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  • The Tyrant-Slayers of Ancient Athens: A Tale of Two Statues by Vincent Azoulay
  • Carol C. Mattusch
Vincent Azoulay. The Tyrant-Slayers of Ancient Athens: A Tale of Two Statues. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xx, 276. $35.00. ISBN 978-0-19-066356-8. Translated by Janet Lloyd. Foreword by Paul Cartledge.

This "biographical approach" (5) to the Tyrannicides as "funerary," "artistic," and "political monuments" (4) illustrates that the statues could be "venerated, … ridiculed, … even maltreated" (13). Their victim was Hipparchus, not actually the tyrant; he was murdered near the Leokoreion, a sanctuary; and the attack occurred during the Panathenaea, the major Athenian festival. "Insult called for revenge" (21): Harmodius and Aristogiton were immediately murdered. Statues honoring the assassins were set up between 510 and 480, the first publicly funded portraits (Pliny, N. H. 34.17), made by Antenor (Pausanias 1.8.5), and erected in the Agora. Azoulay suggests that the absence of the victim from the group was intended to draw attention to him (31), but striding, attacking gods or heroes were a common type of freestanding sculpture during the sixth and fifth centuries. Including victims in a freestanding group did not come into fashion until the Hellenistic period.

Xerxes took Antenor's statues to Susa in 480; within three years the Athenians installed new statues of them by Critius and Nesiotes alongside the Panathenaic Way, which "symbolised both the liberation of the city and the permanence of its political regime" (35). It is not accurate that the plaster casts from Baiae have allowed archaeologists "to reconstruct the general appearance of the two statues" (39): a plaster cast of one side of Aristogiton's face matches surviving marble heads of that statue; the reconstruction of the two statues is based largely upon the group in Naples (see C. Gasparri, La collezione Farnese [Naples 2009], 38–41).

Although the statues' "gestuality" (40) is both heroic and sexually suggestive, Azoulay does not pursue the sexual angle. Nor does he consider heroic statues as a type, or nudity and beard/no beard as identifiers. But "[a]dopting the posture of a Tyrannicide made it possible to express support for a whole set of democratic values and to do so with a great economy of formal means" (44). Azoulay sees iconographic allusions in Theseus on black- and red-figure vases and on friezes of the Hephaisteion (47; Appendix, 185–95), but Theseus looks like the usual attacking gods and heroes. Clever juxtapositions were introduced alongside [End Page 446] celebration in recitations of the popular skolion (song) about Harmodius, but the argument for visual "iconographic games," swapping poses and attributes of Amazons and others with Harmodius or Aristogiton (49–56), is not compelling.

After the fall of the Thirty Tyrants, "the tyrannicides became an important focus of ritual, particularly during the Great Panathenaea" (69), when the sko-lion of Harmodius was sung to honor the Tyrannicides (74–76). Their images appear on three late-fifth-century Panathenaic amphorae and on three choes from the Anthesteria ceremony, illustrating the transformation of the statues "into archetypes of the greatest honours to which benefactors of the city could aspire" (89).

Before 323 b.c. only five individuals besides the Tyrannicides were honored with statues, which were expensive: "3,000 drachmas on average, in the Hellenistic period" (111); "Perrin-Saminadayar (2004) 112–117" (220n82) gives no clue as to the origin of that figure, to the statues' material, or to what they might have looked like.

Regarding the return of Antenor's statues between 324 and 261 b.c., Azoulay cites and discusses—mostly in footnotes—the opinions of seven ancient authors and twenty-two modern scholars. According to Valerius Maximus, "The Rhodians too invited them as public guests when they touched at their city and even put them on sacred couches" (Memorable Doings and Sayings, 2.10.ext.1) (133–34). This passage raises the question of the appearance of Antenor's statues, which is not discussed.

A marble torso of Aristogiton found below the Capitoline in Rome, combined with a head in the Vatican, convinces Azoulay, following S. Brunnsåker (The Tyrant-Slayers of Kritios and Nesiotes: A Critical Study...


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