenes from the life of Christ, beginning with His baptism and ending with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Gallistl 1993). Bernward’s choice of a final triumphal scene is a conscious imitation of the triumphal conclusion of the two secular Roman monuments and a challenge to them which uses the notion of the militia Christi, pioneered by St Paul and championed by St Augustine (Harnack 1905) to depict Christ’s life as the one true victorious campaign in contrast to the vanities of secular triumphs in war.23 Bernward’s appropriation of the Column did not prove a popular innovation. The only other imitation of the Column in a religious context is the two columns erected outside the Karlskirche in Vienna. These columns, built to echo the two columns placed before Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, are carved with scenes

An Unwinding Story


from the life of St Charles Borromeo. The Church and Columns date from 1739 and were commissioned by Emperor Charles VI of Austria. Nevertheless, Bernward’s use of the spiral form as an intertext shows how the reliefs of Trajan’s Column had come to be regarded as a standard for the portrayal of warfare. Another eleventh-century artefact depicting warfare that may have been inspired by the Column is the Bayeux Tapestry. It is of course in a very different artistic medium, but its narrative content and the connections of its patron with Rome are suggestive. Indeed, borrowings from the Column can be firmly identified on the Tapestry (Werkmeister 1976; Owen-Crocker 2009). These are of great interest since they are not from the beginning of the spiral frieze and thus show that at some point the monument had been climbed and inspected closely. Sadly, there is no record of when or by whom this task was undertaken. It is unclear where the Tapestry was hung after its manufacture and so, although the problem of visibility around a spiral would not have arisen, it is by no means a guarantee that it could be inspected closely. Perhaps, however, the inclusion of written tags, as prompts, above the various scenes, suggests that such an inspection was anticipated and expected long after the audience would be immediately aware of what was depicted. The Tapestry was probably commissioned by Bishop Odo (Stenton 1965: 11; Heslop 2009: 224–9), who held property in Rome and may have wished for a narrative account of the Norman invasion of Britain, similar in style to the narrative he had observed on the Column. Like Trajan, William does not dominate the narrative depicted and Odo, whose relations with his Lord were stormy, no doubt wished to emphasize that the conquest of Britain had been a collective effort not an individual triumph. If so, we can see how the initial propaganda purpose of the Column, which had been to underline, in a subtle way, the omnipresence of the emperor, had now been reversed to show, again subtly, that the king was not the only individual that deserved praise for the success of the Norman Conquest. The Tapestry, however, seems to have remained an exception in the depiction of war.24 Although Trajan’s Column was admired and copied in the increasingly complex depictions of battles found in the Renaissance, these, while containing much incidental detail, still concentrated on the actions of a heroic leader rather than his army. Similarly, the Column may well have inspired other column monuments, such as the Column of Victory in the grounds of Blenheim Palace, but these eschewed the trademark carving of the original and merely displayed a triumphant general looking down on the population with no reference to the labours of the army as a whole. The first close post-classical reception of the Column that captured the spirit of the original was the one erected in the Place de Vendôme in Paris during the


War as Spectacle

First Empire. Napoleon’s regime had a love of all things Roman and he had at one point expressed a wish to dismantle Trajan’s Column and re-erect it in Paris (Malissard 1976: 118). This plan, fortunately, came to nothing, but a worthy successor was created in the French capital. The position of this new column was politically significant as, until the revolution, the Place de Vendôme had been home to a large equestrian statue of Louis XIV, which was destroyed in 1792. Louis, France’s most successful martial ruler prior to Napoleon, was depicted, in the fashion of his day, as a triumphant Roman emperor (Opdycke 1956–57). Napoleon’s new monument deliberately traded on the fact that the square had traditionally celebrated military prowess, but it reversed the emphasis of its predecessor. The monument had a troubled genesis. In 1800 the revolutionary regime in France had decreed that a column should be erected in the principal town of each of the new départements, or administrative units, it had created. It was to be dedicated to ‘la mémoire des braves du département’.25 This collectivist ideal was to be mirrored in the capital by the erection in the Place de Vendôme of a column specifically modelled on Trajan’s Column, whose spiral would contain two heroic figures from each département, the whole to be crowned by a statue of Charlemagne.26 Nothing was to come of this idea whose aim was to celebrate the struggle of the entire French nation and its founder rather than an individual monarch, and we have no way of knowing how the 108 ‘heroes’ would have been selected or depicted. In 1805, Dominique Vivant Denon, the Director of Museums in what had now become the First Empire, proposed that the planned column for the square should commemorate the Grande Armée, which had just defeated a combined Russian and Austrian force at Austerlitz. Once again the specific model was Trajan’s Column and direct reference was made to the Column’s carvings in the decree commissioning the new monument.27 This time the plan was put into action. The new column emphasized the triumph of French arms more emphatically by having its spiral narrative not carved in stone, but cast from bronze taken from the cannon captured during the campaign. The 425 plaques, accompanied by small descriptions engraved below each scene, are invisible from ground level, and depict the entire campaign beginning with Napoleon’s departure from Boulogne and ending with the Emperor’s triumphant return to Paris with the Imperial Guard in 1806.28 The spiral narrative of the Colonne takes great care to echo that of Trajan’s Column. It begins, like its ancient model, with a river crossing, pauses half way through for a depiction of a personification of Victory inscribing a shield (here

An Unwinding Story


this occurs after the surrender of Ulm) and ends with livestock being driven along. While there is a stronger emphasis on military action than is present on Trajan’s Column, there are also plenty of scenes that depict the army’s activities off the field of battle. Like Trajan, before him, Napoleon is a pervasive presence on the frieze, but never dominates it. The top of the monument is, like its ancient model, graced by a statue of the ruler of the day. Oddly, Napoleon is depicted more in Greek rather than Roman dress, wearing a short chlamys. The reason for the choice of Greek dress is probably as a means of identifying the emperor with the greatest conqueror of the ancient world, Alexander the Great. In this way the monument associates Napoleon with two great ancient military heroes.29 The emperor has a victor’s laurels and his right hand rests on a sword, while his left carries a globe and nike. The base of the monument also mimics its model, being carved with the spolia of war. However, the inscription that surmounts the door into the cella departs from the tenor of its ancient source. Written in Latin, as befitted the First Empire’s literary pretensions, instead of expressing the thanks of the French people to their emperor as the Senate and people of Rome had thanked Trajan, in the French monument Napoleon expresses his gratitude to his army: The Emperor Napoleon Augustus has dedicated to the glory of the Grande Armée this column made from the bronze taken from the enemy in the German War of 1805, a war which under his command was ended within three months.30

Although the emperor cannot resist underlining his skill as a general, the monument moves a little closer to the concept of commemorating an entire army rather than a single individual. This was certainly the view of Ambroise Tardieu who wrote a detailed description of the Colonne in 1822. In Tardieu’s view, the French Column was ‘a permanent monument to the glory of French soldiery’. Anticipating Richmond, he assumed that this had also been Trajan’s intention, asserting that Napoleon had followed in Trajan’s footsteps by erecting a tribute to the soldiers who had fought under his command.31 Like Richmond, Tardieu overstates his case. Although more of a freestanding monument than Trajan’s Column, the Colonne de Vendôme also formed part of a much larger complex designed to praise the man who had commissioned it. In the French case, a triumphal way carved through Paris by Napoleon that begins at the Arc de Triomphe, runs along the Rue de Rivoli, named for his successful Italian campaign of 1797, and ends at his Parisian residence, the Palais des Tuileries (Rowell 2012: 55–88). Thus, while the Colonne salutes the Grande Armée, its commemoration is just one part of a grander scheme to celebrate the Emperor’s gloire.


War as Spectacle

Like its ancient predecessor, the commemoration focuses on the emperor rather than his men. This is why the statue of Napoleon was dragged down from the top of the Colonne in the Bourbon restoration of 1814 (and then replaced after the fall of Charles X in 1830). The column itself was knocked down during the disturbances of 1871 amid protests against the discredited Napoleon III , Bonaparte’s nephew. It was re-erected soon afterwards in 1874 and Napoleon replaced at its summit as, after the humiliating defeats suffered in the FrancoPrussian War, a consolatory symbol of French pride and martial prowess was urgently needed.32 In La Fille aux Yeux d’Or, part of his Scènes de la Vie Parisienne published in 1895, Balzac saw the Colonne as a firmly Napoleonic monument: ‘The city of Paris has a great mast, made entirely of bronze, with sculpted Victories and Napoleon as its lookout.’33 The Colonne thus captures the military populism of Napoleon and the close relationship between the emperor and his men. As such it is a worthy successor to Trajan’s Column and to the ‘Bonapartism’ that we can see lying at the heart of power during the principate.34 Despite its celebrity, the Colonne de Vendôme remained the exception to the general rule of how war was commemorated. Other columns erected for this purpose continued the tradition of celebrating commanders. Nelson’s Column, constructed between 1840 and 1843, is precisely that: a commemoration of the great admiral. The column shaft has no sculpture and the four bronze panels at its base are also focused firmly on the deeds of the admiral himself not on those of his men (Quinlan 2005: 211). The Wellington Column of 1865 in Liverpool is similar. A bronze statue of the Duke (pointedly cast from French cannon captured at Waterloo, possibly echoing in a mocking fashion the metal used for the frieze of the Colonne de Vendôme) surmounts a fluted Doric column. A plaque at the base shows the Guards’ charge at Waterloo (often, and controversially, seen as Wellington’s master-stroke) with the Duke following his men into battle (Cavanagh 1996: 25–8). A similar column monument built between 1812 and 1816 in Shrewsbury commemorates Wellington’s ADC , Viscount Rowland Hill (Pevsner 1958: 287). A further example in honour of George Washington was erected in Baltimore in 1829 (Dorsey and Dilts 1997: 116–17).35

The modern era: the shift towards the commemoration of the collective The Boer War at the end of the nineteenth century saw the beginning of a major shift in outlook towards the commemoration of war and a revival of the aesthetics

An Unwinding Story


of Trajan’s Column. This revival did not take the form of a widespread adoption of the column, which remained a rarity, but a growing use of bas-relief to depict warfare on commemorative monuments. The ineptitude and lack of visibility of generals on the field of battle meant that their direct celebration was becoming less and less palatable to the public, especially in changing political times (Harvey 1985: 214). The set-piece battle too was becoming a rare phenomenon, which frequently proved indecisive. War as a whole was becoming less heroic, and its heroes were less obviously to be drawn from the higher sections of society. Kings and generals gradually departed from monuments to be replaced by the common soldier. Sometimes the tone of the monuments remained triumphant, but often it was the soldiers’ sacrifice rather than the glory of victory that came to be stressed. The bas-reliefs of Trajan’s Column provided an ideal model for a new sort of commemoration in these changed circumstances. They had already provided a standard for the depiction of warfare en masse and now, regardless of their original intention, appeared to give a classical imprimitur to a new trend that highlighted the struggle and sacrifice of the many rather than the achievements of the few. A good example of this new style of monument is Plymouth’s Boer War memorial. Its central feature is a plain obelisk,36 but there are bas-relief plaques depicting the storming of Wagon Hill (6 January 1900; see Pakenham 1979: 271–6). This sculpture is heroizing in tenor, but depicts large numbers of anonymous soldiers in action, rather than the deeds of a prominent single individual.37 This trend was replicated elsewhere and not just in England; similar monuments can be found in Australia and South Africa. Other memorials chose not to depict the moment of battle itself, but less heroic aspects of warfare. An example of this is the Royal Artillery Boer War Memorial erected in 1909 near Admiralty Arch in London (Quinlan 2005: 36). The side plaques of this monument, which is surmounted by an allegorical figure of Victory not a general, hold ‘unheroic’ bas-relief scenes of artillery preparing for action where stress is placed on the physical exertions of individual, anonymous soldiers. While arguably the artillery is intrinsically a less heroic division than the infantry or cavalry, these plaques could have depicted guns blazing out in close combat, so a deliberate decision was made not to do this. Effort rather than effect is what is stressed. The two World Wars saw an acceleration of this trend to depict war as a collective sacrifice. Only one monument known to the author draws its inspiration directly from the form of Trajan’s Column. This is the Waggoners’ Memorial at Sledmere in Yorkshire constructed in 1919 (Quinlan 2005: 82). The


War as Spectacle

centre of this curious structure designed by Sir Mark Sykes is a short, fat, column with three bands (not a spiral) of curiously naive carvings executed by the Italian sculptor, Carlo Magnoni. These give a narrative of the actions of the Waggoners’ Special Reserve, a logistics unit raised in the area during World War One (Boddy and Wilson1988). There are clear echoes of Trajan’s Column in the carvings and, in the scene of a German about to behead a woman, Marcus Aurelius’s Column is evoked (Borg 1991: 117–18, pl. 181). The bas-reliefs showing troops en masse became a common feature of the new style. Another Royal Artillery monument, this time created by Charles Jagger at Hyde Park Corner, has bas-reliefs, surrounding the central howitzer motif, depicting the endurance of anonymous artillerymen throughout the war (no specific battle is depicted), not at a moment of triumph (Curl 1985). The extended bas-relief does not have the length to contain a narrative like Trajan’s Column, but is long enough to suggest a story, though not one which the triumphalist would care to contemplate. Jagger’s artillery memorial is justly famous, for Alan Borg it is ‘perhaps the finest expression of the concept of everyman as hero’ (Borg 1991: 122), but it is only one of many monuments to utilize the bas-relief form. On a smaller scale, but equally fine, Bury’s war memorial displays a series of basreliefs (created by Joseph Hermon Cawthra) which again eschew the heroic in favour of portraying scenes such as wounded troops being carried from battle and non-combatants. The shift to this sombre commemoration from the triumphalist Boer War memorial in the same town captures perfectly the change in public attitudes towards war in the early twentieth century. The tragic proximity of the two World Wars, sometimes, perhaps justifiably, referred to as the second Thirty Years War, means that far fewer new memorials were constructed in the years after 1945. Nevertheless, bas-reliefs with their emphasis on communal struggle and sacrifice have continued to be a popular form for commemorating wars. The modern American National World War Two Memorial, opened in 2004 in Washington, DC , displays twenty-four bas-reliefs many of which do not depict scenes of fighting, while those that do eschew depicting conflict as heroic (cf. Simard and Macauley-Lewis, Chs. 11 and 12 this volume). The bas-relief form was also chosen for the Battle of Britain memorial unveiled in 2005 in London, though the depth of its carving arguably reveals a pedigree stretching back to Marcus Aurelius’ column rather than Trajan’s. In 2006 bas-relief was the form chosen for the New York Firemen’s Memorial commemorating those killed in the attacks of 9/11. These last two monuments again do not have sufficient length to portray a full narrative, but, like Jagger, their creators have attempted to imply a longer story in the space available.

An Unwinding Story


The manner in which bas-reliefs have been used in these twentieth- and twenty-first-century memorials is particularly interesting, as this form of sculpture need not, of course, follow the format outlined above. In particular, the futurist movement of the 1930s developed a much more martial and heroizing way of using bas-reliefs. This style, sometimes known as ‘heroic realism’, often depicts overlapping ranks of heavily stylized, frequently identical, soldiers at the point of or on the way to triumph (Heller and Chwast 2001: 177).38 Socialist Realism is the best-known subgenre of this movement and a good example of it is the Soviet war memorial in Treptower Park, Berlin (Stangl 2003). Here the combat scenes depicted are heroic in style and a serried rank of Russian soldiers, each in an identical pose, advances on the enemy under the gaze of a disembodied bust of Lenin. Arguably, this style too has its roots in classical antiquity, drawing on highly stylized depictions of hoplites, such as those found on the Chigi vase (Boardman 1996: 58, pl. 44) and the combat frieze from the Nereid Monument from Xanthus (Childs 1978: 22–31). Yet, in Western Europe at least, Roman verism defeated Hellenic order. Changing attitudes to war brought on by the changing nature of war itself and major political changes were largely responsible for this triumph and the marked shift in attitudes it portends. The treatment of the Dacian Wars on Trajan’s Column provided a useful model as to how these new sentiments could be given a physical instantiation. Its depiction of large numbers of troops, its veristic treatment of its subject, and in particular the decision not to focus on depicting victory, made it an attractive model for imitation by later artists. It is not likely that Trajan had any wish to commemorate, still less celebrate, the common man or his suffering. Yet his Column – erected under what posterity came to regard as a ‘good emperor’, as well as the product of an ancient culture invested with high cultural value – provided a crucial cultural endorsement that facilitated the change in the style and content of war commemorations. This change began in the late nineteenth century, but is still relevant today. Contemporary ideas about what constitutes a fitting visual commemoration of war owe no debt to the values of Trajan’s world, but do owe a physical one to the emperor – one so great that it is not normally perceived at all. It has proved an interesting twist in the history of this spiralling monument.


Part Three

Spectacles of War on Stage and in Modern Media




Epic Parodies Martial Extravaganzas on the Nineteenth-Century Stage Justine McConnell University of Oxford

The nineteenth century was, in many ways, an era of spectacle par excellence. An era in which classical antiquity held sway with renewed vigour,1 it was also a time of wars and conflict. The middle of the century saw the rise of two theatrical genres, which frequently brought together these three elements of spectacle, classical literature, and war: the Victorian burlesque and the French operetta. These two were closely related to each other by their satirical stance and musical medium, and in the case of some of the foremost proponents of the genres, by their turn to classical epic for the subject of their works.2 Furthermore, a knowing awareness and interaction between the two is in evidence. While one empire (the Ottoman) was coming to an end, others (the British, the French, and the Russian) were jostling to ensure that theirs got a share of the lands and power that seemed to be becoming newly available. This was at the heart of the Crimean War (1853–56), with Britain and France joining the side of the declining Ottoman Empire to prevent Russia gaining in power and influence. When Napoleon III established the Second French Empire, he evoked classical mythology to justify his claim to power. A descendant of the first Napoleon, he reiterated his uncle’s claim that the latter ‘had sprung armed from the French Revolution like Minerva from the head of Jove’.3 The new genre of operetta likewise turned to antiquity, but with the opposite intent. For when Jacques Offenbach appropriated the literature of ancient Greece and Rome, it was to parody France’s rulers rather than to laud them. Over the English Channel too, as the genre of Victorian burlesque established itself as a popular form of entertainment, classical antiquity was likewise evoked for satirical purposes. From J. R. Planché to Robert Brough to Francis Burnand, the tragedies of Greece and Rome, and the epics of Homer, were appropriated and 257


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recast to mock not only the solemnity of such canonical and lofty material, but also the politics of the day. So soon after the end of the Crimean War, and as the American Civil War took hold across the Atlantic, the humorous stance with which these visually spectacular, highly popular productions approached conflict offers an insight into non-elite responses both to contemporary socio-politics and to canonical works of literature and performance, whether from antiquity or from the more recent past. The element of ‘spectacle’, which was so inherent to the genres, is also attested to in other forms of entertainment of the day, indicating audiences’ great appetite for novelty and visual extravaganza at the time. In the case of Victorian London in particular, spectacle was combined with educational intent, in keeping with the era’s commitment to society’s improvement (Altick 1978). Thus, even for the most satirical of playwrights and composers, a classical theme could fulfil the educational criteria, even if those ancient sources were promptly undercut and ridiculed. To begin with the French extravaganzas, one should turn to Jacques Offenbach. Although not the founder of operetta (a credit usually reserved for Hervé, whose Don Quichotte et Sancho Pança was staged in Paris in 1848, marking the birth of the new genre), Offenbach was responsible for popularizing the form and taking it to new levels. Having much in common with the ballad operas that had thrived in the eighteenth century, operettas combined music, spectacle and satire, and did not limit the targets of their humour to single subjects. Offenbach’s Orphée aux enfers (Orpheus in the Underworld, 1858) firmly established his reputation as a master of the genre, and classical literature as a ripe subject for its humour. Six years prior to Orphée aux enfers, while chef d’orchestre of the Comédie Française, Offenbach had conducted the unsuccessful five-act tragedy, Ulysse (1852) by François Ponsard and Charles-François Gounod.4 When he premiered his own engagement with classical antiquity in the form of his Orpheus operetta, he turned not to Homer but to Virgil and Ovid. Yet this work, which cemented the popularity of operetta as a form, was arguably most interested in a far more recent antecedent. As such, the importance of what Martindale famously termed ‘the chain of receptions’ comes to the fore (Martindale 1993: 7). For one of the primary targets of Offenbach’s mockery in Orphée aux enfers was Christoph Willibald Gluck’s highly successful opera, Orfeo ed Euridice (1762). Gluck’s opera had achieved phenomenal success, being re-performed all over Europe; at the very moment that Offenbach was composing his Orpheus, Gluck’s was being revived in Paris to great acclaim under the auspices of none other than Hector Berlioz, and would be staged the following year.5 Offenbach’s

Epic Parodies


operetta satirizes not only the tragic mode of Gluck’s piece, but also the happy ending that Gluck appended to each version of his opera (in which, after losing her for a second time as they leave the Underworld, Orpheus is finally reunited with Eurydice when Amore takes pity on him). Conversely, Offenbach’s Orpheus and Eurydice are no longer in love. She is happy to be whisked away by Pluto, and Orpheus is delighted that she is gone; finally persuaded to rescue her, he is relieved when he is tricked into turning around and losing her once more! Orphée aux enfers was as irreverent towards the contemporary ruling powers of France as it was towards Gluck and the weighty themes of grand opera. Although Alexander Faris has warned against overemphasizing Offenbach’s political satire, believing it to be there more for the sake of humour than for biting political commentary, he does concede that ‘there was a touch of satire on Second Empire society, its rulers and bourgeoisie’ in Offenbach’s Orpheus operetta (Faris 1980: 64).6 Much of this is derived from the behaviour of the Olympian gods whose lifestyle parodies that of the royal court, and whose language, far from being elevated (as may have been thought to befit such ancient deities), is demotic. Amidst the louche and extravagant behaviour of Offenbach’s Graeco-Roman gods, itself a mocking indictment of Napoleon III ’s court, their rebellion to the tune of ‘La Marseillaise’ is a bold satirical jab (Lamb 2000: 10). For ‘La Marseillaise’ was composed during the French Revolution, and was subsequently banned during the Second Empire when its call to arms against the ‘tyranny’ of non-democratic rule was equally apt once again, since Napoleon III , having been voted in as President in 1848, staged a coup and proclaimed himself emperor just a few years later. The ridicule intensifies as the operetta closes, with the Olympian gods, Orpheus, and Eurydice all in Hades dancing the can-can to the tune of Offenbach’s ‘Galop Infernal’, with which the dance has become most closely identified. This kind of scenario is later echoed by Offenbach in La Belle Hélène (1864), when the playing of charades and board games, and the gathering of kings at Nauplia, were all transparent parodies of Napoleon III ’s parties (Lamb 2000: 15). Offenbach’s satire, then, is directed not only towards Gluck’s weighty opera, but also towards the political regime and its ramifications that are felt on the home front within France itself.7 Veiled in humour, the criticism of Napoleon III ’s political manoeuvres and the ethos of Second Empire is striking and audacious. The spectacular element of this was all the more bold because Offenbach’s operetta made full use of the lifting of the ban which, until earlier that year, had prevented more than three speaking characters appearing in any


War as Spectacle

production.8 Instigated to ensure that no one could outshine the grand, statesponsored operas, this law and the severe censorship to which plays were subject is another sign of the repressive regime that Napoleon III was inflicting on the country at the time (Price 2001: 191–3). The cast of Orphée aux enfers was large, the set impressive, the costumes lavish, the chorus and orchestra sizeable (Harding 1980: 110–11); such extravagance continued in La Belle Hélène, and became a feature of operetta itself. But in La Belle Hélène, the subject would seem to shift to darker territory; focusing on the events that led up to the Trojan War. Not so the tone of the production; for in Offenbach’s operetta, though war looms on the horizon and in the minds of the audience, who were so familiar with where this tale would lead, any tragic overtones are steadfastly avoided. Laughter and spectacle take the place of foreboding, which is in keeping both with operetta and, with the louche lifestyle of France’s ruling classes at the time, which Offenbach knowingly parodies. Initially, Offenbach and his librettists Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy had considered taking the Trojan War itself as the subject of their operetta, but the idea was rejected as being too serious a topic (Harding 1980: 148). As we will see, Offenbach’s original idea may well have drawn from the satirist Robert Brough’s The Siege of Troy, for he proposed featuring Homer as a war correspondent for The Times – thereby linking the scenes together and echoing the recent English custom of war reporting.9 This seems too close a connection to be mere coincidence (Brough’s Homer of 1858 is indeed a war correspondent for The Times), and indicates a transnationalism that is in keeping with the widespread touring that enabled tragedies such as Ernest Legouvé’s Medea to be performed in France and England in 1856, and to cross the Atlantic to be performed in the United States just ten years later.10 However, perhaps feeling that the spectacle of war was at odds with the light-hearted tone of their work, the idea was abandoned and the operetta was brought to a close before the Trojan War itself began. This is particularly fascinating within a volume dedicated to spectacles of war in creative mediums. As each chapter so amply proves, often war and spectacle are intertwined inextricably; nor must war and satire be seen as mutually exclusive, as Emma Bridges has demonstrated (Ch. 7 this volume). Yet Offenbach chose to avoid staging it in his production. His refusal, ensures that the shadow of war hangs over the operetta in a way that, it could be argued, is at least as powerful as staging the spectacle of war itself. Not only does the audience anticipate seeing Offenbach’s rendition of the Trojan War, only to have that expectation unfulfilled, but their entire viewing experience will have been

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filtered through that expectation. Thus war permeates the operetta even while the spectacle before the audience’s eyes is of a very different sort. Indeed, the contrast between what the audience watch, and the events that they know will occur subsequent to these, throws thoughts of war into even starker relief. So, while Offenbach’s decision not to stage the war may seem unsurprising for a light-hearted genre (even while it lurks forever in the background), we will see later in this chapter Robert Brough working on the contemporaneous English genre of burlesque, had no such qualms. For Offenbach, however, the events leading up to the Trojan War were more fitting, and for these he incorporated and appropriated from a number of works of classical literature. As Dana Munteanu (2012: 94, 92) has argued, in Offenbach’s portrayal of the half-sleeping Helen choosing to mistake Paris for a dream, there are echoes of the Stesichorean and Euripidean tradition that we see in the latter’s Helen (412 bce ); and the interaction between Helen and Paris throughout the operetta brings to mind Ovid’s Heroides 16 and 17. Yet La Belle Hélène ends with the two lovers sailing off to Troy; the impending war looms over the whole play, as I have suggested, but it will only come to pass after the curtain falls. All the same, the symbol of the couple sailing away, soon to be pursued by Menelaus and the Greek army – who have already been aligned with the French elite – may well have recalled the interminable number of battles that Napoleon III was launching abroad in the name of expanding the French empire. Certainly there is none-toosubtle criticism of Napoleon III ’s combination of war-mongering and lavish living in Agamemnon’s accusation that Menelaus is putting himself before his country: Lors que la Grèce est un camp de carnage, Quand on immole les maris, Tu vis heureux au sein de ton ménage – Tu t’ fich’s pas mal de ton pays! When Greece has become a field of carnage, when husbands are immolated, you live happy in your family here and care not a snap for your country’s troubles! (Offenbach 1868: 32)

Nevertheless, Napoleon III seemed not to take to heart, or perhaps even not to notice, Offenbach’s satirical jibes, for it was he that bestowed French citizenship on the German-born composer in 1860, a little over a year after the premiere of Orphée aux enfers.


War as Spectacle

In England in the same era, war itself could take centre-stage, even in a primarily satirical genre. While Offenbach’s parodic operettas were making his name in Paris and internationally, the London stage was preoccupied with burlesques. Like operettas, spectacle and extravaganza were at the heart of burlesque; these were features derived from the genre’s roots in eighteenthcentury fairground entertainment, as Edith Hall and Fiona Macintosh (2005: 356) have shown in their ground-breaking work on the form. The humorous, satirical approach of burlesques not only parodied their often-austere sources, but also reflected bitingly on contemporary events, just as Offenbach’s operettas did. James Planché’s burlesque of classical mythology, Olympic Revels, had opened in 1831 to great acclaim, laying the foundations for antiquity as a subject for the genre. Fourteen years later, Edward Leman Blanchard’s highly successful Antigone Travestie (1845) proved that parodying the forms of Greek tragedy as well as its content could be highly entertaining fare for the popular stage.11 Yet it was another few years before classical epics came to be the source of a burlesque’s humour as complete canonical works, rather than merely as vessels of mythology. While episodes from epic rivalled Greek tragedy in their popularity as a source for burlesque, it was far less common for the entire epic to be attempted, even in condensed form. This was equally true of other performance genres at the time, which often chose to focus on just one half of the Odyssey, or on single episodes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, or on the Dido story of the Aeneid, for example. Nevertheless, though attempts were seldom made to encapsulate or reflect the scope of the epics, the genre itself and its stylistic forms were parodied. Indeed, classical epic gave rise to a number of highly successful productions, such as Robert Brough’s irreverent response to the Iliad, The Siege of Troy (1858) and Francis Cowley Burnand’s Patient Penelope; or, The Return of Ulysses (1863), and Ulysses; or, the Iron-Clad Warrior and the Little Tug of War (1865), as well as others that frequently took Ovid or Apollonius as their inspiration. First staged at the Lyceum in London on 27 December 1858 – just two months after the premiere of Offenbach’s Orphée aux Enfers – Brough’s Siege of Troy was a landmark play within the popular genre of classical burlesque. Rather than responding to a monumental stage production, as Offenbach had to Gluck and Blanchard had to the Mendelssohn Antigone, Brough’s play was inspired by a scholarly work by the future Prime Minister, William Gladstone (Hall and Macintosh 2005: 358–9). Published earlier that same year, Gladstone’s Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age was an enormous and earnest work that prompted Brough to parody, but which also marked Gladstone as the

Epic Parodies


nineteenth-century’s most prolific British Homeric scholar.12 The politician’s passion for Homer was so entrenched that, as Prime Minister, he felt compelled to deny that his classical scholarship was a distraction from his political duties. The scale of Brough’s production was impressive, with an enormous cast listed as ‘Persons Misrepresented’ in the published edition of the text. In keeping with the style of Victorian burlesques, the set and costumes were likewise visually impressive, and just as humour in Offenbach’s operettas was frequently derived from the startling juxtaposition of modernity in the midst of antiquity,13 so too did burlesques employ this technique, sometimes even in the costuming of the characters. Thus, in The Siege of Troy, Homer enters Splendidly dressed; his tunic, helmet, &c., stuck all over with arrows, which he picks out and throws away during his early speeches. He has a telescope slung to his back, and carries an open note-book and pencil. (Brough 1858: 8)

For, perhaps in a wry reflection of Brough’s own work as a Sunday Times foreign correspondent, The Siege of Troy features Homer as a Times war journalist caught spying in the Greek camp. In the satirical cast list, he appears as ‘Our Own Correspondent’, and in mockery of the debates surrounding the ‘Homeric Question’, is described as, an extraordinary individual, who, it has been asserted in a very bellicose way, was born simultaneously in seven different places, and whose individuality has been questioned, but whose positive unity of existence will be forcibly asserted. (Brough 1858)

‘Asserting’ the ‘positive unity’ of Homer’s existence was exactly what Gladstone had just done in his opus (Gladstone 1858: 4), which was perhaps one of the less eccentric propositions which he made.14 Indeed, ‘Homer’ features prominently in the play as the focus for many satirical jabs concerning the integrity of journalists. He lauds his power over the Greek warriors from the start, informing them that, Your fames are in my hands, premium or zero, Whether each ranks a humbug or a hero. (Brough 1858: 9)

His press pass is enough to persuade Thetis that she should take him up to Mount Olympus to visit the gods even though he is mortal. Cupid’s


War as Spectacle

disappearance from the Homeric myth after causing Helen to fall in love with Paris is here explained by his request to be left out of the tale: Homer:


Surely you’d like some mention In my new work, impatiently awaited? It’s coming out in numbers – illustrated. I want no puffing. Bless your heart, my boy, Love, the real author of the Siege of Troy, Will last you all out – you, Pope, Shakspeare [sic], Maro. (Brough 1858: 15–16)

Maro (the Renaissance name for Virgil) gives Cupid a particularly prominent role in the Aeneid, of course, causing Dido to fall tragically in love with Aeneas. Indeed, the writers mentioned by Cupid are parodied along with Homer in Brough’s play, with The Siege of Troy featuring Aeneas more actively than in the Iliad, and a reduced version of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida also being satirized. Brough had already been critical of the British role in Crimea and of the ruling classes as a whole, particularly in his Songs of the ‘Governing Classes’ (1855), and he was scarcely less political in his burlesques. As Edmund Richardson has discussed, Brough repeatedly turned to antiquity to ridicule those in power and lay bare the enormous suffering that the actions of the elite were causing (Richardson 2013: 112–25). Fiercely anti-empire, The Siege of Troy was not Brough’s only burlesque engagement with the Crimean War. His Medea: The Best of Mothers, with a Brute of a Husband (1856) featured Jason in a British army uniform and declaring himself the villain of the piece, also made much of the fact that the classical Medea is from the area around the Black Sea, where the Crimean War had recently been fought. At the same time, as the title indicates, his Medea burlesque should also be seen as Brough’s volley into the controversy that the 1856 divorce bill was causing, with much emphasis being placed on the terrible circumstances into which Jason’s abandonment drives Medea (Hall and Macintosh 2005: 408–15). Returning to The Siege of Troy, the spectacular nature of the piece was, in typical fashion, writ-large, with an impressive cast which included ‘Camp Followers, Policemen, Thieves, Philosophers, and Poets’ in addition to the expected Greek and Trojan characters. As well as his own journalistic experience, inspiration for the character of Homer as war reporter is likely to have come from the innovation that saw, for the first time, daily news bulletins from the Crimean War. As I mentioned, the notion may well have amused Offenbach, who originally planned to replicate it

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in his own extravaganza dedicated to the Trojan War (see p.  260 above). The humour of Brough’s Homer character reaches a climax towards the end of the play, when he reports the death of Hector to the Trojans. Patroclus, Homer’s source for the story, is finally able to interrupt and set the tale right, explaining that not only did he not see Hector dead or his corpse being dragged round the city walls by Achilles, but on the contrary it was Hector who was chasing the Greek warrior around the walls. Aghast at the confusion he has caused and his own misunderstandings, Homer nevertheless ends the play declaring, ‘I like my version best, and mean to stick to it’ (Brough 1858: 47). The tone is comic and light throughout, but Brough’s satire remains biting. His scorn of social hierarchies and class prejudice is brought to the fore in the figure of Achilles, in particular. Having already explained his trade as being that of a tailor, the audience hears the ancient Greek warrior, best known for his anger, explain the delicacy of his unlikely profession, and lament the way that the lovesick Patroclus constantly imitates him: I can’t invent a collar or a trouser But this man watches me like any mouser To pounce on my ideah. Confound the fellah! My last creation – the thin silk umbrella – He vulgarised by a most coarse translation And on the very day of publication. (Brough 1858: 7)

The way the ‘vulgarised most coarse translation’ deliberately echoes the mode of Brough’s engagement with Homer and Shakespeare is a joke typical of burlesque’s irreverent and self-reflexive humour. Achilles’ efforts at social mobility and his disquiet at any ‘vulgarisation’ are again seen in his relationship with his mother, Thetis. After she emerges from the water exclaiming ‘Shiver me timbers’, Achilles berates her and laments his working-class roots, in terms that are in keeping with contemporary London, and a more poverty-stricken area of East London: I wish you’d raise your style of conversation More to the level of my earthly station. Sea phrases may at home be all quite well; But recollect I’m not an ocean swell. It’s hard a grown man, by the seaside stopping, Cannot escape from the maternal Wapping,


War as Spectacle

But must a mother recognize whom no man Can doubt for what she is – a bathing woman. (Brough 1858: 16)

Brough was himself from a working-class background, and left formal education at fifteen in order to start contributing to his family’s income. Yet, as testified throughout his works, his knowledge of the canonical works of literature is extensive. In addition to the frames of the Iliad and Troilus and Cressida on which The Siege of Troy builds its satire, there are also ready and knowing jokes that reveal not only that Brough was well acquainted with these works, but that at least some of his audience must have been too, in order to appreciate the humour. For example, Hecuba, jealous over the attention Priam is paying to Helen during Brough’s version of the teichoscopia, remarks ‘What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba?’ in a direct quote from Hamlet; and Cupid insults Odysseus by calling him, ‘You Calydonian bore!’ in a direct allusion to Odyssey 19.428-66 (Brough 1858: 20; 29). Likewise, there is another knowing nod to canonical literature in Ulysses’ words ‘This way, my friends’, echoing as they do Tennyson’s famous line from ‘Ulysses’ (1833), ‘Come, my friends’ (56). The burlesque comments directly on the Crimean War, when it alluded to the battles fought as part of the Siege of Sevastapol. Ulysses mentions the battles of Redan and Malakoff, the latter of which was decisive in ending the Siege of Sevastapol in favour of the French-British troops. The battle of Redan, on the other hand, was lost by the European forces, but for Brough’s Ulysses this makes little difference: This way, my friends, the town’s as good as ours; We’ve taken any quantity of towers, Redans and Malakoffs, and all the rest: Hector, if not yet slain, is sorely press’d. But let’s be first to Aeneas’ abode, Where, I’m inform’d, there’s lots of siller [sic] stow’d. (Brough 1858: 42)

This merging of Redan and Malakoff as if each resulted in victory for the same side glances ahead to the ending of the play where our expectations of a Greek victory are not fulfilled, and the outcome of the siege is peacefully resolved in a way that makes farcically plain the futility of the war. The material gain driving the battle,15 and the way in which the working-class soldiers suffered in battles waged by the aristocracy had likewise often been criticized in Brough’s Songs of the ‘Governing Classes’.

Epic Parodies


Of course, not all theatrical productions of the time were so politically engaged, either geopolitically or on a more local level. The prolific burlesque writer Francis Cowley Burnand also turned to Homer and the Trojan War for inspiration, but forewent the political commentary. Among his multitude of burlesques (over one hundred in total) he wrote Patient Penelope; or, The Return of Ulysses (1863), Ulysses; or, the Iron-Clad Warrior and the Little Tug of War (1865), and Helen; or, Taken from the Greek (1866). None of these engage extensively with contemporary international politics, despite the era in which they were written. Neither the impact of the Crimean War which had concluded only in 1856, nor the American Civil War (1861–65), are felt, unless by their absence. What is especially surprising in this is that while Britain remained neutral within the American Civil War, the influential magazine Punch – to which Burnand was a frequent contributor before becoming its editor in 1880 – was vocal about its support for the Confederacy and its opposition to Lincoln, even despite the magazine’s anti-slavery stance (Maurer 1957). Nevertheless, in spite of what could have been the martial atmosphere of the period, in Burnand’s burlesques war and conflict are steadfastly sidelined. Of course, the humorous nature of burlesques could be said to account for this in part (war not seeming to lend itself naturally to comedy), but as Brough’s The Siege of Troy has already demonstrated, the genre of burlesque was quite capable of satirizing war, and staging the spectacle. What Burnand does instead is eliminate the battle scenes from his narrative or reduce them to harmless farce, so that violence and tragedy is precluded. Once again, as with Offenbach’s La Belle Hélène, myths that are inextricably linked with war are chosen as the subject of performance spectacles that refuse to stage the very conflict that overshadows them. Despite the great success and popularity of Brough’s work, it may be that Burnand wished to offer his audiences something different, giving them a respite from war in an era that was so immersed in conflict. In his Patient Penelope; or, The Return of Ulysses, for example, not only is the mass of suitors reduced to just one, but he, rather than being killed by Ulysses, is merely wounded. Even this is farcically enacted, as Penelope’s servant Medon falls on him, having been pushed from a window after being mistaken by Ulysses for one of Penelope’s suitors. Yet, as with La Belle Hélène, which clearly invites the audience to anticipate the Trojan War, so in Burnand’s Patient Penelope: it would have been impossible for anyone to forget that they are watching a particularly bloody part of the aftermath of the Trojan War.


War as Spectacle

Further undermining the seriousness of the Homeric epic, in Burnand’s hands the spectacle of Odysseus’ gruesome slaughter of the suitors is averted by the offer of money. Burnand depicts a more mercenary Ulysses even than Homer’s Odysseus: this nineteenth-century hero accepts the suitor Eurymachus’s offer of financial reimbursement for the wrongs done to him in his absence, unlike his Homeric predecessor who scorns the very same kind of proposal (Od.22.59-64). The effect is to undermine the solemnity of conflict while simultaneously suggesting that much war might be averted. Once again, the audience’s expectations are left unfulfilled, with the dual effect not only of surprise, but also of taunting the smugger members of the audience: those with the most intricate classical knowledge will be most shocked by Burnand’s appropriation of the myth. Even this taunt is itself double-edged and humorous, for enjoyment of each of Burnand’s comic reversals, omissions, and adaptations is enhanced by close knowledge of the Homeric intertext. That this is so suggests, once again, that most audience members had a fairly high degree of classical knowledge. Burnand returned to the figure of Ulysses two years later in Ulysses; or, the Iron-Clad Warrior and the Little Tug of War, first performed on 17 April 1865 at the Royal St James’s Theatre. The burlesque includes a Jupiter who is described in the stage directions as being disguised as a cross between Napoleon I and Julius Caesar and, in a manner that recalls the merging of Redan and Malakoff in Brough’s The Siege of Troy, the disguise elides the distinction, as if both battles had been won by the same side: I am prospectively a Roman-Gaul. In me you see the trick is neatly done: Two well-known gentlemen rolled into one. Save in one fact, they are like one another, One conquered Britain – Britain conquered t’other. (Burnand 1865: 18)

While this may poke fun at the ever-war-mongering Britain, it also points to the contradictions and complexities inherent in war. Such contradictions may well have been at the forefront of his mind as his play was first staged in the very weeks that the American Civil War was coming to a close, and only three days after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The two genres of operetta and burlesque were by no means the only performance modes in which classical literature played a large part in the nineteenth century. Nor were they the only two to confront the turmoil of war,

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or to stage it. But it is telling that another monumental work of the time, Berlioz’s Les Troyens (1856–58), was never performed in full in his lifetime: instead, and with great reluctance, he split it in two and only the latter half, Les Troyens à Carthage, was staged.16 The first half, La Prise de Troie, staged Book 2 of the Aeneid – and therefore war itself – and was not performed until 1890. This may have been, in part, due to the immense popularity of Metastasio’s Didone Abandonnata (1724), which was still being re-performed on a regular basis 150 years after its composition; yet it also signals a reluctance to stage conflict in such serious fashion. Instead, the works of the likes of Offenbach, Brough, and Burnand, and comedy and satire at their core, with witty engagements with the contemporary era proliferating, staged war and classical antiquity in spectacular fashion and met with the approval of audiences.



