. 5
( 8)


preceding the present), the dual character of the heroic ancestor. Particularly inter-
esting is the characterisation of the darker side of the heroic, the men of bronze:
chalkeion, and made of ash (ek melian) (Works and Days 144-5) just as the warrior's
spear. Hard and violent, they ate no grain (Works and Days 146-7) and died by their
own hands. Nagy compares this violent and destructive masculinity with that of the
warrior associations such as the Mannerbund, and those figures of myth the Spartoi
and Phlegyai who combine categories of mortality, immortality and the heroic fighter
{see also Vian 1968).
Vernant (1991c: 100} draws attention to the description in the Iliad(22.373-4) of
Hektor's dead body, stripped of armour. It was malakoteros amphaphaasthai(softerto
handle) - malakos (soft or limp) refers to the feminine or the effeminate. Vernant
relates the image to that series of terms, already discussed (see pp. 132-3), which
associate combat to the death with the erotic embrace. In Homer meignumi, sexual
union, also means joining in battle.
1 will turn now to a consideration of gender and sexuality, long overdue.

Violence and sex, animals and the absence of woman
Of more than 4,104 animal and human figures in the sample only nine are drawn as
being of female sex: six are women because named or according to physical charac-
teristics; there are two lionesses, a dog-bitch and a sow. Some deer without antlers
are of indeterminate sex and age; birds appear in different species, but again of
indeterminate sex. There are also the sphinxes and bird people, again of indetermi-
nate sex when not male.
Of the women, I have already introduced one, attacked by phallic male (Fig. 3.29).
Three others are named as goddesses and are subject to the judgement of Alexander
(upon the Chigi Olpe, Amyx 1988: 32). This scene is below the handle of the jug, the
most inconspicuous position, and the myth represents female divinity beneath the
gaze and subject to the human male. Another modelled female figure appears again
beneath the handle of a jug, an angular oinochoe from Aetos (Robertson 1948: No.
1026). She is dressed in a checked and geometrically decorated robe, as is the whole
pot decorated: it does not carry any figured scenes. So there are no associations to be
made other than female and ceramic form; she is separate and bound to the pot
surface by her form and decoration. A final woman is in checked robe and carries a
shield and spear (Figs. 3.19 and 3.31). Thus the women are marginal, clothed in long
robes, attacked or subject to men, while another stands armed.
Of the animals, the females identified by physical characteristics are treated as
males in that I detect no distinction in their associations. Then there are those
Early archaic Korinth: design and style 131

animals and creatures which may be female, or are of indeterminate sex. The deer are
timid creatures, as are most of the birds, apart from the birds of prey. I have also
marked out the birds as of a mediatory character, according to their associations.
Later Attic iconography has them as gifts between lovers, like hares, the panther,
wreaths and flowers and domestic animals (Schnapp 1984). The sphinxes and
bird-people (sirens) are monsters.
So, the female takes these shapes: absent, marginal, goddesses, indeterminate,
bodies beneath robes, timid, subject to man, armed, freak and associated with the
There is no anatomical reference to sexual reproduction, other than breasts, the
teats of those four animals and the phallic male. However, apart from creatures
together in an animal line, a feature of the linear frieze, animals are frequently paired.
Sphinxes mostly occur in balanced pairs (seventy-two of the eighty-eight); griffons
and lions too. I have remarked upon this common feature of lions and sphinxes
already (the link soldier-avian-lion). Of course soldiers are also arranged in fighting
pairs. In the light of those connections observed earlier (the imagery in Homer
associating death, violence and sex; the gaze of desire between soldier and lover), is it
going too far to see an analogy between the pairing of violence and (absent) sexual
Apart from being violent, these pairings often involve an intervening element, such
as a geometric device or bird, as with sphinxes. These are sometimes called heraldic
pairs. So too upon this Boston aryballos. The intervening device distances and
further stylises. Sexual union is hardly present here. If sexual reproduction involves
pairing, it also involves joining and mixing. The monsters are, as I have argued, a
principle of the mixture of different parts. Other mixing occurs in the only overlap of
figures- hoplites in battle and the lions which leap upon animals and men -violence
A function of sexual union is reproduction. The only reference to reproduction is
the fertility of repetition - the lines of birds, protomes, the soldiers and the coursing
hounds. We return here to the principle of the group I discussed earlier (see p. 124).
These are not groups propagated by sexual filiation; they are to do with affinity and
proximity (the overlap). The scenes which show only animals might also be included
in this category of repetition. They too operate through the simple principle of
placing one animal next to another; they do not interact.
1 might have said that stylisation of animals denies them a vital and, by implication,
a sexual energy. But I do not think that this is the case. Some of the hounds do run
around the pots with energy; some of the drawing is undoubtedly very vital. Inciting
Payne on analytic and synthetic principles behind the drawing of animals (see p.
127), I would claim that the dynamic comes from the quality of the line, a graphical
schema. These tiny silhouette dogs are hardly 'naturalistic' in the sense of imitating
or tracing the anatomical form and characteristics of a domestic dog or hunting
hound. But some are 'realistic' in expressing the dog as it bounds along. This is that
contrast I described above between being like a dog, and carefully depicting its
appearance, and entering into a relationship with what the dog becomes, here as it
Art and the Greek City State 132

runs. After all, the curved line so often encountered has nothing intrinsically to do
with a dog, has no affiliation with it.
So, the figured scenes on pots such as this one represent a world of imagery which
excludes or presents in a very particular way the possibility of the female, and while
sexual reproduction is absent, mere are references to the group and to an animal and
vital energy.
Early archaic Korinth: design and style 133

to fall to work upon the paunch, to hurl belly against belly,
thighs to thighs.
Archilochos West 119

But what then of sexuality? The soldier male is not celibate. Homer and Tyrtaios
both give descriptions of the mingling of battle, man against man. Archilochos
transfers the imagery to sex. Here is a symbolic exchange of eros and thanatos.
This exchange is very apparent in Sappho's lyrics. She uses the metaphor of love as
war in a series of allusions to Homeric epic (Marry 1979; Rissman 1983), adapting
narrative structures, epic imagery and Homeric language. This is particularly evident
in fragments Lobel and Page 1, 16, 31, 105a and b. In one (Lobel and Page 16)
Anactoria's gait and sparkle is likened to the splendour of Lydian troops - lampros
(shining bright) is used by Homer for armour and heavenly bodies. The fragment
Lobel and Page 31 is, according to Rissman, based upon the same lover-as-warrior
system of metaphor as the encounter of Odysseus and Nausicaa in Book 6 of the
Odyssey which it closely parallels. For Marry, this use of heroic language and
imagery is ironic, a deliberate exposure of the code of Homeric chivalry. I will return
to the contestation of ideologies, particularly in Chapter Six.
In his interpretive reading of the literature of the German Freikorps, Theweleit
(1987, 1989) has challenged the idea that fascism and militarist authoritarianism are
primarily to do with authority, that of the leader or commander, and with the desire
for a leader. Also rejected is the explanation of the culture of military might as a
terrorism to maintain authority. Nor is the military Mannerbund about repressed
homosexuality. It is clear that the soldier group and its wider culture are doing what
they want to do, and find war, violence, repression, those techniques of the self
already mentioned, fusion with the group of fellow soldiers, attractive and rewarding.
In answer to the question of the energy which drives all this, the desire, Theweleit
answers that it is to do with women.
Women, in the stories and literature that Theweleit has studied, are of three kinds.
They are either absent; or are 'white nurses' - upper-class German women, chaste,
bodiless, (dead); or are 'red women' - threatening, violent, deceiving enemies of the
soldier male (Theweleit 1987). There is a profound hatred of women, their bodies
and sexuality. Women are repudiated. But this is not a variation on Freud's oedipal
triangle wherein is found the son's fear of heterosexual desire leading to punishment
by the father, accompanied by repressed homosexual desire for father and authority.
The repudiation of women is a fear of what they are taken to represent - holes,
swamps, pits of muck that engulf and swallow, spitting, screaming, 'red' women in
the tide of communism. Theweleit presents a long series of images and metaphors
found in Freikorps literature involving waves, tides, effluent, emissions, floods of
annihilation. This is a fear of fragmentation, no longer being self and one of the men,
a commingling and fluidity, a fear of 'otherness'.
The threat is both internal and external. The soldier's own body is also a mass of
blood and viscera, disorganised impulses and desires, an 'other', liquid and female
body within. So the military male embraces that opposite which allows him to make
Art and the Greek City State 134

