A quick thanks to one of my former students for sending me this personal photo of 2nd-century-AD marble head of Zeus Ammon that was on display at The Met. It’s a great visual example of the syncretism that occurred in Hellenistic cultures. If you look closely, you can see part of the ram horns of the Egyptian god Amun (Greek Ammon) on the head of Zeus. Now if we could only find a Zeus with longhorns on him, we could really be confident that “what starts here changes the world”.
One of my former students sent this image of Francisco De Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son on a piece of toast, which made me laugh. I suppose that it’s about time that Saturn (Cronus) appeared on somebody’s toast, but I don’t think it happened miraculously. Apparently, the image was posted on Tumblr. Funny stuff.
I. Artist: Paul Philippe Cret was the designer for the University of Texas at Austin Union building, which is home to the Hermes Medallion we will discuss today. Born in 1876, Paul Cret was an architect hired by UT Austin to consult on the master plan campus designs from 1930 until he passed away in 1945. Cret earned his place on the UT staff with an architectural degree from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and a specialization in designing public buildings. After graduating, Cret continued to build a reputation for himself as a designer by becoming a tenured design professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and even started his own firm in Philadelphia that was responsible for impressive projects such as the Indianapolis Public Library (1914-1917) and the Delaware River Bridge (1920-1926). It was these accomplishments and more that put Cret at the
height of the Beaux-Arts movement, a style “characterized by the symmetrical,
axially disposed plans with elevations articulated by historicist detailing derived
from antiquity and the Renaissance”.
II. Date: The University of Texas at Austin Union Building was first designed in 1922 and ended construction in 1933.
III. Location: The Hermes Medallion is located on the west side outside wall of the UT Austin Union building facing Guadalupe Street. It is close to the third floor in height placement.
IV. Acquisition: The Hermes Medallion was placed on the side of the Union building as it was constructed from 1922 to 1933. The medallion was put there to represent the patron saint of the UT McCombs Business School, Hermes. Next to this medallion on the Union also exists the patron saints of the UT law and engineering schools.
V. Description: The Hermes Medallion is a 2’9’’X1’11” limestone base-relief sculpture carved within a circle. The backing of the medallion is a darker shade of yellow, contrasting from the white beige of the Union walls.
Within the relief sculpture, a side profile portrait of Hermes is depicted with him wearing
a winged headband. The winged headband is a symbol of Hermes commonly associated with his divine ability to travel across boundaries. Reference to this accessory can be seen
in a description of an ancient Greek play portraying the Judgement of Paris, “Tiny wings
of gold were projecting from his locks, in which they had been fastened symmetrically on
both sides” (Apuleius, The Golden Ass 10. 30 ff). An example of boundary crossing can
be seen when Hermes travels down to Tartarus, crossing the border between the living
world and the dead, to rescue Persephone from Hades (Ovid, Fasti 4. 417 ff).4 This power
of movement may have been part of what drew the McCombes School of Business to
choose Hermes as their patron saint. His ability to overcome barriers is an inspiration to
future businessmen and women. Similarly, to the right of Hermes a star is depicted
hanging overhead. The star most likely represents the planet Mercury, the Roman name
for Hermes. According to the Hyginus’ De Astronomia, “This fifth star is Mercurius’
[Hermes], named Stilbon. It is small and bright. It is attributed to Mercurius because he
first established the months and perceived the courses of the constellations”
(Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2.42). This accomplishment of understanding the stars
and creating the months plays into the wisdom and innovation of Hermes, attributes the
McCombes School of Business strives for. The presence of the star may also be a
reminder to “shoot for the stars” and channel more of Hermes’s traveling abilities.
Underneath the star we see the caduceus wand. This well-known symbol features two
snakes intertwined with a winged rod between them. The caduceus wand is commonly
mistaken for the symbol of medicine, the rod of Asclepius. The actual caduceus wand
symbolizes harmony and trade as described in the Apollodorus myth of Hermes stealing
Apollo’s sacred cattle as well as the Hyginus’ De Astronomia. In the story, Hermes trades
a shepherd’s pipe for the golden staff Apollon used to herd the cattle (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 112 – 115). Later when traveling to Arcadia,
“[Hermes] saw two snakes with bodies intertwined, apparently fighting, he put down the
staff between them. They separated then, and so he said that the staff had been appointed to bring peace” (Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 7). Finally, below the caduceus we see a bag decorated with the modern dollar sign. This symbol, though it has no direct correlation to Hermes in classic Greco/Roman myth, could be referencing Hermes as the god of commerce, merchants, and trade. This association leaves no question of the relationship between Hermes and the school of business. Overall, all these symbols illustrate how the values of McCombs are personified through Hermes, making him a fitting patron saint.
APOLLODORUS. “The Library of Greek Mythology”. Translation by Aldrich, Keith. Lawrence, Kansas: Coronado Press, 1975.
APULEIUS. “The Golden Ass”. Translation by Walsh, P. G. The World Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Atsma, Aaron J. “HERMES – Greek God of Herds & Trade, Herald of the Gods.” Theoi Greek
Mythology. Theoi Project. Accessed April 30, 2021.
Burkert, Walter. “From Telepinus to Thelpusa.” Essay. In Structure and History in Greek
Mythology and Ritual. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.
HYGINUS. “The Myths of Hyginus”. Translation by Grant, M. Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Publications.
Nicar, Jim. “Hermes in the House!” The UT History Corner, April 24, 2017.
OVID. “Fasti”. Translation by Boyle, A. J. & Woodard, R. D. London: Penguin Books.
“Paul Phillippe Cret Collection.” University of Texas Libraries. Texas Archival Resources
Online. Accessed April 28, 2021. https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utaaa/00016/aaa-00016.html.
