Dossier : Aitia

Varia

Conceptualizing Choreia on the François vase: Theseus and the Athenian Youths

Sarah Olsen

Abstract

This article considers the visual representation of choral performance on the François vase. Putting aside the questions of temporal and narrative setting that have dominated discussions of the Theseus frieze, I contend that the vase offers us an illuminating image of choreia, which clearly articulates the relationships and differences between the choreographer (Theseus), the dancers (the fourteen youths) and non-dancing spectators (the sailors). Participation in choral dance is conceived as an activity that simultaneously supports individual expression and enacts group cohesion, a flexible performance dynamic consistent with Catherine Bell’s theoretical understanding of “ritualization.”

Index terms

Mots clés :

danse chorale, vase François, Thésée, rituel, geranos

Keywords :

choral dance, François vase, Theseus, ritual, geranos

Full text

  • 1 Figure 1 includes the top friezes of the vase on both Side A (Calydonian boar hunt, as discussed be (...)
  • 2 Cf. Bacchylides 17, among other literary accounts. While various elements of this image are highly (...)
  • 3 Contra H. A. Shapiro, Art and Cult under the Tyrants in Athens, Mainz, 1989, p. 146–147. As will be (...)

1The uppermost frieze on the reverse (side B) of the François vase (Fig. 1)1 presents a number of problems relative to temporal and narrative setting. Painted labels clearly identify the key actors: on the far right side of the frieze, Theseus stands facing two female figures: Ariadne and her nurse (τροφός). Fourteen additional figures, depicted one after another along the frieze, must represent the dis hepta, the fourteen Athenian youths with whom Theseus travelled to Crete and defeated the Minotaur.2 On the far left of the frieze, a ship full of variously-positioned figures occupies a more ambiguous position relative to the main action of the image. The presence of Ariadne and the dis hepta signals some relationship to Theseus’Cretan journey, while the positioning of the youths is nearly universally understood as depicting a dance.3 In later literary sources, we have a seemingly relevant account of Theseus’role as a choregos and choreographer. According to Plutarch,

ἐκ δὲ τῆς Κρήτης ἀποπλέων εἰς Δῆλον κατέσχεκαὶ τῷ θεῷ θύσας καὶ ἀναθεὶς τὸ ἀφροδίσιον παρὰ τῆς Ἀριάδνης ἔλαβεν, ἐχόρευσε μετὰ τῶν ἠϊθέων χορείαν ἣν ἔτινῦν ἐπιτελεῖν Δηλίους λέγουσι, μίμημα τῶν ἐν τῷ Λαβυρίνθῳ περιόδων καὶ διεξόδων, ἔν τινι ῥυθμῷ παραλλάξεις καὶ ἀνελίξεις ἔχοντι γιγνομένην. καλεῖται δὲ τὸ γένος τοῦτο τῆς χορείας ὑπὸ Δηλίων γέρανος, ὡς ἱστορεῖ Δικαίαρχος. ἐχόρευσε δὲ περὶ τὸν Κερατῶνα βωμόν, ἐκ κεράτων συνηρμοσμένον εὐωνύμων ἁπάντων.

  • 4 Cf. also Pollux IV, 101 and Hesychius, s. v. Γερανουλκός. L. Lawler, “The Geranos Dance – A New Int (...)

“[Theseus], sailing from Crete, put in at Delos. And having sacrificed to the god [sc. Apollo] and dedicated the image of Aphrodite which he had received from Ariadne, he performed, with the youths, a dance which they say the Delians still practice, a representation of the windings and twistings in the labyrinth, consisting of a certain rhythm involving alternations and unfoldings. And this type of dance is called the “crane” by the Delians, as Dichaearchus recounts. And he danced it around the Ceratonian altar, which is fitted together out of horns of all from the left side of the head. (Thes. XXI, 1-2)”4

Fig. 1: François vase (Firenze, Museo Archeologico Nazionale): Top Friezes (sides A & B). Drawing reproduced from A; Furtwängler, Griechische Vasenmalerei, München, 1900/1993, plate 13.

  • 5 E. Simon, Die griechischen Vasen, München, 1976, p. 72–73; J. Neils, The Youthful Deeds of Theseus,(...)
  • 6 Plutarch, Thes. XX.
  • 7 C. Dugas, “L’évolution de la légende de Thésée”, RÉG 46, 1943, p. 9–11; K. Friis Johansen, The (...)
  • 8 Cf. von den Hoff 2013: “while, of course, the narrative is the primary focus of the message, the un (...)

