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Title: Art and natural science in the Hellenistic world
Author: Thomas, Joshua J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 8502 6356
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis examines the scope and nature of natural science in the Hellenistic world using a diverse assemblage of artistic and visual material surviving from Hellenistic and Imperial times. In doing so, it provides a fresh insight into the intellectual climate that is often heralded as a hallmark of the Hellenistic age. Following an introductory chapter that sketches some of the historical background against which developments in the natural sciences need to be set, the thesis is divided into two principal parts. The first focuses on a series of compositions containing representations of animals accompanied by identifying labels composed in Greek: the painted frieze of the Tomb of Apollophanes in Marisa; the Nile Mosaic at Praeneste; and the verso of the Artemidoros Papyrus. These compositions, it is argued, testify to a culture of describing, depicting, cataloguing and classifying exotic animals upon encountering them in faraway lands, which originated in royal circles in Ptolemaic Alexandria, before spreading down the social and artistic spectrum. The second part of the thesis concerns a selection of mosaics and wall paintings that contain astonishingly naturalistic representations of animals: the late Hellenistic fish mosaics from Praeneste, Pompeii and Panisperna; a series of mosaics excavated in and associated with Attalid Pergamon; and our surviving corpus of garden paintings from Latium and Campania. These compositions demonstrate that animals were sometimes kept in captivity and studied in close detail in the Hellenistic world, probably with a combination of scientific and decorative ends in mind. They also provide important information concerning the ways in which detailed images were transmitted and re-produced during antiquity. A picture will emerge of a world in which the animal kingdom played an important role in defining power and privilege, particularly among the uppermost echelons of society.
Supervisor: Smith, R. R. R. Sponsor: Stavros Niarchos Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available