Curtis, Todd. Greek and Roman Myth on UT Campus. Department of Classics, April 2, 2021. https://sites.utexas.edu/classicalmythutcampus/campusmythomap/.
Author: Kasidy Grant
The Campus Mythomap is well on its way to being complete! We are currently updating the files for the Campus Mythomap to include all of the holdings in the Blanton Museum of Art that are related to Greek and Roman mythology. The Campus Mythomap is the brainchild of Cole Maquire and Lance Henderson, who have put a lot of time and effort into creating this incredibly useful and interesting tool. This interactive map allows faculty, students, and visitors to easily locate Greek and Roman mythological art and iconography on UT’s campus. By clicking on the map, you can see a quick description and image of the item of interest. You can also search by the name of the mythological figure to find all the places on campus that have images of a particular Greek or Roman hero or god. There is even a link that reveals who is the most popular mythological figure on campus. I can not thank Cole and Lance enough for putting this together! Please make use of this wonderful resource.
I. Artist: This work is attributed to an Athenian red-figure vase-painter, whose name is uncertain. However, the painter’s name is thought to be Pig Painter, a name that was inspired by images of swineherds that the artist painted on pelike, which is currently located in the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge. Certain stylistic characteristics have led to a belief that this artistic identity has also done several other vases throughout 480 BC-460 BC. [1}
II. Time frame: 470 BCE (5th century BCE)
III. Location on Campus: Blanton Museum of Art on The University of Texas campus, Ancient Greek and Roman Art room (first piece – right across from the mezzanine)
IV. Acquisition: This Red-Figure Column Krater (Wine Mixing Vessel) was one of the many pieces donated in 1980 by the Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund and the James R. Dougherty, Jr. Foundation It is believed that Huntington’s interest in offering an art venue to the school was sparked by his wife Anna Hyatt’s sculpture Diana of the Chase. As discussed previously in class this donation of his can be found in the honors quad. In 1927, he donated 4,300 acres of land to UT Austin, which kicked off the Blanton Fund, which has since funded the krater collection and many other permanent pieces inside The Blanton Museum of Art. The Huntington legacy still lives on today and it is displayed through one of the finest university’s campus-based art collections.
V. Description: European Greek-Attic, terracotta red-figure column-krater (wine mixing vessel), 40.5 cm (15 15/16 in). Red-figure art is a pottery form of Greek vase painting that originated around 530 BCE in Athens. The style is distinguished by drawn red figures and a black-painted backdrop. Designs could be painted directly onto the vessel after it has dried rather than scraped out, allowing for further detail than in black-figure pottery.
Ariadne, who is the daughter of Minos and displayed on the left side, is displayed stepping into a quadriga, also known as a four-horse chariot. Ariadne is identifiable through her typical Minoan clothing, long layered dresses with short sleeves, and her crown that was given to her by Dionysus. Displayed in the center of the piece, Dionysus is holding a vine branch and kantharos (wine cup) in each of his hands, respectively. Dionysus is known to be the god of wine and drunken revelry, which is why many wine vessels would contained themes of Dionysus utilized to consume and collect alcohol.  Since Ariadne and Dionysus are related by the myth of Theseus, these two mythological figures are depicted together on this wine-mixing vessel or krater. Ariadne played a huge part in Theseus’ victory over the Minotaur. Dionysus then encounters her and rescues her. In some myths, this is what leads to Ariadne becoming Dionysus’ wife.  Therefore, she is shown driving the quadriga upon her return because historically goddesses responsible for victory, such as Nike, are suggested to lead the chariot.  The use of the quadriga in ancient Greek athletic games and as a symbol of victory is of importance given the image of the scene on the opposing side of the piece.
On the opposing side of this piece, two athletes training with a specialist is shown. The individual on the left is holding a javelin, while the other is holding halteres (jumping weights). The dressed man in the middle is the trainer, as shown by the forked staff.  Since this piece is associated with the myth of Theseus, this scene clearly depicts that of Greek ephebos (an adolescent young man of the age of training in Athenian culture). It can be interpreted that the human malefactors are in training following Theseus’ story with the Minotauros. This symbolizes the principles of Athenian education and the heroic nude represents the ideal muscular body built in the Greek gymnasion. Given the importance of the gymnasion to the bodily and physical education of Athenian ephebic youths, Theseus’s story with the Minotauros could symbolize the ideals of Athenian education. Theseus’ victory over the Minotaur may indicate the superior quality of the Athenian physical and mental education of their young men, given that much of ephebic training was in readiness for civic and military service.  In this instance, these column-craters are likely associated with victories in Greek athletic games. However, the intended use for the kraters is still speculated. For example, they could have been created to serve as reward to those who finished second or for other game events. They were potentially used as commemorative practical vases for festivities after Panathenaic victories. Or lastly, they could have been used as model samples of pottery art in workshops.
 T. Mannack, The Late Mannerists in Athenian Vase-Painting. London: Oxford Press 2001, pp.12-15
 “DIONYSUS – Greek God of Wine & Festivity.” Theoi Greek Mythology. Accessed April 24, 2021. https://www.theoi.com/Olympios/Dionysos.html.
 Buxton, R. G. A. The Complete World of Greek Mythology. London: Thames & Hudson, 2016.
 Siculus, Diodorus. “Library of History, Volume II.” Loeb Classical Library. 1935. https://www.loebclassics.com/view/LCL303/1935/volume.xml.
 “ARIADNE – Greek Goddess Wife of Dionysus (Roman Libera).” Theoi Greek Mythology. 2017. Accessed April 24, 2021. https://www.theoi.com/Georgikos/Ariadne.html.
