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Wine Cup with a Woman Playing a Game
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Onesimos
Greek, Athens, about 500 B.C.
Terracotta
3 3/8 x 11 in.
82.AE.14

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Scenes of nude male revelers and hetairai, or high-class prostitutes, decorate this Athenian red-figure kylix or cup. On the interior of the cup, a reclining hetaira plays kottabos, a popular drinking game at symposia, or aristocratic drinking parties. The woman slips one handle of a cup over her index finger and tries to flick the dregs from the bottom of the cup at a target some distance away.

Related scenes cover the outside of the cup. On one side, another reclining hetaira plays krotala, castanet-like instruments, while one youth offers her a large cup and another youth dances behind her. On the other side, three more youths dance.

Scenes of hetairai were a were a popular subject in Greek vase-painting, especially on vases meant to be used at a symposion. For most Athenian men, the only interaction that they would have with women outside their own family was with mistresses or hetairai, who were usually slaves or foreigners. Respectable Athenian women led a very secluded life in which the nudity and frolicking shown on this vase would have been unthinkable.