Parading War and Victory under the Greek Military Dictatorship The Hist(o)rionics of 1967–741 Gonda Van Steen University of Florida

This chapter presents a detailed study of the Greek dictatorship’s spectacles of war and of its deployment of theatrical underpinnings in its coarse approach to Greek history. It exposes the reductive force of the regime’s single nationalist history of heroes and battlefields of triumph, and shows how theatricality and performativity were intrinsic parts of the rhetoric of the Colonels, as the usurpers were called. The Greek Colonels who came to power via the coup of 21 April 1967 crafted a nationalist representational apparatus by way of public spectacles in which re-enactments of war featured prominently. These historical reenactments, which morphed into full-blown parades, were called ‘Festivals of the Polemic Virtue of the Greeks’. Through the spectacle of Greek warfare through the ages, the dictators proclaimed military superiority and celebrated their act of ‘saving’ the Greek nation, Orthodox religion and the family. They pursued legitimacy by making their spectacles bridge the perceived gap between the regime and culture. These spectacles redefined the Greek past and laid out the future of the Greek people; they functioned as dramatic rituals that bordered on political rallies. The junta festivals placed (a select few) ideas and ideals of ancient through modern Greek military prowess in the service of (hyper) nationalism, to then display the 1967 ‘intervention’ of the Armed Forces as the culmination of the Greek tradition of winning victories. The military regime, which identified with the ‘fatherland,’ posited its supremacy over its leftist and communist enemies as well as over its historical foes (starting with the mythical Trojans) through these re-enactments that included the still-raw history of the Greek Civil War (1946–49). 271


War as Spectacle

This chapter analyses the content and rhetoric that produced and ‘authenticated’ these mass rituals of spectacle, war and history. Spectacle and Greek history blended into one another during the seven-year-long military dictatorship, but had their roots in the pre-World War Two authoritarian regime of General Ioannis Metaxas, a bounteous admirer of fascist-style public discipline. In the spirit of the times, Metaxas had strengthened his grip on power by exhibiting massive youth groups engaged in military training or sporting exercises. The Colonels reappropriated what was already available before taking the militarization of the Greek past to new ‘heights’. The Panathenaic Stadium that housed the military re-enactments in downtown Athens became the arena where a battle was fought over Greek history and culture, which were co-opted into the new regime’s autocratic practices. Thus this chapter also provides a historical analysis of the junta’s staging of its national-historical mission and its exploitative use of spectacle, enriched with brief observations on the Greek educational system. The spectacles that the dictatorship regime mounted in honour of itself and that aggressively reaffirmed its power proved counterproductive: the younger generations, in particular, rejected the bombast of the official language and propaganda and resented the force-feeding of ‘patriotism’.

Spectacle is power: displays of order,2 or performing tyranny All that once was directly lived has become mere representation. . . . where deceit deceives itself. The spectacle appears at once as society itself, as a part of society and as a means of unification . . . (Debord 1995: 12)

Dimitris, the teenage protagonist of the Greek movie Backdoor (Πίσω πόρτα), released by director Giorgos Tsemberopoulos in 2000, struggles with life, death, sexual desire and . . . representatives of the Greek military regime of 1967. In his eyes, these ‘worthies’ are the crude invaders of his paternal home, who bring out the conservative side in his mother. Worst of all, they force him to play a soldier’s role in the megalomaniac re-enactments of the Greek army’s victories through the ages. The movie ends with a reluctant Dimitris entering the Panathenaic Stadium in the midst of a pompous tableau of the Trojan War. Luckily, Dimitris recognizes an old friend and, in the dark of the night, the two make a mockery

War and Victory under the Greek Dictatorship


of the kitschy spectacle of war. These young men express the resentment with which the bulk of the younger generation received the junta’s warlike spectacles. One day at the Greek Television Archive in Athens I discovered and watched a 17-minute-long summary documentary of the ‘Festivals of the Military Virtue of the Greeks’, which were held in late summer of 1967. I watched the tape many times, first in disbelief, then in order to describe it in writing. But how does one even begin to record the ‘hyper-spectacles’ of the Colonels?3 And were these grandiose but clumsy displays really meant to instil patriotic pride in the Greek tradition? The archive granted me permission to view and draw comparisons with similar digests for television of the festivals of 1966 and 1972. The synopsis of 1967, however, struck me as the most programmatic and the most interesting one to discuss: its subject was the festival that took place a mere four and a half months after the military takeover; its nominal audience was a gathering of masses at the Panathenaic Stadium but its notional audience was all of Greece. Because the Colonels had to allay domestic and international frustration, they pulled out all the stops for their first festival. As a result, the documentary of the 1967 festival provides deeper insight into how the dictators exploited historical and military pageantry. By comparison, too, the spectacles that predated the coup placed less emphasis on the Greek army’s ‘patriotic’ record or on its role in the nation’s ‘regeneration’. After the putsch, however, the Greek army was made to appear as the regime’s army, and the junta festivals paraded ultra-nationalism as (armed) patriotism. The official spectacles, however, were just some of numerous occasions on which the Colonels invoked patriotism to legitimize their usurpation of power. Barrack-style propaganda under the guise of edificatory goals loomed large. Even though these highly theatrical festivals left deep impressions on many of my interviewees, who retained vivid memories (and negative emotions) about them, scholarship has granted them hardly anything other than a few derogatory remarks.4 The Colonels rendered history and politics theatrical in ways that historians of 1960s and 1970s Greece have yet to explore, whereas the bibliography on similar phenomena in other countries is substantial.5 Broader studies of how the Greek dictatorship thrived on appearances, propaganda and slogans remain lacking. The Greek strongmen saw themselves as players acting out a destined historical mission by staging hyperbolic victory scenarios and manipulating public emotions through mass spectacles. They framed their re-enactments of military triumphs by displays of troops to reinforce the script of the army’s perennial supremacy. The following sections deconstruct these spectacles to better comprehend the dictators’ conception of Greek history, war and nationalist politics.


War as Spectacle

The Colonels’ ‘Festivals of the Military Virtue of the Greeks’ or, in their conservative katharevousa idiom, ‘Eortai tis Polemikis Aretis ton Hellinon’ (Ἑορταὶ τῆς Πολεμικῆς Ἀρετῆς τῶν Ἑλλήνων), took place annually in late August or early September.6 However, national holidays (28 October, or Ochi Day, and 25 March, Independence Day) and the regime’s anniversary date of 21 April occasioned additional public celebrations and self-congratulatory speeches.7 The Colonels indeed institutionalized the date of their intervention as a ‘Panhellenic National Holiday’.8 Festivals were typically held on Sundays (the first Sunday after 29 August if the date itself did not fall on a Sunday), ensuring that many more people were free to attend. They were also held in designated spaces, where they followed a set trajectory. The dictators preferred the Panathenaic Stadium (that is, the ‘old’ Olympic Stadium or Kallimarmaro Stadium) in Athens and the Kaftantzogleio Stadium in Thessaloniki (see Fig.  15.1). The restored Athens Stadium (1896–1906) occupied the site of its ancient predecessor and had provided the stage for many mass events before. However, the Colonels and the Athenian public made the more obvious

Figure 15.1 A parade float drives down the Panathenaic Stadium during the ‘Festival of the Military Virtue of the Greeks’, Athens, 1967. Credit: Athens-Macedonian News Agency for Katsigeras (2001: 286).

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connection with the first modern Olympics, which were held in 1896 in the very same venue. Thus young women dressed as Olympic flame-bearers were enlisted to enhance the junta festivals. The imposing stadium with its aura of antiquity stood as a monument to Greek rebirth, national pride and international interest. Turned into a crucible of Greece once again, it had to showcase the nation’s renewed ‘prime’. Papadopoulos unabashedly positioned the historical re-enactments of the festivals against the spectacular backdrop of his ‘regenerative Revolution’, which he also called the ‘Ethnosotirios Epanastasis’, the ‘Nation-Saving Revolution’ of the ‘National Revolutionary Government’.9 He presented his regime as aligned with tradition and, at the same time, as the clean,‘revolutionary’ start of a new historical era (see Fig. 15.2). Clearly, the ideological battle was on with stakes vested in the symbolic capital of the Greek Revolution of 1821 and its legacy. This battle played out on the theatre stage, in the cinema and in re-enactments of the historical Revolution; it also affected, however, references to historical episodes that claimed to revive the original Revolution as well as the anniversaries that celebrated it. Significantly, the Greek Left had had considerable success in its efforts to appropriate the Revolution and its heroes prior to the military coup.10 The junta’s tyranny of presentation was also the tyranny’s self-deception, and spectacle played a key role in its self-delusion. The dictators exploited the setting of the massive outdoor stadium to showcase their ideal model of ‘popular support’ and the sought-after ‘public consensus’. They spared no expense to equip the stadium to exhibit their ‘popularity’ and to propagate their new, ‘revolutionary’ political culture. The stadium’s main track area, therefore, had to be visible by television cameras and by the rows of thousands on either side of the track. The strongmen stressed their populist(ic) side and added folksy and popular notes to the ‘fantasy parade[s] of totalitarianism’, bringing in celebrated singers such as Marinella.11 They also mobilized large numbers of soldiers, reservists and boy scouts (Alkimoi) as actors and extras, who had little choice but to deliver up the performance required of them. Many of these recruits, however, stopped short of acting with attention, let alone enthusiasm: some acted out the skits that they had rehearsed with visible discomfort or half-deliberate clumsiness. The turnout for the Colonels’ festivals tended to be huge. Newspapers, radio and television publicized the events well beforehand and announced that admission was free. They also devoted a big spread to the festivals after they had occurred. The massive attendance, however, was far from ‘spontaneous’ – one of the favourite words of the coercive strongmen, who settled for the appearance of spontaneity. Nonetheless, the regime harnessed kindred beliefs in some sectors


War as Spectacle

Figure 15.2 A parade float celebrating the first anniversary of the ‘Revolution of 21 April 1967’, Athens, Panathenaic Stadium, April 1968. Credit: Athens-Macedonian News Agency for Katsigeras (2001: 298).

of Greek society and had its outposts in the public (as the roaring applause also proves). More commonly, however, the leadership insisted that an audience show up en masse and had its acolytes apply varying degrees of pressure from the top down. Many of the attendees were military cadres and units, officials, civil servants, ‘time-servers’, factory workers, schoolteachers and schoolchildren. The

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junta placed not only Greece’s youth organizations but also its throngs of school pupils under the watch of the army as the self-appointed guardian of patriotic values. Most of the attendees knew or were reminded that they had some obligations to fulfil to the government, especially if they were subject to clientelistic ties as state employees. For the ‘invited’ members of the official circles and their families, attendance at the festivals was, for all practical purposes, mandatory. The threat of the regime’s recording, file-keeping and exacting sanctions affected the decision of many civil servants to simply show up.12 For those who would not be convinced by the show of popular support in the stadium, there were the shows of military strength. The junta’s staging of Greece’s military conquests was part of a comprehensive programme of theatricalized acts and events that exhibited the muscle of the army’s manpower and (US -funded) equipment. Prompt retaliation, however, jeopardized the public standing of the Colonels, who tried hard to avoid bad publicity.13 As the fate of some of the regime’s enemies became better known, however, this theatre started to show a more menacing side: it delivered a stern warning to those who chose to be on the ‘wrong’ side of Greek history. Therefore, most of those present were performing, too, and they knew exactly which role to play. For the dictators and their real-life supporters, well-attended events, even if attended by a puppet crowd, generated tremendous propagandistic potential and patriotic brag value. Papadopoulos attempted to shape the perceptions of foreign correspondents, diplomats and governments, but also hoped to bring investors and tourists – and thus vital financial resources – to Greece. The Greek quasi-fascist histrionics had much in common with the performative modes cultivated by Mussolini’s Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.14 These two powers turned mass spectacle and sport into essential components of their ultranationalist and racist interwar politics, which drew heavily on antiquity as well. The Italian Fascists of the early 1930s had transformed the outdoor athletic stadium into the ideal stage for political rallies and mass choreographies.15 Hitler had exploited the connections between mass spectacles and stadium settings of Olympic proportions: he had showcased German masculine prowess and racial superiority at the 1936 Olympics, which were held in a giant stadium in Berlin.16 Thus events of the late 1920s through the late 1930s underpinned the theatrical and nationalist uses of the mass stage of bodily spectacles. The large sports contests of the interwar period cloaked exercises in disciplinary and military training and bolstered the power of totalitarian regimes, parties, or up-andcoming politicians. Ritualized outdoor performance and nationalistic sport were intertwined also in Greek sporting events and other mass festivals of the late


War as Spectacle

1930s. Metaxas was the most important mediator in this process of influence: once he had adopted and Hellenized some of the fascist practices, successive reactionary Greek governments through the early 1960s resorted to metatheatrical rituals to define themselves and assert their power. The national anniversaries of the Metaxas era, especially, presented co-optive sports and orchestrated masses as supportive of a totalitarianism of the body, which was – paradoxically – serving a totalitarianism of the mind (Panourgia 2009: 34). Greece, however, was in no position to follow Mussolini’s path of military expansion through his new Fascist empire and its ‘strengthened Italian race’. With the onset of World War Two, the country fell victim to Axis aggression. Metaxas exploited the available historical continuity models of the Greek nation, but his own nationalist synthesis still included the component of cultural continuity.17 Later, Metaxas started to illustrate historical continuity with some examples of national triumphs and re-used the Panathenaic Stadium as the preferred venue. After Metaxas’s death in 1941, these Greek celebrations of continuity were kept up, albeit often in less elaborate ways. The decades-long repetitions are important, however, in that they retroactively ‘authenticated’ the process of inventing traditions (in the formulation of Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger 1992), of using the past to validate the present. The Colonels, however, sharpened the existing model to become a military paradigm, and they downgraded historical continuity as cultural continuity. The slots for Greek folk dances, for instance, which formed a prominent part of the interwar spectacles, were much reduced in the programmes of the junta festivals. They became programmes of militaristic display, rigid stylization and preachy declamation, all of which fuelled a repressive anti-liberal bias and revamped the worn theme of the superior Greek nation’s continuity. Compared to the massive scale and sophistication of the Nazi rallies especially, the Colonels’ manipulation of mass spectacle (with a veneer of Olympic ethos) for ultra-nationalist purposes may look like kids’ play. The Colonels remained, however, implacably hostile to left-wingers and communists and delivered another onslaught of state anticommunism. They saw the communist enemy as a menace, not only to Greek territorial space, but also to Hellenic continuity. They always loudly proclaimed the army’s loyalty and fighting capacity but did not pursue imperialist goals. The dictators’ main objective, rather, was to establish legitimacy for themselves and for the Armed Forces, whose ‘saviour’ role they ‘documented’ by way of a wholesale repossessing of the Greek past. Papadopoulos was particularly interested in Greek army victories from the venerable past and let those triumphs fan his own political ambitions.

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What happens in the arena? Sporting uniforms and uniformity The more detailed description below of the various spectacles that made up the 1967 festival closely follows the summary version for Greek television. The digest’s voiceover is spoken in katharevousa Greek by a male, whose language is inflated but still intelligible. His tone, however, is so stentorian as to be far removed from colloquial intonation. ‘Truth’ speaks through the regime’s chosen medium of the authoritative male voice, the remnant of a narrative framework that controls how history is being told.18 Any room for individual interpretation has been eliminated. The tool of an enforced reading prevents alternative views of the events from being aired. The same holds true of the re-enactments: a re-enactment is, by definition, a set or fixed performance that has lost the flexibility of any first-time or spontaneous enacting. Thus ‘truth’ is constructed from above, by the ‘Regime of Truth’, whose monologic discourse then passes it down to or through passive recipients. The short 1967 documentary has all the pretentions, but not the aesthetic qualities, of a grand Hollywood epic of the 1960s: like a sword-and-sandals movie, it projects male physical supremacy and unconditional moral right. Because the contents of the digests remained the same throughout the dictatorship years, subsequent producers focused on showing off technological advances. Beams of flashing light open the 1972 synopsis: they penetrate the dark sky and light up the block letters of junta slogans or mottos from the Greek tradition, letters that have been affixed to the hill slopes surrounding the Panathenaic Stadium. A maxim such as ‘always be the best’ (αἰὲν ἀριστεύειν) has long inspired the Greek agonistic spirit: it traces its origins as far back as Homer’s Iliad (e.g., Il. 6.208 and 11.784) and captures the epic’s heroic ideal. Firework displays accentuate the predictable finale of the festivals: a visual and verbal homage to the ‘Revolution of 21 April 1967’. What would become a very long day even for the most junta-devoted of spectators begins with a public ceremony held at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Royal Palace (today’s Parliament building) on Syntagma Square. Once the patriotic tone has been set, the ceremonies continue with the celebration of a formal mass at the Metropolis Cathedral. The resulting images assist the Colonels in spreading the message that they honour the nation’s memory and faith and that they live by the exalted ideal of respect for the fatherland, religion and family. Religion must help inscribe the new powerholders in the nation: it creates a mystified sense of unity between the certaintyseeking populace and its leaders. After the liturgy, limousines drive the dictators


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and other high-ranking representatives of the regime along a well-secured route to the stadium, where the show of military ritual and piety is about to commence. The general public has by then arrived. The cameras, however, zoom in on the VIP seats and dramatize hierarchical positions. Among those who enjoy honorary seating are the Colonels, their spouses, Greek royals and leaders of the Church hierarchy. King Constantine II and his wife, Anne Marie, however, are signally absent. The camera lingers over their empty seats. The official reason, which the voice is eager to repeat, is that the royal couple is travelling on a state visit abroad. But viewers who have followed the post-coup events with a critical eye know that the king has made only an initial and reluctant show of support for the Colonels. By mid-December 1967, the king’s countercoup had failed and he and his family were obliged to flee the country. The loud music of marching bands starts up. A show of uniformed men and army equipment, mainly tanks in camouflage colours, kicks off the military parade into the stadium. The gleaming hardware bolsters the image of the massed blocks of troops. The young combatants strike the disciplined poses of Greek military prestige. As synchronized marchers, the men perform geometric and close-order drills, and they exchange salutes in response to the directives that their commanders shout out. Then goose-stepping male recruits wearing sports outfits pass in review. Unarmed, they soldier in front of the VIP section and then engage in sporting displays showing off physical fitness and team coordination. Some of their exercises recall stunts performed by circus acrobats: young men leap through rings of flames, for example, on foot and on motorbikes. The group performances, in particular, mix acrobatics and drama: a dozen men pile upon and somehow drive one motorcycle while managing to hoist the national flag. These spectacles give concrete expression to a cult of strength and stamina and of youth and duty – of all youth’s duty. In the fascist tradition, these athletic exercises demand collective obedience and invoke class collaboration. Military training and physical skill are presented as coordinated displays of male bodies, suggesting the idealized relationship between the young soldiers and the body of Greek citizens. The connections between physical exertion, discipline training and militarism serve to confirm the virile self-image of the crowd as well as of its leaders. The ideological interface of male gender and Hellenic superiority is glaring to modern eyes. The link between sporting masculinity and the creation of theatrical effect is explicit, too: active-duty soldiers in uniform perform as athletes, acrobats and thespians, and they embody the Greek army-state. Aided by the abstracting effect of their uniforms, soldiers demonstrate the strength of the junta’s military machine. Their displays mimic large-scale military

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manoeuvres. Army commander Papadopoulos, also master-director of the festivals, controls the execution of the manoeuvres of his muscle-flexing regime. Changes in music mark changes in content and purpose: from assertive march and parade music at the outset, to the music of suspense that accompanied the military exercises, to more festive, sprightly band tunes that celebrate Greek achievement. Now the re-enactments of Greek martial victories begin. Here the text of the voiceover turns to full-blown purple prose. The tableaux start off with nothing less than the Greek victory in the mythical Trojan War! Recruits in ancient-style costumes portray the Greeks who have been waiting in their tent camp before the walls of Troy. They pretend to leave, upon which the Trojans venture out and fetch the huge wooden horse left behind by the enemy. At night, a handful of Greeks descend from the horse’s belly and open the gates of Troy for more Greeks to pour into the city. Together, they swiftly crush the weak Trojans. The latter are played, of course, by fellow Greek soldiers whose different, Orientalizing outfits must distinguish them from the good-guy Greeks. The Greeks sound the call of military triumph and pronounce the beginnings of Hellenic ascendancy and national pre-eminence. The Greek soldier is cast as the distinctive new hero, breaching new eras and boundaries, in whose footsteps the Colonels have followed. With uninhibited Orientalism, the re-enactments provide the theatrical framework for the dictators’ staging of the patriotic principles of Greek military force. The next episode quintessentializes Greek patriotism: it hurls its public down from mythic antiquity to the first quarter of the fifth century bce and the Persian Wars. The glory days of classical Greece are shown complete with the Marathon runner announcing victory, only to collapse – awkwardly – on the stadium floor. The brisk juxtaposition of mythical and historical Greek triumphs lends the Trojan legend a ‘historical’ and authoritative reality of its own. In turn, the Persian Wars bestow mythical heroism on the Marathon fighters, their peers and the many generations of their ‘descendants’ down to the junta era. Conversely, the deluded and defeated Trojan hordes are seen to start a long line of ostensibly weak and hubristic enemies. Together the Eastern opponents make up a formulaic composite of age-long barbarian inferiority. When the festival reenactments reach the Civil War years, the Colonels’ manipulation of enemy traits versus ‘ethnically pure’ Greek character leads to a derogatory portrayal of the communists and leftists who lost the struggle. Subsequent episodes of the tendentious display of Greek military exploits follow principles similar to the makeover of the Trojan War. Spectators may admire next a triumphant Alexander the Great, who rides into the stadium on a nervous horse, which leaves some recruits flummoxed. No mention is made of


War as Spectacle

the many decades and historical developments that separated the Persian Wars from Alexander’s conquest of Egypt and the East. Missing are, in particular, the Peloponnesian Wars and Athens’ subjugation to Sparta. Such references would have tainted, however, the desired image of Greek consensus. Not all victories are created equal. Greek military supremacy, however, is still supposed to exist in each and any phase in between. It is as a Greek that Alexander here delivers the final blow to the Persian Empire by destroying its capital city of Persepolis (331 bce ). His act is doubly ‘patriotic’, handing the dictators the opportunity to declare Macedonia unquestionably Greek. The dispute over Macedonia had plagued Balkan and Greek foreign politics from about half a century before the fierce armed conflicts of 1912–13, to which the regime would direct attention in due course to restate the Greek nationalist cause. After Alexander’s parade, Constantine the Great, founder of Constantinople in 324 ce , comes on. He is credited with establishing the Byzantine Empire that succeeded the (declining) Roman West. His victories are won in the name of Christianity: the sign of the cross appears bearing the letters of the divine promise of ‘In this sign, be victorious’. Constantine is acclaimed here as the father of the Eastern or Orthodox faith, whose doctrine was formulated in subsequent centuries. The next historical figure singled out for hero treatment is the Byzantine emperor Nikiforos Fokas, who reconquered Crete from the Arabs in 961 and thus stopped another inimical force from making inroads into Greek territory. No mention is made of the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the most painful of Greek losses: the festivals must showcase triumph, not defeat. The digest goes on to present the 1821 War of Independence as a belated act of just retaliation for the Turks’ capture of Constantinople. The centuries of subjugation in between (the ‘dark ages’ of the Tourkokratia) do not fit the official template and are summarily dismissed. The ‘epic’ of 1821 encourages the Greeks to see their present as analogous to the classical past and, in particular, to the Persian War victories, and to assert an unbroken line of Greek excellence. Besides, the re-enactments idealize the War of Independence as an epoch of unified revolution and public consensus among the Greeks – which it was not. The episode’s commemorative focus is on valiant male Greeks who expunge a military disgrace by inflicting injury and loss on the historical foe. The Colonels recycle the old revolutionary script that places unjust cruelty squarely in the Turkish domain and that affords the Greek masses the role of collective hero. These components make up the canonic text of the Revolution of 1821, which becomes a palimpsest of trials of Greek masculine bravery and moral strength. This text pivots on recognizable verbal and visual codes that the audience may

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grasp easily, and the shared emotions they engender fuel Greek patriotic sentiment. The Revolution of 1821 typifies the inexhaustible lessons for generations of Greeks to take to heart. Each reference to 1821 resonates anew with the weight of bygone eras, which pressures Greek youth to show itself true to the time-hallowed national tradition of valour. But the popular ‘epic’ of 1821 was about the Greeks’ struggle for liberation and autonomy. The dictators’ effort to repossess this ‘epic’ could not but press questions about the nature of freedom and independence under their tyrannical rule. After a few more episodes, the Albanian victory, which the Greeks won at the onset of World War Two, is referred to as another ‘epic’, as it has been in common parlance. Soon after 28 October 1940, Greek troops and local civilians fended off an Italian invasion of Greece from the northwest and advanced into southern Albania. This triumph marked one of the earliest acts of organized and unified antifascist resistance in Europe. Metaxas himself gave the start signal of the battle against the Italian Fascists on the Albanian front. His – embellished – resolute ‘No!’ in answer to Mussolini’s ultimatum is, by 1967, the famous watchword of a national holiday, Ochi Day (28 October). This historical tableau exceptionally includes female civilians, who appear, however, only in auxiliary roles: they act as humble physical helpers who haul boxes of ammunition and other military necessities, which they deliver to soldiers engaged in real action. In good patriarchal tradition, they merely assist and then resume their place of admiring spectators watching their men make Greek history. Young recruits then stage the Greek Right’s victory in the Civil War of the mid-through-late 1940s. This meant that some of them were compelled to reenact the very defeat of their parents and families. A succession of post-war conservative governments (1946–63 and 1967–74) flaunted the triumph of the Right, which distressed a substantial but silenced part of the Greek populace. The Colonels rubbed salt in the still open wounds of leftists and communists by charging them anew with ‘acts against the nation’. They also scheduled their festivals on or around the anniversary date of the Right’s ‘victory’ of 30 August 1949 (won on the mountains of Grammos and Vitsi). This date marked the unofficial end of the Civil War and was elevated to the status of a national holiday. The insensitive re-enactment of the fratricidal strife struck home that the Right’s crushing of the Left was now perceived as a historical fait accompli and not as an actuality of ongoing persecution. The dictators presented the battles against interior and exterior communists of the past and present alike as interrelated parts of a single ‘holy war’ in defence of the nation. Their official rhetoric, bolstered by the protracted state of martial law, was rife with calls for


War as Spectacle

‘patriotic’ loyalty to the nation’s ‘protectors’ and for vigilance and suspicion of fellow Greeks. It was the coarse display of the Greek Civil War that led Andreas Papandreou’s socialist government to issue a decree abolishing the Festivals of the Military Virtue of the Greeks in August 1982. This means that, until 1982, a single official version established and re-established the history of 1940s Greece: it routinely ‘disappeared’ the past of the Civil War and also leftist sympathies that lived on. The Greeks of the early 1980s had not reached a consensus about how to present recent Greek history, but many had come to realize that the true interest of the national past lay in how it constituted and conditioned the future. The Colonels’ festivals end with the climactic show of their own ‘triumph’ over the communists on 21 April 1967. This self-promoting ‘victory’ is the ‘coup’ de théâtre, the play-within-the-play that caps the dictators’ self-representation: they need to continue to invoke a state of emergency to justify their armed intervention. A wagon float decorated with a giant version of the regime’s emblem of the phoenix rolls in: a Greek soldier stands guard outlined against the contours of the mythical bird that is reborn from its own ashes. The symbolism of the phoenix, which boasts an age-long history, became ubiquitous during the dictatorship years of ‘resurrection’.19 The phoenix is seen to rise above the combined threats of communism and conflagration. A procession of floats follows carrying tableaux vivants of female figures dressed in antique-style costumes that represent the inalienable values and mottos vaunted by the Colonels: ‘Truth’ (ΑΛΗΘΕΙΑ), ‘Glory’ (ΔΟΞΑ), ‘Salvation’ (ΣΩΤΗΡΙΑ) and ‘Freedom’ (ΕΛΕΥΘΕΡΙΑ) pass in review. The female characters who embody the Greek concepts that are all grammatically feminine, allegorize the qualities expected of the national body as well. Big white block letters on the hillside light up and form the slogan of ‘Long live the 21st of April’ (ΖΗΤΩ Η 21 ΑΠΡΙΛΙΟΥ). Fireworks go off to dramatize the grand finale and draw repeated noisy salvos of applause. Militaristic triumphalism reaches new, exhilarating heights. So does totalitarian kitsch. The dictators’ streamlined national history is an authoritative exposé of Greek martial triumphs, in which patriotic leaders take centre stage to command armies that stave off national crises. These iconic commanders embody a long chain of ‘indigenous’ valiance but are not shown in any great detail. Their brave but anonymous troops prevail over emblematic ‘evil’ enemies, who are themselves confined to the obscurity of groups of different creeds or ethnic origins. Military leadership, muscle power and victory are valourized over any intellectual or artistic achievements. Thus the line-up of the ‘great men’ of Greek history is reduced to a retrospective of static moments, stereotypical images and

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oft-repeated slogans of a military leader cult. This is history as the personal myth of military men eager to boost their own profiles. The sense of the Colonels’ selfidentification with the ‘patriotic role models’ is palpable. Their hero concept, too, is totalizing and masculinizing: their aim is to create the new, stalwart man – and man alone – in their image of the disciplined soldier. The onlooker stands by in a childlike or inferior position before military leaders who always win and whom the regime bumps up to positions of moral rectitude and authority. These leaders bring ‘salvation’ to nameless Greek masses that suffer foreign ‘aggressors’ and communist-inflicted ‘evils’ and that are, like the foot soldiers doing the actual work, mere historical variables. The Colonels tainted history and perverted theatre in their own militarized version of the continuous thread of Greek national history. They displayed performative military acts and axiomatic slogans in a hybrid stagecraft infused with myth and allegory and fortified by parade architecture and a scenographic arsenal. Their world of theatrical make-believe was equalled only by their verbal pyrotechnics. Political expediency and lack of real-life perspective, however, rendered the purported analogies between military crises of the past and the nation’s current predicament strained at best. Theatre was drawn into the orbit of conceit and self-righteousness, as the regime staged itself as the predestined new glory of a perennially victorious nation (while its censorship secured that any oppositional plays, ancient as well as modern, were banned).20 The dictators turned the seductive continuity of building state power through supremacy into an aggressive ‘mytho-moteur’ (to use Anthony Smith’s term, 1999: 215): the military continuity that they willed was to constitute and legitimize polity – theirs. The ‘proven’ military longevity also affected morality, pedagogy and education in its broadest sense, including the adult education purposes that the festivals served. The strongmen’s blind insistence on militaristic continuity, however, made them ignore the fallacies of armed chauvinism. Their myth, which proved too narrow to render their propaganda credible, could not resolve social or economic tensions either, but merely deflected attention from the nation’s problems. In spectacles, publications, speeches and monuments, the insecure dictators competed for the Greeks’ recognition through source manipulation and by controlling public forums. The theme of military predominance through the ages, embodied by a canon of national heroes, was a popular topic in Greek radio and television programmes from 1967 on. The Colonels also organized exhibitions on the theme of the Greeks’ military virtue and issued catalogues and other publications to reinforce the iconography and rhetoric of their festivals.21 The Athens War Museum was the architectural project that monumentalized the


War as Spectacle

regime’s ethos of ‘blood and soil’. Thus the dictators co-opted the realms of culture, leisure and the media for the purpose of dramatizing the backing that Greek history seemingly bestowed on them. A wide range of theatrical and performative modes served to represent the supremacy of the Greek army and its leaders. But who directed the junta festivals? The names sporadically mentioned are those of Giorgos Oikonomidis, radio host and author of screenplays, and James Paris, a Greek-American entrepreneur who became the Colonels’ favourite producer of war epics and patriotic films.22 Such state-sponsored movies did their part to support the dictators’ ‘Revolution’ and, like the festivals, they featured the typical purple passages of Greek history and also stories of personal sacrifice for the good of the collective. But Paris goes most often unmentioned: his work as an architect of the junta festivals has not recommended him to posterity. In the late 1960s, however, the experience that Paris had gained in the United States lent a – spurious – legitimacy to his work. Also, the monumental festivals obviously did not come about without the planning and cooperation of many more people. Many other artists, indeed, aligned themselves with the regime, including popular singers, musicians and actors.

Teaching patriotic self-sacrifice for the ‘Revolution of 21 April 1967’ The theatre, and the public spectacle in particular, constitutes today not simply a spectacle, or entertainment, but the greatest didactic and educational tool for people of every class, age and gender, as well as of any social background. (Papadopoulos is quoted by Nitsos (ed.), 1974: 108)

The Colonels expanded and militarized the festival template built by Metaxas and subsequent conservative governments. They propped up the spectacles further with ‘suitable’ (read: censored) media coverage, whose rote praise was the illusionary equivalent of the rote applause in the stadium. They upped the ante of propaganda as well: they usurped Greek history on the rationale that, since they, as leaders of the Armed Forces, ‘owned’ patriotism, they also ‘owned’ any army victories of the past inspired by patriotic (self-)sacrifice. Thus they made Greek historical continuity subservient to their ‘ideology of the barracks’ (as it has sometimes been called disparagingly). Ideologically expedient, too,

War and Victory under the Greek Dictatorship


was their logic that militarism vouched for patriotism and should, whenever necessary, stand in for politics. The dictators saw all of Greece as a mass that needed to be trained in this ethos, and they considered military-style disciplinary training to be the right approach. Therefore, the festivals at the Panathenaic Stadium had to construct a militarized communal identity: their purpose was to create an obedient youth and body politic at large. A devoted youth stood metonymically for the devoted masses of civilians and also for the presumed devoted army troops. Metaxas had realized the potential of public displays by youth groups as a means to ‘educate’ Greek youth into the pre-war, fascist type of performative patriotism. Through ‘patriotic’ mass events, the Colonels, too, engaged in a ‘civic education programme’ for youths and adults who were past the age of formal school instruction. This project of ‘epimorfosi’, or additional schooling beyond the walls of the conventional classroom, was the subject of much discussion after the 1967 coup, given that the government’s professed didactic aim was to prepare its citizens for ‘true democracy’ or for the ‘New Democracy’ (Meletopoulos 1996: 202). The regime’s hyperbolic displays of military prowess, too, were meant to (re)shape the people’s knowledge of Greek history and to inspire their pride for being ‘racial descendants’ of the ancient Greeks. The junta festivals picked up where the practice of school history lessons had left off, teaching sacrificeoriented ‘patriotism’ and conformism in the name of Greek continuity. For decades, ‘patriotism’ had been performed in Greek school teachings, in the teacher’s lecturing and in the student’s regurgitating of historical content that was to be idealized but never reinterpreted. The festivals joined traditional pedagogy in using youths and adults as prime material for nationalist subject formation.23 ‘Actors’ mimicked skits and spectator-performers parroted slogans and, rather than learning anything new or challenging, they exerted themselves in corroborating established national myths. The dearth of a plurality of scripts in the traditional Greek classroom (which, besides, operated on the defunct language of katharevousa) and at the festivals mirrored the absence of pluralism in public life.24 In the spirit of the late 1960s counterculture, however, which turned much of Western European youth against any establishment, Greek students were among the first to expose the fissures in the artificial creation of a consensual nationalist history. Historicizing spectacle interacted with many other, long-lasting modes of the right-wing discourse on Greek patriotism. The Colonels kept revisiting the patriotic passages of lion-hearted Greek leaders and of the self-sacrifice of subordinates, in the sequential designation of bodies to battles. They captured


War as Spectacle

the highlights of the Persian Wars, the 1821 Revolution and other military standoffs by invoking the battle cries that had purportedly initiated or driven them. Sporting battle cries and sloganeering turned into performative realms as well, as the poster depicted in Fig.  15.3 may show. Based on the poster’s sequential registers, the slogans carrying Greece’s grand narrative exalted in certainty about the manly efficacy of the army ‘tradition,’ which affirmed the nation’s ‘immortality’. The effort to lodge slogans in the Greek mind was another remnant from the Metaxas era. The pre-war dictator proclaimed essay competitions for young people on topics such as ‘One omen is best: to defend one’s fatherland!’, which reiterated the nationalist exhortations.25 The Colonels’ ‘patriotic’ mottos, too, voiced the official demands that the Greeks renounce individual will and that they perform selfless acts similar to those of the Greek soldiers of the past. After 1967, the government urged schoolteachers to lift essay topics from Papadopoulos’s Our Creed (To Pistevo mas, 1968–72), the multivolume compilation of the ruler’s published speeches, declarations, interviews and thoughts that was distributed gratis to schools and offices of civil servants

Figure 15.3 Poster: At the festivals of the dictatorial regime of 1967–74, Greek actorrecruits and allegorical figures embody the known sets of historical slogans and victory cries. The regime relished schoolbook-style mottos that raised the Greeks’ defences against national enemies. Credit: Publisher Anti for Raftopoulos (1984: 245).

War and Victory under the Greek Dictatorship


(Mikedakis 2007: 84). The regime’s visual and verbal rhetoric, however, enacted or performed Greek patriotism, enmity, victory and lineage in single-minded definitions. It homogenized multiplicity and excluded differences – in other words, dissent and non-compliance.

Reflecting on Greek history in rapid motion The regime of 1967 exhibited its canonic sequence of Greek military victories and mottos in order to authenticate its authority on behalf of the ‘deserving’ Armed Forces. The Colonels exploited the nation-in-danger theme to bolster the need for a perpetual state of armed mobilization. Their festivals framed the regimented mass formations by re-enactments of national crises, which the Greek army was then seen to overcome with fortitude. More significantly, however, the displays and performances expressed the leadership’s demand for a civic society disciplined along the lines of the – overvalued – military model. Soldiers and ‘actors’ had to give commanding performances before the ordered masses and had to embody exemplary patterns of military virtue and disciplined behaviour. Even if citizen training did not have a direct military application, it procured many well-oiled cogs in the wheels of Greek society. Thus the mass events had to publicly demonstrate the dictators’ consolidation of power and Greek civic obedience. The Colonels had sought and found an ‘authentic’ tradition of origins and a ‘valid’ genealogy for their own military intervention. They posited the anniversary date of their takeover as a new national holiday. The self-serving cult of the past was also a cult of much-advertised new beginnings, and the continuity model that linked the past to the present kept suggesting a paradoxical kind of parthenogenesis of Greek culture. The self-styled ‘regenerative Revolution’ was, however, moving further away from the kind of revolutionary sociopolitical reform that Greece most badly needed. On the regime’s first anniversary, Papadopoulos concluded his address to the nation with statements that underscored his will to graft the army’s intervention onto the Greek tradition of victory: The Revolution of 21 April represents the greatest and most serious attempt to restore, reorganize and cure Greece since it regained its National Independence. And the Revolution will succeed, because it bespeaks the necessity of the historical imperative. (Papadopoulos 1968b)


War as Spectacle

Papadopoulos’s casting of the Revolution of 1821 as a grand analogue for his own military aggression smacked of propagandistic distortion. The 150th anniversary of the Revolution in 1971 was celebrated with a similar, hubristic degree of fanfare.26 The junta relentlessly promoted the values of the country’s rulers, ancestors and roots by grounding them in a proud, ‘authentic’ history, in an unchanging geo-cultural territory and in unshaken diachronic time. Not surprisingly, the official rhetoric of ethnic pride and of the strong national family appealed to the patriotic sentiment of those Greeks who sought stability after many years of military and political turmoil. For some, the regime’s stagings of historical continuity were gratifying precisely because they were long familiar and did not require much critical thinking. Plenty of others, however, realized that the Colonels were reducing Greek valour to purebred military character – and, even then, more to muscle power than to military genius. For the dictators, the theatrical communication through displays of military culture was one of supremacy, essentialism and proven authenticity. Critics, however, saw a farcical spectacle and a transparent concoction of propaganda. Among the sharpest detractors of the regime’s spectacles of war were students and youth. In the 2000 movie Backdoor, Dimitris and his friend mock all officialdom, its bombast, its victory festivals and military parades. They resent the artificial cultivation of ‘sound morality’. Greek history’s heroes appear as exempla virtutis in a morality play, but Dimitris cannot help but notice the grotesque nature of the petty junta representatives who, against his will, have infiltrated his home, the last but now lost bastion of his privacy.