 Wedemeyer, Dr. B. “Erecting the Quadriga – the Quadriga in History.” Braunschweig.de. 2008. Accessed May 10, 2021. https://www2.braunschweig.de/quadriga-aufbringung/die_quadriga_eng.html.
 Hesiod. Theogony. Translated by Stephen Trzaskoma, R. Scott Smith, and Stephen Brunet. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1954.
 Blanton Museum of Art, Red-Figure Column Krater (Wine Mixing Vessel).
 Curtis, Todd A. n.d. “Classical Mythology in the Visual and Performance Arts.” Tophat.com. Accessed April 30, 2021. https://app.tophat.com/e/114743/assigned.
 Hadziaslani, Cornelia. 2003. “ΤΩΝ ΑΘΗΝΗΘΕΝ ΑΘΛΩΝ.” Acropolis-Education.gr. https://doi.org/http://hdl.handle.net/11174/12.
Author: Sana Usman
I. This artifact is described as a Black-Figured Neck-Amphora of Panathenaic Shape, otherwise known as an oil container. The painter of the amphora is unknown (Blanton Museum). II. The amphora was created around 540 BCE (6th century BCE) and founded in Athens.
III. The Black-Figured Neck-Amphora of Panathenaic Shape is located at the Blanton Museum within The University of Texas at Austin.
IV. This piece was able to be retrieved through the Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund and the James R. Dougherty Jr. Foundation. Due to the individual who donated the amphora wishing to remain anonymous, it is difficult to determine why the previous owner of the amphora decided to donate the piece in particular to the Blanton Museum. The piece did come to the museum through the stated foundation during 1980.
V. This amphora is 27.5 cm. On the front of the amphora is an image of Athena, standing in a fighting pose with her signature spear and shield. Two owls can be seen on the columns surrounding her while on the back sits a man playing the pipes to a bearded judge. Athena is also depicted as a white figure while the men at the back of the amphora is depicted as black as a way to characterize gender.
The Classical mythological elements that are presented in the piece would be the owls in association with Athena and references to the Panathenaic Festivals. Athena’s attributes are presented in the amphora with the depiction of owls, a helmet, a spear, and an aigis. The owl is considered one of Athena’s attributes, which can be seen in a myth in which she turns a princess from the island of Kos into an owl for making fun of her grey eyes. The spear, the helmet, and aigis can be seen during the Athena’s first moments as she springs from Zeus’ head with her helmet, “shaking a sharp spear…hold[ing] the aigis.” 
The mythological elements of the Panathenaic Festivals are presented with the unknown man playing an kithara to a judge. The depiction can be interpreted as the Panathenaic Festivals due to the statement of Smith and Planzos, commenting that the beginnings of the Panathenaic Festivals marked a turning point in Greek lekythos making as the style of Panathenaic Amphora – the style of the amphora in Blanton – just beginning to emerge in Greek history.  A lekythos can be described as being “used as a containers for oil, perfumed oil, and as an offering for the dead.” The kithara is important in Greek Mythology through its representation of music and by the painter utilizing such a design is able to elude to the importance of music in Athens to Apollo’s love for music. In Herodotus, a skilled player of the kithara named Arion was thrown overboard from a ship and was miraculously saved by the dolphins of Apollo. Such rescue of a kithara player represents the approval of the instrument by Apollo and ultimately its favor presented in the Panathenaic festivals.
The symbolic aspects of this amphora can be seen through the depiction of Athena and the assumed depiction of the Panathenaic Festivals -a religious festival that included athletic and musical competitions as well as cultural events – as a representation of what Athens stands for as a whole. If this amphora is associated with carrying oil, it makes for an interesting symbolic connection to the mythological contest between Poseidon and Athena to become the patron deity of Athens. In Pausanias’ Description of Greece, “Athena is represented displaying the olive plant, and Poseidon the wave” and through Athena introducing the olive plant to Athens, the goddess wins patronage of the city. With Athena’s connection to olive oil and Athens, a connection is thus established between Athenian oil containers and depictions of “a fighting Athena” as she is able to represent the athletic competitions of the Panathenaic games where competitors would wrestle for the prize of an olive wreath.
The man playing an instrument in front of a judge is also symbolic as it appears to be a description of the Panathenaic Festival – a particular festival that finds its origins in the creation of Athens as a city state. In Plutarch, he tells a myth about how Theseus created a city-state and “he called the city-state Athens, and instituted the communal festival of the Panathenaia.”  The Panathenaia was a place rich with festivals and music to worship the patron goddess Athena and many competitions emerged in praise of crafts and arts. One of these competitions can be seen during the Greater Panathenaea, where there were contests of the rhapsodes of old and the winner would receive an olive crown set with gold. Such music contests represent the importance of the olive tree as the winner of such competitions would receive the symbol of Athena as a grand prize.
In many respects, this amphora in the Blanton Museum represents the strong connections between the Athena of Greek mythology and the customs of Athens.
Blanton Museum, Black-Figured Neck-Amphora of Panathenaic Shape Plaque.
 Richard Buxton, The Complete World of Greek Mythology (New York: Thames and Hudson Inc., 2004), 69.
 Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Ovid’s Metamorphoses (New York: Penguin Books,. 1996) 2.50.
 Hugh G. Evelyn-White, Homeric Hymn (Loeb Classical Library, 1914), 31.
 Tyler Jo Smith and Dimitris Plantzos, A Companion To Greek Art (Blackwell Publishing, 2012), https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/9781118273289
 Herodotus, Herodotus (New York: Penguin Books., 1996) 1.23.
