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Inscribing Defeat: The Commemorative Dynamics of the Athenian Casualty Lists

Author(s): Arrington, Nathan T

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Abstract: Beginning ca. 500 bc, the Athenians annually buried their war dead in a public cemetery and marked their graves with casualty lists. This article explores the formal and expressive content of the lists, focusing in particular on their relationship to defeat. The lists created a monumental, visual rhetoric of collective resilience and strength that capitalized on Athenian notions of manhood and exploited conceptions of shame. For most of the fifth century, the casualty lists were undecorated, austere monuments testifying to the endurance of the community. When decoration began anew, the public reliefs, in contrast to private funerary reliefs, represented, through imagery and setting, struggle rather than victory. The selective remembrance and, paradoxically, frequent forgetting both enacted and enabled by the lists helped the Athenians elide internal political strife and facilitated their repeated return to the fields of war.
Publication Date: Oct-2011
Citation: Arrington, Nathan T. "Inscribing defeat: the commemorative dynamics of the Athenian casualty lists." Classical Antiquity 30, no. 2 (2011): 179-212. doi:10.1525/CA.2011.30.2.179.
DOI: doi:10.1525/CA.2011.30.2.179
ISSN: 0278-6656
EISSN: 1067-8344
Pages: 179 - 212
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Classical Antiquity
Version: Final published version. Article is made available in OAR by the publisher's permission or policy.

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