Popular Articles

Take a look at the 20 most accessed AJA articles on JSTOR during the last three years. Some are available to download as free PDFs. Access more AJA free content and explore access options.

1. Parthenon and Parthenoi: A Mythological Interpretation of the Parthenon Frieze
Joan B. Connelly
Vol. 100, No. 1 (1996) 53–80
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/506297


Since the late 18th century, the Parthenon frieze has generally been viewed as a representation of the fifth-century Athenian citizenry participating in their annual (or quadrennial) Panathenaic procession. Viewed without a mythological reference, the frieze stands outside the conventions of Greek temple decoration, which regularly derived its subject matter from the mythical past. The story of King Erechtheus, his wife Praxithea, and their three maiden daughters who gave their lives to save Athens is proposed here as the mythological reference behind the images.

2. Nudity as a Costume in Classical Art
Larissa Bonfante
Vol. 93, No. 4 (1989) 543–70
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/505328


The Greeks saw their custom of athletic male nudity as something that set them apart from the barbarians, as well as from their own past. A survey of male nudity as a costume in Greece attempts to trace its origin in eighth-century ritual, its gradual transformation from initiation rites to the ‘civic’ nudity of the Classical period, and its significance in various religious, magic, and social contexts. The character of this institution can be seen more clearly by comparing it with earlier Near Eastern attitudes to nakedness, and to the later contemporary ‘barbarian’ attitudes of the Hebrews, Etruscans, and Gauls, as well as to the contemporary views of female nudity, before its acceptance in the Hellenistic period.

3. The Parthians in Augustan Rome
Charles Brian Rose
Vol. 109, No. 1 (2005) 21–75
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40025103

4. The Politics of Perpetuation: Trajan’s Column and the Art of Commemoration
Penelope J.E. Davies
Vol. 101, No. 1 (1997) 41–65
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/506249


The frieze on Trajan’s Column has long been criticized for requiring the visitor to circumambulate the column to read it. By considering the Column within the context of Roman funerary monuments, I argue that the frieze’s spiraling motion was designed to manipulate the viewer into a reenactment of ancient funerary ritual as it is described in literary sources. Furthermore, the Column functioned as a viewing station; the helical staircase inside its shaft cast the visitor into disorienting darkness, before thrusting him or her at the summit into dazzling sunlight, simultaneously presenting a dramatic vista that promoted Trajan as an accomplished general who restored Rome’s self-esteem—and her coffers—through military victory. The Column’s full and powerful impact, which extends well beyond the decorative frieze, can only be appreciated by understanding the ancient viewer’s experience as he visited Trajan’s tomb.

5. Hydraulics of Roman Aqueducts: Steep Chutes, Cascades, and Dropshafts
H. Chanson
Vol. 104, No. 1 (2000) 47–72
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/506792


This paper examines the archaeological evidence for steep chutes, cascades, and dropshafts in Roman aqueducts. It also presents comparative data on steepdescent water flow in aqueducts based on physical model tests. It is suggested that the Romans were aware of the hydraulic problems posed by supercritical water flows and that the technological solutions they imposed were rudimentary but sound: for example, they understood the need for energy dissipation devices such as the stilling basin and the dropshaft.

6. Ancient Greek Women and Art: The Material Evidence
Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway
Vol. 91, No. 3 (1987) 399–409
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/505361


Ancient Greek women and their relationship to the visual arts are here discussed solely on the evidence of the extant monuments, rather than on the information of the literary sources. Although this review makes no attempt to be complete, several forms of the relationship are explored. The most important is that of women as sponsors of architectural projects; second is that of women as dedicators of statues and other offerings. Finally, the objects meant to be used by women, or those that represent them, are included, although the men of the family might have been responsible for the commission and the funding. The survey follows a chronological arrangement.

7. Contesting the Past: Hero Cult, Tomb Cult, and Epic in Early Greece
Carla M. Antonaccio
Vol. 98, No. 3 (1994) 389–410
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/506436


Greek hero cult has been extensively discussed by both archaeologists and philologists. This paper considers two current hypotheses: one links the development of hero cult in the eighth century B.C. with the circulation of Homeric poetry; the other views hero cult as a transformation of ancestral veneration in the context of the emergent polis. A review of the archaeological evidence for the Iron Age and Early Archaic period suggests that the earliest hero cult in the archaeological record emerged at Sparta during the eighth century. The small number of early hero cults, and their location and distribution, do not lend support to the theory of Homeric influence. Veneration of ancestors, on the other hand, was practiced widely in the Greek world throughout the Iron Age; it did not disappear with the emergence of the polis and hero cult. Rather than a single, unified concept, ancestral and hero cult articulated different versions of the past. Conflicting or competing concepts, both ritual and epic, serve to debate the past within and between communities. In Greece, as elsewhere, the debate helps to mediate social change within a framework of culturally determined rules.

