Ancient Mediterranean + Europe
Lysippos, Apoxyomenos (Scraper, Roman copy after a bronze statue from c. 330 B.C.E., 6' 9" high (Vatican Museums). Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.
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- Was the strigil sharp, like a razor? And did they shave their bodies in the process?(10 votes)
- The strigils from archeological finds were not sharp as knives. They were not, as I know of, meant to remove body hair. The shape of a strigil lends itself relatively poorly to shaving, even if it were sharpened. http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/scraper-strigil-153253
As for the Hellenistic Greeks the only evidence I know for depilatory practice is art. Even though the young generally have less body hair than mature adults, young athletes are usually depicted/sculptured without in places where it would normally grow.
The Romans, who also used strigils, certainly went in for the removal of body hair, by evidence of contemporary literature. On the internet I have found snippets that Augustus was supposed to have been over eager with the strigil on his face and consequently had sores from it, but unfortunately I have not found a reference to the source. Until I have further evidence I believe this could be a misunderstanding, because razor knives were made of bronze too. But of course, any scraper can inflict skin damage if applied vigorously. The Romans would shave, pluck and use cosmetics hoping to make unwanted hair fall out, and it is likely that the same means were available in Hellenistic Greece as they were known to the ancient Egyptians.(21 votes)
- When was soap invented? And was this the common way to clean one self, before the invention of soap?(6 votes)
- The invention of soap is very ancient. A recipe exist from 2800 BC but in the beginning it seems not to have been used much for personal hygiene. Early soaps tended to be pretty caustic. The Roman practice of washing in water first and then oiling the body and scraping off excess oil is actually quite effective at removing dirt. "Washing" in sand is also a very old practice, most often used as a scrubbing aid in water, but sometimes for scrubbing when no water could be spared.
Washing in milk cannot have been common, although we hear of queen Cleopatra bathing in it. Any emulsion can be used instead of soap. (I used large amounts of skin care cream in a pinch once...)
In cultures where water is hard to come by especially, there is often a strong taboo about using the left hand for "clean" practices and the right hand for "dirty" ones. Washing is not always an option.(24 votes)
- Were those supports only needed when carving the statue? If so, why were the ends left on the statue? If not, how can the extremities, especially the arm, be supported? Is it just really good glue?(3 votes)
- This is a Roman copy, in marble, of a earlier Greek sculpture made of bronze. Bronze is A LOT stronger than marble, and the original statue could support it's own weight. However the later Roman copy could not. Therefore the supports had to be added in to stop the sculpture shattering under it's own weight.
The arms are the most vulnerable (and least supported) part of ancient marble statues, and that is why many of the ones that survive today have lost their arms.(3 votes)
- Why don't we just make more copies of originals, and paint them? The we can look at them the way the ancient people did.(3 votes)
- We can, and we do. Museums just prefer to present the real statue and then have a few pictures or a movie of what it would have looked like (it's Cheaper). This is a particularly good video reconstruction:
Also, someone rebuilt the Parthenon, complete with huge Athena statue:
- Has the original bronze sculpture of Apoxyomenos survived?
Or do we only have copies, like this?(2 votes)
- Aside from a lot of ancient artifacts, such as statues, being lost to time, classical bronze sculptures are especially hard to come by as most of them were melted down in times of war to manufacture weapons. A lot of the classical bronze statues that remain today have been found on the seafloor.(3 votes)
- How do I cite this video?(1 vote)
- Zucker, Steven and Beth Harris. "Lysippos, Apoxyomenos (Scraper)." Online video. Smarthistory. Web. 22 November 2015.(2 votes)
- At2:43-2:44, the speaker mentions that the Greeks loved to create nude sculptures of male athletes. Why did this society obsess over creating idealized physically fit nudes in the first place, and why were these sculptures almost always male in the gender department?(1 vote)
- I think that the answer to the first part of your question is that the Greeks considered the body beautiful and that in sculpture, they wanted to display it fully, without clothes. Also the Olympics were extremely important to the Greeks--while the Olympics were taking place, the Greek city-states were not allowed to be at war with each other.
