Add info on pgs. 8 & 15 K. TEPPER
One of the most fascinating examples of Athenian banquet ware is the janiform
head-vase, which often contrasted figures of two races, one Caucasian and one African.
In order to analyze the iconography of the black African as it appears on Attic banquet
ware, this thesis will examine examples of Ethiopians on janiform head-vases from the
late Archaic period so as to gain a greater understanding of ancient Greek perceptions of
black Africans, specifically in the context of banqueting and the symposium. The two
vases examined in this paper are plastic Attic janiform head-vases dating to the sixth
century BCE that belong to the Castellani group of Attic red-figure pottery. The structure
of the janiform head-vase allows for the easy comparison of its subjects therefore making
it the obvious choice for the comparison of two races. It follows that images of
Ethiopians, paired with those of fair-skinned people, would be frequent among vases of
this type.1 It is important to note that not all janiform vessels depict black Africans; many
depict Dionysus, Satyrs and Herakles -- all subjects which have a connection to symposia
culture. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the subjects represented on the vessel
may be related to its use within the banqueting and sympotic context.2
While the literature on the iconography of the black in the art of the Greek world
is not extensive, there is no denying that the quantity of images of blacks in art provides
scholars with an intriguing topic and wealth of resources with which to study the various
1 Frank M. Snowden, Jr., “Iconographic Evidence on the Black Population in Greco-Roman Antiquity,” in
The Image of the Black in Western Art: From the Rise of the Pharaohs to the Fall of the Romans, ed. Jean
Vercoutter, Jean Leclart, Frank M. Snowden, Jr., Jehan Desanges (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard
University Press, 1976), 146.
2 Biers, 121.
ways in which the black African was portrayed in antiquity. How these images reflect the
attitudes towards blacks in antiquity is a subject still open to examination. The extent of
the existence of racism in antiquity can never be known for certain, but the
iconographical and literary evidence provide a few clues about ancient thoughts towards
black Africans. After consideration of literary sources and a detailed analysis of the
iconography on the Castellani kantharoi it is understandable that the Ethiopian on these
vases could have other possible interpretations, nonetheless the evidence strongly points
to a close association with the banquet and the symposium. The kantharos vase form, of
which the Castellani group are, in and of itself is relevant to the context with which these
vases are examined. The relevance of the vase type to its function cannot be ignored and
its presence within the context of banqueting and the symposium is central to the
interpretation of the iconography of these vases. Specifically, the black Africans that are
depicted on the kantharoi may be understood as symbols of the banquet therefore it is
within this context that these vases will be analyzed.
The study of the iconography of the black African in Greek art has only recently
come into vogue in academia. Discussion of the topic began around the start of the
twentieth century. In her dissertation, The Negro in Greek and Roman civilization: A
study of the Ethiopian type, G.H. Beardsley was the first to undertake a comprehensive
study of the black African in ancient Greek art. In this thesis and in each of her
subsequent books, Beardsley wrote that of all the so-called barbarian races, the black
African held the most interest for the ancient Greeks.3 She claimed this fascination with
the African is evidenced by the realism with which the black African was depicted by
3 Grace Hadley Beardsley, The Negro in Greek and Roman Civilization: A Study of the Ethiopian Type
(New York, New York: Russell and Russell, 1929) ix.
Greek artisans.4 According to Beardsley, the black African’s popularity as a subject and
the fidelity with which he was rendered is an indication of Greek interest in the black
African.5 Beardsley was the first to realize the importance of literary evidence to the
study of the topic; she utilized ancient sources to substantiate her analysis of the images
of black Africans in Greek and Roman art.
The pre-eminent scholar on blacks in Greco-Roman Antiquity is Frank M.
Snowden, Jr., who expanded on Beardsley’s scholarship. Following Beardsley’s example,
Snowden also used ancient literary sources to support his theories on Greek ideas about
the black African in the ancient world. Yet, unlike Beardsley, he examined images from
Egypt as well as Greece and Rome in order to gain a broader understanding of the role of
the black person in ancient times and how those roles changed with the rise and fall of the
largest powers of the ancient Mediterranean world. Snowden’s first book, Blacks in
Antiquity, written in 1970, studies Greco-Roman contact with black Africans and
proposes that the ancients did not regard those with black skin in a negative manner
because of the dark color of their skin. Snowden argues that the Ethiopian was one of the
favorite foreign physical types depicted by the Greeks and the Romans because they were
seen as models of piety and justice.6 Snowden examined extant literature together with
Greco-Roman art in order to support his thesis.
