Research on Ancient Greek Tableware & the Roman Age of Marriage


Statement by William A. Percy III on Foundation support for work on the homoerotics of Greek tableware and the Roman age of marriage

During 2014, the Percy Foundation funded an assistant to help revise two of my manuscripts. The first, yet unpublished, is about how, during the fifth century BC, when Athens became the greatest polis in Greece, its elites began to sup and dine from silverware rather than from ceramics. Little of that fine ware survives and virtually none from that period that was homoerotically decorated. But many writings about silver then in use at symposia survive. The explicitly homoerotic scenes on ceramics virtually disappeared after 470. I surmise that the middle classes dining with their wives and children first began to use ceramics about that time. And I assume that the aristocrats continued to use homoerotic scenes on silverware, perhaps not too different from those that they used on the red figurine ceramics before 480. My contentions completely contradict the theories of the leading experts John Boardman (who claims that the Greek elites did not go over to silverware until Hellenistic times) and of his bitter critic Michael Vickers (who insists that the elite always supped and drank from silverware). The assistant re-did this manuscript for me, adding a great deal on Hellenistic and especially on Roman homoerotic tableware, including both the Warren Cup and Herstal Vase. The latter was written up by the eminent scholar Franz Cumont, shortly after it was first discovered around 1900, and although brass rather than silver, it is dated about the same time as the Warren Cup, whose authenticity it helps prove. Both vases are as crudely homosexual as Petronius’s Satyricon and the parts of the Greek Anthology, assembled about that time.

The other manuscript that the assistant reworked for me was The Age of Marriage in Ancient Rome (Lelis, Percy, Verstraete; Edwin Mellen Press, 2003). In this revised work, I introduced irrefutable statistics from my colleague at UMass Boston, Geza Shay, whose textbook about statistics in its fourth edition used some of my data. Thus, we completely refute the work of Richard P. Saller and Brent D. Shaw and their even more famous admirer at Stanford, Walter Scheidel. Saller and his junior colleague Shaw misinterpreted Latin epitaphs — which are very numerous — to claim that Roman males married at 28 (about as late as Greek males did), and females at 19, because, at those ages, the spouses became the chief commemorators instead of the parents. In fact, the traditional belief that Roman males married about 19 and females about 14 is correct, not only for the upper classes (as Scheidel has admitted in two papers that he published on the Princeton / Stanford Working Papers in Classics website) but for the middle and lower classes. The assistant added a lot of citations of recent literature for the irrefutable arguments that I had deduced. Incidentally, my work contradicts Craig Williams, who is considered the main authority on Roman homosexuality, Beert Verstraete being his rival. Following the consensus, Williams assumes that Scheidel and Saller were correct about Roman marriage ages.

— October 30, 2014



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