In fact, when this art was made, your grandma wouldn’t be born for another two thousand years.
The Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, Greece, has just opened “Eros: From Hesiod’s Theogony to Late Antiquity”. This exhibition is dedicated to ancient love in all its manifestations from the early years of Greek civilization to the waning of the Classical world during the decline of the Roman Empire. It includes 272 artifacts from fifty museums in Greece, Cyprus, Italy, and France, and will run for six months.
Eros was the god of love, but he was also the god of lust, jealousy, and all the other good and bad emotions connected with desire. One statue shows him dragging Psyche, the goddess of the soul, by the hair and hitting her with a mallet. That sums it up nicely.
The ancient Greeks were anything but prudes. The civilization that gave us theater, literature, poetry, and the ideals of democracy liked things a bit raw. Their art was full of images of sex, from the more vanilla varieties involving husbands and wives to older men with young athletes to randy farmers doing objectionable things with the livestock.
The Romans were more prudish than the Greeks, but still made room for the randy side of life. Although they turned Eros from a lascivious young man into a cute innocent cherub, their art often expressed deeper urges.
This exhibit isn’t like what you’d see in the Amsterdam Sex Museum; it’s history with a point. It shows us that the two great Western civilizations that created the foundation for our own culture weren’t all that different from us. Sure, they didn’t have the Internet, but they made up for it with paintings, poetry, and sculpture. The things that some people get shocked by nowadays have always been around. They aren’t a sign of the decline of morality or the approaching Armageddon. They are, like it or not, part of the human condition.