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Artisans of Greek Religion: (Re)Shaping the Gods in Poetry and Art of Ancient Greece

Panel Chair: Miguel Herrero de Jáuregui | Friday, August 28, 9-11 a.m.

This panel will explore the dynamic role of poets and artists in the construction of classical Greek religion. Relatively stable representations of the gods in texts and images are a consequence of the traditional character of Greek religious discourses. However, depictions of divine forms and powers were embedded in multiform and open accounts constantly revisited by poets and artists, who were free, almost compelled, to innovate within the conventional frame, to shift the meanings of traditional aspects of the gods, and to create new (yet recognizable) constructions of the divine. The papers will analyse several instances of the dialectic relationship of tradition and innovation in oral, textual, and iconographic accounts of divine forms and actions, considering the active role of the expected audience in the construal of specific meanings of each particular description or narrative.

Gabriella Pironti

Dynamics of Representation of the Divine in Archaic Greek Poetry

Herodotus’ statement about the founding role of Homeric and Hesiodic poems in the representation of the divine in ancient Greece have greatly influenced, and justified, a reading in dogmatic, almost static, sense of such role. This paper, instead, aims to explore the dynamics between tradition and innovation in religious matters, which departs from these archaic components, through the analysis of some cases of narrative reconfiguration (e. g. in the Iliad, the Diôs Apatê, and the Theomachia). The poet is not only in dialogue with tradition, but also collaborates, on the basis of a shared knowledge, with an audience as an active agent in the (re)construction of meaning which is the ultimate goal of poetic representation (e. g. “Hera’s wrath” in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo). Such poetic representation of the divine has its own autonomous potentiality which deserves to be wholly appreciated in a new light.

Carmine Pisano

Hermes’ klutà érga in the Workshop of Greek Poets. For an “Epidemiological” Analysis of Ancient Narratives of Divine Actions

This paper intends to study the dialectic between tradition and innovation in the context of the Greek narratives of divine actions in the light of the Sperberian model of the “epidemiological” analysis, considering the different versions of a myth not as variants of an hypothetical original narrative, but as reformulations related to specific cultural frameworks, at the same time individual and social. I shall focus in the case study of the klutà érga of the newborn Hermes: theft of Apollo’s cattle, invention of the lyre, reconciliation with his brother, mutual exchange of gifts. Within this traditional narrative frame, immediately recognizable by the Greek public, the single authors change the chronological order of the events or focus on a particular segment of the story in relation to specific cultural choices, influenced by the enunciative contexts of execution and by the horizon of expectation of the recipients.

Adeline Grand-Clément

Gods in Colour: The Variegated Facets of Divine Powers

Colours, due to their capacity to catch attention and to convey emotions, offer a good means of expressing the powers of the gods. Hence, they are useful for poets or craftsmen, as they contribute to the shaping of the invisible entities, in both literature and visual arts. Many of the divine epithets found in archaic poetry refer to chromatism, and we know that the statues of the gods were also colourful. Yet, the chromatic aspect of each god is not fixed and may vary over time. Even though the ‘traditional’ epithets, inherited from Homer, were still used by the poets from the Archaic period to the Hellenistic era, their meaning and the images they convey can change. This paper aims at exploring several examples of this shift of meaning, by paying attention to the way the values attached to divine colours can vary according to some specific contexts.

Vassiliki Zachari

Eros at the Altar: Between Innovation and Tradition on Attic Vase-Painting

Gods at the altar were a favourite subject on black-figured and red-figured attic vases. At the turning point of the late archaic period, when the new technique is enthusiastically adopted by the Keramikos’ artisans, a new divinity timidly enters in the attic imagery: Eros. Despite the lack of prominent sanctuaries and altars for the worship of this primordial divinity according to Plato (Symposium, 189C 4-8) and the archaeological realia in Attica, the visual images of Eros abound in wide variety, mostly during the second half of the 5th c. and the beginning of the 4th c. B.C. This paper will examine and analyze the precise contexts of Eros’ presence at an altar in this series of vases in order to understand the meaning of these scenes.

Corinne Bonnet


Corinne Bonnet will act as respondent to the issues raised in the previous papers.


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