Serious Drinking: Vases of the Greek Symposium

August 22, 2008 - January 5, 2009
Kemper Art Museum, Teaching Gallery

Organized in conjunction with Professor Susan Rotroff's course on ancient Athens offered through the Department of Classics, this exhibition presents a series of vases from the ancient Greek symposium--a highly choreographed, artistocratic, all-male drinking party that often drew to a close with a riotous parade about the shuttered streets of town. Yet intoxication was not the sole feature of these gatherings--frequently, as Plato's Symposium represents, a specific philosophical topic was hotly debated, poetry was recited, and music performed. During these vibrant affairs, guests reclined upon couches, dined, and lingered in conversation over their wine. Each vase fulfilled a specific function. By tracing this sequence, the display captures the flow of the ancient party while the decoration of the vases themselves mirror the festivity or express symposium themes of love, heroic courage, and Dionysiac mythology.

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Image credit

Lotoskreuzmaler (Greek, Corinthian, active c. 575–after 550 BC), Pyxis, 575–565 BC. Earthenware vesel, 5 `/1 x 4 3/4". Gift of Robert Brookings and Charles Parsons, 1904.