Throughout history, the purpose of art is dedicated to anything from decorative embellishments to religious tributes. However, art was also used by rulers and other powerful figures for propagandistic reasons as well. This can be seen through a survey of art pieces ranging from the Hellenistic period to the Ottonian period.
At the beginning of the Hellenistic period Alexander the Great had just passed away, leaving his vast empire fragmented amongst many individual leaders. Many of the Greeks left the Balkan Peninsula to seek commission abroad, thus forsaking their identity and ties to the old Greek city states. The result was a greater focus on the individual, a psychological sense of isolation, as well as a mixture of foreign and Greek elements in the arts. The bust of Euthydemos I, King of Bactria, exemplifies all of these features. At the time period, many other leaders sought to liken themselves to Alexander and his greatness in the arts. However, unlike the other leaders of the fragmented kingdoms, Euthydemos does not conform to this practice for propagandistic reasons. Being the ruler of the highly prone and unstable kingdom of Bactria (modern day Afghanistan and Pakistan), Euthydemos wanted a depiction of himself to be harsh and feared. Thus, the bust portrays a cruel-looking old man with individualistic features, exaggerated creases, and a ruthless expression. No doubt, Euthydemos commanded this interpretation of his personality to serve as a warning that he could potentially be a terrible enemy.
Moving forward to the Hellenistic Baroque period, the Greeks now experience attacks from the Gauls of central Europe. Eventually, the Gauls were crushed in battle by the Pergamon army under Attalos I. Attalos I then constructed a Victory Monument which consisted of many great sculptural works including the Suicidal Gaul. The Suicidal Gaul, in particular, shows a defiantly strong chieftain who would rather commit suicide and kill his wife than be captured by his enemy. The body of the chieftain is particularly exaggerated creating a forceful rippling in the musculature, which is a testament to the Hellenistic Baroque achievement of energetic movement and intense psychological involvement. The Greeks were largely impressed with the courage and fighting abilities of the Gauls, which had reminded them of their defeat of the Persians. Ultimately, the purpose of glorifying their enemy was to convey the message that the defeat of such an impressive enemy made the Greeks’ victory and power even greater.
During the Roman Imperial era, under the rule of Augustus, the idea that the emperor is the principate, or the foremost citizen of the state chosen by the gods to rule, is adopted. This idea is exemplified in the sculpture of Augustus of Prima Porta. Here, Augustus is portrayed in a classicizing manner and a typical Greek contrapposto stance which serves to liken the reign of Augustus to that of the golden age...