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The Fear and the Fury: Ancient Violence in Modern Imagination
Universitá degli Studi di Torino, 29 September to 1 October, 2016
Screening the Face of Roman Battle: Violence from the Eye of the Soldier in Film. Oskar Aguado Cantabrana, (Universidad del País Vasco, Vitoria)
Films and TV series set in Ancient Rome, from Cabiria (1914) to Spartacus: War of the damned (2013), tend to show large quantities of battle scenes. Those large-scale fighting have excited and entertained spectators since the beginnings of cinema. However, the ways through which battles of Ancient Rome are portrayed on screen have changed across the long history of the genre of film productions set in Antiquity. The publication of The Face of Battle by John Keegan in 1976 represented a turning point in military history and the way historical battles had been studied before. Keegan moved away from the tactic explanation and from the commander point of view to examine the physical conditions of fighting, the particular behaviour and emotions generated by the battle itself, as well as the human motives that impelled soldiers to fight instead of running away. Keegan’s ideas have surpassed the boundaries of the academic world. At the turn of the present century, a series of successful films explored Keegan’s ideas by focusing on the soldier’s personal experiences. Bravehearth (1995), Thin Red Line (1998), and specially Saving Private Ryan (1998), as well as TV series like Band of Brothers (2001) are popular examples of this new way of approaching war epics. But what about movies and series set in ancient Rome?
This paper aims to analyze how Ancient Roman Epic films, since the release of Gladiator (2000), have portrayed battles following Hollywood’s aesthetics of visceral and hyperrealist violence, but also how they focus, to a large degree, on the soldier’s perspective. I propose a comparative analysis between the imagery of battles in recent films and series such as the mentioned Gladiator, HBO´s Rome (2005-2006), Centurion (2010), The Eagle (2011) and Spartacus: War of the damned (2013), and other historical films produced in the same period, in order to understand how they have influenced each other. Likewise, I will analyze in detail the application of Keegan’s theory, but also of those by authors such as A. D. Lee (1990), Adrian Goldsworthy (1996) or Philip Sabin (2000) -who use Roman battles as case studies-, to cinema. Furthermore, I will take a look at the impact of the early 21st century context on the conception and reconstruction of such battle scenes. Finally the paper will include an analysis of the specific techniques -shots, sets, dialogues, sound, CGI etc.- used by cinema and television in order to recreate in a more or less authentic way the fear and the fury of Roman legionaries on the screen.
L’incendio neroniano del 64 d.C. sul grande e piccolo schermo: una messa a fuoco. Marco Emilio Erba (Scuola di Specializzazione in Beni Archeologici, Università degli Studi di Milano) and Alessandro Gerenzani (Scuola Mohole di Milano)
Nella notte fra il 18 e il 19 luglio del 64 d.C. la città di Roma fu colpita da un incendio che, pur non essendo il primo e neanche l’ultimo divampato in un centro urbano sovraffollato e costruito per buona parte in poveri edifici di natura lignea, è passato giustamente alla storia per la gravità dei danni inferti (in più casi archeologicamente documentati), la progressiva estensione nella maggior parte delle regiones in cui l’Urbe era divisa e l’ambiguo ruolo svolto dall’imperatore Nerone. Le fonti antiche che hanno lasciato descrizioni dell’evento (soprattutto Tacito, ma anche Svetonio e Cassio Dione, soltanto per citarne alcuni), non hanno resistito alla tentazione di riportare le dicerie che riconoscevano nell’ultimo princeps giulio-claudio il vero responsabile della catastrofe, una sorta di piromane animato dalla folle intenzione di rifondare una nuova città degna del suo nome o addirittura intento a comporre un canto sulla caduta di Troia, traendo ispirazione dall’azione distruttrice delle fiamme. L’immagine dell’incendio, fortemente legata a quella di un Nerone “incendiario” (grazie anche ad una copiosa letteratura fortemente antineroniana e alla demonizzazione del personaggio effettuata dagli scrittori cristiani), ha attraversato i secoli fino ai giorni nostri: dalle fonti classiche, passando per le opere teatrali e i pyrodrama circensi dell’Ottocento, fino ai moderni fumetti (dal Murena di Dufaux e Delaby al nipponico Il mio nome è Nerone, di Yasuhiko Yoshikazu) e ai numerosi documentari televisivi che a cadenza quasi ciclica trattano l’argomento, l’immagine dell’incendio del 64 d.C., concretizzandosi in numerose arti visive, si è gradualmente affermata nell’immaginario collettivo quale simbolo di violenta distruzione o decadenza di una civiltà. Una grande fetta di merito si deve certamente al fortunatissimo romanzo Quo Vadis? di Henryk Sienkiewicz (1896), in cui lo scrittore polacco è riuscito a descrivere i nove giorni maledetti che sconvolsero Roma con una viva drammaticità che ancora oggi sorprende, in uno stile quasi “cinematografico” per dovizia di particolari e vivo e crudo realismo (non sorprende dunque che proprio di questa storia siano state girate numerose produzioni fin dagli ultimi anni del XIX secolo, sia per il grande che per il piccolo schermo).
Dovendo privilegiare uno specifico quanto ristretto campo d’indagine, questo intervento sceglie di concentrarsi sulla ricaduta che l’incendio neroniano ha avuto proprio sulla settima arte: dopo una prima comparsa immediatamente successiva alla pubblicazione del sopracitato romanzo, versioni in pellicola della catastrofe sono state proposte per tutto il Novecento, spesso facendo da sfondo (e che sfondo!) alle vicende di un Nerone che si rivela come uno dei personaggi più fortunati mai portati sulla scena. Verrà pertanto preso in esame il rapporto tra le descrizioni antiche e le differenti realizzazioni cinematografiche, il significato propagandistico-ideologico talvolta rivestito, più in generale la fortuna di un evento storico in più di un secolo di storia del cinema (e della televisione), passando attraverso generi diversi quali il peplum, la commedia e la fantascienza.
