CURRENT

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SPARTA

Rebecca Hossack Gallery

CURRENT - Spring 2019

GORGO QUEEN OF SPARTA - 150 x 220 cm

Many ancient female royals are rarely talked about for a variety of reasons. Athenians of these periods did not think women should be seen – much less heard – in public. One female monarch that we do hear enough about is Gorgo of Sparta, daughter and only known child of Cleomenes I, King of Sparta. She was born in the early 500’s BC and was known to be a woman whose opinion leaders trusted. The first time she is recorded speaking her mind, allegedly at the age of eight or nine, she was already interfering in the affairs of state. Later as a Queen, one famous incident occurred, in which a blank wax tablet was sent to Sparta from the exiled king Demaratus. Gorgo was the only one who suggested in scraping the wax off, under which was written a hidden warning message regarding Xerxes plan to attack. They send word to Athens who was then able to prepare for battle. Perhaps the fact that Gorgo of Sparta was genuinely and exceptionally bright explains why as a child and wife, she was consulted and her opinions respected.

GNOSTIKOS - 122 x 170 cm

Gnostikos (meaning “cognitive”) is a Classical Greek adjective, stemming from the feminine noun ‘Gnosis’ used throughout Greek philosophy as a technical term for ‘experience knowledge’ in contrast to ‘theoretical knowledge’. The term is also related to the study of knowledge retention or memory, in relation to ontic or ontological, which is how something actually is rather than how something is captured (abstraction) and stored (memory) in the mind. It is also often used for personal knowledge compared with intellectual knowledge (eídein), as with French ‘connaitre’ compared with ‘savoir’.

HYDNA OF SCIONE - 135 x 205 cm

Hydna of Scione was well-known in Greece for her swimming skills, having been trained by her father, a professional swim instructor. She was known for her ability to swim long distances and dive deep into the ocean. In 480 BCE the Persians invaded Greece and after defeating Athens, planned to destroy the rest of the Greek force in the naval battle at Salamis. Persian King Xerxes moored his ships off the coast of Mount Pelion, to await for a storm to pass. In the darkness of night, Hydna and her father swam approximately ten miles through rough waters up to the ships and dove beneath the Persian ships, cutting their moorings with knives and dragging the submerged anchors away. This caused the enemy ships to drift in the stormy water, run aground and damage their other vessels as they crashed into each other. The damage was considerable and a few vessels even sank. This allowed the Greek navy more time to prepare and led to a victory for Greek forces at Salamis. Hydna of Scione’s story comes from the Greek historian Pausanius in his Description of Greece, 10.19.1. where he also mentions that statues of both daughter and father were erected at Delphi for their heroism.

PLEROMA - 120 x 170 cm

Pleroma represents the idea of ‘a state of perfect fullness’, abundance, plenitude, the world of light. Generally referring to the totality of divine powers, this ancient greek word literally signifies “fullness”. It may emphasise totality in contrast to its constituent parts; or fullness in contrast to emptiness (kenoma); or completeness in contrast to incompleteness or deficiency (hysterema). A further ambiguity arises when it is joined with a genitive, which may be either subjective or objective, the fullness which one thing gives to another, or that which it receives from another.

NYX - 122 x 150 cm

Nyx (Νύξ) is the Greek goddess or personification of the night. A shadowy figure, Nyx stood at or near the beginning of creation and mothered other deities such as Hypnos (Sleep) and Erebus (Darkness). Although her appearances are sparse in surviving mythology, she is revealed as a figure of such exceptional power that even Zeus himself feared her. Nyx also took on an important role in several fragmentary poems attributed to Orpheus. In them, rather than Chaos, Nyx is the one portrayed as being the first principle from which all creation emerges.

ODYSSEY - 140 x 162

The Odyssey symbolises an intellectual or spiritual quest. It is a Greek epic poem written by Homer (believed to be composed near the end of the 8th century BC). The poem tells about the long journey of Odysseus, after the fall of Troy as he struggles to return home and reestablish himself as king of Ithaca. The Odyssey is not just about heroism, but more importantly about the underlying themes from the Greek culture: spiritual growth, loyalty, perseverance, and hospitality. Spiritual growth is brought on by rough times, temptations, long travels, and even good times. Homer’s main idea is that the spirit with the most growth and strength is the one that is tested and weakened through the process. The weakening in turn allows a person to grow stronger.