 Zoe E. Thomas, interview by Rachel Peacher, Office Hours, April 23, 2019.
 Debra Schafter, A Lekythos in Austin Attributed to the Oionokles Painter and the Representation of Nikai on Late Archaic and Early Classical Lekythoi (Austin: The University of Texas at Austin., 1989), 7.
 W.H.S. Jones, Pausanias, ( Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1918), https://www.theoi.com/Text/Pausanias1A.html
 Stephen Trzaskoma, R. Smith, and Stephen Brunet, Plutarch (Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 2016), 335.
 Aaron Atsma, “Panathenaia,” Theoi Project.April 22, 2019. https://www.theoi.com/Festival/Panathenaia.html.
Author: Rachel Peacher
Artist: While listed as ‘anonymous,’ the time period from which this oinochoe was created allows us to imagine the techniques and styles used by the artist. A Greek poem, most likely composed in 6th century Athens, gives an amazing visual for pottery making during this time period:
If you pay me potters, I will sing:
Come here, Athena, and hold your hand over the kiln.
May the cups and bowls all turn out a good black,
May they be well fired, and fetch the price asked…
But if you turn shameless and deceitful,
Then I will summon the ravagers of kilns…
Stamp on the stoking tunnel and chambers, and may the whole kiln
Be thrown into confusion, while the potters cry aloud.
Great care was put into building the kiln, and pottery was seen as quite valuable. Black-figure vase painting was the earlier style utilized by Greek artists, as the materials were cheaper, but red-figure would soon take over. Many Attic vases show lighter painted lines that are raised from the surface, lines which added contour for clothing and anatomy. Instances of this technique can be seen in this oinochoe, with Heracles’ weapons in the tree and in the anatomy of the figures. It is also evident from this piece that the artist was skilled in their work, as the black gloss appears opaque and not a reddish-brown (Sparkes, Greek Pottery: An Introduction, 20-22).
Date: 550-500 BCE
Location: Blanton Museum of Art
Acquisition: This piece was brought to UT Austin by the Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund and the James R. Dougherty, Jr. Foundation in 1980. Archer Huntington dedicated his life to creating one of the world’s largest collections of Hispanic art and literature while the James R. Dougherty Jr. Foundation focused on creating collections of contemporary American and Texan art. This oinochoe from Attic Greece demonstrates a historical marker for pottery that adds to the timeline of techniques and styles used by artists.
Description: Athenian black-figure painting on an oinochoe (13.9 cm (5 1/2 in.) that depicts Heracles’ first labor: the Nemean Labor. A defining theme in the artwork of the demigod, Heracles, is that of his twelve labors.
Born from the affair of Zeus and Alkmene, the myth of Heracles finds its genesis in his pathos driven by the anger of Hera. Such is where we get his namesake, “Fame from Hera.” Driven by jealousy and hatred, Hera cursed Heracles with madness, causing him the kill his wife, Megara, and his children. To atone for his wrongdoings, Eurystheus, ruler of all the Argolid, instructed Heracles to complete a series of Labors that would prove his strength and virtue (Buxton, The Complete World of Greek Mythology, 114-115).
The first labor, the Nemean Lion, hinted at the strength and cleverness of the Greek hero Heracles. On the oinochoe, weapons are depicted hanging from the tree, reminding the viewer that Heracles fought the Nemean lion with his bare hands. In On Heracles, written in the late 5h-early 4th c. BC, Herodorus attempts to rationalize the true meaning of the myth of Heracles through allegory. The lion is a noble animal, and with the skin of the Nemean lion wrapped around him, Heracles is noted as a noble hero. Herodorus also mentions Heracles’ iconic club as a symbol for philosophy (Herodorus, On Heracles, 14). This club is also depicted on the oinochoe, being held over the head of Heracles by his son Iolaos as a gesture of assistance.
An oinochoe is a vessel for wine, one which would’ve been used in a Greek symposium. These ‘drinking parties’ were dominated by the men of the society, and it is where we often see instances of pederasty. The relationship between the Greek eromenos and erastes was often used for mentorship and even political preferment (Ludwig, Eros and Polis: Desire and Community in Greek Political Theory, 30). The depiction of Heracles on the oinochoe could therefore reinstate the power of men in the society and the importance of mentorship and filial piety seen in the inclusion of Iolaos in the piece. The defeat of the Nemean Lion is the pinnacle of male strength in the perspective of Ancient Greece, and the use of such a scene with the respect to the Greek symposium emphasizes the importance of patriarchy in the Greek society.
Buxton, R. G. A. The Complete World of Greek Mythology. London: Thames & Hudson, 2016.
Ludwig, Paul W. Eros and Polis: Desire and Community in Greek Political Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Sparkes, Brian A. Greek Pottery: An Introduction. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1991.
Trzaskoma, Stephen, R. Scott Smith, Stephen Brunet, and Thomas G. Palaima. Anthology of Classical Myth: Primary Sources in Translation. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing, 2004
Posted by Sage Tuchsen
I have added a page that uses memes to humorously illustrate classical epic poems. The original idea for this page came from Mira Bhat, who suggested to me that memes would be a fun way of thinking about Greek and Roman myths. These Epic Mythomemologies present a meme for each of the books in an epic poem. They were written by undergraduates who were taking classical mythology at UT. Currently, there are memes for Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. In the Spring, we will address Apollonius’ Argonautica. Enjoy!
Information about the Tour
The tour will depart from Waggener Hall (the side facing the Tower). The tour will last approximately one hour. The first tour will be at 11:00 am with subsequent tours beginning on the hour up to 2:00 pm. Please be aware that the walk will be a little less than a mile long and we will be walking up and down steps. You’re welcome to leave the tour at any time you see fit. The tour will end at the statue of Diana of the Chase. A Google map of the tour and sites can be found here.
