Eros in Athens

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This sounds like one hell of a show–the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens (not the one in Georgia) has put together a collection of erotic art dating from the sixth century BC to the 4th century AD, including masterpieces from more than fifty international museums. It’s so risqué that one section is limited to viewers sixteen and over.

And that is before viewers get to the top floor of the exhibition, where children under 16 are warned not to enter “unattended”.

There in three rooms reserved for artistic renditions of sexual congress, pederasty (socially accepted in ancient times), homoerotic love, and the quaintly named “bucolic love affair”, viewers are bombarded with what the ancients were clearly good at: being bawdy. From scenes of anal copulation to mutual oral sex, to lucky charms of giant phalluses and engravings of frenzied sex with the half-man, half beast satyrs and silens, Eros is depicted in all its glory.

There’s also a fair amount of violence included in these pieces, which Helena Smith, who covered this exhibition for The Guardian, said caused the most shock among spectators. Somehow, I imagine that if such an exhibition were presented here in the US, we’d hear about nothing but the phalluses and pederasty.


Brian Spears is Senior Poetry Editor of The Rumpus and the author of A Witness in Exile (Louisiana Literature Press, 2011). His poem “Upon Reading That Andromeda Will One Day Devour Triangulum and Come For Us Next” was featured in Season 9 of Motion Poems. More from this author →