Every student of history surely feels impressed by one achievement or another of the ancient Greeks, whether in the field of engineering, art, or the convergence of the two. Even a bored college undergrad in a thousand-seat lecture hall has to admire ancient Greek vases when they pop up in the lecturer’s Powerpoint slides. That much-studied culture’s penchant for stylizing images of their society on their pottery has allowed us to see their world as, in some sense, a living, breathing one — or to see it through the eyes of the artisans who lived to see it themselves. But for all their mastery of the art of the vase, they never actually got their images to live nor breathe. For that, we must turn to 21st-century technology, specifically as applied by Panoply, a project animator of Steve K. Simons and ancient Greece scholar Sonya Nevin, which was designed to bring these vases to life.
“Panoply covers a lot of aspects of culture as method tying the artifacts to information about Greek life,” writes io9’s Katharine Trendacosta. “There are ones on myths, sport, and warfare,” the last of which, “Hoplites!,” you can watch at the top of the post. Simons and Nevin made this seven-minute battle scene out of the foot soldiers actually depicted on a vase dating to about 550 BCE currently held by the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology at the University of Reading.
Just above, we have “The Cheat,” a short and humorous scene from the ancient Olympics that plays out on the surface of a shard. The animation below features a figure of Greek myth that even the most inattentive student will know: a certain Pandora, and far be it from her to resist the temptation to open a certain box. (Actually it was a vase/pithos.) You can watch more on Panoply’s Youtube channel. As unconventional means of visualizing ancient Greece go, it’s got to beat 300 for accuracy.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.