The politics of weddings at Athens: an iconographic assessment
Smith, A. C. (2005) The politics of weddings at Athens: an iconographic assessment. Leeds International Classical Studies, 4 (1). pp. 1-32. ISSN 1477-3643
Official URL: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/classics/lics/
Despite recent scholarship that has suggested that most if not all Athenian vases were created primarily for the symposium, vases associated with weddings constitute a distinct range of Athenian products that were used at Athens in the period of the Peloponnesian War and its immediate aftermath (430-390 BCE). Just as the subject matter of sympotic vases suggested stories or other messages to the hetaireia among whom they were used, so the wedding vases may have conveyed messages to audiences at weddings. This paper is an assessment of these wedding vases with particular attention to function: how the images reflect the use of vases in wedding rituals (as containers and/or gifts); how the images themselves were understood and interpreted in the context of weddings; and the post-nuptial uses to which the vases were put. The first part is an iconographic overview of how the Athenian painters depicted weddings, with an emphasis on the display of pottery to onlookers and guests during the public parts of weddings, important events in the life of the polis. The second part focuses on a large group of late fifth century vases that depict personifications of civic virtues, normally in the retinue of Aphrodite (Pandemos). The images would reinforce social expectations, as they advertised the virtues that would create a happy marriage—Peitho, Harmonia (Harmony), and Eukleia (Good Repute)—and promise the benefits that might result from adherence to these values—Eudaimonia and Eutychia (Prosperity), Hygieia (Health), and Paidia (Play or Childrearing). Civic personifications could be interpreted on the private level—as personal virtues—and on the public level—as civic virtues— especially when they appeared on vases that functioned both in public and private, at weddings, which were public acknowledgments of private changes in the lives of individuals within the demos.