2As a result, scholars have often suggested that the François vase depicts the institution of the geranos, or crane dance, on Delos.5 But the presence of Ariadne and her nurse complicates this interpretation, as in Plutarch’s account, Theseus abandons Ariadne on Naxos prior to arriving on Delos.6 Since Ariadne is clearly labeled, others argue that this image must represent Theseus and the youths on Crete, either upon arrival or after the defeat of the Minotaur.7 I posit that Kleitias, in this frieze, has depicted a Cretan precursor to the Delian dance, an interpretation that accommodates both the later literary tradition and the obvious presence of Ariadne. I believe, however, that focusing on narrative setting, while obviously important in many respects can occlude other elements of the vase’s iconography and ideology.8 In the analysis to follow, I instead consider how Kleitias depicts the practice of choreia and the instantiation of choral ritual, regardless of the precise narrative moment at which we are to imagine this event occurs.

  • 9 Hedreen’s analysis (Hedreen, 2011, op. cit. [n. 7]), however, includes a detailed and compelling ar (...)

3In doing so, I partially follow the recent work of Guy Hedreen, who explores the use of choral ritual in this image and specifically identifies Kleitias’ depiction of Theseus’ dance as “one particular form of ritual associated with marriage as a rite of passage” (p. 507). Hedreen’s analysis highlights an important way in which choral dance functions as a form of socialization, and demonstrates how the iconography of the François vase engages with that conceptual function. In my discussion here, I expand upon Hedreen’s work and suggest that the image of Theseus and the dancing youths conceptualizes choreia as a social force in a more general sense (although the socialization of adolescents through marriage is, of course, a very important instance of that broader phenomenon).9

  • 10 For recent discussions of this frieze, Cf. Kreuzer, 2005 op. cit (n. 7), p. 187–188 and Torelli, 20 (...)

4I begin with a fairly simple observation: on the other side of the vase, the top frieze is more easily identified and described. The large boar at the very center of the image creates an obvious focal point and interpretive clue: the event depicted is quite clearly the legendary Calydonian boar hunt.10 The hunters themselves are turned towards the boar, pointing again towards the center.

  • 11 Cf. Stewart 1983 op. cit. (n. 8), Kreuzer, 2005 op. cit. (n. 7), and Torelli, 2007, op. cit. (n. 5) (...)

5These two images – the boar hunt and the dance – are compositionally paired, located in the same space on opposite sides of the vase.11 Following the interpretive lead of the boar hunt, my analysis begins – not with Theseus and Ariadne, nor with the enigmatic ship – but with the dancing youths who form the focal point of the image. Reading out from the center, I argue that we can understand this image as one that, first and foremost, represents and explores the effects of choreography and choral performance on its participants. More specifically, I read this image as a depiction of “ritualization,” or the choreographic creation of a ritual performance.

  • 12 C. Bell, Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, Oxford, 1992. Kurke explains the distinction between “ritu (...)

6Catherine Bell defines “ritualization” as a process that distinguishes significant religious or cultural activities from the actions of ordinary life (p. 81–82,).12 In her study of Pindar’s Sixth Paian, Leslie Kurke extends Bell’s theoretical approach to archaic Greek choral lyric, arguing that:

  • 13 Bell’s framework has also been productively used for the study of archaic choral lyric by C. Clark, (...)

“in Bell’s model, choral poetry is itself a paradigm case of ritualization. It is well known that choral lyric in archaic Greece was almost entirely restricted to religious contexts—hymns to the gods, partheneia, paian, dithyramb—but scholars rarely ask why this was. In these terms, we can see the elaborate form and production of choral song and dance as precisely a means of “making special the everyday”—a cultural practice that marks off and differentiates a particular space and time from the ordinary, while it serves to form and produce ritualized bodies in action. (p. 83–84).”13

  • 14 This claim is indebted to the analysis of Stewart, 1983 op. cit. (n. 8) as discussed in greater det (...)

7In the first section of this article, I explore how the visual contrast between the dancers and the sailors on the ship conceptualizes a set of key differences between ordinary movement and choreographed dance. The complementary theoretical approaches of Bell and of the anthropologist Maurice Bloch illuminate how these differences are characteristic of “ritualization,” the process of transforming the actions of individual bodies into the special category of ritual dance. In my second section, I examine the specific role of Theseus as choregos and choreographer, arguing that the iconography of Theseus here further supports a reading of this image as a moment of choreographic creation. I conclude with the suggestion that, by putting aside the thorny question of narrative setting and attending to the artist’s ability to represent structural relationships,14 we can better appreciate the ideological force of this image.

CONCEPTUALIZING CHOREOGRAPHY

8The fourteen dancing youths on the François vase are marked as individual participants within a coherent, unified group. On one hand, their bodies and gestures reflect a common choreography. The male dancers clearly stand with their left legs stepping forward, while the twisted hips of the female figures suggest the same stance, even if their legs are fully obscured by their long skirts. All of the dancers are looking towards Theseus and Ariadne, which implies choral movement towards the right side of the vase. Each figure extends his or her left arm forward to grasp the hand of the next dancer, just slightly bending his or her elbow in towards the body. In a symmetrical gesture, each dancer also extends his or her right arm backwards, bending the elbow out and away from the body in order to grasp the left hand of the dancer behind.