I. WAGGENER HALL
Google map for Waggener Hall can be found here.
Our tour begins in front of Waggener Hall (the side facing the Tower). Waggener Hall was named after the University’s first President, Leslie Waggener. The building was designed by Paul Cret, and it was constructed in 1931. Constructed out of white limestone, multi-colored brick, and red-tile roof, Waggener blends with the other Mediterranean Renaissance-style buildings that Cret designed.
Although there are numerous classical architectural features on Waggener Hall, the 26 medallions at the top of the building do not pay homage to the Greek and Roman world. These medallions represent the chief exports of Texas at the time of its construction (e.g. cotton, oil, cattle, lumber, etc.). These symbols reveal that Waggener hall was originally designed to house the School of Business Administration. Waggener Hall is now home to the Department of Classics, which is where UT students learn to read Greek and Latin, study Greco-Roman history, and learn about archaeology and ancient scripts. The Department of Classics’ main administrative office is located in Room 123 on the first floor. Next to the office is the Classics Lounge, which hosts department meetings and colloquia. The ground floor of Waggener Hall houses the Classics Library and its annex, the Visual Resources Collection, the Institute of Classical Archaeology, and the office of the Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory.
A history of Waggener Hall can be found here.
II. SOUTH MALL
Google map for Littlefield Fountain can be found here.
Between the South Mall and W. 21st street stands the iconic Littlefield Fountain. Since its completion in 1933, Littlefield Fountain has been the most widely recognized statuary on UT’s campus. It is a powerful amalgamation of Greek iconography that have been appropriated to create a World War I monument. It was carried out by Pompeo Coppini, an Italian-born sculptor living in San Antonio. He depicted Columbia, the symbol of the American spirit, standing on the bow of a ship being pulled by three sea horses. Behind her are two soldiers one representing the Army and the other the Navy. By depicting Columbia traveling victoriously across the waters in her defense of liberty, Coppini intended the sculpture to create an image of a strong, unified America.
The winged Columbia standing with arms raised up borrows from the iconography of the Greek goddess of victory, Nike. In Greek vase paintings, Nike is depicted driving the battle chariot for Zeus in the Gigantomachy, the war between the Olympians and the Giants. In myth, Nike is famous for siding with Zeus and the Olympians in their victorious war against the previous generations of gods known as the Titans. Another classical influence for Coppini’s Columbia standing on the eagle prow of a ship is perhaps the famous Hellenistic sculpture called the Nike of Samothrace, whose Nike also appears to be standing on the prow of a ship. Instead of holding a phiale (a libation bowl), Columbia is depicted holding the torch of liberty in her right hand and the palms of peace in her left hand.
The Mermen in the fountain are anthropomorphic figures which are controlling sea horses, known as Hippocampi (Gr. Hippo = horse + campi = sea monsters). In ancient Greek and Roman art, the hippocampi were traditionally depicted as half horse/half fish creatures pulling the chariot of the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon. Instead of the horses which pull the quadriga of Nike, Coppini has replaced them with hippocampi to emphasize the discovery of America and the United States’ power being via the sea.
There are numerous inscriptions on the monument. On the left side, the ship is inscribed with “Columbia – November XI MDCCCCXVIII.” The Roman numerals “XI MDCCCCXVIII” stand for November 11, 1918, which marks the end of World War I. On the right side, the ship is inscribed with “Columbia – April MD CCCCXVII”, April 1917, which marks the date when the United States entered World War I.
Columbia faces the statue of Lady Liberty on top of the Texas State Capitol, which seems to emphasize UT’s relationship to the government of Texas. Inscribed in the limestone flanking the backside of the statue are the words of the famous Roman statesman, Cicero (Philip., 14.12), written in Latin: “Brevis a natura nobis vita data est, at memoria bene redditae vitae sempiturna,” which is translated, “A short life has been given to us by nature, but the memory of a life honorably offered is everlasting.”
A more detailed account of the history of Littlefield Fountain can be found here.
The Main Building (also known as ‘The Tower’)
Location of the Main Building on campus can be found here via Google Maps.
UT’s Main Building is full of symbols paying homage to the Greco-Roman world.
The inscription on the Main Building beneath the Tower, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free”, comes from an English translation of the Greek in the Gospel of John 8:32 (καὶ γνώσεσθε τὴν ἀλήθειαν, καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια ἐλευθερώσει ὑμᾶς). The words are attributed to Jesus Christ, when he was explaining that if one were to live according to his words that person would become his disciple. The ‘truth’ Jesus is referring to in this passage appears to be the revelation of who he is. According to the context of this passage in the Gospel of John, the ‘freedom’ that this truth brings is salvation from death and the slavery to sin that Jesus is offering to those who follow his teachings. Taken in the context of the iconography of the Tower and Main Building, the ‘truth’ spoken of in this passage from the Bible has been appropriated to mean ‘knowledge’ and ‘truth’ in the general context of academic pursuits. The reinterpretation of this biblical passage is reinforced by the academic iconography that adorns the Main Building, namely the ancient alphabets (Egyptian Hieroglyphs and Phoenician, Hebrew, Greek and Latin alphabets) on the Tower and the seals of famous universities .
The symbolism of the Greek temple-like structure at the top of the UT Tower is often overlooked by the casual passerby. The location of the Greek temple-like structure at the top of the Tower suggests that the great intellectual achievements of Greco-Roman world are something the University of Texas aspires to. In some respects, the Tower itself looks like some of the modern artistic interpretations of the appearance of the famous Pharos Lighthouse of Alexandria, which stood guarding the city of Hellenistic Alexandria and its world-renowned library. The Tower’s resemblance to the Pharos Lighthouse would be rather fitting given the Tower was originally intended to house the university’s main library.
