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Title:  The Greek Symposium in Context: Pottery from a Late Archaic Athenian House

Speaker:  Professor Kathleen M. Lynch, University of Cincinnati

Farrell Auditorium, Saint Louis Art Museum

In conjunction with the St. Louis Art Museum and Washington University Departments of Classics; and Art History & Archaeology; and the Classical Club of St. Louis.

Kathleen M. Lynch is Professor of Classics at the University of Cincinnati. Her research considers the social use of Greek pottery from archaeological excavations, especially figure-decorated pottery made in Athens. Her book, The Symposium in Context: Pottery from a Late Archaic House near the Athenian Agora, won the Archaeological Institute of America’s James R. Wiseman Award for best publication in Archaeology in 2013. Beyond Athens, she has published pottery from Troy and Gordion in Turkey and from the Bonjakët temple in Albania. At Cincinnati she teaches courses in Greek archaeology and mythology, for which she won the Cohen Excellence in Teaching Award and a Dean’s Award for Faculty Excellence. She serves as a trustee of American Research Institute in Turkey, and as Vice-Chair of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens’ Managing Committee. In recent years, she has been collaborating with Professor Susan Rotroff (WUSTL) on the study of a Classical shrine in the Athenian Agora, the Crossroads Enclosure and Well. In her free time, she loves to knit.

The symposium was a small, all-male drinking party held in a private home, and it was most popular from the Archaic to the Hellenistic period with some significant changes in form and meaning along the way.

The symposium focused on the shared consumption of wine. Men gathered in a small room, reclined on their left elbows, and participated equally in both the drinking and activities. All men were expected to speak on topics of philosophy and politics in turn or contribute to songs and stories. The wine loosened inhibitions and made it easier for the drinkers to form bonds.

Sympotic drinking required specialized ceramic equipment, designed only for use in the symposium. This paper will discuss the sympotic set from an Athenian house near the Classical Agora. It is the first well-preserved sympotic set from an individual house, so it provides the first evidence for the importance of the symposium in a real Athenian house. In fact, the sympotic pottery accounted for nearly 50% of this house’s crockery. The iconography on the sympotic pottery tells us something about the homeowner who chose the pots: he had a sense of humor, and he had an interest in cattle.

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