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Biographies (14)


Aglaophon, 5th ce. BC

Aglaophon, a painter, born in the island of Thasos, the father and instructor of Polygnotus (Suidas and Photius, s. v. Polugnotos; Anth. Gr. ix. 700). He had another son named Aristophon (Plat. Gorg.). As Polygnotus flourished before the 90th Ol. (Plin. H. N. xxxv. 9. s. 35), Aglaophon probably lived about Ol. 70. Quintilian (xii. 10.3) praises his paintings, which were distinguished by the simplicity of their colouring, as worthy of admiration on other grounds besides their antiquity. There was an Aglaophon who flourished in the 90th Ol., who were possessed of great wealth, according to Pliny (H. N. xxxv. 9. s. 36), and his statement is confirmed by a passage of Athenaeus (xii.), from which we learn that he painted two pictures, in one of which Olympias and Pythias, as the presiding geniuses of the Olylmpic and Pythian games, were represented crowning Alcibiades; in the other Nemea, the presiding deity of the Nemean games, held Alcibiades on her knees. Alcibiades could not have gained any victories much before Ol. 91 (B. C. 416). It is therefore exceedingly likely that this artist was the son of Aristophon, and grandson of the older Aglaophon, as among the Greeks the son generally bore the name not of his father but of his grandfather. Plutarch (Alcib. 16) says, that Aristophon was the author of the picture of Nemea and Alcibiades. He may perhaps have assisted his son. This Aglaophon was, according to some, the first who represented Victory with wings.

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Oct 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Aristophon, 5th ce. BC

Aristophon, a painter of some distinction, the son and pupil of Aglaophon, and the brother of Polygnotus. He was also probably the father of the younger Aglaophon, and born at Thasos. Some of his productions are mentioned by Pliny (xxxv. 11. s. 40), and Plutarch (de audiend. Poet. 3). It is probably through a mistake that Plutarch (Alcib. 16) makes him the author of a picture representing Alcibiades in the arms of Nemea.

. . . Aristophon the brother of Polygnotus, and by Plato reckoned as his equal, some well-known pictures are quoted in Pliny and Plutarch: of these a numerosa tabula is probably to be identified as the principal scene of an Iliupersis, in which Priamus, Helena and Peitho, Ulixes and Apate, and Deiphobus appear, possibly (as numerosa would seem to imply) as an excerpt from a large composition. Besides this, we have an Astypalaea grieving for her son Ancaeus, wounded by a boar (suggestive of Adonis and Aphrodite); a Philoctetes (probably the same which Pliny saw in the Pinacotheca of the Propylaea at Athens); and a picture commemorating the agonistic victories of Alcibiades. This last subject has given rise to much discussion; one author (Satyrus) makes of it two pictures, the one representing Olympias and Pythias crowning Alcibiades, the other Nemea sitting with Alcibiades in her lap. The other authority (Plutarch) names simply Nemea seated with Alcibiades in her arms, and adds that it caused quite a furore in Athens; but the elders took it ill, as savouring of tyrannia and lawlessness (paranomois). Klein explains the paranomois as referring to a psephisma of the Athenians forbidding any one from attaching to a female slave or hetaira the name of a Penteteris. The terms of the description make it clear that it was one picture. Satyrus says that the painting was Aglaophontos graphen; if this is so, we must imagine an Aglophon the second, for it is not possible that the father of Polygnotus could have lived so long. Probably either Satyrus or his quoter (Athenaeus) must have omitted the name of the son, and the quotation should run Aristophontos tou] Aglaophontos.

This extract is from: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin). Cited July 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Aristomenes, a painter, born at Thasos is mentioned by Vitruvius (iii. Prooem. Β§ 2), but did not attain to any distinction.

Polygnotus, (5th century BC)

Polygnotus (Polugnotos). A celebrated Greek painter of the island of Thasos. He worked chiefly in Athens, whither he had been invited by Cimon about B.C. 460, and where he received the citizenship. His most celebrated paintings were the "Capture of Troy" and the "Descent of Odysseus into Hades," in the hall erected by the Cnidians at Delphi. We possess a description of them in considerable detail by Pausanias (x. 25-31). Other celebrated paintings by him (though several of his contemporaries were associated with him in their execution) were to be seen in the Stoa Poecile, the "Capture of Troy" and the "Battle of Marathon" , and in the temples of the Dioscuri, and of Theseus at Athens. Though his works were only tinted outlines traced upon a coloured background, without shading and without any perspective, and sketched, as it were, in simple relief, all on the same plane, still his clear, rhythmical composition, the delicacy of his drawing, the impressiveness of his contours, and the nobility of his figures were highly celebrated.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Polygnotos (5th century BC)

