Greek influence in the anthropomorphic representation of deities in Hellenized Asia : Parthia, Nemrut Dağı, and Gandhara

Gates, Charles
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Bilkent University
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This thesis analyzes the varying utilization of the Greek idea of anthropomorphic representation of deities in the Hellenized western Asia. In order to explore the different ways in which Greek models were absorbed and utilized by Eastern cultural and artistic traditions, three case studies are examined. Sculptural media is the focus, with subject matter, style, iconography, and patronage to be considered. The cultural, social, religious, and political circumstances are investigated to obtain insight about the nature and reasons of borrowings from the Greek artistic repertoire. The first case study is Parthian art. The Parthians were selective in their adaptation. The Greek language was used for administration along with Aramaic and the Parthians struck coins in Greek fashion. In contrast, in the few sculptural examples surviving from the Parthian period, the influence of Greek art is not attested. The second case study is Nemrut Dağı, a mountaintop sanctuary in Commagene. In the sculptural decoration of the monument, Greek religious repertoire and iconography are used extensively together with Persian elements in the visual expression of the political propaganda of the Commagene dynasty. The third case study is Gandharan art. Here, Greek artistic principles were adapted and incorporated into the local artistic tradition in the creation of the Buddha image in anthropomorphic form, unique to the region. In this study it is suggested that the intensive production of the Buddha images in the reign of the Kushan dynasty might be due to the aim to unite the people under their rule and to show their royal patronage. These three cultures had direct relations with Greek art. Each, however, responded differently to this interaction. In the course of this thesis, it is observed that the main factor behind the varying utilization of Greek artistic principles is politics. The kingdoms in the lands conquered by Alexander the Great used Greek art for political propaganda.

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