In his essay “Iconographical Evidence on the Black Populations in Greco-
Roman Antiquity”, Snowden separated black Africans into two different categories: the
so-called “pure” African, who possessed the physical characteristics common to those
belonging to the black race in their most marked form, and the “Nilotic”, a mixed race
5 Beardsley, 33.
6 Frank M. Snowden, Jr., Blacks in Antiquity (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1970),
named so because of their location along the upper Nile.7 Snowden stated that too much
attention had been given to the “pure” type and scholarship had not addressed the issue of
how racial mixtures were depicted.8 The aim of Snowden’s essay was to trace the history
of interest in the black African, referred to as Ethiopian by the Greeks, and black-white
mixes in the art of antiquity and to relate the black Africans of the artists to the
Ethiopians of literature. Snowden stated that the African presence in Greece and Rome
aroused the interest in their physiognomy and myths. He concluded by saying that there
is no evidence in ancient art proving the stereotyping of the black as apotropaic and
Snowden’s final book on the iconography of the black African was published in
1983. Before Color Prejudice continued to examine how blacks were seen by whites in
antiquity and the rationale behind this opinion through iconographical and written
sources. Considering his experience as an African-American living in the South during
segregation, it is not surprising that Snowden would touch upon themes of race and the
black African’s position in ancient society. While Snowden’s scholarship on ancient
depictions of black Africans is invaluable, his terminology and racial classifications are
outdated and can be problematic to a twenty-first century reader. It is clear that the
environment in which he was educated and obsolete scholarship influenced his theories
and his response to the images. He also implies that images of black Africans were too
often categorized as apotropaic and that the label has a negative connotation.10
Apotropaism is not, however, a negative attribute; its misinterpretation reveals how easily
7 Snowden, “Iconographic Evidence,” 133.
9 Ibid., 245.
10 Frank M. Snowden, Jr., Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks (Cambridge,
Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1983), 7.
contextual readings of visual representations can be colored by the prejudices of the
society from which the scholar originates.
In order to produce an objective analysis of the objects, this essay will ignore any
presuppositions assigned to black Africans and base any theories on the iconographical
evidence provided. Black Africans were neither seen as inferior or superior exclusively; it
would be a grave oversimplification of both the iconography of the black African as well
as ancient Greek culture to assume there is only one context in which the image of the
African could be interpreted. While there may have been several contexts in which the
black African appears, it is clear that the banquet is the oldest of the Ethiopians
Homer refers to the “blameless Ethiopians” in the Iliad and it is probable that he
was describing a man of sub-Saharan African descent in the following lines of the
Odyssey: “…round-shouldered, dusky, wooly-headed; Eurybates, his name was- and
Odysseus gave him preference over the officers. He had a shrewd head, like the captain’s
own.”11 This dates the first mention of black Africans by Greeks to approximately the
ninth or eighth century BCE.12 Xenophanes gave the first physical description detailing
both the color and the nose of the Ethiopian in the late sixth century BCE.13 While
detailed information, such as the aforementioned, regarding the physiognomy was
available as early as the sixth century BCE; many nineteenth and twentieth century
scholars believed that the Greeks did not personally encounter Ethiopians until the
Persian Wars during the fifth century BCE.14
11 Homer, the Odyssey In The Norton Anthology: World Masterpieces, ed. Maynard Mack (New York:
W.W. Norton and Company, 1997), 275.
