Connelly's new "book is that rare thing: the exposition of a truly great idea, and a reminder of what a thrilling subject the past, that foreign country, can be." (NYT) We invite you to a conversation with her and her colleague from the Advanced Studies Institute, Angelos Chaniotis, about the long-buried meaning of the Parthenon frieze.
Since the Enlightenment, the Parthenon has come to represent our political ideals, the lavish temple to Athena serving as the model for our most hallowed civic architecture. But how much do the values of those who built the Parthenon truly correspond with our own? In her revolutionary book, Joan Breton Connelly challenges our most basic assumptions about the Parthenon and the ancient Athenians. In particular, she probes the Parthenon's legendary frieze. The frieze's vast enigmatic procession has for more than 200 years been thought to represent a scene of annual civic celebration in the birthplace of democracy. But thanks to a once-lost play by Euripides, Connelly has uncovered a long-buried meaning, a story of human sacrifice set during the city's mythic founding. In a society startlingly preoccupied with cult ritual, this story was at the core of what it meant to be Athenian. Connelly reveals a world that beggars our notions of Athens as a city of staid philosophers, rationalists, and rhetoricians, a world in which our modern secular conception of democracy would have been simply incomprehensible.
Joan Breton Connelly is a classical archaeologist and the author of two previous books, Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece and Votive Sculpture of Hellenistic Cyprus. The recipient of many distinguished fellowships, she as been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and is currently Professor of Classics and Art History at New York University. Angelos Chaniotis is Professor of Ancient History and Classics at the Institute for Advanced Study and the author of many important books on the social, cultural, religious, legal, and economic history of the Hellenistic world and the Roman East. His most recent works are Unveiling Emotions, Ritual Dynamics in the Ancient Mediterranean, War in the Hellenistic World, and The Law and the Courts in Ancient Greece.