The Art of the Ancient Spectacle

Edited by Bettina Bergmann and Christine Kondoleon

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Festivals, ceremonies, rituals, and other displays provide powerful ways to create and express a collective identity. This engaging book is the first to explore the intersection between ancient Greek and Roman spectacles and visual artifacts. The contributors to the volume consider how participation and spectatorship in diverse public activities influenced perceptions of what it meant to be Greek or Roman. And they examine the essential roles of physical sites, special effects, choreography, props, and visual representations in these live performances from the fourth century BCE to the sixth century CE.

This book defines spectacle broadly. It encompasses not only officially sanctioned collective performance but also impromptu acts, spontaneous parodies, and even personal appearances on the street. Events ranging from combat in the arena to theater productions, from banquets to funerals, are discussed in terms of their forms and the visual arts created for them. Art and architecture generally functioned on three levels, the contributors find: as prop and setting, as a record of the event, and as a reminder of the event to the beholder. Out of this examination of the nature of Greek and Roman spectacles and their surviving images emerges a clearer understanding of their vital impact on later art, theater, literature, and ceremony.

Bettina Bergmann is associate professor of art at Mount Holyoke College. Christine Kondoleon is curator of Greek and Roman art at the Worcester Art Museum.

“Taken as a whole, [t]his book is extremely important. . . . The quality of the individual articles is very high. . . . Making it a book that would repay reading from cover to cover.”—David S. Potter, Journal of Roman Archaeology



“Bergmann and Kondoleon have crafted a rich mosaic, assembling and arranging precious tesserae to enhance the overall spectacle of scholarship. . . . This imposing, lavishly illustrated, and reasonably priced volume is an essential addition for any Art History or Classics library.”—Donald G. Kyle, Phoenix


“The volume should help any historian, literary critic, or socio-cultural researcher of Greek and Roman writings who wants to link written text and image.”—Fred W. Burnett, Religious Studies Review


ISBN: 9780300077339
Publication Date: January 11, 2000
Publishing Partner: Published in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Distributed by Yale University Press
374 pages, x
140 b/w + 130 color illus.
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