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The Altar of Zeus - Term Paper Example

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Regarded by many as one of the most outstanding pieces of architecture from the Greco-Roman Era, the Altar of Zeus is a huge rectangular structure currently found in a museum in Berlin, Germany. …
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The Altar of Zeus
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Download file to see previous pages It was originally situated in Pergamon, with dimensions of 36.4 meters by 34.2 meters, and made mostly of marble, as stated in the online article of Michael Lahanas entitled The Pergamon Zeus Altar and the Gigantomachy. The Altar is primarily composed of four parts. Its most prominent part is found in the frontal frieze which displays the mythological epic called the Gigantomachy. Inside the Altar is another famous frieze that depicts the story of a Greek historical figure named Telephos. Contrary to the frontal frieze which exudes the elements of violence and dynamism, the inner frieze is more subdued both in its style and narrative. In order to better understand the significance of the Altar of Zeus, this paper is to be divided into three parts. The first part will provide a historical background behind the construction of the Altar. The second part will extensively examine the Altar by studying its aesthetic form, as well as its socio-political significance. The third part will analyze the observations obtained in order to justify why the Altar is deemed to be an essential piece of art. Historical Background of the Altar of Zeus The historical background of the Altar is tied closely with the history of Pergamon itself. After the death of Alexander the Great during the Hellenistic Age, his companions divided his vast empire alongside the accumulated wealth among themselves. However, a struggle soon ensued among his successors. This led to the victory of Lysimachus, a Macedonian leader who then transferred most of the treasure to Thrace, as stated in Robin Hard’s book called The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology. He relocated the remaining portion in Asia Minor, in which he assigned Philedairos as the leader and protector of wealth. After Philedairos’ death, his treasure was passed on to his nephew, Eumenes I, who stood as the leader of Pergamon. Eumenes I and his successors were able to effectively handle the wealth by spending it mostly on security—financing mercenaries and paying off the nearby enemies to prevent their invasion. Aside from this, Eumenes I also spearheaded massive construction projects that were aimed at modeling Pergamon after the Athens of ancient Greece. In this light, the Altar of Zeus is said to symbolize the triumph of the Pergamene people against the Galatians—Celtic people who came from central Europe. Historically, the Gauls were notorious for antagonizing Pergamon and for being the enemies of various Hellenistic kingdoms as stated in Nigel Spivey’s book called Greek Art. Before 241 B.C., the city of Pergamon had paid tributes to the Gauls to avoid their attacks. This arrangement was put in finality when Attalos I assumed the role as the Pergamene leader in 241 B.C. and decided to engage the Gauls in battle. After their victory, the Pergamene people commemorated their success by narrating the historic events in legendary stories and by creating various works of art. The successor of Attalos I, Eumenes II, soon sponsored the building of the Altar of Zeus at around 180 B.C. in order to honor the victory of Rome over the allies of Antiochus the Great of Syria, eight years earlier. By winning this battle, Eumenes II was able to acquire a significant portion of the Seleucid Empire. Through the brief review of the Altar’s historical background, it can be said that the material not only immortalized the success of Eumenes II’s empire against the Syrians, it also highlighted the significance of the Grecian or Athenian culture in the lives of the Pergamene people, as seen in the depiction of the battle between mortal creatures and gods. Closer Look at the Altar of Zeus At this point, it is crucial to ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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