8. Beautiful Evil: Pandora and the Athena Parthenos
Jeffrey M. Hurwit
Vol. 99, No. 2 (1995) 171–86
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/506338


The depiction of the Birth of Pandora on the base of the statue of Athena Parthenos has not received all the attention it deserves. This study attempts to place the meaning and function of the myth in the context of both the Parthenon sculptural program as a whole and the Athenian civic ideologies of patriarchy and autochthony. It suggests that the scene operated on several different levels (some of them mundane), but that the relationship of the mortal parthenos below to the divine Parthenos above was essentially one of ambiguity, even dissonance. Pandora may, in fact, have functioned as an ‘Anti-Athena,’ and the image of her creation may have reinforced the highly gendered social and political realities of fifth-century Athens.

9. Creating the Past: The Vénus de Milo and the Hellenistic Reception of Classical Greece
Rachel Kousser
Vol. 109, No. 2 (2005) 227–50
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40024510

10. Creolizing the Roman Provinces
Jane Webster
Vol. 105, No. 2 (2001) 209–25
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/507271


‘Romanization,’ a concept first discussed by the British scholar Francis Haverfield in 1905, remains the dominant model for intercultural change in the Roman provinces. Building on recent critiques of Romanization, this paper suggests that Romanization-which is simply acculturation-has merits as a means of envisaging the processes by which provincial elites adopted the symbols of Rome, but that the concept is fundamentally flawed when applied to the majority populations of the provinces. Drawing on developments in Caribbean and American historical archaeology, it is suggested that the Roman provinces may more usefully be regarded as creolized than as Romanized. Creolization, a linguistic term indicating the merging of two languages into a single dialect, denotes the processes of multicultural adjustment (including artistic and religious change) through which African-American and African-Caribbean societies were created in the New World. It is argued here that a creole perspective may fruitfully be brought to bear upon the material culture of the Roman provinces. Taking aspects of Romano-Celtic iconography as a case study, it is argued that a creole perspective offers insights into the negotiation of post-conquest identities from the ‘bottom up’ rather than—as is often the case in studies of Romanization—from the perspective of provincial elites.

11. Hair and the Artifice of Roman Female Adornment
Elizabeth Bartman
Vol. 105, No. 1 (2001) 1–25
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/507324


Roman female hairstyles were highly individualized, gendered cultural markers, in many cases having a physiognomic role in a portrait like the face itself. The paucity of surviving organic remains requires that we consult artistic representations in painting and sculpture to assess the forms of these hairstyles. Despite their often fanciful conceptions, they do not represent artistic inventions, but rather elaborate coiffures made with real human hair, usually the sitter’s own. Thus wig wearing may not have been as common as has been imagined; the practice of supplying marble statues with removable wigs in contrasting stone is not in itself evidence for the wearing of wigs in antiquity. Modern commentary on the hairstyles worn by Roman women assumes frequent changes of hairstyle, an interpretation based on a misreading of the ancient evidence and essentialist views of women.

12. Museum Review: Hatshepsut and Her World
Emily Teeter
Vol. 110, No. 4 (2006) 649–53
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40025062

13. The Genesis of the Roman Public Bath: Recent Approaches and Future Directions
Garrett G. Fagan
Vol. 105, No. 3 (2001) 403–26
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/507363


The problem of the origins and early development of the Roman public bath has proven an intractable one for classical archaeologists. In the absence of hard ancient evidence, many modern propositions have been put forward to explain the process of development. In this paper, the six most influential of these approaches are presented and critiqued for their strengths and weaknesses. It is found that none is sufficient in itself to explain the appearance of the Roman-style bath but that most advance the analysis in some measure. Consideration of the often bypassed literary and epigraphic material is also included to help identify the third and second century B.C. as the crucial period in the history of this building type’s evolution. Finally, it is argued that the case for Campania remains the strongest, but not (as often claimed) as the place where Roman baths exclusively evolved. Rather, Campania provided an apt context for the final appearance of an architectural genre that had demonstrable roots extending farther afield and deeper into the past. Throughout, directions for future research are suggested.

