Affiliation: Arizona State University
Matt Simonton is Associate Professor of Ancient History with Arizona State University, and holds his degrees from Stanford University (Ph.D. and M.A.) and Washington University in St. Louis (B.A.). His areas of specialization are ancient Greek history (Archaic through Hellenistic), the history of political institutions, democracy and oligarchy (ancient and modern), epigraphy, and comparative politics. Professor Simonton’s 2017 volume on Classical Greek Oligarchy: A Political History (Princeton University Press) was a co-winner of the Anglo-Hellenic League’s 2018 Runciman Award, and he is also the recipient of a 2020 Center for Hellenic Studies Fellowship, and a 2019 National Endowment of the Humanities/American School of Classical Studies at Athens Fellowship.
In this talk, I discuss an inscribed black-slip cup discovered in Athens and first published in 2014. This “Perikles skyphos” presents a list of six names inscribed upside down on the cup and enclosed by a trapezoidal border. Scholars have argued—persuasively, in my view—that the names represent a list of elite Athenians from the second quarter of the fifth century, including the famous politician Perikles, son of Xanthippos, his brother Ariphron, and possibly Aristeides “The Just.” But why did the assembled companions decide to inscribe their names on this object? And how did the cup come to be included among humble grave goods? In attempting to answer these questions, I draw upon the comparative evidence of sympotic poetry, the institution of ostracism, curse tablets, and wisdom literature in order to situate the cup in its historical and cultural context. The Perikles Cup is a precious piece of archaeological evidence that casts light on a murky period of Athenian history and on Perikles’ social upbringing.