12 Snowden, Blacks in Antiquity, 25.
13 Xenophanes, Frg. 16 in H. Diels, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (Berlin 1961) and Chap. VIII.
14 Snowden, Blacks in Antiquity, 102.
In Greek literature the primary characteristic of an Ethiopian was his dark skin;
the word Aethiops literally means burnt-face.15 This darkness of skin was attributed to
environmental factors such as the heat of the sun.16 Ancient mythology attempts to
explain the physiognomy of the Ethiopian in the myth of Phaethon who, after driving his
father’s chariot too close to the earth, scorched the Ethiopians therefore causing them to
have “burnt” skin and curled hair.17 All black skinned people were called Ethiopians by
the Greeks regardless of their specific geographic and ethnic origins. Ethiopians were
known to the ancient Greeks as a fantastic people, favorites of the gods, who inhabited
the farthest ends of the earth. They resided by the River Ocean, half in the east, where the
sun rises and half in the west, with the setting sun.18 As well as dark skin, Ethiopians were
said to have broad noses and “wooly” hair. As previously mentioned, Xenophanes wrote
of the Ethiopians’ dark skin and flat noses, and Herodotus was the first to mention the
wooly texture of their hair.19 Later, Diodorus Siculus, in his Bibliotheca historica,
discusses the skin, nose and hair of the Ethiopians living near the Nile.20
The Greeks were captivated with the “otherness” of the black African as
evidenced by Diodorus’ detailed description of the Ethiopian’s physiognomy. The
Greeks’ interest in the Ethiopian in literature carried over into their art. The racial
differences between the black African and the Caucasian fascinated the ancient Greeks.
Comparisons of Ethiopians and Scythians were popular as each ethnic group represents
extremes in both environmental and physiognomic contexts; the Ethiopian being from the
15 Snowden, Before Color Prejudice, 7.
16Snowden, Blacks in Antiquity, 2.
17 Ibid., 75.
18 Snowden, Before Color Prejudice, 67.
19 Xenophanes, Frg. 16; Herodotus 7.70.
20 Snowden, “Iconograpical Evidence,” 122. Egyptian knowledge of black Africans dates as far back as the
third millennium BCE, contemporary to the Minoan civilization, which also depicted black Africans in
hot south and dark in coloring and the northern Scythian with their light features.21 The
dark skin and dark, curly hair of the Ethiopian made a bold contrast with the light eyes
and red hair of the Scythian.
Representations of black Africans appear on objects including jewelry, pottery,
mosaics, coins and bronze sculpture. The first images of black Africans come from Crete
and Egypt.22 Representations of blacks appear on the islands of Cyprus and Crete as early
as the second millennium BCE;23 however, images of black Africans do not appear in the
art of mainland Greece until the sixth century BCE.24 The black African as a subject
depicted on Greek art remains in use from the end of the Archaic period until the
Hellenistic period and remained popular into the art of the Roman Empire.25
The popularity of the black African as a subject is evidenced by the variety and
number of images available to scholars. The black African as a subject most commonly
appeared in Attic plastic pottery. The earliest known depiction of the black African by the
Greeks is in the form of the head-vase.26 This is a vessel with a face that covers the
surface of the vase body. In the Attic plastic head-vase the predominant features of the
figure’s face such as the eyes, nose and lips are modeled in clay and the skin and details
are painted on the surface. Later the sculptural quality of the vessel improved as the
representation of the face was given greater three-dimensionality. J. D. Beazley organized
the Attic head-vases into eighteen classes according to their plastic elements. The head-
21 Snowden, Blacks in Antiquity, 25.
22 Ibid,. 122.
23 Snowden, “Iconographical Evidence,” 136.
24 Beardsley, 11-12; Snowden, Blacks in Antiquity, 23-24.
25 Snowden, Blacks in Antiquity, 156-158. Greek theatre also embraced the Ethiopian as a subject in both
plays and comedies. The Aethiopica, now lost, is about the mythical Ethiopians. Plays involving Ethiopian
themes are lost and are known only through titles, fragments and vase-painting; theatre masks depicting
Ethiopians still survive. Tales of Andromeda, Memnon and King Busiris are known from scenes that are
illustrated on surviving Attic pottery.
26 Beardsley, 11.
vase, as a type, first appears in the seventh century BCE as an aryballos. These early
aryballoi are the predecessors of a later group of attic plastic janiform face aryballoi and
kantharoi.27 This term references Janus, the Roman god associated with entrances and
exits, whose two-faced head was depicted in an identical manner. It was used as early as
1920 in the article, “Two Heads of Negresses” by Charles T. Seltman.28 The Castellani
group of face kantharoi forms one of the early groups and date to the late sixth century
BCE.29 It is this group of kantharoi, along with two aryballoi, that will form the basis for
this analysis of the Ethiopian presence in Attic janiform head-vases. Insert info about
The largest concentration of vases depicting Ethiopians appears at the end of the
sixth century BCE in the form of Attic plastic head-vases. However, black Africans are
depicted on both janiform and singular head-vases as early as the seventh century BCE.30
Many of these early examples come from the islands that surround mainland Greece. One
of the earliest known examples of the black African juxtaposed with a Caucasian is on a
faience aryballos of disputed provenance. (Figure 1.) The faience aryballos dates to the
seventh century BCE.31 While the faience aryballos is a janiform head-vase, as are the
kantharoi this paper is examining, there are significant stylistic differences between the
two types of vessels. The faience aryballos is short and squat; the facial features are
incised and lack painted decoration. While different from the Castellani group and the
27 William R. Biers, “Some Thoughts on the Origins of the Attic Head Vase,” in Ancient Greek Art and
Iconography Warren G Moon, ed., (Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1983)
28 Chalres T. Seltman, “Two Heads of Negresses,” American Journal of Archeology 24 (Jan.-Mar., 1920)
under “janiform” http://www.jstor.org/stable/497548 (accessed 01/13/2009) 14.
