According to Greek mythology, the handsome Adonis was loved and protected by Aphrodite since his boyhood. Adonis was mortally wounded by Aphrodite’s jealous husband. As he lay dying, drops of his blood fell upon the soil and a beautiful red flower—the anemone—sprang from the spot.
Roman banquets served many public and private functions—social, religious, or political. Funeral banquets, such as the one shown here, were often given by wealthy individuals to anyone who attended or participated in the funeral of a relative who had died. This practice began as a way of honoring the memory of the deceased.
Although music was not considered a suitable profession for a Roman citizen, music accompanied many events and activities in ancient times. Roman armies used horn players to relay signals. Religious ceremonies, public games, and processions all included music. Street musicians, such as the ones shown here, were a common sight in the bustling cities of the empire.
Roman games, intended to entertain large groups of spectators, sometimes included athletic events. Far more popular, however, were the blood sports—the gladiatorial combats that resulted in injury or death to people and animals.
So much a part of Greek culture, athletic excellence contributed to the Greek concept of the ideal man, who was muscular, strong, and fit. Unlike the Roman games, which were staged for entertainment, Greek games emphasized athletic excellence and competition. This sculpture by Apollonius is of a pugilist (boxer) resting.
These two figurines, made of terracotta, are of actors wearing the masks of comedy. Greek comedies were humorous plays set mostly in contrived situations rather than in the world of myth or legend. The roots of comedy may lie in religious dances or processions that included people wearing masks or disguises.
Silenus, shown here offering at an altar, was a mythical creature distinguished by his horse ears, bald head, and resemblance to the philosopher Socrates. Known for his wisdom, Silenus was believed to have been the tutor of the Greek god Dionysus.
Like boxers today, Greek fighters carefully bandaged their hands for protection. This figure appears on an amphora, a vessel used for storage. Instead of using the shape of the pot to frame a painting, Greek artists adjusted their designs to fit the vessels they were decorating.
From the temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece, this bronze figure holds a censer—a vessel used for burning incense.
This relief sculpture is on the neck of an amphora from Mykonos and dates to the seventh century B.C. It shows the famous Trojan horse filled with Greek soldiers—the ploy used to bring a special force of Greeks inside the walls of Troy.
In this relief sculpture from the fifth century B.C., a victorious young athlete crowns himself. Athletic competitions were very important to the Greeks. The winners brought glory to themselves and increased status to their city-state.
The Olympic Games were so important to the ancient Greeks that a truce was instituted every four years to prevent the almost-constant warfare from interfering. Competitors were usually aristocrats, who had the time and money to train, or professional athletes. An athlete preparing for the discus throw is shown here with his trainer.