It is to Greek critical thinking about seeing that we owe our conceptual framework for theorizing the senses, and it is also to such thinking that we owe the lasting legacy of Greco-Roman imagery. Sight and the Ancient Senses is the first thorough introduction to the conceptualization of sight in the history, visual culture, literature and philosophy of classical antiquity. Examining how the Greeks and Romans interpreted what they saw, the collection also considers sight in relation to the other senses.
This volume brings together a number of interdisciplinary perspectives to deliver a broad and balanced coverage of this subject. Contributors explore the cultural, social and intellectual backdrops that gave rise to ancient theories of seeing, from Archaic Greece through to the advent of Christianity in late antiquity. This series of specially commissioned thematic chapters demonstrate how theories about sight informed Graeco-Roman philosophy, science, poetry rhetoric and art. The collection also reaches beyond its Graeco-Roman visual framework, showcasing how ancient ideas have influenced the longue durée of western sensory thinking. Richly illustrated throughout, including a section of color plates, Sight and the Ancient Senses is a wide-ranging introduction to ancient theories of seeing which will be an invaluable resource for students and scholars of classical antiquity.
"Sight had a special place among the senses in antiquity. In different circumstances it was thought to be the guarantee of truth or the root of deception. In a powerful demonstration of why philosophers, art historians and literary critics need to be in constant dialogue, this book goes a long way to explaining both the causes and the consequences of sight's peculiar status for the Greeks and the Romans, as it explores both ancient theories of vision and some of the ways in which seeing and not seeing structured attitudes to knowledge and ignorance, memory and forgetfulness, life and death, the human and the divine."
- Robin Osborne, Professor of Ancient History, University of Cambridge, UK
"One must be grateful to Mr. Squire for having, in the spirit of the collection, contributed to the production of a coherent whole. We do not read there a meeting of autonomous texts but a book collectively thought, in which the different authors dialogue and respond. Since the work covers a very wide field, both in terms of the chronological extent and the cultural aspects envisaged, this merit must be welcomed."
-Frédéric Le Blay, Université de Nantes, France, in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review
List of Figures
List of Contributors
Introductory reflections: Making sense of ancient sight
1. Sight and the Presocratics: Approaches to visual perception in early Greek philosophy
2. Sight and the philosophy of vision in Classical Greece: Democritus, Plato and Aristotle
3. Sight and the perspectives of mathematics: The limits of ancient optics
REVIEL NETZ & MICHAEL SQUIRE
4. Sight and reflexivity: Theorizing vision in Greek vase-painting
5. Sight and painting: Optical theory and pictorial poetics in Classical Greek art
6. Sight and light: Reified gazes and looking artefacts in the Greek cultural imagination
7. Sight and death: Seeing the dead through ancient eyes
8. Sight and the gods: On the desire to see naked nymphs
9. Sight and memory: The visual art of Roman mnemonics
JAŚ ELSNER & MICHAEL SQUIRE
10. Sight and insight: Theorizing vision, emotion and imagination in ancient rhetoric
11. Sight and Christianity: Early Christian attitudes to seeing
12. Sight and blindness: The mask of Thamyris
13. Sight in retrospective: The afterlife of ancient optics
A. MARK SMITH
Like us, ancient Greeks and Romans came to know and understand their world through their senses. Yet it has long been recognized that the world the ancients perceived, and the senses through which they channelled this information could operate differently from the patterns and processes of perception in the modern world. This series explores the relationship between perception, knowledge and understanding in the literature, philosophy, history, language and culture of ancient Greece and Rome.