The Anti-War Spectacle Denouncing War in Michael Cacoyannis’ Euripidean Trilogy1 Anastasia Bakogianni Institute of Classical Studies, University of London

The spectre of war looms large over Michael Cacoyannis’ trilogy,2 modelled on three Euripidean dramas, whose plots are set in motion by the famous Trojan War: Electra (dated to between 422 and 413 bce ), Troades (415 bce ) and Iphigenia at Aulis (c. 406/5 bce ). The viewer never witnesses any large-scale battles in the trilogy,3 but the shadow of the Trojan War falls on all three films, in particular on the latter two.4 Violence that is the direct result of the Greeks’ expedition against Troy simmers beneath the surface of these ancient dramas, and spills over onto the screen in Cacoyannis’ Euripidean trilogy. In The Trojan Women (1971) the horrors of war and its terrible aftermath are vividly portrayed, by dwelling on the enslavement of the women of Troy and the death of Astyanax. In Electra (1962), it is the murder of Agamemnon upon his return from war that unleashes the terrible revenge plot. In Iphigenia (1977) Cacoyannis explores the bloody prequel to the war, the sacrifice of Iphigenia, which allowed the Greek army to sail to Troy. The latter two films, present the viewer with a series of antiwar spectacles, and the seeds of this strategy can be found in the earlier Electra. In this chapter, I argue that The Trojan Women and Iphigenia seek to arouse the viewer’s outrage with ‘multi-sensory’5 spectacles of violence committed by Greek warriors against non-combatants, not only foreigners, but also members of their own families. All three films assault the spectator with a barrage of misery, pain and suffering. They seek to engage their viewers emotionally, and to rouse them to protest the violence and abuses of power that they bear witness to. Cacoyannis’ trilogy thus captures the spirit of the anti-war movement in the turbulent decades of the 1960s and 1970s,6 embodied in his female protagonists Hecuba, Cassandra, Andromache, Iphigenia, Clytemnestra, and Electra. In Cacoyannis’ 291


War as Spectacle

trilogy these tragic heroines raise potent voices of resistance against political oppression, war, and violence.7 Cinema is primarily a visual medium, but from the early 1990s onwards, several theories have emerged in film studies that seek to reinstate the importance of the other senses by arguing that ‘spectatorship is embodied’ (de Luca 2014: 2) and that ‘films are somatically experienced’ (de Luca 2014: 9). In this view, Cacoyannis’ anti-war spectacles are not only visual, but actively seek to engage the viewer’s other senses as well: hearing, taste, smell and touch. Aural, nonverbal stimuli are particularly important in reinforcing Cacoyannis’ overall design and complementing the film’s dialogue. Over the years I have been privileged to watch the trilogy with a number of groups of students.8 I have witnessed first-hand the films’ physical and emotional impact on viewers from a variety of cultural, social and educational backgrounds. In this chapter, I am seeking to deconstruct the power of Cacoyannis’ anti-war spectacles and to explore his portrayal of violence. Audience reaction to watching violence depends on how realistically it is portrayed (Symonds 2008: 2). Cacoyannis’ Euripidean trilogy privileges realism,9 despite the director’s use of a number of ‘stylized/poetic’ elements that pay homage to the films’ theatrical roots (Bakogianni 2009: 56).10 In his anti-war spectacles, however, Cacoyannis subsumes these elements in order to manipulate his audience into condemning what they are seeing on screen. One of the main aims of realism is that it encourages the spectator’s identification with the protagonist and his or her ‘involvement in the story’ (Michelakis 2013: 44). I should note that in this discussion I am not using Cacoyannis’ name as shorthand to refer to his cinematic receptions. Even though all types of performance are collaborative in nature, in the case of these three films the GreekCypriot director was the guiding hand that shaped the final product in accordance with a very personal creative vision. Cacoyannis was involved in all aspects of the trilogy’s production. He was instrumental in raising the funds needed to make the films. He chose his actors and worked closely with them to ensure that they delivered the performances he needed to fulfil his directorial vision.11 He also selected his other key collaborators, for example, enlisting the well-known Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis (1925–) to provide the soundtrack for all three movies. Cacoyannis wrote the scripts for Electra and Iphigenia, and in the case of The Trojan Women chose Edith Hamilton’s translation.12 He also directed all three films. In this he resembles other independent filmmakers who value their freedom of expression and find it hard to work within the Hollywood studio system.13 In his oeuvre, Cacoyannis appropriated what he felt he could use from Hollywood in

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terms of narrative style and technique, but invested them with his own unique directorial style (Karalis 2012: 69). Cacoyannis also largely worked on the trilogy independently of the Greek Film Industry, the studio system that gave him the opportunity to launch his directorial career.14 The anti-war spectacles portrayed in the trilogy and the way they seek to manipulate the viewer into adopting this interpretation of Euripides’ source dramas are, therefore, very much the product of Cacoyannis’ directorial design. Cacoyannis’ Euripidean trilogy thus deliberately constructs an alternative view of the events surrounding the War at Troy. Instead of portraying it as a patriotic war, as the Greek junta (1967–74) did,15 Cacoyannis chose instead to emphasize the cruelty of the Greeks towards their defeated opponents, even going so far as to side with the Trojans in The Trojan Women. In Iphigenia, the director explored the corrupt motives behind the decision to go to war. For Cacoyannis the Trojan War was an expedition led by corrupt, self-aggrandizing politicians, who lured the Greek army to their banner with promises of gold and plunder. The impact on the non-combatants left behind brings the trilogy full circle. The revenge that Clytemnestra exacts for Agamemnon’s decision not to prevent their daughter’s sacrifice, foreshadowed in Iphigenia, is depicted in Electra, and triggers a cycle of violence that eventually utterly destroys the House of Atreus. In a number of interviews he granted, Cacoyannis stressed the universality of Greek tragedy, and often sought to avoid explicit connections to specific contemporary events.16 His statements must, however, be balanced by an acknowledgement of the ways in which the historical, political and cultural context shaped his trilogy. Cacoyannis’ interpretation of Euripides was conditioned by his experience of living through the Blitz in London during World War Two, the political, social and economic upheavals in Greece in the 1950s and 1960s, the dictatorship of the Colonels, and the Turkish invasion of his home island of Cyprus in 1974.17 His response to these events was to turn to Greek tragedy and enlist its ‘cultural capital’ (Van Steen 2010a: 23)18 in the service of his directorial vision. Cacoyannis used Euripides’ ancient Greek dramas as a powerful tool of resistance by creating a series of poignant anti-war spectacles.

The performance of grief as an act of resistance Cacoyannis’ condemnation of war in general, and of the War at Troy in particular, is exemplified in the dedication that appears, in capitals, at the very end of his Trojan Women:


War as Spectacle


The decision to include this statement, which Cacoyannis firmly believed was supported by no less an authority than Euripides himself,19 was a gesture of defiance towards the military regime that had seized control of Greece in April 1967 (Siafkos 2009: 187). Cacoyannis’ decision to remain in voluntary exile until the fall of the dictatorship (Siafkos 2009: 166) meant that, unlike the other two films in the trilogy, The Trojan Women was shot in Spain with an international cast speaking in English.20 Given Cacoyannis’ public defiance of their interpretation of the classical past,21 it is little wonder that the regime of the Colonels banned the film in Greece (Goff 2009: 85). One of Cacoyannis’ most radical changes to the dramatic text of the Troades was his decision to alter the prologue by omitting the divine meeting between Poseidon and Athena (Troades 1–97). He thus refocused the ancient drama solely on the mortal plane and removed the measure of distance that this unusual divine opening provides. The director replaced Euripides’ prologue with a spectacle of violence, designed to arouse viewer sympathy for the fate of the once proud city of Troy. Instead of the Olympian perspective offered by Athena and Poseidon,22 who agree on the punishment of the Greeks for their desecration of the temples (Troades 65–97), the opening scenes of the film are set in the ruins of Troy. The Trojan Women begins with Greek soldiers emerging out of the darkness, as the veil of smoke rising from the ruins of the city swirls across the camera’s field of vision creating an atmospheric nighttime scene. The camera tracks the soldiers as they violently herd their Trojan captives. The women are manhandled (see Fig.  16.1). Among the very first sounds heard in the movie is a wail of anguish, as mothers are forcibly separated from their children. A cry of ‘My child, my child’ is heard, the first words uttered in the film, foreshadowing the suffering of Hecuba (Katharine Hepburn) who, in Cacoyannis’ reading of Euripides’ source text, becomes an emblematic mater dolorosa. The anti-war interpretation of the play is reinforced by the authorial commentary provided by an omniscient narrator in the prologue, who indicts the Greeks for their cruelty and avarice,23 making it clear that the real casus belli was their desire to plunder Troy. Helen’s abduction supplied the Greeks with the perfect excuse to indulge their greed for Trojan ‘Gold’, a word that the narrator

The Anti-War Spectacle


Figure 16.1 The Greek soldiers’ violent treatment of their female prisoners of war. Copyright ©The Michael Cacoyannis Foundation.

repeats to drive the point home. The director utilizes the freeze frame technique (the action pauses momentarily) to draw the viewer’s attention to a wagon carrying golden objects, thus visually reinforcing the narrator’s commentary, especially when this wagon is juxtaposed with the ones transporting their human cargo. The last couple of lines from Euripides’ prologue are retained in modified form and voiced by the omniscient narrator: ‘Oh fools, men who lay a city waste, so soon to die themselves’ (McDonald 1983: 195). In the source text, the Greeks are not condemned because they sacked Troy, but because they have disrespected the goddess Athena, their ally in the war, by violating her sanctuaries (Kovacs 1999: 25, n. 5): μῶρος δὲ θνητῶν ὅστις ἐκπορθεῖ πόλεις, ναοὺς δὲ τύμβους θ’, ἱερὰ τῶν κεκμηκότων, ἐρημί.α δοὐς αὐτὸς ὤλεθ’ ὕστερον. (Euripides Troades, 95–7)


War as Spectacle

Foolish is the mortal who sacks cities and yet, after giving over to desolation temples and tombs, holy places of the dead, perishes later himself. (trans. Kovacs 1999: 23 and 25)

This opening spectacle of male violence against women sets the scene and predisposes the audience to respond by empathizing with the plight of the women of Troy and rejecting the Greeks’ brutality. Cacoyannis thus focuses the viewer’s attention on one aspect of Euripides drama, what H. D. F. Kitto labelled the play’s ‘monotone of mourning for Troy’ (Kitto 1961: 259). The director portrays Hecuba’s sorrows in such a way as to offer his audience an unrelenting spectacle of suffering from which there is no relief. Cacoyannis wished to emphasise the drama’s ‘emotional power’ (Goff 2009: 10) and its impact on audiences, both ancient and modern. But, in particular, I would argue, contemporary viewers whose moral outrage against war and injustice he hoped to arouse. Hecuba’s encounters with her daughter Cassandra (Genevieve Bujold), daughter-in-law Andromache (Vanessa Redgrave), and finally Helen (Irene Papa), build up her portrait in the film as the tragic former queen of Troy. It is the meeting with Andromache in particular, however, that offers Cacoyannis the opportunity to stage another moving spectacle of female suffering, and epitomizes the director’s denunciation of all such abuses of power. The Greek messenger Talthybius (Brian Blessed) brings the news of Andromache’s fate and that of her son, prince Astyanax (Alberto Sanz). She is to be Neoptolemus’ slave and her son will die. Andromache’s immediate response is a wordless cry of denial that increases in volume and intensity. Persecuted by Talthybius she attempts to protect Astyanax with her own body (see Fig. 16.2). Unable to escape, she frantically runs around until defeated she falls to the ground clutching her son in her arms. As she utters Andromache’s final words to Astyanax (Troades 740–79), Redgrave suits actions to words. She holds onto her son’s arm, embraces him and smells his hair, thus creating a multi-sensory spectacle of maternal love and grief. The only way she can finally let go is by flinging him away and refusing to look at him, even when Astyanax tries to rouse her by shaking her. She has already performed her own ritual gesture of mourning for her son by throwing fistfuls of dusty earth on her head and body. It is left up to Hecuba to bury the young prince, since the ship that carries Andromache to Greece sets sail as Astyanax meets his fate. The director’s strategy in creating this anti-war spectacle was to appeal to the emotions of his viewers by intensifying the portrayal of a

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Figure 16.2 Andromache’s attempt to protect Astyanax. Copyright ©The Michael Cacoyannis Foundation.

mother’s anguish when she is forcibly separated from her child, a child that has been condemned to die because his father was Troy’s best warrior. In Cacoyannis’ film, Homeric kleos is definitely not worth the price of the human misery it brings. Cacoyannis intensifies the impact of the death of Astyanax by partly lifting the veil on the off-stage spaces of Greek tragedy to reveal to his audience how the Greeks kill the prince of Troy.24 A soldier walks Astyanax to the top of a wall and pushes him over. Dizzying camera movements intermingle with shots of the wall, rocky outcroppings and the ground to suggest the manner of Astyanax’s death without actually showing it. This spectacle of death reinforces Cacoyannis’ portrayal of the Greek army and its leaders as unjust and cruel. Cacoyannis further amplifies the effect of Astyanax’s death by extending Euripides’ ‘hurried


War as Spectacle

inhumation’ (Mirto 2007, trans. Osborne 2012: 85) and offering a spectacle of mourning. In The Trojan Women, a procession transports the body to its burial site, so Astyanax enjoys a longer ekphora (Mirto 2007, trans. Osborne 2012: 81–4) in the film. The chorus sings a lament scored by Theodorakis’ music.25 What marks this ritual as aberrant is the fact that it is an all-female affair. In antiquity men usually led the procession, while women followed lamenting (Stears 2008: 142). The only men in this scene are the Greek soldiers who guard the women. They are not there in a supportive role, but as the women’s oppressors. The final anti-war spectacle in the film leaves its audience with an after-image of the ruins of Troy burning as the women are forced to march to the Greek ships waiting to take them away from their beloved city. In this scene the enforced discipline that the Greek soldiers impose on the women is portrayed in negative terms, inverting the Greek junta’s valorization of military discipline and ordered physical movement (see Van Steen’s discussion, Ch. 15 this volume). The sequence begins with a group of soldiers with torches rushing to the walls of Troy at twilight, and setting the ruins of the city alight to the tune of Theodorakis’ atonal music of clashing cymbals, thrumming large drums, and metal chimes. The large drums take over until the heartbeat of Troy is gradually silenced. At first the women try to resist the Greek soldiers’ roundup, mirroring the opening scene of the film (Fig. 16.1). Hecuba’s attempted suicide is thwarted by Talthybius. He picks her up bodily and returns her to the group even though he sympathizes with her and her desire to burn with her fallen city. The chorus leader bitterly asks ‘Have we deserved them?’, referring to their present sufferings, which sparks off the Trojan women’s final lament for their city. The women prostrate themselves on the ground and clutch handfuls of earth. Cacoyannis visually connects them with the soil of their homeland by focusing on a hand desperately holding onto a handful of earth. ‘Did you hear? Did you know? The fall of Troy,’26 the women cry out, drawing out the last sentence for added emphasis. Hepburn as Hecuba mirrors her earlier actions at the beginning of the film. She painfully raises herself off the ground to face her terrible fate with dignity. It is the former queen who resignedly starts the women moving again towards the Greek ships. There is no sense of epic kleos in Cacoyannis’ The Trojan Women, because the spectacle is actually geared towards undermining the glory of the Trojan War. It is only the nobility of the victims that is implicitly being endorsed. In the film the famous conquest of the city of Troy is not a great victory to be celebrated, but a terrible injustice committed by the Greeks, thus reversing the paradigm that the Greek dictators wished to establish (see Van Steen, Ch. 15 this volume).

The Anti-War Spectacle


Darkness has fallen by the time the camera focuses on the women and their emotional farewell to their city. At the very end there are no more words, and the camera takes over and follows the women as a silent narrator. The Trojan women, led by Hecuba, slowly walk up a hill and off the screen followed by the Greek soldiers as the end titles roll, eventually leaving a barren landscape shrouded in mist and darkness. Cacoyannis’ dedication appears on screen, thus completing the narrative circle that began with the opening shots of the burning ruins of Troy and the Greek soldiers’ manhandling of their female captives. The traditional mourning period in archaic and classical Athens was thirty days (Stears 2008: 142), allowing the mourners to gradually return from a place of liminality to normal civic life. The Trojan women experience instead a complete break with their previous lives. They are now slaves taken away from everything they know. The film dwells on the forced partings from both living and dead relatives. The women’s rituals are continually being cut short, and/or left incomplete, most memorably Andromache’s farewell to her son coupled by her enforced absence from Astyanax’s funerary rites, and the last survivors’ final farewell to Troy. Karalis argues that in his The Trojan Women, Cacoyannis ‘inundated a classical tragedy with . . . sentimentalism’ (Karalis 2012: 156). I agree that the film deliberately seeks to destroy any critical distance between the viewers and the suffering they witness, making them complicit in the pain and degradation of the women in the hopes of arousing their indignation against the human cost of war. Some of my students could not bear to look at some of Cacoyannis’ more poignant anti-war spectacles. They looked away at key moments, in effect testifying to the success of the director’s design for his interpretation of the ancient tragedy. Many more have described the film as ‘moving’. But what would the play’s intended audience have made of it in 415 bce ? As classicists, this is a question that continues to engage us even though the simple answer is that we can never really know. The play’s first audience would have experienced the Troades as the third play in Euripides’ loosely connected tetralogy, which also included the Alexandros, Palamedes, and the satyr-play Sisyphus. Witnessing the acute suffering of the Trojan women in the third drama, after they have already watched them ignore the prophecy that Alexandros (the alternative name for Paris) would bring disaster to Troy, blunts some of the impact of their laments. The reinstatement of Paris as a prince of Troy in spite of the prophecy, reinforced in the play by Cassandra (fr. 62e–h),27 indicates that at the very least the Trojans contributed to their own destruction. The second play, Palamedes, moves the action to the Greek camp and features a hero who is falsely accused, tried and executed due to the dolos (deceit) of the wily Odysseus (Scodel 2012: xx). Both


War as Spectacle

sides behave in ways that reflect badly on them, and the Trojans are not the innocent victims they are often portrayed to be in modern productions. As far as the ancient Athenians were concerned the Trojans were their traditional enemy, and the Trojan War a fact of history (Mills 2010: 177). It is worth stressing that Cacoyannis is far from alone is interpreting Euripides’ Troades as an indictment of war. The anti-war interpretation of the drama has turned a previously largely ignored play into one of the most popular and most often staged ancient dramas on the theme of war in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (Goff 2009: 78–80; Mills 2010: 164–5). To briefly mention just two landmark examples of this trajectory in the play’s reception history from either end of this chronological spectrum: the staging of Gilbert Murray’s translation of the drama at the Royal Court Theatre in London (1905) as a form of protest against the Boer War (Goff 2009: 79), and the performances organized by the Syria Trojan Women project (2013, and on tour in 2014), created as a therapeutic tool for Syrian women refugees.28 It is the permeability of Greek tragedy to multiple interpretations that continue to fascinate us and keeps us returning to them again and again. But it is equally important to recognize that the anti-war reading of the Troades is an entirely modern interpretation of the drama. War was a fact of life for the play’s intended fifth century bce Athenian audience. The capture of cities, the execution of their male population, and the enslavement of the women and children was accepted practice (Pritchard 2010: 20). The play might allow room for the negative aspects of war, pain, and suffering, to find expression, but that does not mean that it condemns war outright. Making war was a central activity of the polis of Athens, particularly in the fifth century bce . Training for and fighting in wars was a key component of Athenian male identity (Mills 2010: 180). Athens lavished huge sums of money on its armed forces, much more than it spent on mounting the dramatic festivals (Pritchard, 2015: 114–15). To what degree members of the audience attending the first performance of the play would have sympathized with the Trojans’ plight is therefore at the very least questionable.29 The drama’s contemporary parallels with Athens’ conduct towards the inhabitants of the conquered island of Melos in 416 bce have been endlessly debated in classical scholarship.30 Tragedy’s deliberate ambiguity leaves room for multiple co-existing interpretations, and it goes without saying that ancient spectators would have responded to the play in accordance with their own individual background, life experiences, and attitudes. Despite the obvious appeal to theatre practitioners and modern audiences alike of the view that Euripides’ drama is ‘the most shattering and complete condemnation of the atrocities of war’ (Taylor 1990: x), what this reading actually does is to close

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down the play’s interpretative possibilities by enlisting it in the modern fight against conflict and violence. Euripides’ engagement with the theme of war is much more complex than this one-note reading allows. All the evidence suggests that his tetralogy offered its ancient spectators a far more balanced account of the Trojan War than modern productions of the single surviving play do. Ancient spectators were therefore far more likely to be able to maintain a greater degree of critical distance than modern viewers watching Cacoyannis’ reception of Euripides’ dramas.31 The director’s anti-war spectacles (and I only have enough space to examine some key ones in the present work) are specifically designed to rouse the viewer’s indignation by focusing almost exclusively on the human cost of war. Cacoyannis eliminated or subsumed all elements in his source texts that do not fit in with his anti-war interpretation of Euripides’ dramas.

Dying for Hellas and the denunciation of war The director continued this line of attack in his next film Iphigenia. Karalis criticizes the film for being infused with ‘the Hollywood aesthetic of the grand spectacle’ (Karalis 2012: 183). His view should be balanced, however, by the centrality of spectacle in the genre of Greek tragedy itself (Mills 2010: 167). The ancient Greeks did not share our modern, overwhelmingly negative, view of spectacle. The Greek word ‘theatron’ designated a ‘place of viewing’ (Kyle 2007: 10), and we know from ancient sources that one of the major draws of Greek drama for its first audiences was its visual appeal (Green 1999: 37–8).32 In the absence of a Hollywood budget, Cacoyannis created a different kind of cinematic spectacle in Iphigenia. He offers us a critique of the Greek army, its leaders, and war more generally, by juxtaposing the world of the Greek encampment against the domestic world of Agamemnon’s family. In the ensuing clash, Clytemnestra and Iphigenia’s world is destroyed by the demands of politics and the drive towards war. The spectacular opening scenes of Iphigenia focus the viewer’s attention on the Greek army stranded at Aulis. One of the film’s opening shots focuses on a spear, and is succeeded by a close-up of other abandoned pieces of armour. More abandoned shields and spears are on display on the Greek ships, their sails hanging limply. We hear before we see the Greek army, the wordless noise of a large crowd. Idle, hot, and hungry the soldiers are on the point of revolt. The army’s discomfort and discontent are underlined both visually and aurally in these scenes. The camera lingers on large crowds of soldiers at the beach desultorily bathing, or walking, or simply lying about to a soundtrack of


War as Spectacle

insistent cicadas. The threat of violence is ever present, as is explosively revealed when the soldiers’ frustration boils over and they direct their anger against their leader. Agamemnon (Kostas Kazakos) appears on horseback and the assembled soldiers reluctantly open up a corridor to let him pass. One man faints and blocks Agamemnon’s path. His fellow soldiers refuse to pick him up, despite Agamemnon’s command. A great cry of ‘Πότε;’ (‘When?’) goes up and the threatened loss of control becomes a reality. This key early scene reveals that the Greek army has become an ‘όχλος’ (unruly mob),33 that is tired of waiting to sail to Troy and demands action from its leaders. In a visually arresting night scene the Greek army comes close to mutiny bursting into Agamemnon’s enclosure loudly demanding action (see Fig. 16.3). Their anxious leaders meet to discuss the situation and to think of ways of pacifying the soldiers. It is then that Calchas (Dimitris Aronis) makes his famous pronouncement that Artemis demands the sacrifice of Iphigenia. Cacoyannis, however, makes it clear that he is motivated not by any divine command, but by personal resentment against Agamemnon for commandeering the stores of the priesthood in a raid that led to the accidental slaughter of the sacred

Figure 16.3 The Greek army demands action. Copyright ©The Michael Cacoyannis Foundation.

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deer. By including these large-scale scenes of the Greek army, Cacoyannis radically shifted the focus of the drama. In Euripides the Greek army is located off-stage – Cacoyannis brings it centre stage. In his Iphigenia, the army is never long out of shot. He used his camera(s) to make ‘the audience constantly aware of its [the army’s] presence’ (McDonald 1983: 144). The army thus exerts direct pressure on Agamemnon to carry out the sacrifice of his daughter. The soldiers’ vocal and enthusiastic support of the plan to sacrifice Iphigenia implicates them directly in her death. Cacoyannis illuminated the off-stage space of Greek tragedy with his camera thus inscribing his own agenda onto the problematic text of Iphigenia at Aulis. The film concludes with one last grand spectacle, Iphigenia (Tatiana Papamoschou) going to her death watched by the entire Greek army. A detachment of soldiers is dispatched to bring her to the altar, and the army opens up a corridor through which she walks heading up the hill to her death. The sacrifice thus becomes a spectacle implicating the viewers in the act of watching as the heroine is sacrificed on the altar of Greek irredentist ambitions (see Fig. 16.4). This final spectacle undermines her patriotic rhetoric outlined in the preceding ‘change of heart’ scene. She might be courageous and patriotic, but the

Figure 16.4 The army as spectators to the sacrifice. Copyright ©The Michael Cacoyannis Foundation.


War as Spectacle

rhetoric of Hellenic honour is revealed to be hollow and empty. This is symbolically demonstrated in the film by the winds starting to blow as Iphigenia climbs to the altar. Realizing the meaninglessness of her father’s rhetoric that persuaded her to accept her fate in the first place, she makes a last minute attempt to escape. She is seized by the priests and killed by Calchas. The last image of her as disappearing in the mist is another of Cacoyannis’ compromises in depicting the off-stage death acts of Greek tragedy. Cacoyannis’ decision to emphasize the presence of the soldiers in the film demonstrates the centrality of their role in his reinterpretation of the ancient drama. Their spontaneous and vocal support of the sacrifice directly implicates them in the oppression of the innocent. Ironically the ancient Greek army was played by modern Greek soldiers doing their military service, a sign of the changed climate after the fall of the dictatorship and the return to democracy.34 Cacoyannis reinforced his anti-war interpretation of Iphigenia at Aulis by emphasizing the mother–daughter bond between Clytemnestra (Irene Papa) and Iphigenia. He added several scenes that portrayed it as a supportive and loving relationship torn apart by Agamemnon’s fear of the army and his ambition to lead it against Troy. This interpretation of the Trojan War, so markedly opposed to its use by the Greek Right, was motivated by the director’s liberal agenda and his own experience of war, in particular his decision to film a documentary on his home island of Cyprus recording the aftermath of the Turkish invasion (1974). This experience coloured Cacoyannis’ view of Iphigenia at Aulis and contributed to his negative portrayal of the Greek army and its leaders. He also sought to valorize the innocent, if naive Iphigenia. The young heroine’s abandonment by her male relatives, and her sacrifice at the altar of their ambitions, as well as to the bloodlust of the Greek army, become symbolic of the suffering of Cyprus (Bakogianni 2013a: 217). Iphigenia becomes a ‘victim of power’ (Knippschild 2013: 313).35 The viewer is manipulated into empathizing with her point of view, and the spectacle of her final moments becomes the tragic culmination of Cacoyannis’ film. The camera’s eye is obscured by mist, but there is no last-minute rescue. Cacoyannis fulfils a modern audience’s expectations of Greek tragedy by jettisoning the contested happy ending of Iphigenia at Aulis, in which the goddess Artemis substitutes a stag for the young girl.36 His film ends on a tragic note, with the death of Iphigenia and Clytemnestra’s baleful gaze, full of the promise of revenge, bringing the trilogy full-circle. In Iphigenia, as in The Trojan Women, there are several scenes of embattled motherhood: Hecuba, Andromache and Clytemnestra all fight desperately, but ultimately fail to save their children. Ideologically, the women are ranged on the

The Anti-War Spectacle


opposite side of the Greek army and its leaders. Cacoyannis even reversed his earlier negative portrayal of Clytemnestra that was such a striking feature of his Electra. In Iphigenia, Clytemnestra is portrayed sympathetically as a loving mother who is fighting for the life of her child. Towards the end of the film, when she realizes that she has failed in her mission, the affinities between the tragic heroine and the grieving mothers of Cyprus in Cacoyannis’ documentary Attila 74 (1975) are particularly striking, especially on the visual plane. Attila 74 highlights the plight of the Greek refugees, in particular Cypriot mothers whose children died or went missing during the invasion. Cacoyannis recorded several interviews with exiles in the refugee camps, and in one scene he memorably focused on one mother lamenting at the grave of her dead son. Her lamentation and the anguish revealed on her face resemble Clytemnestra’s facial expressions and her cries of grief over her daughter’s impending death. The verbal and physical violence that Clytemnestra commits in Iphigenia are largely aimed against Agamemnon, and we watch him literally sweat his way through their highly charged confrontation. At the end, Clytemnestra blames the army when she realizes its key role in the unfolding events. All her actions are in the service of her desperate desire to save Iphigenia and the film presents them as the natural feelings of a loving mother. Cacoyannis thus enlists Greek tragedy in the battle against oppression by focusing on the human cost of war on non-combatants. His emphasis on the destruction of the mother–child bond epitomizes his portrayal of war as a spectacle of violence against women and children, motivated by male lust for power and plunder. His Euripidean trilogy is a landmark of a wider trend in the twentieth century that saw the radicalization of Greek tragedy and its use in support of more liberal agendas (Hall 2004: 1).37 The anti-war spectacles in Cacoyannis’ The Trojan Women and Iphigenia are paradigmatic of the ways in which Greek tragedy was conscripted in the service of a liberal agenda and the anti-war movement in the 1960s and 1970s.

The violent legacy of war Electra is the least political of all of Cacoyannis’ films released during a turbulent but democratic period in Greece’s modern history (cf. Chiasson 2013). The focus is on the domestic spectacle of a family being torn apart in the aftermath of the war at Troy. The film begins, however, with a martial spectacle: the return of Agamemnon (Theodoros Demetriou) greeted by cheering crowds waving branches. Theodorakis’ martial music accompanies him as he marches up the


War as Spectacle

ramp and through the famous Lions’ Gate of Mycenae (see Fig.  16.5). Agamemnon’s costume includes a helmet, large shield and sword, and he passes a line of armed soldiers on his way to greet his family. This martial spectacle is succeeded by one of violent death in Cacoyannis’ added prologue: the murder of the king in his bath. Agamemnon removes his armour, the symbol of his successful martial life, thus leaving himself vulnerable to attack. Wreathed in steam, the royal bathroom becomes a claustrophobic space in which the king is trapped in a net and killed by Clytemnestra (Aleka Katseli) and Aegistus (Phoebus Razis). The viewer does not see the killing blow fall, but we do see and hear Clytemnestra’s command to ‘Strike’, and see Aegisthus raise the axe. Clytemnestra’s actions set her on a collision course with Electra. The internal division of the family is graphically demonstrated in the added scene of Electra’s visit to Agamemnon’s tomb. Her ritual of mourning is interrupted by Aegisthus’ vicious attack and the defilement of the tomb (merely reported in Euripides, 323–31). Aegisthus, accompanied by his henchmen, terrorizes Electra and the chorus from horseback. The scene emphasizes the women’s vulnerability by

Figure 16.5 Agamemnon’s triumphal return. Copyright ©The Michael Cacoyannis Foundation.

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adopting their point of view cowering before the horses and their riders.38 Aegisthus proceeds to have Electra physically restrained as a demonstration of his power over her (see Fig. 16.6). Her defiance angers him and he strikes her,

Figure 16.6 Aegisthus terrorizes Electra. Copyright ©The Michael Cacoyannis Foundation.


War as Spectacle

turning himself into the villain of the piece. Electra’s humble offerings at her father’s tomb are also brutally swept aside. In contrast to this spectacle of male violence against women, in Cacoyannis’ earliest cinematic reception of Greek tragedy, stands the female chorus’ communal support of the heroine. Like the chorus of Trojan women and the attendants of Iphigenia in the films that followed, women form strong support networks in order to survive male aggression. All elements of this scene are designed to manipulate the audience into taking Electra’s side, even her short hair.39 In classical antiquity short hair was ‘a mark of grief ’, but it could also be the mark of a slave (Stears 2008: 141). In the film it quickly becomes clear that Electra is in a sense both mourner and slave, but a defiant, not a servile one. In the film she cuts her own hair in an early scene, both as a mark of her continued grief for her father, but also in reaction to the edict that she has to marry the peasant. Electra turns her defiance into a spectacle designed to oppose the power of the ruling couple. The early scenes of the Argive population’s support of Electra are echoed in another spectacular celebration that is also reminiscent of Agamemnon’s victorious return. The populace celebrate Orestes’ killing of Aegisthus with a torch-lit procession through the countryside, thus endorsing it and validating Orestes’ revenge. This night-time spectacle, however, celebrates not victory in war, but a private killing. Agamemnon returns in full sunlight, but he is avenged in darkness. Even the celebration of this longed-for event takes place in darkness, as does Electra’s rant over Aegisthus’ dead body. His death foreshadows Clytemnestra’s murder in the darkness of the hut. Any feelings of unease in the earlier scenes are consolidated during this second killing. Crucially, the siblings also lose the people’s support after they carry out the matricide. Electra might be the clear winner of the agon (verbal battle) with her mother,40 but the mood changes when Clytemnestra enters the hut and is set upon by both her children. Cacoyannis veils the horror of the matricide in shadows, but shows his viewers enough to shock them into re-evaluating the justice of the siblings’ desire for revenge. Electra is fully implicated in this crime, as she herself admits – she is the one who planned the matricide and helped, indeed pushed, her brother into executing it. The point is visually made by a shot of Electra’s bloody hands over the corpse of her mother (see Fig.  16.7). Cacoyannis abandoned the deus ex machina Euripidean ending in favour of a bleak spectacle of heroic self-exile. Riven by guilt, the siblings leave their home and go into self-exile because they have lost the people’s support as the appalled face of the chorus leader vividly demonstrates. Cacoyannis meditates on the qualities and qualifications for good leadership, as he valorizes Orestes’ and Electra’s choice to go into self-exile. The

The Anti-War Spectacle


Figure 16.7 The matricide. Copyright ©The Michael Cacoyannis Foundation.

loss of the people’s support should ideally entail a voluntary relinquishment of power. A message that was particularly relevant in the politically turbulent atmosphere of Greek politics in the early 1960s (Bakogianni 2011: 191). The siblings’ actions in Electra are a direct consequence of the war at Troy, the lead-up to it at Aulis, and the destruction of the Trojans and their city. Positioning Electra as the opening film in Cacoyannis’ Euripidean trilogy sharpens these connections. Examining the reception process itself leads to an acknowledgment that the act of ‘seeing’ all three films irrevocably alters our understanding of Electra, and its connections with the two films that followed. In terms of the ancient narrative, Electra depicts the end of the story, but the shadow of the Trojan War becomes heavier once we have witnessed the anti-war spectacles of The Trojan Women and Iphigenia. Cacoyannis connects the acts of violence committed by the Greeks at Troy in The Trojan Women to the human sacrifice in its prequel Iphigenia, but by extension the same applies to Electra. Viewed as a whole, Cacoyannis’ Euripidean trilogy condemns war by


War as Spectacle

focusing on the suffering it brings to women and children, and its corrupting power over men.

Conclusions Cacoyannis harnessed the power of cinematic realism to immerse his audience in a series of spectacles of conflict and violence. His characters cry, scream, shout in anger and/or fear, lament, fight, are physically abused, kill, and are killed. The director utilized Theodorakis’ soundtrack to good effect, and added other sound effects (for example, the noise of the cicadas and the din of the Greek army at the beginning of Iphigenia) to create a rich soundscape that reinforces his visuals. Cacoyannis strove to offer a multi-sensory experience to his audience by focusing on small details that give the viewer the illusion of being part of the action. Andromache’s desperate attempt to protect Astyanax, her poignant last farewell to her son where she gently strokes his arm, the final scene of The Trojan Women when the women desperately clutch handfuls of Trojan soil, a sweaty Agamemnon confronting his family in Iphigenia weighted down by his guilt, the sound of the wind rustling Iphigenia’s clothes as she ascends to her death, the murder of Agamemnon in the steamy bath, Orestes and Electra’s violent attack on their mother in the hut, these are just some of the highlights of the immersive spectacles on offer in his cinematic receptions of Greek tragedy. Cacoyannis aligned himself with the anti-war protest movement that rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s, but he gave it a particularly modern Greek focus. He ‘disguised’ his political commentary of contemporary events by discussing them through the medium of Greek tragedy. This distancing technique allowed him to explore this theme in ‘universal’ terms. Cacoyannis subverted the Greek Right’s interpretation of the Trojan War as a patriotic and justified war with recourse to the authority of Greek tragedy. His view that Euripides’ dramas promoted an anti-war agenda was current both in academia and in theatrical practice in this period (and continues to be so in the latter). His particular focus on the events surrounding the war at Troy can be construed as a response to the Greek Right’s glamorization of both ancient and modern wars. Cacoyannis replaced the aggrandizing and irredentist spectacles of the Greek Right with a filmic spectacle of violence thus debunking and denouncing right-wing ideology and their view of war by promoting an alternative, more liberal viewpoint. In his Euripidean trilogy, Cacoyannis explicitly located one of the main lines of connection between ancient and modern Greece in the radical potential

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of tragic women’s mourning: ‘Women in Euripides are always raising their voices against oppression’ (McDonald and Winkler 2001: 75). But as Gail HolstWarhaft argues, ‘grief can always be manipulated for political ends’ (HolstWarhaft 2000: 5). Cacoyannis’ multi-sensory, anti-war spectacles are designed to rouse his audience’s outrage by moving them to tears.



Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line and Homeric Epic Spectacle, Simile, Scene and Situation Jon Hesk University of St Andrews

Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line (1998, hereafter TTRL ) is one of the most unusual war films to come out of Hollywood. It offers a fascinating case study for this volume because it engages with Homer in order to ask questions about the ‘spectacular’ aspects of warfare and their narrativization in film. Martin Winkler has argued that TTRL uses a quote from Homer to critique one of its main characters’ glorification of war (Winkler 2009: 194–5). And yet, concludes Winkler, ‘thematically Malick’s film belongs in the tradition of military epics whose presentation of war is compromised by their emphasis on spectacle or heroics’ (Winkler 2009: 195, my italics). I will show that, on the contrary, the film’s reception of Homer contributes to its very non-traditional and generically self-conscious treatment of ‘spectacle or heroics’. TTRL follows the fortunes of a fictional American unit called ‘C company’ in the savage campaign to take the island of Guadalcanal from the Japanese in 1942–43. It is based on James Jones’ 1962 novel of the same title. Jones was a veteran of Guadalcanal and is best known for his first novel, From Here to Eternity (1951), set during the Second World War. Malick’s TTRL makes significant use of lines, ideas and characterizations from Eternity as well as Line and draws upon Jones’ later writings about combat, ‘transcendentalism’ and Eastern religions (Cain 2000). Another source for Malick’s TTRL is a 1964 film adaptation of Jones’ novel, also called The Thin Red Line, and directed by Andrew Marton. Malick lifts a short portion of dialogue from Marton’s movie and retains some of its elements of characterization. Indeed, TTRL is the subversive, disruptive offspring of the many World War Two combat movies which were released in the two decades after the war had 313


War as Spectacle

ended. As Thomas Doherty puts it, Allan Dwan’s Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) ‘can stand for the lot’ (Doherty 1999: 272). This film stars John Wayne as Marine Sergeant Stryker, a recently-divorced, hard-drinking veteran of Guadalcanal. Stryker’s brutal training methods and toughness set him at odds with two new recruits he is training. When they face real combat, however, these men come to appreciate that Stryker’s harsh teaching is necessary. At the end of the film, when the main battle is all but won, the unit pause for a rest. Stryker professes his happiness and is reconciled with a soldier who had previously railed against Marine Corps machismo, vowing to bring his own new-born son up to be ‘intelligent’ rather than ‘tough’. Stryker is then suddenly and unexpectedly killed by a sniper’s bullet. An unfinished letter to his young son is found; it underlines his softer, more humane side. This ending is juxtaposed with the patriotic strains of the Marine Corps Hymn and the iconic raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi. Marton’s 1964 The Thin Red Line ultimately follows the same generic template as Sands by focusing on the love-hate relationship between the emotionally scarred and cynical Sergeant Welsh (Jack Warden) and a new recruit, Private Doll (Keir Dullea). At the end of the film, Welsh dies, taking a bullet for the now battlehardened Doll. As Stacey Peebles puts it, ‘any cynicism about the futility of war is ultimately undercut by Welsh’s final humanistic and nationalistic action’ (Peebles 2007: 159). However, Marton’s film also contains the same post-war message which Jeanine Basinger identifies in Sands of Iwo Jima, namely ‘the importance of family life’ and the fact that the audience will only avoid ‘this kind of macho mindlessness’ if they ‘change the world and prevent war’ (Basinger 2003: 149–50). TTRL ’s radical subversion of these generic elements is evident even in the way its five main characters are conceived. The film’s closest approximation to a central hero is the caring, spiritual and selfless Private Witt (Jim Cavaziel), a relatively minor and quite selfish figure in Jones’ original novel and not significant in Marton’s film at all. Malick’s Witt shows compassion towards comrades and captured Japanese troops alike. He is closely associated with a notion, often voiced in the film, that human spirit transcends individual identities and subjectivity. As one of the film’s several different and unidentifiable American voice-overs puts it: ‘maybe all men got one big soul who everybody’s a part of. All faces of the same man. One big self.’ Witt thinks that there may be ‘love’, ‘glory’ and ‘calm’ to be found even in the death and suffering wrought by war. His time spent AWOL in an idyllic indigenous village by the sea occupies the film’s opening 20 minutes and informs his view that there is ‘another world’. This ‘other world’ is primarily a pre-lapsarian Eden which contrasts with the fallen ‘world’ of war to which Witt is forcibly returned.

Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line


Witt, however, also perceives the world of war as a place where goodness, righteousness and the true ‘glory’ of human love are immanent as his ‘other world’. Towards the film’s conclusion, Witt will die saving other young and scared members of his patrol by making himself a decoy. The Japanese troops who surround him want him to surrender, but with a look of ‘calm’ on his face he appears to choose death by raising his rifle. Thus, the age-old generic expectation of a heroic self-sacrifice in combat is superficially satisfied. But at a deeper level that expectation and its associated notions of nationalistic purpose and machismo are subverted by Witt’s gentle spirituality. Witt does not seem to feel that he has a discrete, individuated ‘self ’ or ‘soul’ to sacrifice. And his death feels like an accomplishment of his own mission to achieve oneness with the glory of a transcendent ‘other world’. Witt embodies a conception of heroism and glory which departs from the most obvious aspects of that conception which we find both in Homer and the traditional war film. And yet we will see that Malick draws from and illuminates a different aspect of Homer’s epic vision of war by photographing, and commenting upon, nature in such a way that it seems invested with the very transcendent spirit, divinity and ‘glory’ which Witt himself can see. Witt’s philosophical sparring partner is the cynical and nihilistic Sergeant Welsh (Sean Penn). Welsh does risk his life to help his comrades but in contrast to Marton’s version, he does not die in the film. Welsh dismisses Witt’s spiritual transcendentalism: ‘there ain’t no world but this one’. He advises Witt that in a world ‘blowing itself to hell’ all a man can do is ‘look out for himself ’. In the midst of terrible carnage, confusion and suffering, he angrily forbids his captain to recommend him for an entirely warranted commendation for bravery: ‘the whole fucking thing is about property.’ After the film’s main battle, Welsh tells Witt that he only gets lonely around people and asks him if he still believes in the ‘beautiful light’. ‘I still see a spark in you,’ replies Witt. The three other main characters are: the religious and morally-principled leader of C company, Captain Staros (Elias Koteas); his commander and nemesis, the ambitious and ruthless Lt. Colonel Tall (Nick Nolte); and Private Bell (Ben Chaplin), who is delineated through his love for his wife Marty (Miranda Otto). All five of these characters are allowed to express their inner thoughts, fears and longings in philosophical or poetic registers of language which constitute radical elaborations of anything seen in a war film before. TTRL also achieves its unorthodoxy by marrying what is, for Hollywood war films at least, an unusually discontinuous style of editing and story-telling with a highly philosophical and interrogative tone. Thus we are not always sure how


War as Spectacle

successive scenes or shots relate to each other spatio-temporally. Scenes of combat and its aftermath are accompanied by voice-overs of often unidentifiable American and Japanese soldiers who ask questions about human warfare’s purpose in, and relationship to, nature and the apparent amoral cruelty of both. For example, a shot of a dead Japanese man’s face, partially buried, is accompanied by this Japanese-accented voice-over in English: Are you righteous? Kind? Does your confidence lie in this? Are you loved by all? Know that I was, too. Do you imagine your sufferings will be less because you loved goodness? Truth?

The film does not provide answers to the many questions posed by these disembodied voices; it is significant that one of the pieces of instrumental music used in its soundtrack is Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question. These reflective, interrogative comments on the film’s spectacular scenes of human violence and natural beauty mark TTRL ’s distance from landmark Hollywood war films which use the authoritative voice-over of one character to make sense of events.1 And in a manner which has no true precedent in previous combat films – even those set in the Vietnam War – the film lingers on painterly and detailed views of beautiful landscapes and sunlit waters, trees bathed in light, exotic animals, and indigenous islanders going about their everyday lives. These breath-taking images of nature disrupt and de-center the film’s more conventionally spectacular narrative of combat, violence, personality clashes and bodily ruination. This approach is less surprising for a spectator who is familiar with Malick’s first two highly-acclaimed films, Badlands (1973) and Days of Heaven (1978), both of which render America’s landscape, flora and fauna ‘as externalizations of inner feelings; the sense that somehow nature possesses an omnipotence and transcendence’ (McCann 2007: 82). But even that spectator could not have anticipated the degree to which TTRL foregrounds nature both visually and thematically. Neither Jones’ novel nor Marton’s 1964 film make any reference to the poetry of Homer. But TTRL has Colonel Tall quote from Homer just before C company launches a costly and terrifying assault: ‘ Ἠώς ῥοδοδάκτυλος’ . . . ‘Rosy Fingered Dawn.’ You’re Greek aren’t you, Captain? D’you ever read Homer? We read Homer at the Point. In Greek.

This line certainly suggests Tall’s ‘pretentiousness’ and dangerous ‘egotism’ (Winkler 2009: 195). Tall seems to view his mission as something that has the mythic significance and grandeur of the war at Troy (Rybin 2012: 127–8).

Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line


The quotation could also been seen as a programmatic comment on Malick’s enduring general interest in the mythologization of American history. His first two films evince this interest (Michaels 2009: 3–4, 45–6). Simon Critchley sees the quote as a key to the film’s own epic scale and mythic texture (Critchley 2009: 12). There is, however, little agreement on what TTRL ’s ‘epic’ or ‘mythic’ qualities amount to in ideological or aesthetic terms. On the negative side, Colin McCabe argued that these qualities constitute a retreat from Jones’s unflinching depiction of America’s citizen army in all its class-ridden, racist and brutalized reality (MacCabe 1999: 12–13). Despite MacCabe’s admiration for the ‘visual spectacle’ of the film, he cannot forgive what he sees as its amnesia about Vietnam’s cinematic legacy, namely the transformation of America’s army which now represents a ‘fatally divided nation no longer convinced of its historically allocated role’ (MacCabe 1999: 14). This ideological sin is committed precisely through TTRL’s representation of C company as ‘engaged in a conflict which is as old as time, which is simply a modern version of the Trojan War’ (MacCabe 1999: 13). On the positive side it is argued that TTRL ’s unorthodox texture disrupts the familiar representation of the Guadalcanal campaign as a foundational myth for modern American imperialism [e.g. Hodgkins (2002), and Streamas (2007)]. TTRL ’s alleged retreat from history into a more mythic and universalized spectacle has also been read as a successful repudiation of the popular filmic construction of World War Two as a ‘good war’: ‘the killing, amply and brilliantly filmed, is, without qualification, presented as a massive manifestation of human evil’ (Bersani and Dutoit 2003: 130–1); ‘Malick’s film, rather than asserting a single truth about WWII [. . .] depicts the search for meaning’ (Rybin 2012: 108).2 Even within these more positive readings, however, Tall’s quotation of Homer is little more than an indication of his negative and deluded interpretation of war. The rest of this chapter will argue that TTRL has an even richer engagement with Homeric poetry than these interpretations suggest. I will begin by presenting new evidence that Homer was a key reference point for Malick, albeit a reference point likely to have been mediated by Heidegger’s reading of Homer and the Pre-Socratics. Then I will show that where the professed ‘anti-war’ sentiment of many recent combat films is undercut by an imperative to entertain and seduce their audiences with spectacular violence and heroic action, Malick’s cinematic translation of Homeric tropes and scenes suggests a different vision of military epic. In this vision the audience is made uncomfortably aware of war’s visual


War as Spectacle

seductions. These seductions are compared with, and ultimately de-centered by, the spectacular wonders of nature and a spiritual ‘other world’ which they reveal. I then argue that Homer’s pervasive use of similes informs Malick’s interrogative presentation of that ‘other world’ and the relationship between the film’s ‘spectacles of war’ and ‘spectacles of nature’. Even if an audience makes no connection between Malick’s presentation and Homer’s ‘world outside’, and even if the director himself didn’t consciously intend to make one, the fact that TTRL shares a concern to juxtapose battle narrative with these other worlds helps to explain how Malick’s film adopts an ‘epic’ texture which is nonetheless very different to that of traditional Hollywood war epics. Finally, I discuss some striking resonances between the film and Homer’s epics and the way in which they help the audience to re-think what I call the ‘seductions of spectacle’ in war and war films.3 Again, these resonances contribute to TTRL’s distinctive epic texture even if they go unnoticed by an audience or were not part of Malick’s intention.

‘All things shining’: Heidegger, Homer and the Pre-Socratics Malick’s films regularly reference, or allude to, works of art and literature, especially well-known paintings, pieces of music and other films. But the director himself has remained largely silent about the significance of this. Malick is a publicity-shy auteur who doesn’t do ‘director’s commentaries’, hasn’t given a proper interview since the 1970s, and is clearly happy to let his films be interpreted in different ways as befits their open, interrogative texture. Nevertheless, his actors and trusted collaborators often give clues to the media about his very intuitive and improvisational approach to film-making. Part of that approach is to ask his designers, producers, directors of photography and actors to draw inspiration from specific works of art, literature and music which he feels to be relevant to the film, often instead of providing them with a script. For example, for his semi-autobiographical film To The Wonder (2013), Malick told the actress Olga Kurylenko to read certain works by Tolstoy and to shape her character by drawing on, and combining, the traits of two specific figures in Dostoevsky’s The Idiot (Maher 2014: 182). In two early interviews about Badlands (1973), Malick discusses the influence of several classic novels on that film [Walker (1975) and Ciment (1975)]. This information suggests that when Nick Nolte’s Colonel Tall quotes from Homer in TTRL , it is part of Malick’s wider vision for the film.

Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line


Indeed, in a television interview which he gave to promote TTRL , Nolte reveals that Malick gave him some pages of poetry to read once shooting had commenced.4 Nolte’s anecdote indicates that the excerpt was quoted directly from Homer and included the phrase ‘ Ἠώς ῥοδοδάκτυλος’. According to Nolte, Malick suggested that the actor recite it, while looking at the dawn sky. Malick’s learnedness and his interest in situating his own work in relation to great narrative literature is clear, but it looks as if his use of Homer for TTRL was also mediated by his knowledge of philosophy. Many scholars argue that Malick’s films engage with the ideas of various continental and American thinkers.5 The writings of Martin Heidegger are felt to be particularly relevant.6 This is because Malick studied philosophy at Harvard and worked on Heidegger under the supervision of Stanley Cavell. After studying for a Philosophy B.Phil in Oxford, Malick then taught phenomenology at MIT and published an English translation of Heidegger’s Vom Wesen des Grundes (Malick 1969). Malick left academic philosophy soon after that to go to film school. In the preface to his second edition of The World Viewed, Cavell argues that Malick’s Days of Heaven had found a way to realize Heideggerian themes of ‘Being’ and ‘presence’ on screen (Cavell 1979: xv). Heidegger’s writings on the Pre-Socratic thinkers often appeal to Homer as an authority. They also reproduce an age-old and popular view of the ancient Greek world as a lost realm in which gods were tangible to mortals. TTRL ’s suggestion that a divine ‘other world’ is manifested in nature and its citation of a Homeric epithet in which a goddess (Dawn) presents herself in the light of a new day, is a ‘reception’ of this view. It is particularly telling that the German philosopher turns to a formulaic line in Homer about the ‘light of the sun’ when he wants to reinforce his reading of Heraclitean alētheia: ‘The verb “ζῆν” means rising into the light. Homer says, “ζῆν καὶ ὁρᾶν φάος ἠελίοιο”’, which Heidegger interprets as ‘to live, and this means to see the light of the sun’ (1954/2000: 266, trans. Farrell Krell and Capuzzi 1975: 116). For Heidegger, life and ‘Being’ itself are a business of coming into the light, of shining: Gods and men are not only lighted by a light – even if a supersensible one – so that they can never hide themselves from it in darkness; they are luminous in their essence. They are alight; they are appropriated into the event of lighting, and therefore never concealed. (Heidegger 1954/2000: 271, trans. Farrell Krell and Capuzzi 1975: 120)

We should recall how Witt sees a ‘spark’ in Welsh and is described as ‘seeing the light’. Indeed, TTRL ’s visual style lends a stunning, luminous quality to the


War as Spectacle

natural world and human characters. Its motifs of sunlight and flame even intimate a belief in divinity and an afterlife. At the very end, the Americans who have survived are bathed in shimmering sunlight as they leave the island on a troop ship. This scene is accompanied by a voice-over, which appears to give expression to Witt’s viewpoint: Darkness, light, strife, and love, are they the workings of one mind, the features of the same face? Oh my soul, let me be in you now. Look out through my eyes, look out through the things you made. All things shining.

The first five words here are redolent of the cosmologies of Heraclitus and Empedocles.7 There is a strong sense then, that the film’s ‘metaphysical’ and ‘spiritual’ point of view is informed by Heidegger’s readings of Homer and the Pre-Socratics. This poetic and philosophical legacy helps Malick to draw our attention towards the spectacular, divine and wondrous qualities of humankind and the world we inhabit. In the context of a military epic, this is a significant disruption of the usual focus on spectacular human violence and heroic military endeavour. For Malick, those spectacles of war over-emphasize the ‘darkness’ and the ‘strife’ in Witt’s question. Thus, war and its conventional narratives – and the latter would include a certain view of Homer as solely concerned with the glorification of heroic violence – offer us only a partial picture of ourselves and the world.8 The full, truer picture must include luminous visions of the human spirit and nature itself, so that the ‘light’ and ‘love’ of the world can be recovered and revealed. However, Malick is aware that the former, partial picture has great seductive power to misrepresent the true nature of the world. As Welsh puts it in a voice-over which accompanies a rousing pep talk from a new commander: ‘Everything a lie. All that you hear and see . . . They want you in their lie. Or they want you dead.’ Witt’s true vision can only win out if war’s seductive deceptions are exposed. In the next section I will show how Malick uses Homeric reference points to perform such an exposure.

The seductions of spectacle Having landed on Guadalcanal unopposed, C company are faced with Tall’s insistence on a frontal assault of a formidable hill-top position. Captain Staros says ‘it can’t be done’ and points out that his men need more water. Tall brushes this aside. Staros then explains the mission to his disbelieving lieutenants and, as dusk falls, we are given the film’s first glimpse of a Japanese point of view: a

Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line


machine-gun position at the top of the hill from the perspective of the gun’s unseen operators. The next scene is shrouded in darkness. Staros sobs with fear and prays to an unnamed deity before what is revealed to be a candle flame: ‘are you here?’ The flame seems to flicker in response but it could just be the breeze. Over a shot of Staros praying we hear his thoughts: ‘Let me not betray you. Let me not betray my men. In you I place my trust’. As a Greek-American, Staros perhaps takes comfort in a semi-recreation of a Holy Week ritual of the Orthodox Church, wherein the priest presents a single lighted candle in the dark to symbolize the salvation that Christ brought into the world. But for Homerically-literate viewers like myself, this scene also evokes night-time moments in the Iliad when heroes pray and sacrifice to the gods for success in battle (e.g. Il. 8.526-52). Staros’ fears also have Homeric analogues: Hector is ashamed to face his own people when he realizes that his own tactical recklessness has led to the death of so many Trojans and yet he is gripped by fear when Achilles closes in on him (Il. 22.99-144). The flame of the candle fades into a breath-taking view of dawn breaking over trees and water. At first, it is only the outline of the flame through which we begin to see the dawn scene. A spectacular shot of rippling fingers of cloud glowing pink-orange follows. We are still watching this sky when we hear Tall’s distinctive voice say in a voice-over: “ ‘ Ἠώς ῥοδοδάκτυλος’ . . . ‘Rosy Fingered Dawn.’ You’re Greek aren’t you, Captain?” The Greek and its translation are at the same sound level as other ‘voiced thoughts’ in the film. But Tall’s next question is at a different sound level which matches the rest of his conversation with Captain Staros over a field radio. That question is accompanied by a shot of Tall himself. The pink sky is behind him. The dialogue continues as follows, with Tall remaining in shot and Staros’ voice coming through more quietly on the radio: Tall: Staros: Tall: Staros: Tall:

D’ you ever read Homer? We read Homer at the Point. In Greek. What kind of artillery support do we have? Over. Two Batteries of 105s. They won’t make a dent on that position. Over. No, but it bucks the men up. It’ll look like the Japs are catching hell.

The hilltop erupts in the orange flame and smoke of the artillery barrage. The faces of the first assault group betray their deep fear. One of the men is even too scared to take part. As the assault begins, Tall is initially pleased by what he can see through his field glasses, but fire from hidden Japanese bunkers pins down the company. Amidst upsetting scenes of carnage and fear, Staros formally refuses Tall’s enraged order across the radio to commit all of C


War as Spectacle

company’s remaining reinforcements to what he regards as the ‘suicide’ of a further push: ‘I’ve lived with these men for two years and I will not order them all to their deaths.’ Tall will not countenance Staros’ alternative suggestion of a flanking manoeuvre and the hill is eventually taken. A disturbing scene of close combat and atrocities follows as C company ‘mop up’ a nearby Japanese camp. During a pause in the fighting, Tall points out to Staros that he must be prepared to sacrifice men in order to win a fight of such strategic importance. Once the battle is won, Tall relieves Staros of his command for being ‘too soft’. Tall’s argument that strategic ends justify heavy casualties is tainted by his personal ambition: To have this battalion relieved in a defeat, or even to have it reinforced from troops from the reserves, if we were to stall before reaching the top, well, Jesus Christ, that’s just a hell of a lot more than I could stand! I’ve waited all my life for this. I’ve worked, slaved, eaten . . . oh, untold buckets of shit to have this opportunity! And I don’t intend to give it up now. You don’t know what it feels like to be passed over.

Tall’s citation of Homer signals that his outlook is flawed and deluded. After all, Homeric warriors are motivated by the desire for kleos (fame, reputation) and timē (honour, ambition), and the Iliad and Odyssey have always been (mis)read as poems which validate warfare as a noble, romantic and natural pursuit. Tall’s attitude seems close to madness in comparison with Staros’ concern for his men. The central combat sequences also provide ample support for the view, as one soldier later puts it, that ‘war don’t ennoble men . . . it turns ’em into dogs.’ This thought is underscored by a shot (at a different point in the film) of wild dogs feeding on soldiers’ corpses. Clearly, then, Malick uses the Iliad and the classical past – or rather Tall’s romanticized view of them – as a foil for the film’s anti-war message.9 Staros the Greek-American is a new ‘Greek hero’, but his modern ‘heroism’ consists in standing up to Tall’s recklessness. It is not a display of Homeric ‘excellence’ (aretē) or ‘manly courage’ (andreia) in battle. We could argue that Staros’ insubordination and the value he places on his men’s lives are authentically Homeric at a different level, because they bring to mind the story of Achilles. Achilles refuses to accept Agamemnon’s authority or fight for much of the Iliad and in the underworld episode of the Odyssey, his ghost makes it clear that any mode of living on earth is better than what comes after death – even a heroic death which achieves the warrior’s immortal kleos (Odyssey 11.487-91). But it is hard to claim that this more subtle level of resonance was in Malick’s mind or that it would be activated in audiences who are not professional

Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line


classicists like myself. On the other hand, the admissibility of such divergent ‘receptions’ of Malick’s own reception of Homer seems appropriate for a film whose enigmatic and interrogative texture seems to invite very subjective and personal interpretations. However, critics have overlooked an aspect of this reception which is both obvious to any viewer and crucial to the film’s treatment of ‘spectacle’: Tall’s matching of Homer’s epithet to the dawn sky is an act of aesthetic appreciation. He understands both the beauty of this natural spectacle and the brilliant aptness of Homer’s encapsulation. Furthermore, Malick goes a long way towards authorizing Tall’s appreciation by allowing ‘ Ἠώς ῥοδοδάκτυλος’ and its translation to be spoken purely in voice-over, and in conjunction with a beautiful image of the sky that confirms the aptness of the epithet. The fact that the epithet denotes the archaic Greek ascription of divinity to Dawn is also significant, given that the image which it describes has emerged from the fading outline of a flame which is itself a possible manifestation of the god to whom Staros prays. Malick hereby defers the epithet’s rhetorical and characterological functions within Tall’s radio conversation in order to suggest something more than mere affectation on Tall’s part. It is important to realize that the decision to have Tall comment on the dawn sky via Homer is not arbitrary. Malick’s habit of using natural light, particularly at the ‘magic hour’ of dawn or sunset, is a signature element of all his films to date. The director suggests to his audiences that Homer’s interest in wondrous beauty, spectacle and nature’s divine underpinnings is akin to his own worldview. And Homer is not just ‘Malickian’ because of this generally ‘mythic’ and ‘poetic’ register. More specifically, Homer uses similes, reminiscences of other places and times and scenes of divine deliberation to frame his heroes’ violent dramas as just one, finite sphere of activity amidst on-going natural processes, everlasting divine intrigues and more peaceful human activities which are always happening elsewhere. Malick’s other ‘trademark’ technique of de-centering his human stories via spectacular and breath-taking shots of nature similarly invites us to place them on a different scale.10 TTRL hints that the Western world’s first war epic (the Iliad) is itself more Malickian than conventional wisdom might imagine. Before I explore these similarities of technique further, let me first return to Tall’s aestheticizing urges. During the initial phase of the attack, Tall makes the following comment over the radio about what he sees through his field glasses: Magnificent, Staros, Magnificent! The finest thing these old eyes have seen in a long time! Beautifully conceived and executed! . . . Whyte led beautifully too!


War as Spectacle

He aestheticizes battle, as well as Homer and nature. Malick offers images that seem complicit in this aestheticization. For example, the smoke plumes and orange flashes of the initial barrage offer an impressive counterpoint to the preceding stunning shots of the dawn sky. Many of the shots of men moving slowly and silently up the hill to higher positions also have a grace and beauty to them. At one point, we see an advancing platoon of men perform a series of ducks and stoops in unison, as the nervousness of one soldier instantly transmits to the whole unit. They look like a flock of birds or a herd of deer responding instinctively to a threat. Anyone who knows their Homer well might compare this shot with Iliad 2.459-68, where the spectacular size and movement of the mustering Greek army are made vivid through an extended comparison to flocks of geese, cranes and swans flying back and forth and then settling in an Asian meadow.11 Indeed, there are many occasions when the movement of Homeric warriors is compared to that of particular birds. Homer’s many bird similes, bird omens and animal similes may well have informed Malick’s decision to convey the movement of C company in a manner which both aestheticizes it as a spectacle and at the same time underscores its affinity with movement in the non-human natural world.12 What Malick is doing here, I think, is drawing attention to the seductiveness of military spectacle by accentuating its affinities with elements of natural beauty. And even though he sometimes resorts to the seductive power of such spectacle himself, Malick uses Tall’s aesthetic pronouncements to make us uncomfortably aware that war movies – at times even his own – work by representing human conflict, death and destruction as something that is impressive and satisfying to look at.13 Tall’s Homer-flecked aestheticism also underlines the dubious uses to which the phenomenon of the ‘spectacular’ is put in a military setting. Although the magnificent artillery barrage is an ineffectual deception designed to boost morale, the fear and reluctance on the men’s faces show that they have not been duped. And, as Tall soon reveals, the barrage’s real target is an internal audience of superiors watching from their warships: ‘Now, goddamn it, the admiral got up at dawn for this.’ As General Quintard (John Travolta) had put it back on the troopship: ‘There’s always someone watching.’ In order to provide his far-away superiors with a ‘beautifully executed’ display, Tall orchestrates what the film’s close-up action reveals to be a hellish excess of death, fear and suffering. Staros brings out the deceptiveness of viewing a military spectacle from afar: ‘Colonel, I don’t think you fully understand what is going on here’.14 In contrast to the charges of some critics, then, TTRL actually makes the compromising aesthetics

Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line


of ‘spectacle and heroics’ both in war itself and in filmic representations of it, a key element of its subject matter. Malick’s use of a Homeric epithet is key to recognizing this particular form of self-consciousness. One does not need to know Homer at all to ‘get’ the link between this epithet and Malick’s wider point about the ‘seductions of spectacle’. However, I do think that a deeper familiarity with Homer’s Iliad is required, if an audience is to make the explicit connections between the film and the Homeric techniques and resonances which I posit in the following sections. Even if they do not make such explicit connections themselves, I hope that my own analysis of these connections nevertheless helps to explain how TTRL achieves a texture of depth and interrogative complexity which is much more akin to ancient epic than traditional war films.

The ‘world outside’ One of the most distinctive ways in which Homer ‘decentres’ his primary narrative is through his use of similes. Selecting one example from many, when Ajax reluctantly halts his advance in the face of a hail of Trojan spears he is compared to a donkey helping himself to the grain of a cornfield, while being attacked by children with sticks (Il. 11.556-63). Although the simile is primarily designed to help us picture Ajax, its length and visual detail transport Homer’s audience away from the fight and into an ordinarily recognizable scene of rural life. As something that is both familiar and recurrent and yet not happening in any specific location or time, this scene is both independent from, and unaffected by, the events and the aftermath of the war at Troy. It is something which would happen even if there were no warriors to compare it to. Thus, the spectacle of heroic warfare is momentarily ‘decentred’ in favour of more ordinary, but no less vivid and spectacular, human struggles to do with day-to-day existence and subsistence. Even animal similes which are used to convey heroes’ emotions simultaneously conjure up the vivid sights and sounds of a natural world whose rhythms are indifferent to, and operate independently of, those found in the human realm. Thus, the disgruntled Achilles compares himself to a mother bird which always brings food to its young, despite its own suffering (Il. 9.323-7). And Odysseus’ and Telemachus’ mutual crying when they embrace is likened to that of ospreys or vultures who have lost their chicks (Od. 16.216-19). The cumulative effect of similes is undoubtedly to ‘build up a picture of a world outside, a world alongside, a world which will exist when all the bloodied


War as Spectacle

dust has settled, all the lamentations have ceased, and all the booty has been distributed’ (Buxton 2004: 152). This ‘world outside’ is also constituted by the scenes which adorn the shield of Achilles in Iliad 18; the ‘city at war’ is just one of many detailed scenes in this miniaturized picture of the entire kosmos.15 As I have already suggested, TTRL also decentres its main narrative by offering the audience a spectacular ‘world outside’. Aside from its striking images of nature, the film opens with a strong focus on the Solomon Islands’ indigenous community and their closeness to nature which the audience experiences when they witness Witt hiding among them. Indeed, where most combat films open with training sequences, executive planning and the mustering of men, or else set us straight into the fighting, Malick has chosen to displace and delay such spectacles in favour of the islanders’ visually beautiful, peaceful ‘other world’. What I have not yet stressed is that TTRL highlights the subjectivity and selectivity involved in ascribing meaning and significance to the spectacular aspects of the world(s) we find ourselves in. After the film’s central combat sequence, Witt returns to the Melanesian village. This time he is armed and he sees that the villagers are suffering from disease. The children look afraid. The menfolk are quarrelling and there are human skulls on display. The spectacularly beautiful idyll, which Witt built up in the opening scenes, is here destroyed. As Witt looks on, a voice-over asks: We were a family. How’d it break up? [. . .] we’re turned against each other. Standing in each other’s light. [. . .] what’s stopping us from reaching out? From touching the glory?

It is not clear whether the village has experienced a ‘fall’, which mirrors the soldiers’ experience, or if Witt is now seeing ‘fallen’ elements to which he was previously blind. Either interpretation points to the mutability and subjectivity of the meanings we attach to our glimpses of the extraordinary and the spectacular. There is also a suggestion here that ‘spectacles of nature’ must not seduce us into believing idealistic lies any more than ‘spectacles of war.’ The film’s refusal to settle on a simplistic scheme wherein the islanders who are ‘close to nature’ can be objectively located as pre-lapsarian, innocent, peaceable or without care finds an analogue in Homer’s many similes which depict nature and rural life as unavoidably violent. It also evokes the description of the images on Achilles’ shield. There too, the ‘city at peace’, whilst certainly more attractive and harmonious than the ‘city at war’, is not without its troubles (Il. 18.497-9):

Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line


The people were gathered in the market place, where a quarrel had arisen, and two men were wrangling over the blood price for a man who had been killed.

As with Malick’s very painterly and vivid suggestions of Witt’s equivocal point of view on the ‘other world’, Homer’s shield also suggests that the city at war and the city at peace share more than first meets the eye. Suffering and conflict are not evils associated with a particular ‘world’. There is more than one way to view suffering. This is made explicit in a voice-over as Welsh walks among his men at rest: One man looks at a dying bird and thinks there’s nothing but unanswered pain. That death’s got the final word: it’s laughing at him. Another man sees that same bird and feels the glory.

As the camera settles on the sleeping Witt, the voice continues: ‘Feels something smiling through it’. This verbal image of the dying bird, and its connection to Witt’s ability to see a kind of ‘glory’ in suffering and death is prefigured in an earlier visual image. The costly and gruesome battle to take the hill is punctuated by an eleven-second closeup of an apparently small dark-coloured bird struggling at the foot of a tree or a bush. The context of the close-up suggests that the bird is mortally injured. The shots which precede and follow it do not permit us to regard it as a character’s ‘point of view’ shot, but we cut to the bird straight after a scene in which Staros is being berated over his field radio by Tall for not knowing what is happening further up the hill and for being too far away from the action to see. Staros’ responses to Tall, and his anguished face as he strains to see, are intercut with very brief shots of nameless wounded Americans crawling and dying in the grass and the frightened face of a boy soldier who looks no older than sixteen. He might be the boy the audience saw very briefly much earlier shivering with pre-battle nerves on a troopship, and we will soon see him dying slowly with his helpless comrades looking on. When we see his frightened face, a voice (probably Staros’ interior monologue) whispers the word ‘children’. The film’s editing style makes it impossible to determine the relative positions of Staros, the wounded soldiers, the young boy or the bird. On one level, the shot of the struggling bird acts as a cinematic version of a Homeric simile. It has multiple correspondences and resonances. It is an image of vulnerability, fear, death, and suffering. This is similar to the experience that the audience watch the nameless young soldier undergo, and to that of the other men dying of their wounds. Just as Homeric similes use vivid images from


War as Spectacle

farming, hunting and nature as analogues to heroes’ anguish or death by wounding, Malick’s bird distils our sense of the soldiers’ suffering.16 It also suggests the anguish and helplessness of Staros. Like many Homeric similes, the bird also activates contrasts and ironies. A shot of the bird is introduced just as Tall shouts this down the radio: ‘Come to life up there, Staros!’ When coupled with the bird, Tall’s metaphor ironically underlines the disparity between his viewpoint and the deaths that the spectator and Staros are witnessing. The bird also offers a marked contrast with the film’s earlier shots of colourful tropical birds at peace bathed in sunlight. Spectacular nature, and spectacular military actions, are reframed by the suffering bird and its human analogues. These dynamics are further complicated by the voice-over later on in the film in which the sight of a dying bird represents ‘unanswered pain’ and the mockery of death to one man, and yet ‘glory’ and ‘smiling’ to another. According to this view, the fact that the earlier image of the bird may be like human suffering and the death of ‘children’ is neither here nor there. Rather, the important question is what each man makes of the death and suffering that he sees before him. The fact that Witt sees spiritual ‘glory’ even in death is here tainted by a more militaristic sense of ‘glory’. There is a danger that Witt’s insistence in seeing the goodness, light and wonder of his ‘other world’, even in this world’s experiences of pain and death, are symptomatic of his failure to confront the moral and spiritual reality of war, as does Tall with his mixture of myth-making romanticism and instrumentalist reasoning. Homer has his heroes use similes and metaphors in their own speeches. Achilles, the Iliad’s greatest warrior, is particularly partial to their rhetorical power. In TTRL , Quintard intimidates Tall by saying ‘there’s always someone watching . . . like a hawk’. When Tall meets with Staros to relieve him of his command, he makes this implicit comparison between natural processes and the need for ‘cruelty’ in military leadership: Look at this jungle. Look at those vines, the way they twine around the trees, swallowing everything. Nature’s cruel, Staros.

This verbal simile is absent from the corresponding dialogue in the film’s source novel. It is prefigured visually by several shots of jungle trees encased in creepers and vines which appear much earlier in the film’s opening sequence. These shots are accompanied by this voice-over: What’s this war in the heart of nature? Why does nature vie with itself? The land contend with the sea? Is there an avenging power in nature? Not one power, but two?

Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line


This voice belongs to a minor character who does not appear until a further fifteen minutes have passed. Just before these lines are delivered, the very first image of the film is of a crocodile slowly and silently entering a swamp. These images and the accompanying voice-over endorse the premise underlying Tall’s comparison. Nature is indeed cruel and ‘at war’ with itself. Tall, however, is also arguing that human warfare and its imperatives are a part of nature. This extrapolation is not necessarily endorsed by the film’s opening images and voiceover. The voice asks for a clarification and explanation of nature’s ‘war’ with itself and the film itself hardly offers an answer. The spectacular image of the crocodile and the vines invite us to consider the ‘naturalness’ (or otherwise) of human warfare through a quasi-Homeric technique of comparison. Like the predatory animals of Homer’s similes, for example, the crocodile inhabits a cycle of natural existence and necessary violence which is largely indifferent to, and unaffected by, the human battle for Guadalcanal. The opening sequence also allows a view that the crocodile is in some sense a symbol of the link between human warfare and territorialism. Just as the Solomon Islands’ saltwater crocodiles will attack humans who encroach on their waters, so humans will fight for what Welsh calls ‘property’. Over and above the various questions and resonances which the crocodile invokes, however, it is important to stress that this opening sequence once again complicates Witt’s idealistic vision of the world around him. Violence is inherent even to a natural cosmos devoid of humans and their wars and any divine power within or around that cosmos may be invested with vengefulness.

Scenic and situational resonances with Homer TTRL contains a number of verbal and/or visual resonances with the Iliad. These are not explicit ‘citations’ of the sort which Tall utters. And despite the ‘insider’ evidence provided by Nick Nolte, it is hard to argue that Malick definitely intended for even the Homerically-literate among his audience to notice these resonances. They are not incontrovertible ‘allusions’ in that sense and it may rather be that Malick’s knowledge of Homer influenced the film at a more unconscious level. It may even be that their ‘Homeric epic’ qualities are intrinsic and only noticed by classicists like myself. Indeed, it is not essential for an audience’s appreciation of the film to mark these scenes and situations as ‘Homeric’ in the way that a classicist like myself is prone to do. However, it is still significant for my argument to show that certain scenes and situations in TTRL


War as Spectacle

evoke and re-cast ancient epic analogues at the same time as they eschew traditional Hollywood representations of ‘spectacle or heroics’. This is because I am interested in the way in which the film can feel like an ‘epic’ whilst achieving this rejection of Hollywood values. I have selected three representative examples of these ‘scenic and situational resonances’. The first happens during Witt’s stay in the indigenous village. He talks to a young, beautiful Melanesian woman holding a young child. Critics have connected this focus on a mother to the voice-over that immediately precedes this scene, in which Witt hopes he will die ‘with the same calm . . .’ that his mother displayed in death ‘cos that’s where it’s hidden: the immortality I hadn’t seen.’17 Witt says to the local woman that ‘the kids around here never fight.’ She replies: ‘Sometimes. Sometimes when you see them playing . . . they always fight!’ Then we see the woman laughing. Witt looks at the baby girl and the dialogue continues: Witt: Woman: Witt: Woman: Witt: Woman: Witt: Woman: Witt:

Is she afraid of me? Little bit Are you afraid of me? Yes. Why? ’Cos you look . . . you look army. I look army? Yes. Well, that don’t matter. It doesn’t matter.

This scene has affinities with an episode in Iliad 6 where Hector finds his wife Andromache on the ramparts of Troy holding their baby son Astyanax. In the Homeric scene Astyanax starts crying because he is frightened of Hector’s helmet (6.465-70). Andromache and Hector laugh/smile in response to their child’s cries (6.471-5). Both scenes evoke the pathos of the negative consequences of war on women and children.18 This wider perspective reminds audiences that men’s battles over ‘property’ destroy and/or frighten the non-combatants that they are ostensibly fighting to defend. Both scenes stage an attempt by a woman to correct the perspective of the man. In Iliad 6, Andromache tries to counter Hector’s heroic rationale for returning to the battlefield by arguing that he is better off remaining behind Troy’s walls to spearhead its defence (6.429-39). In TTRL the Melanesian woman offers the first in a series of moments where Witt’s idealistic perspective is challenged. These affinities demonstrate TTRL ’s affiliation to the emotional dimension of Homeric epic: the ‘immortal’ glory of fighting and/or dying in battle and

Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line


the material gains of territory and booty afforded by victory are undercut by intimations of its emotional, social and spiritual costs. But there are important contrasts too. The Melanesian woman is not Witt’s wife (she is not an Andromache figure). The baby girl is not his ‘Astyanax’. And Witt himself is not a ‘Hector’ in the sense of being a heroic defender of his homeland. Like his Japanese enemies and British colonial allies, Witt is in a foreign army which views the Solomon Islands and its native people from an instrumentalist perspective. As General Quintard puts it: ‘If we’re gonna stop the Japs’ advance into the South Pacific, we’ve gotta do it right there.’ Even Witt himself is using a remote Melanesian village to facilitate his continued desertion. So, the differences between the TTRL scene and its Homeric counterpart actually emphasize the specific geo-political and colonialist dynamics of the war for the Pacific. Indeed, in its re-configuration of the Iliadic scene’s combination of fear and laughter, TTRL actually intimates something of the real, bewildering and alienating experience of Solomon Islanders during the Second World War, and the ambivalent transformations which it brought to their lives.19 In TTRL , there are three characters whose situation and behaviour resonate with those of Achilles in the Iliad: Witt, Welsh and Staros. Space only allows for an analysis of Witt. Just as the Homeric Achilles chooses a short life, death in battle and immortal kleos as opposed to a life of old age, Witt chooses death rather than surrendering his weapon and being taken prisoner. Witt thereby earns himself some Homeric-style kleos with twentieth-century inflections by deliberately drawing the Japanese troops to himself and away from his comrades. But the ‘glory’ and ‘immortality’ which he primarily achieves take the particularly un-Homeric form of his own private, personal belief that immortality resides in a calm acceptance of death; ‘glory’ is to be found in the goodness, divinity, beauty and light of existence itself. Here, TTRL ’s version of ‘spectacle and heroics’ transcends run-of-the-mill combat movie clichés through its dialectic of sameness and difference to Homer. After a disturbing scene of hand-to-hand combat, a soldier called Dale threatens an injured prisoner, while toying with teeth he has collected from Japanese corpses. ‘I’m going to sink my teeth into your liver’, he says, ‘You see them birds up there? You know they eat you raw. Where you’re going, you’re not coming back from’. The Japanese soldier responds in his own language: ‘Kisamawa shinundayo’. The film does not subtitle this line but it means ‘you too will die’. In voice-over, Dale denies any humanity to the prisoner: ‘What are you to me? Nothing’. Neither character knows what the other is saying. A little later, we see Dale recalling these words which are incomprehensible to him. He shivers uncontrollably and weeps in the tropical rain.


War as Spectacle

Dale’s words are redolent of Achilles’ expressed desire to eat Hector’s raw flesh and his taunt to the dying Hector that he will become carrion to dogs and vultures in Iliad 22 (335-6, 345–7). This is an excessive desire which goes beyond the prescribed norms of Homeric culture. But the closest Homeric parallel is Hecuba’s desire to avenge her son’s death, expressed in her grief for her dead son (24.212-14): . . . τοῦ ἐγὼ μέσον ἧπαρ ἔχοιμι ἐσθέμεναι προσφῦσα· τότ’ ἄντιτα ἔργα γένοιτο παιδὸς ἐμοῦ . . . . . . I wish I could fix my teeth into the middle of his liver and eat it. That would be revenge for what he did to my son . . .

The Japanese prisoner’s ‘you too will die’ also reminds us of Patroclus’ dying prophecy to Hector and Hector’s dying prophecy to Achilles. However, the Japanese man’s words are couched in such a way as to suggest a truism about mortality, as much as they constitute a threat to Dale specifically. When Witt deliberately gets himself surrounded by the enemy at the end of the film, the audience hear some more un-translated Japanese. A Japanese soldier is apparently saying ‘Surrender! It’s you who killed my friend in war. But I don’t want to kill you.’ Does Witt know that he can surrender? It’s not clear but he lifts his rifle to his shoulder and is shot. Again, we can detect instructive similarities and differences between the Iliad and TTRL . In the film, enemies cannot understand each other’s languages. But in Homer, Greeks and Trojans speak Greek to each other. The Japanese soldiers who surround Witt are prepared to capture rather than kill him. Through a contrast with Dale’s Achillean and Hecuban savagery and by analogy with Dale’s partial return to humanity when he recalls his victim’s words, there is a hint of the sort of accommodation, humaneness and intimacy between enemies which occurs between Achilles and Priam in in Iliad 24. And yet, the language barrier and Witt’s ambiguous death prevent a full realization of the sort of ‘oneness’ and transcendence which might be felt to be this film’s equivalent to the rapprochement of Iliad 24.

Conclusion Both the Iliad and TTRL share an emotional, epic vision in which war begets a bestial savagery within and between humans and which lays bare mankind’s

Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line


shared and ineluctable mortality. If TTRL is like Homeric epic, then that is a posited similarity – a simile even – which is being suggested in order that it also be complicated by palpable differences. Given his overall output and his interest in the mysteriousness of reality, Malick would not offer us anything so simple as a film in which Homer is the key or a one-to-one analogue.20 But I hope to have shown that Homer is a crucial intertext for appreciating this film’s complex and successful interrogation of ‘spectacle and heroics’ as motifs of war-making and war-film-making. For me, Tall’s appreciation of Homer’s beautiful epithet represents two things in this film. On the one hand it symbolizes the way in which epic narratives from Homer to Hollywood always use ‘spectacles of war’ to aestheticize combat and to seduce audiences into seeing war as glorious, necessary and affirming. On the other hand, it represents Malick’s discovery – or perhaps it is his unintended, accidental revelation – of something more truthful and admirable in Homer. Homer’s ‘world outside’ is a world of gods, birds, trees, children at play, farming, and fine craftsmanship. It is a world where cities can be at peace under a beautiful dawn sky. By making this world equally enthralling, detailed and spectacular, and by affirming the wonder of its existence, both Homer and Terrence Malick encourage us to make our own world free of war.