Polygnotos. Innovative painter from Thasos during the Classical period, who spent most of his life in Athens.
  Aristotle used his work to illustrate what he ment by ethos, enhanced state of mind. Pausanians writes about his paintings in Delphi.
  Polygnotos preferred to paint characters and thoughtfulness: in Delphi he painted the Greeks and the Trojans the day after the battle of Troy and another work showed Odysseus visiting the underworld. He also painted mythological scenes in the Stoa Poikile in Athens.
  Polygnotos prefered to use colours like black, red, yellow ochra and white, but also used shades inbetween by mixing the colours: for example, he painted bodies that show through water and seethrough clothes.
  He was also the first to try to show the background as a reality and introduced landscapes as well as perspecitve.
  Before Polygnotos painting was for decoration, now it became a cultural factor. He founded the helladic school of art in Athens.

This text is cited Sept 2003 from the In2Greece URL below.

...With Polygnotus the history of Greek painting as an independent art may be said to begin, and in this sense we may accept the statement of Theophrastus (ante) that this artist was the inventor of painting. It is the period of the great reaction at Athens succeeding to the Persian wars, and for the first time we hear of great historical compositions, and of painters recognised as public characters. The limited space of this article necessarily precludes anything like a general notice of all the various productions of Greek painters incidentally mentioned in ancient writers. With the exception, therefore, of occasionally mentioning works of extraordinary celebrity, the notices of the various Greek painters of whom we have any satisfactory knowledge will be restricted to those who, by the quality or peculiar character of their works, have contributed towards the establishment of any of the various styles of painting practised by the ancients. A fuller account of each artist will be found under their respective names in the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography.
  The fame of Polygnotus is chiefly associated with Athens; he was born at Thasos, and came of a family of Thasiote artists; his father Aglophon, and his brother Aristophon, being both recorded as painters of note. Of the details of his life we know very little; just as his great contemporary Pheidias started life as a painter, so Polygnotus is spoken of as having had some experience in sculpture: an association between the two arts which is clearly reflected in the sculpture of the time. His period of activity seems to have lain between B.C. 475 and 430. Attracted to Athens among the artists whom Cimon was employing for the reconstruction and adornment of the city, he won for himself the freedom of that city, and a special honour from the Amphictyons, by his gratuitous work at Athens and at Delphi. He became the leader of a school of painters who worked on the same monuments, and probably much in the same manner, as himself; principal. among these were Panaenus, a relation of Pheidias, and Micon, like his leader both sculptor and painter, and, like him too, of Ionic origin.
  Unfortunately, in many cases where these artists were employed conjointly, we cannot always decide which subjects to assign to each of the respective masters. In all probability, the earliest works which can with certainty be attributed to Polygnotus were the large compositions with which he decorated the Lesche or assembly hall of the Cnidians at Delphi, representing the Sack of Troy and the Vision of Hades. These paintings are celebrated in an epigram of Simonides: now we know that in B.C. 477 the poet went to Sicily, and that in B.C. 467 he died; so that the paintings were probably executed at least before B.C. 470. Pausanias devotes seven chapters (x. 25-31) to their description, and from this we can gather a very fair idea of the general character of the compositions. The figures were arranged in an extended form of frieze, but grouped on different levels, and lacking that pictorial unity which a definitive background supplies in modern painting. Each figure had the name written over it, and the wall was covered with distinct groups, each telling its own story, but all contributing together to relate the tale of the general composition. They were in fact painted histories, and each group was no further connected with the contiguous groups, than that they all tended to illustrate different facts of the same story. Intended as they were for the decoration of architecture, they were subservient to tectonic laws; as in sculpture in relief, what was not absolutely necessary to illustrate the principal object was indicated merely by symbolism: thus, in default of more elaborate scenery, locality was suggested rather than expressed,--a tree, a house, or a piece of water representing what the knowledge of each spectator would easily supply for himself.
  If we consider the narrow limits thus imposed on Polygnotos by his obedience to ancient laws and canons not yet broken through, we shall expect to find his real claims to the advancement of art more set forth in the details of his style and treatment of his subject; and this is precisely what is most noted of him by ancient writers. While he inherits the strength and firmness of his more archaic predecessors, he adds a breadth of style and an ?sthetic beauty which is less external than inherent within the character of his subject. This is what Aristotle means when he (Poet. c. 6) speaks of him as an agathos ethographos,, an excellent delineator of [p. 408] moral character, and assigns to him in this respect a complete superiority over Zeuxis; and again (ibid. c. 2), speaking of imitation, when he remarks that it must be either superior, inferior, or equal to its model, illustrating his point by the cases of three painters: Polygnotus, he says, paints men better than they are, Pauson worse than they are, and Dionysius as they are.
  Pliny says (xxxv. § 58) that he was the first to paint women with translucent drapery, and to decorate their heads with various coloured head-dresses; but that his greatest contributions to painting were those of opening the mouth, showing the teeth, and that he gave expression to the countenance by altering its archaic stiffness. It is in these last characteristics that we see the revolution brought about by Polygnotus; he endeavours, in the whole treatment of the body, to impart an individual character; especially in the face, so that a poet of the Anthology (Anth. Gr. iii. 147 B) might say of his Polyxena that in her eyelids lay the whole of the Trojan war. It is probably more than a coincidence that in his works we have the first glimpse of portrait painting in the modern sense. The artist loved Elpinice, the sister of the great Cimon; and her portrait, as Laodice, figured among the Trojan women represented by him in the Stoa.
  With Polygnotus the art of Painting was in point of conception and spiritual beauty at its zenith; but, unlike sculpture, it was as yet lacking in technical power; as Woermann (p. 43) says, It truly entered into possession of its full technical means in a later generation, when the arts of Greece were no longer bent upon their ideal mission in the same high earnest as of old. The range of colours was scanty;6 and though we hear of special local tints being applied (e. g. the Eurynomus in the Nekyia coloured blue-black, like a carrion fly, as Pausanias says), there is no suggestion of a transition of tones or of local light and shade. Indeed, this is the more natural when we remember that no determinate background was used, but probably the figures stood out on the white ground of the wall.
  If we wish to realise the spirit of Polygnotus' paintings, it is principally to the sculptures of the time that we must look; and specially to the series of reliefs upon the marble lekythi and sepulchral stelae, which breathe the same qualities of pathos that underlay the paintings of this master, and the bloom of which art falls just in his time. Possibly even the motives of these sculptures may suggest the types which Polygnotus had created for his great picture of Hades. The influence which his art exercised upon sculpture is best shown in the frieze of the Graeco-Lycian monument of Gjolbaschi, where more than one motive (e. g. the Slaying of the Suitors by Odysseus) is directly inspired by the painting of the same subject. But as far as mere types are concerned, much is probably still to be obtained from the study of vases. The gulf between art and handicraft is widening, and the polychrome vase-paintings (on a white ground) are a last attempt to keep pace with the greater art, but for the most part are not worthy of the simple colouring of Polygnotus. On some red-figured vases, however, of the time of Meidias,7 it is now shown that the scenes depicted have a close relationship with the painter,--a fact borne out by the inscriptions which they bear, and which are written in the Parian-Thasian, and not the Attic, alphabet. Dummler has collected as many as six such instances, and more will doubtless be now identified.
  For a list of the various works of Polygnotus and his contemporaries, we must refer the reader to Overbeck's Schriftquellen. It is sufficient to say here that their principal sphere seems to have been Athens, and the wealth of Athenian local myths supplied them with the most varied and extensive themes. It was a time when the luxuriance of Ionic art was taking a hold upon Athens, not in painting alone, but in the whole range of Attic culture; and this movement is continued in the greatest of the colleagues of Polygnotus, Micon and Panaenus.