Anti-War Spectacles on Screen: A Modern Misunderstanding of Greek Tragedy? Anastasia Bakogianni (Massey University)
In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries Greek Tragedy became a lightening rod for the anti-war movement. In particular, Euripides’ war plays attracted modern practitioners seeking to enlist the cultural capital of Greek tragedy in the fight against conflict, violence, and oppression. But does our modern reading of these Euripidean plays represent a fundamental misunderstanding of their function in fifth-century BCE Athens? This paper will address this question with reference to the screen adaptations of two ancient dramas, the Troades and Iphigenia at Aulis. Michael Cacoyannis’ films ‘The Trojan Women’ (1971) and ‘Iphigenia’ (1977) offer us powerful and moving anti-war spectacles. These multi-sensory spectacles were specifically designed to oppose the glamourization of armed conflict by placing the emphasis on the human cost of war. The Greek-Cypriot director advocated a pacifist view of Euripidean dramaturgy, inscribing the War at Troy with an anti-war message. Visual spectacle is one of the main weapons in Cacoyannis’ arsenal in his desire to guide the audiences of his films towards a liberal political agenda and a pacifist interpretation of the Euripidean text. My aim is to unpick his reading of Euripides’ plays with reference to the source plays’ performance culture.
Special event: From theory to practice: recreating ancient historical clothing and accessories. Danielle Fiore (Torino)
As an active member of the Society of Creative Anachronism community, I create most of the clothing and accessories for my reenactment activities on my own. Personally, I started with medieval reenactment in 2004 and through the years I got the chance to analyze many garments from that era – authentic pieces or good reproductions. I focused mostly on the 12th century, as I always had a great passion for trained gowns with long and pointy sleeves. I started to get involved in historical costuming after a couple of years, when I left medieval reenactment and began to work as historical model; back then, many shootings of mine mixed historical and fantasy elements but nowadays I do my best to offer a historically accurate result. If most of my first costumes were medieval, over the years I improved my skills enough to reproduce garments from different centuries, from Ancient Rome to the Edwardian era. Actually I’m expanding my historical wardrobe and knowledge studying Regency era and the impact the French Revolution had on European fashion at the end of 18th century; I’m currently planning new creations always from Antiquity to modern era, including a sumptuous Byzantine outfit and an Italian renaissance dress. I started to sew in 2013 and after a basic training I learned all I know on the field, with continuous practice, applying and trying to improve. Every piece of my wardrobe is studied, patterned and created according to the cutting layouts of the specific period and trying to use the most historically accurate materials and sewing techniques. The process behind the creation of my historical clothing can be resumed in two words: research and practice. When approaching to historical costuming it is important to know what we are talking about, to improve our knowledge and our technical skills; every piece has its own story, a specific purpose, which costumers and re-enactors must know.
The research starts from the basics: historical costuming requires a good knowledge concerning fabrics, materials, notions, trims etc. because a wrong material can ruin a whole outfit. The essential rule is always the same: natural fabrics and hand stitches are the foundation of a good-looking, historically accurate, acceptable outfit. Silks, linen and wool are the acceptable materials and they must be worked in different ways. Linen, for example, was cheaper and finely worked than now, same for wool. Cotton should be avoided for anything pre-1790. Sometimes historical costuming strikes for its apparent contrast with modern sewing techniques and perception of clothing; nowadays seams and stitches are something to be hidden and professionally worked (this is a Victorian inheritance) but this doesn’t work for previous eras when stitching could be considered decorative. Until the 19th century, visible running stitches were absolutely normal. Undergarments are another important step to get the perfect look: corsets, hoopskirt, several layers of petticoats or tunics are strictly necessary to be authentic. Modern underwear simply doesn’t work with historical clothing and could endanger the final result. Discussing about resources, books, vintage photos (when and where possible), paintings and monuments can be helpful in recreating historical garments and for some eras they are the only resource. Movies can be acceptable but must be perceived with a more critic view: Hollywood productions, period dramas and so on often change essential details of historical clothing to accommodate our 21st century eyes. Talking about Antiquity, the main resources are frescos, marbles, statues and – when available – extant garments. This works for hairstyles as well, since a historical outfit cannot be considered complete without a proper hairstyle and makeup. Everything starts with an idea, often after looking at extant garments, which is later developed according to time, budget, necessity, purpose and skills.
From ancient violence to modern celebration: reception of Roman conquest wars in Las Guerras Cántabras festival (Spain). Jonatan Perez Mostazo (University of the Basque Country, Vitoria)
Wars against Roman conquest have played an important role in many post-classical imageries. Ethnical and national groups have searched for their roots in the fight against Roman legions, often characterized as their first common glory. The visual and performing arts have largely been inspired in those historical events and their main characters: not only painting, sculpture and theatre, but also cinema, comic and television. Lately, some new approaches to Antiquity and ancient war have appeared, seeking a more direct, personal and playful experience. That is the case of historical re-enactment, theme parks and some popular festivals.
This presentation will focus on a festivity held in Los Corrales de Buelna (Cantabria, Northern Spain) since 2000. It recalls the Cantabrian Wars, the last episode of the Roman conquest of Hispania: Las Guerras Cántabras. Nowadays, the region of Cantabria is a “perfectly defined historical community” according to its Statue of Autonomy or main law promulgated in 1981. War against Roman conquest is usually shown as the first appearance of Cantabrian community in history, and as a consequence, this warlike episode has often been used as inspiration for visual arts, images and discourses. Posters, comics, child literature, political symbols, advertising, documentaries and even a film have directly used ancient Cantabrians and their fight against Rome as main subject. And Las Guerras Cántabras is one of this expressions of reception of ancient war, been one of the most popular and original.
The event is mainly a playful event, a festival that involves many local people and clubs in the celebration of an ancient happening, presumably once performed by their own ancestors. The result is a complex combination of visual, scenic and aesthetic discourses that appeal to many different origins and sources. Contemporary pop culture, mass media and archaeology have their influence in the visual reconstruction of Cantabrian Wars, but ancient literary texts remain as essential reference. The aim of this presentation will be, in the first place, to explain and understand the classical images and topics related to Cantabrian Wars in their context. War played a primary role in the characterization of ancient inhabitants of Cantabria, and this starting point has highly determined the post-classical images of them. Secondly, the reception of classical narration and topics in the festival Las Guerras Cántabras will be analyzed, especially what refers to performing and scenic acts. As it will be shown, many episodes, characters and topics are directly related to ancient sources, but reformulated in a new and original way. Ancient violence, fear and fury are now cheerfully performed and celebrated. In other words, the texts that the Greco-roman once produced according to their conceptions and interests are now received in playful and popular visual discourses that appeal to the roots of a so-called thousand-year identity of a 21st century society.
