The satyr is a perplexing figure in Greek art, defined by characteristics that seem to be entirely against the Greek ideal: he is ugly, hypersexual, animalistic, and a debauchee. He is frequently found in the erotic pursuit of a nymph, where the beast weaponizes his sexual aggression against his passive counterpart. Scholars have shown that sexually excessive nature of the satyr serves as an expression of the antithesis of Athenian sexual ethics. But beginning in the late sixth-century the satyr abandons his bestial nature and sexually aggressive state in exchange for domesticity and physical beauty. However, if the aggressive and animalistic sexuality of the satyr is so fundamental to his understanding, what does this mean for this newly domesticated satyr?
This thesis seeks to understand this domesticated satyr and his function on Late Archaic and Early Classical painted pottery. In my investigation of the domesticated satyr, I have analyzed a series of vase paintings that show such satyrs alongside contemporaneous depictions of women and boys in contexts which there are great similarities, as well as texts that characterize a particular group of sexual deviants in ways that are parallel to the satyr, namely adult passive homosexual men. This paper illustrates that the satyr who has now abandoned his animalistic characteristics and has been recontextualized into a domestic setting enters a dialogue with vase paintings of women, boys, and the Athenian conceptualization of femininity and sexual passivity. So, when the satyr appears to be domesticated and is shown within a domestic context, he serves as the expression of unwonted and debased sexual passivity.
Anthony is a senior at Rutgers University, double majoring in Art History and Classics. His research interests are in Greek painted pottery, gender, sexuality, and identity in ancient Greece. After graduating, Anthony intends to apply to graduate school to study Greek art.