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Contact: M.B. Reilly
reillymb@ucmail.uc.edu
513-556-1824
University of Cincinnati

A toast to history: 500 years of wine-drinking cups mark social shifts in ancient Greece

VIDEO: University of Cincinnati researcher Kathleen Lynch, associate professor of classics, examines a time line of wine-drinking cups in ancient Athens. Changes in these cups, which were used in symposia (think...

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How commonly used items like wine drinking cups change through time can tell us a lot about those times, according to University of Cincinnati research to be presented Jan. 7 by Kathleen Lynch, UC associate professor of classics, at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America.

Lynch will present the research at the event's Gold Medal Session, when archaeology's most distinguished honor will be bestowed on her mentor, Susan Rotroff of Washington University.

UC's Lynch will present a timeline of wine drinking cups used in ancient Athens from 800 B.C. to 323 B.C. and will discuss how changes to the drinking cups marked political, social and economic shifts.

BACKGROUND

Lynch's specific area of study, which will result in a forthcoming book, is what's known as the "symposium" in ancient Athens. These were gatherings held for nearly a millennia where communal drinking of wine was a means for cementing cultural norms and social bonds that carried over into the world of politics and business.

Think of these symposia as the ancient world's ultimate cocktail parties, with established rituals and rules. An important aspect of any symposium was the wine cup, and the form of and the imagery on the cups reflected the shared culture of participants, as well as the larger social realities and changes in their world during the following periods:

IMAGE: The cups used at these gatherings reflected the social, political and economic trends of the time, just as items we commonly use reflect modern trends.

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Basic rules of Athenian symposia:

Why study these items? "Because," stated Lynch, "People's things tell you about those people and their times. In the same way that the coffee mug with 'World's Greatest Golfer' in your kitchen cabinet speaks to your values and your culture, so too do the commonly used objects of the past tell us about that past. And, often, by studying the past, we learn about ourselves."

IRON AGE SYMPOSIA AND DRINKING CUPS (1,100-700 B.C.)

IMAGE: This three-foot-high Iron Age gravemarker is in the form of a mixing vessel (water and wine) used at symposia. It signals the importance of the symposia in Athenian society. People...

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THE ARCHAIC PERIOD (700-480 B.C.)

LATE ARCHAIC PERIOD (525-480 B.C.)

HIGH CLASSICAL PERIOD (480-400 B.C.)

LATE CLASSICAL PERIOD (400-323 B.C.)

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Lynch's research on symposia of ancient Greece received funding from the Louise Taft Semple Fund of the Department of Classics at UC; the Samuel H. Kress Foundation; and the Sheldon H. Solow Foundation, Inc.



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