Animating Ancient Warfare The Spectacle of War in the Panoply Vase Animations Sonya Nevin University of Roehampton

This chapter explores the representation of warfare in animations made from the scenes on ancient Greek vases. The Panoply vase animations are created from real artefacts and as such they offer an excitingly direct yet creative interaction with the classical world. Spears that were levelled can now be seen driving home, chariots can clatter past, and ancient warriors poised for combat can move to kill or be killed. A key principle of the project is that the animations should work closely with the original artwork, but alterations are always necessary in order to turn a static image into a moving spectacle. This means that decisions and interpretations are an inherent part of the animations’ creation. Creating Hoplites! Greeks at War, for example, required decisive confrontation with some of the key issues in ancient warfare scholarship. Should the fighters wield their spears over or underarm? How far apart should they be spaced? Should their shields clash together in a heavy charge, or should they probe and test before coming to full blows? In creating animations from real artefacts, Panoply also interacts with ancient Greek subject choices. Ancient Greeks chose scenes based on their own values and preferences. In depicting warfare, this included, for example, a preference for idealizing scenes of battle over more mundane military scenes such as men lugging equipment or dying of disease.1 In animating hoplite combat scenes, Panoply perpetuates the ancient Greek idealization of war and the warrior, with much of its inherent class and gender bias. On the other hand, Panoply’s Amazon animation arguably challenges the gender dynamics of the original vase scene. This chapter will explore the decisions faced and taken during the creative transformation from vase into video and will analyse how the animations promote discussion and impact upon modern perceptions of ancient Greek warfare, particularly in relation to thematic emphasis, fighting and equipment, and issues of gender. 335


War as Spectacle

For many people, part of the enjoyment that comes from seeing ancient Greek vases lies in the dynamic quality of the figures represented – the suggestion of movement just completed or temporarily frozen. For others however, as time spent in any vase gallery will show, ancient vase scenes are impenetrable and therefore rapidly become tedious. The Panoply Vase Animation Project attempts to meet the needs of both of these groups and its primary aims are to increase understanding of ancient artefacts and culture and to promote engagement and discussion. The project combines the work of animator Steve K. Simons and my specialism in classical culture. As the animations are created from the actual scenes that decorate vases, the dynamic potential of the figures is realized and explored and the content of the scenes is clarified and thereby made more engaging. As well as aiding interpretation, moving images have a powerful appeal in modern culture; the addition of animation to a static image is therefore often enough to entice viewers to look more closely at the images involved. The optimum environment for viewing the animations is in the gallery where the vases themselves can also be seen. Available online, the animations are also viewable beyond the museum context. They can be watched before or after a museum visit as an effective accompaniment or simply in support of classroom or lecture theatre teaching on vases or topics relating to the content of the animations. As the Panoply website provides extensive information about the subjects of the animations, they can also be seen as part of independent learning or entertainment. Such is the appeal of animation that, at the time of writing, there have been over 200,000 views of the animations worldwide, many of which will have been for enjoyment rather than for any more specifically educational goal. As the name ‘Panoply’ (meaning ‘a splendid array’, or ‘the arms and armour of a warrior’) suggests, warfare is a key interest of the project and scenes of ancient warfare are prominent amongst the animations.2 The relatively high viewing figures are a testament to the appetite for ancient warfare as spectacle as much as they testify to appreciation for ancient artwork and animation.

Hoplites Panoply’s most extensive animation to-date is the 9-minute Hoplites! Greeks at War. Hoplites! was created from a lekanis vase, a sort of shallow dish that would once have had a lid (Ure Museum 56.8.8). The lekanis depicts three hoplites (heavy infantry) fighting between onlookers, while three runner-and-trainer combinations fill the rest of the surface. The vase was made on the Greek island of

Animating Ancient Warfare


Euboea in the mid-sixth-century bce , around fifty years before the island was embroiled in the Persian Wars. At a minute-a-month production rate, constraints of time and cost meant that it was not practical to animate all the figures on the vase (Fig. 18.1). As a result, the decision was made to focus on the fighters (that also grace our cover). As the animations are primarily used in secondary and undergraduate teaching to increase understanding of ancient artefacts and culture, it was decided that the animation would show key aspects of the experience of hoplite warfare. This would support learning about ancient warfare and would add context and depth to viewers’ perception of the fight-scene on the vase. In the first stage of the animation, one of the hoplites trains for war guided by one of the original onlookers. In the next, hoplite and coach engage in a hepatoscopy, examining the liver of a sacrificed animal for signs before he leaves for war, joining other hoplites who are leaving the city. The scene switches to a group of enemy soldiers from a different Greek city-state as they prepare their kit and

Figure 18.1 Sixth-century bce Euboean lekanis used to make Hoplites! Greeks at War. Ure Museum 56.8.8, copyright © University of Reading.


War as Spectacle

become aware of the opposition. The two sides engage in battle before the victorious side celebrate and erect a trophy. As well as reflecting key hoplite experiences, these scenes also reflect aspects of warfare that are frequently depicted on ancient Greek pottery. This pre-existing iconography helped to inform what the animated scenes should look like and the correlation added to the educational potential of the animation. Depicting ancient warfare is complicated by the uncertainty about what it was actually like. Referring to ancient iconography is important in this regard, but insufficient on its own. The existence of a great deal of scholarship on the subject is extremely beneficial in offering many scenarios to work with.3 We consulted our own judgement about which ideas to take forward, factoring in strength of evidence, visual clarity, and potential for animation. Hoplites! features aspects of archaic and classical warfare and although there is unlikely to be consensus about which bit falls in to which category, the benefits from creating this visual resource will hopefully be regarded as outweighing the controversies. Straightaway, the training scene raised questions about period appropriateness. Specialist combat training is usually associated with the late classical period rather than the archaic period in which this vase was made.4 Nor could the scene be represented as the instruction of an inexperienced fighter as the figure on the vase sports a lengthy beard (just visible beneath the helmet). We decided to include weapons-training nonetheless. Serious combatants will always have practised to some extent and the original vase-scene suggests a gymnasium context, which indicates physical training in a broad sense.5 The training scene helps to connect the social context and activities on the vase with their application in the field. The soldier does not exist only on the battlefield; he has varied relationships and is a familiar face in other environments. Similarly, a forthcoming animation featuring Achilles’ clashes with Hector and Memnon will include animated guides to their mythical and socio-historical contexts as well as animation of their duels.6 The hepatoscopy reflects my research interest in the intersection of warfare and religion and it too was included to provide a broader social context to the battle. The scene demonstrates a typical form of interaction with the divine and suggests the importance that such interactions had in times of transition such as a departure for war. The hoplite’s desire for indications about his prospects reflects a need that is common to those facing danger, while the manner of his enquiry is very culturally specific. As such, the hepatoscopy reflects both what is idiosyncratic and what is more universal about the experience of ancient Greek warfare. We did not show a killing blow in order to avoid taking the liberty

Animating Ancient Warfare


of creating a suitable animal such as a sheep or goat; the cockerel on the vase’s interior would not have been appropriate to the sacrifice. Only a liver, the key organ of divination, was created for the scene, with part of the vase’s pillar decoration re-fashioned as an altar. We did briefly consider including a battlefield sphagia sacrifice later on in the animation (in which soldiers would sacrifice without the usual apparatus, immediately before coming to blows), but although this act was a crucial part of the battlefield experience, depicting it would have required the creation of much more than a simple liver. That consideration, and the fact that hepatoscopy is more common in vase-scenes than sphagia, prompted the decision to make the single act of divination representative of all campaign sacrifices.7 The leave-taking dexiosis, like the hepatoscopy, is quite typical of classical vase-painting scenes, although uncommon in archaic art. We had already animated a similar scene in Well-Wishers, created from a classical amphora by the Leningrad Painter.8 The benefits of placing the hoplite in a broadened social context were judged to outweigh the drawback of cross-period iconography. We drew the line at re-creating all the details of a classical leave-taking scene, as these frequently include women (the implied wife or mother of the hoplite) and there are no women on the vase. Reluctant to create a female figure from scratch, we included only the trainer. This decision has ramifications for the representation of ancient gender roles. The gymnasium was an overtly male environment, so it is unsurprising that there are no women on the lekanis. Leave-taking scenes, however, were a rare avenue through which classical potters explored youngmen’s familial circles, women included. Given the patriarchal nature of ancient Greek society and the frequently male focus of its art, this inclusion of women in warfare-related scenes, with connotations of support, anxiety, pride, and loss, is a welcome representation of a female experience of warfare. By presenting a leave-taking scene without a female figure, Hoplites! Greeks at War places warfare within a specifically male realm, simplifying the social reality and potentially re-enforcing the preconceptions of the animation’s viewers. Yet, to have created a woman for this purpose would have done considerable violence to the original artwork, more so than the creation of male figures, due to the different skin tone and figures used to depict women. This factor was ultimately given priority. We have attempted to balance it by including a discussion of women and war in the material that supports the animation. The animation’s protagonist is one of three fighters on the vase. Although their equipment is similar, close attention reveals that they have been carefully individualized. All three wear full-faced Corinthian helmets, but the two


War as Spectacle

attackers’ are red while the defender’s is black. Each helmet is slightly different. The red helmets have crests fitted to the crown, but are distinguished from each other by the angle of the cheek and nose sections. The black helmet is showier, with a high raised crest. All three fighters bear the large shields characteristic of the hoplite (although they are not as large as they might be). The black helmeted and right-hand red helmeted hoplites are dressed in cloth; only the left-hand fighter wears a metal cuirass. Of the cloth clothing, the left-hand hoplite wears a red-and-black striped kilt, the middle hoplite’s kilt is red with black boarders, and the right-hand hoplite wears a sort of tunic. Given the contrasting carelessness with which some of the athlete and trainer heads were painted, this close attention to the hoplites seems significant. It suggests that they were the intended focal point of the vessel and that the individualized specialist equipment of the hoplite is part of their appeal and their importance. When it came to creating the new fighters that were necessary for a battlescene, we wanted to maintain the vase’s variety. Using exact duplicates would have conveyed an impression of uniformity that would have been inconsistent with the vase and out-of-place for the archaic period in which men provided their own arms. At the same time, the principle of working closely with the original artwork meant that we were reluctant to create entirely new figures. The compromise was to create duplicates and then to alter them subtly. The opposition of red versus black helmets was retained because the dichotomy established by the vase remains helpful for clarity. But here and there a red kilt becomes black, a black arm guard becomes red, and the head of an onlooker to the original scene appears on the shoulders of a hoplite. As a result, the hoplites all stem from material on the vase but there is enough variety to suggest individuality. Once the protagonist hoplite has said farewell, he joins a stream of other departing hoplites who look like his fellows but not his clones. After a fade-out implying time-lapse he pulls his helmet down over his face, transforming from his civic self to being combat-ready. The helmet offers an expression of role change that seemed fitting for a mask-using culture.9 Much of the inspiration for the scene in which the armies meet came from the Chigi vase.10 This famous vase, which features an impressive early depiction of grouped fighting, also includes soldiers hurrying to join the fight. We adopted this motif. The scene cuts to an unfamiliar group of black-helmeted Greek soldiers preparing their kit. One of them holds his helmet before his face in a Hamlet-like moment that suggests his mortality and perhaps his pride in this elite item. This moment is echoed in a scene that occurs towards the end of the animation. When the arriving red helmets are sighted, the black helmets

Animating Ancient Warfare


scramble for their arms and the viewer witnesses the disorder that could precede combat.11 As the sides form-up, black helmets straggle up at the back, evoking the Chigi scene. These details provided some characterization for the enemy and some insight into their alternative experience of the conflict. Following Homer, this is a battle in which neither side is demonized. The question of how best to depict weaponry and fighting forms provoked considerable discussion. Prior to making Hoplites! Greeks at War, Steve had made an animation called Combat using the same vase (Ure Museum 56.8.8). This was created as part of a museum education project, Ure Discovery, in which teenagers developed and storyboarded narratives, which Steve turned into animations.12 Combat depicts a fight in which the lone black-helmeted hoplite defeats and kills his two opponents. The teenagers did an excellent job interpreting the scene and their story had great vigour. Nonetheless, working with the vase again was an opportunity to refine its animation. The spears in Combat, for example, appear as they do on the vase, very lightweight and bladeless (vase painters were often content with a simple brushstroke of the sort seen on this piece). For the battle-scene in Hoplites! we created spear-tips and butt-spikes. The blades were added to make the battle environment more threatening. They make fatal blows more comprehensible and the hoplites’ courage more apparent. The butt-spike, or sauroter, is shown performing its various functions: to stand out-of-use spears upright in the ground, to finish-off fallen fighters, and as an emergency replacement when a spear-shaft breaks.13 The spears and the figures were also animated with a sense of greater weight in Hoplites!. The hoplites are still agile, but they move like people bearing equipment, which feels more appropriate for archaic warfare.14 Working on the animation drew attention to the fact that the middle fighter on the vase is using his spear with his left hand. This may represent a historical reality for some ancient Greek contexts, but in hoplite battles, as in most bladebased battles, it would be impractical for an individual to fight with their weapon on a different side to their neighbours’.15 The primary purpose of the vase depiction appears to be to show more of the fighter’s body (which would otherwise be shielded). To facilitate the animation process and prompted by the unlikelihood that any hoplites fought left-handed amongst their comrades, all the hoplites in the animation fight right-handed. As the figures move, their bodies can still be seen, removing the obstacle to aesthetics that faced the vasepainter. Nonetheless, as this creates sameness where the vase showed difference, the issue of left versus right-handedness is raised for discussion in the text that accompanies Hoplites! on the Panoply website.


War as Spectacle

Archaic depictions of battle include scenes in which groups of fighters engage and scenes of duels, sometimes fought over the body of a fallen comrade. We adopted the group style, partly because the vase depicts a small group rather than a duel and partly because we considered that the group scene would give a clearer sense of a battle, making it more useful as a teaching resource. Fighting in a battle may have felt like a series of duels, but suggesting a battle by depicting a duel would have required too much extrapolation on the part of the viewer.16 The duel also has a strong (though not exclusive) association with epic.17 We wished to evoke something more historical than epic, as that seemed more appropriate for a vase that combines hoplites with athletes and fighting cockerels rather than Achilles or Athena. As such, the group fight was the best fit. How hoplites wielded their weapons, the manner of their formation, and the nature and procedure of their battles remain matters of considerable debate. In what became an orthodoxy for much of the twentieth century, one view holds that hoplites fought in very tight formations, with a row of overlapping shields forming the wide front rank, columns of men directly behind, and a ‘shield wall’ acting as an offensive weapon, with hoplites in the rear ranks ‘pushing madly at the very instant the two sides collided, literally thrusting their friends ahead into the faces of the first ranks of the enemy’, looking to scatter the opposing side.18 This view of formation and action has been convincingly challenged, however, and while the late classical period is still sometimes regarded as a time of orderly rows and columns, many would now suggest that archaic and early-classical battles were a more fluid combination of ‘multiple hand-to-hand fights’ (Krentz 2010: 58). This model has hoplites fighting with spaces in between them and includes an initial period in which opponents gauge their weapons range and then engage with spears, rather than crunching shield walls at a run.19 The animation was not intended as a vehicle to promote any particular theory, but as only one form could be represented a choice had to be made. Consequently we favoured a style of battle that seemed to us to be most plausible for the period in which the vase we were working with was made, drawing upon approaches that engage primarily with the evidence from vases contemporary to that piece rather than from texts from the later classical period (see n. 19). For the battle itself, each side was grouped into two rows of three (see Fig. 18.2). Although a real row would be more than a hundred times that width, we limited it to three to avoid visual confusion. The Chigi painter managed to mass more than three figures per row on the vase of that name, but this was achieved in part by adding extra limbs and spears to the group, while the animated hoplites had to be full figures.20 Moreover, the Chigi figures form static horizontal lines that do

Animating Ancient Warfare


Figure 18.2 Battle-scene from Hoplites! Greeks at War. Copyright © S. K. W. Simons and S. Nevin.

not meet, whereas the movement of the figures in the animation creates a more realistic sense of perspective when they engage, meaning that only a limited number of figures can be followed simultaneously. A moving fighting line stretching deep into the distance would not have worked. To achieve the depiction of a loose formation, those in the front line have spaces between them; they fight individually rather than with overlapping shields, yet their proximity and ready arms form a menacing front. Combatants stand in the ‘striding pose’ that Hans van Wees describes drawing on the evidence of vase scenes: ‘torsos twisted sideways, their left-shoulders pointing forward and supporting their shield’ (van Wees 2000: 128). The presence of a second row of three behind the frontline indicates massed fighting. The second row fighters are ready to step into any breaches, but they leave distance between themselves and the next row and do not nestle their shields into the bodies of those ahead of them. They advance in response to opportunity rather than being propelled forward by those behind them. Nonetheless, with shots of feet moving in unison and pre-battle wide shots of massed troops, the animation could be used in a discussion of close-order fighting even though the spacing owes more to the loose-order school. Close-ups add immediacy by suggesting the disjointed intensity of battle. In the original vase scene, two fighters attack with an overarm spear form, while the middle fighter makes an underarm thrust. As vases show over and


War as Spectacle

underarm forms, many scholars agree that both were probably used, although disagreement remains about which form was dominant and about the situations in which each was employed.21 In the interests of reflecting the vase scene and of presenting a relatively neutral interpretation of scholarship on the subject, both forms are included in the training scene. This was intended to suggest that a hoplite would train to be versatile; it also allows viewers to contrast the different forms for themselves. When it came to the battle, however, it was necessary to privilege one form over the other. The hoplites fight primarily in an overarm form, but we retained some use of the underarm. Once the two sides have come closer together, one hoplite attacks underarm with the sauroter of his broken spear. The shortening of the weapon makes the change of grip possible without impediment and in the closer quarters of the late stage of the battle the shorter weapon proves useful. Once one hoplite is close enough to strike at his opponent with his shield, the others respond in kind and surge forward. The battle is as good as over once the opposition begin to give ground. When the shields collide, the vase itself cracks. This communicates the fighters’ weight and the earnestness of the struggle. It is also a timely reminder of the metacontext; this is not realism, it is a work of art made from another work of art. The crack is intended to prompt viewers discreetly to retain (or regain) a critical perspective that includes perception of style and representation as well as enthusiasm for the narrative. At the same time, when the vase-figures appear to break their own vase the action on the surface is impacting upon the whole, with a playful suggestion that the vase to some extent defines its own world. This conveys a sense of agency to the artefact, when we are accustomed to seeing vases in a fragmentary state, damaged by the blows of history. For those who are inclined, the crack may be read as a suggestion the self-destructive nature of conflict, in which damage can easily escalate beyond the expectations of either side. Once the battle has ended, the victorious hoplites walk around the circumference of the vase which is strewn with bodies. This scene was included primarily to convey a sense that the battle went beyond what was visible in the earlier scene. The bodies are depicted in standardized postures that can be found on vases; the postures express the fallen fighters’ removal from participation in the battle.22 The scene was partly inspired by cinematic treatments of conflict, particularly Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V (1989), in which a long shot captures the chaos of a post-fight battlefield and Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966), in which the camera pans slowly across a corpse-strewn battlefield.23 It was also informed by Xenophon’s eyewitness account of the aftermath of the battle of Coronea (Ages. 2.14-15).24 However the scene is less graphic than

Animating Ancient Warfare


Xenophon’s and less mournful than Branagh’s or Leone’s, largely because of the dignity that the standardized poses confer on the corpses and due to our avoidance of blood-soaked ground. As vase scenes show no more blood than the occasional trickle coming from individual wounds, we determined not to include any; furthermore, we were keen to prevent the battle appearing ludicrous or lurid, which is always a risk with blood effects. Nonetheless, some fallen warriors are dispatched in this scene, behaviour which is realistic but less ‘noble’ than that typically shown on vases. And although ancient postures have been used for the dead, the animation breaks convention by having so many bodies depicted. The multitude adds a degree of pathos that is less pronounced in most ancient depictions of single bodies. During this scene, the hoplite protagonist picks up a fallen warrior’s helmet to take for the battlefield trophy. His glance at the face of the helmet echoes that of an enemy hoplite earlier on, suggesting their common vulnerability and mortality. It was our intention that as well as conveying a sizeable scale to the conflict, this post-battle scene would complicate any glamorization of violence by including consequences and allowing a moment’s reflection before the celebration.25 Some ancient (and modern) audiences might well have been comfortable with an unashamedly positive celebration of combat violence, but as we hoped to encourage viewers to reflect on both positives and negatives in the hoplite experience, a rapid shift from battle to celebration would have provided the wrong cue. The music composed for the animation also impacts on its atmosphere and on viewer responses. Composed by John White and adapted by Steve Simons, the Panoply animator, the soundtrack is a sombre percussive piece formed primarily of reverberating singing bowls.26 The pulse builds as the battle approaches, clanging metal sounds join the singing bowls for the combat, the track is pared back to the bowl tone for the aftermath scene, before the energy picks up a little for the erection of the trophy.27 The use of music enhances the entertainmentfactor of the animation, yet the use of sombre and unusual sounds prevents any step towards bombasticism. The use of percussion, rather than guitars or piano for example, also distances the viewer from the everyday, which encourages consideration of ancient warfare on its own terms rather than within a primarily modern framework. Hoplites themselves had a very musical experience of war; singing hymns (paeans), dancing, and striking bells were part of military life, something we tried to reflect by having hoplites striking their spears rhythmically against their shields. In an early storyboard, the animation closed with the victorious hoplites arriving back in their city and celebrating amongst their fellow-citizens. This


War as Spectacle

changed as the animation progressed. Although many Greek myths and works of literature celebrate the nostos, or homecoming of warriors, a warrior’s return is not something that appears on vases. Recognizing that our story-arc had more to do with modern expectations of a happy ending than ancient iconography, we altered the final section to show hoplites celebrating upon the battlefield and erecting a trophy, the recognized way of claiming victory by mounting the arms of a defeated warrior near the spot where the enemy broke. Although relatively rare, trophy construction is found on vases and this is what we emulated.28 The hoplite is amongst his fellow citizen-soldiers as he celebrates on the battlefield; he does not need to be welcomed home in order to have his achievement acknowledged.

Ideology The animation is created from an ancient artwork, which necessarily comes loaded with a specific world ideology and subtext. What, we asked ourselves, are the ethical pros and cons of replicating or altering aspects of that ideology, particularly when the animation would be used predominantly in an educational context? It seemed irresponsible and misleading, for example, to depict warfare without including death. Once we determined that deaths would be shown, the question became ‘who should die?’ We decided early on that the protagonist would not die. Although ancient Greek culture had many stories in which protagonists meet their end, this seemed too depressing for a modern audience. If nothing else, it would make that death the focal point of the animation. That was never something we had intended and it seemed likely to restrict the options for using the animation in a classroom context. In an early storyboard, in which only a few images communicated quite long sequences, death in battle was represented by the body of one of the black helmets (the enemies of the redhelmeted protagonist). The animation itself does not feature this imbalance. Instead, drawing on Tonio Hölsher and David Saunders’ discussions of the iconography of ancient Greek battle deaths, we have tried to show that death in battle was not necessarily related to defeat. Greek artwork depicts battlefield casualties from the victorious and the vanquished sides; they are not associated with shame but with the ‘beautiful death’ – a concept that regards death in battle as a positive expression of masculinity and valour.29 This is a contrast to Roman culture, which associated death in combat with defeat and shame and tended to eschew depictions of fallen Romans (Hölscher 2003: 14–15).30 In keeping with

Animating Ancient Warfare


the traditions of Homer and Greek iconography, in Hoplites! capable fighters from both sides feature amongst the dead. The beautiful death ideal arguably has a lot to answer for historically, but we considered it preferable to no death and that viewers may be better placed learning about war’s ugly deaths through other mediums. Death and killing aside, Hoplites! Greeks at War presents little of the horror of war or its social complexities. Fatal wounds are not shown graphically, non-fatal wounds are not shown, nor are the diseases that would have killed a lot of campaigners. As for hunger, thirst, or grief, to whatever extent these afflicted real hoplites they are not part of this animated war. The primary reason for this is the brevity of the animation, which did not permit the luxury of time to explore the grievances of campaign life. Boredom and pass-times were explored in Panoply’s first vase-animation, Clash of the Dicers.31 The joy of this animation is the extent to which it expresses the vase-painter, Exekias’s, own experiment with scenes of warriors off-duty.32 The amphora depicts Achilles and Ajax playing a board game; Clash of the Dicers dramatizes their game and adds a row. The animation expresses the vase scene’s suggestion of the camaraderie of campaign life and its long hours of inaction. As the latter in particular is underrepresented in accounts of war, it was particularly pleasing to bring this scene to life. While it can act as a teaching tool to introduce the characters Achilles and Ajax or the work of Exekias, it can also be employed to initiate discussions of the day-to-day experience of war. The animation also draws attention to the scene’s spectacular use of decorative detail to depict the warriors’ equipment. They wear finely executed cloaks that had to be painstakingly reconstructed to enable movement in the animation. The animation also draws attention to the meticulously executed armour, such as the men’s greaves and Achilles’ helmet and shoulderguard. The scene may display a more tedious face of war, but it conveys military glamour nonetheless. Campaign personnel have also been simplified in Hoplites!. Most archaic battles would have included fighters such as archers, slingers, and cavalry, as well as hoplites. Camps would be busy with animals, slaves, and other camp-followers there to carry equipment, prepare food and to do all the other jobs needed to sustain large groups.33 It was impractical to include any of these figures in the animation, partly because of time constraints, and partly due to lack of ancient Greek precedent. Although other sorts of combatants appear on vases, shieldbearers and other camp followers tend not to.34 Creating these sorts of figures would have required taking more licence with the original artwork than we were comfortable with. The animation therefore reflects the class bias of ancient


War as Spectacle

Greek culture, which was proud to see hoplite-scenes in its dining-rooms but loath to encounter the lowly. Like ancient vase-scenes, Hoplites! presents hoplite fantasy in which soldiers campaign without help or discomfort. In order to broaden engagement with and understanding of the animation and its subject matter, Hoplites! Greeks at War was developed within a wider engagement project called Every Soldier has a Story. This included an exhibition at the Ure Museum and various activities.35 The activities placed the hoplite experience within a broad social context by encouraging people to create characters and social profiles for the animation’s hoplite protagonist. This included considering alternative social identities (such as farmer, trader, husband, brother, and father) as well as various attitudes towards war and fighting. Most of this activity was done with teenagers, including gang prevention work in London in which discussions of conflict and conflict resolution featured as part of sessions on ancient warfare. These activities presented warfare as an integrated aspect of society rather than an isolated phenomenon. The creation of hoplite personalities encouraged people to associate war and violence with personal consequences for those involved, including people beyond the battlefield. This balanced out the representation of the glamour of war and violence that the vase and the animation present as well as making both more meaningful to those involved. A temporary exhibition at the Ure Museum also addressed the class-bias of the vase by including reference to different sorts of combatants, including slingers, light-infantry, and those in the navy. But ultimately the star of the show remains the hoplite infantryman – just as the Greeks would have wanted it.

Amazons Other Panoply animations step outside the spectacle of hoplite culture. Amazon depicts a female combatant waiting in ambush and throwing a rock at the rider of a four-horse chariot before the chariot tramples her underfoot.36 The animation expresses the weight and threat of horses on the battlefield, a phenomenon that an ancient Greek audience would recognize and which the vase itself communicates. Although the scene is mythical and chariots were not seen on the archaic battlefield, the chariot nonetheless acts as a reminder that bygone modes of combat lived long in the Greek imagination. The depiction of a projectile attack offers a useful representation of non-elite weaponry, exploring the threat presented by light-armed troops: the possibility of ambush, projectiles, and the ignominy of defeat at the hands of those regarded as inferior. These

Animating Ancient Warfare


factors make Amazon a useful accompaniment to depictions of hoplite warfare, and further interest lies in the animation’s handling of military power dynamics and in the creative journey that was made to the final version. The Amazon animation was modelled on an Attic black-figure skyphos vase (Fig.  18.3). Both sides depict a chariot scattering two Amazons (their skin in white), framed by seated sphinxes.37 In showing the Amazons scatter, the vase represents this sort of mythical combat in a fairly typical way. Amazons were there to be defeated. They personified threat to social order and their defeat, indicated by their scattering, represents the restoration of order.38 The animation’s story was created by UK teenagers on the Ure Discovery project and modified by Panoply during the making of the animation (see above, n. 12). The teenagers did well in extrapolating the logic of the scene. Depicting the death of one of the Amazons extends the logic of the vase by making the defeat implied by their scattering more explicit. And Amazons were often (although not exclusively) associated with projectile weaponry, so it was appropriate to incorporate a projectile attack. The animation explores the threat from light-armed troops in a more challenging way than the skyphos by depicting it as an active rather than a resolved prospect, yet the threat still is resolved nonetheless, for the Amazon is defeated, as she is upon the skyphos and in so many other works of art. Her death and the handling of her body received two different treatments. The differences between them and between the modern and ancient scenes demonstrate how

Figure 18.3 Sixth-century bce Attic skyphos used to make Amazon. Ure Museum 26.12.11, copyright © University of Reading.


War as Spectacle

subtle differences can affect the messages that are communicated about war and violence. In the vase-scene, the chariot is the focal point. The animation, by contrast, makes the Amazon the focal point as the viewer sees her in her hiding place before the chariot appears. This invites the viewer to see things from her perspective. This moment of identification has a potentially subversive quality, as the viewer is invited to identify with a figure who is normally an ‘other’, a strange figure unsuitable for emulation. Once the chariot appears, the possibility of sympathy with the Amazon is maintained. Although she is the aggressor, the Amazon seems vulnerable as she is fighting a much more powerful, technically equipped enemy. We know nothing of her motive, nothing of the context, only that a hidden (yet exposed) attacker leads a dangerous assault. In the face of such adversity, the Amazon’s struggle against the odds appears desperate. The power of the chariot is exhilarating, yet its destructive potential is disconcertingly apparent. The ease with which the Amazon is killed reinforces the impossibility of victory and thus the braveness of the attempt. Even without context, these elements invite further sympathy. The animation finishes with her lying prone in the dust amidst haunting music.39 This combination of factors means that the Amazon appears not only as the Greeks’ mythical other, but as a figure representing all victims of asymmetrical conflict. As such, there is potential to construe this as an anti-establishment piece, or at least as a piece that communicates the pity of war, in contrast to the tone of the original vase. The animation would have turned out differently had it followed the original storyboard more closely. Time constraints required the curtailment of the story. Consideration of the animation’s intended audience of other young people also influenced the editing process. In the teenagers’ original vision, the animation begins in the same way, but the charioteer quickly steals the limelight by dominating the action. He disembarks from the chariot to fight and defeat the Amazon on foot, before returning to the chariot and using it to trample her body. The charioteer then disembarks again to decapitate the Amazon and the storyboard finishes with him celebrating and displaying the Amazon’s head upon a raised spear. Having the Amazon defeated in a one-on-one fight changes the dynamic of the story. She is no longer the victim of superior technology, but the loser in a fair fight. As a result, there is less inequality to trouble the viewer and the Amazon does not invite the same degree of sympathy. For this reason, the original storyboard arguably reflects the original artefact more closely. Yet that is not to say that it necessarily reflects ancient attitudes in a broader sense. The extended

Animating Ancient Warfare


scenes of mutilation would have been recognizable to an ancient audience, but not necessarily welcome. In myths of Amazon encounters, although Greek heroes must defeat these female warriors, they also tend to be drawn to them and even to admire them. One of the most famous encounters is that between Achilles and Queen Penthesileia at Troy. Although her death is frequently depicted in vase-scenes, mistreatment of her body is not. In fact, although mutilation of the dead occurs quite frequently in the mythical world of the Trojan War, accounts of Penthesilea’s death are conspicuous for their emphasis on Achilles’ admiration for her body and his angry response to attempts to interfere with her.40 And while mutilation was probably a grim feature of the archaic battlefield, it was apparently not something archaic Greeks wanted decorating their vases. So while the final animation is perhaps more sympathetic to the Amazon than an ancient Greek would have been comfortable with, the original storyboard was harsher than would have been agreeable. The skyphos, taken with other Amazon depictions, demonstrates the Greeks’ use of Amazon iconography as a way of asserting cultural norms. The animation is more ambiguous, reflecting the modern world’s more complicated relationship with asymmetrical warfare. The need to shorten the Amazon storyboard created a complex challenge. We wanted to balance ancient values with modern ones and our work on this animation exposed our own anxieties about audience appropriateness, particularly regarding the depiction of violence in material intended for a young audience.41 This is not a comment on what is right or wrong about the different versions of the story, but rather a comment on the observable cultural distance between us and the vase-makers and the way that modern ideas inevitably surface in reinterpretations of ancient material. As a museum artefact on permanent display, the Hoplites! lekanis is always part of a spectacle. As a graduate volunteer, I selected this lekanis to feature in the Citizenship case I was designing as part of the museum’s 2005 renovation.42 This move increased the likelihood that visitors would interpret the lekanis as part of a ‘spectacle’ of ancient citizenship, although it could easily have found a home next door in the Warfare case. Its inclusion in Citizenship was motivated by the desire to encourage visitors to recognize overlaps between categories and to consider warfare and keeping fit as aspects of a citizen’s duty. As a result, the lekanis resides in a case that also includes artefacts relating to taxes, debate, religion, and the family. With its emphasis on battle, Hoplites! Greek at War reorientates the lekanis towards warfare. Even the athletics scenes accrue greater military association as a result. Yet this is not problematic or even incongruous with its presentation within a citizenship context, as its initial inclusion there did


War as Spectacle

not deny its military association but rather sought to put that association in a broader context. Nonetheless, this process highlighted the role that display and reinterpretation play in how artefacts are viewed. It also exemplifies how a conscious consideration of this issue can help us explore different avenues and potentials. In making Greek vases more accessible and entertaining, these animations provide a platform on which ancient warfare can be approached informally. In making ancient warfare entertaining we have not trivialized it, rather the animations offer a way into the subject that is informative as well as enjoyable. Their entertainment value is also part of their appeal educationally; it makes them easily employable in the classroom and they may prompt some viewers to look into the subject further for themselves, particularly through the accompanying material on the website. There will always be a place for photographs, diagrams, re-enactments and films, yet the Panoply animations fill a unique place in offering a bridge between mediums.43 Viewers can compare leave-taking scenes in Well-Wishers and Hoplites!; contrast hoplite equipment in Hoplites!, Clash of the Dicers, and Well-Wishers, and alternative agonies in Amazon; they can get an introduction to fighting and battle in Hoplites!, and discuss ideas about death and dying through Hoplites!, Combat, and Amazon. Above all, these animations offer us the opportunity to look again at the ancient iconography of warfare and to consider our own desire for ancient war as spectacle.

Notes 1 Introduction: War as Spectacle 1 Acknowledgements: My work on this introduction was greatly facilitated by my stay at the Center for Hellenic Studies at Washington, DC . I am particularly grateful to its wonderful staff of librarians as well as to the staff of the Library of the Institute of Classical Studies in London. A great debt of gratitude is owed to my co-editor, Valerie M. Hope, for her insightful critique and helpful suggestions. I am also deeply grateful to David M. Pritchard for a number of illuminating discussions about war and culture in antiquity. 2 Cf. Palaima and Tritle (2013: 728–31) who are more pessimistic about the relevance of the Graeco-Roman classics in the world of mechanized warfare that became the norm post-World War Two. 3 For example, the Lysistrata project staged readings of Aristophanes’ comedy in the wake of 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan as a means to advocate for peace, http://www.lysistrataproject.org/aboutus.htm (accessed 28 March 2015). Actress Ellen McLaughlin discovered an ‘uncanny Iraq parallel’ in Aeschylus’ Persians, which she adapted for performance in New York in 2004 in response to America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/article/Actressplaywright-Ellen-McLaughlin-discovers-2695502.php#photo-2164365 (accessed 28 March 2015). 4 For example, George W. Bush has been compared to Julius Caesar by a number of journalists. Case in point, Terry Jones’ unfavourable comparison in his online comment piece in The Observer (5 November 2006), http://www.theguardian.com/ world/2006/nov/05/usa.comment (accessed 28 March 2015). An interesting illustration of how ancient models can be utilized to think about contemporary problems is Colonel Philip Lisagor’s opinion piece ‘What the War Classics Teach us about Fighting Terrorists’. The US Army veteran, who served three tours in Iraq, discusses what America can learn from Thucydides and Herodotus’ accounts of war, http://ciceromagazine.com/opinion/war-classics-and-the-war-on-terror/ (accessed 28 March 2015). 5 http://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/jan/30/iliad-war-charlotte-higgins (accessed 28 March 2015). 6 To mention just two indicative examples of how classicists have addressed recent conflicts through the lens of the Graeco-Roman classics in their work, see





9 10 11 12


Notes to pp. 2–8

Leezenberg (2010) on Greek tragedy and the war in Iraq and Wyke (2006 and 2012) on the uses to which Julius Caesar has been put in the United States. What follows is by no means a comprehensive list, but intended to demonstrate the vibrancy of the field. For general studies that investigate war in classical antiquity, see Garlan (1975), Humble (1980), Hackett (1989), Delbrück (1990), Keegan (1994), Bradford (2001), Chaniotis and Ducrey (2002), Carey, Allfree and Cairns (2005), Lendon (2005), Sabin, van Wees and Whitby (2007), and Campbell and Tritle (2013). On Greek warfare, in particular, see Ducrey (1986), Sage (1996), van Wees (2000 and 2004), Chambers (2008), and Fagan and Trundle (2010). On the Roman army, see Goldsworthy (1998, 2000 and 2003). On war and society in ancient Greece, see Rich and Shipley (1993); and on war and society in the Middle Republic, see Rosenstein (2004). On war and the Athenian democracy, see Pritchard (2010). On Greek and Roman weapons, warriors and warfare, see Warry (1995, rev. 2002). On Greek armour, in particular, see Everson (2004), while on peace, war and gender issues, see Dülffer and Frank (2009). There are also several publications on the impact of ancient warfare on the post-classical world. See Lee (2007) on war in late antiquity, and Spaulding and Nickerson (1994) on ancient and medieval warfare. On the vocabulary of war from antiquity to modernity, see Weland (1999), and on the evolution of military strategy, see Heuser (2010). On the interaction of texts and images of ancient and modern warfare, see Formisano and Bohme (2010). Bradford (2013) draws parallels between ancient and modern battles and warfare with a particular focus on the logistics and ethics of ancient and modern wars. In addition, Trundle’s Ancient Greek Warfare: A Sourcebook (forthcoming) will provide a broad selection of ancient sources supplemented by a commentary that will highlight current debates in the field. Finally, see Fagan and Trundle (2010: 6–7) for an illuminating discussion of the reasons why the subject of ancient warfare did not stay out of the limelight for long. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=spectaculum&la=latin#lexicon (accessed 24 December 2014). See also Bergmann (1999: 10), and Dunkle’s definition of ‘spectaculum’ as ‘something worth seeing’ (Dunkle 2014: 381) The title of Donald G. Kyle’s edited collection, Sport and Spectacle in the Ancient World (2007), is a case in point. Transhistorical in the sense established by Charles Martindale in his revised manifesto for classical reception (Martindale 2013: 169–83). For more information see the section on ‘Media Coverage’ at http://www.bbc.co.uk/ history/british/victorians/crimea_01.shtml (accessed 4 January 2015). On the challenges faced by journalists reporting from the front lines and the impact of technology in how this is done, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/academy/journalism/ article/art20130702112133701 (accessed 5 January 2015). http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/waging-war/a-newgeneration/war-porn.html?play (accessed 6 January 2015).

Notes to pp. 8–25


14 See also Fagan on the affinities between today’s media culture of violence and the Roman games (Fagan 2011: 231–6). 15 I am grateful to Amanda Potter for this reference. 16 I am indebted to Paula James for drawing my attention to Benton’s work. 17 It should be noted that other historical periods have also been subjected to the same treatment. A case in point is the History Channel’s Vikings (2013–15). 18 The project’s aim is to open up a frank dialogue about the experience of war and the physical and mental trauma it causes. Readings and performances of Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes are given to audiences of military personnel, veterans and civilians as a springboard to debate: http://www.outsidethewirellc.com/projects/theater-ofwar/overview (accessed 24 March 2015). 19 The popularity of Pen and Sword publications is another indicator. This specialist publisher of books on military history has several volumes that explore warfare in antiquity: http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/ (accessed 7 January 2015).

