This article treats representations of victors in the Greek athletic games in the artistic and poetic media of the early classical age, and argues that fifth-century sculptors, painters and poets similarly constructed the athlete as an object designed to arouse desire in audiences for their works. After reviewing the very scanty archaeological evidence for the original victory images, I seek to recover something of the response elicited by these monuments by looking to visualizations of athletes in contemporary vase-painting and literary sources, and most particularly in the epinician odes of Pindar. Poets and painters, I suggest, both place their subjects within an erotically-charged atmosphere which replicates that surrounding actual athletes in the city gymnasia and at the games, and encourage audiences to regard the youthful bodies on display as "spectacularized" objects, sources of both aesthetic and sensual pleasure. The makers of monumental images work within the same paradigm, also prompting the viewer to transfer the sentiments aroused by the real-world athlete and victor to his re-presentation in bronze. Through an examination of the conventions used for victor images, and a close study of the so-called Motya charioteer, I propose that the sculptor deploys techniques analogous to those of artist and poet to highlight the appeal of the athlete's body, and displays the victor in a mode calculated not only to mark him as the alluring target of the gaze, but even to cast him as a potential erômenos. The concluding section of the article investigates the impetus behind this mode of representation, and seeks to place the dynamic between the viewer and the viewed within the context of the early fifth-century polis.
- Copyright 1998 The Regents of the University of California