Women in Antiq.

 

Essay on Representations and Images

Use depictions of the ancient world to take a position on the representations of gender in the ancient world.

What you need to do:

1 Get ready.
Review the requirements

Review the Requirements for All Papers. This page has important guidance and videos on formatting your document, structuring your essay, and using evidence.

Watch the video

The overview video explains what I want you to cover in the essay and what I’m expecting in terms of arguments, evidence, and structure.

Another resource you may find helpful is the Elephant Pamplet, which gives step-by-step guidance on preparing for and writing a position paper.

2 Choose your topic from one of the two prompts below.

Option A

Two pieces in a museum

How a culture sees abstract ideas (masculinity, virtue, old age, divinity, and so on) is often reflected in its artwork. What can two different works of art depicting the same idea, but from different times or places, tell us about how the cultures that produced them?

Compare the two works show to explore what their creators artists believed about the idea they were representing. What insight do these beliefs this give us into ideas of gender the cultures the two artists came from?

Option B

The ancient world on film

Every depiction of an historical event, whether in prose, poetry, painting, theater, or film, involves an artist using history to convey his or her own beliefs. What do the creators of these works want you to believe in relation to gender conceptions and expectations?

Compare the agenda of the filmmakers with the agenda of the authors of the primary source. How did these creators reshape this event for their own purposes? How do these similarities and differences show what this event means to the people who create art about it?

3 Choose two works depicting gender ideas in the ancient world to compare.

Option A

For the museum option, you need to choose two works of art from the ancient world that (a) represent the same idea or concept related to gender but (b) come either from different periods or from different places in the ancient world.

Choosing your subjects:

  • Your two works of art must represent the same idea or concept. For example, you can choose two little girls, two warriors, two fertility goddesses, etc.
  • Your works of art must be from the ancient era (before 500 CE) and from either two different places or two different periods. The two pieces can be in any visual medium: sculpture, painting, relief, etc.
  • You should experience the artwork face-to-face by attending a museum in person. Possible venues include: Metropolitan Museum’s Egypt Collection; Metropolitan Museum’s Greek and Roman Art Collection; Brooklyn Museum of Art’s Ancient Egyptian Art Collection; and Fordham Museum of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Art. You are not limited to these venues or to New York.

Option B

For the film option, you need to choose a film that is set in the ancient world and that is based on ancient primary sources with some emphasis on gender conceptions and expectations.

Choosing your subjects:

  • First, choose and watch any feature-length film or two episodes of a TV series set in the ancient world (3500 BCE to 500 CE).
  • Then find the ancient primary source material it was based on and read it. For example, if you chose the movie 300, which is about the Battle of Thermopylae, the primary source would be the main ancient account, Book 7 of The Histories by Herodotos. Your primary source(s) must come from the ancient world (before 500 CE).
  • Some suggestions for possible films or series and their corresponding sources are below.

4 Find three aspects of your works that are strong examples of your topic.

Option A

For the museum option, choose three aspects of the works you can discuss for both pieces that seem to reflect how the artist felt about the subject and what the subject stood for.

  • Some possibilities include facial expression, dress, use of technique or medium, stiffness/fluidity, apparent strength/weakness, idealism/realism, or any other elements offering some kind of insight into what the artist was trying to convey.
  • For each aspect, relate your subjective impressions of how it manifests in the first piece; then how the second piece is similar or different and in what way.
  • For example: say you’ve chosen two sculptures depicting different love goddesses, and one has a crafty expression while the other has an innocent expression. The contrast can be used to talk about how each artist might have thought about the goddesses’ relationships with mortals; the nature of love; etc.

Option B

For the film option, choose three moments or depictions from the film and find the corresponding events or depictions in the primary source.

  • For each moment or depiction, describe and discuss how it appears in the film and how it is presented similarly or differently in the primary source material.
  • For example:
    • In the movie 300, Xerxes and the Persians are depicted in a heavy-handed manner; you could use this to discuss what tropes and visual and dialog cues the filmmakers were using to suggest how we should think of the Persians, and why the filmmakers might have turned the story this way.
    • Meanwhile, Herodotos’s presentation of the Persians is very different, which you can use to discuss what Herodotos wanted us to think about the Persians and the role he saw them as playing in this war.

Please take note:This essay is about the agenda of the primary source author as much as the filmmakers’. Do not use the source to “fact check” the film and list what it got “wrong”. You must consider the primary source to be at least as skewed, manipulative, and agenda-driven as the film.

5 Write a 3- to 4-page essay in which you take a position on the works you’re studying.
Introduction

State what you believe these works show us about the culture, beliefs, and social expectations of the cultures involved and how they were perceived and used by others in a way that answers the question in the prompt you chose. (This is your thesis statement.)

Body

Describe and discuss, one by one, each of the three aspects of the works you are studying. For each section, discuss what the evidence tells us about the ideas being represented.

Conclusion

Tie your examples and assertions together and show how they support your overall thesis.

6 Finalize your essay.
Citations

Make sure your written evidence is cited. For how to do citations, see the Research and Citation Center.