sense of his identity: a hard metallised body and the soldier group. This militarism is
thus an extreme case of sexism, the polarisation of gender.
And here too is the place of the animal. In being strange and bestial, of another
order, the animal is feminine and monstrous. Both are multiple and fluid. But typed,
tied to signifying order, the animal is tamed and can be integrated into the masculine.
The only place and time when a man can risk the animal within him, that dangerous
and contagious otherness within, menos or furor, is in war. Thus a key term in
understanding the relationship of men and animals in this cultural order is that of the
Women may be needed for the simple physical reproduction of men. But the
war-machine with its risk, violence and these structures of polarisation, with its
awareness and control of 'molecular' forces within, is its own mode of reproduction
of masculine identity. The productive force of that which is here gendered feminine
is absorbed and channelled, in being a foil or opposite to that for which the masculine
There is an implied correspondence between the feminine and bestiality, the
animal within. For Deleuze and Guattari 'the man of war is inseparable from the
Amazons' in a triad of soldier, animal, woman. 'The man of war, by virtue of his furor
and celerity, was swept up in irresistible becomings-animals', that is, he risks that
bestiality within. "These are becomings that have as their necessary condition the
becoming-woman of the warrior, or his alliance with the girl, his contagion with her'
(Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 278); that is, the bestiality of war has affinity here with
the feminine; so war brings forth the warrior-woman.
Hesiod's misogyny is well-known (Theogony 590f). The condemnation of femi-
nine character by Semonides is notorious. In an interpretation of classical Greek
marriage and sexuality DuBois (1979, 1984) has traced a metaphorical sequence
from the animal to the female via centaurs (creatures doubly male) and amazons -
mythical figures, 'masculine' and negating marriage. She makes a general summary
comment: 'a response to women's imagined vulnerability, their killing-cure, is a
return to the self-sufficiency of the Golden Age, a time before marriage, before
women' (DuBois 197 9; 46). Naerebout (1987) has sketched the separated fields of
men and women in epic, the economic dependence of women upon men and the
ideological buttressing of the dominance and subordinance through ideas of honour
and shame.
For Theweleit, the culture of the militaristic male is not, as in the familiar literary
and movie genre, simply something innocent males (boys) go through in becoming
adult (men). The cultural complex he uncovers reaches far beyond the lifeworld of
the soldier, so that militarism is hardly an adequate label, And, of course, his subject
includes the rise of the appeal of fascism, which can in no way wholly, or at times at
all, be explained as a rite of passage. For some, at times many, war is a chosen
experience, and a romanticisation of its supposed spiritual and character-building
nature is to be avoided.
It is for these reasons that I have some difficulty in fully accepting Vidal-Naquet's
interpretation (1981a, 1981c) of the ephebeia in archaic and classical Greece. He
Early archaic Korinth: design and style 135

Figure 3.31 Gender, ambiguity and violence: a cup from the Heraion, Samos. One of (he very few women
occun upon this skyphos from the Samian Heraion. She is armed carrying a shield u+iicii may show a
stylised floral device, and is attended by an importuning male sphinx with vegetal headdress. This
coupling of violent mid monstrous gender is detached from the rest of the Frieze by geometric ornament.
The female is here ambiguously violent and under appeal from masculinity turned monstrous. The male
can risk the female only as monstrous bird-lion-person. Elsewhere are the animal, its violence, the special
artifact and a creature doubly mate, the centaur (a third set of genitala are depicted upon one thigh). Here
then, in this special world of agalma, animal and monster, the male risks violence. In a triad of soldier,
animal and woman, which alt belong with the war-machine, the bestiality of violence his affinity with the
molecular and feminine. War brings forth the warrior-woman.

explains the institutions and characteristics of the young citizen male (ephebe) as a
threshold to adulthood (cf.. also Jeanmaire 1939). In contrast to the adult hoplite,
married and ready to fight, armed, standing in phalanx, upon a plain of a summer's
day, adolescent ephebai were associated, individual and naked, with wild mountain
spaces, tricks and foraging of the winter night. Vidal-Naquet has the deception,
disorder and irrationality of the ephebeia as the reversals often encountered in rites of
passage, an identification strengthened by the association of ephebai with frontiers
and marginal areas, like the transitional states of a rite of passage. But this contrast
between pre-hoplite and hoplite also accords with the interpretation I have been
following of the molar and molecular warrior, armour and phalanx as to feminine
bestiality within, with all attendant problems of defining where one begins and the
other ends. The later institution of the ephebeia could be explained as a ritual taming
which, like armour and phalanx, brings masculine identity to order. Rather than
relate these military and cultural institutions to a general anthropological category
(rite of passage), they might better be seen as part of social strategies of power around
a radical division of gender.

Masculinity and the domestic
Many of the painted animals are wild creatures. Dogs and horses are the main
representatives of domestic animals upon the pots (more than 2,400 dogs and ten
unaccompanied horses; more than ninety other horses are associated with riders and
chariots). Dogs accompany the hunt, horses also war, and they race in the contests of
those who can afford them. Horses are beyond the wealth of the small-holder. Nor,
when unriddcn, do they interact with any other animal apart from people and a bird.
I have already mentioned how birds and dogs are painted beneath racing horses, and
dogs do not appear with men.
Dogs are frequently drawn in scenes chasing birds, which are another possible
domesticate. Cockerels are certainly a domesticated species; they only appear with
floral and geometric ornament, people and a monstrous winged human in earlier
friezes, with a lion and a bull later. Most of the earlier birds are long-legged water
birds, of the sort that appear on pots of Geometric style. Many of those that I have
Art and the Greek City State 136

Figure 3.32 The space of the domestic animal.

classed as short-legged birds with short beak and tail could be taken for birds of prey;
but the point stands that I made earlier - earlier birds hardly interact with anything
other than people, other birds and ornamental designs such as flowers and rosettes.
Most (63 per cent) of the later birds are those that I have described as swans, that is
long-necked water birds. These are drawn seated or crouching, and might be tired
earlier long-legged birds. They may be domesticated geese, in which case there is a
switch of emphasis from wild to domesticated water birds from earlier to later friezes.
These are the birds (more than eighty-four of them) which are chased by the dogs.
So, there is a distinct group of domesticated animals which, in their associations)
are either kept separate, such as dogs, or confirm the themes outlined, horses, or act
in a mediatory role, birds.
The domestic, the world of agriculture, the oikos (household), food and nutrition,
sexual reproduction are conspicuously mediated and transformed, or missing, or
detached from the world peopled by men. But these relationships cannot be reduced
to a simple antinomy between culture and nature, or between domestication and the
wild, for, as indicated, there are the following features of which account needs to be
Wild animals are painted in great numbers, but in stylised 'tamed' poses.
Domesticated dogs do not appear in the same friezes with men, as might be
The hoplite's shield shows him as bird, sometimes wild and sometimes domesti-
cated, where the reference seems to be a link with the (wild) feline.
Birds are also the link between domesticated dogs and men.
There are monstrous mixed creatures, neither domesticated nor wild.
Earlier scenes make some play upon the connection and transformation between
artifact, bird, head and flower.
All these scenes occur often amidst a flowering but stylised and overcoded
I have also argued the importance of gender relations: the feminine is a key term in
understanding the relationships between creatures and men upon the pots.
A contrast used by Schnapp-Gourbeillon in her interpretation of animal simile in
Homer was introduced earlier, (see p. 122) and is relevant again here: between
Early archaic Korinth: design and style 137

controlled social terms and uncontrolled otherness or the divine. The soldier-hero
oscillates between the two, controlling through the practices and characteristics of
his male society, while having contact with bestiality and divinity in violence.
Vidal-Naquet, as just discussed, has contrasted the order of the phalanx composed
of married and fighting citizens, with the marginal world of the ephebe which is more
to do with deception, cunning and disorder. This is embodied in the contrast
between spear and net. A prime example of the cunning warrior is Odysseus,
described as polymetis, a man of many wiles, quick trickster (Iliad 3.205-24 for
example). He too travelled out and around strange places at the edge, beyond human
society, loved by divine nymphs, outwitting a witch who turned men to animals,
Kirke, and a monster cyclops from a cosmogonic era before men.
Odysseus was poiymetis, a man of metis. Detienne and Vernant (1978) have
provided a detailed elaboration of the concept of metis, the intelligence of cunning.
They distinguish between two orders of reality: that which is intelligible and is the
object of prepositional knowledge taking the form 'know that'; the other is sensible
and is the object of multiple, unstable, oblique opinion. The contrast is between an
order of being and one of becoming. Metis is a practical wisdom which oscillates
between the two worlds; instead of contemplating unchanging essences it is involved
in practical existence (Detienne and Vernant 1978: 44). Legitimate or physical
power, imperium or potestas, may be asserted and used in achieving an outcome. Metis
is a means of achieving what is desired by manipulating hostile forces which are too
powerful to be controlled. Detienne and Vernant outline a semantic field of connec-
tions which runs through Greek literature. Metis: that which involves movement,
multiplicity and ambiguity - metamorphosis and monstrosity - discovery of ways
out, of that which is hidden - bonds, nets and traps - seizing the moment of
opportunity - the world of (he hunter, fisher, weaver, merchant. Further associations
are with riddles, die oblique, curved and circular, rather than the direct and straight
tine. Some fascinating and pertinent details are that metis is the an of the charioteer in
seizing the moment (Pindar Isthmian 2,22; Detienne and Vernant 1978: 16, 202f);
that birds in navigating earth, water and air an of metis {ibid.: 217); as is the sphinx,
whose questions are poikila, shifty and ambiguous words (Sophokles Oidipous Tyran-
ny 130; Detienne and Vernant 1978:303-4). Metis is another aspect of that realm I
am sketching as the molecular.

