Hamlet: Hellenistic Civilization and Grand Procession Essay

Submitted By chelseasoldiers
Words: 1751
Pages: 8

In the three centuries the life and death of Alexander the Great, the center of artistic endeavors and expression of classical Greece began to expand. Throughout the eastern “European” world there was a blurring of distinct divisions of the Mediterranean, the Middle and Near East, between Greeks and the “barbarians”; the legacy of individual and independent city states as seen in Athens were incorporated into kingdoms ruled by dynastic families. By second century BCE, the Polemic power secured in Egypt experienced a zenith of power and influence as seen in its legacy of art, culture and religion. Fusing political power with godly deification, cults of began to show rulers linked with divinity and “. . . there is no doubt that the idea of the Ptolemaic monarchy definitely included a notion of the divinity of the king, a notice which extended to the Greeks and Macedonians and was established in the ideology as early as the middle of the reign of Philadelphus.” An indication of Greek blending into the Egyptian is a narrative found in the Deipnosophisai of Athenaios (c 200 CE), as quoted from Kallixeinos of Rhodes (mid-century BCE) which reveals in vivid and elaborate the splendor a public procession filled with Dionysian drama, Silenoi and satyrs, music and animals in honor of Ptolemy II of Philadelphos. In his discussion of the grand procession of Ptolemy in a Ptolemaic festival, Pollitt identifies 5 points which characterize the spirit of Alexandrian art. Examined in this paper are 5 artistic expressions, in different mediums, which not only support Pollitt’s view of Alexandrian art, but also vocalize his five attitudes which define the Hellenistic age. In tandem with the ideas and achievements of Hellenism, these specific five works reveal an area of the world seeking to articulate its beliefs and values; concepts which continue to be significant and resonate well into the 21st century.

As a vehicle in musing or as an analogue of life, the theatrical mentality “accounts for the popularity and omnipresence of theatrical imagery in the decorative arts of the Hellenistic period, particularly in domestic mosaics were masks, actors, and theatrical scenes were often the principal motifs.” Popular theatrical images for Hellenistic mosaics, created with tessellated squares of glass and stones, is Dionysus riding a panther (see figure 1). Dating from 330 – 300 BCE and measuring 2.70 x 2.65 shows a “divine analogue of the living Pharaoh . . . because Dionysos had been a mortal, had struggles, and had become a god . . . had been a conqueror in the east and returned in the east and had returned in triumph” Passages referring to this image The Grand Procession of Ptolemy are plentiful as Dionysus is mentioned three times within the first few paragraphs; “in the procession of Dionysus (line 197E)”, “And they marched the poet Philikos, who was the priest of Dionysus, and all the Guild of the Artists of Dionysus (lines 198C).”
This mosaic found in Pella, capital of Macedonia, and created for private use shows a youthful unshaven god Dionysos, with defined pectoral and abdomen muscles, riding a side-saddle on the back of a spotted panther wearing an ivy leaf wreath and carrying a pine-coned tipped staff known as a ribboned thyrsos. The color range in this example is limited to a few colors, a dark background enunciating the pale figures with accents tans in the staff and wreath, black leopard spots, and a touch of red, perhaps blood, in the animal’s mouth. The figure sits securely on the back of the leopard with his right hand to hold on and is prepared for bumpy ride. Created in the context for a dining room of a private home at the onset of Hellenism and with overtones to Alexander the Great’s image of youth and vigor, this mosaic shows an appreciation for past mythological figures as well as the promise of this individual. As a cult since the time of Alexander, pharaohs found relevance in identifying with Greek