From sacrilege to violence : the rape of Cassandra on Attic vases c. 575-400 BCE

Du Preez, Janke (2020-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2020.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The Sack of Troy or Ilioupersis, is a lost epic of ancient Greek literature which tells of the violent and ruthless Greeks that pillaged the city of Troy. It was a prevalent theme in ancient Attic art, and in the fifth century BCE evolved onto the platform of Athenian drama. The Rape of Cassandra episode is one of the most recurring scenes in Attic vase-painting. The iconography, however, dramatically changes between 575-400 BCE. Both Archaic black-figure and Classical red-figure examples show Cassandra, in a vulnerable position, being attacked by Ajax. However, there are significant differences between the iconography of scenes from these two periods. In Archaic black-figure vase-painting the figure of Cassandra appears small, insignificant and in some instances completely hidden from view as she is obscured by the huge shield of Athena. In contrast, in Classical red-figure scenes the figure of Cassandra becomes more conspicuous and commands more attention from the viewer. In red-figure versions the figure of Cassandra also appears far more sensual in comparison to the black-figure examples, as her undressed, or even naked body is explicitly exposed, suggesting not only an attack, but, more specifically, a rape. Athena, on the other hand, is now portrayed smaller in relation to her black-figure counterpart, and in the form of a cult statue, rather than the goddess herself. These differing portrayals of Cassandra and the goddess in Attic black-figure and red-figure vase-painting suggest a change in emphasis in the subtext of this scene-type. While the narrative details that emerge are similar, the iconographic details – including gesture, clothing (or the lack thereof), weaponry, relative positions and sizes of the figures – suggest the change in emphasis from the attack as sacrilege to one that includes sacrilege but foregrounds rape and violence. Therefore, in this regard, although violence and sacrilege are two fundamental themes in both periods, the changing iconography suggests a noticeable shift in focus. Using the iconographic approach, 46 black-figured vases and 26 red-figured vases representing the Rape of Cassandra scenes from the Beazley Archive and LIMC encyclopedic collection are catalogued, studied and contextualized during the course of this thesis. Studying the iconography of these vase images in their appropriate contexts illustrates the changing perceptions of the suffering and violated woman in a violent and patriarchal society.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die Verwoesting van Troje of Ilioupersis, is 'n verlore epos in die antieke Griekse literatuur wat die narratief van geweldadige en genadelose Grieke wat die stad Troje geplunder het, lewer. Dit was 'n algemene tema in antieke Attiese kuns, en het in die vyfde eeu v.C. op die platform van Atheense drama ontwikkel. Die episode van die verkragting van Kassandra is een van die mees herhalende tonele in die Attiese vaas. Die ikonografie verander egter dramaties tussen 575-400 v.C. Beide Argaïese swart-figuur- en Klassieke voorbeelde van rooi-figuur wys waar Kassandra in ‘n weerlose toestand deur Ajax aangeval word, maar daar is beduidende verskille tussen die ikonografie van tonele uit hierdie twee periodes. In die Argaïese vaas met swart-figure is die figuur van Kassandra klein, onbeduidend en soms heeltemal vir die oog verborge terwyl sy verberg word deur die groot skild van Athena. In Klassieke tonele met 'n rooi-figuur vertoon die figuur van Kassandra egter meer opvallend en eis dus meer aandag van die kyker. In voorbeelde met die rooi-figure lyk die figuur van Kassandra ook veel meer sensueel in vergelyking met diè van die swart-figuur. Haar ontklede, of selfs naakte liggaam word eksplisiet ontbloot en dus suggereer dit nie net ‘n aanval nie, maar meer spesifiek verkragting. Verder word Athena kleiner uitgebeeld in verhouding tot haar eweknie in die swart-figuur, en in die vorm van 'n kultusbeeld, eerder as die godin self. Hierdie uiteenlopende voorstellings van Kassandra en die godin in die Attiese swartfiguur- en rooifiguur vaas dui op 'n verandering van die klem in die subteks van hierdie toneeltipe. Die narratiefbesonderhede wat na vore kom, is dieselfde. Die ikonografiese besonderhede - insluitend gebare, kleredrag (of die gebrek daaraan), wapens, relatiewe posisies en groottes van die figure - dui op ‘n onderliggende klemverandering van die aanval as ontheiliging na ‘n tentoonstelling wat verkragting en geweld insluit. Alhoewel geweld en heiligskennis beide twee fundamentele temas in hierdie periodes is, toon die veranderende ikonografie 'n merkbare verskuiwing in fokus. Deur die loop van hierdie tesis is 46 swart -figuurvase en 26 rooi-figuurvase uit die Beazley-Argief en die LIMC-ensiklopediese versameling, wat die verkragting van Kassandra-tonele, verteenwoordig, gekatalogiseer, bestudeer en gekontekstualiseer. Die bestudering van die ikonografie van hierdie vaasbeelde in hul toepaslike kontekste, illustreer veranderende persepsies van die lydende en geskonde vrou in 'n gewelddadige en patriargale samelewing.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/108092
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