Option A:On a separate “Works Discussed” page after your essay, list the title of each work, artist, date created, okace of origin, and the museum. Paste in photographs of the items from your visit the museum’s web site.

Option B:On a separate “Works Discussed” page after your essay, list the title of film, year, director, stars and studio. Then list the book or books you drew your written evidence from, using standard citation style.

Optional draft

You may email me an optional draft two weeks before the final due date. It should include most of your paper (at least two thirds of the final content, with sections to be written described in square brackets). I’ll give feedback, but not a grade, to help you refine your final paper.

Double-check the requirements

Make sure your essay meets the Requirements for All Papers for formatting, structure, and evidence, as well as the specifications given above for what’s expected for this assignment.

Once you’re sure your essay meets the requirements, upload it as DOCX or PDF to BlackBoard.

Some possibilities for the film and sources option include, but are not limited to, the following. Links to most of these primary sources can be found on the ancient texts page on my website.

Greece and Greek Mythology

Film Subject / Possible primary sources to compare
300 (2007) or The 300 Spartans (1962) Battle of Thermopylae
Herodotus, The Histories book 7
300: Rise of an Empire (2014) Battle of Salamis
Herodotus, The Histories book 8
Agora (2009)Hypatia
Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History, 7.15; John of Nikiû, Chronicle 84.87-103; The Suda, Life of Hypatia
Alexander the Great (1956) or Alexander (2004)Alexander
Plutarch, Alexander; or Arrian, Anabasis
Atlantis (2011)Atlantis myth
Plato, Timaeus and Critias
Barefoot in Athens (1966)Socrates
Plato, Phaedo, Apology
Clash of the Titans (1981, 2010)Theseus
Plutarch, Theseus; Ps.-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca; Ovid, Metamorphoses
Damon and Pythias (1962)Damon and Pythias, Syracuse
Cicero, On Duties 3.45; Diodorus Siculus 10.4
Electra (1963)Elektra
Euripides, Elektra; Sophocles, Elektra
The Fury of Achilles (1962)Achilles, Trojan War
Homer, Iliad Books 1, 9, 16-19
Helen of Troy (1956)Helen, Trojan War
Homer, Iliad 3, Odyssey 4, 23; Euripides, Helen; Ovid, Heroides 16; Isocrates, Helen
Hercules (1997), Hercules (2014), or The Legend of Hercules (2014)Hercules
Ovid, Metamorphoses 9, 12; Apollodorus, The Library; Euripides, Herakles; Apollonios Rhodios, Argonautika 1.1175–1280
Iphigenia (1977)Iphigenia
Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis
The Odyssey (1997) or Ulysses (1955)Odysseus
Homer, Odyssey [focus on key events of the film]
The Trojan Horse (1961)Trojan War, Aeneas
Virgil, Aeneid Book 2
The Trojan Women (1971)Greek subjugation of Troy
Euripides, The Trojan Women
Troy (2004)Achilles, Trojan War
Homer, Iliad [focus on key events of the film]

Rome and the Roman Empire

Film Subject / Possible primary sources to compare
Agora (2009)Hypatia
Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History, 7.15; John of Nikiû, Chronicle 84.87-103; The Suda, Life of Hypatia
Attila (2001)Attila
Jordanes, Origin and Deeds of the Goths 36-53; Procopius, History of the Wars 3.4
Boudica (2003)Boudica
Tacitus, Annals 14.29–39, Agricola; Cassius Dio, Roman History 62
Caligula (1980) [warning: explicit sex]Caligula
Suetonius, Caligula; Cassius Dio, Roman History 59
The Centurion (1961)Battle of Corinth
Polybius, The Histories book 38
Centurion (2010)Roman Britain
Tacitus, Agricola
Cleopatra (1963, 1999)Cleopatra, Caesar, Antony
Plutarch, Caesar and Antony
Coriolanus (1963)Coriolanus
Plutarch, Coriolanus; Livy 2.33–2.40
Decline of an Empire (2014)St. Katherine of Alexandria
Saints lives of Saint Katharine of Alexandria
Druids (2001)Vercingetorix, Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar, Gallic Wars book 7; Cassius Dio 40:33–41, 43:19; Plutarch, Caesar 25–27
Duel of Champions (1961)Horatius
Livy 1.24-26
The Eagle (2011)Roman Britain
Tacitus, Agricola
Empire (2005 Mini-Series)Augustus
Suetonius, Augustus; Nicolas of Damascus, Life of Augustus; Cassius Dio, 45–56
The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)Rome under Commodus
Cassius Dio 73; Herodian 1.15; Historia Augusta, “Commodus”
The First King: Birth of an Empire (2019)Romulus and Remus
Livy 1.4-6; Dionysius 1.71-87; Plutarch, Romulus; Ovid, Fasti; Appian, Roman History book 1
Gladiator (2000)Rome under M. Aurelius, Commodus
Cassius Dio 73; Herodian 1.15; Historia Augusta, “Commodus”
Hannibal (1959) or Hannibal (2006)Hannibal Barca, 2d Punic War
Cornelius Nepos, Hannibal; Livy 21-30; Plutarch, Fabius
Hero of Rome (1964)Scaevola, Lars Porsena, formation of Roman Republic
Livy 2.1-21
I, Claudius (1976) [1-2 episodes]Claudius
Tacitus, Annals 11–12; Suetonius, Claudius
Julius Caesar (1953, 1970, 2002)Julius Caesar
Plutarch, Caesar; Suetonius, Divine Julius
Messalina (1960)Messalina. Claudius
Suetonius, Claudius 26-29, 37; Tacitus Annals 11-12; Cassius Dio 60-61
Pompeii: The Last Day (2003) or Pompeii (2014)Eruption of Vesuvius, Roman Italy
Pliny the Younger’s letters to Tacitus, #65 and #66
Quo Vadis? (1951, 2001)Persecution of Christians under Nero
Tacitus, Annals 13–16; Suetonius, Nero; Cassius Dio 61–63
Rome (2005–2007) [use 1-2 episodes]Collapse of the Roman Republic
Various (see me)
Fellini Satyricon (1969)Imperial Rome, homosexuality
Petronius, Satyricon
Scipio Africanus: The Defeat of Hannibal (1937)Scipio Africanus, 2d Punic War
Polybius 10; Cornelius Nepos, Hannibal; Livy 26-29; Valerius Maximus 3.7; Plutarch, Marcellus and Fabius
Siege of Syracuse (1960)Archimedes, Siege of Syracuse
Plutarch, Marcellus; Livy 21-23
The Sign of the Cross (1932)Persecution of Christians under Nero
Tacitus, Annals 13–16; Suetonius, Nero; Cassius Dio 61–63
Spartacus (1960) or Spartacus: Blood and Sand (2010)Spartacus, Roman galdiators/slavery
Appian, Roman History 116–120; Plutarch, Crassus 8–11