Location of Battle Hall on campus can be found here via Google Maps.
Battle hall is named after the Professor of Classics and 6th President of the University of Texas. William James Battle served as President of UT from 1914-1916. He joined the university in 1893 as an Associate Professor of Greek. Some of the plasters now displayed in the William J. Battle Collection of Plaster Casts were placed along the walls of the auditorium he would lecture in, which is why this lecture hall was known as “The Greek Room.” In 1908, Battle became the Dean of the College of Arts. He became the President of the UT in 1914. After serving a rather tumultuous presidency that even threatened his position as President, Battle left UT to teach at the University of Cincinnati. He later returned to UT in 1920 as Professor of Classical Languages. Some of his most indelible influences on the university were while he was Chairman of the Faculty Building Committee, a role he served for nearly three decades until 1948. Battle’s profound influence on UT’s campus is evident to this day, most notably the design and symbolism of the Main Building and its Tower, which was spearheaded by Battle. Some of Battle’s other noteworthy contributions to the university were the foundation of the University COOP (1898) and the design of the university’s seal (1901). Additional information on William Battle can be found via the Texas State Historical Association.
Located beside the Tower, Battle Hall is quite conspicuous due to its ornate facade richly adorned with colorful symbols. This is particularly evident around the windowed balconies on the building.
If you look closely at the repeated images, around the windows you will observe the Roman god Janus. Janus is an appropriate image for doors since, for Romans, he is a god of beginnings/end, transitions, and doorways. He was commonly depicted as a two-faced god who looks to the past and the future. Janus was seen as presiding over war and peace, which can be observed with the function of the doors of his temple in Rome. These temple doors were open during times of war and closed during times of peace. Janus is conventionally associated with the month we call January, which derives its name from the Latin word for doorway, ianua. January is symbolically the doorway to a New Year since its inclusion as the first month of the year dating back to the Julian Calendar, which was established on January 1st 45 BC.
Above each of the windowed balconies on Battle Hall are a series of medallions with images representing the signs of the Zodiac. It is important to bear in mind that knowledge of the Zodiac signs was not connected with the kind of mundane prophetic statements associated with reading one’s horoscope. For centuries, the Zodiac was understood as the movement of different constellations of stars whose position in the night sky indicated the passage of time and was used as a means of navigating. Knowledge of these constellations was also a fundamental part of medical education from the inception of medical universities in Italy. Greek myths were often associated with these constellations.
In some Greek constellation myths, Sagittarius is said to represent the centaur Chiron. During Hercules’ battle with a group of unruly centaurs, Chiron was said to have been accidentally hit by one of Hercules’ errant arrows. The arrow, which had been dipped in the poisonous blood of the Lernean Hydra, caused incurable suffering to Chiron. Unfortunately for Chiron, he was immortal making him unable to find release in death. Therefore, Chiron offered himself as a substitute for Prometheus, who had been punished by Zeus for his disobedience of giving fire to mortals (Prometheus was chained to a rock in Tartarus where he was constantly tormented by an eagle that daily consumed his liver). In recognition for Chiron’s sacrifice, Zeus honored Chiron by placing him in the stars.
III. WEST MALL
Lady Liberty/Athena on Main Building
UT’s Main Building is full of symbols paying homage to the Greco-Roman world. The figure above the window resembles Athena (Roman name Minerva). It is often identified as Lady Liberty (of Texas). This interpretation is partially based on the single star above her head, which suggests that she is associated with the Lone Star State. Lady Liberty is a personification of freedom commonly seen in iconography for the American Revolution. Lady Liberty is an abstraction of the goddess Athena, and therefore, the two figures often bear a striking resemblance to each other in artwork. This would make sense considering Athena was viewed as the patroness of the democratic government of Athens. And the martial nature of Athena is also evident in the depictions of Lady Liberty’s participation in democratic revolutions such as the image of Lady Liberty stamping out tyranny in The Apotheosis of George Washington in the rotunda of the United States Capitol Building.
Athena’s Owl on the Union Building
Location of the Union on campus via Google Maps.
In Greek iconography, the owl is an attribute of the goddess of wisdom, Athena (Minerva to the Romans). Subsequently, it is commonly used as a symbol of knowledge and wisdom in the European tradition. The owl of Athena at the Union (Commons) is situated among a number of symbols germane to the state of Texas (i.e. Jackrabbit, Rattlesnake, Roadrunner, Horned Toad, Cacti, and the Longhorn). Athena’s owl being situated between the words “Arts” and “Sciences” suggests that the acquisition of wisdom is the element that unifies the arts and sciences at the UT.
IV. HOGG MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM
Greek Masks of Comedy, Tragedy, and Satyr
Location of Hogg Memorial Auditorium on campus can be found here via Google Maps.
Located behind the Tower and the Union is the Hogg Memorial Auditorium. The Hogg Memorial Auditorium was designed by the famed French architect Paul Cret, who also was responsible for the design of the Tower. Upon its completion in 1933, the building became the first theater on the school’s campus. The auditorium was named after James Stephen Hogg, the first native-born Governor of Texas. Information about the Hogg Memorial Auditorium’s rich history can be found here.
