Engendering Power: Dynastic Women And Visual Culture In The Hellenistic World (fourth-First Centuries Bce)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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History of Art
cross-cultural interaction
gender and sexuality
Greek art and archaeology
Hellenistic royal art
Near Eastern art and archaeology
Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology
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This dissertation presents the first synthetic analysis of the art and archaeology of Hellenistic royal and dynastic women (4th-1st c BCE). The study examines how their visual and material culture expressed political power and conceptions of femininity throughout the Hellenistic world, with a focus on the eastern Mediterranean, Egypt, Anatolia, and the Middle East, reaching sometimes into Central Asia. Under analysis are the portrayals and representations of dynastic and royal women of Lykia and Karia in Asia Minor, Argead and Antigonid Makedon, Ptolemaic Egypt, Seleukid Asia, and Attalid Pergamon. The art-historical corpus of dynastic women includes a variety of media and genres: coins, gems, mosaic and painting, large-scale monuments, written decrees, architecture (remains and descriptions), and traditional portraits in the round and in relief. Whereas past art-historical scholarship focused on masculinity and kingship, I demonstrate how dynastic women and queenship shaped royal and/or imperial representations, and how the “private,” domestic spaces of femininity could be central to “public” hegemonic art. Dynastic women were mostly absent from public and private display throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East until the early fourth century, just a few generations before Alexander the Great’s conquests. After Alexander’s campaigns, his empire splintered into several kingdoms controlled by Greek dynasts who married Greek and/or Asian noblewomen. Their descendants continued to fight for territories, rule over diverse communities, and incorporate women into their visual and material cultures—a remarkable transformation in centuries-old traditions of visualizing power. The project explores how different actors innovated new modes of representation and reformulated earlier local traditions with respect to the portrayal of dynastic women. Moreover, new analyses of royal women as both subjects and patrons of art reveal how gendered power dynamics were constructed and negotiated within and across dynasties. I thus bring issues of gendered and ethnic difference to bear on how such portrayals would have been received by a diverse group of audiences: Greeks and non-Greeks, men and women, and royal and non-royal viewers. This dissertation contributes to broader discussions in gender and women’s studies, as well as to conversations about cross-cultural encounters and colonial legacies.

Ann Kuttner
C. Brian Rose
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