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The aesthetics of empire in Athens and Persia

Downes, S.E.; (2011) The aesthetics of empire in Athens and Persia. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis is a comparative study of Persepolis and the Akropolis as monumental centres of empire. It considers the relationship between style and politics on the two sites, specifically, the extent to which stylistic variations can be explained by their capacity to promote different political effects. Starting from Gell’s proposition that ‘art is a system of action intended to change the world, rather than encode symbolic propositions about it,’ it examines the precise mechanisms, in particular the eliciting of cognitive or behavourial responses, by which the architecture and sculpture of the two sites have social consequences. It seeks to demonstrate a relationship between variations in the material traits of the sites and the political systems of the two states, defined both in terms of the autocratic/democratic distinction, but also the different structures of the two empires. The comparison of the two sites gives greater analytical security to the interpretation: they function as controls for each other. Each of the five chapters considers a different material aspect of the sites. The first chapter considers the spatial layout of the two sites; the second considers the function of the architectural sculpture of the two sites as decorative art; the third examines the sculpture as human images; the fourth considers the relationship between the iconography of the reliefs and the practice on the sites; the fifth looks at the construction of memory and time. In conclusion, common themes running through the chapters, such as control and legibility, are noted, and the extent to which they form a deliberate political programme is discussed.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:The aesthetics of empire in Athens and Persia
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
Additional information:Copyright restricted material has been removed from the e-thesis.
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Institute of Archaeology

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