Das Phänomen der "Verjüngung" im klassischen Athen: Zur Bedeutung von Altersstufen in der Bilderwelt des 6. und 5. Jhs. V. Chr. by Britta Özen-Kleine (review)
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Reviewed by
Britta Özen-Kleine. Das Phänomen der "Verjüngung" im klassischen Athen: Zur Bedeutung von Altersstufen in der Bilderwelt des 6. und 5. Jhs. V. Chr. Philippika Altertumswissenschaftliche Abhandlungen: Contributions to the Study of Ancient World Cultures 94. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2016. Pp. xii + 380. €78. ISBN 9783447106160.

The present book is the author's lightly reworked doctoral dissertation on the so-called "rejuvenation" of the representation of gods and men during classical times in Athens. It analyzes mostly the iconography on the vases, but includes brief mentions of the Parthenon friezes and other sculptures. The book reads as a dissertation and that is how it should be understood with both its merits and shortcomings. It is divided into seven chapters, including the short Introduction and Conclusion. The Introduction basically outlines the rest of the book, discusses the status quo of the research, and presents the need to explain the representation of the different life stages of men in the writers of the archaic and classical periods before moving to the visual arts.

The second chapter, in fact, deals with the depiction of men's ages in literature, all the way from Homer and Hesiod to Aristotle. This chapter is very useful for those interested in the study of age, since it summarizes and evaluates the most common views on the issue. On the other hand, the chapter does not find a continuation in the rest of the book. The author describes a concept of life stage beyond actual biological age as the set of roles, expectations, possibilities, and obligations that an individual is supposed to take up or fulfill. After a discussion of whether the Greeks divided life into three or four stages, the author opts for four periods: childhood, youth, adulthood, and old age. The author explains that the transition from one life stage to the next was not characterized by communal or personal rites or festivals.

The author considers childhood to have lasted until the age of 14 years, the traditional start of puberty, but further division into stages of childhood is very difficult to maintain from ancient sources. Children were characterized by [End Page 457] their need for education and conceived of as feeble-minded, unreflective, and helpless. The next step that the author describes is that of youth, defined as the range of ages from puberty, or the physical onset of adulthood to marriage, or the social definition of adulthood. Following traditional writers, the author sets marriage at age 30, when the young man could be elected to Council. The author also emphasizes the typical contrast in the rendering of youth between negative intellectual traits and positive physical ones. The life stage of adulthood was seen as the norm against which all others were measured. It was the age of the active citizen. The fourth life stage, old age, was characterized by a lack of physical strength in contrast with intellectual abilities, combined with sincerity, law abidingness and meekness. More negative representations of old age included loss of intellectual abilities and helplessness.

Chapter three deals with the portrayal of these four life stages in the visual arts. This chapter concludes the preliminary assumptions that are tested in the rest of the book. The chapter remains rather descriptive and presents common opinion on iconography of different ages. For instance, the author repeats the well-known observation that children were portrayed with a smaller body size, mostly within family and female domestic scenes. On the other hand, young men were represented as the same height as adults, but beardless. The ephebe type may also wear a chlamys or petasos. Vases show a further differentiation among youth: namely, the younger ones are still smaller and thinner than adults. The contexts for the portrayal of youth are dominated by scenes in the gymnasium and in pederastic and educational contexts.

As in literature, so also on vases: adult men are the norm and measure for the images of the other life stages. They are portrayed at full height, with full hair and thick beards. Sometimes adult men also sport hairy chests, but this is not canonical. Old men are often portrayed...