From the [purgos] to the [teichos] : the social nature of walls in the Iliad and Archaic Greece




Thomas, Zoé Elise

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This report uses spatial theory to analyze the social nature of walls in the Bronze Age and Archaic Aegean and the literary manifestation of the social nature of walls in the Iliad. It begins with an overview of the historical and archaeological evidence for walls as a social phenomenon in the Bronze Age and Archaic Aegean, including relevant artistic evidence in addition to settlement patterns and excavation reports. Then, it analyzes all instances of the words τεῖχος and πύργος within the Iliad and the narrative context for their usage. The findings of this report show that there are two main categories of usage: military interest settings (battle scenes, construction of fortifications, and strategizing and ordering troops) and community interest settings (expressions of social bonds, especially anxiety over their preservation, scenes of high emotion, and similes). Of these, τεῖχος is more commonly used for military scenes, while πύργος is more commonly used for community scenes. The result of this pattern indicates an attention paid by the poet to the use of these specific vocabulary words to denote the overall effect of a scene for the audience. Τεῖχος reinforces for the audience the military setting of the Iliad, while πύργος signals a greater level of emotional weight for both the characters and for the audience. In combination with the audience’s previous knowledge of the story and other forms of foreshadowing, τεῖχος and πύργος help to guide audience interpretation by signaling the tone of a scene. Moreover, τεῖχος and πύργος provide a framework for understanding the narrative for those audience members who were not previously familiar with the stories by drawing on their experiences of the logistical and social nature of the walls around them. While the binary distinction between military and community should be expanded upon, this initial foray into examining the vocabulary of the built environment of the Iliad from a spatial perspective provides a new way of discussing the cultural context and impact of the epic.



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