by T. Leslie Shear, Jr. Princeton University Press, September 2016. 496 p. ill. ISBN 9780691170572 (pbk.), $65.00.
Reviewed January 2017
Trophies of Victory: Public Building in Periklean Athens showcases the extensive research of T. Leslie Shear Jr., Professor Emeritus at Princeton’s Department of Art and Archaeology and former director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens’ excavations in the Athenian Agora.
Shear provides a comprehensive account of the Periklean building program from the third quarter of the fifth century B.C.E., examining its archaeological evidence, construction history, architectural form, and sculptural decoration. Unlike Jeffrey Hurwit’s The Acropolis in the Age of Pericles, Shear goes beyond the acropolis at Athens and considers the Periklean building program as an entire group. The volume is broken into chapters featuring entries on specific monuments, including the Parthenon, Hephaisteion, Telesterion at Eleusis, Odeion, and the Propylaia. As a group, these buildings tell us much about the Athenians’ attitudes towards the Persian Wars and how the monuments were erected as offerings to the gods for victories in the Persian Wars, predominately memorializing the Athenian triumph at the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C.E.
This work focuses on the construction process of the Periklean monuments, showcasing their repeated delays and complicated history. By thoroughly investigating inscriptions and primary accounts, Shear provides new information on the roles of the Athenian Assembly and overseers in public works. He emphasizes the importance of the Parthenon and its influence on later temples on the acropolis due to its innovative plan and rich sculptural program. Shear argues mythological scenes, such as the centauromachy on the Parthenon metopes, were interpreted to depict Athenian victory and gradually lead to the incorporation of the Battle at Marathon into the realm of myth as seen in the frieze of the Temple of Athena Nike. The Periklean buildings showcase not only the outstanding statesmanship of Perikles, but also the power of the demos, the Athenian citizens who voted to build these monuments to proclaim superiority among their fellow Greeks.
The book, available in paperback form, features 123 illustrations, including black-and-white photographs, detailed plans, and restoration drawings. The volume is accompanied by an extensive bibliography, epigraphical appendix, chronological table, subject index, and an index locorum connecting the monuments to the primary literature, including Plutarch’s Life of Perikles.
Trophies of Victory is an essential work for upper-level students and researchers alike in classical art and archaeology.