Violence and the stare
Clastres (1977) provided a classic challenge to the evolutionary notion that the state
(society with distinct and permanent organs of power) is somehow at a higher or later
stage than segmentary societies. His thesis is that the state may be warded off or
prevented from emerging by various social mechanisms. So a chief may have no
institutional power base other than his prestige, being constantly in a position of
having to account for his power. Clastres (1980a, 19SOb) argues that war is one of the
mechanisms that prevent the emergence of the state. The warrior chief has to display
his prowess over and again, fighting in the front ranks, necessarily solitary in risking
life for prestige, but ultimately a death beyond power. War also keeps groups
Art and the Greek City State 138

segmented and dissociated in the violent and competitive lifestyles of its warrior
Deleuze and Guattari (1988: 12, 35 If) reach further in setting the war-machine
outside and against the state. They define four types of violence (ibid.: 447-8):
struggle - blow-by-blow personal violence;
crime- a violence of illegality, directed against rights, prohibitions and property;
state policing or lawful violence -incorporated or structural violence (which does not
have to be physical); and
war - violence not overcoded by the state.
'The state has often been defined by a "monopoly of violence", but this leads back to
another definition that describes the State as a "state of Law". State overcoding is
precisely this structural violence that defines the law, "police" violence and not the
violence of war' (ibid.: 448). The violence of war is not overcoded, but exists as a
separable experience and culture.
In A Thousand Plateaus (1988) Deleuze and Guattari are often working with
abstract and generic semantic fields, almost ideal types. Their contrast between the
war-machine and the state is between multiplicity and the arborescent structures of
the state; between nomos or custom, and law; between heterogeneity and the defini-
tion and reproduction of social forms and powers; between the pragmatics of the
soldier risking death with the group, and the affiliated foundations of the 'state'. The
state, in contrast with the war-machine, goes with notions of a republic of minds, a
court of reason, public culture, man as legislator and subject, internal definition and
differentiation. This allows them to write that the State is perpetual (ibid.: 360) as a
potential vector of organisation and experience.
However, their universal philosophy of history does come to ground in the experi-
ences of violence, warfare and animality I have been describing. It is better to think of
warfare and the state, of a societal (state) taming of the violence of war, bringing war
within its sphere. This involves the control of animal otherness through armour and
die phalanx, the lifestyles of hero and mercenary, and animals overcoded and tamed,
their otherness controlled. There are different forms of group appropriate to the
war-machine and not the state, in particular, the warrior band, as opposed to legal
and reproduced affiliations. There is a contrast of types of association: the (animal or
molecular) affinity between soldiers is contrasted with the realm of affiliation of
kinship and marriage.
So I argue that my interpretation of Korinthian can be extended to include gender
through relationships between:

masculine feminine
present absent
war the domestic
warrior band family
These themes are at the heart of the war-machine.
Early archaic Korinth: design and style 139

The lord, his enemies and sovereign identity
The easiest way to get soldiers is to remove women from public life.
(Theweleit 1987: 349)
In the separation of those things drawn from those not, and in the assemblage of
forms and associations, a masculine sphere is distinguished from feminine. There are
further directions suggested towards a contrast between the affinity of the male
warrior band and the family reproductive unit. I therefore wish now to explore
further the experiences which belong with this masculine culture, and as appear
within this ceramic field.
I begin with the idea of risk of the self (in violence, war and confrontation with
monstrosity, but I also make reminder of the workmanship of risk with which I
started in Chapter Two).
Consider a reading of Hegel's dialectic between the master and slave (Hegel 1966:
229-40) (a philosophical anthropology, if you like). The identity of the lord or hero is
established in the striving for recognition, and to improve himself over another through
his qualities. In this men are opposed to each other and to any other. This, of course,
tends to violence. It also means that risking life is a means to gain identity. To deny an
attachment to mere life (the households family, nutrition, reproduction), to a particu-
larself, their life, is the attempt to reconstruct an identity for themself which is in-itself,
separate, of another order, the heroic, the divine. This is the logic of the beautiful death,
discussed previously (see pp. 111-12). A hierarchical order is implied between those
who risk their life, accepting death, and lower people who are attached to mere life.
Because it is risked willingly, life is subordinated to the lifestyle of the fighting lord.
This is what was meant earlier when I wrote that the death risked in violence does not
oppose life. Death is opposed to the consciousness of life, and this is lifestyle, a
negation of the animal, and of lower-culture. Lifestyle is the culture of risk and
violence. But also it is style itself, which implies a pure consumption of goods, beyond
the mundane, an expenditure serving no purpose other than style and culture. This is
what I term an expressive aesthetic. Producing goods for the lord, a world of work:
this is the existence of the lower class.
When death is the force of life (through violence and risk), death and the erotic are
juxtaposed. The erotic is not reproductive, but is a world of pleasures and seductions
opposed to legality and ordered marriage bonds. In desiring the risk of war, the lord
assents to life to the point of death (see Scully 1990: 121,124 on Achilles, mortality
and death). This is an affirmation of the value of loss and excess. It is intimately
related to the notion of the gift.
Gift-giving is a non-productive expenditure which breaks ties between the giver
and the world of things (the work and production of the slave), and establishes
instead a relation between persons, gift-giver and receiver. The social covenant
created with those who receive the gift breaks a link with the lower culture of
production. The goods destined for consumption by the lord are detached from the
world of work (relations between people and things) and are instead of a lifestyle
beyond. This is a sacred space of the hero confronting death and divinity.
Art and the Greek City State 140

The life of the lord is one of living pleasure (oiled with perfume, drinking from the
cup), a pure consumption of goods produced by subordinate classes. Lifestyle:
special gifts, wine, contest, perfume. The affirmation of expenditure means war
becomes luxury and festival (nodding crests, shield devices, pipers). Violence is
excess (the cost of the weaponry, horses, time and risk; a new and exotic visual order
of style); the domestic (absent) is sufficiency. The risk is about limits and transgress-
ion: assenting to life to the point of death asks questions of the line between life and
death. And the lifestyle and risk imply an aesthetic even unto the beautiful death. I
have written too of a concern with the limits of the body, animal and human,
Violence is also transgression of the law which is against murder because vengeance
and blood feud result. But transgression asserts the identity of a self which refuses
prohibition and survives, and this reward is accessible only to those of wealth who
may fight the risk and display their sovereignty. This is not mere physical power, but
a sacred space of risk and the aesthetic of lifestyle.
I have shifted from Hegel to Bataille and Mauss, ideas of the gift and interpreta-
tions of the economic 'irrationalities' of apparently purposeless excess and expendi-
ture (Bataille 1977, 1985b; Mauss 1954). I have presented this elaboration of
sovereignty to clarify some of the associations I have been sketching: the place of a
symbolics of violence, war and display. Masculine sovereignty of this sort is an
expressive dramaturgy, repudiating the everyday. I have also here tried to establish
the roots of this cultural complex in a process which establishes the identity of a
masculine self through the subordination of a lower culture and class. I have shown
how this is identified with the feminine.
The relations with the painted imagery are clear. Ceramic design, I contend, is of
this logic. I add that Korinthian potters broke sharply with Geometric design, and
continued to transgress the Geometric canon, still represented in the pots decorated
simply and linearly. I have described graphical schemata of parallel linearity and
angularity which deviate into curve and inclination. Some figured pottery is a clear
excess of surface detail in comparison with the Geometric, the point made by Payne. I
argue that these are not contrivances or coincidences of verbal description.
Ceramic imagery and a cultural constitution of masculinity leads to the question of
the possible structure of aristocratic social groups in archaic Greece. In Chapter Two
an argument was presented for flexible aristocratic associations centred on the oikos.
Some would characterise society at this time as a warrior chiefdom {Drews 1983;
Ferguson 1991). The key point is an argument for a minimal or non-existent state
and a lack of institutionalised structures of authority:

Political power at this time was achieved, not inherited. In anthropological
terms, basileis (kings) are 'big men', leaders whose position depends on their
ability to attract and keep followers through personal talent, feasting, and gift
(Antonaccio 1993a: 64)
This clearly doubts an early date for hereditary legitimation of authority, though
the importance to power of familial ties in early literatures can hardly be contested.
Early archaic Korinth: design and style 141


The question of such social reconstruction, as with the issue of hoplite reform and its
relation to political change, hinges on chronology: whether, for example, inherited
authority was a recent invention or had long been a fundamental feature of dark age
society; whether hoplite warfare was a cause or consequence of social revolution. The
interpretation being developed here need only accept that ideologies of sovereignty
were being contested.
The clear (but arguably superficial) similarities between competitive, prestige-
based warrior chiefdoms and the sort of social relationships described and inferred in
Homer has led to ethnographic analogy between parts of eighth- and ninth-century
Art and the Greek City State 142

