By Rachel Evans & Marie Mize
In our newest installment of this series highlighting works of art from our Law Library Archives collection we will share about the two marble busts located on the second floor of the Law Library annex: Pericles and Demosthenes.
More About the Art Objects
Mount Pentelicus, northeast of Athens, Greece is the source of “Pentelic Marble”, the material Pericles & Demosthenes are sculpted from.
The two works are noted in our accession records with a date of 1981. Both busts were crafted from “pentelic marble”. This is very special and adds to the uniqueness of these two busts because this type of marble comes only from a Mount Pentelicus, a mountain just north of Athens, Greece. The white fine grain marble from this mountain is said to be the source of most of the marble for the buildings and sculptures of Athens in the 5th and 4th centuries BCE. At the summit of this mountain is a sanctuary to the goddess Athena. Over time there have been more than 25 quarries, mostly on the south slope of the mountain. The Pericles bust design dates back to 425 BCE, when Greek artist Kresilas first sculpted the idealized portrait statue copied throughout antiquity until modern times, the very same which lives in our annex today. It measures 25 5/8 inches by 11 3/16 inches. The Demosthenes bust is also a copy of a Greek original, sculpted by Polyeuktos in the 5th century. It measures 21 7/8 inches by 11 7/8 inches. Names plates accompanying each piece note that the pair of busts were gifts to the Law Library from donors Mr. Nickolas P. Chilivis and Dr. John E. Skandalakis.
More About Pericles (l. 495–429 BCE)
Pericles: library annex
According to the Ancient History Encyclopedia, in addition to being a Greek statesman and general during the Golden Age of Athens was an orator. His speeches, one of the most famous being his Funeral Oration (e-access), and writings have had long lasting influence on later oration, political and legal works. Also known as “the Age of Pericles” this period of Greek history owes much to his legacy throughout the 5th century BCE. An early preacher of democracy (though “democracy” was very differed in ancient times than our modern day), Pericles’ reforms produced the groundwork for later development of democratic political systems. Of his most famous legal/political contributions in our library collection is The Citizenship Law of Pericles (print book) which you can read more about online in An Overview of Classical Greek History: The Citizenship Law of Pericles (Perseus Digital Library), as well as his Foreign Policy and The Breakdown of Peace following. It was under Pericles, known for supporting both literary and artistic works, that building programs including the construction of the Parthenon began. Much of that legacy still stands today, including the beautiful ruins of the Acropolis, as a symbol of ancient Athens. In 429 BCE Pericles witnessed the death of two sons and his first wife, before succumbing himself, to the plague.
More About Demosthenes (c. 384 – 322 BCE)
Demosthenes: library annex
According to the Ancient History Encyclopedia, Demosthenes famously prosecuted his guardians for wasting his inheritance, delivered his own speeches in court, and won the case at the young age of 18. His first experience in court beyond that was as a prosecutor’s assistant. Of his surviving works, 61 speeches (logographos) and rhetorical openings (prooimia) for 50 speeches and 6 letters have survived the ages. 4 of his remaining speeches are related to one of his largest cases against Philip II of Macedon who attempted to conquer Greece between 351 and 341 BCE. Accused of taking many bribes throughout his career as a statesman, he was eventually accused, found guilty and exiled in 324 BCE, and in 322 BCE committed suicide to avoid capture by the Macedonians. There are many works in our library’s collection related to Demosthenes including various case examples in Trails from Classical Athens (print book), Inscribed Athenian Laws and Decrees in the Age of Demosthenes (ebook), and the full 6 volume collection of speeches, openings and letters with English translation.
An excerpt from one of Demosthenes speeches includes:
“The private citizen should not be confused and at a disadvantage compared with those who know the laws, but all should have the same ordinances before them, simple and clear to read and understand.” – Demosthenes