29 J. D. Beazley, “Charinos,” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 49 (1929) under “janiform”
http://www.jstor.org/stable/625001 (accessed 11/05/2009) 39.
30 Biers, 121.
31 Snowden, “Iconographical Evidence”, 140.
Louvre aryballos, the faience aryballos served as the model for later head-vases that
developed in Athens.32
The structure of the janiform head-vase allows for the easy comparison of its
subjects therefore making it the obvious choice for the comparison of two races. It
follows that images of Ethiopians, paired with those of fair-skinned people, would be
frequent among vases of this type.33 It is important to note that not all janiform vessels
depict black Africans; many depict Dionysus, Satyrs and Herakles -- all subjects which
have a connection to symposia culture. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the
subjects represented on the vessel may be related to its use in the banquet and the
Two particularly fine examples of Attic plastic pottery utilizing the janiform to
compare the physiognomy of a black-skinned African and a Caucasian woman and
presumably crafted for the banquet or symposium use are the Castellani group currently
located in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (Figure 2.) and the Villa Guilia. (Figure 3.)
The sixth century BCE vessels are kantharoi, or wine vases.35
The features of the figures on the vases are the same because the two vases were cast
from the same mold. The women’s necks combine to form the base of the kantharos. On
the left an African female is painted a dark, glossy black with white brows, teeth and
corneas. Facing opposite the African woman on the right side of the vase is a Caucasian
woman. Starting from the bottom up the column of the two necks combine to form one
cylinder. The figures jaws are at nearly the same level although the African’s jaw is
32 H. McC, “Kalos-Names on Attic Vases,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 16 (Oct.,
1921) under “Kalos,” http://www.jstor.org/stable/3254707 (accessed January 15, 2009) 211.
33 Ibid., 146.
34 Biers, 121.
35 J.D. Beazely categorizes these vessels into Group F, also known as the Castellani Group.
slightly lower and displays evidence of prognaithism, where the jaw juts forward beyond
the brow. The Caucasian woman’s lips are closed and much thinner than the African’s
who thick lips are opened to reveal her large, white upper teeth. The aquiline nose of the
Caucasian woman’s nose begins at her brow and slopes down to a well defined tip. The
African’s nose is broad and elegantly sculpted. Arguably, the care taken by the artist
creates a believable representation that gives the impression of individuality. The African
woman wears a gold earring while the Caucasian woman does not wear any jewelry.36
Both of the women’s eyes are almond shaped, but the Caucasian woman’s eyes are
outlined in black and sit under black, arched brows. The African woman’s eyebrows are
white and her hair is quite light. This creates more interest by breaking up the expanse of
black that black skin, dark brows and dark hair create. The use of white and red for the
brows and hair further serves to delineate the difference between the features. The hair of
the African is depicted by small raised dots and is red in color. An example of the Procles
method wherein the skin is glazed black and the hair, depicted by small raised pieces of
clay, and lips are finished in red-figure.37 The small dots represent the tight coils that
create the “wooly” texture of the African’s hair. The Caucasian woman’s hair is also
represented in an unusual manner. Her hair is rendered plastically in waves, it is red in
color where the hair meets the forehead and then is black further back. The red hair is
outlined with a black line. Her ear is visible in both vases, covering the edge of her
sakkos in the Villa Giulia kantharos. The sakkos’ worn by both the figures on the Villa
Giulia vase is decorated with a pattern of ivy, which was often worn on the heads of
Dionysus’ followers, the maenads.
36 The earring worn by the African woman is the same design that is painted on the kantharos at the Villa
3730 Beardsley, 31.
On both vases, along the lip, are two inscriptions that read ΗΟΓΑΙΣΚΑΛΟΣ and
ΚΑΛΟΣΗΟΓΑΙΣ which translate as “The boy is handsome”.38 The presence of the word
kalos indicates that the inscription is probably indicates a “love-name” as kalos literally
means beautiful or handsome.39 A fitting epithet as the craftsmanship is excellent and the
vessels are well preserved.