Egypt

Film Subject / Possible primary sources to compare
Cleopatra (1963, 1999)Cleopatra, Caesar, Antony
Plutarch, Caesar and Antony
Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)Moses, Hebrew exodus
Old Testament, Exodus
The Prince of Egypt (1998)Moses
Old Testament, Exodus
A Queen for Caesar (1962)Cleopatra
Plutarch, Caesar and Antony
The Ten Commandments (1956) Moses, Hebrew exodus
Old Testament, Exodus

Israel, Canaan, Biblical Stories

Film Subject / Possible primary sources to compare
Abraham (1993 miniseries, 1994 film)Abraham
Old Testament, Genesis books 11–25
David and Goliath (1960), David and Bathsheba (1951)David, kingdom of Israel
Old Testament, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel
Esther and the King (1960)Esther
Old Testament, Esther
Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)Moses, Hebrew exodus from Egypt
Old Testament, Exodus
Jacob (1994)Jacob and Esau
Old Testament, Genesis 25–50
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)Jason
Ovid, Metamorphoses; Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica
Jesus of Nazareth (1977)Jesus
New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
Joseph (1995) or Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1999)Joseph
Old Testament, Genesis 37–50
King David (1985)David, kingdom of Israel
Old Testament, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel
Last Days of Sodom and Gomorrah (1962)Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham, Lot
Old Testament, Genesis 14-19
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)Jesus
New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
Masada (1981 Mini-Series)Siege of Masada
Josephus, The Jewish War book 1
The Nativity Story (2006)Birth of Jesus
New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
Noah (2014)Noah, Great Flood
Old Testament, Genesis 6-9
One Night with the King (2006)Esther
Old Testament, Esther
The Passion of the Christ (2004)Jesus, the Crucifixion
New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
The Prince of Egypt (1998)Moses
Old Testament, Exodus
The Red Tent (2014 miniseries)Dinah (daught. of Jacob)
Old Testament, Genesis 30, 34
Risen (2016)Aftermath of the Crucifixion, Roman Judea
New Testament, Acts of the Apostles
Samson and Delilah (1949)Samson and Delilah
Old Testament, Judges 13-16
Sins of Jezebel (1951)Israel under Ahab
Old Testament, 1 Kings 16-22
Slave of Dreams (1995)Joseph
Old Testament, Genesis 37–50
Solomon and Sheba (1959)Solomon and Sheba
Old Testament, Kings or Chronicles; Josephus, Antiquities book 8
A Story of David (1960)David, kingdom of Israel
Old Testament, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel
The Ten Commandments (1956)Moses, Hebrew exodus from Egypt
Old Testament, Exodus

Mesopotamia, Persia, Asia

Film Subject / Possible primary sources to compare
Esther and the King (1960)Esther
Old Testament, Esther
Gautama Buddha (2007)Siddhārtha Gautama
The Buddhacarita,Lalitavistara Sūtra, and other Buddhist biographies
Intolerance (1916) [Part 1 only]Iron Age Babylon
Herodotus 1.70–144; Josephus, Antiquities 10–11
One Night with the King (2006)Esther
Old Testament, Esther
Queen of Babylon (1954)Semiramis, Babylon
Diodorus Siculus, 2.4-20