Violence, Fear and Visual Spectacle in the Restoration Horror Play (ca. 1670–90). Christiane Hansen (Universität Freiburg)
My paper examines the juxtaposition of spectacular visual artifice with violence and fear on the late 17th century London stage, and in the Restoration horror play in particular. Te genre of the horror play, as distinctive for this period, is characterised by a surprising emphasis on drastic on-stage violence, ranging from executions and torture in both juridical and religious frameworks to spectacular representations of murder, massacre and suicide. As fictions of – and beyond – authority, these plays can be read as theatrical dissections of power, normative and social order and the impact of the passions, which were firmly rooted in the social and political concerns of late Stuart England. Hardly any study of the Restoration has failed to notice how negotiations of fear and fearful imagination had been moved to the very core of cultural self-assessments in the aftermath of the English civil war and the Restoration settlement of 1660 – developing not only an affective and epistemological, but also a genuinely political dimension. While fear thus figures prominently in all emerging genres of the Restoration stage, the horror play most expressly investigates into the aesthetic and poetological potential of fear and its complex interrelations with pity and compassion on the one hand and astonishment, fascination and admiration on the other.
At the same time, the late 17th century stage was characterised by technological innovations and the rise of elaborate stage machinery in particular. Te availability of such spectacular visual effects was exploited for their aesthetic and epistemological potential, but also – thus my hypothesis – contributed to (re)shape approaches to physical violence, horror and fear. Te emphatic artificiality of the medial setup thus gives a very distinctive visual frame to stage productions, but also influences their negotiations of audience relatedness, impact and response. Visual artifice moreover draws attention to the medial materiality of horror and spectacle, and is therefore related to questions of evidence and authenticity – or, vice versa, illusion and deceit.
In my paper, I would like to examine these decisive intersections of epistemological, political and aesthetic frameworks focusing on a sub-corpus of plays which are based on remote settings of Greek and Roman antiquity. Combining general considerations with paradigmatic close readings from Nathaniel Lee’s Tragedy of Nero (1675), Thomas Otway’s Alcibiades (1675) and John Dryden’s Cleomenes (1692), I should like to argue that, beyond the obvious projective value of historical otherness, the ancient settings of the plays provided a specific potential for irritation and self-reflective modes. Thus, ancient settings were exploited to negotiate (historical and cultural) difference and detachment as related to the disruptive performative immediacy of violence and fear. Finally, the translation of violence onto such pre-Christian figurations contributed significantly to theatrical re-encodings of martyrdom and their implications for cultural assessments of fear and fearlessness, agency, and victimisation.
The fury of the Black Brazilian Medea and the fictional and factual fears she generated. Maria Cecilia De Miranda Nogueira Coelho (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte)
My aim is to discuss the representation of Medea´s fury in the play Beyond the river (Medea), an adaptation of Euripides´ Medea, and to show how this fictional Brazilian text is connected to historical facts which in turn generated a furious reaction against the play.
Beyond the river (Medea), written by Agostinho Olavo, was published in 1961 in Dramas for blacks and a prologue for whites – an anthology of Brazilian black theatre (there is no precise information about the date it was written, probably by the end of the 40’s). Olavo’s play is a post-colonial re-reading of the famous Greek tragedy in the context of the trafficking of slaves to Brazil in the seventeenth century and the subtitle (Medea) indicates its ancient model. However, the characters’ names and the references to Candomblé (syncretic Brazilian ritual) highlight the play’s combination of Greek, Christian and African traditions. Beyond the river (Medea) was never performed. In 1966, it was forbidden by the Brazilian government to represent the country at the First World Festival of Black Arts in Senegal, in part because it was going to be put on stage by Black Experimental Theatre, a group concerned with a number of issues like popular education, racial violence and otherness, which attracted, against its members, a sort of political fury. If we remember the previous success of plays like Orpheus da Conceição, in which the famous film Black Orpheus was based, Além do Rio seems an peculiar case of interaction with the ancient world and its representations.
In light of above information, I want to focus on two issues and show how they are intertwined. First, I will analyze the use of Greek and Afro-American elements, in the context of colonial Brazilian society, in order to construct the fury of Medea. Secondly, I will show how fiction and historical facts interlaced in the episode of the censure of the play and the fear associated with miscegenation, infanticide and post-colonial discourse. In this second moment I want to show, comparatively, but briefly (a subject I partially discussed before, see Maria Coelho “Five Brazilian Medeas”, in Dialogues with the Past. Anastasia Bakogianni (Ed.), BICS 2013, v. 2, p. 359-380, and “Quando as mulheres dirigem a cena: as Medeias de Denise Stoklos e de Jocy de Oliveira”, in Actualidade de los Clásicos. Elina Cancela (Ed.) Havana, 2010), how other four adaptation of furious Medeas in Brazil – two plays: Gota d’ Água (Chico Buarque) and Des-Medéia (Denise Stoklos); one television adaptation: Caso Especial-Medéia (Oduvaldo Filho), and one opera, Kseni, the foreigner (Jocy de Oliveira) – were so well received, and to discuss an hypothesis to explain how Olavo´s Medea reveals, when presented as a black woman, the ‘dark side’ of part of the Brazilian society, and how problematic this is still today, for the reception of the play, when its myth departs “from the pure whiteness that the classical heritage usually calls forth”.
External and Internal Violence within the Myth of Iphigenia. Staging Myth Today. Małgorzata Budzowska (Uniwersytet Łódzki)
The ”work” of Iphigenia myth seems to be intensified in the moments of human societies’ development that are involved in profound identity changes followed by self-sacrifice. Repressive nature of community life calls an individual for revaluations within self-recognition. From Antiquity (Euripides) to Romanticism (Goethe), the figure of Iphigenia was recognized as an emblem of moral prowess. Nonetheless, nowadays, marked by nationalistic and religious terrorism, as well as by a pressure of collective unified activity, myth of Iphigenia signs discussions about identity’s concerns and provokes questions of importance and legitimacy of making sacrifices. Attributes of human virtuosity prescribed to woman concurrently initiates considerations regarding moral prowess freed from gender stereotype. Contemporary Iphigenia becomes a genderless “hero” of collective imagination designing recurrent questions with respect to humanism and humanitarianism of contemporary world.
