The Meanings of Drowning in Military-Themed Art: Analyzing a Sample of Random Civilizations and Timeframes through History

The Open Sports Sciences Journal 24 Jan 2014 RESEARCH ARTICLE DOI: 10.2174/1875399X01407010035



Artists have depicted drowning episodes in drawings with a religious, mythological, historical, suicidal, homicidal and military context. We aimed to identify the messages that the paintings with a drowning scene during a military/combat situation deliver to viewers.


A criterion sampling method identified paintings that portray drowning episodes during military and combat situations (n=57). Chi-squared tests were used for comparison between categorical variables.


Ten statistically significant differences were identified between the bystanders at the time of occurrence (p=0.046), the bystanders by the depiction of military weapons (p=0.010), the bystanders by the number of casualties (p=0.049), the bystanders by the drowning stage of the casualty (p=0.014), the location by the means of transportation (p<0.001), the location by the drowning stage (p<0.001), the water depth during the rescue attempt (p=0.012), the water depth at the time of transportation (p<0.001), the casualty characteristics by the use of military weapons (p=0.001) and finally the casualty number by the means of transportation (p=0.018).


Casualties were portrayed to be most often military adult males that drowned at sea in deep water. They were often seen to be immersed carrying weapons, and were witnessed by the bystanders. Art has provided us with a heritage of depictions that portrays drowning during military or combat situations. Warriors were always depicted accurately drowning but not always swimming. From this wealth of artistic information, we can deduce how the portrayed warriors and/or civilians under distress met their end or survived a drowning episode and avoided the enemy.

Keywords: Art, combat, battle, drowning, military, painting, rescue, swimming, war.
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