Greece and the Waigal valley in contemporary Nuristan (Murray 1993: 73; Whitley
1991b: 192-3; after Jones 1974). Though no longer able to kill Muslims in warrior
raids, the men of Nuristan nonetheless seek and achieve rank through competitive
feasting, displays of wealth, and special objects of status, even tripods, bowls and
cups. Van Wees (1994: 1, 8) compares Homeric warfare to battles in the big-men
societies of the New Guinea highlands. Qviller (1981), again in analogy with
Melanesian big-men societies, has provided a social model of competitive gift-
exchange and consumption, coupled with population rise from 900, leading to social
collapse (for difficulties and comment see Morgan 1990: 94-5, 191, 195f; Morris
1987: 203-4; Whitley 1991a). Big-men society may sometimes be connected to
'prestige-goods' economies. This latter concept has had tremendous influence in
prehistoric and protohistoric archaeology (beginning with Frankenstein and Row-
lands 1978 and Friedman and Rowlands 1978, both after the model of Friedman
1975; see Rowlands, Larsen and Kristiansen 1987 for further examples and bibli-
ography). While what I have written so far about sovereignty and this conception of
masculinity could certainly be related to the dynamics of prestige-goods economies
and big-men societies, here I wish simply to refer to ideas about the contested
character of early Greek aristocracy.
Donlan (1980) has presented the aristocratic ideal in early Greek literature as a
defensive standard, that is an ethos and set of values responding to shifts (he calls
them 'transvaluations') and challenges with cultural change. One was from an ideal
of the warrior hero to a coded life-style (Donlan 1980: 52-63). There was a shift in
attention to an aesthetics of lifestyle, those things considered proper

Dress, ornamentation, hair style, the cultivation of the skills of hunting and
riding and athletics, playing a gentlemans' musical instrument, the ability to
compose spontaneously at drinking parties, knowing when to be moderate in
drink and speech and (equally important) when to carouse and speak
intemperately, had all become, by the beginning of the sixth century BC,
integral to the aristocratic pattern of behaviour.
(ibid.: 62)

Dining and the symposion became a basic social experience at the heart of aristo-
cratic power (Bremmer 1990; Murray 1982, 1983, 1990; Starr 1992: 134-5, 139-
46), the argument goes. Lifestyle, centred upon the culture of a group of men
expressing their identity through ritualised and high-cultural social events, became a
fundamental feature of the working of aristocratic power. Donlan notes a shift
though from the Homeric picture of heroic feasting, glorious acts of war, warrior
graves, public funerals and posthumous cult, to a (masculine) world removed of
private aristocratic luxury and entertainment, the generation of style and its emula-
tion, and the exclusion of reproductive and civic womanhood.
Early archaic ' Korinth: design and style 143

I love luxury (habrosune); and love has obtained for me
this beauty and brilliance {lampron) of the sun.
Sappho: Lobel and Page 58.
Kurke (1991, 1992, 1993) has shown most persuasively how the new symbolic
economies of praise and fame (kleos and kudos), earned in contest, and the poetics of
luxurious living {habrosune) were far from unproblematic ideological solutions to the
breakdown in the technologies of aristocratic power. In this general economy of the
new state, civic usefulness opposed the glory of individual excess and transgression
beyond (mortal) limits. Not everyone embraced eastern style and luxurious living as
did Sappho:

Having learned useless luxuries (habrosunai) from the Lydians , , . they
would go into the place of assembly wearing robes of all purple-a thousand
of them, no less - boastful, glorying in their well-dressed long hair, drenched
with the perfume of elaborate scents.
Xenophanes West 3

Speed, the games and a band of men
Other experiences or events depicted in Korinthian iconography are races or proces-
sions, gathered in Table 3.7.
Robed figures frequently appear in these scenes; their identification as possible
arbitrators or judges of contest seems clear. Mention should be made again of the
stands, tripods and bowls - possible prizes. There are also, in three scenes, associ-
ations with winged monsters, and birds in another three - avian otherness, which I
have found to play a role of mediation. The juxtaposition with soldier and lion hunt
makes that connection with violence that I have explored. Many of the racing horses
and chariots overlap, and I have identified overlap with the masculine affinity of the
warriorband. Finally there is, in the judgement of Alexander upon the Chigi Olpe, an
appropriate reference to divinity and the subordination of the feminine beneath
masculine assessment. So here again is a variation upon the assemblage I have been
outlining: contest and assessment can be added as part of this conceptual space of
masculine sovereignty.
There is also clear depiction of the speed of the race in four of the scenes: the figures
are stretched in dynamic running pose. The hounds and hares which race round 875
of the 1,219 figured friezes (72 per cent) are another and major reference to running
and speed. I have commented on the poses which express well an (animal) vitality.
Expressed in this way, speed and energy are to be added to the range of themes seen
in the figured scenes. The races and hounds are an example too of groups' repeated
Art and the Greek City State 144

Table 3.7.Races and horse processions

vessel reference scene
two riders: robed figure: two soldiers
Amyx 1988: 23
Johansen 1923: No. 1 two riders and winged centaur:
Oxford 504
robed figures and wreath soldier:
four riders: two robed figures:
Taranto 4173 Amyx LOSS: 38
tripod: sphinx
procession (?) three chariots: piper:
Bonn 1669 Amyx 1988: 32
four men
seven riders: bird and man beneath
BM 1889.4-18.1 Amyx 1988; 31
Amyx 1988:32 five four-horse chariots: dog, hare
Berlin 3773
and birds beneath
Amyx 1968:44 four four-horse chariots: tripod and
Johansen 1923 No. 54
bowls: robed figure
procession (?) four riders with extra
Amyx 1988: 32
Villa Giulia 22679/97
horses: four-horse chariot with
leader: sphinx: lion hunt: judgement
of Alexander

Figure 3.34 Speed and the games. An aryballos from the Athenaion at Syracuse.
Early archaic ' Korinth: design and style 145

figures: there is reference to the group, of racing men, of dogs gathered for the hunt.
So this vector takes us further as follows: - groups gathered - the race - the hunt -
speed - contest and prizes (tripods, and the hares and birds for the dogs).
The expression of speed takes me to another aspect of aristocratic lifestyle: the
gatherings in inter-city sanctuaries for contest and glory sought, and for the display of
speed and strength of athletic prowess, skills of horsemanship. I have made mention
of the clever devious logic of metis, appropriate to the charioteer.
Pindar gives expression to the aristocratic ethos of lineage and glory won in victory
at the games, albeit glory which accrues also to the home city of the victor. (See
Kurke (1991) on the contradictions of this symbolic economy.)
The games were a cosmopolitan gathering of agathoi, a nexus of group, birth and
identity (having the right to compete, belonging to the agathoi, representing the
polis). The idea of group and belonging expressed here is that of selection, of the
arbitrated order of winners and losers, an agonistic ethos of contest in the divine space
of the sanctuary. This space, especially of the big sanctuaries of Olympia and Delphi,
is beyond that of the poleis, often in conflict. In Chapter Two I referenced opinion
(after De Polignac) about the marginal or interstitial place of sanctuaries (also
Morgan 1990: 223f). Their relation with divinity and the 'other' world of the gods
provides the edges, marginal spaces or other world according to which the identity of
group or community is established. The (sacred) games help define a community of
those who are able to take part. This is not a commingling of any and everyone, but
an order arbitrated and beyond, in association with divinity. Kurke (1993) has
described the emergence of the character of the hero-athlete, returning from the
aristocratic games to civic canonisation in the late sixth and early fifth centuries, as
another aristocratic bid for renewed talismanic authority in the polis of citizens, part
of the development of a symbolic economy of kudos.
Davies (1981: 88-131) has made an analogous interpretation of the increase of
chariot racing in the same period (later than that under study here) - an aristocracy
looking for new ways to seize the political stage through deeds hailed heroic and
through attendant charisma. The games sort out winners and losers. Part of aristo-
cratic lifestyle beyond the city state, the games came to form a circuit of festival
events, the periodos (Morgan 1990: 39, 212-23). The gatherings can be associated
with the aristocratic institution of xenia, ritualised friendship (Herman 1987; Mor-
gan 1990: 20, 218-20)- a class association without the state.
Snodgrass (1980a: 57) and Morgan (1990: esp. 203-5, 217) both stress that
patronage of the early sanctuaries was not so much a state as an individual matter.
The sanctuaries were a focus of inter-state aristocratic 'community. I do not wish to
push the analogy too far, but can make reference here to Theweleit's elucidation
(1989: esp. 77f) of nation and the warrior male of the Freikorps. At the centre of the
warrior male's conception of nationality are sex and character; nationality is of the
body. The nation is the soldier male. For these groups of soldiers, 'the nation has
nothing to do with questions of national borders, forms of government, or so-called
nationality. The concept refers to a quite specific form of male community.. . . The
nation is a community of soldiers' (Theweleit 1989: 79-81). Theweleit relates the
Art and the Greek City State 146