9Only a single dancer, labeled “Phaidimos,” appears in a slightly different position. He is the last figure, overlapping slightly with the ship and sailors depicted on the far left of the frieze. Phaidimos stands with his left foot raised and bent, leaning forward as if to step down on that foot. His left arm extends in front of him and bends upwards from the elbow, while the right arm extends down and back from the shoulder, with the forearm bent in towards the body again. Yet his position is an obvious choreographic precursor to the position of the other dancers. If Phaidimos were to step on his left foot, extend his left forearm, leaving only a slight bend in his elbow, and grasp the hand of the dancer before him, he would be in the same position as the others. The choreographic unity of the fourteen youths is thus marked.

  • 15 Von den Hoff 2013 suggests that the men’s and women’s bodies respectively recall the posture of kou (...)
  • 16 I am indebted to François Lissarrague for calling my attention to the placement of the names relat (...)

10At the same time, the dancers show the subtle variations in position inevitable among individuals of different sizes, body types, and abilities–some arms are bent more sharply than others, the men have a longer stride than the women.15 The dancers are all engaged in the same choreographic action, but they have different bodies and subtle variations in position. Similarly, the women’s dresses are all formally the same, yet feature different patterns and details. As a final individualizing touch, Kleitias has painted a personal name to the upper left side of each dancer. These names follow the curve of the dancers’ arms, echoing their choreography but again displaying individual differences in length, letter shape, and precise placement.16

11This simultaneous depiction of group cohesion and individual identity on the François vase is consistent with Bell’s conceptualization of ritualization. According to Bell,

“the type of authority formulated by ritualization tends to make ritual activities effective in grounding and displaying a sense of community without overriding the autonomy of individuals or subgroups” (p. 221).

12That is, ritualized behaviors possess a special ability to reinforce and enact collective identity without completely suppressing individuality. The Athenian youths on the François vase are thus engaging in a process of ritualization that unites them in choreographed dance, yet leaves space for their personal identities.

  • 17 The amount of space allotted to this ship is another compositional clue for our understanding of th (...)

13Furthermore, as mentioned above, the far left side of the frieze features a ship full of gesticulating sailors.17 These figures are also engaged in movement and activity, yet their positions and gestures are markedly different from those of the fourteen dancers. I argue that the contrast between these two groups helps further conceptualize the difference between choreographed dance and ordinary motion.

  • 18 Whether these sailors are interpreted as gesturing in fear (Dugas, 1947, op. cit. [n. 7]) or celebr (...)

14While the dancers are marked by the uniformity of their movement, the sailors exhibit a wide range of bodily positions and orientations.18 Most of the figures, for example, face to the left, looking towards Theseus, Ariadne, and the dancers. Yet one man on the far left end of the ship, as well as a couple of other seated figures, face the opposite direction. Many of the sailors stand upright, torsos twisted to the right, with left arms extended forward and bent at the elbow, right arms pulled back and bent at the elbow. One prominent figure near the front of the ship, however, stands with his face turned towards the dancers, while his arms point back to the left, his left arm bent at the elbow, the right nearly fully extended. At the center of the ship, another man stands facing right, his arms raised over his head and his back arched – a position like no other on this frieze. Other figures are seated or crouching, and their gestures and orientations vary as well. Finally, one figure is depicted swimming in the water beside the ship, his body moving horizontally and in an entirely different plane than the other figures. Unlike the dancers, the sailors do not represent individual bodies making slight variations on the same basic choreography. Rather, their physical positions reflect the wide variety of positions and motions available to people moving and responding to their environment without the unifying influence of choreographed dance.

  • 19 M. Bloch, “Symbols, Song, Dance and Features of Articulation: Is Religion an Extreme Form of Tradit (...)

15This depiction of movement and dance is consistent with Maurice Bloch’s theoretical anthropological work, which explores how song and dance function as a form of communication, especially in religious and ritual settings.19 Bloch argues that song, as a formal language, exerts a kind of control over the singer – whereas ordinary speech allows one to choose from a wide variety of words, intonations, and other ways of expressing meaning, a song demands a specific set of words, tones, and patterns (p. 22–37). He thus concludes that song plays a very particular role in religious or ritual settings, as:

“in a song, therefore, no argument or reasoning can be communicated, no adaptation to the reality of the situation is possible. You cannot argue with a song. It is because religion uses forms of communication which do not have propositional force, where the relations between the parts cannot be those of the logic of thought, that to extract an argument from what is being said and what is being done in ritual is, in a sense, a denial of the nature of religion: as misleading as it would be to argue that relations of traditional authority are the result of rational arrangements between superiors and inferiors” (p. 37, emphasis in original).

