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How Art Made the World

episode 3

Darius invents the
political logo
Alexander's Face The First
Political Lie

scholar:

Andrew Fitzpatrick
Gold at Stonehenge
EpisodesCambridge InterviewsGalleryScholarsResourcesThe SeriesInteractive
More Human Than HumanThe Day Pictures Were BornThe Art of PersuasionOnce Upon a TimeTo Death and Back

Just how did the power of art
come to be used as a political tool?

The Art of Persuasion

The leaders of most modern countries exploit a powerful political tool - the power of images. These techniques, in fact, were invented thousands of years ago by the leaders of the Ancient World. But how do politicians actually use images to persuade us - often without us even knowing? How did they do it thousands of years ago?

An ancient gravesite near Stonehenge revealed an important man buried with beautifully crafted gold ornaments - probably the only such gold objects in Britain at the time. This gold, so impossibly rare, would have dazzled the locals, creating the image of a leader. So clearly it was learned early on in human history that art as personal adornment enhanced your status.

Modern politicians use political techniques invented by rulers of old, but instead of paint and marble, they use digital technology

In other parts of the ancient world, however, many leaders had vast empires with many disparate conquered people to rule, and possessing fine jewelry was not enough to get their kingly message across. Darius the Great, King of the Persians, came up with the first art political logo, with Alexander the Great later expanding on the concept by imprinting his face on coins that flooded his empire. Augustus of Rome, forty years before Christ, fabricated the first political lie by creating a series of statute portraits that made him appear to be a man of the people, while ruthlessly exterminating the competition. Modern politicians use techniques similar to those invented by rulers of old, but instead of paint and marble, they use digital technology. But whatever the final form, people remain as vulnerable now as ever to the persuasive power of art.