nation group to ideas of unity and the identity of the soldier self. The soldier's unity is
established through techniques of the self and the armouring of a hard body against
the threat of splitting, disruption, the intestinal disorder within, The threat is
overcome through a domination of those baser elements which are identified also
with the lower-cultured mass and disorder of the feminine. The constructed, ma-
chinised whole which is the man's body is never sufficient unto itself: 'it always
requires larger external totalities, compressed formations of existing reality within
which he can remain dominant' (ibid.: 103). So the unity of the nation group is within
the masculine self, as the battle for the nation resembles men's own battle to become
men. "The army, high-culture, race, nation: all of these appear to function as a
second, tightly armoured body enveloping his own body armour. They are exten-
sions of himself (ibid.: 84). Unity is opposed to a simple equality of members, or the
commingling of mass, is a state in which higher and lower elements are combined in
violence to form a structure of domination, fusing baser, inferior and internal
elements with those above. It is rooted in a series of relationships, further dimensions
of this discourse of masculine sovereignty:
armour internal and intestinal disorder
unity decomposition
soldier formation mass
nation equality
intensity of will effeminacy
victory emptiness of anonymity
life-style death
masculinity femininity.
Unity is achieved through the relationship, the domination of one over the other,
masculinity over femininity.
Theweleit also notes that the nation has a capacity for reproduction: the nation
grows. But this is not the reproduction of heterosexuality; warrior procreation
excludes femininity. The joining of masculinity and masculinity is a fertility which is
productive of the future. He makes further connections between masculine procre-
ation and fertilisation, war and creativity, in discussing Junger: although birth has
become related to the masculine and detached from the feminine, it still requires a
body - the body of the earth, Mother Earth. Nation, of course, makes reference to
Fatherland, the earth and land. Junger:
Something is in the process of becoming, something bound to the elemental,
a level of life that is deeper and closer to chaos; not yet law, but containing
new laws within itself. What is being born is the essence of nationalism, a new
relation to the elemental, to Mother Earth, whose soil has been blasted away
in the rekindled fires of material battles and fertilised by streams of blood,
(quoted by Theweleit (1989: 88))
A striking image; an apposite comparison may be made, I suggest, between this
asexual becoming of blood and earth and Hesiod's cosmogony before the creation of
Early archaic Korinth: design and style 147

woman, Pandora. Consider also the Spartoi - warriors springing from the teeth of the
dragon of Ares, sown in the earth (Vian 1968: 59f).
In a book which considers constitutions of subjectivity and personage and social
conceptions of the body in ancient Greece, Halperin (1990) has explored what may
be termed this erotic field of association and connection. He has argued that
friendship, as articulated for example in Homer's account of Achilles and Patroklos,
was part of the colonisation of a larger share of public discourse, of cultural space, for
the play of male subjectivity {ibid.: 85). Male fellowship was established beyond
society: 'friendship helps to structure - and, possibly, to privatise-the social space; it
takes shape in the world that lies beyond the horizon of the domestic sphere, and it
requires for its expression a military or political staging-ground' (ibid.: 77).
In widening the discussion to include observations already made, it can be claimed
that fertility and productivity lie not in female reproductive sexuality and the world of
work but in the warrior band and in action, in violence, styles of living, expression.
It has already been noted that the human bodily form is animated through violent
action in the imagery of not just this Korinthian pottery, but also Attic Geometric
(Carter 1 972). Animate energy in Korinthian painting is that of violence, the clash of
opponents, and the speed of racing figures, horses, chariots, dogs and birds. Here,
upon the Boston aryballos with which I began, the paired and opposing figures of
man and centaur are backed by a naked swordsman at speed. Is that a thunderbolt
held by the man, it is disputed; is the man therefore Zeus? The identification, in spite
of all the discussion (for bibliography see p. 12), would fit, given the assemblage I
have been plotting. Zeus, as god, is representative of the divinity of encounter with
the other, of the realm of arbitration, group and contest (the ceramic bowl and stand,
convivial container), of the experience of violence clashing - speed and explosion of
the thunderbolt. There too is the animated physique and speed of the runner.
Vermeule remarks on the character of war in Homer: 'there is an almost baroque
magnificence in the physical ruin of Homer's heroes . . . death is made more
marvellous by the poet's ingenious methods of puncturing the shell of flesh or
smashing the protective white bones' (Vermeule 1979: 96-7). There are many
vignettes of spear and weapon thrusts through a human anatomy held in a rich epic
vocabulary. Blood, brain and intestines flow freely. The scenes 'offer, in a richer
variety of action and more subtle orchestration than any comparable poetry in the
world, devices for placing in front of us in unforgettable style the fragility of the
human casement and the animal nature of human ambition and weakness' {ibid.:
The experience of war expressed in the literature of the German Freikorps is one of
speed and explosions, the surge of the charge, contact with the 'other' through the
penetration of the weapon.

The man longs for the moment when his body armour will explode,
strengthening his rigid body-ego; but a body such as his cannot atomise, as
does the mass, by allowing itself to be penetrated, fragmented, and thus
destroyed. His body atomises only if he himself erupts outward. He desires to
Art and the Greek City State 148

move beyond himself, bullet-like, towards an object that he penetrates. But
he also desires to survive.
(Theweleit 1989: 179)
Here is that combination of opposites that is the soldier male: hard armour and
muscle, drilled, damming the threat within of the flood of disruptive energy and
intestinal mush. The only release from the dam is the act, the rush of killing or dying,
penetration or explosion; hot blood is the only thing permitted to flow {ibid.: 185).
Further to the distinction I have introduced between the world of household and
work, and that of war and violence, the lifestyle of the soldier, Deleuze and Guattari
(1988: 395f) write of the difference between tools and weapons. Weapons have a
privileged relation with projection; the projectile is primarily weapon: 'anything that
throws or is thrown is fundamentally a weapon, and propulsion is its essential
moment. The weapon is ballistic'. The tool is more introceptive or introjective,
preparing 'a matter from a distance, in order to bring it to a state of equilibrium or to
appropriate it for a form of interiority'. Another and key difference is the relation of
tool and weapon to speed. With Virilio (1986), it can be said that weapons and speed
go together, and the projective character of weapons is the result. Deleuze and
Guattari qualify the distinction with argument that the tool is more to do with
displacement and gravity in a world of work: 'work is a motor cause that meets
resistances, operates upon the exterior, is consumed and spent in its effect, and must
be renewed from one moment to the next' (1988: 397). In contrast, that of the
weapon and weapons handling is a field of 'free action', also
a motor cause, but one that has no resistance to overcome, operates only
upon the mobile body itself, is not consumed in its effect, and continues from
one moment to the next. Whatever its measure or degree, speed is relative in
the first case, absolute in the second.
There are some important points here with wide reference and I will quote further.
In work, what counts is the point of application of a resultant force exerted by
the weight of a body considered as 'one' (gravity), and the relative
displacement of this point of application. In free action, what counts is the
way in which the elements of a free body escape gravitation to occupy
absolutely a nonpunctuated space.
(ibid.: 397)
The point I take is that understanding a tool or weapon requires relating it to the
assemblage of which it forms a part, here specified in terms of productive work and
free action. Of course, a weapon assumes a world of production for its existence, but
its specificity lies elsewhere, in an assemblage which for Deleuze and Guattari
includes force considered in itself, no longer tied to anything but number, move-
ment, space and time, and when speed in the abstract accompanies displacement.
Here then is a relation between the experience of speed, weapons and violence. And
further details are added to the distinctions between domestic society and the war
Early archaic Korinth: design and style 149

Reference may be made back to the conception of the artifact introduced earlier in
this thesis, founded in a philosophy of internal relations; and using this idea of
assemblage (non-identity). The self-evidence of a category of artifact, such as spear
or axe, is refused. The tool or weapon is here constituted not by an abstract definition
of (a particular) tool or weapon, but by their origins in particular practices or
projects. There is no 'society' or 'culture' put upon the material artifact; the artifact
always already delegates actions, representing the material 'output' of the inter-
pretive decisions of those who desired, made and used the artifact. There is no
hierarchical separation of technology and society, or the material and social, as the
artifact is found in the practices within which it is constituted, used, consumed,
The only artifacts to appear in Korinthian painting, apart from clothing are, to
repeat: weapons, with and without men to use them; armour; shields; tripods, bowls
and stands (agalmata); horse bridles; chariots. There is also a net and a cart.
Associations of this artifactual world are with violence and war, bloodletting, and the
speed of the race. Gernet presents also the field of reference of agalmata: religious
awe or aidos (1981; 121), encapsulating wealth, the gift, luxury, sacred power, even
mystery and portent (ibid.: 141). Tripods, shields and their devices, and rich textiles
maybe of this order. And also horses themselves (ibid.: 115; Schnapp-Gourbeillon
1981: 169-73). There was a cult of Athena's golden bit at Korinth (Gernet 1981:
131). Detienne and Vernant (1978: Chapter 7) detail an elaborate set of associations
of the horse in myth, conceived as a creature of chthonic powers:

In Greek thought the Gorgon symbolised one essential aspect of the horse.
Many features of its behaviour - such as its highly strung nature, its neighing,
its sudden movements of panic, its mettlesome disposition, its
unpredictability, the foam at its mouth and sweat on its flank - reveal the
horse to be a mysterious and disquieting beast, a daemonic force. In religious
thought there are striking affinities . . . between the frenzied horse, the
Gorgon, and the man who is possessed.
(ibid.: 191)

Again the references to the world of masculine sovereignty are intensified.