16He extends this argument to dance as well, contending that “bodily movements are a kind of language and that symbolic signals are communicated through a variety of movements from one person to another” (p. 37). He thus suggests that, like song,

“messages carried by the language of the body also become ossified, predictable, and repeated from one action to the next, rather than recombined as in everyday situations when they can convey a great variety of messages. As with speech, the formalization of body movement implies ever-growing control of choice of sequences of movement, and when this has occurred completely we have dance” (p. 38).

17This formulation helps explain the differences we have observed between the dancers and sailors on the upper frieze of the François vase. The sailors, as non-dancers, are working with the human body’s full range of motion – some sit, others stand; one arches backwards, others lean forward; arms point in various directions and employ various degrees of extension. The dancers’ movement, however, is constrained by choreography, their positioning pre-determined by the steps of the dance. Once we have considered the physical positions of the other thirteen dancers, Phaidimos’ next step is inevitable – he will step on his foot and extend his arm to join the others, his “choice of [sequence] of movement” determined by the choreography. We cannot so easily predict how one of the sailors would might continue his movement or change his gesture.

18Bell, however, provides a useful supplement to Bloch’s fairly rigid understanding of choreography and individuality, claiming that:

“ritualization as any form of social control, however indirectly defined, will effective only when this control can afford to be rather loose. Ritualization will not work as social control if it is perceived as not amenable to some degree of individual appropriation. If practices negate all forms of individual choice, or all forms of resistance, they would take a form other than ritualization” (op. cit., [n. 19], p. 221 – 222).

19On one hand, choral dance constrains individual bodies, as theorized by Bloch and visually depicted on this frieze. At the same time, I noted above several small variations in the dancers’ bodies, reflecting their ability to “appropriate” or adapt the choreography for their own bodies and abilities. Moreover, their unity of motion is mitigated by certain personalizing details – clothing variation, painted names. The choreography exercises a form of physical control over the dancers’ bodies, but one which “can afford to be rather loose” insofar as it does not erase such individual distinctions.

20In essence, the depiction of the dancers and sailors advances two different visions of simultaneous individuality and group uniformity. The sailors are not marked as named individuals – unlike the dancers, they are not differentiated by distinct outfits or names. Yet they all move differently. The dancers share a common choreography, but their painted names and unique clothing indicate individual identities. Phaidimos stands between the sailors and the other thirteen dancers, his body overlapping with the painting of the ship and caught in a slightly different choreographic moment from the others. In this sense, he marks a transition between the two kinds of action: ordinary and choreographed, or quotidian and ritualized.

  • 20 As von den Hoff 2013 observes, “holding hands emphasizes the union among the participants, which wa (...)
  • 21 Kreuzer, 2005 op. cit. (n. 7), p. 179–182. Cf also von den Hoff, 2013, op. cit. (n. 7), p. 137–139.

21The clasped hands of the dancers are an elegant symbol for the unique effects of choral dance as a form of ritualization.20 On one level, they represent the constraints of choreography, a physical symbol of how the chorus imposes order and cohesion upon its participants. At the same time, they symbolize connection among members of the group, a kind of social order that corresponds nicely with Bettina Kreuzer’s reading of their individual names and clothing styles as markers of elite group identity.21 The sailors, by contrast, are not physically linked to one another. Their group identity is not constituted and reinforced by ritualized performance; it is marked only by their position on the ship. The sailors thus represent the realm of ordinary movement. Kleitias contrasts the fourteen youths with the sailors in order to demonstrate the effects of choreography upon the participants, representing dance as a process of ritualization that creates a uniform, cohesive group without completely overriding individual distinctions.

THESEUS AS CHOREGOS AND CHOREOGRAPHER

  • 22 I suggest that Ariadne and the nurse are included here as crucial elements of the mythic narrative (...)

22I have argued that reading the sailors in relation to the central dancing figures illuminates how this image conceptualizes choral performance as an activity distinct from the motion and physical activity of ordinary life. I turn now to the right side of the image, to consider how Theseus relates to the dance.22

23Theseus stands with his back to the fourteen dancers, his body turned towards Ariadne. His stance recalls that of the other dancers – left foot forward, body twisted. Yet he is also clearly distinguished by his long garment and lyre. I argue that this instrument is a particularly important symbol of Theseus’ role in the dance, marking his role as both choregos, the internal leader of the dance, and choreographer, the external creative author of the choral production.

  • 23 I do not mean to suggest that Plutarch, as a significantly later author with his own interests, can (...)

