War in Art (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Images of warfare have been common in art almost from the beginning of civilization. Even very early state-level societies recognized the power of artistic representations of military action to shape the perceptions of their members, whether to arouse pride or fear. Among the bas-relief sculptures and wall paintings of ancient Egypt are portrayals of the military victories of the Pharaohs, the stylized bodies of their opponents lying bloodlessly tumbled at their feet. Utterly unlike these distant images of divine conquerors are the vast reliefs of war and victory that Assyrian kings commissioned for their palaces. These showed battle in all its brutality, including vivid images of blood flowing from the wounds of the vanquished, as the conquering Assyrian soldiers slaughtered them.
Greek vase paintings also include images of war, often from the great epic of Greek culture, the Iliad (c. 800 b.c.e.; English translation, 1616). There are also images of soldiers in the sculptural works of the Greeks, such as the temple friezes (areas decorated with relief sculptures, often telling a story). Once again a more stylized approach is evident, one in which heroes pose handsomely and the slain fall neatly, without ugly wounds or blood. This is at least partly a reflection of the religious overtones of the Iliad, which was not only the defining historical epic but also an important religious text. The Greek...
(The entire section is 1610 words.)
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