The differences are in the painted surface decoration and the hair and sakkos
which was added after the basic shape was freed from the mold. The two vases are
variations of a type produced in Athens during the sixth century BCE. The symposium of
Archaic Greece functioned as a structured extension of Greek society; it served to both
exclude, those outside of the Greek power structure, and to equalize, for the symposiasts
feast and drink as equals.40 The symposium would open with a tasting of neat wine
before the three kraters were mixed. As a myrtle branch was passed by the participants,
the possessor of the branch picked up singing the song where the previous symposiast left
off and the singing would continue in the pattern. During the komos the symposiasts take
to the streets as the make their way to the house of an admired person to lure them out.41
It is easy to imagine the kantharoi as the central conversation pieces, prompting revelers
to tell stories, inspiring intellectual discourse or a game of “comparisons”.42
As a visual representation of the differences between the African and Caucasian
races, the Attic kantharoi of the Castellani group may have inspired discussions on topics
ranging from anthropology to theatre at the symposium and/or banquet. Debates such as
38 “Charinos”, 39.
39 McC, “Kalos-Names on Attic Vases,” 211.
40 A. M. Bowie, “Thinking with Drinking: Wine and the symposium in Aristophanes,” The Journal of
Hellenic Studies 117 (1997) under “wine” http://www.jstor.org/stable/632547 (accessed May 10, 2009) 2-3.
42 Ewen L. Bowie and L. Pernot, “Greek Table-Talk before Plato,” Rhetorica 11 (1993) under “wine”
http://www.jstor.org/stable/20135388 (accessed May 7th, 2009) 368.
these at the banquet or symposium were an ideal opportunity for the host and his guests
to display their superior education and knowledge of Greek culture. Norms of sympotic
conduct involved the praising of the individual symposiasts as the vessel was passed
around the room.43 The ritual of toasting elevated the significance of the vessel as well as
the attendees of the symposium. While the participants enjoyed a sumptuous feast, the
kantharos’ whimsical decoration would have inspired various threads of conversation.
The iconography decorating the vases’ surface reinforces these vases association
with the symposium. In previous scholarship, little attention has been paid to the figure of
the Caucasian in the Attic janiform vase. She is often described as a maenad though some
scholars have discussed the appearance of an “Eastern Princess” in later Attic janiform
head-vases.44 There is no definitive evidence to support this idea but the presence of the
ivy on the women’s head coverings causes this inference to gain in attraction. However,
the suggestion of an Eastern Princess and/or a maenad is interesting because it connects
the East, the origin of wine and the Dionysian cult, to the head-vase.45 When combined
with the image of the black African, a symbol of banqueting such as a maenad or
“Eastern Princess” reinforces the association of the vases with the symposium and wine
culture. It is possible, however, that the women were meant to be seen and discussed in
relation to the exotic associations of Ethiopians, implying the exotic provenance of the
The association of Ethiopians with the exotic is not tenuous. As a mythical people
that resided at the farthest ends of the earth, Ethiopians would have been considered
43 Bowie, “Thinking with Drinking”, 368.
44 Biers, 121.
45 Greek geography can be difficult because locations are not exact and terminology is broad. The East in
reference is the East of the ancient Greeks and consists of primarily Asia Minor, the Levant and a vague
understanding of the geography of India.
exotic.46 Africa was home to exotic fragrances, materials and animals. It is natural that
Africans would be prized for their exotic origin and unique appearance. Exotic goods
came from distant lands and therefore they would naturally be more expensive, thus
becoming a symbol of prosperity.
The excellent craftsmanship of the Castellani kantharoi suggests that these vases
were expensive and highly prized symposium ware. Along with their practical and
aesthetic functions, these vases were a way for the host to display his wealth. Black
Africans were symbolic of wealth in the ancient world in several ways. Nubia was the
leading supplier of gold to the Egyptians and therefore was widely associated with the
metal.47 As an exotic race known to inhabit a country rich with gold, the black African
may have come to symbolize wealth and prosperity. The fact that the black African on the
Castellani group wears a gold earring may be a reference to Nubian wealth and gold.
Through Nubia’s gold trade, it is possible that black Africans may have been somehow
associated with great wealth.
