Erotic mirrors. Eroticism in the mirror. An iconography of love in ancient Greece (fifth to fourth century B.C.)

Fábio Vergara Cerqueira


This text consists of an interpretive essay about the meaning(s) of the “mirror” as an object in Mainland and Aegean Greece (in contrast to Western/Colonial Greece), based on iconography. I take into consideration two distinct repertoires of images: the paintings of Attic vases (late sixth – early fourth century B.C.) and the figurative decoration on the mirrors themselves, in relief or engraved (late fifth – early third century B.C.). The central focus of the analysis is the iconography registered on mirrors produced in the four main manufacturing centers of Greece (Athens, Corinth, Chalcis, Ionia). Greeks produced three types of mirrors between Late Archaic and Early Hellenistic times: hand-mirrors with handle, table mirrors with stand, and round box mirrors, the latter being the most important to this study. Box mirrors may bear iconography on their folding cover, in relief on the external surface (repoussé) or engraved on the interior surface. In contrast to the iconography of the vases of Magna Graecia, in which the mystic component stands out from the other symbolic aspects, in the case of the iconography of Greek mirrors erotic symbolism and the relation with the goddess Aphrodite predominate. This goddess protects all categories of women (hetaerae and "citizen-women", married or brides) and all modalities of eroticism. Under the auspices of love and desire, the symbolic power of the mirror can be related to an inclusive eroticism, which unites, that which society separates.


Mirror; material culture; iconography; pottery; eroticism; Aphrodite.

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Universidade Federal de São Paulo

Escola de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas
Departamento de História
Estrada do Caminho Velho, 333 - Bairro Pimentas
CEP:07252-312 - Guarulhos - São Paulo - Brasil
Heródoto - ISSN Eletrônico - 2448-2609