2 ‘What if We Had a War and Everybody Came?’ 1 The arguments advanced in this chapter form part of a book-length study in progress, based on my doctoral dissertation. In the longer study I argue that throughout the Iliad the gods’ role as a viewing ‘audience’ for the spectacle at Troy reflects in complex ways the ongoing experience of Homer’s own, listening audience, who participate in and react to the Iliad as a live event. Since this is a project of many years, it would be impossible to thank here all those who read and critiqued earlier versions of work that became part of this chapter. However, I would like to thank especially: Elizabeth Irwin, Deborah Steiner, Katharina Volk, and my wife, Nina Papathanasopoulou, each of whom made countless invaluable suggestions over a long period of time. I would also like to thank Anastasia Bakogianni for her dedicated editing work, and the other participants at the War as Spectacle conference at The Open University for their warm collegiality. 2 Important recent work with direct bearing on the spectacular character of Iliadic warfare includes Slatkin (2007), Clay (2011), and Lovatt (2013), with further bibliography. The works by Slatkin and Clay deal exclusively with the Iliad; Lovatt’s book, which investigates ‘the epic gaze’ in a range of authors, offers insights regarding the Iliad in every chapter. 3 ‘Epic narrative is typically presented as, in narratological terms, the description of things seen, with the narrator (performer) posing as eyewitness’ (Bakker 1993: 15) [emphasis in original]. 4 To note some works among many: for theatre, see Herington (1985), Rutherford (2001, originally 1982); for cinema, de Jong and Nünlist (2004), Winkler (2007),


5 6 7






13 14

Notes to pp. 25–27

Hesk (2013), Hesk (Ch. 17 in this volume); for painting, Zanker (1981). Cf. Graziosi and Haubold (2010: 24). Vermeule (1979: 99) makes a brief but memorable comparison to ballet. On the Iliad’s interest in contrasting divine and human perspectives, Griffin (1978) has been influential in recent years. For an analysis of the visually orientated descriptions of warfare in ancient lyric poetry see Swift (Ch. 6 in this volume). For the Greek text I have used the Oxford Classical Text of Monroe and Allen. Translations are my own, no doubt influenced by others I have read and taught, especially that of Richmond Lattimore. For readers without Greek who are interested in looking up the context of passages cited here, Lattimore’s is a standard line-by-line translation. Cf. Whitman (1958: 269–71); Kullmann (1960: 366–7); Rengakos (2006: 20–1, n. 8). Bergren (1979–80) persuasively argues that the teichoskopia and other episodes that seem temporarily displaced from a naturalistic perspective are not illogical, but should be interpreted through the paradigm of the epic medium offered by Helen’s weaving (3.126-7): ‘by [the] transcendence of linear time, [these scenes] show simultaneously both something that happened once and what there is in that “something” that ever recurs’ (23). ‘οἳ δ’ ἄλλοι φιλότητα καὶ ὅρκια πιστὰ ταμόντες / ναίοιτε Τροίην ἐριβώλακα, τοὶ δὲ νεέσθων / ναίοιτε / Τροίην ἐριβώλακα, τοὶ δὲ νεέσθων / Ἄργος ἐς ἱππόβοτον καὶ Ἀχαιΐδα καλλιγύναικα’ (3.72-5). Cf. 3.94, 3.283, and 4.15-16. ‘αὐτὰρ Ἀλέξανδρος καὶ ἀρηΐφιλος Μενέλαος / μακρῇς ἐγχείῃσι μαχήσονται περὶ σεῖο· / τῷ δέ κε νικήσαντι φίλη κεκλήσῃ ἄκοιτις’ (3.136-8). Περί plus gen. is also used of prizes in games – cf. especially 23.659. Both Trojans and Achaeans hope for an outcome in which the culpable party will be slain: ‘ὧδε δέ τις εἴπεσκεν Ἀχαιῶν τε Τρώων τε· / Ζεῦ πάτερ Ἴδηθεν μεδέων κύδιστε μέγιστε / ὁππότερος τάδε ἔργα μετ’ ἀμφοτέροισιν ἔθηκε, τὸν δὸς ἀποφθίμενον δῦναι δόμον Ἄϊδος εἴσω’ (3.119-22). Fearing his brother might die, Agamemnon bemoans the prospect of the war effort collapsing as a result (4.169-82), while other passages make it clear that it is Paris’ determination to keep Helen at all costs that prevents the Trojans from coming to peaceful terms with the Achaeans. The Trojan council at 7.345-78, in which Paris refuses Antenor’s suggestion of offering Helen to the Achaeans, is a good example. Cf. Idaius’ irrepressible condemnation of Paris as he delivers the message later: ‘κτήματα μὲν ὅσ’ Ἀλέξανδρος κοίλῃς ἐνὶ νηυσὶν / ἠγάγετο Τροίηνδ’· ὡς πρὶν ὤφελλ’ ἀπολέσθαι· / πάντ’ ἐθέλει δόμεναι’ (7.389-91). ‘εἰ μέν κεν Μενέλαον Ἀλέξανδρος καταπέφνῃ . . . / εἰ δέ κ’ Ἀλέξανδρον κτείνῃ ξανθὸς Μενέλαος ‘(4.281 and 284). Rabel (1997: 38) distinguishes the perspective of the characters, for whom the warfare has merely paused during the duel between Paris and Menelaus, from that of

Notes to pp. 27–30


16 17

18 19





the poet’s listeners, for whom the war’s depiction is about to begin for the first time in this performance. I do not use mise en abyme in the narratological sense developed by Dallenbach (1977) and usefully applied to the Odyssey by Rinon (2008), and to Book 23 of the Iliad by Rengakos (2006), but in the broader (and closer to the original) sense: the image of a work of art within itself. The narratological approach is insufficient here, because in these duels the epic offers a conception – an image – of itself not as narrative but as live spectacle and of its audience not as narratees but as viewers. Here and throughout this chapter boldface type marks words of particular relevance to the present argument. Since the context makes clear that the warriors are becoming an audience for the battle that will now be set up, it is not important that no verb of seeing is used yet. Verbs of seeing are used, with emphasis, when the fighting actually begins. Theskelos appears only once otherwise, used adverbially by Achilles to describe Patroclus’ shade: ‘it looked wondrously (theskelon) like him’ (23.107). See J. M. Foley (1997) for ‘traditional referentiality’. Some are happy to see the Iliad making references to the Odyssey, but many are not – and such is not necessary for this reading, which requires nothing beyond the traditionality of the phrase. Odysseus goes on to wish that the artificer of the belt would never make such a thing again: ‘μὴ τεχνησάμενος μηδ’ ἄλλο τι τεχνήσαιτο / ὃς κεῖνον τελαμῶνα ἑῇ ἐγκάτθετο τέχνῃ’ (Od.11.613-14). It is perhaps worth noting that while theskela is not related etymologically to theeomai and similar words denoting seeing (Chantraine GE 21), the ancients might easily have understood it to be so in a context such as this. ‘ἀξιόχρεων ἀρχέτυπον ἀνέπλασεν ὁ ποιητὴς τῆς ἰδίας ποιήσεως’ (bT-Scholia at 3.126-7) Bergren (1979–80). The web can also be interpreted in terms of Helen’s psychology: Whitman (1958: 117–18) says the web ‘becomes in an instant the symbol of her self-conscious greatness and guilt’. Cf. Yamagata (1994: 23): ‘Even the web she is weaving depicts the battle between the Achaeans and the Trojans . . . No doubt she cannot get it out of her head at any time.’ The scholiast’s speculation that Helen’s web emphasizes the justice of the Achaean cause (ἴσως δὲ τούτῳ τοῖς ὁρῶσιν ἐπειρᾶτο δεικνύναι τὴν Τρώων βίαν καὶ τὴν Ἑλλήνων δικαίαν ἰσχύν: bT at 3.126-7) seems ill founded, since Helen’s longing for her former home and husband are aroused by Iris as she leaves the web (3.139-40). Aethloi is used in the plural of Patroclus’ funeral games (23.646) and in the singular of the individual competitions (23.707, 753, and 831). In the Odyssey, the contest of the bow is an aethlos, both athletic and deadly in the event (Od.19.572). Recent treatments of the Iliad-poet’s interest in the line dividing athletics from martial contests include the three papers by Letoublon, Clay, and Maronitis respectively that appear in the 2007 collection edited by Paizi-Apostolopoulou, Rengakos, and Tsagalis.


Notes to pp. 30–37

23 ‘κλέος ἄφθιτον’ (9.413). For the debate on the traditionality of this phrase (and whether or not it constitutes a phrase) see Volk (2002). 24 Contrast the description of Achilles’ new shield in Book 18, which both displays the poet’s skill at making pictures live and demonstrates his interest in exploring this aspect of poetry’s power. Yet Helen’s web remains a mystery if taken on its own, all the more tantalizing for the revelation of its subject matter. In this it is like Achilles’ song in Book 9, which is also not described – though at least in that case its effect on its intended audience (Achilles himself) is described, as giving pleasure (terpein). 25 On the complexity of gazing and Helen’s role in this episode, see Lovatt (2013: 220–3). 26 This ‘arena of action’ corresponds roughly to what Stansbury-O’Donnell (2006) calls the ‘nucleus’ of action in vase paintings that depict a spectacle with viewers: the nucleus is ‘the essential action and its participants on which a narrative hinges’ (236; cf. Lovatt 2013: 12). The Iliadic spectacle under discussion in the present chapter is especially concerned with the crossing of this spatial/conceptual boundary. 27 It is worth noting as an aside, how the poet in this passage takes up Helen’s role. Helen takes her place beside Priam on the wall and supplements his autopsy with comments and orientation based on her own outside information. But the episode concludes with an instance in which Helen’s knowledge fails her; she does not know where Castor and Polydeuces are. At this moment, the poet steps in to do for his listeners just what Helen has been doing so well until now for Priam – he tells them, on the authority of his own outside knowledge, that Helen’s brothers are dead and buried in Lakedaimon (3.243-4). One effect of these parallel roles, I think, is to enhance the illusion that what the external audience is ‘seeing’ does represent autopsy – like that experienced by Priam within the story – though in fact such ‘vision’ is just as dependent on the words of the poet-narrator as the information that is given in supplementary asides. 28 The book divisions are generally agreed to be late features of the epics but it requires vigilance to resist the temptation to see them as inherent divisions. Such vigilance is called for here. On the possibility of the Iliad’s self-division into three parts, see Taplin (1992) and Heiden (1996 and 2008). 29 Among innumerable examples for mortals is Diomedes’ criticism of the fleeing Odysseus at 8.92-96, delivered as Diomedes himself is moving to rescue Nestor. 30 Other passages that help define ships and city as the outer limits of action include (but this is not a comprehensive list): 5.791, 7.71-2, 8.52 (= 11.82), 11.181, 16.66-70 and 18.259-65. 31 The single consistent exception is Zeus who never descends to the field at all and indeed is not partisan in the same way as the other major players among the Olympians. The typical pattern of movement between the divine and human spheres

Notes to pp. 37–38

32 33

34 35 36 37


by the gods is evident at 1.44-8; 1.194-5; 3.121; 4.73-4; 11.3-5; 15.169 (from Ida); 15.237 (from Ida); 16.677 (from Ida); 17.544-5; 18.166-8, 202; 18.614-17; 19.350-1, 355–6; 20.32, 21.504-5, 468, 478, 22.213, 518–20; 22.186-7; 24.76-8; 24.144-4, 159,188 and 24.340-8, and 468–9. The Iliad’s sustained engagement with the duel as paradigm for martial spectacle writ large – and its revisiting of the terms of this engagement with the duels in Books 7 and 22 – is a topic I analyse in depth in the book-length study from which the analysis of the present chapter developed. ‘Ὄφρα τοὶ ἀμφεπένοντο βοὴν ἀγαθὸν Μενέλαον / τόφρα δ’ ἐπὶ Τρώων στίχες ἤλυθον ἀσπιστάων· / οἳ δ’ αὖτις κατὰ τεύχε’ ἔδυν, μνήσαντο δὲ χάρμης’ (4.220-2). Those four are 4.421; 4.429-31; 4.539-44 and 5.85-6. The others are scattered widely through later battle books (13.343-4; 15.697-8; 16.638-40 and 17.366-7). I follow Clay (2011: 23) in treating the second-person potential observers together with the third-person examples: the phrase ‘you would not have seen Agamemnon dozing’ is very similar in effect to such a phrase as ‘not even a perceptive man would have recognized Sarpedon’ (16.638-9). They read as variations on a single trope; neither the second nor the third person examples are transparent direct addresses to the extradiegetic audience. In this, I would suggest a refinement of de Jong’s discussion (1987: 54–60). de Jong considers the ‘you’ in this and similar passages to be equivalent to her Primary Narratee-Focalizee (NeFe1), but this elides an important distinction – or, if it is correct in narratological terms, then the narratological approach is insufficient here. The narrative voice of the Iliad (what I have been calling the ‘poet’ or the ‘narrator’, without reference to any historical singer) is assumed to be singing to a group of listeners, a plurality. However, the ‘you’ of ‘ἴδοις’ (4.223), as in every other example of the device, is singular. If de Jong is right to say that the second person singular addresses are addressed to her Primary NarrateeFocalizee (NeFe1), then the terminology ignores an even more primary, plural audience assumed by the text, so we may as well call that the NeFe1. The point is that the singular ‘you’ is actually constructing and addressing a new focalizer within the text. A better approach is to group the second-person examples with the third-person examples. Both offer ethereal, hypothetical focalizers to the extradiegetic audience. Both types sketch a generic observer, a listener-turnedspectator onto whom any listener may project himself. ‘ Ἦ ῥα καὶ ἐξ ὀχέων σὺν τεύχεσιν ἆλτο χαμᾶζε· / δεινὸν δ’ ἔβραχε χαλκὸς ἐπὶ στήθεσσιν ἄνακτος / ὀρνυμένου· ὑπό κεν ταλασίφρονά περ δέος εἷλεν’ (4.419-21). ‘. . . οἳ δ’ ἄλλοι ἀκὴν ἴσαν, οὐδέ κε φαίης / τόσσον λαὸν ἕπεσθαι ἔχοντ’ ἐν στήθεσιν αὐδήν, / σιγῇ δειδιότες σημάντορας . . .’ (4.429-31). 4.539-45. Τυδεΐδην δ’ οὐκ ἂν γνοίης ποτέροισι μετείη / ἠὲ μετὰ Τρώεσσιν ὁμιλέοι ἦ μετ’ Ἀχαιοῖς’ (5.85-6).


Notes to pp. 38–44

38 de Jong (1987: 60) notes that ‘the function’ of this and similar passages ‘is to involve the NeFe1 [extradiegetic audience] more directly into the story’. 39 Frontisi-Ducroux (1986: 27–9), Bakker (1999: 18) and Clay (2011: 23). 40 The poet brackets these single combats with lines emphasizing that many other deaths are meanwhile happening all around: 4.450-1, 538. 41 Recent critics have noted that these shifts in point of view lend themselves well to description in cinematographic terms of zooming, panning and so forth (e.g. Winkler 2007: 46–63.) 42 Janko (1985: 237) usefully assembles other comparisons of divine movement to thought; the present instance is uniquely well developed. 43 Perkell (2008) views this tension through lenses of genre and gender in her analysis of the women’s laments for Hector. See Yamagata (Ch. 3 in this volume) for a comparison of the Iliad narrator’s apparent attitude toward war with that of the narrator in the Japanese epic The Tale of the Heike. 44 This is Eumaius’ ‘working assumption’ about what epic ought to do, as persuasively analysed by Stephen Halliwell (2011: 53) in the course of a lengthy, focused discussion of the question he poses: ‘is there a poetics in Homer?’ The intended effects of Homeric poetry are of course a matter of much scholarly debate. I note here simply that while Achilles (Il.9) and Demodocus (Od.8) apparently sing to induce people to terpesthai, or feel pleasure, that same verb is often used in cases of grief and weeping (cf. Latacz 1966: 174–219). According to Plato’s Ion (535e) – an admittedly late source – successful performances of Homeric poetry entailed moving audiences to tears.

3 From Our Own Correspondent 1 I am deeply indebted to Anastasia Bakogianni for granting me the opportunity to contribute to this volume and for her helpful comments, support and patience. I would also like to thank Tobias Myers for his generosity in sharing ideas and information in the final stages of preparing our respective chapters. I am also grateful to the publisher and the translator for their kind permission to reproduce passages from The Tale of the Heike, translated by Royall Tyler (Viking Penguin 2012), in this article. Special thanks are due to Professor Tyler for his comments on a draft of this paper, which have spared me a number of errors. It goes without saying that I am solely responsible for any remaining errors and shortcomings. 2 See Myers (Ch. 2 in this volume) and Hesk (Ch. 17 in this volume) for further discussion on warfare as spectacle in Homer and its effect on audiences and readers. 3 Cf. Symonds (2008) explores case studies of violence in media in more depth. Her conclusion, however, warns against generalizing on its effect on audiences (202):

Notes to pp. 44–47


No matter how much audiences delight in violence as entertainment, the awareness of real-world violence impacts on its reception, even if only by its deflection. The trail left by the texts of violence across the continuum from the live news report of indexical violence through to texts that fictionalize violence illustrates that there is no broad generalization that can be made about the representation of violence outside individual texts or generic groups. Those researching such texts to theorize about the representation of violence in general, or as a part of the ill-effects debate, need to acknowledge this indisputable fact.

4 5 6 7 8 9 10



For the investigation of poetic reception of the catalogue of Xerxes’ forces in Herodotus’ Book 7 as a satirical commentary on modern media’s portrayal of warfare as entertainment, see Bridges (Ch. 7 in this volume). I have used Waterfield’s translation for this quotation. I have borrowed this reference from Leigh (1997: 235). For a discussion of the role of war in the education of the young in Plato’s dialogues, see Capra (Ch. 8 in this volume). Cf. Vandiver (2010, esp. 228–80), for the use of Homer in portraying sacrifices in war in a positive light. I am grateful to Anastasia Bakogianni for this reference. Poetics 1460a. On Homer’s perceived ‘objectivity’, cf. Griffin (1980: 103, n.3). Cf. Richardson (1990: 140–66) who discusses some examples of Homeric commentary under the headings, ‘explanation’, ‘interpretation’ and ‘judgment’. The Iliadic quotations in this chapter are taken from Hammond’s translation (1987). Cf. Pulleyn (2000: 120 ad 1.4): ‘That these glorious warriors should finish up as rotting carrion is a stark and tragic reversal.’ Another dispiriting theme in this ‘proem’ is the wrath of Achilles itself as Kirk comments on 1.1 (Kirk 1985). Griffin (1980: 118) notes the scholia’s observation of the tragic effect of the proem. Cf. Kirk (1985: ad 2. 484). de Jong (2004: 46–7 and 52), however, observes that the dividing line between the function of the Muses and that of the narrator (the primary narrator-focalizer, NF 1) is not clear in both 1.1–5 and here. She regards this ambiguity as a case of ‘double presentation’ (52). Janko (1992: ad 13. 136–42) eloquently comments on further layers of meaning of the simile: The comparison of Hektor to an inanimate entity, the rock, is telling, but not only because it recalls the boulder with which he smashed open the gate at 12.445ff. Once likened to a torrent (5.597ff.), he now moves not under his own impetus but by Zeus’s will, as he proudly avers at 153f.; likewise rain, which made the boulder slide, comes from Zeus. Personification reinforces this point: the rock ‘flies’, ‘runs’ and is still ‘eager’ when it stops. The simile thus presages the failure not of this attack only, but of Hektor’s entire drive to the sea.


Notes to pp. 47–51

13 See also Postlethwaite (2000: ad 12. 433–5) for the contrast of war and peace. 14 Cf. Griffin (1976) and Griffin (1980: 103–43) for pathos in Homer, especially in the ‘obituaries’. See also Kirk (1990: ad 5. 152–8) for the note of pathos in this passage. 15 The motif ‘far from home’, along with those of ‘short life’ and ‘bereaved parents’, is highlighted in Griffin (1976: 164–6) as a common feature of Homeric ‘obituaries’. Cf. Edwards (1991: ad 17. 301–3). 16 This is not to say, however, that Homeric descriptions of killing and wounding are always realistic or anatomically accurate. According to Friedrich (2003: 37) ‘anatomical correctness cannot be expected in the Iliad’ and ‘in areas where only real medical experience can give testimony, they offer plausibility by chance at best, but, for the most part, largely fantasy’, citing this passage (Il. 17.295-9) as one example of this. 17 Halliwell (2011: 75) observes that the immortality carried by kleos can only be an implicit reminder of death. 18 Triumphant speeches do occur in Homer, however. Even Patroclus, who is known for his gentleness to his friends, hurls a cruel taunt at one of his victims, Cebriones, for his ‘acrobatic’ fall at Il. 16.745-50. Cf. Fenik (1968: 215). 19 However, Edwards (1991: ad 19. 301–2) maintains that Briseis’ lament is the ‘reason’ rather than the ‘pretext’ for the other women’s lament: ‘the women do not use the occasion as a “pretext” to indulge their own grief.’ 20 The moral standards expected of Homeric heroes can nevertheless be inferred by observing what sort of behaviour receives praise or reproach, though they are far from consistent. Cf. Adkins (1997) and Yamagata (1994, esp. 239–44). 21 The quotations from Heike in this article are taken from The Tale of the Heike, translated by Royall Tyler, translation copyright (©) by Royall Tyler (2012). Used by kind permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA ) LLC and the translator. 22 The existence of the ‘monk-soldiers’ (so-hei) in this period of Japanese history is also worth noting. They were protectors of the interests of Buddhist communities, but given the Buddhist doctrine that forbade killing, they may appear problematical to modern readers. Nevertheless there is no moralizing in Meishu’s aristeia, just as no question is raised about the fighting archbishop in La Chanson de Roland. Sato (1973: 466–7), however, observes differences in religious sentiment between La Chanson de Roland and Heike. According to him the former includes the concept of holy war (Gesta Dei), which equates death in battle against the pagan enemy to martyrdom. This guarantees entry into Heaven, and what underlines this promise most clearly is the presence of Archbishop Tyrpin in battle. Heike, on the other hand, does not swerve from the Buddhist doctrine that killing is a sin, even that of an enemy. This is revealed in a message sent to Noritsune, one of the leading warriors of the Heike at Dan no Ura, when the battle was all but lost, not to incur too many sins, meaning not to kill an unnecessary number of opponents [11.10 The Death of Noritsune, Tyler (2012: 615)].

Notes to pp. 52–59


23 For example, the geographical reality of the site of the battle is not faithfully reflected in the narrative according to Kawai (2009: 76–83). 24 This act of double suicide on the part of Lady Nii conforms to masculine heroic ideals. It is the ultimate demonstration of loyalty, as is evident from her declaration shortly before the section quoted here (11.9). She announces that although she is a woman she will not allow herself to be captured, but will die with the emperor. Being an elderly woman, and also a nun, even the enemy would have treated her with a degree of respect, but her grandson would likely have suffered a humiliating death, had he been captured. 25 The Ise Shrine is the residence of the Sun Goddess, the mythical ancestor of the Imperial family of Japan. 26 This refers to the name of Amida Buddha, who conveys human souls to Paradise. 27 The Initiates’ Book is unique to the Kakuichi Text, a performance text recorded in writing in the fourteenth century ce , and the most widely read version of Heike, on which Tyler based his translation (Tyler 2012: xiii). The renowned literary merit of the Kakuichi Text is particularly evident in its finale. 28 Macleod (1982: 8) memorably summarizes the nature of the Iliad ‘as a tragic poem’: The Iliad is concerned with battle and with men whose life is devoted to winning glory in battle; and it represents with wonder their strength and courage. But its deepest purpose is not to glorify them, and still less to glorify war itself. What war represents for Homer is humanity under duress and in the face of death; and so to enjoy or appreciate the Iliad is to understand and feel for human suffering. It can be said that the same principle of appreciation applies to Heike.

4 ‘The Clash of Weapons and the Sight of War’ * I am grateful to Anastasia Bakogianni and Valerie Hope for inviting me to submit a chapter to this volume and to Kyle Gervais and Helen Lovatt for sharing their work with me in advance of publication. Thanks to them and to Bill Owens and Yi-Ting Wang for many helpful comments and suggestions. 1 See further Lovatt (2013), Smith (2005), and Laird (1999: 98). 2 Ritualized spectacle also contributed to the construction of élite identity in imperial Rome (Fredrick 2002 and 2003). Roman élites determined social relationships through gazing and being gazed upon at spectacles in privileged venues such as the imperial court, the procession, the amphitheatre, the Forum, and the house (Zissos 2003 and Bartsch 1994). Roman epic characters perform the same type of social assessment as real-world élites as they gaze upon the created world of epic narrative.


Notes to pp. 59–73

3 For an in-depth discussion of this duel, see Myers (Ch. 2 this volume). 4 Hom. Il. 3.92-4, 3.253-8. Agamemnon adds a stipulation of additional recompense from the Trojans should Menelaus win the duel at Il. 3.281-91. 5 See Coffee (2008) on the epic duel. See Udwin (1999) on the epic theme of trading in lives. 6 Tarrant (2012: 16–36) surveys both the reception history and the history of scholarly debate with admirable economy and judgement. 7 I discuss the issues at greater length in Bernstein (2004). 8 Theb. 1.214-47. The claim is inaccurate and self-serving, as the Fury’s response to Oedipus’ curse is its actual first cause. 9 Gervais (2013) argues that the duelling brothers themselves are the only audience of the duel capable of engagement. 10 See Tarrant (2012: 16–30) for a valuable summary of an extraordinarily complex scholarly debate. 11 As Kirk (1985: 286–7) observes, however, the review could have been conducted without attributing ignorance to the king; he could have asked, e.g., ‘isn’t that Odysseus?’. 12 See Lovatt (2013: 252) on the lament of Evander at the death of Pallas. 13 The line has recently been adapted for the 9/11 World Trade Center bombing memorial (http://www.911memorial.org/remains-repository-world-trade-centersite). Though attributed to Virgil on the monument, its power to honour innocent victims depends on its de-contextualization from the narrative presented in the Aeneid. 14 See Tipping (2010) on the instability of exemplarity in the Punica. 15 For a discussion of the power of female lament in modern cinema and its effectiveness in garnering the sympathy of viewers on behalf of the defeated Trojans, see Bakogianni (Ch. 16 this volume). 16 Pagán (2000) sets Statius’ employment of ‘the mo(u)rning after’ in the context of aftermath narratives in Latin historiography; see also Hope (Ch. 10 this volume).

5 Death on the Margins * Many thanks to the editors for astute comments and hard work; to Neil Bernstein and Tobias Myers for sharing forthcoming work, and to Philip Hardie for reading an earlier version. 1 Lovatt (2013: 205-61). In the following chapter in my monograph I present the heroic body as spectacle (262–310), especially on fragmentation and fetishism, and going into depth on different possible readings of epic violence (293–302). This argues that there is a disavowal at the heart of epic, which skates over the surface of violent death or avoids it or replaces it with its own monument. In the current

Notes to pp. 73–81



4 5 6 7 8 9



chapter, I will tackle head on what happens when dying heroes are made the centre of attention, when their liquefaction is unavoidable. Poetics of space in epic: Clay (2011), Purves (2010), and Thalmann (2011). Liminality became fashionable among anthropologists in the work of Victor Turner, (1970) and (1995). Spectacle implies pleasure, intensity, grandeur, display, power: on spectacle in epic, see Leigh (1997); in Livy, Feldherr (1998). On the theatricality of Roman death scenes, see Edwards (2007). On Roman military corpses, see Hope (Ch. 10 this volume). On Roman culture and the ambivalence of being the centre of attention, see Bartsch (2006). On audiences and centrality: Feldherr (1995) on the games in Aeneid 5 and nested audiences watching the ship race. For a discussion of the tiers of spectators that observe Iliadic battles, see Myers (Ch. 2 this volume). Some comments on Statius’ death scenes in McNelis (2007: 124–51). For a discussion of the epic poet’s function as a mediator in the Iliad, see Yamagata (Ch. 3 this volume). The use of bold for emphasis throughout this chapter is the author’s. This is a common epic phrase, also used by elegists and epigrammatists parodying or evoking epic and the beautiful death. The phrase in Aeneid 1 is quoted by Seneca, at Epistulae Morales (67.8.1); parodic moments in Martial include: 1.52.8-9, in which Martial complains about plagiarism, and demands that his words (and kleos) should be claimed back; 1.103.6 on poverty and re-patched shoe-leather (the conditional clause in 1–2 may well evoke Aen. 1), and 10.1.3 of his own poetry. Dewar (1991: 219) compares Parthenopaeus’ speech with the relatively short speech of Camilla at Aen. 11.823-7: This is the brief, realistic last utterance of a committed and patriotic warrior concerned to the last to further her allies’ cause. Parthenopaeus’ speech is over five times as long and has more in common with the pathos and stylization of the death-aria of an operatic heroine.

11 The imagined anger of Atalanta (894) evokes the actual anger of Euryalus’ mother (Aeneid 9.481-3); the idea of him lying unburied, and his mother unable to bury him (898–902) equates to Aen.9.485-9; his anxiety that she might kill herself (889–90) and his order that she should live (894) pick up the demand of Euryalus’ mother for death, when she asks the Rutulians and Jupiter to kill her (Aen. 9.493-7). 12 Generic marginality: mandata morituri (‘instructions of one about to die’) are often found in elegy. For instance, see Prop. 1.21 (Gallus to his brother-in-law) and 2.13.17-18 (instructions for funeral). The idea of approaching the reader/recipient of news carefully is a motif of personal poetry: Ovid reflects on how to deliver love letters in Amores 1.11, or how to deliver poetry to his public /patron in Tristia 1.1;




15 16 17 18 19

Notes to pp. 81–86

Horace Epistles 1.20 imagines the book’s reception by the public by presenting the book as a slave-boy hired out to lovers. Dewar (1991: 220) compares Aegeus in Cat. 64.241-5. Here Aegeus is caught in the erotic narrative of Theseus’ abandonment of Ariadne, the punishment for his son’s lack of mindfulness. Hor. Carm. 4.5.9-16 features a simile in which a mother looking out from shore for her travelling son longs for his return like the country longs for Caesar’s; Lucan’s Cornelia at BC 8.45-53 looking for Pompey’s ship (paradoxically worse because he will be on it, in defeat) is an epic passage, but an erotic motif. Women watching in epic often operate on the edge of the genre, closely connected with tragedy or elegy, looking askance at the central matter and attitudes of epic poetry and the heroic code. More generic marginality: Tib. 1.3.5-10 imagines the lover dying far from home. The idea of dying naked and cold features at Ovid Ars. 2.238: frigidus et nuda saepe iacebis humo (‘Often you will lie cold on the naked earth’), in a passage playing with the ideas of militia amoris (‘the soldiering of love’). At Aen. 11.818 Camilla is cold in death (frigida leto). Scioli (2010: 205) points out that this episode reflects on ‘the impropriety of transgressing the divisions established for male and female space’. On the river landscape as Ovidian, see Newlands (2004). Dewar (1991: 127) points out that the interjection ‘a’ is used by Virgil seven times in the Eclogues and twice in the Georgics but never in the Aeneid. A bucolic feature? On the ekphrasis of Crenaeus’ shield, see Chinn (2010). Cf. Newlands (2004: 152). When, we are told, Crenaeus is swept downstream to the place of final change, the boundaries of the sea where fresh water changes to salt, the word ‘mutant’ (9.359) here ironically draws attention to the grim repetitiveness of grief and violence in the Thebaid, the lack of redemptive or consolatory change for mortal beings.

20 This feature too is noted by Dewar (1991: 125) as ‘pastoral’. ‘In epic it thus adds a melancholy and rather fantastic atmosphere.’ 21 As well as that of Icarus at Ovid Ars amatoria 2.91-2, as pointed out by Newlands (2004: 151) and Dewar (1991: 126). 22 The element of collapse is not present in the equivalent passage of Homer (Iliad 21.9-10); Dewar (1991: 104). 23 Modelled on Achilles’ attempt to pull himself out of Scamander with the help of an elm tree (Iliad 21.242-5). Dewar (1991: 152) puts the increased emphasis on the destruction of the landscape down to Hippomedon’s gigantic size. 24 On multiple causation in Latin epic, see Hardie (2009). 25 Smolenaars (1994: 392): cf. Aen. 4.691-2; 10.781-2; 10.898-9; VF 6.561-2; Theb. 10.501-2; Sil. Pun. 5.464-5. 26 Williams (1972: 129) finds the simile ‘unexpected’.

Notes to pp. 93–96


27 Statius’ creative compounds here have caused problems for readers: restruit (879), absiliunt (879), and dissaepto (880). See Williams (1972: 130).

6 Lyric Visions of Epic Combat 1 On military developments during the archaic period, see van Wees (2004: 166–74). 2 Most influentially proposed by Snell (1953); for criticisms of this interpretation of the development of Greek lyric and the Greek ‘discovery of the mind’, cf. e.g. Budelmann (2009: 14–15). 3 The degree to which lyric poets refer to the Homeric poems as we know them, as opposed to a general repertoire of epic myth, language, and diction, is much debated, and for the purposes of this article I mostly use ‘Homeric’ to indicate Homeric-style epic rather than arguing for specific intertextual links. An exception is Tyrt. fr. 10 W, where I see an intertext with Priam’s speech in Iliad 22, see pages 96–7. 4 For a critique of war as entertainment in the modern media, see Bridges (Ch. 7 this volume). 5 For a discussion of how the Greek military dictatorship (1967–74) tried to foster such bonds in the Greek populace by mounting lavish pageants of past military glory, see Van Steen (Ch. 15 this volume). 6 McConnell investigates satirical receptions of the spectacle of ancient warfare (Ch. 14 this volume). 7 On epic as a quasi-cinematic experience, see Myers and Hesk (Chs 2 and 16 this volume). Cinematic metaphors have often been used in descriptions of Greek martial poetry: cf. e.g. Bonifazi (2008: 45–61), Winkler (2007), and de Jong and Nünlist (2004). 8 The texts used are IEG 2 for Tyrtaeus and Mimnermus, PMGF for Ibycus, and Voigt for Sappho and Alcaeus. Translations are my own. 9 On the spectacle of Homeric duels, see Myers (Ch. 2 this volume). 10 The process and timing of the change from epic-style duelling to hoplite warfare is debated: for recent discussion, see van Wees (2004: 172–74) and Viggiano (2013). The important point here is that Tyrtaeus’ focus is much more overtly on the role of massed battle tactics, in contrast with the Homeric focus on individual superlative warriors. 11 ‘ὄβριμον ἔγχος’: e.g. Il. 3.357, 4.529, 5.790, 7.251; ‘ἔγχεϊ μακρῶι’: Il. 5.45, 660, 13.177, 15.745 (both in the same position at line end). ‘κινείτω δὲ λόφον δεινὸν ὑπὲρ κεφαλῆς’ evokes the Homeric ‘δεινὸν δὲ λόφος καθύπερθεν ἔνευεν’: Il. 3.337, 11.42, 15.81, 16.138, while the description of the massed combat in 31–33 is modelled on Il. 13.130-1: see Murray (1980: 127). 12 For a discussion of the beautiful death in Statius’ Thebaid, see Lovatt (Ch. 5 this volume).


Notes to pp. 96–100

13 It is possible, of course, that both Homer and Tyrtaeus are referring to an established epic motif of the ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’ deaths, but given the close parallels I find an Iliadic intertext here more likely. Priam’s speech is a famous moment in the Iliad, and we find allusions to such ‘marquee scenes’ earlier than we find more sustained forms of intertextuality: see Kelly (2015: 21–44), though I would be considerably more optimistic than him on the possibility of allusion to the Iliad at this date. 14 See esp. Il. 22.104-7. 15 Cf. Tyrt. fr. 11.19-20 W, and the shameful sight of the dead warrior whose wound is on his back. 16 For the erotic appeal of Statius’ dying young men, see Lovatt (Ch. 5 this volume). 17 For the didactic nature of the spectacle of war in Plato’s dialogues, see Capra (Ch. 8 this volume). 18 The suggestion of West (1974: 10–11) that the poetry was performed on campaign takes the military context too literally, though there is evidence that later in antiquity this was believed to have been the case (Lyc in Leocr.107, Philochorus 328 F 216). Bowie (1990) argues convincingly that there is no reason to object to a sympotic performance context. For discussion of Tyrtaeus’ possible performance contexts, see Nagy (1990); Brunhara (2010), and for the politics of exhortatory poetry in general, see Irwin (2005). 19 Cf. Xenoph. fr. 1, Sem. frr. 22–23 W, and see Bowie (2009: 122). For the probable performance context as the house of a hetairos, see also Boedeker (2012: 70). As Page (1955: 222) notes, Hdt. 1.34.3 is also evidence that the men’s hall might be decorated with hanging armour. 20 Cf. Burnett (1983: 124). 21 Gerber (1970: 200) also argues that the glitter of the arms is suggested by the clustering of hard sounds (κ / χ used 25 times; π / φ used 19 times). 22 Though it is (deliberately) ambiguous whether ‘Ἄρηι’ here should be taken as the god’s name or as a metonomy for war itself, in which case ‘κεκόσμηται’ indicates how the battle is made more spectacular through the finery on display. 23 Burnett (1983: 124–5) reads the poem as a movement from beauty to ordinary practicality, but I am unconvinced by her translation of lines 10–13 on which this analysis is based. 24 I agree with Walker (2000: 216–17) that it is tempting to take the poem as nearly complete, and to see the task as unspecified. Since the audience must have known the political context, which prompted the poem, it is poetically more effective if it is not spelled out in full but merely alluded to at the end. For the shift in tone at the end of the poem, see also Maurach (1968). 25 ‘δεινὸν δὲ λόφος καθύπερθεν ἔνευεν’: Il. 3.337, 11.42, 15.81, 16.138; Od. 22.124. ‘ἕρκος βελέων’ or ‘ἕρκος ἀκόντων’: Il. 5.316, 15.646. 26 Page (1955: 211–22) discusses the old-fashioned nature of the weapons, though his analysis is hampered by his assumption that the description is accurate rather than

Notes to pp. 101–103

27 28 29

30 31

32 33 34

35 36

37 38 39



poetic (so also Snodgrass 1983: 183). For the epic language, see also Rösler (1980: 153–54). Grethlein (2007: 107–8). See Allen (1993: 117). For memories of the past as a key feature of sympotic poetry, see Rösler (1990). As Jacoby (1918: 287–9) notes, this too is an intertext with Diomedes, whom Agamemnon criticizes for lacking the courage of his father (Il. 4.370-400). For further discussion of the criticism of Mimnermus’ contemporaries, see Klinger (1930: 80–1), Massa Positano (1946: 361–2), West (1974: 74), and Podlecki (1984: 60). Cf. Bowie (1986: 29). Older scholarship also often assumed that the poem reflected a real incident in Archilochus’ life, cf. e.g. de Falco (1946: 348), Kirkwood (1974: 33), and Rankin (1977: 42). Now scholars are rightly more cautious of attempts to read biographical reality into the poems, especially given that the jettisoning of a shield is a common trope in lyric poetry: cf. Alc. fr. 401b V; Anacr. fr. 381 PMG , and see Schwertfeger (1982), and Corrêa (1998: 123–26). On ‘ἀγάλλομαι’ see Di Benedetto (1991: 17–18), and see also Page (1964: 132); Seidensticker (1978: 8–9). Cf. Corrêa (1998: 127). Scholars who seek to lessen Archilochus’ culpability interpret ‘παρὰ θάμνῳ’ as indicating that the poet did not throw his shield away but that it was resting against a bush and then lost during a surprise attack: cf. Gerber (1970: 15), Loscalzo (1997: 16–17), and Anderson (2008: 259). However, this does not follow, for ‘κάλλιπον’ need not suggest deliberate placing, and much of the poem’s frisson relies on the fact that the narrator’s behaviour is controversial. On the significance of ‘οὐκ ἐθέλων’, and its relevance to this issue, see Mazzocchini (2006: 439–41). See Page in Scherer (1964: 110) and Seidensticker (1978: 8). A parallel is [Hes.] fr. 343.18 MW, where the singular ‘ἔντος’ is used of Athena’s aegis, an item, which is also of importance individually rather than as part of a set of arms. Archilochus himself also uses the singular at fr. 139.5 W, though the context is unclear. Exceptions are Il. 9.128, 15.463 Cf. Burnett (1983: 42). E.g. Il. 2.365, 9.319, 13.279, 18.128. Early Greek elegists regularly note the shifting nature of ‘κακός’ and ‘κακότης’ and we find frequent debates within the poetry as to how the terms should be understood: e.g. Tyrt. fr. 10.10 W; Thgn. 524, 623, 1061, 1175, and the new Archilochus fragment (P. Oxy 4708). For Archilochus’ equally slippery use of ‘κακός’ in that poem, see Swift (2012: 146). For discussion of the lines’ relationship to traditional martial values, see Gerber (1970: 27), Russo (1974), Kirkwood (1974: 33), Toohey (1988), and Müller (1994: 180–2).


