“Sex Sells, But Who’s Buying? Erotic Imagery on Athenian Vases”

October 17, 2011


The UCSC Society of the Archaeological Institute of America and the President's Chair in Ancient Studies present a lecture in an ongoing series on "Archaeology and the Ancient World.”

Professor Kathleen Lynch, University of Cincinnati

“Sex Sells, But Who’s Buying? Erotic Imagery on Athenian Vases”

Saturday, October 22 at 2 p.m.
Humanities 1, room 210

Free parking for the lecture in Cowell-Stevenson parking lots
Coffee at 1:30 and more refreshments after the talk

Erotic imagery appears in early Attic black-figure vases but becomes quite popular in red-figure from about 520-475 B.C. The setting of these often-graphic images of heterosexual and homosexual encounters is usually the symposium, the all-male drinking party.

Nearly all studies assume that these images are produced for and about Athenians, and thus must represent Athenian views on sexuality and morality. Yet a closer look at the archaeological evidence shows that very few vases with graphic sexual images come from Athens itself; instead, vases with erotic images were sold on the export market, and more specifically to Etruria. Thus we must re-evaluate the use of these images in assessing Athenian values: we find an Athenian pottery industry with an astute marketing sense that distorts Athenian cultural identity to appeal to foreign perceptions of Greek culture. Be forewarned: the lecture will contain vase-painting images of explicit sexual scenes.

Kathleen Lynch is Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Cincinnati and a specialist in Greek pottery, particularly vase painting and the social aspects of pottery, and has completed fieldwork in Albania, Greece, and Turkey. She has a book forthcoming from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, The Symposium in Context: Pottery from a Late Archaic House near the Athenian Agora.

For more information, please contact hedrick@ucsc.edu