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Greek vases display a great quantity and a wide variety of images, in particular those vases from Athens in the 5th and 6th centuries BC. With a large number of color illustrations, including many full-page details, this book seeks to explain those images, and to help the viewer of the vases understand both the context in which they were used and the significance of the figures which appear on them.
All the different aspects of Athenian culture and society are considered, with an emphasis on their visual treatment. The vase painters did not attempt to reproduce reality; they staged it, through a series of choices each of which had its own social and aesthetic logic. Each image summoned up another, and was clarified by it. This network of imagery is examined and explained in the book's major themes: the banquet, sex, athletics and competitions, war, domestic life, relationships between men and the gods, Herakles as an exemplar of the Greek hero, the mythic identity of Athens, and the special place of Dionysos.
The visual story presented here is both informative and entertaining. All those interested in Greek culture and art will find it compelling, as will those interested in the formal study of images and image-making.
Included in the appendices are essays on the rediscovery of Greek vases in the modern era and on artists and attributions, as well as a table of vase shapes, an informative glossary, and a comprehensive bibliography.