William Childs: The City-Reliefs of Lycia

Childs, City

The City-Reliefs of Lycia

Princeton University Press, 1978

By studying the iconographic background of the city motif and its use on tombs in Lycia in the first half of 4th century BCE, Childs sheds new light on the history and monuments of Lycia and the influences which shaped its art. The city reliefs of Lycia reflect the complex interaction of three distinct cultural and artistic traditions: the local, the Oriental, and the Greek. In trying to distinguish the respective influences of these traditions, Childs finds that the traditional interpretations of Lycian city-reliefs as imitations of Classical Greek models are in error. He show, to the contrary, that although the city reliefs are presented in the form of Greek representational art, the inspiration from which they derive is clearly Oriental.

Working within an historical as well as an art-historical context, the author contends that  a distinction must be made between the formal characteristics of the reliefs and their iconography. While Greek achievements play an important role in the formal aspects of the city reliefs, they do not affect the iconographic system. According to Childs’s evidence, the city motif has a dual function—the illustration of historical sieges and the glorification of the ruler, both of which show the dependency of Lycian themes on Near Eastern-Anatolian iconography. Furthermore, the local Lycian or Anatolian tradition may be found in the function of the reliefs which gradually transformed the iconography and stimulated the creation of a new formal tradition, the panoramic view of the city and its setting.

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