Sunday 4 July 2010

The unspeakable vice of the Greeks

These two sentences are from a speech by the Public Orator of Oxford University on 23 June 2010. The topic is the recently re-opened Ashmolean Museum:

"I notice that some of the labelling has been brought up to date. Perhaps the most elegant piece of Greek painted pottery in the collection, formerly called 'Man Courting a Boy', is now labelled 'Paedophile and Victim'."

I believe that the piece is the one shown here.

Unconfirmed reports state that the Ashmolean has decided to change the wording to:

"Man and boy making love. The nature of Greek homosexual love is the subject of current academic debate."

The choice of this new wording, rather than reversion to the original label, suggests that the museum wishes to be guilty neither of ludicrous anachronism nor of covering up a crime. One has to be amused at these academic contortions. Only a fear that we might draw moral lessons directly from 2,500 years ago, with no awareness on our part that times had changed, could motivate such cautious labelling.

1 comment:

  1. I object to the altering of the historical label of the work of art. The historical label is not controversial.