Notes to pp. 104–108

41 Cf. also Tyrt. fr. 12.1-9 W, where the poet contrasts military worth with external appearance and other forms of aretê. 42 Cf. Archil. fr. 117 W, where he mocks his friend Glaucus for his fancy hairstyle. 43 Like fr. 5, this poem may be complete, since it makes excellent sense as a selfcontained unit, which builds up to a climax: cf. Russo (1974: 143). 44 Standing firm in battle is a critical element of the hoplite ethos, since the success of the army depended on the line remaining unbroken, as attested for example in the Athenian Ephebic Oath, Lyc. Leocr. 76–7: cf. Lavelle (2008: 151). 45 On the importance of the visual in the poem, see Worman (1997: 168). For the beauty of armies cf. Il. 4.431-2, 13.140-1, 20.156-7, and see Hutchinson (2001: 161). 46 Cf. Rissman (1983: 34–8), who notes not only the Homeric resonance of ‘ἐπ[ὶ] γᾶν μέλαι[ν]αν’ (Il. 2.699,17.416, 20.494; Od. 11.365, 587), but also the opening’s similarity to the Homeric phrases ‘πεζοί θ’ ἱππῆές τε’ (Il. 2.180, 8.59; Od. 24.70) / ‘ἱππῆες πεζοί τε’ (Il. 11.528). See also DuBois (1995: 101). 47 On ‘κάλλιστον’, see Koniaris (1967: 259–61), and Liebermann (1980). 48 On this inherent subjectivity, cf. Burnett (1983: 283–90), Foley (1998: 60–2), and Blondell (2010: 379–80). Bundy (1962: 5) describes this as a straightforward example of a priamel, but overlooks much of the nuance of the passage: for a critique of his approach, see Pfeiffer (2000: 2). 49 Most (1981: 11–13). Whether or not Page’s ‘[πανάρ]ιστον’ is the correct supplement, ‘αρ]ιστον’ seems inevitable: other suggestions include ‘μέγ’ἄρ]ιστον’ (Gallavotti) and ‘περ ἄρ]ιστον’ (Marzullo): for a discussion of the issues see Degani and Burzacchini (1977: 135), and Hutchinson (2001: 163). 50 A common theme in Sappho: cf. frr. 31, 47, 130 V. 51 I therefore agree with Woodbury (1985: 198) and Blondell (2010: 366–7) that interpreting this passage as a recusatio of the poet’s ability to compose heroic poetry is too simplistic: for discussion of this issue, see Bowra (1961: 252–6), and Sisti (1967). 52 As Blondell (2010: 368) notes, Ibycus deliberately avoids the Homeric conflation of physical and martial worth, whereby Achilles is both the best fighter and handsomest man of the Acheans (cf. Il. 2.673-4), and instead creates a distinction between war and beauty. 53 Assuming this is indeed the correct supplement. In its favour is the fact that it would be an echo of the Homeric ‘ὅς κάλλιστος ἀνὴρ ὑπὸ Ἴλιον ἦλθε’ (Il. 2.674, of Nireus). 54 There is much discussion as to whether Troilus is handsomer than Cyanippus or whether the gold/orichalc comparison is meant to suggest equal examples of beauty: see Robertson (1970), Woodbury (1985: 201–3), Hutchinson (2001: 252), and Wilkinson (2013: 82–3). 55 I follow scholars such as Page (1951: 160); Fraenkel (1975: 289); Woodbury (1985: 203–5); Wilkinson (2013: 83–4) in printing 46–7 as a single sentence, rather than

Notes to pp. 108–114


following the scribe’s punctuation of the manuscript. For arguments in favour of removing the stop at the end of 46, see Barron (1969: 135), Péron (1982: 39–40), and West (1970: 206). 56 ‘κλέος ἄφθιτον’: cf. Il. 9.189; Od. 8.73. For discussion of the phrase, see Nagy (1974: 231–55), and Goldhill (1994: 69).

7 ‘The Greatest Runway Show in History’ * I am especially grateful to Anastasia Bakogianni for her detailed and insightful comments on an earlier draft of this chapter, as well as to those who attended The Open University’s ‘War as Spectacle’ conference in 2012 for their encouragement and engagement in discussions which have been instrumental in helping me to refine my own thinking. 1 For a biography of Violi (1944–2011), see Grimes (2011). The interview referred to here is reproduced in full by Geurtsen (2008). 2 Accordingly, translations of Herodotus used in this paper are those of Waterfield (1998). 3 Johnson and Merians (2002: 71–6). The poem is also available to read online: see Johnson (2011). 4 See, for example, Hall (2010: 104–10), and Rabinowitz (2013). 5 See http://www.theater-of-war.com/ and http://ancientgreeksmodernlives.org/ (accessed 2 December 2014). 6 See also Hesk (Ch. 17 this volume) for a case-study of the way in which a modern war movie is able to play with Homeric resonances, in particular by drawing attention to the problematic nature of the spectacle of combat – delineated in such breath-taking detail yet combined with the horror and pathos of war by the poet of the Iliad – as a form of entertainment for the moviegoer. 7 Myers (Ch. 2 this volume) examines the ways in which the poet of the Iliad creates a spectacular experience of war for his listeners, and considers the effects of this upon the audience. Meanwhile Yamagata (Ch. 3 this volume) discusses the capacity of the Homeric epic to temper the bloody spectacle of war, designed to entertain the audience, with reminders of its devastating consequences. On the ability of tragedy to perform these functions, see Bakogianni (Ch. 16 this volume). 8 The most recent in-depth study of Homeric catalogues is that of Sammons (2010). On the relationship of Herodotus’ text to Homeric poetry, see Marincola (2006). 9 See Hall (1996: 108–9), noting that some scholars have also surmised – although have been unable to prove beyond doubt – that Aeschylus may have used the Periegesis of Hecataeus of Miletus as a source for his catalogues of Persian forces. On epic language and imagery in the Persians, see Saïd (2007: 76–9).


Notes to pp. 115–122

10 For an analysis of the presentation of Xerxes in the final scene of Aeschylus’ play, see Bridges (2014: 30–5). 11 Choerilus of Samos is also thought to have composed an epic poem on the Persian Wars in the fifth century bce ; this was said in antiquity to have contained a catalogue of Xerxes’ forces. On the evidence for, and fragments of, the poem, see Huxley (1969). 12 Compare, for example, the list of nations who are said to have brought tribute to Darius (3.90-5) and that of the Greek naval contingents at Salamis (8.43-8). 13 On the motif of the Hellespont crossing as literary shorthand for Xerxes’ invasion of Greece, see Bridges (2014: 15–16, 27–8, 57–60, and 103–5). 14 The stress on Persian numbers as contrasted with those of the Greeks is particularly prominent in Athenian oratory of the fourth century bce , in which the victory of the outnumbered Greeks is presented as a triumph against the odds. See, for example, Lysias 2.21, 2.27-9 (Funeral Oration), Isocrates 12.49 (Panathenaicus). 15 On the question of Herodotus’ veracity concerning Persian numbers, see Briant (2002: 527). 16 See, for example, Root (1979: 86–95) on the sculptural decoration of the Persepolis Apadana (audience hall). Note, however, Armayor (1978) warning against the suggestion that Herodotus’ catalogues were directly influenced by Persian monuments, and arguing instead that they are the product of Greek traditions. 17 On the ability of cinema to convey the sense of a massed horde through its use of digital effects, see Whissel (2010). For further discussion of the cinematic qualities of ancient depictions of warfare, see also Myers (Ch. 2 this volume), and Hesk’s consideration (Ch. 17 this volume) of the way in which a movie aestheticizes the spectacle of a massed military force in a manner similar to the Homeric use of similes to convey the sense of a crowd. 18 For a discussion of the broader significance of the scene at Abydus in relation to Herodotus’ text as a whole, see Bridges (2014: 64–6). 19 So Dewald (2006: 157): ‘[Xerxes’] habitual assumptions about the vast extent of his own power effectively blind him to the possibility of failure.’ 20 Cf. 7.56.1 where Herodotus tells us that Xerxes ‘watched his army crossing the Hellespont under the whip’. 21 Konstan (1987) considers Xerxes’ preoccupation with observing his force as a means of measuring the extent of his power. See also Christ (1994: 172–5) on the way in which Herodotean kings use counting as a way of testing their own greatness. 22 See further Myers, Yamagata and Swift (Chs 2, 3 and 6 this volume). 23 Hallin and Gitlin (1994) discuss the way in which US media coverage of the first Gulf War can be seen to have shaped public opinion. Thussu (2003) considers this issue in relation to the second Gulf War. On the wider theme of the ways in which a variety of ‘media spectacles’ manifest themselves in contemporary society, see Kellner (2003: 1–33).

Notes to pp. 122–123


24 Hoskins (2004) gives a detailed account of the developments in the televising of war from the conflict in Vietnam to the Iraq war of 2003. 25 See Puttnam (2003) for a discussion of how these changes affected news coverage of the second Gulf War in 2003. 26 Livingston, Bennett and Robinson (2005: 49–50), suggest that the origins of the US embed program lay in a reality television series, Profiles from the Front Line, in which journalists followed US forces in Afghanistan. For a detailed study of the role of embedded journalists in the 2003 war in Iraq, see Tumber and Palmer (2004: 13–63). 27 Puttnam (2003: 52) notes that: Fox’s coverage [of the 2003 Gulf War] was itself entitled ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’, echoing the US administration, but also contributing to the impression that we were watching something closer to a reality TV show. The graphics, captions and theme tunes, and most of all the pacing, all served to drag news closer to the ‘entertainment’ genre – even with human lives at stake.





See also Kakutani (2003), commenting on the ‘element of willful (sic) sensationalism and sentimentality on the part of producers who want to keep viewers from switching channels’. For example, Conflict: Desert Storm, released in 2002 (with a sequel in 2003), was a tactical video game in which players could take on the role of Special Forces carrying out missions in Kuwait. The first video game based on real events in the second Gulf War was Six Days in Fallujah (2009), which attracted widespread criticism and controversy. On the popularity of video games relating to war in Afghanistan, see Suellentrop (2010). The term ‘war porn’ originates in a 2004 essay by Baudrillard (see Baudrillard 2006 for an English translation from the original French) pointing out that explicit images of the war in Iraq shared some of the characteristics of pornography. Since then the term has come to be applied to the graphic and often excessively violent photographs and video footage of warfare, which can be circulated widely by way of the Internet. We might contrast here the distancing effect of such coverage with that of, for example, the way in which Greek tragedy used the mythological past as a way of exploring the theme of war (see further Bakogianni Ch. 16 this volume). For tragedy this was a way of encouraging active engagement with the issues raised; by comparison, as discussed throughout this chapter, the distance afforded by a television or cinema screen may have the opposite effect. Such details are, however, often political in nature; for example we are told that Megapanus, commander of the Hyrcanians, later became governor of Babylon (7.62.2), and that Artayctes, leading the Macrones and Mossynoecians, was the governor of Sestus on the Hellespont (7.78.1). Other commanders are singled out for their relationship by marriage to the Persian royal family (for example, at 7.73.1 Artochmes is said to have been married to one of Darius’ daughters).


Notes to pp. 124–130

32 See Tritle (2006: 213–14), suggesting that Herodotus’ descriptions of the horrors of battle derived from the accounts of veterans themselves. 33 For a sensitive analysis, which explores the blurring of the moral dichotomy between Greeks and Persians in Herodotus’ account, see Pelling (1997). Bridges (2014: 50–1 and 68–9), discusses specific examples of occasions in Herodotus’ narrative where the moral distinction between the Greeks and their Persian opponents is not as clear-cut as later, less nuanced accounts of the Persian Wars may suggest. 34 Rabinowitz (2013: 122–3) makes this important point about the distinction between ancient and modern experiences of war in relation to her discussion of the use of ancient tragedy as a critique of contemporary international politics. 35 Basu, Champion and Lasch-Quinn (2007) highlight the problematic nature of 300 (2007) as a film which ‘avoids any kind of indication of moral truth in the devastation it describes’, and which therefore ‘becomes pure entertainment and technique rather than art’. 36 On the notion of this two-way process of understanding between antiquity and modernity and its implications for the study of the reception of ancient texts, see Martindale (2007) and (2013). 37 The use of the word ‘cane’ in the final line of the poem – as a homophonic substitute for the Biblical ‘Cain’ in the idiom from which the phrase is derived – echoes the descriptions of the weapons which we saw earlier in the poem (the bows of the Bactrians and Sacae, and the Cyprians’ arrows). 38 On this phenomenon – the so-called ‘Fox effect’ – in television news coverage of war, see Rutenberg (2003).

8 Plato’s Cinematic Vision 1 On the cinematic qualities of Homeric epic, see Myers (Ch. 2 this volume). For screen receptions of ancient history, Greek tragedy and Homeric epic, see Van Steen, Bakogianni and Hesk respectively (Chs 15, 16 and 17 in this collection). 2 On the Platonic entanglements of these three movies, see Loughlin (2004: 41–4), Patridge (2005) and Wenmackers (2011). Weiss’s animation (illustrated by D. Oden, Churchill Films) is widely available on the internet, e.g. http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=Xkkarygi650 (accessed 17 November 2014). 3 For an example of a war movie with classical echoes, see Hesk on The Thin Red Line (Ch. 17 this volume). 4 It has been argued that the Timaeus and the Critias were originally one and the same dialogue, later split by the heirs of Plato. For this view, see for example, Haslam (1976). 5 For a good discussion of the characters of the Laches in the light of the historical background, see Schmid (1992), especially 1–21.

Notes to pp. 131–137


6 49a–50e. Cf. Cerasuolo (1980) and LaCourse Munteanu (2011: 95–7). 7 For the comic potential of classical war spectacles in Victorian burlesque and the French operetta, see McConnell (Ch. 15 this volume). 8 Supported by a direct quote from Iliad 7.321-32. Socrates also mentions ‘first seats and cuts of meat and full cups of wine’, which he adjusts from Iliad 8.162 and 12.311. 9 Socrates is quoting Works and Days 122–3. 10 On Homeric war as a subtext for Sappho’s poetry, see e.g. Rissman (1983). The (allegedly?) philosophical quality of this poem has stirred much scholarly speculation. See Capra (2014: 75–80), with a substantial bibliography. For a further discussion of Sappho’s poem, see Swift (Ch. 6 this volume). 11 Cf. Iliad 8.47-52, 13.3-14. On the gods as spectators, see also Myers (Ch. 2 this volume). 12 On the Iliad’s cinematic quality, see e.g. Winkler (2007). On the function of teichoskopia in Greek and Roman epic, see Bernstein (Ch. 4 this volume). 13 Philellenes is found at 470e. 14 Quoting in full Odyssey 11.489-91. 15 See e.g. Segal (1978), and cf. Halliwell (1984). 16 On Plato as a sociologist ante litteram, see Cerri (2008) and Allen (2010). 17 For the far-reaching implications of this statement, see e.g. chapter 4, entitled ‘To Banish or Not to Banish? Plato’s Unanswered Question about Poetry’, in Halliwell (2011). 18 See e.g. Aloni (1989). On Plato’s reception of ‘Athens’ Homer’, see Nagy (2002). 19 See Campese and Gastaldi (1998). 20 Timaeus 17c–d offers only the barest hint of the philosophical nature of the Guardians. 21 The good painter is likely to adumbrate Plato himself. Cf. the fascinating, if speculative, reading put forth by Canfora (2013: 273–81). 22 The earliest known example is Xenophanes 1.22 DK (plasmata, which is often rendered as ‘fictions’: this is commonly taken to inaugurate a long-lived tradition whereby plasso and plasma point to ‘fiction’. Cf. e.g. Whitmarsh (2005: 607). 23 Cf. e.g. the magisterial discussion provided by Vegetti (2000). 24 Post-1970s cinema is more likely to critique rather than valorize war. For examples of this more ambiguous portrayal of war in modern war movies, see Hesk’s discussion of Malick’s film (Ch. 17 this volume). See also Bakogianni’s analysis of Michael Cacoyannis’ The Trojan Women that uses the suffering of the Trojan women to condemn war outright (Ch. 16 this volume). 25 Cf. Capra (2010) and Regali (2012: 71–78). 26 For the controversies concerning the identity of this speaker, see Nails (2002), s.v. Critias III . 27 Cf. Nagy (2002) and Capra (2010).


Notes to pp. 138–140

28 See Erler (1997). On Plato’s appropriation of historiographical conventions, see Vidal-Naquet’s seminal discussion (2005). 29 For a recent survey, cf. e.g. Ciardi (2011).

9 Shadow-Boxing in the East 1 See Sonnabend (1986: 202–20), and Schneider (2007: 60). Pogorzelski (2011: 161, n.34) has a very useful note on the concept of ‘other worlds’. Although orbis need not mean a completely different world, it can be used (OLD 13) to designate a distinctive and separate part of the same orbis terrarum (‘sphere of lands’). That sense of demarcation and distance is what Manilius sets up here. 2 Cf. Schmitt (1997: 13–20) on the ideological dimension of the Virgilian concept of imperium sine fine, ‘empire without end’. The important question of whether Manilius was writing under Augustus or Tiberius (or both) has prompted different responses. Volk (2009: 137–61) argues robustly for Augustus. Divergences cluster around whether Manilius’ reference to ‘Caesar’ in his portrait of Libra (4.773-7) designates Augustus or Tiberius (cf. Lewis 2008: 315, favouring Tiberius). 3 Dignas and Winter (2007: 9–17) is a useful survey. 4 See Wissemann (1982) and Mattern (1999: 186–8) on the Parthians in Augustan poetry. Horace (Epist. 2.1.256) succinctly calls Rome formidatam Parthis (‘a source of terror to the Parthians’), as if a war had taken place. 5 See Levick (1976: 234, n.38) and Woodman (1983: 268) for the date. 6 Rose (2005) offers a comprehensive and illuminating survey of the archaeological evidence. Mattern-Parkes (2003) explores the ideological Roman response to Carrhae (‘an unjust war undertaken for the wrong reasons’, 391) in the evolving concept of the ‘just war’. See Sheldon (2005: 86–99) on the conflict itself and Wardle (2011: 44–5) on the notion of blame attributed to Crassus the individual general through the term clades Crassiana (‘Crassian disaster’). 7 Recovery of the standards: Hor. Carm. 4.15.6, Epist. 1.12.27-8, 1.18.54-7, Augustus Res Gestae 29.2, Ov. Fast. 5.579-96 with Barchiesi (2002), Vell. Pat. 2.91.1, Suet. Aug. 21.3, Just. Epit. 42.5, Oros. 6.21.29L, Eutr. Breuiarium 7.9. There is disagreement about whether the Temple to Mars Vltor on the Capitol, voted by the senate (Dio 54.8.3) and depicted on coins, was actually ever built: Rich (1998: 79–97) argues that it was not. He also suggests (97–115) that on Augustus’ initiative the proposed triumphal arch was modified so as to become a remodelling of the Actium arch. 8 See RIC I : Mars with the standards (Augustus 41, 58, 60, 80–4), ob ciuis seruatos (‘because of the citizens who were saved’: Augustus 29a + b, 30a + b, 40a + b, 75a +b, 76a +b, 77a +b, 7, 79a+ b), the standards (Augustus 83, 84, 85a +b, 86a + b, 87a +b), Temple of Mars Vltor with the standards (Augustus 105a +b), chariot with an eagle

Notes to pp. 140–144

9 10 11 12



15 16


18 19 20




(Augustus 107–13), Temple of Mars Vltor with an eagle in a chariot (Augustus 114–20), triumphal arch (Augustus 131–7), and Capricorn, the sign of Augustus’ conception (Augustus 124–30). See, generally, Lerouge (2007). See Zanker (1988: 188–92), Mattern (1999: 187), and Schneider (2007: 54). Rose (2005: 25–6) argues that this Roman leader with the dog is actually female and represents Roma, while the other (male) figure is Parthia. Marshall (1984: 120), discussing the phenomenon of display, suggests that ‘a highly developed sense of pageantry, even showmanship’ had long been endemic in Roman political life. See Suet. Ner. 13, Cass. Dio 63.1-6. Tacitus’ account of that grand finale is unfortunately now lost. [Sen.] Octavia [624–8: licet . . . | supplices dextram petant | Parthi cruentam, ‘Although . . . the suppliant Parthians seek his bloody right hand’, with Ferri (2003: 303)] makes the ghost of Agrippina the Younger allude to Tiridates coming to Rome to receive the diadem of Armenia from Nero in ce 66. The metaphor has taken a new twist in the USA . Magelssen (2009) discusses the concept of ‘theatre immersion’ at Fort Irwin in the Mojave desert, where soldiers before real deployment experience simulations of Iraq and Afghanistan in a mock town populated by villagers in costume. Myers applies the metaphor in his analysis of the gods’ spectatorship in the Iliad (page 19). See Shumate (1997) on Nero’s theatricality. See Simard and Macaulay-Lewis (Chs 11 and 12 this volume) on commemorative monuments in New York City and their use of the classical past to enhance their visual and ideological impact. Tacitus narrates the campaigns in Parthia and Armenia under Nero selectively and piecemeal: Ann. 13.6-9 (ce 54), Ann. 13.34.2-41 (ce 58), Ann. 14.23-6 (ce 60), Ann. 15.1-17 (ce 62), and Ann. 15.24-31. The precise dating of these campaigns is controversial (Wheeler 1997). Keitel (1978) discusses the relevant sections of Annals 11 and 12 under Claudius. Ash (1999b) considers a battle scene under Tiberius. See Campbell (1993: 229) on diplomacy after Augustus. Dignas and Winter (2007: 174) identify some factors that made Armenia so important, including its geographical position, which meant that it was the main transit route from the Near East to Asia Minor, its economic resources (including goldmines), and its natural resources (including horses). Redgate (1998) is a useful study. Tacitus’ decision to begin so pointedly from the Parthian perspective perhaps reflects a desire to distance himself from Corbulo’s memoirs, undoubtedly a source (Ann.15.16.1; Devillers 2003: 37–9), but clearly partisan. All translations of Tacitus’ Annals are from Woodman (2004).


Notes to pp. 144–150

23 Tacitus uses the Ciceronian in integro esse (‘to remain intact’: TLL s.v. integer 2073.5-20) again at Hist. 3.2.4 and Ann. 3.50.3 (both in speeches). See Gilmartin (1973: 605–6). 24 Tacitus uses aequitas (‘fairness’, ubiquitous in Cicero) sparingly (Dial. 31.2, Ann. 16.33.1). 25 The combination eo + acc. pl. infitias [a choice periphrastic alternative to the verb infitior (‘I deny’), once in Tac., Ann. 3.14.1] features above all in Plautus (10x; also Ter. 2x; Livy 4x; Nep. 1x; Curt; 2x; Sen. Younger 1x; Plin. Elder 2x; Quint. 3x; Frontin. 1x; Gell. 7x; Apul. 1x). Livy transferred the colourful expression to historiography, using it predominantly (3x) in speeches (Oakley 1997: 699). 26 For a historical survey of Parthian religious practices, see Colledge (1986: 4–9). 27 See Griffiths (1953), Wolski (1990), and Fowler (2005: 141–3). 28 Martin and Woodman (1989: 196), and Oakley (1997: 536–7). 29 It is perhaps also Ennian: cf. mortalem summum (‘highest mortal’: Ann. 312, and Skutsch). 30 Winterbottom (2004: 225–6) and Dyck (2008: 122) on Cic. Cat. 1.33. Vologeses makes rhetorical play out of the gods again (Ann. 15.24.1). 31 Clark (2011: 215–16) suggests ways in which Tacitus’ Vologeses evokes Tiberius. 32 The phrase is first in Accius Trag. 610. Ogilvie (1965: 278) compares the Homeric μῶλος Ἄρηος (‘struggle of war’). Cf. Woodman (1977: 102) on Vell. 2.95.1. Livy is especially fond of this figurative expression (Oakley 1997: 515–16, and 1998: 291–2). 33 Sall. Iug. 5.1 bellum . . . magnum (‘great war’); Livy 21.1.1 bellum maxime omnium memorabile (‘a war very greatly memorable of all wars’). For a Greek example see Bridges’ analysis of the Herodotean catalogue of Xerxes’ forces (Ch. 7 this volume). 34 For the modern practice of packaging war for consumption at home, see Bridges (Ch. 7 this volume). 35 Gilmartin (1973: 605), and Clark (2011: 211). 36 Ash (2006) analyses in detail Tacitus’ presentation of Corbulo’s discreditable treatment of Paetus. 37 Tacitus certainly finds letters expressive elsewhere: see Morello (2006). 38 Paetus mirrors Corbulo’s boastfulness [uerbis magnificis (‘aggrandizing words’), Ann. 13.8.3] without having the achievements to justify it. 39 See Caes. B Gall. 4.17-18, not using boats; cf. B Gall. 7.58.4, B Civ. 1.61.6, using boats. Brown (2013) discusses the verbal texture of the first case and the description of the bridge as (42) ‘an embodiment of ingenuity and strength’. 40 Ash (2007: 172–3). 41 Cass. Dio 62.21 likewise mentions that Vologeses ordered the Romans to build this bridge (which he did not need), as a way to demonstrate that he was more powerful than them: ‘a visible form of power-play’ (Clark 2011: 220).

Notes to pp. 151–155


42 Clark (2011: 219–21) speculates that T. recalls his (now missing) account of Caligula riding across a bridge of boats to Puteoli (Sen. Brev. 18, Joseph. AJ 19.5, Suet. Calig. 19, 32, Cass. Dio 59.17). 43 See Bulliet (1975) on camels used for transport. 44 The location of these monuments on the Capitol is arguably an interesting case of ‘intersignification’ of monuments (Roller 2013: 120), proposing a term apt for the architectural equivalent for intertextuality, since the Augustan senate voted a temple to Mars Vltor on the Capitol to celebrate the recovery of the standards. Even if that temple may not have been built, ‘intersignification’ can still incorporate that absent presence (Roller 2013: 128). On Nero’s Parthian arch, see Kleiner (1985) and la Rocca (1992). 45 Devoting resources to such displays is generally reserved for the period after victory: cf. Sumi (2002) on Sulla. 46 Schneider (2007: 57) discusses a surviving fragment of a monumental relief put up in Rome and showing the upper part of a Parthian warrior. This seems to be part of a battle scene between Romans in the upper area and Parthians below. Hölscher (1988: 537–41) dates the image to the Parthian war under Nero in the 60s. 47 Waddell (2013: 480), in an article that constructively applies film-theory to Tacitus’ Annals and the images on Trajan’s column. 48 Kleiner (1985: 109–38, with plates 26–34). 49 This has particularly complex associations with Julius Caesar [Lossau (1975); Leigh (1997: 54–63)]. Cf. Cic. Att. 8.16.2 on Caesar’s insidiosa clementia (‘deceitful clemency’). 50 Mattern (1999: 175) shows how in Romano-Parthian relations, Tacitus regularly identifies the emergence of superbia (‘arrogance’) in one side as a cyclical consequence of ‘a show of weakness, usually on the issue of Armenia’ from the other side. 51 See Schmitt (1997: 57) and Dignas and Winter (2007: 177) on the compromise. 52 Ash (2006: 373). 53 Tacitus is sensitive towards such geographically informed memories: conspicuous cases are the two civil war battles at Bedriacum (Hist. 2.39-45 and 3.16-31) and Arminius and Caecina (Ann. 1.63-6), with Woodman (1998: 121–5) and Pagán (1999). 54 Mattern (1999: 176) sees it in terms of a ‘competition for status’. 55 ‘In the story of Rome’s conflict with Parthia, issues of honour, disgrace, and deference emerge repeatedly’ (Mattern 1999: 177). 56 Dignas and Winter (2007: 14) refer to ‘a more or less uninterrupted peace between the two powers throughout the first century ce . The fact that in ce 66 the so-called “Armenian question” found a solution must have strengthened relations even further’.


Notes to pp. 155–160

57 Schmitt (1997: 58–62). Lightfoot (1990: 115–21) is very useful on the details of the campaigns. 58 Woodman (2009: 41) is useful here on Tacitus’ treatment of Parthia from a Trajanic perspective. 59 Cf. the original defeat at Carrhae: ‘The war itself was controversial, possibly not sanctioned by the Senate and certainly unprovoked . . .’ (Wardle 2011: 43). Sherwin-White (1984: 281–90) offers a different reading. 60 Corbulo was forced to kill himself late in 66 or early in 67 after a mysterious conspiracy apparently led by his son-in-law Annius Vinicianus (Suet. Ner. 36.1, Cass. Dio 63.17). 61 Mucianus served with Corbulo in 58. See Ash (2007: 294).

10 Bodies on the Battlefield 1 Burns (2003), and Coulston (2013: 19–20). 2 See also Campbell (1984: 365–74), Kajanto (1970), Horsfall (2003: 103–15), and Alston (1998). 3 E.g. Verdery (1999); for military corpses, Capdevila and Voldman (2006), Drake (2013), and Arrington (2014: 19–27). 4 Shilling (2003: 4). For studies on ancient bodies, Montserrat (1998), Porter (1999), Corbeill (2004), Hopkins and Wyke (2005), and Squire (2011). 5 Roach (2003), and Williams (2004). For Rome, see Graham (2011). 6 Pagán (2000), Manolaraki (2005), Edwards (2007: 19–45), Lovatt (2013: 217–61), and Bernstein (Ch. 4 this volume). 7 See Bernstein and Lovatt (Chs 4 and 5 this volume); and to compare duels in Greek epic and lyric, see Myers, Yamagata, and Swift (Chs 2, 3, and 6 this volume). 8 The relationships between soldiers and gladiators, between battle and arena combat (spectaculum), are toyed with by authors (e.g. Tac. Hist. 2.70, discussed above p. 172), and were a powerful way to highlight (and problematize) spectatorship and entertainment in military death. The ambiguous status of the gladiator, both admired and despised, could also echo that of the soldier during the Imperial period; though the soldier was far above the gladiator in terms of legal status, and not marked by infamia; reactions to the military could encompass a wide gamut of responses, as could crowd reactions during arena games. See, for example, Edwards (2007: 46–77), and Fagan (2011). 9 Earth made slippery and inaccessible from blood and corpses: Polyb. 15.14; Livy 30.34.9-10; 37.43.7; Tac. Hist 2.44.1; Luc. 3.575; Sil. Pun. 4.162-3; 10.146; Amm. Marcell, 16.12.54; 31.13.6. Bodies falling in trenches, around walls and ramparts: Polyb. 1.34; Livy 30.6.6; Sil. Pun. 1.418; 13, 207; Joseph. BJ 2.5.325-28; Plut. Caes. 39; Amm. Marcell, 15.4.12. Bodies easing the passageway of troops: App. 4.1.4; Pun.

Notes to pp. 160–167

10 11 12


14 15 16

17 18 19


21 22


8.9.63; Caes. B.Hisp 32; Luc. 6.180; Sil. Pun. 15.768; Plut. Caes. 20; cf. Livy 26.6.2; (bodies of elephants ease passage-way across a ditch). See Voison (1984), Richlin (1999), and Fields (2005). See e.g. Most (1992), Green (1994: 224–26), Ash (1997:196–204), Bartsch (1997: 10–47), Marks (2008), Ash (2010: 91–92), and Dinter (2012: 9–49). For example, Sall. Iug. 101 (weapons, armour, corpses and bloodstains); Livy 8.1.6 (corpses and weapons); Livy 22.51.5-9 (mutilated corpses, blood, weapons); Livy 28.36.13 (corpses and weapons); Luc. 1.38-9 (bodies); 1.105 (blood); 2.134-5 (heaps of bodies); 7.291-4 (blood, bodies and carnage); 7.729 (blood); Sil. Pun. 1.125 (corpses); 6.5-13 (bodies, severed limbs, discarded weapons and gore); 10.450-512 (heaps of bodies, mangled corpses, pools of blood, discarded weapons); Tac. Agric. 37 (weapons, limbs and corpses); Tac. Hist. 2.70 (mutilated corpses, severed limbs, rotting bodies, and ground soaked with gore). Note, Lovatt (1999: 129–33) and Pagán (2000: 423–34), explore the inter-textual similarities in battle aftermath scenes, especially how these are looked upon, and this is taken up above pp. 170–6. At this point I would emphasize that the generic check-list (bodies, severed limbs, weapons and blood) is used even when the aftermath (and who is looking) is not long focused upon. For exemplary military suicides, see Edwards (2007: 19–45). For other examples, see Peretz (2005: 127) and Carroll (2009). Compare Livy’s account of how the headless and eviscerated corpses of cavalrymen, slaughtered by Roman troops, caused fear and panic among the Greeks when they were given a public funeral (31.34.1-5). See Malamud (2003), and Erasmo (2008: 109–25). For the characterization of Hannibal more generally, see Tipping (2010: 51–61). Estimating casualty levels is complex. Sabin (2000: 5–6) suggests a death rate in the Punic Wars of about 5 per cent; Rosenstein (2004: 107–40) calculates that 8.8 per cent of soldiers died in battles during the mid-Republic; Scheidel (2007: 427– 28) regards all such estimates as tenuous, though he does note that the risk of combat mortality in the Imperial period would have been lower than in the Republic. Giorcelli (1995), and Hope (2003). Cf. for the customs in fifth-century bce Athens, Arrington (2014). For recent discussions of the few exceptional cases where war memorials were considered or erected (Cicero’s rhetorical monument for the war dead of Forum Gallorum; a grave mound for the Varian dead; and a monument inscribed with individual names at Adamclisi), see Hope (2003), Cooley (2012), and Turner (2013). These comments recall those of poets who imagine being deprived of the attentions of their loved ones in death, e.g. Ovid Trist.3.3; Tibullus 1.3. Polybius (3.85) suggested that, after Trasimene, Hannibal only buried his men of rank. The assumption is that, in defeat, Roman bodies would have always been left




25 26




Notes to pp. 167–171

unburied, but it is possible that sometimes, as the field was cleared, bodies would have been disposed of. Tacitus has a rebellious soldier, wishing for the return of his murdered brother’s body, note that even enemies can bury the dead (Tac. Ann.1.22). That bodies could be moved, if not buried post battle is suggested by Plutarch who records civil war bodies (in ce 69) piled as high as a temple (Otho 14). Morgan (1992: 26–29) suggests that odours were not accepted subject matter in history writing, though more readily present in biography. Authors did not wish to disgust their readers by evoking strong smells. It is worth noting that in civil funerals perfumes and incense were common features [for examples, see Hope (2007: 112–13)], disguising the stench of death was expected practice, emphasizing, once more, how battlefield death inverted social and cultural norms. It should also be noted that a sense of pollution (admittedly somewhat ill-defined) was attached to a civilian family following a death, and those who could afford it employed undertakers to minimize contact with the corpse. Soldiers and their commanders, however, were not regarded as impure or polluted by the blood that they shed in just wars against Rome’s enemies (Lennon 2013: 122–28). If the essential rituals were provided for fallen soldiers, any spiritual pollution attached to the corpses was also dissipated. And even in the case of non-burial of the dead this may have been mitigated by the belief that those killed in battle had a special status in the next life, e.g. Cic. Phil. 14.12.32; Virg. Aen. 6.660; Joseph. JW 6.46-9. A rotting military corpse was, however, still an affront to the senses. Allara (1995) has noted that the term corpus tended to denote that a dead body was closer to the living than the term cadaver; cadaver is associated with abandonment, and non-burial, and a lapse of time since the body’s last contact with the living. This is reflected in Lucan; the dead bodies exploited by Erictho are cadavers (6.639; 6.550; 6.727; 6.755; 6.822), as is Pompey’s unburied body (8.700; 8.725) and the bodies at Pharsalus (7.598, 7.627, 7.830). For a modern example of the commemoration of a battlefield, see Simard (Ch. 11 this volume). Few Roman battlegrounds have been securely identified and subjected to archaeological analysis; to throw additional light on the nature of post battle activity, see Rost and Wilbers-Rost (2010), and Ball (2014). Ammianus Marcellinus suggested differences in how corpses of soldiers decayed, noting rapid decay of Roman corpses and desiccation of Persian corpses, attributing this to lifestyles and climatic conditions (Amm. Marcell. 19.9). That such episodes are constructed to highlight the failings of others is further illustrated by Antiochus burying bodies of Macedonian soldiers (191 bce ), who had been killed by Romans some years before, thereby putting Philip of Macedon in a bad light for leaving them unburied (Appian Syr. 11.3.16). It is notable that as part of the complex characterization of Hannibal, as a worthy enemy, not only does Hannibal bury the enemy dead and admire their valour,

Notes to pp. 171–206

30 31 32 33 34



but he also mourns the deaths of his friends. Appian claims that after Cannae, Hannibal wept over the bodies of his friends, and struggled to accept that their deaths were the price of the victory (App. Hann. 7.4.26). Compare Cicero Phil. 11.3.7, where Dolabella ‘fed his eyes’ on the sight of his victim’s mangled corpse (cum animum satiare non posset, oculos pavi). Ancient material culture offers us a glimpse of the army’s life on campaign; see Fear on the portrayal of the Roman army on Trajan’s Column (Ch. 13 this volume). E.g. Fantham (1999), and Lovatt (2013). See also Bernstein (Ch. 4 this volume); and for the marginality of these viewers, Lovatt (Ch. 5 this volume). See Bakogianni (Ch. 16 this volume) on modern receptions of Greek tragedy that harness the power of female grief for political capital. This dramatic and destructive relationship between women and battlefield spaces is taken to its extreme in the witch Erictho. Lucan’s creation feeds on the dead, glorying in battle and blood and exploiting conflict, and specifically corpses. The necromancer-witch, a subversion of the grief stricken women spectating from the walls, brings life and agency to the corpses once more, re-animating and exploiting them, highlighting the horrors of male-driven civil conflict; see, for example, Masters (1993: 179–215) and Lovatt (1999: 141). For discussions on Roman attitudes towards and legacy of civil war, including its literary representations, see Henderson (1998) and the collected papers in Breed, Damon, and Rossi (2010).

11 The Monument and Altar to Liberty 1 I have numerous people to thank for their help with my work on this chapter. Many thanks go to the librarians and staff of the Brooklyn Historical Society. Thanks also to the staff of Green-Wood Cemetery. Special thanks to Jeff Richman, historian of Green-Wood Cemetery, who kindly answered all of my enquiries and personally guided me through the relevant material. Lastly, personal thanks to Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis and Ronnie Ancona, who read drafts of this essay, and to Anastasia Bakogianni for her editorial assistance. 2 See Johnston (1878: 189–90), Manders (1978: 43–6) and Lewis (2009: 85–121). 3 The Spartans cultivated a reputation as defenders of freedom, which became a legend in subsequent centuries. In reality, the Spartans needed an effective military to maintain control over their helots. Along similar lines, historian Gerald Horne has recently argued that the American Revolution was a ‘counter-revolution’. In Horne’s analysis, the British Empire was showing signs of moving towards the abolition of colonial slavery. Thus, American settlers waged war not for freedom but to preserve their institution of slavery in the face of changing customs in London.


Notes to pp. 207–239

4 Athanassoglou (1981), Morris (2000), Clarke (2002), Rebenich (2002), Clough (2004), and Bridges et al. (2007). 5 Inglis (1992), Piehler (1995), Winter (1995), and Francis, Kellaher and Neophytou (2002).

12 Triumphal Washington 1 Audiences in New York, Pittsburgh and Milton Keynes heard versions of this chapter; their comments greatly improved this work. Many thanks are due to the librarians and staff of the Library of the New York Historical Society. Saskia Stevens’ and George Lewis’ comments greatly improved this paper. This is chapter is dedicated to my children, husband and parents, all of whom have contributed to this paper in their own way. 2 For a lesser-known Greek-inspired New York monument, see Simard (Ch. 11 this volume). 3 Reynolds (1984), Andrews (1995: xi–xxiii), Bahamón and Losantos (2008), and White, Willensky and Leadon (2010, xi–xii). 4 Levick (1999: 25–42), Goodman (1987: 235–6), Goodman (1998: 7), and Goodman (2007: 11–29). 5 Pfanner (1983), Yarden (1991), Magness (2008: 201–17), and Holloway (1987: 183–91). 6 Elsner (2000: 149–84), Marlowe (2006: 223–42), Hannestad (1988, 319–36), and Lenski (2006). 7 Torelli (1997: 145–77), Speidel (2005–06: 198–206), and Rawson (2001: 21–42). 8 For the re-interpretation of another Roman form in the post-classical era, that of the column, see Fear (Ch. 12 this volume). 9 Also see http://numismatics.org/collection/1957.172.1488 (accessed 2 January 2014). 10 Cf. The mixture of American, ancient Greek and Roman elements in Higgins’s Monument and Altar to Liberty, which also featured English inscriptions. See Simard (Ch. 11 this volume). 11 On the subject of kleos and its appropriation by Americans for their monuments, see also Simard (Ch. 11 this volume). 12 See also Simard’s discussion of Mason’s work and its applicability to the classically inspired monuments of New York City (Ch. 11 this volume).

13 An Unwinding Story 1 For these views, see Claridge (1993), but the objections of Lepper and Frere (1988: 23–6) still hold good against such opinions.

Notes to pp. 239–242


2 The quotation is taken from the website dedicated to the Column hosted by St Andrew’s University: http://research-computing.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/2013/06/28/ the-trajans-column-project/ (accessed 1 January 2015). 3 See, for example, the Jupiter Column at Mainz, Bauchhenß and Noelke (1981: 162–3). 4 Sadly only a single sentence of this work has been preserved, see Priscian 6.13 = HRR 2 2.117 F1. See also, for some doubts, Westall and Brenk (2011). 5 von Furtwängler (1903), and Florescu (1965). The ordering of these metopes in antiquity is unclear. 6 Alexander riding down his enemies was a common motif in ancient art. The best-known examples are the ‘Alexander Mosaic’ from the House of the Faun in Pompeii and the ‘Alexander Sarcophagus’ found at Sidon and now in Istanbul. It is possible that the iconography of both derives from a lost painting by the fourth-century bce artist Philoxenus of Eretria, see von Graeve (1970). 7 See, for example, the carvings on Titus’s Triumphal Arch in Rome or that at Orange in Provence that dates from the reign of Tiberius. For illustrations, see Ramage and Ramage (1991: 107 and 129–30). 8 See the comments of Lepper and Frere (1988) passim, where a good example of the Column offering important details can be found on p. 72. 9 Lepper and Frere (1988: 1). Three sets of the casts were made – one is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the other two can be found in the Lateran in Rome and at the Musée d’Archéologie Nationale in Paris. 10 Some of these are digitized versions of Napoleon III ’s casts and hence new representations of a representation; see, for example, the archive held at http:// commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Trajan%27s_Column_-_Cichorius_Plates (accessed 2 December 2014). The Trajan’s Column site hosted at MacMaster University: http://www.stoa.org/trajan/ (accessed 2 December 2014) contains images of the original column and cartoons intended to make the original clearer to the viewer, a strategy also found at the German-language Arachne site: http://arachne. uni-koeln.de/drupal/?q=de/node/103 (accessed 2 December 2014). This latter site also hosts a scanned copy of Pietro Santi Bartoli’s seventeenth-century engravings of the Column frieze. Bartoli straightened his engravings to make them horizontal, thus removing any notion of a helix and engraved what he saw in a contemporary fashion. Here again the viewer is creating a new reception of a reception. The Trajan’s Column Archive based at the University of St Andrew’s: http://research-computing. wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/2013/06/28/the-trajans-column-project/ (accessed 2 December 2014); contains images from both Napoleon III ’s casts and the original Column and explicitly invites the viewer to compare the two. 11 An examination with x-ray fluorescence has revealed that the entire Column was originally painted, see Bandinelli (2003).


