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Marianne Mathys: Architekturstiftungen und Ehrenstatuen. Untersuchungen zur visuellen Repräsentation der Oberschicht im späthellenistischen und kaiserzeitlichen Pergamon (= Pergamenische Forschungen; Bd. 16), Mainz: Philipp von Zabern 2014, XLV + 218 S., zahlr. s/w-Abb., ISBN 978-3-8053-4802-7, EUR 89,90
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Stella Skaltsa
SAXO-Instituttet, Københavns Universitet
Redaktionelle Betreuung:
Matthias Haake
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Stella Skaltsa: Rezension von: Marianne Mathys: Architekturstiftungen und Ehrenstatuen. Untersuchungen zur visuellen Repräsentation der Oberschicht im späthellenistischen und kaiserzeitlichen Pergamon, Mainz: Philipp von Zabern 2014, in: sehepunkte 16 (2016), Nr. 3 [15.03.2016], URL:

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Marianne Mathys: Architekturstiftungen und Ehrenstatuen

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The volume under review, originating from Mathys's 2010 PhD thesis at the University of Freiburg, constitutes a welcome addition to the series Pergamenische Forschungen. The study introduces an interdisciplinary approach (epigraphy and archaeology) to the series by shifting focus from the study of a single building complex or a specific type of material culture to a thematic concept: a diachronic survey of the visual representation of the Pergamene elite in post-Attalid Pergamon. Drawing on two types of evidence - inscribed statue bases, as well as inscribed architectural elements attesting to private sponsorship of buildings - Mathys maps out the honorific practices in Pergamon, thus offering valuable insights into the ways in which the cityscape was shaped and transformed over the course of nearly five centuries (133 BC - 3rd century AD).

The book is divided into two equal parts: the analysis of the evidence, followed by a detailed catalogue. After an introduction that sets out Mathys' methodology, each of the seven chapters is thematically organized and presented in descending topographical order: (1) the Acropolis, with the Sanctuary of Athena, the terrace of the Pergamon Altar and the area of the Palace, (2) the Sanctuary of Demeter, (3) the Sanctuary of Hera, (4) the Gymnasium dominating the southeast side of the hill, (5) the Lower Agora, (6) the Roman expansion of the city in the Kaikos valley to the south, and lastly, (7) the Asklepieion, lying southwest of the city. The catalogue contains two parts: the inscribed statue bases and the architectural dedications (more poorly attested); references to statues and to building / repair works in honorific decrees are also included. The text of inscriptions is provided in ancient Greek as well as in German translation. The material in the catalogue is organized by topographic area, matching the order of the chapters.

The book aspires to give a full account of the various ways in which the local elite is visually manifested; yet, it is more inclusive in nature, as even prominent Romans are covered (notably Julius Caesar with five statues in total). Honours in the form of an honorific statue, whether for the local elite or the Roman representatives, were predominantly instigated and naturally sanctioned by the Pergamene demos. In doing so, the demos emerged as the principal driving force in the shaping and structuring of space in the city. As Mathys rightly notes, this comes to a striking contrast with the honorific space of royal Pergamon, almost exclusively reserved for members of the royal house and the close circle of the kings.

The comparison of honorific practices in post-Attalid Pergamon with those during the Attalid reign leads Mathys to identify continuities and / or breaks with the Attalid past. As she notes, in the gymnasium and the sanctuary of Demeter, visual interaction is avoided between statues of the kings and honorific statues of Pergamene citizens in the late 2nd and early 1st century BC. Allusions to the Attalid past may have been evoked in other respects: for example, parallels could be drawn between gymnasiarchs and kings, in their capacity as benefactors.

Spaces expected to be replete with statues, such as the upper and lower agoras, did not prove to be major contesters in the politics of honours in Pergamon. As Mathys clearly shows, the sanctuary of Athena and the gymnasium emerged as the most prestigious honorific hotspots in the city. The gymnasium, in particular, often attracted the benevolence of individuals, who generously ameliorated (marble peristyle in the upper terrace) and modernized the complex (e.g. baths). The sanctuary of Athena and the gymnasium retained their importance as honorific hotspots throughout the period in question, only to be overshadowed by the Asklepieion in the second century AD. At this time, the sanctuary underwent an architectural uplift thanks to the benefactions of illustrious Pergamene citizens of senatorial rank, thus emerging as a conspicuous setting for honours paid to the intellectual and political elite.

Mathys ably demonstrates the close link between the identity of a given honorand and the place for the display of an honorific statue. In the late Hellenistic period, statues for the priestesses of Athena were set up in the sanctuary of the goddess, while statues for gymnasiarchs were erected in the gymnasium. This practice was discontinued in the second half of the 1st century BC, when the demos openly demonstrated its allegiance to Rome: statues of Romans and Pergamene citizens involved in the Imperial cult were primarily set up in the sanctuary of Athena and the area of the Altar. In the same period, the visual space of the gymnasium was similarly transformed with statues of influential Pergamene politicians, philosophers and athletes. After a dramatic drop in the number of statues in the 1st century AD (there is a paucity of relevant material from that period), statues of priestesses and gymnasiarchs again found their way into the sanctuary of Athena and the gymnasium respectively.

