University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


The concept of “nothing in excess” was an important one in ancient Greek life. The guiding principle of moderation and/or balance appears in poetry from the 7th to the 5th centuries BCE and has been extensively explored by scholars. My research project adds to this scholarly work by considering for the first time the relationship between moderation and the visual. That is, I explore whether and how this key Greek notion was expressed in the images that appear on pottery of the time period. More specifically, I focus on pottery used in thesymposium, a politically-charged aristocratic male drinking party, and examine objects from the University of Arkansas ancient Greek pottery collection. Using these sympotic containers, I intend to demonstrate that the same critical themes of balance and moderation are expressed as visual counterparts to the poetic tropes. In this project, I examine how ancient painters used contrasting themes on opposite sides of a vessel to express the importance of choosing a moderate path. These contrasts included male/female, civilized/barbarian, and upper/lower class comparisons. In this grouping I also consider bilingual vases, so called for their similar scenes on either side, with one red-figure and the other black-figure. These pots reflect a balance in the artistic style itself through the use of opposite methods. This relationship is similar to the communication of the importance of physical balance found in other containers.