Notes to pp. 242–246

12 Legionaries, for example, always wear lorica segmentata as opposed to the auxilia who appear to be wearing leather armour. On the tropaeum Traiani, legionaries are depicted in chainmail and at times wearing the manica – neither of which feature on the Column. It is best to see the Column’s depiction of the troops as an idealized one, much in the same way that nineteenth-century prints of the Peninsula War depict British troops in clean, red uniforms regardless of what was actually worn in the field. 13 Dio 68.16.3, Aurelius Victor, 13.11. For a modern discussion of the significance of the Column as Trajan’s tomb, see Davies (2000: 27–34). 14 C.I.L. 6.960 = ILS 294. ‘The Senate and the People of Rome to the emperor Caesar Nerva Trajan Augustus, conqueror of the Germans, conqueror of the Dacians, son of the deified Nerva, Pontifex Maximus, with tribunician power for the seventeenth time, hailed as triumphant general for the sixth time, consul for the sixth time (i.e. ce 113) and Father of his Country, in order to show the height and site of the hill removed for such great structures.’ There is no mention of the Dacian Wars, but the context made such a reference unnecessary. Dio Cassius, probably taking his lead from the inscription, also states that the column was built to demonstrate the amount of land excavated to create the forum. 15 See Davies (1997: 60–4). However, the arguments about the exterior of the Column manipulating viewers into re-enacting ancient funerary rituals seem much less convincing to this author. 16 The theme of spending the largesse of a triumphant campaign on the population is also present in the Flavian Amphitheatre built from the spoils of the Jewish War. It is likely that Trajan had this in mind as an element of his propaganda and wished his public to draw this comparison. 17 Perhaps the most incongruous example is that of the heroized Claudius crushing Britannia from the Sebasteion at Aphrodisias, see Smith (1987). 18 For Domitian’s popularity with the army, see Southern (1997: 65–7). For Trajan’s rise to power, see Bennett (2001: 42–52); for his careful pursuit of policies remarkably similar to those of Domitian but presented in a different fashion, see Waters (1969). 19 See Tac. Hist. 2.21 where in ce 69 legionaries from the German frontier are regarded as peregrinum et externum. 20 For a discussion of the ideology of Marcus Aurelius’s column (albeit overstated in this author’s opinion), see Ferris (2008). 21 Notitia Urbis Constantinopolis 8.13-14, 13.10-11; Marcellinus Comes, Chronicon 2.480.92.8, Chronicon Paschale sv 421. 22 See in particular the growth of legends about the ‘mercy’ of Trajan and that because of this mercy Pope Gregory the Great successfully prayed to have him, though a pagan, be allowed into heaven. The legend appears in the anonymous Life of Gregory written in Whitby in the seventh century. Trajan appears as the ‘virtuous pagan’ in

Notes to pp. 246–251

23 24

25 26 27

28 29


31 32 33 34

35 36


Langland’s fourteenth-century Piers Plowman and most famously in canto 20 of Dante’s Paradiso. See 1 Thessalonians 5.8, 2 Corinthians 2.14, Ephesians 6.14-17; Augustine, Ep. 189. It is possible that the Bayeux Tapestry is the only surviving example of a genre of narrative tapestries. We know, for example, that one depicting the deeds of Earl Byrhtnoth was presented to the Monastery at Ely in the late tenth century. This could suggest that the Column inspired a whole genre of narrative depictions of war in this form, but sadly all are now lost and this hypothesis must remain conjecture; see Musset (2005: 20–3), and Hicks (2006: 39). Arrêté du 20 mars 1800, article 1. à l’instar de celle élevée à Rome, en l’honneur de Trajan. y serait écrite en bronze par un bas-relief de huit cent trente pieds, représentant les opérations de la mémorable campagne de 1805, de même que l’expédition contre les Daces l’a été sur la colonne Trajane. The most detailed description of the column is found in Tardieu (1822). On its background, see Huet (1999: 63–5). Given that this was a French Empire, references to Caesar would have been embarrassing to say the least. Napoleon’s interest in Alexander can be seen from the fact that he commissioned the Danish sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen, to create a long neoclassical frieze, 3 ft high and over 100 ft long, of Alexander entering Babylon in triumph to decorate the Palazzo del Quirinale in Rome to celebrate his visit to the city in 1812, see Bott (1991). Neapolio Imp(erator) Avg(vstvs) monvmentvm Belli Germanici anno MDCCCV trimestri spatio dvctv svo profligati ex aere captogloriae exercitvs maximi dicavit. ce monument impérissable de la gloire des soldats francais . . . A l’example de Trajan, Napoléon en fit hommage à l’armée dont il avait partagé toutes les fatigues. One of those responsible for the colonne’s demolition, the minor artist Gustav Courbet, was fined 323,000 francs to pay for its re-erection. La ville de Paris a son grand mât tout de bronze, sculpté de Victoires, et pour vigie, Napoléon. Illustrated most famously by Severus’s dying dictum to his sons, ‘Stay united, pay the troops, ignore everyone else’, Dio Cass. 77.15.2, and also by Tacitus’s comment that emperors could be made elsewhere than at Rome, Hist. 1.4.2. See Macaulay-Lewis on another Washington monument located in New York (Ch. 12 this volume). Obelisks are common as war memorials, but have nothing to do with Trajan’s Column, being drawn from an entirely different funerary tradition. This is also true of monuments depicting a broken column which, again, is a motif drawn from private funerary monuments.


Notes to pp. 251–260

37 The plaques are the work of the Austrian artist Emil Fuchs, who also designed a commemorative peace medal for the war, which was minted by Myers Brothers in 1900 and 1902. The obverse of this medal has an allegorical figure of Bellona sheathing her sword in front of the assembled army. The reverse shows a kneeling angel (nike?) giving a victor’s palm to an anonymous fallen soldier who is enveloped in the flag and bears the legend ‘To the memory of those who gave their lives for Queen/King and Country’ (see Brown 1987: no. 3876). Again, one can see here the shift from the celebration of a specific individual towards the commemoration of the suffering of the troops as a whole. 38 See Heller and Chwast (2001: 176–82). The style is perhaps subverted by the cenotaph at Liverpool. This monument, designed to look like a classical altar and located outside the city’s neoclassical town hall, has ranks of stern overlapping, marching soldiers on one side, but on the other is not a victory scene but one of mourning.

14 Epic Parodies 1 See, among others, Jenkyns (1980), Turner (1981), Hall and Macintosh (2005), Goldhill (2011), and Richardson (2013). 2 For a modern satirical reception of ancient historiography, see Bridges (Ch. 7 this volume). 3 Quoted in Chisholm (1911: 869). See also Fear (Ch. 13 this volume) on the appropriation of ancient material culture by French emperors. 4 Anon. (1870) Chappell’s Musical Magazine, 1 April 1870: http://paperspast.natlib. govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=TS 18740428.2.12&l=mi&e=-------10--1----0-[last accessed 3 November 2014]. 5 On Berlioz’s 1859 revival of Gluck’s opera, see Goldhill (2011: 104–12). 6 Harding (1980: 110), writing in the same year as Faris, likewise hesitates to ascribe political satire to Offenbach, asserting that Offenbach’s primary purpose was to amuse. Although entertainment was clearly a fundamental motivation for Offenbach, the approach of both Faris and Harding seems to underestimate the political power of humour. 7 Martens (1930: 566) goes so far as to remark, ‘The Offenbach parodies were unconsciously to play their part in weakening the authority of the very Emperor who applauded them.’ 8 Kenrick (2014): http://www.musicals101.com/operetta.htm [last accessed 3 November 2014]. 9 On war reporting, see also Yamagata and Bridges (Chs 3 and 7 this volume). 10 Hall and Macintosh (2005: 402–5), and on the American performances, see Bosher and Cox (2015), Davis (2015), and Pearcy (2015).

Notes to pp. 262–273


11 For more on Blanchard’s burlesque, its innovations and importance, see Hall and Macintosh (2005: 338–41). This parodying of the form of Greek tragedy was also important to Offenbach’s Orphée aux Enfers, as Munteanu (2012: 81) discusses. 12 See Jenkyns (1980: 199–210) and Turner (1981) for more on Gladstone’s Homeric scholarship and the ways that it reflects the era in which he was writing. 13 For example, when faced with a word-game to solve in Act 1, Paris correctly responds with ‘locomotive’ and goes on to exclaim, ‘It is doing very well to have guessed that, four thousand years before the machine was invented!’ (Oui, locomotive – Et c’est très fort d’avoir trouvé ça quatre mille ans avant l’invention des chemins de fer!, Offenbach 1868: 15). 14 Others include the suggestion that the ancient Greeks were colour-blind (based on the fact that they use terms for dark and light rather than for different hues), and his construction of the geography of Bronze Age Greece. On the latter, see Koelsch (2006). 15 In Michael Cacoyannis’ added prologue to The Trojan Women (1971) the narrator makes it plain that it was the Greeks’ greed that drove them to attack Troy. The film also criticizes war in general and emphasizes the suffering and pain it causes. See Bakogianni (Ch. 16 this volume). 16 On Berlioz’s opera, see Cairns (1988) and Pillinger (2010).

15 Parading War and Victory under the Greek Military Dictatorship 1 I am very grateful to Dr Anastasia Bakogianni for her tireless work as a researcher and editor. I thank the contributors to the June 2012 conference, ‘War as Spectacle’, organized by Dr Bakogianni with sponsorship of the Department of Classical Studies at The Open University, Milton Keynes. I am privileged to have had access to a rare source with which to illustrate my chapter: the summary documentary of a day of Greek public festivals in 1967. The documentary was produced for Greek public television, which the military dictators used to deliver news and culture by command. This chapter is a revised version of Van Steen (2010b), and I thank the editors for allowing me to re-use some of my materials. All translations from the original modern Greek sources are my own, unless otherwise noted. 2 I owe this apt term to Michael Herzfeld, who provides the following definition: ‘Displays of order both reflect and, in the sense of their performative capacity, serve to shape social transformations’ (2001: 257). 3 The characterization of ‘hyper-spectacle’ or ‘hyper-theama’ is drawn from Raftopoulos (1984: 69). Grigoriadis uses the expression ‘bread and circuses’ (ἄρτος καὶ θεάματα) (1975, vol. 2: 227).


Notes to pp. 273–277

4 Raftopoulos summarily places these pseudo-cultural festivals in a historical and cultural context (1984: 70–1, 88–95). Van Steen (2010b) discusses the displays of sports and bodily culture that were part of the junta festivals. For further context to issues of aesthetics, culture, and the politics of culture under the dictatorship, see Van Steen (2015). Antoniou (2013) approaches these festivals but mainly northern Greek celebrations and commemorations from a historicizing perspective focusing on the evolving anticommunist discourse of the past several decades. 5 One of the most insightful recent treatments can be found in Fischer-Lichte (2005). Herzfeld speaks of ‘the imagined community made manifest’ (2001: 271). For a longer historical perspective on ‘mega-events’, see Roche (2000). The insights of Benjamin (1968), Kracauer (1995) and Mosse (1975) remain relevant, too. 6 The concept of Πολεμική Αρετή is not well served by the overly literal translation of ‘Polemic Virtue’, the adjective being derived from ‘polemos’ (war). ‘Polemic’ or ‘warlike’ in English may sound appropriately aggressive but must here be substituted with ‘martial’ or ‘military virtue’ or ‘virtue in war’ (the latter, as per Papadopoulos 1970: 207 in a speech given on 30 August 1969). 7 See, for example, the big spread on the festivals and the accompanying speeches of 20–21 April 1969, on the front page of the newspaper To Vima of the following day (22 April 1969). For further information about the significance of Ochi Day in Greek World War Two history, see below, p. 283. 8 In accordance with Decree No. 284, ΦΕΚ Α’ 80/17.04.1968, published in the Efimeris tis Kyverniseos or the Government Gazette. 9 See Papadopoulos’s own statements (1969: 56–7, on 1 September 1968; 1970: 206–8, on 30 August 1969; 1970: 163–5, on 29 August 1970; and 1972: 113–15, on 27 August 1971). 10 The Greek Left did not shy away from enlisting antiquity in the service of its more liberal agenda, either. To further its radical goals, it frequently resorted to oppositional readings and performances of classical Greek drama. See also Bakogianni, Ch. 16 this volume. 11 Papanikolaou (2007: 150, also 94, 130–1). See further the DVD production directed by Anastasis Agathos entitled ‘The Comedy of the Junta: The Hilarious Side of a Dark Era’ (in Greek), which accompanied the Ta Nea issue of 17–18 April 2010. The recent 13-part Greek TV series, ‘It’s a Junta. Will It Pass?’ (directed by Fotos Lambrinos), is based on the Epikaira, the official weekly news bulletins of the dictatorship years. Both new sources one-sidedly parody the mega-events staged by the Colonels. See further Lambrinos (2011 and 2011–12). 12 For an example of official speeches of admonition to civil servants, see Papadopoulos (1968a).

Notes to pp. 277–278


13 The Colonels maintained the make-believe that their festivals fanned the flame of genuine popular devotion to their rule, while large parts of the populace played along. The pretence of acting and ‘believing’ on both sides reflected the dynamics of the ‘public transcript’ and of the dramaturgy of power that James Scott has articulated in his seminal work, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (1990). On some of the specific strategies in exercising power and pretence, see Scott (1990: 89, n. 44). 14 I do not label either the Colonels’ regime or Metaxas’s rule as strictly ‘fascist’ but prefer to characterize both regimes as ultra-right-wing, reactionary in their ideology (a partly secular, partly religious fundamentalism), violently anticommunist, authoritarian and brutal in their methods, but populist in their rhetoric. Petrakis offers a recent study on Metaxas and on the extent and power of his propaganda mill (2006: ch. 4, on theatre propaganda). See also Dimadis (2013); Hamilakis (2007: ch. 5); Kallis (2007); Panourgia (2009: 34–7); and Pelt (2001: 156–61). Roger Griffin has isolated ‘palingenetic ultra-nationalism’ or ‘palingenetic populist ultra-nationalism’ as the fundamental ideological element of fascism (1998: 13). This definition of an ultra-nationalism that looks to the past in its quest for regeneration while also craving popular support applies to the Greek dictatorship as well. 15 The special issue ‘Ideology and the Classics’ of The Classical Bulletin (2000) edited by Ward W. Briggs highlights the close alliance that Italian Fascism built with ancient Rome. The recent book by David Pritchard, Sport, Democracy and War in Classical Athens (2013), highlights the close connections between sport, élite culture, mass appeal, and constant warfare in fifth-century bce Athens. 16 The 1936 Olympics were captured on screen in the epic-propagandistic film Olympia (1937), made by the controversial Leni Riefenstahl. By 1936, Riefenstahl had completed Hitler’s previous commission, the filming of a massive 1934 Nazi party rally in Nuremberg. The result, Triumph of the Will, contains many scenes of public speeches, youth gatherings, athletic marches and military parades, which render Germany’s drive to war palpable. 17 On the seminal notion of Greek historical continuity, see further Gourgouris (1996: 252–61). The model of historical continuity underpinned the multi-volume History of the Hellenic Nation (1860–74), the seminal nation-building work of Konstantinos Paparrigopoulos. Paparrigopoulos had proposed five eras of Hellenism (the epochs of ancient, Macedonian, Christian, medieval and modern Hellenism), but his work has been remembered in terms of three eras only: ancient, Byzantine and modern Hellenism. Advocating for Greece’s regeneration, Metaxas focused on the ‘illustrious’ periods of antiquity, Byzantium and his own rule (occasionally adding the 1821 struggle for independence). His sequence was a populist-fascist reincarnation of the continuity model, which let him proclaim



19 20 21

22 23

24 25


Notes to pp. 278–290

himself founder of the ‘Third Hellenic Civilization’, modelled after Hitler’s Third German Reich. As Bakogianni aptly points out, the male narrator’s authoritative voice was and continues to be a favourite device also of iconic Hollywood epics. She discusses Cacoyannis’s use of the narrator in, for instance, The Trojan Women, who condemns the Greeks’ treatment of their Trojan victims (Bakogianni, Ch. 16 this volume). An older study by Van den Broek (1972) details the long history of the myth of the Phoenix. See also the recent collective volume edited by Grosserez (2013). Including Euripides’ Troades, see Bakogianni (Ch. 16 this volume). Spokespersons for the regime added to the chorus of Athens-based and also regional voices heralding the military virtue of the Greeks. The Greek National Library holds at least three published speeches on the topic: one by Vasileios Kassandras (1970), delivered on 30 August 1969; another by Dimitrios Konstantinidis (1971), delivered one year later; and a third by Konstantinos Xenogiannis (1971), given on 29 August 1971 in the provincial town of Kalamata. The latter tellingly coined the term Grammomachoi after Marathonomachoi and Salaminomachoi (1971: 7). Kotanidis mentions Oikonomidis’s collaboration (2011: 83 and testimony of 8 June 2012) and Koliodimos refers to the work of Paris (1999: 18, 20). From the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth century, instruction in Greek history in primary and secondary schools, preferably highly structured, was marked and marred by its relentless emphasis on the ‘patriotic’ national past. Ancient Greek language and literature, too, were often taught in tedious, ethnocentric ways, presenting the symbols of classical culture as sacred cows. Hamilakis discusses some of the problems posed by an educational culture of excessive classicizing and nationalizing (2007: 29, 179–81, 203). Gkolia (2011) documents the ‘nationalizing mission’ of Greek education through the first decade of the twenty-first century. She discusses the celebrations of the anniversary date of the regime of 21 April (Gkolia 2011: 43–5, 144–62) but pays relatively little attention to the ‘Festivals of the Military Virtue of the Greeks’ (Gkolia 2011: 303). See the pedagogical material and evidence from the mid-1950s through 1970s, compiled and analysed by Frangoudaki (1979). The quoted motto traces its origins as far back as Homer’s Iliad 12.243, in which – ironically – the defiant Trojan hero Hector reprimands Polydamas, who discourages the Trojans from engaging in battle because of a bad avian omen. For more details on the regime’s slogans, see Gkolia (2011: 157–8). For a more detailed discussion of the junta’s use of the Revolution of 1821 and its anniversary, see Katsapis (2011). See also the speech given by Papadopoulos on the eve of the anniversary and published in the newspaper To Vima, 24 March 1971. On the anticipated nationwide celebrations, see the anonymous announcement in Apogevmatini of the same date.

Notes to pp. 291–292


16 The Anti-War Spectacle 1 This chapter is dedicated to the memory of Michael Cacoyannis, who passed away on 25 July 2011. A debt of thanks is owed to my tireless co-editor Valerie Hope for her editorial assistance. I am particularly grateful to Gonda Van Steen for her incisive comments that helped me improve my analysis. I would also like to acknowledge the generosity of the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation (http://www. mcf.gr/en/) for permission to use the images that illustrate my discussion. 2 I have argued elsewhere why it is useful to apply this label to Cacoyannis’ three films modelled on Euripidean dramas (Bakogianni 2013a: 207, n. 3). I was interested to note that Vrasidas Karalis, a Modern Greek Studies specialist, automatically applies the term (Karalis 2012: 183), while the classicist Pantelis Michelakis expresses reservations (2013: 42–3). In this chapter, I am honing in on the evolution of Cacoyannis’ portrayal of anti-war spectacles across all three films, so for the purposes of my discussion examining them both singly and as a trilogy has distinct merits. 3 Battles such as the ones depicted in Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy (2004), for example. In spite of the negative critical response to the movie, it has become a cultural point of reference in terms of the recreation of classical antiquity on screen. Cacoyannis’ films are of course modelled on dramatic rather than epic source texts. Moreover, his trilogy predates this Hollywood blockbuster, but I am very aware that my reception of the three films is filtered through later cinematic spectacles that shape the way I respond to these three modern Greek cinematic receptions. 4 Cacoyannis’ receptions engage closely with the topic of the Trojan War and its consequences, unlike many of the examples of French operetta and English burlesque that McConnell discusses (Ch. 14 this volume), which often frustrated their audiences’ expectations. 5 For spectacle as a multi-sensory experience, see Introduction, Ch. 1 this volume. 6 Anti-war movements oppose specific conflicts, whereas the pacifist movement opposes all wars on principle. Cacoyannis’ trilogy adopts the latter position, but this is a blatantly anachronistic view of Euripides’ dramas (Carter 2007: 134) that classicists tend to avoid (e.g. Scodel 2012: xxiii). Some have, however, argued that the play condemns war, for example McDonald (1983: 183). This is the position that theatre practitioners have adopted in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, restaging Euripides’ Troades as a protest against contemporary conflicts. Katie Mitchell’s Women of Troy (performed at the National Theatre in London during its 2007–08 season), and the Trojan Women (at The Gate in London) in a new version by Caroline Bird, are two pertinent examples of this trend in the reception history of the play. 7 This is an extension of the argument I began to formulate in an earlier article that focused on Cacoyannis’ The Trojan Women (Bakogianni 2009: 45–68).


Notes to pp. 292–293

8 A heartfelt thank you is certainly owed to my student viewing groups at the Institute of Classical Studies, the University of Reading, and most recently at the Universidade Federal do Paraná in Brazil, who over the years enabled me to fine-tune my engagement with Cacoyannis’ trilogy. 9 Kenneth MacKinnon divided the reception of Greek tragedy on screen into three categories, or modes: theatrical, realistic and filmic. He defined the realistic mode as follows ‘the most popular of these possibilities, partly because it is the most popular mode in cinematic practice. Emphasis is shifted from actors to actors in a setting, that setting being “objective” ’ (MacKinnon 1986: 19). In his view, Cacoyannis’ trilogy belongs to the second mode (MacKinnon 1986: 74). 10 See also Michelakis’ discussion about Cacoyannis’ use of realism and stylization (2013: 43–51). 11 For example, he found working with Vanessa Redgrave on The Trojan Women particularly problematic, because she arrived on set without a lot of preparation, and Cacoyannis felt he had to push her in order to get the emotive performance he needed from her (Siafkos 2009: 185). 12 Cacoyannis chose Hamilton’s translation (1937) because he thought it ‘masterly’ (McDonald and Winkler 2001: 80). Nonetheless, he modified it to bring it more in line with his directorial vision. He removed references to the gods and made other changes for the sake of continuity, as for example when a group of soldiers on horseback discuss Helen’s fate. They reiterate that she was the ‘cause’, the pretext they needed to attack Troy. 13 Cacoyannis’ single Hollywood success was his Zorba the Greek (1964), but his experiences working with United Artists (who helped finance and distribute Electra) and 20th Century Fox (Zorba) convinced him that he preferred to work more independently (Siafkos 2009: 136 and 159–65). After the suffocating atmosphere of Hollywood Cacoyannis enjoyed working as an independent filmmaker again on The Trojan Women (Siafkos 2009: 183). For an example of another auteur working both from within and outside the mainstream studio system, see Hesk (Ch. 16 this volume), which analyses Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line (1998). 14 Cacoyannis’ first film was Windfall in Athens (Κυριακάτικο ξύπνημα, 1954), but the film for which he is still best remembered in Greece is his Stella (1955), starring Melina Merkouri. For a brief discussion of Cacoyannis’ early output, see Bakogianni (2011: 157–8). 15 For details about the dictatorship’s portrayal of the War at Troy as a triumph over a threatening foreign power, see Van Steen (Ch. 15 this volume). 16 For an example of Cacoyannis’ emphasis on the universal rather than the specific, see McDonald and Winkler (2001: 74 and 80). 17 I have discussed the impact of this context on Cacoyannis’ trilogy in much more detail in previous work. See Bakogianni on the international and modern Greek

Notes to pp. 293–299





22 23 24 25




context of The Trojan Women (2009: 52–5) and Electra (2011: 157–72). On Iphigenia and the impact of events in Cyprus on Cacoyannis’ interpretation of Euripides’ drama, see Bakogianni (2013a: 213–17, and 2013b: 228–32). Van Steen appropriates this term from theorists like Pierre Bourdieu and applies it to ‘the charged, totemic value of Greek antiquity’ (Van Steen 2010a: 22). For an English edition, see Johnson (1993). I am grateful to Gonda Van Steen for bringing Bourdieu’s work to my attention. Cacoyannis, in a phone interview with Marianne McDonald and Martin M. Winkler, went so far as to call Euripides a ‘pacifist’ (McDonald and Winkler 2001: 74). Cacoyannis’ explanation about why he chose to film in Spain, ruled by Franco (1936–75), is another indication of how the Greek military dictatorship shaped his interactions with Euripides’ source text (Siafkos 2009: 187). In his view, the Spanish dictatorship was on its last legs, whereas the Colonels still had Greece firmly in their grip. Cacoyannis condemned the Colonels’ coup d’état on French radio and vowed not to return to Greece while it was being governed by a dictatorship. Later he allied himself with Melina Merkouri, the famous Greek actress, activist, and later politician, to protest against the regime during the time he spent in the US (Siafkos 2009: 165–7). For the function of the Olympian perspective in the Iliad, see Meyers’ discussion (Ch. 2 this volume). On the authority with which male voices can be invested, see also Van Steen (Ch. 15 this volume). Michelakis argues against ‘Showing what should not be seen’ [sic] (Michelakis 2013: 24) in his discussion of The Legend of Oedipus (1912). For the political dimension of Theodorakis’ music in general and of the soundtrack of Cacoyannis’ Euripidean trilogy in particular, see Voskaridou (2013: 253–63 and 271). On the echoes of ancient practice to be found in modern Greek laments, see the work of Margaret Alexiou (1974, rev. 2002), Gail Holst-Warhaft (1992), and Suter’s edited collection (2008). Cacoyannis has significantly condensed the drama’s ending, at least in terms of dialogue. In our source text the lament for Troy begins with Hecuba’s farewell to her city (1272–83) culminating with her wish to perish in the flames that are destroying her city (1282–3). The chorus join in. Note in particular line 1292, ‘οὐδ’ ἔτ’ ἔστι Τροία’ (Troy is no more), reinforced at 1324–5 by ‘οὐδ’ ἔτ’ ἔστιν τάλαινα Τροία’ (poor Troy is no more). Cacoyannis replaces much of the text with visuals. Fragment 62h is of particular interest, because in this one line, Cassandra appears to be prophesying that Hecuba will be transformed into a dog, which is also foretold at the end of Euripides’ Hecuba.


Notes to pp. 300–308

28 http://www.syriatrojanwomen.org/ (accessed 25 December 2014). 29 Audience response is an area of increasing interest in classical scholarship. See for example, Goldhill (2007) on modern audience reception of Greek drama, Ruffell (2008) on ancient audience reception, and Hardwick (2013) on both. 30 For a succinct summary of the evidence and the arguments for and against, see Goff (2009: 27–35). 31 On the impossibility of recreating the relationship that existed between the ancient tragedians and their audiences, see Hardwick (2013: 19). 32 Green rightly points out that the ancient Greek theatre did not have elaborate sets or props, especially in the beginning. Its visual appeal lay in its ability to stage the world of the play for its audience’s viewing pleasure. Modern audiences have different expectations. Special effects and dramatic visuals are often used in revivals of Greek drama today, as for example in Katie Mitchell’s Women of Troy (2007). This version of Euripides’ play featured a loud explosion fuelled by pyrotechnics that signalled the final destruction of Troy. 33 In Greek similar to the ancient word ‘ὄχλος’. 34 Modern Greeks’ distrust of the armed forces remains, however, another bitter legacy of the Greek dictatorship. 35 The quotation actually refers to another reception of Iphigenia’s story; Jordi Coca’s Ifigènia (2009), which blended live action and puppets. It is, however, just as applicable to Cacoyannis’ cinematic adaptation. Another sign that, in the creative arts at least, the anti-war interpretation of Iphigenia’s story has triumphed. Cacoyannis’ film is an important landmark in this tradition of enlisting the play in the battle against violence and war. 36 Scholars continue to debate how the play concluded. Kovacs believes that the play ended with Iphigenia on her way to the altar (Kovacs 2003: 77). 37 Hall locates the change in the fortunes of Greek drama during the ‘1968–69 watershed’ (Hall 2004: 1). In terms of the modern Greek context, an important omission from Hall’s narrative is the enlistment of Greek tragedy as a tool of oppression on the prison islands to which Left-wing dissidents were exiled and how some prisoners managed to invert this association and use it as a tool of protest and resistance (Van Steen 2011). 38 In a case of life imitating fiction, Cacoyannis praised Irene Papa for her courage during the shooting of this very physical scene, which involved some personal risk to the actress (Siafkos 2009: 125–6). 39 Cacoyannis’ control of every aspect of his film can be demonstrated even in this detail. He insisted from the very beginning that Irene Papa had to cut her long hair to play Electra, and stood over the hairdresser to ensure it was short enough (Siafkos 2009: 123).

Notes to pp. 308–324


40 The function of the agon in Euripides was to explore the central dilemmas of the dramas rather than to solve them (Lloyd 1992: 4–5).

17 Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line and Homeric Epic 1 In Oliver Stone’s Vietnam War film Platoon (1986), for example, scenes of spectacular violence and atrocities are punctuated by the retrospective voice-overs of Chris, a young recruit played by Charlie Sheen: ‘I think now, looking back, we did not fight the enemy, we fought ourselves’. TTRL eschews this sort of univocal didactic commentary. For the use of authoritative voice-overs as a means of controlling an audience’s interpretation, see Van Steen and Bakogianni (Chs 15 and 16 this volume). 2 See also the seminal, more critical readings of Polan (2004) and Silberman (2007). For Malick as a director who ‘defamiliarizes’ and ‘revisions’ history, see Burgoyne (2010: 120–42). 3 For a discussion of the seduction of spectacle, see also Myers, Yamagata, Bridges and Introduction (Chs 2, 3, 7 and 1 this volume). 4 The Charlie Rose Show, first aired on 21 December 1998. 5 A (by no means exhaustive) bibliography: Michaels (2009: 74–99); Davies (2009); Tucker and Kendall (2011); Rybin (2012). 6 The following give a sense of the debate: Morrison and Schur (2003: 97–101), Furstenau and MacAvoy (2007), Silverman (2009: 107–132), Critchley (2009), Dreyfus and Prince (2009), Rybin (2012), and Loht (2013). A view of Malick’s films as merely illustrative of Heidegerrian thought seems reductive. Malick himself once said ‘I don’t feel one can film philosophy’ (Linden 1975). 7 See Hussey (1999) and Graham (1999) for relevant fragments and discussion. 8 Yamagata (Ch. 3 this volume) rightly stresses that Homer’s exciting ‘spectacles of war’ are often tempered by poignant commentary, which stresses loss and pathos. 9 See Bakogianni (Ch. 16 this volume) for an ‘anti-war’ appropriation of Greek tragedy in the films of Michael Cacoyannis. 10 On TTRL ’s ‘visual surplus’ of animals, jungle, texture, space and light, see Smith (1999). 11 This is itself a very ‘cinematic’ moment in Homer. For Homer as ‘proto-cinematic’, see Winkler (2007). Myers, Swift and Capra (Chs 2, 6 and 8 in this volume) discuss the way in which Homer, Greek lyric poetry and Platonic dialogue respectively implicate their audiences as ‘spectators’ of war. 12 Malick’s films (including TTRL ) contain many shots of birds and those who have worked with him report that he has been a keen bird watcher for most of his life




15 16

17 18


Notes to pp. 324–331

(Biskind 1998: 206–8). He is thus likely to have meditated on the prominence of birds in Homer. See Yamagata (Ch. 3 this volume) on the aestheticization of warfare as exciting ‘spectacle’ in Homer and The Tale of Heike. See also Introduction (Ch. 1 this volume). This has resonances with the spectatorship of the gods in the Iliad. See Myers (Ch. 2 this volume) for the way in which the spectatorship of the gods in Iliad 3 implicates the audience of the poem in what follows. For more on this, see Swift (Ch. 6 this volume). There is evidence that it was Malick’s intention to deploy many more ‘visual similes’ as a means of displacing images of human bodily ruination. One of the producers revealed that ‘The notion that we discussed endlessly [. . .] was that Malick’s Guadalcanal would be a Paradise Lost, an Eden, raped by the green poison, as Terry used to call it, of war. Much of the violence was to be portrayed indirectly. A soldier is shot, but rather than showing a Spielbergian bloody face we see a tree explode, the shredded vegetation, and a gorgeous bird with a broken wing flying out of the tree’ (Biskind 1998: 210). E.g. Silverman (2009: 117–27). See Bakogianni (Ch. 16 this volume) for a similar emphasis on the cost of war for women and children, male ambition and the lust for war in Cacoyannis’ Euripidean trilogy. Although TTRL is often accused of being ‘unhistorical’, it alludes to important features of the islanders’ real experience during the Second World War. For example, local men did help the Americans, just as it happens in the film. Many native islanders acted as ‘scouts’ or assisted allied ‘coast-watchers’, often behind Japanese lines, and many were captured, killed or wounded. In one scene, an islander wears a distinctively-shaped British army helmet. British Protectorate colonial authorities encouraged the islanders to join the British Solomon Islands Defence Force, The Solomon Islands Labour Corps and commando-trained units. The film’s portrayal of the fear, quarrelling and disease in the village: the Japanese and Americans did bring new illnesses to the native population, and there were other deprivations because of the collapse of the infrastructure – albeit incompetent, exploitative and limited – which the British had imposed. The film’s adumbration of a positive rapport between the Americans and the islanders is not completely idealized or fictional. US forces’ kindness, acceptance and political advice (especially from racially-segregated black American troops) certainly had some influence on the shape and demands of post-war independence and land-rights movements in the islands. Some islanders supported the Japanese, withheld loyalty from either side, or took a cautious, pragmatic approach. The support of the majority of the Melanesian population was, however, crucial to the allied victory. See Laracy and White (1988), and More (2013).

Notes to pp. 333–339


20 Chion (2004) offers a good inoculation against simplistic readings. My avowedly Homer-centric analysis ignores many other legitimate frames of reference for TTRL . Still under-explored are its Eastern influences, especially given James Jones’ interest in Eastern religions and American transcendentalism, and Malick’s documented desire to be faithful to Jones’ vision. For a persuasive ‘Buddhist’ reading, see Pfeil (2004). For links between Homeric and Japanese epic traditions, see for example, Yamagata (1993).

18 Animating Ancient Warfare 1 This approach tends to hold true for ancient Roman art, too, but there were some rare exceptions to the rule. For an example see Fear’s discussion of Trajan’s Column (Ch. 13 this volume) and the greater emphasis this monument places on the more mundane work carried out by the Roman army. 2 Accounting for six out of seventeen animations at the time of writing, making it the second biggest group after eight/seventeen for the overlapping ‘myth’ category. For more on the project and its origins, please visit the Panoply website, www.panoply. org.uk and see Smith and Nevin (2014). 3 Foremost in our consideration were Hanson (1989) and (1991), van Wees (2000) and (2004), and Kagan and Viggiano (2013). Please see below for more detailed references. It was also helpful to be able to draw on my own research into aspects of ancient warfare and on Steve’s experience of working with swords and spears as a martial artist. 4 See Pritchett (1974: 208–31), for ancient references, foremost of which is Xen. Mem. 3.12.5. Also see van Wees (2004: 55–7 and 87–93): little formal training, but an expectation (sometimes adhered to) that those eligible for duty keep combat ready: ‘Weapons-drill could be practised in private and was therefore better established than formation drill. By the late fifth century one could hire specialist weapons instructors . . .’ (van Wees 2004: 90). 5 On which see Pritchard (2013: 1–2, 156–63, 164–91, and esp. 176–84) and Reed (1998). 6 Vase: Berlin Painter (British Museum, GR 1848.8-4.1). Other vases to feature in forthcoming animations are: Sophilos’ Wedding of Peleus dinos (BM , GR 1971.1101.1); the Pan Painter’s Perseus and Medusa hydria (BM , 1873,0820.352); and the Medias hydria (depicting Heracles and the Dioscouri) (BM , 1772,0320,30). 7 See Jameson (1991: 197ff ) and Parker (2000: 299ff ), for more on sacrifice and battle, with Collins (2008: 319ff ) and Johnston (2008: 125–7), on hepatoscopy. 8 http://www.panoply.org.uk/well-wishers.html (accessed 2 December 2014). Private collection. Beazley: 9028595.


Notes to pp. 340–342

9 On which, see Burkert (1985: esp. 103–5, and 101, 166–7, 186, and 238); Carter (1987: 355ff ) and Meineck (2011: 113ff ). 10 Chigi vase, Middle Protocorinthian olpe from Veii, c. 640 bce . For a discussion of the vase, see Anderson (1990: 18–19); Hurwit (2002: 1ff, 14–16 for the battle-scene); and van Wees (2000: 134–9). 11 Xen. Hell. 7.5.20-5, offers a literary account of this phenomenon in the classical period, when Epaminondas leads well-prepared Boeotians against disordered opponents at the second battle of Mantinea (362 bce ). 12 An Arts Council funded project run at the Ure Museum in 2013, see www.panoply. org.uk/ure-discovery.html (accessed 2 December 2014). 13 For a discussion of the hoplite spear, see Hanson (1989: 83–8). The sauroter first appears for standing up spears in Iliad 10.153 (Anderson 1991: 24). For finishing off prostrate soldiers and using in place of a broken spear, see Hanson (1989: 86–7); (1991: 72–4), with Pol. Hist. 6.25.6-9, and Warry (1980, repr. 2006: 35). Christopher Matthew (2012: 155–64), doubts the feasibility of using a broken spear offensively, however fellow experimental archaeologist Alan Pittman (2007: 65 and 74), reached a contrary conclusion. 14 Estimates vary from 14–36 kg (or 9 kg without greaves and cuirass), see Krentz (2013: 135–7), who argues for a 14–21 kg estimate, with (Krentz 2010: 45–50), contra e.g. Hanson (1989: 55–88). Even the lighter end of this scale would have been a burden, but would not have prevented necessary movement. 15 Plato, Laws 794d–795d, advises fighters to train to fight with both hands to attain ‘ability, grace, speed, painlessness, elegance, and readiness’, but this sound advice should not be taken as evidence of the use of both hands in typical battle-field situations, or even as a suggestion to do so, but rather as encouragement to develop the ability to adapt to any given circumstance. Hanson (1989: 84), suggests that ‘There were no allowances made for left-handers, but this caused few problems . . .’. 16 Thuc. 7.44, offers the vivid insight that even in good visibility fighters were rarely aware of much more than what went on in their immediate vicinity. 17 See Meyers (Ch. 2 this volume) on epic duels in the Iliad. 18 Quotation from Hanson (1989: 155). See e.g. Holladay (1982: 94–7): who argues that the shove of the shield-wall was an all-important early aspect of battle; Hanson (1989: 155–9 and 172–5), (1991: 63ff ), and (2013: 263–70) and Pittman (2007: 70 and 73), who experimented with an extreme method of interlocking shields along the line and ‘nestling’ men behind one-another. For a useful overview of the development of differing theories see Kagan and Viggiano (2013: 1–49). 19 Krentz (1985: 50ff ), (2010: 51–60), and (2013: 134ff ): argues against the primacy of the shield shove, preferring weapons-based combat; Cawkwell (1989: 385–9): describes relatively open order fighting in which shoving came only late on in battle;

Notes to pp. 342–346



22 23






29 30


van Wees (2000: 125ff, esp. 148–56): argues that archaic warfare was fluid in form with loosely arrayed fighters; van Wees (2004: 166–97) offers a more detailed account of the evolution of hoplite warfare. van Wees (2000:136). We created a similar long horizontal line for the hoplites’ approach; it is when they meet that the issue of perspective arises and makes it necessary to limit the numbers. Matthew (2012: esp. 15–18 and 29–38): underarm; Hanson (1989: 84): initial underarm attack followed by overarm; with Lazenby (1991: 92–3): likelihood of switching from under to overarm for contact. Pittman (2007: 73): considers it impractical to switch from under to overarm mid-battle without a shortening of the weapon. Anderson (1991: 31–2): underarm and overarm both likely, overarm more vigorous; van Wees (2004: 189): both possible; Warry (1980, repr. 2006: 35): overarm. Also see above, note 13. For which, see Saunders (2008: esp. 165–9). Also influential here were Cy Endfield’s (1964) Zulu, Sergey Bondarchuk’s (1970) Waterloo, and archive footage of the World Wars. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966) includes the bitter line, ‘Come along and enjoy the spectacle’ as the battle begins. Now that the fighting was at an end, a weird spectacle met the eye, as one surveyed the scene of the conflict – the earth stained with blood, friend and foe lying dead side