Statue bases constitute an invaluable tool for reconstructing the visual representation of the honorands (material, posture and size); in Pergamon, no actual statue has been found standing intact on its stone base (sculptural fragments are not discussed by Mathys). With approximately 161 inscribed stone bases preserved from Pergamon (I came up with this number on the basis of Mathys' catalogue, 98), Mathys proposes interesting and significant observations about the material of statues, which are visually corroborated by new drawings of the top of fourteen bases. Bronze statues outnumber by far those made of marble. Nevertheless, a predilection for marble is noticeable in the second century AD, specifically for the statues of the priestesses of Athena, which stood on tall bases (1m high) [1], forming a contrast with the usually under life-size, bronze statues of Hellenistic priestesses. Mathys' conclusions also encompass issues related to the afterlife of statues: in Pergamon, unlike other sites where the statues were removed from their bases, statue bases were reused, with a new inscription being carved while the original statue remained intact. This practice is limited to the 1st century BC (9 reused statue bases in total).

In view of the increased popularity of the study of honorific statues in recent years [2], it is unfortunate that the material under examination is treated indiscriminately as 'public' honorific portraits; 'public' - 'offiziel' in German - with regard to the body conferring the honours, and concurrently, 'public' - 'öffentlich' in German - with respect to the context in which the statue is displayed, that is to say, in public spaces, including profane buildings as well as sanctuaries (4). Yet distinctions between 'public' and 'private' portraits should be drawn, as they can be of paramount importance in fully assessing the making of honorific space. Although Mathys makes great efforts to discuss the identity of the honorands (their gender, social status, ethnic background), the array of bodies setting up the honorific statues (and their implications) are not fully addressed. Mathys rightly notes that the neoi, the gerousia, and private associations passed honours too, but what, we may reasonably ask, did these groups seek to achieve by making their presence visible in this way? Likewise, how can private honorific portraits set up by family members for family members be considered 'public', except insofar as they were displayed in a public context? Even if the prevalence of the demos remains uncontested, honorific space was a dynamic and complex phenomenon, claimed and shaped by many different agents, such as individuals and other corporate bodies besides the demos. In other words, some of the nuances of honorific inscriptions and some of the complexities of visual space remain to be explored.

Although the author has already treated aspects of the visual representation of the Pergamene elite in a number of articles [3], the monograph is helpful in systematically collecting - for the first time and in one single volume - all of the evidence at hand. Still, despite an otherwise meticulous and exhaustive collection of the evidence, one wonders why a few honorific inscriptions have been left out. [4] It is likewise regrettable that no indices for personal names or concordances of the inscriptions cited in the catalogue are provided. With 23 figures, including maps, ground plans and some drawings of the bases along with 24 plates (actual bases, architectural elements and sculptures), it is not excessive to wish that a monograph on the visual representation of the Pergamene elite would have been provided with more ample illustrations of the material. [5] In particular, this would have facilitated the reader's understanding of the close interrelation between the inscribed text and the monument. [6] Mathys' technical observations demonstrate that statue bases could occasionally - besides the statues - hold crowns too, but other details pass unnoticed. [7] These criticisms notwithstanding, the book is a fundamental contribution to Pergamene studies, notably on the level of social and cultural history. It will be profitably consulted by archaeologists and historians alike.


[1] A noticeable exception is the bronze statue of the priestess Claudia Alcimilla (Al 11; IPergamon 337).

[2] Cf. e.g. John Ma: Statues and Cities. Honorific Portraits and Civic Identity in the Hellenistic World (= Oxford Studies in Ancient Culture and Representation), Oxford 2013.

[3] Der Anfang vom Enge oder das Ende vom Anfang? Strategien visueller Repräsentation im späthellenistischen Pergamon, in: Albrecht Matthaei / Martin Zimmermann (eds.): Stadtbilder im Hellenismus, München 2009, 227-241; The Agorai of Pergamon: Urban Space and Civic Stage, in: Laurence Cavalier et al. (eds.): Basiliques et Agoras de Grèce et d'Asie Mineure, Bordeaux 2012, 257-271; Im Glanz der Attaliden. Aspekte der bürgerlichen Repräsentation im späthellenistischen Pergamon, in: Felix Pirson (ed.): Manifestationen von Macht und Hierarchien im Stadtraum und Landschaft (= Byzas; 13), Istanbul 2012, 261-276; Ehrenstatuen im Athenaheiligtum von Pergamon, in: Jochen Griesbach (ed.): Polis und Porträt. Standbilder als Medien der öffentlichen Repräsentation im hellenistischen Osten, Wiesbaden 2014, 43-55.

[4] Cf. e.g. IPergamon 408 and IPergamon 519; both are listed under 'honorific inscriptions' in: Max Fränkel: Die Inschriften von Pergamon (= Altertümer von Pergamon; VIII.2), Berlin 1895.

[5] To wit, reproductions of the drawings included in Fränkel with the front sides of the bases and the inscribed texts.

[6] For instance, in the case of At 6 (IPergamon 494), the reader must refer to Fränkel in order to figure out the arrangement of the two inscriptions carved on the same statue base.

[7] For example, with regard to Al1 (IPergamon 226) and Gy 10 (AM 32, 1907, 317 no. 43), although Mathys acknowledges the possibility of a familial connection between the honorands (namely as daughter and father), she does not remark that the slabs in question have exactly the same dimensions. One wonders whether these slabs originally belonged to the same composite base.

Stella Skaltsa