A distinguished classicist examines some of the ways in which
certain Greek ethical concepts, especially those related to
sophrosyne (self-knowledge, self-restraint, moderation) and the
other Platonic virtues, are reflected in mythology, politics and
education, oratory, and the visual arts. Helen North considers how
the Platonic virtues were regarded, how they affected the
understanding of political and social life, how they were embodied
in mythical figures and expressed in mythical and historical or
semi-historical exemplary accounts, and how they were portrayed in
art at certain important stages of their development.
North moves from archaic Greek myth in the first chapter through
the political and rhetorical applications of
sophrosyne/temperantia in classical Athens and Rome, which
she treats in two central chapters. In the final chapter, concerned
chiefly with the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, she returns to
some of the early myths and exemplary figures and shows how they
survived, together with allegories and symbols popularized in the
postclassical period, in religious and secular art into the
North's aim, as she says in her preface, is to provide "a kind
of Ariadne's thread to serve as a guide through the labyrinthine
iconography of sophrosyne/temperantia all the way from its
beginnings in the coins and sarcophagi of late antiquity to its end
in such specimens as the Reynolds window for the Ante Chapel of New
College, Oxford, and Canova's tomb for Pope Clement XIV in Rome."
Bringing together a wealth of material from many disciplines,
From Myth to Icon offers fresh perspectives on the ways in
which the Greeks and Romans interpreted ethical ideals.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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