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Department of History and Archaeology


Spring Semester, Optional module, 10 ECTS.

Instructor: Eurydice Kefalidou with the assistance of Dr. Nikolas Charokopos (adjunct lecturer)


This course examines an important category of Greek art, the fine painted pottery of Athens and Attica. The superior quality of Attic clay, pigment, and decoration, first in the black-figure and later in the red-figure technique, quickly enabled Attic vase painters to overtake those of other local workshops so that Athens increasingly became the dominant centre for Greek figured pottery. Attic vases bear numerous depictions that reflect aspects of everyday life, myth, cult and thought from the 7th to the 4th century BC. Moreover, many of these pots were luxury goods that were being exported in large quantities all over the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, thus making trade and communication routes visible in the archaeological record. By carefully examining the vases of the most important Attic painters, we will explore the unique perspective that this fascinating visual culture gives us on life in ancient Greece. We will investigate the relationship between shape and decoration as well as the main methods of visual narration in order to approach the ideological and social/political perspectives of the Archaic and Classical period.

Note: The course includes two Museum visits and a handling session in the University Museum.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students should be familiar with:

  • The basic terminology of Greek pottery (techniques of manufacture and decoration, shapes and uses).
  • The methods of visual narration and the main methodologies employed in its study.
  • The importance of narrative scenes painted on vases which contribute to the broader study of Greek literature, archaeology and history.

They should also be able to:

  • Create and express their own opinions about the study of visual arts as a means to learn more about ancient Greek politics, economics, everyday life, men, women and children, sexuality, religion, cult and customs and other issues.
  • Raise fundamental questions/points about how images work as historical sources, and how they can be used alongside other sorts of evidence on ancient Greece culture.


Essay (3,500-5,000 words). A list of indicative topics will be provided, but students are strongly encouraged to discuss and personalize the essay topic with the course coordinator. Students will additionally have the option to select a specific vase from the National Archaeological Museum and make a short oral presentation on the spot. 


Clark,A. J., M. Elston, M.L. Hart (eds) 2002. Understanding Greek Vases: A Guide to Terms, Styles, and Techniques. Malibu: J. P. Getty Trust.

Rasmussen, T. and N. Spivey (eds) 1991. Looking at Greek Vases. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Robertson, M. 1992. The Art of Vase-Painting in Classical AthensCambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Shapiro, H. A. 2005. Myth into Art: Poet and Painter in Classical Greece. London-New York: Routledge.

Stansbury-O’Donnell, M.D. 2006. Vase Painting, Gender, and Social Identity in Archaic Athens.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 Stansbury-O’Donnell, M.D. 2011. Looking at Greek Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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