Old Age in Greek and Roman Art


Susan B. Matheson and J. J. Pollitt

Some of the most vivid portraits in ancient art depict older members of society, from all classes and from across the Mediterranean world. In marble and bronze sculptures, on coins and painted vases, and in wall paintings, mosaics, and more, elderly men and women are shown with the telltale signs of old age: wrinkles, white hair, sagging jowls, and stooped postures. Old Age in Greek and Roman Art examines these representations in conjunction with ancient written sources and explores what they can tell us about the perspectives on aging and the aged in the ancient world. In chapters such as “Veneration and Sympathy,” “Honoring Experience and Wisdom,” and “Derision,” Susan B. Matheson and J. J. Pollitt discuss not only medium and form—including Greek vase paintings and grave reliefs, and Roman portraits and sarcophagi—but also subject, like priests and priestesses, kings of Athens, gods and satyrs, Greek myths, and the Trojan War. Richly illustrated throughout, and with an appendix featuring additional objects, this comprehensive publication presents an expanded picture of ancient attitudes toward old age and highlights the ways in which our current perceptions of age echo—and depart from—those of our predecessors.