AAIA public lecture: Representations of Persians on Attic vases, offering glimpses into Greek thought
Professor Margaret Miller | The University of Sydney
Representations of Persians on Attic vases, offering glimpses into Greek thought.
The Persians, from the time of their failed attempts to incorporate mainland Greece into their empire, played an important role in Greek thought. Some would say that the Persians even provided the prompt that first created a sense of “Greekness” or “Panhellenism”. It is next to impossible to track shifts in Greek thought about the Persians over the two centuries between imperial foundation by Cyrus the Great and conquest by Alexander of Macedon. Yet the corpus of representations of Persians in Attic vase-painting can give a glimpse into the range of attitudes over time on the part not of the policy-makers but of the ordinary Athenian. On the vases Persians can be portrayed as noble warriors, as majestic kings, but also as somewhat ludicrous. Despite the reality of their continuing military and economic power, Persians could even be made to disappear.
Margaret C. Miller was trained in classics and classical archaeology in Canada, Britain and the USA, and has always been especially interested in the nuances of relations between ancient Greece and West Asia as they can be retrieved through material remains. Her first work focused on the concept of perserie – the fashion for a “Persian” mode in Classical Athens. Years of study of the shifts in cultural expression in the western satrapies of the Persian Empire followed, in pursuit of understanding to what extend Greeks in general or Athenians in particular might really know about their Persian neighbours. This lecture provides an overview of her most recent book, on the representation of Persians in Attic arts.
Feature image: Antikenmuseum, Basel BS 480, unattributed red-figure calyx krater, c. 460 B.C
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