Drama on the urban stage : architecture, spectacles and power in Hellenistic Pergamon



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My dissertation investigates the production, representation and experience of space in Hellenistic urbanism, architecture, artworks. Considering festivals as spatialized practices, I argue that the Hellenistic urban setting was carefully designed as stages or arenas for the celebration and performance of state ceremonials. To this end, architects used symbolically charged design technologies, such as skenographia which was deeply informed by ancient optical science. I demonstrate that the perspectival developments in architecture, painting and sculpture were closely allied through application of skenographia, forming a unified visual discourse that was highly attentive to the eye of the spectator. I reconstruct the spatial practices in three major sites of Hellenistic Pergamon, namely, the sanctuary of Athena Nikephoros (bringer of Victory), the famous Altar of Zeus, and the sanctuary complex of the theater of Dionysus. Through these reconstructions, I demonstrate that the spatial order of the Hellenistic urban sanctuary facilitated Attalid kings’ appropriation of Pergamene urban setting as a constituent of their sovereign power.