TELESILLA OF ARGOS - 170 x 190 cm

Telesilla of Argos was an ancient Greek poet (5th century BCE). She was a distinguished woman who was especially renowned for her poetry and for her leadership of Argos through a political and military crisis.

When Clemens, King of Sparta, invaded the land of the Argives in 510 BC, he defeated and killed all the hoplites (citizen-soldiers) of Argos in the Battle of Sepeia, and massacred the survivors. Thus when Cleomens led his troops to Argos there were no warriors left to defend it. Telesilla took down the ornamental arms from temples in the city, raided the armory for whatever was left, and equipped a force of the city’s women with arms and armor. She organized the city for defense and marched out to meet the Spartans, inflicting heavy losses. Clemens was faced with a dilemma; if he defeated Telesilla, he would have no honor in slaughtering women, while if they defeated him, Sparta would have been beaten by an army of women. So he prudently withdrew his army and Argos was saved.

SOLON - Sarah Jane - 115 x 158 cm

Solon (Σόλων c.  630 – c.  560 BC) was an Athenian statesman, lawmaker and poet. He is remembered particularly for his efforts to legislate against political, economic and moral decline in archaic Athens. During Solon’s time, many Greek city-states had seen the emergence of tyrants, opportunistic noblemen who had taken power on behalf of sectional interests. Solon was described by Plutarch as having been temporarily awarded autocratic powers by Athenian citizens on the grounds that he had the “wisdom” to sort out their differences for them in a peaceful and equitable manner. Solon’s verses are mainly significant for historical rather than aesthetic reasons, as a personal record of his reforms and attitudes. According to Solon the poet, Solon the reformer was a voice for political moderation in Athens at a time when his fellow citizens were increasingly polarised by social and economic differences.

PERICLES - 135 x 150

Pericles (c. 495 – 429 BC) was a prominent and influential Greek statesman, orator and general of Athens during its golden age. He promoted the arts and literature and it is mainly through his efforts that Athens acquired the reputation of being the educational and cultural center of the ancient world. He promoted the ambitious project that generated most of the surviving structures on the Acropolis. This project beautified and protected the city, exhibited its glory, and gave work to the people. Pericles was strongely in favour of Athenian democracy, so much so that he was criticised by some and called a ‘populist’.
Pericles is considered to have been the first politician to attribute importance to philosophy and he is known to have enjoyed the company of Philosophers such as Protagoras, Zeno of Elea and in particular Anaxagoras. Pericles’ legendary calmness and self-control are often regarded as products of Anaxagoras’ influence. Anaxagoras emphasised on emotional calmness in the face of trouble and was skeptical in regards to divine phenomena. This most likely had a lasting impact on Pericles and shaped his unique manner of thought and rhetorical charisma.

ARETE OF CYRENE - 160 X 220

Arete of Cyrene (4th century BCE) was the daughter of the hedonist philosopher Aristippus (c. 435-356 BCE) and grew up influenced by his teachings. Arete took over the school upon Aristippus’ death, and like her father, she is said to have held to the philosophy of “I possess, I am not possessed”, by which she meant that one could have as many worldly goods as one wished as long as one’s life was not controlled by those possessions. One should, therefore, pursue pleasure and enjoy the things of this world without allowing those things to control one’s life and freedom of movement. The School of Cyrene was one of the first to advance a systematic view on the role of pleasure and pain in human life. The Cyrenaics argued that discipline, knowledge, and virtuous actions are more likely to result in pleasure. Whereas negative emotions, such as anger and fear, multiplied pain. Arete of Cyrene is said to have written over 40 books, none of which survive in the present day. She also appears to have been a single mother who raised Aristippus-the-Younger in the hedonistic philosophy. She was so highly esteemed by her countrymen that they inscribed on her tomb an epitaph which declared that she was the splendour of Greece and possessed the beauty of Helen, the virtue of Thirma, the pen of Aristippus, the soul of Socrates and the tongue of Homer.

ARISTOI - 125 x 150 cm

The Aristoi was the label given to the noblemen in ancient Greek society, and in particular ancient Athens. The term literally means “best”, with the denotation of best in terms of birth, rank, and nobility, but usually possessing the connotation of also being the morally best. The term in fact derives similarly with ‘arete’: “The root of the word is the same as aristos, the word which shows superlative ability and superiority, and “aristos” was constantly used in the plural to denote the nobility.