In addition to their association with great wealth, the Ethiopians also held the
favor of the gods. They were special to the Greek gods as they hosted a banquet for the
Olympians which lasted twelve days.48 Moreover, Poseidon was known to visit them
alone to participate in a large sacrifice of bulls and sheep.49 This honor of being chosen
by the aquatic deity for an additional visit outside of the annual banquet including the
other Olympians makes evident the favor the Ethiopians held with the Greek gods. The
Ethiopian banquet was often used by playwrights and poets to conveniently explain the
46 Snowden, Before Color Prejudice, 67.
48 Homer, the Illiad, 1.423-425
49 Homer, the Odyssey, 1.22-26.
god’s absence and subsequent inattention to earthly proceedings.50
As the hosts of this divine banquet, the link between black Africans and
banqueting culture is apparent. The Ethiopians played host to the most powerful beings in
the Greek universe, providing them with a feast worthy of their station. In order to tempt
the gods the Ethiopians must have put together the definitive banquet. Perhaps theirs was
the standard to strive for when hosting a banquet.
Beardsley however, saw no connection between the black African and the
banquet or symposium and postulated that the African was only included because they
may have served as slaves at the banquet.51 Beardsley’s view, however, perhaps speaks of
her own subconscious association between black people and slavery, reflective of her
experience living in twentieth century America. A black slave was rare in ancient Greece;
the majority of slaves were Caucasian.52 Recall that the Ethiopians of Homer lived in the
land of the Table of the Sun, and were a race that feasted with the gods. Therefore in the
ancient Greek world the Ethiopian was more likely to be associated with banqueting than
with slavery. If we accept the maenad theory as probable, when combined with the
connection between the Ethiopian and the banquet, the artist’s selection of these two
figures becomes clearer. These vases served as the centerpiece of the banquet inspiring
conversation and allowing the participants to display their knowledge of art, history,
culture and literature.
The aryballos was the first form used for the head-vase as well as for the janiform
head-vase therefore head-vases in the shape of an aryballos are quite common.
The term kalos appears on the Castellani kantharoi. Both vessels in the Castellani
50 James S. Romm, The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton
University Press, 1994), 51.
51 Beardsley, 33.
52 Biers, 120.
group bear the inscriptions: ΗΟΓΑΙΣΚΑLOΣ, "the boy is handsome”
or ΗΟΓΑΙΣΚΑLOΣΝΑΙ meaning “The boy is handsome indeed”. This inscription is
common on Attic vases bearing kalos-names, or love-names; this general inscription
appears on many vases instead of a specific name.53 It has been suggested that these vases
may have been given as gifts to the admired youth or as “favors” to the guests of the
symposium at which the favored youth was present.54 These vessels were compliments to
the aristocratic youths who were admired in Athens. If so, the inclusion of the term kalos
in the inscriptions written on the vases associates these vases with the aristocratic Attic
youths of the sixth century BCE.55 The repeat appearance of the term kalos combined
with the high level of craftsmanship evident in the Attic kantharoi is highly suggestive of
the positive connotation associated with these vases or what was represented on it. It has
been suggested that kalos vases may have been given youths of Athens and this type of
vase. Insert Kalos info
The iconography of the black African as it appears on the Attic head-vase was
strongly associated with banqueting, and the symposium. The Castellani kantharoi, and
vases like them, may also have held a specific function within an important aspect of
Athenian male society that revolves around the symposium and the relationship between
erastes and eromenos. The evidence obtained by a detailed analysis of the iconography
decorating the surface of these vases suggests a strong connection to themes of
banqueting, wealth, and pederasty. Symbolic images such as gold jewelry, when factored
in with the function of the vase type and the implications of its use, reinforce the
correlation of these vessels and their iconography with that of the banquet and the
55 McC, 211.
aristocratic Athenian society.
Ancient literary sources were invaluable to establishing the timeline of Greek
knowledge of black Africans as well as for their descriptions of the Ethiopians
physiognomy. The “otherness” of the Ethiopian inspired Greek writers to expound on the
various identifying features of the race and the environmental theories used to explain the
dissimilarity between the appearance of the Greek and the black African. While race may
have been a factor in the composition of the vases, it is secondary to their link with the
culture of the symposium. The black African was primarily a vehicle for artists to
communicate concepts of prevalent in banqueting and the symposium, and to his
audience who in turn would be well versed in the language of these objects.