National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Mireille M. Lee

Affiliation: Independent Scholar

Mireille Lee is a Consulting Scholar for the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, and has been Assistant Professor with the Departments of History of Art and Classical Studies at Vanderbilt University.  She holds her degrees from Bryn Mawr (Ph.D.) and Occidental College, and her research interests are Greek art and archaeology, in particular the construction of gender in ancient visual and material culture.  She has published widely on the social functions of dress in ancient Greece, including her volume Body, Dress, and Identity in Ancient Greece (2015).


Mirrors are so ubiquitous in our own culture, we tend to take them for granted. But mirrors are highly significant in many cultures: as symbols of status, beauty, and vanity; as instruments of duplicity, prophesy, and magic; as windows into the soul. Although ancient Greek mirrors have attracted the attention of scholars and collectors for over a century, their significance in Greek society remain poorly understood.  This lecture explores ancient Greek mirrors from their earliest appearance in the seventh century BCE through the Hellenistic period.  I argue that mirrors were complex objects that were essential for the construction of feminine identity in ancient Greece.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Mireille M. Lee, “The Gendered Economics of Greek Bronze Mirrors: Reflections on reciprocity and feminine agency,” Arethusa 50.2 (2017): 143-168.

Archaeology provides important evidence for ancient Greek dress, which was essential to the construction of social identities.  Although no complete garments survive, preserved fragments of silk and embroideries indicate the elite status of the wearer.  Jewelry, dress fasteners, toilet implements, perfume vessels, cosmetics, and mirrors are also important indicators of status and gender.  The visual sources, including sculpture and vase-painting, depict men and women performing various dress practices.  Although some practices, such as bathing and the use of perfumes, are common to both genders, others are specific to either men or women.  The visual sources demonstrate other aspects of identity: age and social role are often indicated by hairstyle, whereas ethnicity is also conveyed by means of garments and body-modifications.  Although dress is often considered a mundane aspect of culture, I argue that dress provides unique insight into ancient Greek ideologies.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Mireille M. Lee, Body, Dress, and Identity in Ancient Greece (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

support Us

The AIA is North America's largest and oldest nonprofit organization dedicated to archaeology. The Institute advances awareness, education, fieldwork, preservation, publication, and research of archaeological sites and cultural heritage throughout the world. Your contribution makes a difference.