This paper aims at scrutinizing this combined issue of violence and gender as it is staged in today’s theater based on two cases studies. The “Iphigenia” production by Antonina Grzegorzewska (National Theatre in Warsaw, 2008) extends the female/feminist plot juxtaposing three different mythical women – Iphigenia, Clytemnestra and Medea – to explore the question of male aggression followed by female vengeance. The director examines the roots of the myth that illustrates the circle of vengeance, underlining its very beginning within the relationship of two individuals trapped by claustrophobic circumstances of evil. However, in the performance, the boundaries between male and female evildoers are blurred – the artist questions the phenomenon of “civilization of death” as a result of male activity and indicates both, men and women, as malefactors. Grzegorzewska uses the ancient and current signs of cruel female god of Artemis (demanding Iphigenia’s death) and a chorus of Muslim women, wearing burqas with explosive belts, which are led by Medea in the “anniversary of her vengeance”. These images are clashed with the scenes of male soldiers arranged in the set of contemporary war camps in Iraq or Afghanistan. This staging of Iphigenia myth suggests that murderous gestures similarly belongs to men and women, however still alive is a question of victim’s identity as defined by Girard.
As the second case study, the production of “And Iphigenia” by Tomasz Bazan (The New Theatre in Łódź, 2012) will be analyzed. The director based his staging on the idea of Pina Bausch; he is not interested how people move, but by what they are moved. In this performance choreography is essential for meanings’ creation. The figure of Iphigenia, played by a young man, acts his/her internal struggle of self-identification in gender context regarding self-sacrifice. The study will investigate the meanings of two main brutal scenes that imitate bulling: in the first scene, Iphigenia is physically bullied by other unnamed figure; in the last scene, the situation of bulling is subverted. These two scenic performances, exploiting energy of actors’ bodies, becomes signs that provoke intriguing searching for meanings of such violence and cruelty and directing the path of Pina Bausch kinetic mimesis of human emotionality.
Fear and Fury in Euripides’ Orestes. Mary-Kay Gamel (University of California Santa Cruz)
Orestes is a far darker script than Choephoroe, Eumenides, and Sophocles’ Electra. In this play, six days after Orestes and his sister have murdered their mother, they hope that family members and/or the society will understand their action. But Menelaos first promises to support Orestes and then doesn’t even show up at his trial; is he cowardly? (Aristotle’s view, Poetics 15), or trying to balance different obligations? No onstage Furies torment Orestes: instead, when asked “What is making you suffer?” he answers “My conscience: I know I’ve done terrible things” (396). Tyndareos argues that Orestes violated established Greek law in killing Klytemnestra, one of many aspects which suggest that the play is taking place in a contemporary Greek city not unlike Athens. In 411, after twenty years of war between Athens and Sparta and their allies, a coup overthrew the democratic government of Athens and opened negotiations with the Spartans. After the democracy was restored in 410, demagogues ruled the Assembly, those who had supported the coup were prosecuted, and many used the opportunity to settle private scores and enrich themselves. The description of the Argive assembly discussing the siblings’ matricide (884-945), with its portrayal of sycophancy and hectoring, seems to reflect Athenian events. When condemned to death, the damaged teenagers together with Pylades turn to far more wanton, horrific violence.
Judging from the number of citations Orestes was the most popular tragedy in antiquity, yet it has rarely been staged in modern times. Starting in the 1990s, however, a number of translations and versions have appeared (e.g., Mee, Edmundson, Carson, McDonald, Washburn), and in the United States stagings have steadily increased to the present day. After the attacks of 9/11, with Mideast wars raging, a major recession afflicting millions of people, increasing income inequality, government at all levels mired in partisan obstructionism, and natural disasters suggest that the world itself is undergoing terrible changes, the levels of fear and fury in the U.S. demand a different kind of tragedy, more chaotic, more questioning, and Orestes uses exciting, innovative theatrical means to offer a deeply disturbing vision of individuals, society, and the cosmos.
Orestes Terrorist, my version of the play, was staged at my university in 2011. A review by Fiona Macintosh (Didaskalia 8.14) described it as “a high energy, action-packed, anarchic, deliberately messy and pacey Orestes,” set in “a state riven with civil war, imminent or actual”—“a violent world in which almost everyone is cast either as instigator, perpetrator or colluder in the violence. . . . As with Euripides, the increasingly frenetic nature of the protagonist and his co-conspirators is matched by stylistic disjunctions. . . . This is an Orestes for our time, which speaks urgently to contemporary western anxieties and concerns.” I will illustrate my talk with clips from a professional video shoot of this production.
The Emperor Nero in the Baroque Opera: Tradition or Manipulation. Pepa Castillo (Universidad de la Rioja)
In 54, after Claudius´death, Nero was established as Emperor. Until the year 59, he was described as a generous and reasonable ruler, but later Nero became an evildoer, a tyrant. He began to react harshly to any form of perceived disloyalty or criticism, because his purpose was to reduce the opposition and consolidate his power. After all, acording to Suetonius, Domitius, Nero´s father, had said “that nothing but what was detestable and pernicious to the public, could ever be produced of him and Agrippina” (Suet. Nero, 6). Nero provoked fear, both in domestic life as well as in public life. He was a person who committed wicked acts, against his relatives, political collaborators, strangers and against the inhabitants of the city of Rome (e.g. the Great Fire of 64).
The aim of this paper is to analyze how the Baroque Opera represents the cruelty and violence of this emperor, sometimes in accordance with the tradition of the writings of Tacitus, Suetonius and Cassius Dio, and others transforming and manipulating it. Bearing this in mind, and without forgetting the historical context of the première, we will also find out the purpose of the representation of the operas, which we will be analyzing. These operas are as follows: Il Nerone (Corradi, Venice – 1679), Nerone fatto Cesare (Noris, Venice – 1693), La fortezza al cimento (Silvani, Venice – 1699), Die durch Blut und Mord Erlangte Liebe oder Nero (Feustking or Barthold Feind?, Hamburg – 1705) and Nerone (Cossa, Milan – 1872).
War Beyond the Battle: The Bloody Spectacle(s) of Ancient Violence in Video Games. Jordi Rodríguez Danés (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona).
In the last century, movies introduced a new form of telling and visualizing stories never seen before. This new method was regarded as an evolution of the novel that successfully transported words into the big screen and, a few decades later, into the small screen. In the last quarter of the Twentieth century, a new medium, the Video Game, announced a new era of pure entertainment that, beyond cinema, required the interaction of the spectator, who, as player, became the main protagonist of the story.