24As choregos, Theseus is both a participant in and leader of the chorus. On the François vase, his position at the head of the line of dancers marks him as a leader, while his stance and physical orientation, like that of the other fourteen youths, marks him as a dancer. In his later account of Theseus as a choral leader, Plutarch describes Theseus as both dancing and leading when he says: ἐχόρευσε μετὰ τῶν ἠϊθέων χορείαν ([Theseus] “danced a dance with the youths,” Thes. XXI) – Theseus is explicitly dancing himself, yet he is accompanied, implicitly followed, by the other youths.23

  • 24 While various dates and occasions have been proposed and debated for the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (fo (...)

25The Homeric Hymn to Apollo, a roughly contemporary literary source, helps to further illuminate Theseus’position here.24 In the final episode of the hymn, Apollo leads a group of Cretan sailors in a choral procession to Delphi, intending to install them as priests of his newly-founded shrine (Homeric Hymn to Apollo 453-547). The poet describes Apollo thus:

ἦρχε δ᾽ ἄρα σφιν ἄναξ Διὸς υἱὸς Ἀπόλλων,
φόρμιγγ᾽ ἐν χείρεσσιν ἔχων ἐρατὸν κιθαρίζων
καλὰ καὶ ὕψι βιβάς∙ [...]

“And lord Apollo, son of Zeus, led them,
holding a lovely lyre in his hands , playing
well and stepping high (515-517).”

26Like Theseus on the François vase, Apollo is marked by a combination of lyre-playing and performance leadership. His high steps (ὕψι βιβάς) do not suggest ordinary movement – he is certainly dancing in some loose sense of the word. Yet he also holds an instrument in his hands, thus providing both the choreography and the musical accompaniment required for the procession. For the Athenian youths depicted on this frieze, Theseus plays a similar role. The orientation of the dancers’ bodies implies that they are following his physical lead, while his lyre presumably offers the aural component of their performance.

  • 25 Alcman’s Louvre partheneion provides a clear example of the distinction between an internal choral (...)

27Yet Apollo, in his hymn, is more than just an internal choregos. He is also a choreographer – a producer of choral performance who brings his own vision to life through the bodies of the dancers.25 He leads the Cretans to Delphi for a very specific purpose, and uses his choral leadership to orient them towards the shrine and generate a model for future ritual procession. A choreographer, in this sense, is one who orchestrates the process of ritualization through choral performance.

  • 26 Pironti 2007 highlights Theseus’role as choregos in the process of explicating the name of the gera (...)

28Theseus’ leadership and lyre indicate that he, too, may be more than an internal choregos of some previously established choreography. His leadership extends to the creation of the dance itself, the invention and instantiation of a new ritualized performance.26 As I argued in the first section of this essay, the contrast between the sailors and the dancers is consistent with the process of ritualization, the formalization and unification of bodily motion that allows dance to create group cohesion without overriding all individual distinctions. The iconography of Theseus on this frieze further suggests that this ritualization process begins with the choreographer: the figure holding the lyre and setting the steps of the dance.

29Thus, if we read this frieze from right to left, Theseus strums the lyre and initiates the dance, while the dancers embody a sense of communal activity and identity without the loss of personalizing details. Phaidimos, as the final dancer, is only just becoming a choral participant: his body not yet like the others, but nearly there. The sailors, on the far left, remain as spectators, still engaged in the disordered, non-ritualized motions of ordinary life. The uppermost frieze of the reverse side of the François vase thereby depicts a moment of choreographic creation: the initiation of a ritualized performance.

CONCLUSION

30Andrew Stewart has noted that “while Kleitias’ ability to handle sequential action is necessarily inferior to say, Homer’s or Stesichoros’, his capacity to evoke structural relationships is much greater” (op. cit. [n. 8], p. 69). The contrast between dancers and sailors on the Theseus frieze of the François vase is essentially a structural one: it serves to organize human movement into dance and non-dance, with a cascade of attendant associations and meanings. The analysis I have offered here is in full agreement with Stewart’s approach to the overarching iconographic strategies of the vase.

  • 27 On conceptions of choral activity as represented in literature, Cf., e.g., B. Kowalzig, “Changing C (...)

31But among the many differences between verbal and visual art, there is another particularly significant distinction. Poets and authors from Homer to Plutarch evoke dance with words, reducing a fundamentally embodied art form to a bit of verbal description. While Greek literary representations of dance and choreia are crucial pieces of evidence for social practice and ideological constructions of embodied experience, they operate fully within the constraints of language.27 Vase painting is, of course, subject to its own constraints, and is not inherently “closer” than poetry to actual dance. But visual representation allows for a particularly immediate and vivid account of the ways in which choreography differentiates dancing bodies from other bodies, a possibility that Kleitias exploits here to show the effects of ritual choreia upon its participants. Rather than capturing a complex mythic narrative within the frame of a single image, the Theseus frieze constructs a “choreographic narrative:” a visualized conception of how the creation and practice of choral dance operates.