Greek theater consisted of three different dramatic genres: tragedy, satyr, and comedy. All three of these dramatic genres are represented by the three different personas/dramatic masks on the facade of the Hogg Memorial Auditorium. To get an appreciation for some of the basic differences between ancient Greek and modern dramas, a brief description of Greek dramatic performances has been provided in the following:
The most important presentations of tragedy at Athens took place once a year as part of a competition at the city’s main festival in honor of the god Dionysus. For this festival, one of Athens’ magistrates chose three playwrights to present four plays each. Three were tragedies and one a satyr play, the latter so named because it featured actors portraying the half-human, half-animal (horse or goat) creatures called satyrs. Satyr plays presented versions of the solemn stories of tragedy that were infused with humor and even farce. A board of citizen judges awarded first, second, and third prizes to the competing playwrights at the end of the festival. The performance of Athenian tragedies bore little resemblance to conventional modern theater productions. They took place during the daytime in an outdoor theater sacred to Dionysus, built into the slope of the southern hillside of Athens’ Acropolis. This theater of Dionysus held around 14,000 spectators overlooking an open, circular area in front of a slightly raised stage platform. To ensure fairness in the competition, all tragedies were required to have the same size cast, all of whom were men: three actors to play the speaking roles of all male and female characters and fifteen chorus members. Although the chorus’ leader sometimes engaged in dialogue with the actors, the chorus primarily performed songs and dances in the circular area in front of the stage, called the orchestra (“dancing area”). Since all the actors’ lines were in verse with special rhythms, the musical aspect of the chorus’ role enhanced the overall poetic nature of Athenian tragedy.
Although Greek drama, particularly tragedies, were often set in the heroic world of Greek myth, they were used as a way of investigating contemporary Greek issues. Many of the narratives of Greek myth that are preserved in the writings of mythographers are based on the dramatic tellings of Greek myths by Athenian tragedians, such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. In Greek myth, the dramatic arts of poetry, music, and dance were said to be inspired by female deities called Muses. The Muses were described as the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Memory). Overtime, the different forms of poetry, music, and drama became associated with specific Muses. The Muse for tragedy was called Melpomene and the Muse for comedy was called Thalia.
Greek comedies generally had far less to do with myth than the genres of Greek tragedy and satyr. The early Greek comedies were mainly satirical, mocking political figures and people of importance for their vanity and foolishness. Our primary example of comedy is from the playwright Aristophanes. One the few examples of Greek comedies with an extended treatment of characters in Greek myth is Aristophanes’ Frogs. Frogs tells the story of how the god Dionysus travels to the underworld to bring the tragedian Euripides back from the dead because of the poor quality of Athens’ living tragedians. The potential for irreverent depictions of the gods can be observed in the character of the god Dionysus, whose behavior and numerous errors along the way to the home of Hades provide the primary source of humor in this comedy.
A ‘satyr’ was the term for a mythical creature associated with Dionysus. It was also the term used for a short burlesque play performed after a series of three tragic plays. The satyr play kept with the general theme of the three tragedies by poking fun at the plight of the characters in the series of tragedies. In keeping with the uncivilized nature of the mythical creature also called a satyr, actors in these plays were described as wearing large phalli to create a comic effect. The fact that the Hogg Auditorium has included the face of a satyr is highly unusual since most modern theaters only depict the Greek dramatic masks for comedy and tragedy when paying homage to their classical foundations.
V. HONORS QUADRANGLE
Diana of the Chase
Tucked away in the honors quadrangle between Blanton, Littlefield, Andrews, and Carothers dormitories, stands a statue of the Greek goddess of the hunt, Artemis (Diana to the Romans). The statue was originally installed by William Battle in a niche in the library in Battle Hall. Later, it was moved to its current location among the honors dorms. Given Diana’s mythical association as a protector of young women, the statue’s subject matter was probably considered appropriate for it to be located next to the all-female dormitories that enclosed the quadrangle.
This hidden treasure of the university was created by sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington. Anna Hyatt Huntington’s Diana of the Chase was first modeled in 1922. As legend has it, an 18-year-old Bette Davis posed for this statue. Diana of the Chase has been cast many times, appearing at institutions around the world such as Columbia University in New York City, Audubon Park in New Orleans, Palacio de Bellas Artes in Havana, Cuba, Jardin des Lices in Blois, France, and the Jardin Fuente de Diana in Madrid, Spain. UT’s statue is from a 1927 casting. Anna Hyatt Huntington’s Diana of the Chase represents her long-term engagement with outdoor statuary that often focused on two strong female figures, Joan of Arc and Diana. Diana of the Chase elegantly depicts a partially nude Diana pointing her bow toward the heavens with a hunting dog eagerly jumping upward.
In some ways, the statue is a striking departure from the Greco-Roman statues of Artemis/Diana, which typically depict Artemis as a young woman clothed in a short dress holding a bow in hand and often accompanied by a stag deer. Perhaps Huntington’s choice to depict Artemis naked with a hunting dog is meant to remind one of the Greek myth of the death of Actaeon. According to Apollodorus (3.30 ff), while hunting with his dogs, Actaeon happened upon Artemis bathing. The insult of being seen naked by a mortal male could be construed as a threat to Artemis’ virginity, which she vigorously protected. Artemis punished Actaeon by changing him into a deer and having his dogs tear him apart. Taken in this context, the naked Artemis in UT’s quadrangle is a fearful image for any male who may have wandered into this ‘sacred space.’ The upward aim of Artemis’ bow is another departure from classical iconography. Perhaps Huntington is suggesting that Artemis’ heavenward aim points to the heights women can and should aspire to. Or perhaps, Artemis’ upward bow is aimed at Zeus, and thereby symbolizing a female rejection of patriarchal rule in general.