As films do, Video Games show a large interest in History. Ancient History remain as a favourite period of popular games and, among them, titles on Greek and Roman warfare tend to lead the best-sellers lists. Perhaps, only Second World War games overtake them in success. Why Antiquity, then? Remoteness, exoticism but also familiarity might provide a partial answer. They propose to ‘travel’ into a place not submitted to the moral, ethical and cultural rules of the present but still minimally known to the player: the Ancient World as a comfort zone in which everything is possible. In this regard, one of the most appealing factors that make these games successful is no doubt their uninhibited use and visualisation of – often extreme – violence. Violence is an inherent factor of any war. In Video Games, violence becomes also an aesthetic spectacle favoured by digital techniques that sometimes surpass or overshadow other elements of the game, enhancing a sense of epic. Spectacular violence contributes to shape a romantic vision of the historical past, one that is only practicable through Video Games. But violence is and was not only restricted to the battlefield. It has indeed many faces, as ancient evidence reminds us. Our sources provide for instance accounts of massacres, enslavement and deportations of civil populations, the major victims of wars. In Video Games, the player is required to take decisions about the destiny of innocent peoples, and such choices are not always graphically represented. A simple button often fulfils this function, while we only see the consequences of these planned brutal actions: violence is here almost invisible, but implacable. A well-known example of this is the popular Total War Saga and its most recent release: Total War Attila. This Game proposes a cinematic war spectacle, like Gladiator, dominated by huge battles with thousands of soldiers fighting against each other, blood and decapitations. But beyond this explicit imagery of violence, it also explores other levels of violence, such as those belonging to the sphere of politics and diplomacy. They challenge the player to adopt the best strategy to success according to imperialistic views and ambitions.
My paper will look at the different ways popular Video Games depict ancient violence beyond the very context of the battle field: in addition to explicit forms of physical violence, against individuals, populations and places, I will further look at more subtle violent acts that are also challenging in terms of visual representation, such as political violence: how are extreme emotions and attitudes linked with violence, such as fear, terror and threat, represented in Video Games focusing on ancient warfare? Are there any ethical considerations that influence their representation? To what extent is ancient violence portrayed in Video Games as a new form of culture that meets the aesthetics, cultural fashions but also ideologies of the 21st century?
La violenza antica diventa un videogioco: la saga di Kratos in The God of War. Annalisa Quattrocchio (Università degli Studi di Torino).
L’antichità è da sempre fonte di ispirazione dei videogiochi, che hanno rappresentato di volta in volta il mondo mitico ed epico degli dei e degli eroi, la nascita delle civiltà, la formazione di imperi e le vicende storiche più note. Il ricorso alla violenza, nelle forme del combattimento del singolo o della guerra condotta da interi popoli, della conquista o della difesa è la chiave del successo del giocatore che si cala nel ruolo di un guerriero dotato di straordinari poteri da accrescere e modificare nei diversi livelli del gioco. Ricostruzioni animate di varia attendibilità di armi e tecniche di combattimento, di città, di abiti e di mezzi di trasporto costituiscono lo sfondo per imprese con labili rimandi a vicende storiche (spesso trasfigurate in eventi epici) o ad episodi mitici. La fictio di queste realtà virtuali consente di ricorrere ad ogni forma di violenza (apparentemente) senza implicazioni psicologiche o morali.
Scopo della comunicazione è prendere in esame il caso di The God of War, che sviluppa la saga di Kratos, guerriero greco di potenza sovraumana e di inaudita violenza. Kratos, nelle diverse edizioni del videogame, è ora un ambizioso generale spartano, ora un servo di Ares ed un esecutore dei suoi crudeli piani, ora un alleato dei Titani contro gli dei dell’Olimpo, ora un perseguitato dalle Furie costretto ad affrontare le imprese più rischiose, fino a diventare egli stesso dio della guerra. Il personaggio è frutto di fantasia, ma si individua in lui un affascinante collage dei tratti di varie figure mitiche, da Eracle con le sue lunghe ed irrequiete peregrinazioni e le sue imprese spesso violente, sempre sovrumane, a tutti i condottieri di eserciti, da Oreste perseguitato dalle Furie per il parricidio a tutti gli assassini di consanguinei, da Prometeo ribelle agli dei a quanti hanno sfidato il volere del Fato. Accanto a Kratos compaiono nel ruolo di aiutanti o di antagonisti altri personaggi della tradizione mitica greca, come le Furie, Ares e i Titani.
Quali aspetti di divinità ed eroi greci rivivono in Kratos e negli altri personaggi del videogame? Come vengono trasfigurati per enfatizzarne la capacità di suscitare terrore o di commettere atti di violenza? Quali azioni, quali caratteristiche fisiche e psicologiche sono selezionate dall’équipe di tecnici ed artisti che progetta un gioco di ruolo virtuale in cui una delle chiavi del successo è l’intreccio di parole, musica ed immagini già caratteristico della poesia greca? Come vengono rappresentate la violenza, la forza bruta, la furia, il terrore e la morte? Quali forme della violenza antica sono funzionali per garantire il divertimento del fruitore e appagare il suo desiderio di una forza e di un potere illimitati per trionfare contro i nemici più disparati? E soprattutto, in che senso The God of War può costituire un esempio del fascino che il lato oscuro dell’antichità ha sull’uomo moderno?
Playing Attila and waging total war. A video game’s take on the Migration Perio. Fabian Schulz (Universität Tübingen).
The Migration Period, which eventually brought to an end the western Roman Empire, has often been associated with words like “decline and fall” and described as an “age of violence and fear”. Despite recent scholarly efforts to stress the continuities of this transitional period between Antiquity and the Middle Ages, this image persists in popular culture. For example, in the beginning of this century two TV-series aired having almost the same title: “(Ancient) Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire”. This is also true for video games, which, despite their growing impact on popular culture, are largely ignored by reception studies.
„Total War: Attila” is a new strategy game for PC, set between 395 and 450 AD. Ten “factions” are playable at launch, each with their own unit roster and agenda. While the title character will be able to become the leader of the Huns, he is not yet in power at the start of the campaign. If chosen to play either of the Roman empires, gamers will be tasked with saving and preserving the empire, and if possible unite Rome under a single emperor. The game revolves around battles, but city management, political intrigue and diplomacy are important, too. In the real-time battles the camera can zoom in to individual soldiers or zoom out to get a bird’s eye view. Managing the empire on the world map is turn-based. Aside from the campaign there are nine historical battles starting with Adrianople.
The game received positive reviews from critics. Many praised the complex character and army management, the pacing of siege battles, the stunning music and sound effects, as well as the themes, which “reflected the era accurately”. However, some criticized the game for its frustrating internal and external politics.