Lifestyle and an aesthetics of the body

One puts our garlands on,
another passes fragrant myrrh on a dish.
Art and the Greek City State 150

The mixing bowl is set up3 full of cheer,
and still more wine stands ready (they say it will not give out)j
soft wine, in earthen jars, with the scent of blossom.
In the middle of all, frankincense gives out its holy fragrance .. .
The altar, in the centre, is thickly garlanded with flowers.
Xenophanes West Bl

counterbalanced against the iron of the spear is sweet lyre-playing.
Alkman Davies 41
Korinthian ceramic design comes to be part of a discourse of masculine sovereignty
defined in relationship with a world of the everyday. I have traced an assemblage of
reference and connection around animal and bodily form (stylised and animated),
violence and contest, speed and energy, the floral, and geometric and figurative
schemata. Connection can also be seen with the sort of juxtapositions made here by
Xenophanes and Alkman: flowers, perfume and the symposion; weaponry and the
music of association. A primary theme is that of lifestyle: experiences and meanings
centred upon the sovereignty and identity of a warrior lord, an heroic agathos,
expressing himself in an aesthetic field, but an aesthetic of expression which goes
beyond restriction to a narrow class grouping.
There is a complex of overlapping relationships between masculine and feminine;
war and the oikos; excess and nutrition; otherness, divinity and the domestic; death
and everyday anonymity; the warrior group and sexual reproduction; risk and
transgression of law and convention; social and personal identity and the loss of self;
integral creatures and monsters; integration (structured formation) and dismember-
ment; animals as reflections and strange unknowable animals; sovereignty and
subordination. Mediating elements are violence, conflict and confrontation, and the
graphical body or form (of people, of animals, of monsters, of flowers). Birds too
seem to occur in a mode of mediation.
The imagery assumes a concept of lifestyle separate from work and production,
just as the arete of the agathos presupposes the time of leisure (Adkins 1972: esp.
32-3). Lifestyle is a sphere of (high) culture and freedom of action separate from the
toiling masses.
Korinthian potters made a distinctive and quite rapid shift to design which works
with these values and forms, the building blocks of a particular lifestyle. The imagery
is, as I have attempted to show, focused upon a subtle and complicated aesthetics of
bodily form. A question follows: what is the significance of this visualisation of
connections between lifestyle and an expressive aesthetic of the body? I have already
introduced the general argument of Donlan, Murray, Kurke and others that aristo-
cratic politics made a shift into a (contested) ideology of lifestyle, indeed were based
upon the organisational power of the male group gathering for feasting and entertain-
ment in the symposion. More particularly I have drawn upon the work of Bataille
(esp. 1985a) who related the rise of militarism and fascism in the 1920s and 1930s to
Early archaic Korinth: design and style 151

his concepts of sovereignty, transgression and a repudiation of the everyday. Bloch
too has provided (1991: passim) commentary upon the ideological focus of fascism in
a world of myth removed from the everyday. For Benjamin (1979) fascism was the
transformation of politics into an aesthetics of expression; expression was a key for
Bataille also in the understanding of fascism. I have indicated at length how
Theweleit (1987, 1989) analyses the militarist Freikorps of post-war Germany as
mobilising a political and aesthetic ethos centred upon the body and upon gender.
The purpose of setting these interpretations of militarism next to my encounter with
archaic Korinth is not to imply analogy or that Korinthian design is the articulation of
a proto-fascism. I wish rather to show how this complex of expression around images
and evaluations of the body, gender and lifestyle is a pervasive and often powerful
ideological field with which we live still today. However, before I can elaborate upon
and provide further support for this thesis I will halt the flow and draw together
observations made so far of the aryballos from Boston.

Aryballos Boston 95.12: a summary interpretation
In a violent but balanced encounter the man meets and faces the monstrous double
of man-animal. The agalma of stand and bowl mark the environment as special,
exotic, removed from the everyday and pertaining to a marginal space of religious
awe and the power or value of male association. So too do references to the floral. As
prize perhaps, the agalma refers to arbitration and judgement and to the emergence
of winners and losers, the dominant and subordinate. Birds, through their associ-
ations, mark the exotic and mediate forces of mortality and divinity, wild and
domestic, molar and molecular. The mobile naked swordsman adds another conno-
tation of the body and the energy or speed of violence. Above, in the shoulder frieze,
is a violent and separated world of the animal, but brought to stylised order. This is
all far from a lower culture of labour in the fields, and is the sphere of action of a lord
defining a (gendered) self through risk and an expressive order of violence.
The old formulae of parallel linearity and predictable angularity are present in the
frieze layout; referenced too in the black upon pale ground slip painting are the
security and certainty of traditional ceramic manufacture. But these serve essentially
to highlight the shift to a comparative excess of detail in scrutinised miniaturism and
massive deviation into curve (vegetal, animal, energised) and inclination (the 'decor-
ative' devices), all in a workmanship of risk. This forms a counterpoint with the
visualised themes.

Part 2 Korinthian ceramic style: eighth through seventh centuries BC
Animal an and the decorative: is there a case to answer?
1 have presented a series of associations running through the design of Korinthian
pottery, focused through one particular aryballos with figured painting. But, as has
been indicated, many (later) pots have scenes containing only animals; so many are
simply coursing hounds. Many other pots are sub-geometric, with little figurative
imagery. Taken on their own, these do not seem to make sense in the same way as the
more complex designs. A conventional judgement is that they are 'simply decorative'
Art and the Greek City Slate 152

(Whitley 1991b: 196-7 is a recent example). The related question is how much of
Korinthian design is covered by the visual ideology of masculine sovereignty: is it
only applicable to a few fine pieces? Am I guilty of overinterpretation?
The concept of decoration or the decorative is central to this issue. I have
elsewhere presented a general critique and argued for the careful qualification of this
term (Shanks 1996a: 41-3). Here I will recap and expand with some statistics taken
from the Korinthian pottery (full treatment may be found in my dissertation, Shanks
1992e: 145-7 and Appendix Two).
The decorative is a term rooted in a concern with meaning. So, to call, for
example, a line of painted animals decorative (as in Figure 3.27) may be understood
in the following ways.
The design has been borrowed from, is an imitation or adaptation of a source
whose (original) meaning has been lost.
The painted design is of purely aesthetic significance, having no functional, or
other meaning. The term ornamental may be considered appropriate here, with
the scene considered to be a supplement to form. The ornamental artifact may
be one whose surface finish or appearance is elaborated beyond simple func-
tional requirements.
The design is a sort of visual cliche, a stock or formulaic scene whose origins are to
be found in convention or tradition.
This concept can be argued to be misleading or redundant on the following
First, any surface could be described as decorative. Everything has a surface or
outside; and every surface has a finish of some sort. Finishes may vary, some may
be described as more or less elaborated; the potter-painter may choose to invest
more or less time and interest towards the end of the production process. But finish
is not supplemental; it is the dimension which supplies form. The term decorative
may be used for an artifact which displays more concern with elaboration and
labour investment in the final stages of production. But a simple textured surface
could equally be described as decorative. The initial choice of material, such as fine
Korinthian earthenware, may well imply (or intend) a certain finish; the process of
production (black figure firing, for example) also. A process of production is not
often an accidental amalgam of separable activities: black figure surface and paint-
ing requires a set of practices from clay extraction to brush manufacture. In this
way the finish is internally related to production. So I argue that the term 'decor-
ative' has no specific field of reference, because everything can be described as
decorative or decorated. The decorative is simply the appearance of the form of an
The aesthetic is a field which cannot be separated from production and function.
This is the corollary of the first point. It is inappropriate therefore to have a concept
of the decorative referring to a special field of aesthetic finish, in contrast to the
communication of a substantive meaning. The aesthetic is not well conceived as an
abstracted and separate field of activity (as in Art, 'beauty' or 'taste'). The aesthetic is
Early ' archaic Korinth: design and style 153

that which pertains to perception; it is an adjectival concept, not substantive.
Nothing could ever be described as purely decorative. In the idea of the decorative
iconic meaning is subordinated to form and tradition. But can there ever be a limit
case of a purely decorative or formal surface empty of meaning? I would argue that
there cannot, because a graphic or design always implies at least the conditions of its
production. The decorative must always be the outcome of a set of relations of
(artistic) production, and these can never be without meaning, purely 'technical' or
functional. A pair of miniature sphinxes upon a Korinthian aryballos implies the fine
brush and slip, the manufacture of both, the acquisition of the skills necessary to
paint them, the knowledge of firing process, the belief that such a design will enhance
the surface and help the sale of the pot, and much more. All this can hardly be called
meaningless or gestural.
Invoking the decorative does not explain why certain stock scenes were chosen
rather than others, nor why they came to be conventional or traditional in the first
place. An argument such as that of Carter (1972) that certain eastern conventions
were adapted to answer a desire to depict action and narrative does not explain that
So-called decorative pots need to be considered in context, in their relationship
with more complex designs, because they share a mode of production and many
design features. This point is given added force by acceptance of the previous point
that a design always implies its mode of production.
The category of the decorative is rooted in a particular ideology and metanarrative
of design and making. It characteristically involves radical division between labour
and reason:

decorative meaningful
formulaic purposive
tradition beauty
craft art
application decision
artisan artist
The humble artisan is eclipsed by the genius of the creative individual - a hierarchy
very particular to the west (Lucie-Smith 1981). This set of oppositions is pan of the
root of the capitalist division of labour into management, reason and decision over
labour, operations and execution of tasks (the classic exposition is Braverman 1974).
It is ideologically related to class interests. This is not the place to pursue this line of
critique (further comment can be found throughout Shanks 1996a; consider also the
implications of Vickers and Gill's argument (1994) about ideologies of art in relation
to Greek ceramics). Here I point out merely that the discourse to which this
distinction belongs allows two routes to understanding the decorative: through an
abstract aesthetics of beauty and form, appreciating how some decorative devices are
better or more 'beautiful' than others; or through tracing the 'life of forms', the
creation, use and transmission of graphical conventions, devices, schemata. Both
Art and the Greek City State 154

