Trail of Democracy

Trail of Democracy
Trail of Democracy

The function of works of art created throughout history goes far beyond the merely aesthetic, often the works are manifestos that hide behind them a strong ideological, political or social charge. On this occasion we find ourselves before a work that has a strong political charge, The Wake of Democracy. Undoubtedly, this is not the only work of art in which embodies a political manifesto, in fact one of the oldest Mesopotamian works of art -the well-known Hammurabi Code- follows the same schemes as the Estela de la Democracia; However, what is innovative is that the relief that concerns us here is not intended to dignify the personality of any monarch or emperor, but of a political power that in Greece was much more important and valued, democracy.

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The work we are discussing here is a large marble stele carved with the bas-relief technique. The piece is currently exhibited in the Agora Museum in Athens and was found in the mid-20th century, around 1952, along with the excavated remains of the Stoa of Attalus in the eastern part of the Agora of the Athenian city. Thus, we find a large piece of marble that measures more than a meter and a half in height and is divided into two well-differentiated sections.

In the upper area we can see a triangular pediment that imitates the forms of architectureClassical Greek,looks as if it were the pediment of a temple in which even the acroteras have been imitated. The lower section is in turn divided into two parts, above the relief and at the bottom a text. The relief is of classicist style and in it we find the figure of a man who appears seated and with a naked torso; he appears bearded, representing a mature man and with the tunic wrapped around the lower half of his body. He is looking directly at the viewer, and his robes are creased in a realistic style.

Next to him appears a standing woman who follows the same classicist guidelines: naturalism, restrained gesture, realism… she is standing and in her hand she carries a laurel wreath to crown her companion. In this way we could think that the scene represents the coronation of a monarch or leader, however the lower text reflects that the man is actually Demos, the people, who appears crowned by the figure of Democracy.

In the lower part of the stela we find a text written in capital letters, it is the Law of Eucrates, a hymn to democracy that was created at a time when political and social instability threatened to end one of the greatest achievements of the classical world, democracy.

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