This paper aims to address the following topics:
– How does the game stage the conquerors’ violence and the fear felt by the subjugated?
– How are Hunnic, Germanic or Roman acts of conquest and destruction translated into game mechanics like the new “Scorched Earth” feature?
– How is inner-tribal and political violence, be it individual or collective, from rebellions against the rulers to struggles for power, been staged and depicted?
– Does the historical setting and the possibility to write alternate history help to make a better game?
Si vis ludum para bellum: violence and war as predominant language of Antiquity in video games. David Serrano Lozano (Universidad Complutense de Madrid).
Almost since its origins, video games industry has found in Antiquity a quite suitable scenery for staging the development of its products. Whereas working as a simple aesthetic background or focusing in detail on a specific context, moment or fact, the ancient world has been a constant resource when designing video games plots, aesthetics and, or environments. However, Antiquity has almost entirely been marked by a tendency towards its displaying as an environment based on violence, especially on massive military conflicts or individual epic violence, such as gladiatorial style fighting or main characters with classical heroes or semi-gods characteristics (Achiles, Kratos, Hercules). This tendency has helped to build a vision of antiquity in which violence is not only the main component, but also virtually the only way of articulating an ancient context.
Many differences can be identified concerning the use of multiple topics according to different ancient scenarios on screen, such as a mysterious or divine bias in ancient Egypt, individual epics and interaction between human beings and Gods in Greek world or conquest and militarism in Roman environments. These slants come mainly from topics raised in ancient sources as well as in contemporary cultural expressions, especially those in screen. However, these are only tiny stylistic differences comparing with the great common ground set by violence at different scales when displaying an interactive ancient world.
In a list of videogames focused on Antiquity we can find that non-violent activities and attitudes are very scarce. Founding and developing cities, politics or, to a lesser extent, economy (specially trade) are some of the fields which, occasional and in a secondarily, find their way in Antiquity’s display in videogames. As a commercial product, videogames always count on a series of plot lines designed to attract as many users/consumers as possible, and violence, in its various ways, has an obvious main role in these contents. Of course, violence is not employed exclusively when setting an ancient environment, but it is rather pointless trying to find ancient context in videogames with a complex plot line, logic challenges (puzzles) or non directly violent action (races, discoveries). Casuistry shows that a combination of Antiquity and such a non violent content is not considered as a potentially successful product by the videogame industry. From an analysis on reception, two possible explanations can be posed:
-As mentioned, Antiquity reception in videogames counts on elements directly inherited from cinema and TV. Thus, this strong link between ancient world and violence wouldn’t be but an already existing concept, developed by the audiovisual industry through a previous example of reception. So, videogames with an ancient environment would have been developed bearing in mind an audience whose perception of Antiquity was already filled with violent content, and to which videogames content must be acceptable and understandable.
-The chronological distance between Antiquity and the present can be a gap wide enough for complex plot lines (politics, popular culture, etc.) to be not functional enough for them to be attractive to the audience.
Archimede e la follia dell’uomo in Eureka di Hitoshi Iwaaki. Giuseppe Galeani (Università di Pavia)
L’intervento consisterà nell’analisi del manga Eureka, realizzato da Itoshi Iwaaki – uno dei talenti più originali e solidi nel panorama del manga contemporaneo – e incentrato sulla narrazione dell’assedio da parte dell’esercito romano guidato da Claudio Marcello della città Siracusa del 214-212 a.C. e del ruolo svolto nella difesa della città siciliana da Archimede.
Dopo un excursus delle fonti antiche che ci parlano dell’episodio (in primis Livio, Polibio e Plutarco) l’intervento offrirà una panoramica dettagliata della fortuna, in particolar modo fra ‘800 e ‘900 nelle arti visive, ma anche nel cinema e nella televisione (dal quadro Archimedes directing the defenses of Syracuse di T. R. Spence del 1895 al film Cabiria di G. Pastrone del 1914, dall’Assedio di Siracusa di P. Francisci del 1960 al cartone animato Archimède et les Grecs di A. Barille del 1994) della rappresentazione della figura del grande matematico e in particolar modo della sua partecipazione, attraverso la presenza dei suoi straordinari macchinari, alla resistenza del popolo siracusano all’assedio romano.
Solo in questo modo, infatti, sarà, quindi, possibile mettere in evidenza la cifra di novità rappresentata dalle scelte narrative e grafiche adottate da Iwaaki. Attraverso, infatti, l’attenzione spettacolare alle efferate conseguenze dell’impiego delle terribili macchine da difesa sull’esercito assediante, l’autore pone l’accento sul dissidio interiore che lacera l’anziano inventore al punto da rinnegare il frutto del proprio genio, quando è volto ad arrecare dolore e sofferenza negli altri esseri umani. Iwaaki, pertanto, rilegge in chiave contemporanea la figura del grande genio di Siracusa, proponendo ai suoi lettori un’originale riflessione sulla violenza, la malvagità e sulla follia di cui l’uomo, di ogni epoca, può essere capace.
Violent Sexuality in Comic Book Representations of Ancient Rome. Luis Unceta Gómez (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid).
The strong erotization of ancient Rome in contemporary arts, especially in cinema, and its frequent representation as a setting for all kind of depravities have led to its description in terms of “Pornotopia” (Nisbet 2009). This has been a frequent characterization since the discovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the 18th century and the creation of the “Gabinetto Segreto”, but this “discourse on the lasciviousness of ancient Rome in contrast to a chaste Christianity”, according to Blanshard (2010: 5), “can be traced back at least as far as the second century AD.” This over-sexualized portrayal of Rome has frequently been combined with the violence and force traditionally attributed to the imperialist Rome, which was markedly virile in its use of sexuality as a means of domination. The result has been an image of absolute depravation, as displayed in broadly-known films such as Caligula (Tinto Brass, 1979).
Deeply indebted to the peplum cinema, the comic books set in ancient Rome have placed a strong emphasis on the explicit sexual component of the narratives, taking to the extreme the representation of Rome as an Empire of violence and depravity. This paper aims to examine a number of comic books set in the imperial Rome, paying especial attention to the erotic content and its combination with features of extreme violence. Titles such as Messalina by Jean-Yves Mitton (2011-), Caligula by David Lapham and German Nobile (2011), or La Métamorphose de Lucius by Milo Manara (1999), among other, will be analyzed in order to determine the main characteristics of this sexual and violent Rome and the peculiarities of this representation in comic books, which eventually will help to identify the key success factors of this discourse in modern popular culture.
