October 22, 2004

Fresco fun with Mythological madness

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/theatre_s/ug/courses/th106/ancient/frescos/

*1. Consider the depictions of mythological scenes:

i What are the main similarities and main differences between the way in which the death of Pentheus is depicted in this fresco and in Euripides' Bakkhai? (Use an online text of the Bakkhai if you do not have your copy to hand.)*

Fresco – link

The similarities are simple ones, the fir branches and the rocks appear in both the Bacchai and the fresco. However they are not the actual cause of death in the Bacchai, the fresco suggests that he's about to be stoned and thrashed to death. In the Bacchai the maenads fail to get him that way, and have to pull a tree down and then claw him to death, dislocating and then pulling off his arms and clawing the flesh from his chest.

The Bacchai is far more brutal than the pussyfooting fresco, but then would you want a man being clawed to pieces depicted on your wall?

ii. Compare and contrast the way in which the death of Iphigenia is depicted in this fresco with how it is recounted in Aeschylus' Agamemnon, and/or in Euripdes' play Iphigenia at Aulis.

fresco -http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/theatre_s/ug/courses/th106/ancient/frescos/iphaul/

The fresco depicts Agmamemnon with his finger to his lip in self-debate, Iphegenia with her arms towards the heavens pleading as she is carried by two men and Klymentestra, hooded, hanging her head in mourning on the left. In the sky there are two classic depictions of Artemis (the goddess who is preventing the fleet from leaving for Troy), The deer was the animal most closely associated to Artemis, and both her and her brother Apollo were skilled archers, hence her depiction with a bow. I am confused as to why there are two depictions of her.

This situation is very close to the one referred to in the Orestia but with the reasons for the action clear and made physical, ie. Artemis' presence in the sky.You can almost see Agamemnon pondering the lines 'can I choose either without doing evil'

iii. Why do you think the similarities and differences which you have identified may exist?

Similarities are there because it's the same story! duh. Differences may exist because there were some changes always made in the transition from Greek Myth to the Roman ones.

iv. On reviewing your responses to the above questions, how useful do you find these Roman frescos to be as evidence for traditions of tragic performance in 5th-century Athens?

The frescos aren't really a useful resource when considering 5th century BC Athens. For a start there would have been an evolution of ideas in the time inbetween. And secondly they depict the myths, not the theatrical experience of them.

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