Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Merle K. Langdon

Committee Members

Gregor A. Kalas, David G. Anderson


During the late sixth century and early fifth century B.C., Athenian vase painters started experimenting with a new medium (i.e. red figure). Black figure was still the predominant medium by the early fifth century B.C., and its pederastic scenes on some of the vases belonged to a coherently consistent presentation or a conventional set of images. However, the conventional pederastic motifs of black figure, such as the differentiation in height between figures, the variation among lovers (e.g. bearded erastes and unbearded eromenos), and the appearance of courtship gifts all started to disappear in red figure throughout the fifth century B.C. Sir John Beazley, arguably one of the most preeminent Attic vase experts of the 20th century, noticed that the erastai (i.e. lovers) were depicted more often as youths throughout the fifth century B.C. He labeled this phenomenon as the “youthening” (Beazley 1950:321). Over the last few decades, several scholars (e.g. Shapiro 1981, 2000; Stewart 1997; Kilmer 1993; Lear and Cantarella 2008) have put forth many hypotheses regarding this “youthening”. However, their arguments have either given too much weight to social/political change (e.g. Shapiro 1981), or did not adequately take into consideration much of the extant literature (e.g. Lear and Cantarella 2008). (1) I will analyze this synchronic phenomenon by synthesizing evidence from both Attic vase materials and the extant literature; furthermore, (2) I will utilize elements of both Foucault’s (1985) “problematization” theory and Anthony Giddens’s (1986) theory of structuration as a theoretical framework for my analysis. (3) Lastly, I will demonstrate that the youthening happened as early as the late fifth century B.C., and that the addition of the cane or walking stick of the erastai was instrumental to this stylistic change because it replaced the beard as the signifier for the adult male; moreover, the “youthening” did in fact mirror certain aspects of social reality, and reflect the various forms of erotic alliances between age groups.

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