This extract is from: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin). Cited July 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Ancient comedy playwrites

Hegemon, 5th cent. BC

   A native of Thasos and author of satyric dramas in the age of Alcibiades who was his friend, and managed to get him freed from an accusation that had been brought against him. A parody by this poet, entitled Gigantomachia, was being presented when the news arrived of the defeat of Nicias in Sicily. This Hegemon was called Phace (phake, "lentil"), conferred on him as a nickname. He wrote also a comedy entitled Philinna.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Hegemon, of Thasos, was a comic poet of the old comedy at Athens, but was more celebrated for his parodies, of which kind of poetry he was, according to Aristotle, the inventor. He was nicknamed Phake, on account of his fondness for that kind of pulse. He lived in the time of the Peloponnesian war, and was contemporary with Cratinus when the latter was an old man, and with Alcibiades. His parody of the Gigantomachia was the piece to which the Athenians were listening, when the news was brought to them in the theatre of the destruction of the expedition to Sicily, and when, in order not to betray their feelings, they remained in the theatre to the end of the performance. The only comedy of his which is mentioned is the Philine, of which one fragment is preserved by Athenaeus, who also gives some amusing particulars respecting him. (Aristot. Poel. 2, and Hitter's note; Athen. i., b.; iii.; ix.; xv.; Meineke, Hist. Crit. Com. Graec.; Fabric. Bibl. Graec. ii.)

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Nov 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Androsthenes of Thasos, 4th cent. BC

Androsthenes of Thasus, one of Alexander's admirals, sailed with Nearchus, and was also sent by Alexander to explore the coast of the Persian gulf (Strab. xvi.; Arrian, Anab. vii. 20). He wrote an account of this voyage, and also a Tes Indikes paraplous (Athen. iii.). Compare Marcian. Heracl.; Theophr. de Caus. Plant. ii. 5; Vossius, de Histor. Graec.

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