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Encountering Strangers in Classical Athenian Art: The Case of the Pan Painter
Pelike showing Heracles fighting Busiris, found at Thespiai. Circa 470 BC. Athens, National Archaeological Museum.
In this seminar Professor Smith will introduce the story-telling medium of figure-decorated pots from ancient Greece, the tense relationship ancient Athenians had with strangers, and the lesser known adventures of their panhellenic hero Herakles. While it is well known that the Herakles found himself in some prickly situations during his labours in ancient Greece, they’re nothing compared to his adventures abroad. In Egypt, when he was led to sacrifice at the hands of a certain King Busiris, Herakles unsurpisingly ‘turned the tables’, with a killing spree before his eventual escape. In the second quarter of the fifth century BCE, the Pan Painter, an Athenian master of red-figure vase painting, created our best known ancient depiction of this mythic tale of xenoktonia—deliberate sacrifice of a foreigner to appease the gods. Professor Smith will scrutinise this representation as a means of addressing issues at the heart of the international landscape: the evocative power of the visual arts; positive and negative aspects of representations of the ‘foreigner’; the power of religion; the allure of violence; and the role of satire.
Amy C. Smith is Professor of Classical Archaeology at University Reading, where she also serves as Curator of the Ure Museum. She received her PhD from Yale University and studied also at the American Numismatic Society, the American Academy and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, where she served in 2016 as Gertrude Smith Professor. Prof. Smith has written widely on Greek art, especially vases, and iconographic subjects concerning politics, religion and gender. She also researches museum collections and their collections histories and explores ways of presenting them to new audiences.