Drinking with the dead : Odyssean Nekuomanteia and sympotic Sophrosyne in classical Greek vase painting

Date
2015-05
Authors
Cardiff, Hal Victor III
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Abstract

Though the episode is well known from Book 11 of the Odyssey (11.23-330, 385-567), only two painted vases survive from antiquity that clearly depict Odysseus' nekuomanteion ("consultation with the dead"): a mid-fifth century Attic pelike by the Lykaon Painter (Boston, MFA: 34.79), and an early-fourth century Lucanian kalyx-krater by the Dolon Painter (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale: 422). Owing to their rarity, these images have long interested scholars, but what has largely been missing from the discussion are attempts to situate the vase paintings of necromancy within a context of use. This thesis places these objects at their original functional context of the symposium, the ancient Greek, all-male drinking party. Following a hermeneutic method of analysis, I explore the ways in which ancient symposiasts might have looked at and understood the pictorial programs on these two objects as a reflection of their convivial activities and values. By examining the vase paintings of Odysseus' nekuomanteion within the context of the symposium, this thesis argues that the images of necromancy were sophisticated pictorial articulations of the Greek ideal of sophrosyne, moderate behavior at the symposium and in civic life.

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