  • 28 Stewart 1983 op. cit. (n. 8), p. 69. Kreuzer 2005 op. cit. (n. 7) explores the vase’s engagement wi (...)
  • 29 An aristocratic banquet, of course, would include servants and possibly entertainers, not only elit (...)

32As I have argued, the ideological force of this choreographic narrative is to suggest that choral dance, as ritualization, affirms the cohesion of the group without erasing individual identities and expressive modes. This flexible and adaptive ideology suits the likely creative context and use of the François vase quite well. While we cannot know for certain how the vase came into being and how it was used over time, it seems likely that the iconography is the result of collaboration between Kleitias and his client, and that the vase was used at an aristocratic banquet, quite possibly a wedding.28 As a product of collaboration and an object with the potential to be viewed by a large and diverse audience,29 the vase does not depict choreia as a completely coercive or totalizing force. Rather, it offers the viewer a range of positions relative to choral performance, figuring dance as a central organizing activity, but not the only option available. Within the socializing practice of choreia, individual expression is not only possible, but an inherent component of the dance.

Notes

1 Figure 1 includes the top friezes of the vase on both Side A (Calydonian boar hunt, as discussed below) and Side B (Theseus and the dancing youths).

2 Cf. Bacchylides 17, among other literary accounts. While various elements of this image are highly contested, this basic identification seems secure.

3 Contra H. A. Shapiro, Art and Cult under the Tyrants in Athens, Mainz, 1989, p. 146–147. As will become clear, I argue that this image not only depicts a dance, but also visually explores the effects of choral dance upon its participants.

4 Cf. also Pollux IV, 101 and Hesychius, s. v. Γερανουλκός. L. Lawler, “The Geranos Dance – A New Interpretation”, Transactions of the American Philological Association 77, 1996, p. 112–130, assembles the various textual references, both secure and speculative. All of these, to be sure, are fraught sources, as they post-date the François vase by centuries.

5 E. Simon, Die griechischen Vasen, München, 1976, p. 72–73; J. Neils, The Youthful Deeds of Theseus, Roma, 1987, p. 26–27; K. Schefold, Die Urkönige, Perseus, Bellerophon, Herakles und Theseus in der klassischen und hellenistischen Kunst, München, 1988, p. 62; L. Muellner, “The Similes of the Cranes and Pygmies: A Study of Homeric Metaphor”, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 93, 1990, p. 51–101; M. Steinhart, Das Motiv des Auges in der griechischen Bildkunst, Mainz, 1995, p. 79; G. Pironti, Entre ciel et guerre. Figures d’Aphrodite en Grèce ancienne, Liège, 2007, p. 201 (Kernos Suppl. 18); M. Torelli, Le strategie di Kleitias: Composizione e programma figurativo del vaso François, Milano, 2007, p. 24.

6 Plutarch, Thes. XX.

7 C. Dugas, “L’évolution de la légende de Thésée”, RÉG 46, 1943, p. 9–11; K. Friis Johansen, Thésée et la danse à Délos: Étude herméneutique, Copenhagen, 1945 (Kgl. Danske videnskabernes sel-skab. Archæologisk-kunsthistoriske meddelelser 3.3); J.D. Beazley, The Development of Attic Black Figure Vase-Painting, revised edition, Oxford, 1986, p. 31; Shapiro 1989 op. cit. (n. 3), p. 146–147; C. Calame, Thésée et l’imaginaire athénien: Légende et culte en Grèce antique, 2nd ed, Lausanne, 1996, p. 119–120; H.J. Walker, Theseus and Athens. Oxford, 1995, p. 43; L. Giuliani, Bild und Mythos: Geschichte der Bilderzählung in der griechischen Kunst, München, 2003, p. 153–157, 294–296; B. Kreuzer, “Zurück in die Zukunft? ‘Homerische’ Werte und ‘solonische’ Programmatik auf dem Klitiaskrater in Florenz”, JÖAI 74, 2005, p. 179–182; G.M. Hedreen, “Bild, Mythos and Ritual: Choral Dance in Theseus‘s Cretan Adventure on the François Vase”, Hesperia 80, 2011, p. 494–497. Other possibilities would be to either locate the scene on Delos and consider Ariadne as a kind of temporal discontinuity intended to remind the viewer of the story (Cf. Torelli, 2007, op. cit. [n. 5], p. 24), or to read the frieze as a progressive narrative (Cf. R. von den Hoff, “Theseus, the François Vase, and Athens in the Sixth Century B.C.”, in H. A. Shapiro, M. Iozzo, A. Lezzi, The François Vase: New Perspectives, Zürich, 2013, p. 134).

