Take a Walk on the Wild Side : The Behaviour, Attitude and Identity of Women Approached by Satyrs on Attic Red-Figure Vases from 530 to 400 BC

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University

Abstract: This study examines the behaviour, attitude and identity of women approached by satyrs on Attic red-figure vases from 530 to 400 BC and in particular how modern conceptions have influenced earlier interpretations of these women. In order to illustrate the diversity of the interactions between women and satyrs, five motifs have been chosen for study – Movement, Rest, Reclining, Body care and Sex. The aim is to establish the women’s behaviour as a way to define their attitude towards the satyrs, and subsequently to reconsider the women’s identity since scholars’ view of the women’s behaviour and attitude has influenced how they have identified the women.     The work is divided in three parts. The first part is an analysis of the behaviour and attitude of the women. Contrary to the prevalent theory that the women were negative toward the approaches of the satyrs, and that the satyrs were believed to be incapable of having sex with women, it is demonstrated that the women approved of the satyrs’ advances and that the satyrs were effective lovers. In the second part, the appearance of the women and the settings where the female-satyr interaction takes place are examined in order to show that it is impossible to divide the women into distinct categories on iconographical grounds. Scholars’ designations of these women as hetairai, maenads or nymphs are thus questionable. The third part discusses chronological considerations and it is found that certain features of the images can be attributed to their time period, rather than being generally important for how the behaviour, attitude and identity of the women are to be interpreted.    It is suggested that the women should be understood as images of female behaviour with no stipulated identity besides existing in the world of images. Their appearance and actions reflect the fact that the figure they interact with is a satyr, and have nothing to do with a negative attitude towards the satyr or the women’s identity or status.    

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