Thursday, December 27, 2012


Alan Shapiro, Re-fashioning Anakreon in Classical Athens. Morphomata Lectures Cologne 2. München: Wilhelm Fink, 2012. Pp. 52; figs. 18. ISBN 9783770554492.

Reviewed by Brunilde S. Ridgway, Bryn Mawr College (

Version at BMCR home site

On general principles, I would refrain from reviewing the text of a lecture, no matter how learned its content and elegant its printing. I am making an exception for this publication, for two main reasons. Primary is the fact that this slender booklet is "among the first" (p. 5) of a new series sponsored by Günter Blamberger and Dietrich Boschung, Directors of the Internationales Kolleg at the University of Cologne. The second reason shall become apparent in the course of this review.

The author of this work first presented his ideas to different scholarly audiences (in Sydney, Australia; at the University of Wisconsin at Madison; at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens) and then honed his final presentation as Fellow in a Ringvorlesung at the University of Cologne in April 2010. The topic is the marble statue of the poet Anakreon known as the Anakreon Borghese from a previous ownership in Rome and now in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen. Although undoubtedly of Roman manufacture, the sculpture is thought to be a faithful copy of a Greek original set up on the Athenian Akropolis and described by Pausanias (1.25.1) as standing near a portrait of Xanthippos, Perikles' father.

Identification as the Tean poet is supported by inscribed herms, also Roman, and the Copenhagen figure represents only the second certain example of a Classical man known to us through a full-body replica, the other being the Demosthenes by Polyeuktos set up by his descendants in 280 B.C.E., 40 years after the orator's death. The monument to Anakreon has been traditionally dated around the mid-fifth century, largely because of its presumed association with Perikles, given its proximity to the statue of the statesman's father. In 1998, the American Journal of Archaeology1 published a lengthy attempt on my part to demonstrate, on methodological grounds, that all our assumptions about location, date, and sponsorship of the Anakreon original rested on uncertain foundations and that a different chronology was possible for the Roman marble: as a copy of a fourth-century or a Hellenistic image, or even as an imaginary recreation for the second-century C.E. Roman patron in whose villa the Borghese statue was found. Shapiro fully acknowledges my reservations (p. 14) but prefers to follow the communis opinio in placing the original portrait around 440, because he has conceived a novel explanation for its meaning at that time.

On the strength of his exceptional knowledge of Attic vase painting and iconography, Shapiro postulates that the statue on the Akropolis must have originated in conservative and aristocratic and oligarchic circles where the poet— even approximately 40 years after his death—was celebrated as the prototype of the noble (and restrained; cf. his infibulation) erastes and singer of the pederastic symposium. Anakreon's almost total nudity, unusual for the fifth century and for an Ionian man, would have appeared to those viewers as the typical eroticized Athenian body, comparable to the Aristogeiton statue in the Agora. This conception is based on the fluctuations in the manner of homoerotic representations on red-figure vases—from courting scenes within the sphere of the palaestra to sympotic arrangements where a young and a mature man recline on the same couch in an all-male environment, and which are not replacing the earlier depictions but should be viewed as complementary to them.

This brief summary does not do justice to Shapiro's carefully reasoned argument demonstrated through an abundance of pictorial images, several of them in color, and citing much recent literature. It can be read with much profit regardless of the author's conclusions on the date for the original Anakreon sculpture, since these changes in vase painting practices and iconography provide an unusual insight into the pederastic culture of the fifth century. A possible objection is that fine pottery traditionally depicted topics unsuitable for large-scale renderings and circulated in environments different from those of public monuments, especially as sacred a place as the Akropolis around 440. Moreover, no convincing sculptural parallels can be cited for poets' portrait dedications (either public or private) at that time. To be sure, our evidence from inscribed bases and mentions in the literary sources is so limited that no proof can be argued e silentio. Weightier are perhaps the points that infibulation is "extremely rare in statuary of the Classical period"2 and that the body type of the Copenhagen statue is generic and could fit any number of subjects—at any time, after the Severe period proper—rather than conform to the advanced age of the historical Anakreon. Yet revealing signs of maturity had already been introduced in Greek sculptures of the 470s, as demonstrated by the undoubted original Seer from the East pediment of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia.

The mention of Olympia brings me to the second reason for this review. As I noted, and as Shapiro acknowledges, the peculiar manner in which the Anakreon wears his chlaina is paralleled only by the Oinomaos of the same Olympia pediment—yet it is a detail obvious only from a back view and seemingly most unusual.3Still, in Greek art, no detail of costume seems meaningless, even if we can no longer decipher its specific import. To judge from the single undoubted fifth-century original, I could imagine that Oinomaos was shown with his garment wrapped more firmly around his body (passing one end under his armpit, as it were, before flinging it up over his right shoulder) rather than with both ends hanging symmetrically down on his chest, in order to have greater freedom of motion in riding his chariot to race against Pelops and eventually in attempting to kill the unwanted suitor. But what would be the reason for the Anakreon? For greater freedom in playing his musical instrument and singing?

It would be helpful if Shapiro, or readers of this review, could bring to bear their knowledge of vase painting and iconography in providing (two-dimensional?) parallels for the fashion and its motivation, perhaps in more explicit contexts. It would be another contribution to our knowledge, now stimulated by Shapiro's important initiative in revisiting (re-fashioning) Anakreon in Classical Athens.


1.   B. S Ridgway, "An Issue of Methodology: Anakreon, Perikles, Xanthippos," AJA 102, 717-38; reprinted, by permission, in Second Chance:Greek Sculptural Studies Revisited, The Pindar Press, London 2004, no. XXX, pp 655-95, with "update" on pp. 769-70.
2.   Shapiro, p. 22 and notes 31 and 33 with bibliographical references. One of his sources, J. Daehner, "Die Grenzen der Nacktheit," JdI 120 (2005) 155-299, is cited to state that the detail "is found in only a very small number of surviving statues, all of them Hellenistic or Roman." I had suggested that infibulation may have been used on the Anakreon Borghese to comply with the standards of modesty and decorum of the Roman who commissioned the marble.
3.   Shapiro, p. 21 n. 29, quoting me on the Oinomaos. Only another Roman "copy"—the so-called Poseidon Borghese—displays it, to my knowledge, and I have been unable to find other sculptural parallels for the specific fashion. If the marble truly depicted a Poseidon, perhaps the chlaina was similarly worn for greater freedom in using the trident, but I suspect that both the "Poseidon" and the Anakreon were simply imitating the Olympia Oinomaos at a time when the pedimental sculptures had been taken down for repairs and were thus visible all around. Cf. my figs. 7-9 for the Oinomaos and the Poseidon, and Shapiro figs. 2-4 for the Anakreon.

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