Blanshard, Alaistair J. L. (2010): Sex: Vice and Love from Antiquity to Modernity, Chichester/Malden (MA), Wiley-Blackwell.
Nisbet, G. (2009 ): «‘Dickus Maximus’: Rome as Pornotopia», in D. Lowe & K. Shahabudin (eds.), Classics for All: Reworking Antiquity in Mass Culture, Newcastle upon Tyne, 150 –171.
Choreographies of Death and Glory: Spartacus in the Soviet and Post-Communist Ballet. Zoa Alonso Fernández (Harvard University).
The story of Spartacus was an indispensable episode of the revolutionary mythology and martyrology of the Soviet Union. Imagined as an example of ‘ancient proletariat’, the gladiator’s rebellion against the oppressive Roman establishment in the 1st century BCE was written and re-written in almost every textbook of the post-revolutionary years. In 1956, the Ministry of Culture commissioned Leonid Jacobson the choreography of Khachaturian’s Spartacus for the Kirov Ballet. A lack of glorious and heroic themes evidenced the paradoxical position of an art form that was still among the most important cultural achievements of the Soviet Union and channels of propaganda. Since then, Kirov and Bolshoi restaged four different versions of the ballet with three choreographers and countless changes of scenes, including Yuri Grigorovich’s famous adaptation in 1968.
As part of this paper I intend to examine how all these choreographies have represented (and represent still today) an exaggerated stylization of the historical account. Considering the effect of gladiatorial bodies onstage, as well as military marches and other cinematographic narratives of violence and death, I will problematize the following questions: are there various levels of violence orchestrated in the Soviet and Post-Communist choreographies of Spartacus? Can we talk about fears of otherness and gender at display? How does ballet molds the bodies of gladiators and beaten slaves? Does the gladiatorial bloody fight become a spectacle within the spectacle? Can we understand the role of actual spectators as a modern parallel to ancient Roman audiences? How does body language relate to schemes of power and imperialism while conveying notions of debauchery and excess? Is the optic of ballet as effective as other popular media to convey the struggles of such riot?
Dark Territories of Soul: Martha Graham’s Clytemnestra. Ainize González García (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona).
“J’ai tué cet homme avec un couteau, dans une baignoire, avec l’aide de mon misérable amant qui ne parvenait même pas à lui tenir les pieds”.
Marguerite Yourcenar, Clytemnestre ou le crime (1935-1936).
In 1923 Martha Graham saw for the first time a series of modern paintings exhibited at the Institute of Art of Chicago. Chagall, Matisse and, specially, Kandinsky made her realise that some artists understood art in the same way as she did. “One day I will make that. I will create a dance like this painting”, she said to herself in front of one of the Kandinskys.
While German modern dance opted for introspection, American modern dance preferred the abstract movement of the dancer. In fact, the reaction of Martha Graham’s School against expressionism marked the way towards post-modern conceptions of dance. Graham left her own essence on the characters she portrayed. She often choreographed heroic figures such as Ariadne, Joan of Arc or Clytemnestra. It has even been said that she was the first tragic actress of dance. Graham performed beautiful, determinate, strong and savage women. Indeed, wasn’t to her dance essentially feminine? Her extensive work includes territories like introspection, dances inspired by antiquity, social criticism and the interest in other arts such as poetry and painting. She was interested as well in the subconscious and in the theories of Freud and Jung – this took her to the exploration of what she called ‘dark territories of soul’. According to this idea, the movement of the dancers, as well as clothing and the stylized sets are meant to materialize all these concerns.
The main objective of this proposal is to analyse the use of these inclinations in her Clytemnestra (1958); certainly Graham’s most ambitious work. In the oeuvre all the elements emphasize the action of the piece: the crime committed by Clytemnestra. Clytemnestra is an interpretation of the famous passage of hate and revenge of the doomed House of Atreus. A theme already explored in her Cave of the Heart (1946), originally called Serpent Heart, where Medea, mad with hatred, devours her own entrails in a tragic and scary solo. Is the revenge of the Queen of Mycenae really the central theme of Graham’s Clytemnestra or just an excuse? From what perspective is Clytemnestra “interpreted” by Graham? Is she just trying to recreate Agamemnon’s murder as the surgical description of an implacable act of violence?
Graham searches to be completely dominated by the dance, until she loses the notion of everything else. Her technique is based on breathing; for her the pulse of life. The liberation of the inspiration and the contraction of the expiration is an action of incessant contrast and eternal struggle. Her work emerges from this tension. In Graham’s Clytemnestra anguish, determination, violence and death are palpable. But not as a mimetic appearance, as it is often portrayed on Greek figure vases, but in a more subtle and abstract way.
The red mark of Kandinsky’s painting “led” Graham to Clytemnestra. Through her, through “Clytemnestra’s” movements, Graham gave a real sense to the abstract movements of dance. Graham “dug” into Clytemnestra. But, perhaps, in the end, she is digging into the tragic of human existence.
Acts of violence – Staging death in Modern Dance and in Contemporary Choreography. Nicole Haitzinger (Universität Salzburg).
In ancient Greek tragedy, we can observe various differing ways of killing a woman on stage. The act of dying is concealed, but mediated linguistically by means of the messenger’s report. Visibility is reserved for the corpse carried on stage. Greek tragedy knows different forms of death of which three seem significant: hanging, suicide by means of the sword, sacrificial death: all three evoke a performative liminal state of presence and absence. In Modernity, more specific around 1900, dance theatre begins to stage death (hanging, suicide by sword, sacrificial) in different ways. This might link to the period’s emphasis on new forms of theatre and to its desire for an immediate unfolding of the theatrical. Mimesis in dance, ritual dimensions, “primitivism”, the search for the archaic, as well as the interest in affective processes are some of the aspects which begin to determine dance productions. But how is death staged in modernity and in contemporary performative arts exactly, and which references to cultural practices and social orders can be recognized? How do modern choreographers like Vaslav Nijinksy (Rite of Spring, 1913), Martha Graham (Clytemnestra, 1958) and contemporary choreographers (like Jérôme Bel, The show must go on, 2001) show death on stage?
