Achieving the unachievable : the male athletic body in Hellenistic and Roman art
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To date, the ancient athlete has been the focus of philosophical, political, and art historical debate. Scholarship has largely neglected the investigation of the ancient athlete for what he was – an athlete. Thus, this thesis seeks to understand what it meant to be an ancient athlete by illustrating how athletic sculpture can provide insight into the bodies of ancient athletes themselves. It is argued that athletic sculpture set the body ideals that athletes wanted to achieve, and that those bodies were achievable, and examines how they were achieved. This argument is illustrated using three case studies: the Terme Boxer, the Ephesian and Croatian Apoxyomenoi, and the Farnese Hercules as examples of athletic body types. Anatomical analysis of each of these case studies are used to demonstrate how each of these figures anatomically displays a specific athletic body type (i.e. boxer, wrestler, etc.). This examination addresses how these body types would have been achieved in the ancient world, based on analysis of what is currently known about ancient athletic training practices and utilizing modern sports science to fill in the gaps in the ancient record on the athletic regimen. The idealism of ancient sculpture is not ignored, but rather this thesis acknowledges that artists intentionally manipulated sculptural forms to be more aesthetically pleasing, but evidences that important anatomical details of the athletic body were still observed. These anatomical details reflect a direct reference from real athletic bodies that were achievable through the ancient athletic regimen. The objective approach to anatomically viewing sculpture deployed in this dissertation and has not been done to this extent in art historical literature to date. This approach provides the opportunity to expand the current understanding of ancient athletic regimen and the practicalities of the ancient athletic body.
Thesis, MPhil Master of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2024-08-01
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 1st August 2024
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