14. In Death Not Divided: Gender, Family, and State on Classical Athenian Grave Stelae
Ruth E. Leader
Vol. 101, No. 4 (1997) 683–99
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/506830


This article focuses on the Attic grave stelae of the late fifth and fourth centuries B. C. as a source for understanding the construction of gender in Classical Athenian society. After a discussion of the nature of the Athenian cemetery and the stelae as artistic productions, selected images on stelae of single-sex and mixed-sex (family) groups, and accompanying inscriptions, are analyzed. The varied strategies of gender representation on them are shown to be linked to the differing models of gender relations appropriate to the Athenian state (polis) and the family (oikos). While on both types of stelae the commemoration of women typically invoked relationships with male members of their family, on the single-sex type this is done covertly, through allusions to dowry in the representation of jewelry, or verbally through epitaphs, preserving an image of women’s separation from men. On stelae showing males and females, male family members are represented overtly in the visual sphere of women. Men’s importance as members of the family unit is asserted on stelae depicting family groups, but not on stelae depicting only males, which assert their civic role. In conclusion, the tension between polis and oikos implicit in these representations of gender relations is related to the wider problem of the unstable division between state and family in the space of the cemetery and in the grave stelae as monuments.

15. Building Trajan’s Column
Lynne Lancaster
Vol. 103, No. 3 (1999) 419–39
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/506969


Trajan’s Column is best known for its sculptured spiral frieze celebrating Trajan’s victories in the Dacian Wars, but it is also a complex architectural monument representing an impressive feat of engineering. The Column is made up of 29 blocks of Luna marble weighing from 25 to 77 tons, the highest of which had to be raised to 38.4 m above ground. In this paper I discuss the evidence both for the construction of the Column and for the organization of the building site. Excavations earlier in this century revealed an unusual use of brick ribbing in the vaulted substructures of the north portico, which I propose was intended as reinforcement for the vaults over which the individual blocks of the Column were maneuvered before being lifted into place. This implies that the work site for the blocks lay to the north of the Column courtyard (where the later Temple of Divine Trajan is traditionally located), which is the area most easily accessible from any unloading point along the Tiber. Finally, I propose a hypothetical reconstruction of a lifting device for the blocks making up the Column based on comparative evidence from other sites, on ancient literary descriptions of building methods, and on calculations of the bearing capacities of timbers, ropes, and capstans.

16. Water, Wealth, and Social Status at Pompeii: The House of the Vestals in the First Century
Rick Jones and Damian Robinson
Vol. 109, No. 4 (2005) 695–710
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40025694

17. Who Built the Arch of Constantine? Its History from Domitian to Constantine
A.L. Frothingham
Vol. 16, No. 3 (1912) 368–86
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/497194


Hardly anything might seem more audacious than to deny that the arch of Constantine was built in honor of that emperor; yet the really amazing thing is our failure to attend to the numerous hints that this arch had existed long before Constantine.

18. Aegean Interest on the Uluburun Ship
Christoph Bachhuber
Vol. 110, No. 3 (2006) 345–63
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40024547

19. The Parthenon Frieze and the Apadana Reliefs at Persepolis: Reassessing a Programmatic Relationship
Margaret Cool Root
Vol. 89, No. 1 (1985) 103–20
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/504773


The Parthenon frieze and the Apadana reliefs at Persepolis are frequently invoked as symbols of the polarity between Greek democracy and Persian despotism, the one depicting the citizenry of Athens freely convening to celebrate the Great Panathenaia, the other depicting representatives of the subject nations forced to offer their wealth to the Great King on New Year’s Day. In this article, however, the possibility of a programmatic relationship between these two important monuments is reassessed in light of recent scholarship which demonstrates the metaphorical nature of the Apadana reliefs as a vision of idealized social order. Significant similarities in narrative structure and thematic content emerge from this analysis. When the Parthenon is understood in the context of the imperial mood of the mid-fifth century, these similarities imply Athenian awareness and indeed emulation of the Persian imperial program.

20. Facing the Dead: Recent Research on the Funerary Art of Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt
Christina Riggs
Vol. 106, No. 1 (2002) 85–101
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/507190


In the 1990s, new scholarship, archaeological discoveries, and high-profile museum exhibitions marked a revived interest in the funerary art of Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt. Much of this art is characterized by the use of naturalistic portraiture, especially in the form of ‘mummy portraits’ painted on wooden panels, and these two-dimensional portrait representations have received the bulk of scholarly attention. This article examines recent research on the subject and broadens the field of inquiry by addressing other forms of funerary art in use during the periods in question. It explores two particular issues, namely the mechanics of portraiture and the contested chronology of the corpus, and suggests further points for discussion so that the value of art historical evidence can be better realized in considerations of self-presentation and cultural identity.