Mythological stories are one of our richest sources for the cultural, social and political life of the ancient Greeks. A substantial part of the vast corpus of Greek mythology concerned stories about war. These include most famously the Trojan War, enshrined in the Iliad and countless other works; and the Seven Against Thebes, the final part of the tragic story of king Oedipus. Despite the richness of the material, spreading across many artistic genres (literature, poetry, pottery, sculpture, architecture), mythology has rarely featured in scholarly studies of Greek warfare, which tend to dismiss its relevance for the actual practices and realties of combat. In this talk, Cezary will argue that mythological stories stood at the forefront of everyday discourses about war, being modelled on the ideals and cultural values most relevant to their audiences.
Since Greek myths were by their nature extremely fluid and susceptible to change, their representations of war were subject to constant re-evaluation. This process was particularly profound in the classical era, when writers, artists and politicians came up with modified versions of myths about war inherited from the archaic past. A study of these changes, as Cezary will demonstrate, offers us important insights into the development of warfare from the archaic to the classical periods. He will focus primarily on a small case study of mythological scenes depicted on the straps of hoplite shields (shield-bands), leading him to some larger conclusions about the potential of mythology for modern studies of Greek warfare.
More information on the webinar series main page.