A Radical Reinterpretation of the Timing of the Shift from Clay to Silverware at Greek Symposia

From William A. Percy
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Recently, I have revised an old manuscript of mine, yet unpublished. During the fifth century BC, when Athens became the greatest polis in Greece, its gentlemen began to sup and dine from silverware rather than from ceramics. Little of that fine ware survives and virtually none that was homoerotically decorated from that period. But, many writings about silver plates then in use at symposia survive. Because the explicitly homoerotic scenes on ceramics virtually disappeared after 470, I surmise that the middle classes dining with their wives and children first began to use ceramics about that time. And I assume that the aristocrats continued to use homoerotic scenes, perhaps not too different from those that they had been using on the red figurine ceramics before 480, on the silverware used at their symposia.

This thesis of mine completely contradicts the theories of both the leading experts on the subject. John Boardman claims that the Greek elites did not go over to silverware until Hellenistic times, while his bitter critic Michael Vickers insists that the elite had always supped and drunk from silverware. I have added a great deal on Hellenistic and especially on Roman homoerotic table ware, including both the Warren Cup and Herstal Vase.

Written up by the eminent scholar Franz Cumont, shortly after it was first discovered around 1900, although brass rather than silver, the Herstal Vase is dated about the same time as the Warren Cup. I maintain that it helps to prove the latter’s authenticity. Both vases are as crudely homosexual as Petronius’ Satyricon and the parts of the Greek Anthology, assembled about that time. Furthermore, I intend to add a paragraph about the Berthouville vases.

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