The proem to Herodotus's history of the Greek-Persian wars relates the long-standing conflict between Europe and Asia from the points of view of the Greeks' chief antagonists, the Persians and Phoenicians. However humorous or fantastical these accounts may be, their stories, as voiced by a Greek, reveal a great deal about the perceived differences between Greeks and others. The conflict is framed in political, not absolute, terms correlative to historical events, not in terms of innate qualities of the participants. It is this perspective that informs the argument of The Art of Contact: Comparative Approaches to Greek and Phoenician Art.
Becky Martin reconsiders works of art produced by, or thought to be produced by, Greeks and Phoenicians during the first millennium B.C., when they were in prolonged contact with one another. Although primordial narratives that emphasize an essential quality of Greek and Phoenician identities have been critiqued for decades, Martin contends that the study of ancient history has not yet effectively challenged the idea of the inevitability of the political and cultural triumph of Greece. She aims to show how the methods used to study ancient history shape perceptions of it and argues that art is especially positioned to revise conventional accountings of the history of Greek-Phoenician interaction.
Examining Athenian and Tyrian coins, kouros statues and mosaics, as well as the familiar Alexander Sarcophagus and the sculpture known as the "Slipper Slapper," Martin questions what constituted "Greek" and "Phoenician" art and, by extension, Greek and Phoenician identity. Explicating the relationship between theory, method, and interpretation, The Art of Contact destabilizes categories such as orientalism and Hellenism and offers fresh perspectives on Greek and Phoenician art history.
Introduction Chapter 1. Culture, Contact, and Art History: Framing the Theoretical Landscape Chapter 2. Arts of Contact Chapter 3. Exceptional Greeks and Phantom Phoenicians Chapter 4. The Rise of Phoenicianism Chapter 5. Hybridity, the Middle Ground, and the "Conundrum of 'Mixing'" Conclusion
Notes Works Cited Index Acknowledgments
S. Rebecca Martin teaches Greek art and architecture at Boston University.
"This is a book that deserves to be widely read. It combines exceptional theoretical sophistication with detailed engagements with works of art, their material affordances, and the specifics of their contexts of production and consumption. It is chock full of new arguments and insights that specialists in classical and Mediterranean art will wish to engage with."—American Journal of Archaeology
"With an array of theories, [Martin] aims to free Phoenician art from the shadows by avoiding the presumption that Greek art was superior to that of the Near East. By selectively choosing examples of canonical works of art and relevant postcolonial theories, [she] pieces together innovative and thought-provoking ideas that prioritize the Phoenicians . . . With its successful organization and methods, the book marks a major contribution."—Classical Journal
"This thoughtful and stimulating book tackles a central issue of the ancient Mediterranean world-the 'art of contact'-through focused consideration of the relationship between 'Greek' and 'Phoenician' art. The author brings to this complex topic both archaeological expertise and academic training as an art historian, conjoined skills that shed welcome light on the Classical and Hellenistic eras."—Journal of the American Oriental Society
"An entirely original book. Becky Martin opens the imagination to a new array of methodological possibilities and a series of important and provocative interpretations of particular works of art and genres of historical objects."—Josephine Crawley Quinn, University of Oxford