One of the hardest things to teach in modules related to ancient Greek society is how the ancients interacted with images. They were all around them as well as being on everything they used. Moreover, images were not simply something to be enjoyed. They often provoked discussion, distrust, distaste, asked awkward questions of the viewer, and could even manipulate the way in which the user of the object/image presented himself/herself to others. Nowhere is this clearer than in relation to the images painted on drinking vessels used in the Greek symposium. They wide variety of shapes of these vessels meant that images were painted inside them, on them, under them and on their handles. All of these images related to one another, and required the user to do some work to understand them (e.g. turning the cup around to see the full image/ compare it with the image on the other inside; turn it upside down; drink it dry to see the image inside). That is why showing these images as flat 2D projections in a power point presentation fails to get across to students the high degree of interaction these images demanded.
The best way to teach this to students is to allow them to handle the objects themselves and to make them active users/researchers of these objects. This is impossible with real ancient artefacts – they are too delicate for 50+ students handling them each year. But replicas provide the ideal way to allow students to become active participants + researchers of these objects on their own terms. As individuals and as groups, they can interact with these vessels and their images, understanding how these images worked and how they posed questions and even manipulated people’s identities (i.e. in group work, as students drink from a cup, they will notice they are showing off an image covering their own face to fellow students – offering up a different ‘identity’ to their fellow drinkers).
The support needed is the financial power to have these replicas made to a high standard. They will as a result become a permanent legacy for teaching in the department. The primary use of these vessels is intended for 1st year Greek culture and society course (50-60 students per year). But they could also be used in other Classics departmental courses where appropriate (e.g. Greek art and architecture; food and drink). Potentially, over 100 students could be empowered to engage with these objects in any one year, and many more 100s over the years to come.