tend to problematic idealism (argument over the nature and appreciation of beauty')
and/or a detachment of design from production and its social origins. In this context I
do not hold with the latter.
Statistically the argument that Korinthian scenes are simply decorative does not
If the animal frieze were to be described as decorative, choice of motifs could be
said to be governed by an 'aesthetic' interest, rather than one concerned with iconic
meaning. Certain animals would be chosen not because of what they were but
because of how they looked, how they added to the surface finish perhaps. But given
the linear character of the figured scenes and the stylised nature of the animals, I
suggest that it would be very difficult to argue that a bull next to a lion looks better
than a ram next to a goat: they belong to a similar aesthetic standard or taste. The
animals are stylistically interchangeable. A pattern of animals (alternating or repeated
groups, for example) may be described as decorative, and I will consider this option
in a moment. Another variation of the idea of the decorative would be if the friezes
were constructed on the basis of a random selection of animal figures (all animals
being equivalent in their absence of meaning); a decorative animal frieze could be
one which revealed a random selection of animal figures. This may be extended to
cover the human figures too, which rarely can be identified as characters from myth.
So, the idea of the decorative may imply that, given a graphic convention of linear
friezes, the figure types have an equal chance of selection. This is not statistically
valid for the sample of Korinthian pots I have been studying. Korinthian design is not
decorative in the sense of painting which makes no reference to subject matter.
The relative numbers of animals and humans in the later scenes (Figure 3.35)
make it clear that there is in no way an equal chance that the main types of animal will
be painted. In later friezes, for example, there is A clear preference for lions, and not
for rams. I claim that it is not feasible to argue that the lion was more aesthetic or
Let us assume instead the relative numbers of creatures. According to an idea of
the decorative as random selection, the pattern of encounters between them might
then be expected to be according to overall proportions. On the basis of the probabil-
ities of a particular animal occurring (according to observed numbers) were cal-
culated expected interactions between different types of animal. Chi squared was
calculated to test for difference between observed and expected interactions. All the
chi squared values are significant at 0.01, that for birds at 0,1: the null hypothesis of
no difference between observed encounters and those expected if random is rejected
(Shanks 1992a: Appendix 2, Table 5.6). Later figured friezes cannot be called
decorative in this sense. This test was not possible for earlier friezes because of the
sample size.
A sense of the decorative may mean that the combinations of animals appearing in
scenes show no bias or skew. (A combination is a set containing r items from a larger
group of n items. Different orders of the same r items are not counted separately.)
Given basic figure classes of animals, monsters, birds, people and dogs, there are
thirty-one possible combinations of figures in later friezes (account not being taken of
Early archaic Korinth: design and style 155

Figure 3.35 The numbers of animals and people appearing in the later Korinihian painted ceramic

a figure type occurring twice). Each frieze combination might therefore be expected
to have little more than a three per cent chance of being painted: there would then be
thirty-three or thirty-four of each frieze (according to the total number of friezes in
the sample). This is nothing like that observed. It is very clear that the combinations
of figures which appear in later friezes cannot be explained by this concept of the
decorative, a choice of figures which makes no reference to what they depict. The
discrepancy between the types of frieze that might be expected and those actually
observed is summarised in Figure 3.36.
There is even more discrepancy between observed and expected types of earlier
frieze. A quantitative analysis such as that just presented for later friezes is not useful
given the smaller number of friezes. But there occur only thirty different kinds of
figure combinations out of a possible 127 combinations (of birds, monsters, animals,
floral/ornament, fish, people and dogs). Many likely combinations (given the ob-
served numbers of particular creatures) hardly occur at all, such as birds and animals,
(only two cases in 174 friezes, given 267 birds and 149 animals).
So there is a clearly skewed choice of certain types of animal and combinations.
Now the decorative may also be held to refer to patterns of animals such as alternating
figures chosen with reference to the aesthetic (pattern) rather than meaning. But
even here the clearly skewed choice is significant a fortiori.
So, using the concept of the decorative is not a good way to approach the
relationship of figurative to sub-geometric design, more complex to less complex
Art and the Greek City State
Early archaic Korinth: design and style 157
Art and the Greek City Slate 158

A short note on anthropologies of art
So, how is the Korinthian 'sub-geometric' design to be understood? It is on the basis
of critique of such concepts of the decorative that Tilley and I have argued for a
de-centring of the individual, and a conception of art and style as social production.
To de-centre the individual is to view artistic production as a social and
material rather than an individual and psychological process, and to explain
the work of art with reference to its location and reception in society, to the
institutional sites of its production and consumption . . . Viewing the artist as
a cultural producer rather than cultural creator requires that artistic production,
rather than being conceived as a form of practice radically different from
other cultural practices, deriving from a unique creative impulse, should be
regarded as being in principle a form of production no different from others
. . . Art is primarily an historical rather than an aesthetic form. (Shanks and
Tilley 1992: 147-8J.

To consider art as social production breaks with those problematical oppositions
between decoration and meaning, artisan and artist, ornament and form, and indeed
style and function. The separation of design into figurative (carrying (iconic) mean-
ing) and sub-geometric is to be abandoned. To consider the decoration of a pot is to
consider the practices which produced the pot. There is no necessary hierarchy or
division of practices in the production of the pot. So the surface finishing of a pot
should be set in context of the whole design (decoration is not supplemental adorn-
ment). There is no necessary division between the painting of figurative and abstract
design, myth and decoration, surface and form. These categories are not oppositions
but are a continuous field of possibility within the making of a pot. There are
structures of meaning which are beyond the potter-painter and their aesthetic
encounter with beauty and style, structures which are the medium and outcome of
their potting and painting. Beyond the individual: it may be better to think less of
intentional individual potter-painters than social or cultural machines producing
Korinthian pottery - machine-like assemblages of practices, values, meanings, tastes,
kilns, potters, traders, ships. , . such as I have been exploring. This supplies further
context to the argument presented in Chapter One.
Let me now widen this argument, which has anyway been implicit in the interpre-
tation presented so far. Support may be found for this position, I contend, in a series
of Marxian-derived writings on an and cultural production (for example Bennett
1979; Eagleton 1976; Macherey 1978; Wolff 1981, 1984). Anthropologies of art
summarised by Layton (1991) and by the authors gathered by Coote and Shelton
(1992) also indicate the complexity of social mediation involved in understanding
artifact design. Visual art can be thought as a 'focus' for cultural activity, and rather
than aim to indicate the function or meanings expressed by an artifact (the latter I
have termed the fallacy of representation), it is better to consider how it works fora
particular society, tracing the 'life of signs in society' (Geertz 1983: 109). Morphy's
rich interpretations of Yolngu art (for example 1992) trace a series of connections
Early archaic Korinth: design and style 159

running through myth, place, design and making, time (the ancestors), an aesthetic
of spiritual shininess, and ritual, with meanings changing in different contexts and
connections reorientated around analogy and metaphor. I read this as an example of
the heterogeneity of cultural assemblage.
Of course a sub-geometric aryballos with a linear painted surface is different from
that figured aryballos with which I began. The question is how to interpret the
painting of the sub-geometric, given the proposed shift to a conception of art as
production. Where do the linear aryballoi fit into the Korinthian machine?

Pattern and order, texture and accent
From a survey of the anthropological literature Tilley and I suggested (1992:150-5)
that much art in small-scale societies is less about representing particular aspects of
the social world than it is to do with principles of order and how order should be. As
Forge puts it:
In an art system such as Abelam flat painting, elements, in this case graphic
elements modified by colour, carry the meaning. The meaning is not that a
painting or carving is a picture of anything in the natural or spirit world,
rather it is about the relationship between things.
(Forge 1973:189)
Some studies, notably those of Adams (1973), Hodder among the Mesakin Nuba
(1982: 125-84), Vastokas and north-west coast Indians (1978), and Fernandez
(1966) lend support to the proposition that there is a link (involving transformation)
between principles of order in art and principles of the social order, worked through
social relations. I also argue that a key dimension is balance of power. Art and style
may be ideological, that is taking a particular position with regard to a conflict of
social interests. Artifacts may be focal points for the translation of interests. Or, if the
principles upon which society relies (principles which mediate social practices and
help define social reality) incorporate contradiction, these contradictions may be
displaced or encountered through a graphical or stylistic medium (consider Berger et
al. 1972).
So this shift to a conception of art as practice, the challenge to absolute definitions
for terms such as abstract and figurative, form and ornament, decorative and iconic,
may involve attention to order (and disorder). Non-figurative 'decoration' or figurat-
ive work such as an animal frieze, the sub-geometric, is much more interpretable in
this context. A field of order and disorder: focus is particularly upon textured
patterns, and, taken with more complex figurative painting, there are continuities
and discontinuities, accents of detail set off by a smoothing of ceramic surface, a
function of the geometric and floral patterns. This is not arbitrary, but a mediation of
wider social principles. The patterns and textures of lines of stylised animals, floral
garlands, chequerboard strips may be considered to help establish ambience, atmos-
phere, aura, impression, an interplay of deflection and attraction of inspection, the
organisation of area (see Gombrich (1979) on graphical pattern and order).
Art and the Greek City State 160