8 Cf. von den Hoff 2013: “while, of course, the narrative is the primary focus of the message, the underlying ideas of the image can only be construed in analyzing each visual element and the painter’s preferences in choosing and arrangement”, op. cit. (n. 7), p. 134. Following A. F. Stewart,“Stesichoros and the François Vase,” in W. G. Moon, Ancient Greek Art and Iconography, Madison, 1983, p. 53–74, discussed further below, I question whether narrative can even be called the “primary focus” here, but I otherwise concur with von den Hoff’s understanding.

9 Hedreen’s analysis (Hedreen, 2011, op. cit. [n. 7]), however, includes a detailed and compelling argument for a particular narrative setting: he suggests that action on the vase takes place before Theseus battles the Minotaur. This is a striking and noteworthy position in a debate that has been dominated by the choice between post-labyrinth Crete or Delos. While I still think that a Cretan setting following the defeat of the Minotaur most easily accommodates the various elements of the image, I am primarily interested in proposing an interpretation of it that emphasizes the iconography on view, rather than the implied narrative setting.

10 For recent discussions of this frieze, Cf. Kreuzer, 2005 op. cit (n. 7), p. 187–188 and Torelli, 2007, op. cit. (n. 5), p. 20–32. Unlike the Theseus frieze, there is no scholarly debate as to the mythic event referenced here.

11 Cf. Stewart 1983 op. cit. (n. 8), Kreuzer, 2005 op. cit. (n. 7), and Torelli, 2007, op. cit. (n. 5) on the iconographic and compositional coherence of the vase. The same compositional structure can be identified in other registers as well – at the center of the centauromachy depicted directly below Theseus and the youths, for example, we find a human and centaur figure engaged in hand-to-hand battle, reflecting the main focus of the image. As von den Hoff 2013, op. cit. (n. 7), observes, “Centralization is a basic means of composition in all friezes of the krater” (p. 134, with further bibliography). I am in full agreement with von den Hoff that the placement of the dance here is a “revealing choice” (p. 134), and will refer to his comments on the significance of this iconography in greater detail below.

12 C. Bell, Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, Oxford, 1992. Kurke explains the distinction between “ritual” and “ritualization” in Bell’s theoretical formulation thus: “[a]ccording to Bell, ‘ritual’ as an autonomous entity or cross-cultural given is an artificial object constructed by theories of ritual; we would do better to think in terms of ritual activity or ritualization as the process by which particular activities within a culture differentiate and mark themselves off in space and time from quotidian activities as defined within the culture” (L. Kurke, “Choral Lyric as ‘Ritualization’: Poetic Sacrifice and Poetic Ego in Pindar’s Sixth Paian”, ClAnt 24, 2005, p. 82).

13 Bell’s framework has also been productively used for the study of archaic choral lyric by C. Clark, “The Gendering of the Body in Alcman’s Partheneion 1: Narrative, Sex, and Social Order in Archaic Sparta”, Helios 23, p. 143–172, and B. Kowalzig, Singing for the Gods: Performances of Myth and Ritual in Archaic and Classical Greece, Oxford, 2007. It has not, to my knowledge, been deployed in the analysis of ancient art.

14 This claim is indebted to the analysis of Stewart, 1983 op. cit. (n. 8) as discussed in greater detail below.

15 Von den Hoff 2013 suggests that the men’s and women’s bodies respectively recall the posture of kouros and kore statues, which he interprets as “meaningful, gender-specific figure motifs” that, along with “the action formula of a procession-like dance,… emphasize the union of the Athenian aristocratic maidens and youths in their status-defining poses”, op. cit. (n. 7), p. 136. Again, there is simultaneous group cohesion and (here, genderspecific) individual differentiation.

16 I am indebted to François Lissarrague for calling my attention to the placement of the names relative to the dancers’ bodies here.

17 The amount of space allotted to this ship is another compositional clue for our understanding of this image – if the romance of Theseus and Ariadne is really the focal point, this image seems almost superfluous. But if the dancers are both literally and conceptually the center of this image, then this ship, full of men engaged in non-dance movement, provides an important contrast.

18 Whether these sailors are interpreted as gesturing in fear (Dugas, 1947, op. cit. [n. 7]) or celebration (Beazley, 1986, op. cit.. [n. 7], p. 31; Hedreen, 2011, op. cit. [n. 7], p. 506) has important implications for our understanding of the temporal and narrative setting of the scene. The emotional tenor of the movement does not matter as much for my own argument, for the physical positioning of the men clearly differs from the dancing of the choreuts to the right.

19 M. Bloch, “Symbols, Song, Dance and Features of Articulation: Is Religion an Extreme Form of Traditional Authority?”, European Journal of Sociology 15, 1974, p. 14–81.

20 As von den Hoff 2013 observes, “holding hands emphasizes the union among the participants, which was crucial in collective ritual”, op. cit. (n. 7), p. 136).