The first thesis is that modernity reverses the antic relation between invisibility and visibility, absence and presence; it presents for example the sacrificial dance as a long act of dying while the corpse becomes visible only for a moment. The second thesis is that in contemporary dance the resonances of the tragic deaths – as different as their choreographic and physical structures and modes of appearance, as multifarious as their spaces of desire and imagination compared to ancient Greek tragedy and even modernity may be – still evoke a performative liminal state of presence and absence.
 Cf. Nicole Loraux’ excellent study Tragische Weisen, eine Frau zu töten [Tragic Ways of Killing a Woman]. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1993. I add to her observations some essential aspects regarding corporeality.
Ancient War and Modern Art. Some remarks from history painting in the XIXth and XXth centuries. Antonio Duplá (Universidad del País Vasco, Vitoria)
In Regarding the pain of others (2003), Susan Sontag undermines the capacity of showing pain and atrocity as a mechanism to prevent war and cruelty. She also recognizes that the iconography of suffering has a long pedigree and that it seems that the appetite for pictures showing bodies in pain has been permanent.
In fact, the representation of war has always been a polemical issue. We may remember the debate that arose at the end of the XVIIIth century between the painter Benjamin West, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and other art critics and intellectuals about the conflict between historical truth and the idealisation of images of war (debate originated by West’s The Death of General Wolfe).
The interesting point about war images is that they may be vehicles of several different messages, and topics related with Classical Antiquity are perfectly adaptable to this diversity.
If we look at historical painting in XIXth-century Spain, several paintings deal with two well-known war episodes (among others) from the ancient Iberian Peninsula, those of the destruction of Sagunt and Numancia. But far from presenting the facts as to prevent war, the horror, cruelty and suffering described in great detail in these paintings were exploited to reinforce Spanish national identity and to vindicate both a collective hero fighting for freedom and independence, and individual popular leaders (Viriatus). And it is possible to find similar examples (and paintings) in Great Britain, Germany or France, always linked to nation-building processes.
A century later, the situation is very different. Photography has substituted painting as the way to describe reality and in the case of representing war it can be done now with such a detailed, immediate, close and apparently neutral eye as never before. When we reencounter history painting and Antiquity, artistic communication has changed. Instead of realistic images of horror and brutality, accompanied by heroism and sacrifice, fear and fury are now presented through a more conceptual language, as an appeal to denounce war, national myths and the manipulation of history. This is the case with the various paintings around Arminius and Varus and the battle of Teutoburg by German painter Anselm Kiefer from Ways of Worldly Wisdom: Arminius’s Battle (Hermannsschlacht) of 1978 to more recent works on the same topic. Another example, this one related with political assassination in history, is that of the series Nine Discourses on Commodus (1963), by Cy Tombly.
The paper will analyse the use of different ancient wars in paintings from the XIXth and XXth centuries, and the changing nature of the message involved, basically around the two periods abovementioned (Spanish nationalism in the XIXth century – late XXth century revision of western national histories). The analysis will be focused around the political implications of the works, the different historical contexts, the various artistic languages involved and the values of the public addressed.
There and Back Again: Thais of Athens in Visual Media. Alex McAuley (University of British Columbia, Vancouver).
Alexander the Great’s destruction of the Achaemenid palace at Persepolis was decried by ancient and modern authors alike as wine-fueled act of wanton destruction that stands as one of Alexander’s great missteps. Yet in all of our ancient accounts we find an unlikely personality who is attributed as having been in some measure responsible for Alexander’s actions: the Athenian hetaera, Thais of Athens. For a minor figure in the literary record Thais has a remarkably enduring presence in later art and literature, appearing in everything from Dante’s Inferno to Renaissance Painting and through to 21st century art. The ancient authors give this Athenian hetaera an agency and extravagance more akin to the stereotypical Oriental princess than a sophisticated Greek courtesan, and this paper will examine how the image of Thais has been constructed and re-constructed in the millennia following the destruction of Persepolis. I shall consider how Thais was transformed from a besotted harlot into a strong and independent heroine in her own right over centuries of her artistic reception, and how this case study ties into broader trends in the reception of Alexander, Persepolis, and ancient women in general. Beginning with the ancient accounts, I shall trace her depiction in various authors and then move forward chronologically through her appearances in first literature in order to set the stage for her later depictions in Renaissance, Baroque, and Romantic art. The nuances of her relationship to Alexander will be teased out, as will changing interpretations of her own agency. Finally, I shall consider how the image of Thais has been transformed in the digital age through her presence on the internet and in the works of contemporary artists such as Natalia Babi. Throughout, I will include my own artistic interpretations along with correspondence and interviews with some of the artists and authors who have been producing such depictions in order to let such works be expressed in their own words.
Emblematizing war: Alexander the Great as a military symbol in Evangelos Moustakas’ sculptural complex in Thessaloniki. Andreea Ștefan (National History Museum of Romania, Bucharest).
Landmark of Thessaloniki, the equestrian statue of Alexander the Great located on the waterfront in the center of the city is susceptible to spark an incalculable number of perceptions of the king of Macedon. Among them, some must reflect modern thoughts and conceptions of ancient warfare. And this connection is made inevitable by the nature of Alexander’s fame throughout time, that of the exemplar conqueror of Antiquity. In this paper I tackle two factors that mediated the reception of the ancient tradition on Alexander in the monument and that are likely to canalize the viewers’ perception thereof. I start form the assumption that sculpture and onlookers alike are preformatted to transmit and receive respectively in some predefined ways the message inherent to a figurate evocation of Alexander. By doing so, they construct a multilayered and at the same time dynamic set of interpretations of the monument that are, up to a certain point, predictable. In the first place there is to consider the artist’s intention. In fact Evangelos Moustakas’ 1970’ sculptural complex, one of figurative art, has a number of implicit references that are offered to the viewer (e. g. the short sword, the round shields and the sarissas, the bas-relief of the battle of Issus all evoke explicitly Alexander’s campaigns). While some are in dialog with both written and iconographic ancient sources on Alexander, other are related to Moustakas’ conception of art, his own perception of the past and of how it should be enacted in the thereafter continuous present of a work of art, his background etc. Simultaneously I consider the intentionality of the one who commissioned the monument, the Greek state of the military junta (1967–74), and located it in Thessaloniki, province of Macedonia, in the vicinity of the border with the then Jugoslav Republic of Macedonia with which Greece is still disputing the “rights” over Alexander the Great of Macedon. Finally, I take into account various opinions expressed on some major touristic websites (e. g. tripadvisor.com ) to show how according to its own cultural background the public reacts, deciphers, comments upon this highly politicized work of art.