Rebecca Hossack Gallery

Winter 2019

AGNODICE OF ATHENS - 120 x 170 cm

Agnodice (4th century BCE) was the first female doctor in ancient Athens. She challenged the male-dominated profession and changed the laws regarding women practicing medicine. Previously, women had been allowed to practice medicine, especially as midwifes, until they were accused of helping female patients procure abortions. This resulted in a ban for any woman to practice medicine. Penalty for doing so was death. In order to practice, Agnodice disguised herself as a man, cut her hair, and travelled to Egypt to study medicine, where women were held in higher regard as doctors. She returned to Athens disguised as a male doctor and became so popular among female patients that she attracted envy from male practitioners, who then accused her of seducing female patients. When put on trial, she defended herself against the charge by revealing she was a woman. The accusers then threatened to execute her for breaking the law, as she was a woman. Fortunately she was backed by her female patients who shamed the court into acquitting her as it transpired that the male practioners where acting out of pure envy towards Agnodice’s success among the female community. Her trial resulted in the changing of the law and women were allowed to practice medicine.

THEMIS - 126 x 160 cm

Themis is an ancient Greek Titaness. She is described as “the Lady of good counsel”, and is the personification of divine order, fairness, law, natural law, and custom. Her symbols are the Scales of Justice, tools used to remain balanced and pragmatic. Themis means “divine law” rather than human ordinance, literally “that which is put in place”, from the Greek verb títhēmi, meaning “to put”.
The personification of abstract concepts is characteristic of the Greeks. The ability of the goddess Themis to foresee the future enabled her to become one of the Oracles of Delphi, which in turn led to her establishment as the goddess of divine justice. Some classical representations of Themis showed her holding a sword, believed to represent her ability to cut fact from fiction; to her there was no middle ground.

NEREID - 120 x 165 cm

In Greek mythology, the Nereids, are sea nymphs (female spirits of sea waters), the 50 daughters of Nereus and Doris. They often accompany Poseidon, the god of the sea, and can be friendly and helpful to sailors, like the Argonauts in their search for the Golden Fleece. They symbolise everything that is beautiful and kind about the sea. Likewise, one of the moons of the planet Neptune, is named after the Nereids.

DEMOS - 120 x 160 cm

Demos, pronounced ‘day-moss’, has several meanings, all of them important for Athenian democracy. Demos is the Greek word for ‘village, or, as it is often translated, ‘deme’. The deme was the smallest administrative unit of the Athenian state, like a voting precinct or school district. Another meaning of Demos, to the Athenians, was ‘People’, as in the People of Athens, the body of citizens collectively.

ERGON - 180 x 180 cm

Ergon - sense of function, task or work. This Greek word, for something ‘done’ or ‘made’, is used by the philosophers in a twofold sense: either as the activity of a thing or as the product of that activity. Aristotle frequently marks the distinction, that some activities have as their end (telos) a product (not necessarily an ‘object’, such as ‘health is the ergon of medicine’), while others have as their telos the activity itself. Greek philosopher Heraclitus was the first to introduce the term ergon, in the form of ‘en-ergon’, related to heat or fire as the primordial source of activity or “energy” in modern parlance.

HALIMEDE - 80 x 180 cm

Halimede, also called Neptune IX, is named after one of the Nereids, the fifty daughters of Nereus and Doris. Halimede has the second most eccentric and third most inclined orbit around Neptune. Halimede is about 62 kilometers in diameter and appears neutral in the visible light. Given the very similar colour of the satellite to that of Nereid together with the high probability of collision in the past lifespan of the Solar System, it has been suggested that the satellite could be a fragment of Nereid.

DEMOCRITUS - 100 x 100 cm

Democritus (Dēmókritos), meaning “chosen of the people”, was an Ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosopher who lived in the fifth century BC and was one of the first atomic theorists. Democritus knew that if a stone was divided in half, the two halves would have essentially the same properties as the whole. He therefore reasoned that if the stone were to be continually cut into smaller pieces, that at a certain point, there would be a piece which would be so small as to be indivisible. These small pieces of matter he named “atomos,” the Greek word for indivisible. Democritus theory held that everything is composed of “atoms”, which are physically, but not geometrically, indivisible; that between atoms, there lies empty space; that atoms are indestructible, and have always been and always will be in motion; that there is an infinite number of atoms and of kinds of atoms, which differ in shape and size.