Innovation, variability and change
Let me approach the textures and patterns from another direction. In Chapter Two
the scale of production of Korinthian pottery was considered as part of investigation
of the generation of style and stylistic change. The questions are of commissioning
and creativity: where do the designs come from? Were some sections of society
commissioning new designs which advertised a graphic and corporeal ideology; were
the designs more of an invention of the potters themselves? These two issues (of the
place of the earlier Geometric canon and of the generation of style) are of course
related in Korinthian pottery. Both are to do with the relation between tradition and
change (including the category of risk which I introduced), and the nature of
innovation and creativity. The designs changed. To what end?
As has long been acknowledged by the use of the term sub-geometric, the issue of
decorative order is about creativity and experiment in the context of older (Geomet-
ric) conventions. But the argument fora conception of style as social production also
draws in wider contexts. Interpretation is taken back to the material environment of
archaic Korinth and beyond, new perfume jars in the potters' workshops, lifeworlds
of polis, mobility, war and dedication, questions of the consumption and deposition
of these wares. This introduces the following chapters.
I will now consider some details of innovation and variability in ceramic design as a
prelude to some general comment.
Korinthian late Geometric pottery had a limited graphical vocabulary: in Cold-
stream's definitive account (1968: 99-100, 102-4) can be counted eighteen different
design elements (lozenges, triangles and the like). There are forty design elements in
Neeft's more detailed listing of late Geometric Thapsos pottery (1981). In my
sample of Korinthian pottery from the late eighth century and after there are 232
different floral and geometric designs, and 104 figure types (Figs. 3.6 and 3.9-3.12),
The potters of Korinth dramatically increased the graphical variety displayed upon
their pots within a generation of 700 BC.
The variability does not remain constant. Later pots in the sample are less varied
than earlier in terms of the number of designs which appear upon them: the number
decreases from 172 to 113, a drop of 34 per cent. Standardised scores (division by
number of friezes) indicate that the decrease is even larger than these figures suggest:
the drop is from 0.13 to 0.06, down by more than half (54 per cent). A decrease in the
variety of pots produced is also displayed when the number of unique earlier and
later aryballoi is compared. (Unique is here defined as a pot which has a geometric or
floral design or combination of designs which appears upon no other pot in the
sample.) Of earlier pots 33 per cent are unique; of later 24 per cent.
Neeft (1987) found it possible to classify over 925 later aryballoi into forty-eight
groups on the basis of gross decorative features, and most of these classes are
variations of dog frieze, dot rosettes and linear banding, Many earlier pots are also
strongly linear, with the surface below the shoulder covered with fine horizontal and
parallel lines, but there is variation around this 'type' with the many different designs
upon the shoulder. Over half of earlier aryballoi are of this sort, with lines and one or
two geometric or floral devices upon the shoulder.
Early archaic Korinth: design and style



Number of times used in the sample

Figure 3. 37 Cumulative graph: the number of times a graphical element is used - comparison between
earlier and later friezes.

Compare the number of times a particular graphical design is used in earlier and
later friezes. The cumulative graph (Figure 3.37) clearly shows a change, with more
designs used less often upon earlier pots.
There is another change - in the number of designs {geometric, floral, animals and
people) which appear in each of the friezes (running dogs and repeated geometric or
floral designs excluded). Most friezes (59 percent) of the later pots have three or four
elements to them; there is less modality in the earlier friezes: more variety in the
number of elements appearing in a frieze (this is clearly shown in Figure 3.
Geometric and floral design are used differently by the potters with time. One in
eight of earlier friezes has a geometric or floral design, compared with three in one
hundred later. One in three of later friezes has geometric or floral design in a minor
position ('filling ornament'), more than a threefold rise from the earlier pots. (The
significant strength of this change of use and relationship between major and minor
positioning is indicated by scores of 0.3 for phi-squared and 0.9 for Yule's Q (Shanks
1992a: Appendix 2, Table 3.1)).
Proportionately fewer designs appear repeated to form a frieze or in a panel upon
Art and the Greek City State

Number of designs per frieze

Figure 3.38 The number of designs per friezes; earlier and later compared.

later pots: drops of more than 40 and 75 per cent respectively. With respect to the
occurrence of geometric and floral ornament with people and animals, there is a
marked rising preference for animal friezes with or without geometric or floral
designs in a minor position (70 per cent of later friezes are like this, 24 per cent of
There are also clear changes in the type of designs used. Triangles, many in friezes
around the shoulders of aryballoi, drop out of use by later potters (from 17 down to 1
per cent of friezes), while the use of check and dot rosettes to form textured friezes
and as minor ornament shows a 2.5- and 7-fold rise. Lozenge forms come to be used
less and take a minor position. Petal forms still appear in friezes around later pot
shoulders, but less so (from 9 per cent to 4 per cent of all friezes). Vegetal triangles
(with linear hooked apices) continue to be a frequent feature, repeated as friezes, or
as major or minor ornament.
There is considerable variety in the types of early figured pots: forty types of
surface design (use of linear banding, floral and geometric design, counting also
different combinations of basic frieze elements) for 153 pots {standardised: 0.26).
Animal friezes clearly dominate later figured pots, and there is much less variety:
forty-six types (as above) for 757 pots (standardised: 0.06: drop of 77 per cent). The
variety of frieze type also drops from thirty combinations (as defined above) of
animal, monster, birds, people, dogs, snakes and abstract elements (standardised:
0.17) to twenty (standardised; 0.02: drop of 88 per cent) - The character of figured
frieze and pot changes markedly; there are only eleven out of thirty-nine frieze types
Early archaic Korinth: design and style 163

Figure 3.39 Animal classification. Violent animals interact among themselves, but rarely with people.
Birds and monster forms (mixing lion, bird and person) mediate. Deer occur on their own, as do
(domestic) dogs which may chase birds. The sphinx is, in its associations and character, dog-bird.

which occur both on earlier and later pots; there are only nine types of pot out of
sixty-seven found in both earlier and later times.
Many earlier pots are decorated in a way which recalls the subjects of Korinthian
Geometric design: bird friezes, and with non-representational designs (different
from Geometric designs but still non-representational). I have noted the predomi-
nance of linear surface with decorated shoulder. But there is great variety, and the
friezes have more elements combined in more complex ways than later. This may be
termed a period of experiment upon the Geometric and new ideas of the design of
ceramic surface, but this does not catch the detail.
Animals, including dogs, appear in 1,019 of 1,045 (98 per cent) later figured
scenes. I have shown how these friezes can in no way be called a random mix. And in
the associations and connections I followed arising from the aryballos in Boston, I
noted significances to do with masculine identity, violence and the domestic. I will
refine some of those points.
Consider again the interactions between the main types of animal. The main ways
that animals interact in a way which is not expected from the overall proportions of
animals are:
people are separate and do not mix much with animals
birds occur with sphinxes
lions are with boars, bulls and goats more than expected
deer occur with deer more than expected
boars oppose boars.
These patterns of interaction are not so clear upon earlier pots, though there is a
series of friezes which show deer on their own. So, to end, the classification of
animals in Figure 3.39 is suggested to apply particularly to later friezes.
Art and the Greek City Stats 164

An overview of Korinthian ceramic design
The Geometric tradition
A parallel linearity and striation: a stratified or horizontally sectioned surface.
90°, 45° and 60° rotation or angularity.
Horizontal flow around the pot.
Lines providing dimensions (length across the pot and number in parallel).
A metric scheme (the distances between the lines).
Multiple brushes reproducing designs.
A workmanship of certainty.
Fine and uniform slipped surface.
Surface as texture, repelling attention, all background.
Only slight accents of detail: panels and creatures, a bird, a snake's head.
A tight and restricted graphical vocabulary,
The Geometric is a ceramic surface which can be described as a space of qualities.
Abstract decoration with a line subordinate to texture.
Geometric articulation.

The new order
Tradition combined with innovation:
• an open or smooth (contrast striated) space is opened in (geometric) texture -
space for the friezes;
• a workmanship of risk in free-hand painting and incision of figures;
• allied with a retained workmanship of certainty.
New pot shapes, particularly the aryballos, miniature and for perfume.
A new graphic line:
• the curve - fluid roundness in contrast to geometric ideal of the circle;
• inclination (in contrast to 90°, 45° and 60° angularity);
• petal form (a combination of both of the preceding).
An enlarged graphic vocabulary:
• NEW designs irrupting within a geometric field;
• diversity augmented through variation and agglomeration of graphic forms.
The painted forms approximate to an idea (of a creature or flower), in contrast to
reproducing, for example, a lozenge net, or parallel lines.
The friezes have little or no background.
The miniature friezes may request close-range attention.
The figured friezes are a special world, in contrast with the domestic:
Early archaic Korinth: design and style 165

• referenced are lifestyle and masculine sovereign identity, a culture of violence
and contest;
• a significant theme is that of fixity and stylisation in contrast with fluidity and
heterogeneity or 'otherness';
• this is worked out in relation to body form (of people, flowers and animals),
and action or inaction (battle, coursing hounds or stylised lions, for example);


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