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Dr. Tarbell's Lecture.

Sculptured Funeral Monuments of Ancient Athens.


Dr. Tarbell delivered last night in the Jefferson Physical Laboratory, an interesting lecture on the Sculptured Funeral Monuments of Ancient Athens. Only the monuments of independent Athens were considered, for when Athens ceased to be free sumptuary laws were enacted against sculptures on tombstones, and for some time these laws were strictly enforced. The period reviewed by the lecturer was therefore one of about 250 years. A number of monuments of the sixth century have been preserved. They show the rudeness and stiffness of archaic art. The design is very simple consisting of tall narrow slab, with a single figure of the dead man in relief, and always in profile. There is usually also an inscription in the slab, often in meter.

The Persian invasion marked a great period in the art of sculpturing the monuments, as well as in many other things. The style became freer, and the designs more complicated and interesting. There is, however, a great scarcity of funeral monuments for fifty years after the Persian war, which has never been satisfactorily explained. When they became more frequent again, the monuments exhibit a great variety of subjects. A favorite one is the dead man reclining on a couch, surrounded by his friends who make him offerings. The class of representations contains a special reference to the life beyond the grave. All other monuments. however, represent merely common scenes of daily life, without any reference to death except that contained in the general atmosphere of sadness in the figures. There are very few stones on which either a sick or a dead person is represented.

The monuments are not to be judged by the same standard as for instance, the Parthenon frieze. They are probably the work of mere craftsmen. Many, nevertheless, possess great beauty, though they vary much among themselves. It has been suggested that they were kept in stock, but there is no proof of this theory, and the fact that the figures are evidently intended to represent particular persons militates strongly against it.

The monuments have already attracted the attention of lovers of art, and the Romans carried many of them away from Greece to adorn their villas. Their greatest value to us is that they give evidence of a noble and dignified family life in ancient Greece, and show, in contrast to the exaggerated and libelous plays of Aristophanes, that women were honored and respected in Athens while they lived, and mourned for by their families when they died.

During the lecture many pictures from photographs of the tombstones in Athens were thrown by the stereopticon on a screen in front of the audience.

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