Herakles’ Apotheosis in Etruria and Greece

Rasmussen, T. 2005. “Herakles’ Apotheosis in Etruria and Greece”. Antike Kunst 48:30-39.

Presenter: Mal Pigmon


Sara McFadden;
Caitlin O’Loughlin;
Francesca Pierre;
Whitney Tyrkala;
Morgan Williams

14 thoughts on “Herakles’ Apotheosis in Etruria and Greece

  1. What argument does Rasmussen make about Greek images and how they relate to Etruscan art? What evidence does he use? How effective is this evidence?

    • I am not entirely sure If I will answer this correctly but here it goes. The arguement I think he makes has to do with Etruscan art taking on different parts of Greek myths. He talks about these mirrors in which some have Herakles as a fully grown man, beard and all suckling Uni’s breast which is not depicted in Greece. One of the reasons he gave about why the Greeks didn’t show this was because the Greeks were against showing a woman’s breast in art. He goes on to say that this is only one instance in which a lesser known aspect of a greek myth is shown in Etruscan art. The reason why the etruscans showed this part may have been because it had a connection with a certain local ritual or religious sentimentheld by the Etruscans not the Greeks. His evidence is okay I guess but there is a lot of information about every mirror that does not seem to be needed. It just seemed like he got bogged down by the details and didn’t make his over all point shine through while listing the evidence. He also used writings which helped prove his point better in my opinion.

      • To be frank, I would have liked a thesis statement. What he is going to talk about is very convoluted in his opening. THis is not helped by the complete lack of conclusion.
        As to what has been said. I find it hard to to suspend my disbelief enough for the phenomena of Herkules suckling as an adult to be a manifestation of a Greek myth. The exposure of a women’s breastes does happen in Greek art, but not regularly and it is usually an OH OOPS I DROPPED MY TOWEL moment. I think that this is an etruscan mutation, which would make sense given the different activities Etruscan women were privy too.

        • I’m not quite sure if Rasmussen has a specific argument, he seems to be summarizing and compiling previous literature regarding the Herakles’ Apotheosis scene to show the different stances that have been taken. The two main interpretations seem to be that the mirror scene is a “deformazioni etrusche del mito Greco,” an Etruscan deformation of the Greek myth, or that the scene can be entirely understood in terms of Greek mythology. The Greek written sources do not explicitly state whether Herakles was an infant or a man when he suckled Hera, so the origin of this specific detail is hard to ascertain.
          Rasmussen compares the Florence mirror to other mirrors and scenes on vessels from Etruria to outline the differences in the representations of the scene, mostly the differences in Herakles’ age. He also references Greek literary sources on mythology by authors like Pseudo-Lykophron, Diodorus, and Nonnus to show the Greek mythological basis for the suckling motif. In terms of the anthropological inspiration for the scene, he cites Cook, who cites Frazer, who cites Plutarch, who wrote about Greek adoption ceremonies in which a missing person was reunited into their community through a rebirth and suckling ritual. This chain of citations is what makes me think Rasmussen is merely summarizing previous research. In order to formulate his own argument, he probably would have investigated the primary source, rather than citing a source that references it.

          • Sara and Morgan-totally agree. He definitely is trying to make his point, but we do lose a bit of exactly what he trying to say. He intensely describes each image, but we don’t find his belief in Etruscan images reflecting Greek myth untill much later in the article.

        • There are definitely issues with the lack of a thesis statement at the beginning of the work. We need to be careful about the chronology here, though. We don’t really see the female nude until well into the 5th century in Greece. The Etruscan mirrors are all earlier. Rasmussen is right that there is a strict taboo. What about the Greek litarary sources? Is there a similar taboo on descriptions of naked females?

      • I really like what you got out of this article, and it’s also what I found as well. He has some issues clearly stating this thesis, but later he finally draws conclusions on the fact that the Etruscans didn’t necessarily change a Greek myth, but actually depict what Greeks would have considered taboo; this showing the differences in each society and as you said, local rituals.

  2. Awesome answers to the first question guys! But here’s another one- how do you think Rasmussen could have approached this topic differently in order to fix all these issues we see?

    • Rasmussen could have structured his article according to how we are taught today with a clear introduction and thesis statement that prepares the reader for the argument, then the analysis of the artworks and supporting evidence, and then maybe contrasting perspectives and why he believes his idea provides a better explanation, and then a conclusion that summarizes his main points.

      • He needed to focus less on describing the artifacts and more on explaining why he was talking about them. And he needs to givehis opinion more. At the end he was mostly talking about others opinion on the subject.

        • I agree. He makes a fantastic point about the “Etruscanization” of greek myth, and it would be nice if he told us this right off the bat. I do think the artifacts are important in helping prove his point, but he doesn’t quite bring it back to his original point.

    • Why do you think that Rasmussen took the oddly arranged approach he did? Is there a reason for the structure he adopts?

      • I don’t know much about art history, but a question that bugged me was why this image appeared on the back of a mirror. Was this have any significance?

        • Probably not. These items are fairly common in Archaic tombs (although we didn’t look at many of them). If you can imagine a Greek myth, it appears on one of these types of Archaic mirrors.

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