I hope this helps.(2 votes)
- The last video was really cool!(1 vote)
- One of the wonderful features of Khan Academy is the "tips and thanks" column. This comment would fit there better than here, buried among the questions where students like ourselves help each other out. I suggest that you copy it and paste it to the tips and thanks, where the people who make the videos will more likely see it, and feel good about your compliment.(1 vote)
[MUSIC PLAYING] DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: In ancient Greece, people did not use soap and water to wash, they used oil. And we're seeing a sculpture called the "Scraper" or the "Apoxyomenos" by Lysippos, which shows just that. This is an athlete whose body is now covered with perspiration and dust. And what he's doing is he's washing himself, first by covering his body with oil, and then using a strigil to scrape all the grime off with the oil. DR. BETH HARRIS: Lysippos was one of the most famous sculptors from the fourth century BCE. But, of course, we're not looking at the actual work by Lysippos of the Apoxyomenos. We're looking at an ancient Roman copy of marble of what was a Greek bronze original. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: But even though it's a copy, it can give us a tremendous amount of information. Lysippos is known for having changed the proportional canon that we associate with the High Classical tradition in Greece. This is the fourth century, and what Lysippos has done is to elongate the body and to reduce the size of the head. DR. BETH HARRIS: And it's very obvious, when you compare this with a fifth-century sculpture of the Classical period by Polycleitus, who was the sculptor who established that canon. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: In the Doryphoros, if you look at Polycleitus' sculpture, and you measure the size of the head, the length of the body is seven heads tall. But Lysippos has added a full head's worth of length. So, if you were to measure this, this is eight head lengths tall. And because the head is smaller, and the body is taller, it gives us a sense of, as we look up at this sculpture on a podium, that the figure is even taller than he is. DR. BETH HARRIS: And Lysippos has done some other view things. He's reached the figure's arm into space, where the figure is scraping the oil from his body. And by doing that, he breaks out of the frontal orientation of Classical sculpture and makes us want to move around the figure so can see it from different directions. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: That's right. There is, perhaps, a fairly ideal position to view this sculpture from, his front left. But, nevertheless, I can't see his chest. And so I do want to move around. Now, this was a bronze originally. So that tree trunk was not there in the original sculpture. It wasn't necessary. Bronze has enough tensile strength, so you don't need that. And you can see that there's actually a fragment of a couple of bridges that were meant to first support the marble arms, which have broken and then been repaired. But, nevertheless, even in the original bronze, I would have wanted to walk around this. DR. BETH HARRIS: No question. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: But even though Lysippos is introducing these very new innovations-- again, this change of the proportion of the body, this breaking of the frontal plane of the sculpture-- he's still very much embedded in the great Greek tradition of representing the nude athlete, this idealized human body. DR. BETH HARRIS: And, of course, Lysippos' figure stands in contrapposto, which was invented by the Greeks in the Classical period. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: It's such a gorgeous example of contrapposto, and of the body as a whole. Look at the musculature. We really feel the power of this athlete, even though it's presumably now after his exercises. DR. BETH HARRIS: From sources, we hear that Lysippos was associated with Alexander the Great, the great military leader that conquered Greece and spread Greek ideas throughout the Mediterranean. And he's said to have sculpted Alexander. Too bad none of those sculptures survive. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: We're seeing the sculpture in the Vatican, because antiquities were treasured by Renaissance popes, and subsequently. But, of course, we're looking at a structure that is pagan, and pagan in its celebration of human achievement, in human beauty, as opposed to the spiritual. But it is striking to see this sculpture in such a religious institution. DR. BETH HARRIS: And so many ancient Greek and Roman sculptures all around us here in the Vatican museum. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: One last detail, which is the room in which the sculpture is displayed apparently was a room that Leonardo da Vinci occupied briefly. Leonardo, of course, this stepping stone back to this reverence for the body, even within the Catholic tradition. [MUSIC PLAYING]