21 Kreuzer, 2005 op. cit. (n. 7), p. 179–182. Cf also von den Hoff, 2013, op. cit. (n. 7), p. 137–139.

22 I suggest that Ariadne and the nurse are included here as crucial elements of the mythic narrative being referenced, not necessarily as participants in the dance. Cf. Hedreen, 2011, op. cit. (n. 7), however, for one understanding of how Ariadne may also be linked with choral dance.

23 I do not mean to suggest that Plutarch, as a significantly later author with his own interests, can be easily used to explicate the images upon the François vase. I use Plutarch (and other literary parallels) only to reinforce or elaborate on the features of Theseus’ choreographic leadership that is already evident on the vase itself.

24 While various dates and occasions have been proposed and debated for the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (for a summary and bibliography of the existing scholarship, Cf. Richardson, Three Homeric Hymns: To Apollo, Hermes and Aphrodite, Cambridge, 2010, p. 13–15), I am inclined to follow those who locate it sometime in the 6th century, with an undoubted debt to even more ancient traditions and concepts. In particular, I follow S. H. Lonsdale, “‘Homeric Hymn to Apollo’: Prototype and Paradigm of Choral Performance”, Arion 3, 1995, p. 25–40, and A.-E. Peponi, “Choreia and Aesthetics in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo: The Performance of the Delian Maidens (lines 156–64)”, ClAnt 28, 2009, p. 39–70, in understanding the hymn as offering and exploring models of choral performance, with a particular attention to dance and ritual instantiation. While I would not argue that there is an explicit and conscious engagement between the hymn and this image, I do suggest that they reflect a similar set of attitudes about choreia, ritualization, and the effects of a choreographed dance on its participants.

25 Alcman’s Louvre partheneion provides a clear example of the distinction between an internal choral leader (like a choregos) and the choreographer of the production as a whole: the poet presumably plays the latter role, while the poem depicts two Spartan girls (Agido and Hagesichora) as internal leaders. On this, cf. especially A.-E. Peponi, “Initiating the Viewer: Deixis and Visual Perception in Alcman’s Lyric Drama”, Arethusa 37, 2004, p. 295–316.

26 Pironti 2007 highlights Theseus’role as choregos in the process of explicating the name of the geranos (“crane-dance”), claiming: “en outre, on peut relever une analogie entre le rôle du chorège qui conduit la danse au son de la lyre et celui du chef des grues qui, au moyen de signaux sonores, conduit les évolutions de la troupe des oiseaux” (op. cit. n. 5, p. 201). She also notes Theseus’ likeness to Apollo, although her main focus is on his relationship to Aphrodite. On the connection between Theseus and Apollo, cf. also Calame 1996, op. cit. (n. 7), p. 208.

27 On conceptions of choral activity as represented in literature, Cf., e.g., B. Kowalzig, “Changing Choral Worlds: Song-Dance and Society in Athens and Beyond”, in P. Murray, P. Wilson, Music and the Muses: The Culture of “Mousikē” in the Classical Athenian City, Oxford, 2004, p. 39–65 and B. Kowalzig 2007, op. cit. (n. 13), L. Kurke 2005, op. cit. (n. 12), and L. Kurke, “Imagining Chorality: Wonder, Plato’s Puppets, and Moving Statues”, in A-E. Peponi, Performance and Culture in Plato’s Laws, Cambridge, 2013, p. 121–170, Peponi 2004 and 2009, op. cit. (n. 24 and n. 25), and T. Power “‘Cyberchorus: Pindar’ s Κηληδόνες and the Aura of the Artificial”, in L. Athanassaki, E. Bowie (ed.), Archaic and Classical Choral Song: Performance, Politics and Dissemination. Berlin, 2010, p. 53–99.

28 Stewart 1983 op. cit. (n. 8), p. 69. Kreuzer 2005 op. cit. (n. 7) explores the vase’s engagement with contemporary Athenian political discourse, and Hedreen, 2011, op. cit. (n. 7) re-affirms its connection (specifically through the Theseus frieze) with aristocratic nuptial practices.

29 An aristocratic banquet, of course, would include servants and possibly entertainers, not only elite participants. As Kim Shelton has suggested to me, a viewer would also have to walk around the krater in order to view the frieze in its entirety, echoing, in his own body and motion, the movement of the dance and thereby implicating himself in the choral system. I am also grateful to François Lissarrague, Tonio Hölscher, Leslie Kurke, and Mark Griffith for their advice at various stages of this project. Any errors that remain are my own.

List of illustrations

Caption Fig. 1: François vase (Firenze, Museo Archeologico Nazionale): Top Friezes (sides A & B). Drawing reproduced from A; Furtwängler, Griechische Vasenmalerei, München, 1900/1993, plate 13.
URL http://books.openedition.org/editionsehess/docannexe/image/3335/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 627k

Author

University of California, Berkeley

© Éditions de l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales, 2015

Terms of use: http://www.openedition.org/6540