I. Artist: The creator (sculptor) of the statue of Hera of Samos is unknown – the Blanton museum lists the creator as “Anonymous”. The inscription on the dress of the statue reads “Cheramyes dedicated me, a statue of Hera.” This implies that Cheramyes, an Greek aristocrat from Ionia, was the one who commissioned this piece as a monument to the
II. Date: This sculpture (a Battle cast made from the original sculpture discovered on the Greek island of Samos) was reproduced in the 19th century. The Battle casts were
created by the Caproni Brothers and August Gerber, who were based in Boston and Cologne respectively. They had a reputation for creating the most authentic casts at the time. The original sculpture was created between 570 – 560 BCE, and it is aptly named, “Dedication by Cheramyes to Hera of Samos”.
III. Location: This Battle Cast was found in the Blanton Museum of Art on the campus of UT Austin.
IV. Acquisition: William J. Battle, a professor at UT starting in 1893 (and the 6th President of the University), felt it was important to teach students about the importance of Greek
artwork. Thus, from 1894 to 1923, a collection of over a hundred plaster casts (thirty
were later lost or destroyed) were commissioned to be displayed on UT campus. As to this cast, it was probably included in Battle collection due to Samos’ prominence as the mythological birthplace of Hera and because it is a good example of a Kore type of sculpture.
V. Description: The cast is approximately 76 inches tall, and spans 19 inches in both width and depth. According to the Blanton Museum directory, its medium is a painted plaster cast. The original sculpture is part of the Louvre Museum in Paris. It is identified as a Kore sculpture. Kore-type sculpture (the female counterpart to the male Kouros-type sculptures) is the typical form for free standing statues of gods and humans during the Greek Archaic period. They are statues of young females who are fully clothed and stand erect with their feet together, or with one foot slightly advanced in front of the right. The arms of this type of sculpture are either straight down at the sides, or in many cases, one arm is elevated across the front of the body or extended out holding an object.
This sculpture’s relationship to classical mythology stems from where it was discovered. Hera, the queen of the Olympians, sister and spouse to Zeus, was commonly known as the goddess of marriage and child-birth. Although accounts vary, many have listed her birthplace as being the island of Samos, a powerful Ionian city-state. The inhabitants of the island formed a cult around Hera, and built a temple in honor of her known as the Heraion of Samos. The temple was built in at a architecturally challenging location near a swamp. In Greek myth, it is claimed that Hera was born on the banks of the river near the temple, which would further explain the choice of location. Additionally, Samos was seen in some accounts to be the site of her marriage to Zeus, next to the same river (the Imbrasos) that the temple was built.
A number of ancient Greek historians and geographers such as Pausanias (in his Description of Greece), Herodotus, and Strabo mention Samos specifically with the intent of describing the Heraion – “ Some say that the sanctuary of Hera in Samos was established by those who sailed in the Argo, and that these brought the image from Argos. But the Samians themselves hold that the goddess was born in the island by the side of the river Imbrasas under the willow that even in my time grew in the Heraion.” (Pausanias, Description of Greece, 7.4.4). According to Pausanias, only women who were priests were allowed to see the sculptures and recreations of Hera at the temple – “At Aigion [in Akhiyan] you find a temple of Athena and a grove of Hera . . . the image of Hera may be seen by nobody except the woman who happens to hold the office of priestess to the goddess” (Pausanias, Description of Greece, 7.23.9).
In relation to the sculpture dedicated by Cheramyes, it is hypothesized that the
sculpture was of a young woman that “held the key to the temple of Hera in her hand”,
due to part of the metal still being visible despite the hand itself being ruined. This
suggests that the sculpture was most likely symbolically a female cult servant of Hera at
Heraion, which was mentioned by Pausanias. This interpretation may be supported by the
elaborate clothing worn by the figure – the chiton tunic, the sash worn around the waist
(himation), and the veil (epiblema), which all reflect Ionian traditions and seem
likely to be worn by an attendant of the goddess. Sculptures representing clothed
girls in their adolescence, called Kore, were extremely popular in Ancient Greek art,
especially in the Archaic period – several of these statues were found in the Heraion
alone, dedicated by Cheramyes.
Overall, the mythological and symbolic meanings of this sculpture are intertwined with Samos and its association with Hera as her birthplace, place of marriage, and religious cult site. Many of the physical aspects of the sculpture (such as the key to the Heraion and the types of clothing worn) could be religious elements, and the dedication by Cheramyes on the piece solidifies the significance of Samos to Hera as a site of celebration of the goddess.
Beck, David. “Sanctuary of Hera, Samos.” Classics and Ancient History. January 29, 2015.
Accessed April 22, 2019. https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/classics/students/modules/greekreligion/database/clunas/ .
“Dedication by Cheramyes to Hera of Samos – Anonymous.” Blanton Museum of Art Online Collections Database. Accessed April 22, 2019.
Elderkin, G. W. “The Marriage of Zeus and Hera and Its Symbol.” American Journal of
Archaeology 41, no. 3 (1937): 424-35. doi:10.2307/498508.
“HERA – Greek Goddess of Marriage, Queen of the Gods.” Theoi Greek Mythology. Accessed April 23, 2019. https://www.theoi.com/Olympios/Hera.html .
“HERA CULT 2.” HERA CULT 2 – Ancient Greek Religion. Accessed April 26, 2019.
“Heraion Sanctuary in Samos Island.” Greeka. Accessed April 25, 2019.
Pausanias, trans. W. H. S. Jones, Henry Arderne Ormerod, and R. E. Wycherley. 1918. Pausanias Description of Greece. London: W. Heinemann.
“Work Kore from the Cheramyes Group.” Kore from the Cheramyes Group, Louvre Museum, Paris. Accessed April 26, 2019. https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/kore-cheramyes-group.
Written by Ashwin Kudva