Childhood in Ancient Athens
Iconography and Social History
Routledge – 2013 – 302 pages
Childhood in Ancient Athens offers an in-depth study of children during the heyday of the Athenian city state, thereby illuminating a significant social group largely ignored by most ancient and modern authors alike. It concentrates not only on the child's own experience, but also examines the perceptions of children and childhood by Athenian society: these perceptions variously exhibit both similarities and stark contrasts with those of our own 21st century Western society. The study covers the juvenile life course from birth and infancy through early and later childhood, and treats these life stages according to the topics of nurture, play, education, work, cult and ritual, and death.
In view of the scant ancient Greek literary evidence pertaining to childhood, Beaumont focuses on the more copious ancient visual representations of children in Athenian pot painting, sculpture, and terracotta modelling. Notably, this is the first full-length monograph in English to address the iconography of childhood in ancient Athens, and it breaks important new ground by rigorously analysing and evaluating classical art to reconstruct childhood’s social history. With over 120 illustrations, the book provides a rich visual, as well as narrative, resource for the history of childhood in classical antiquity.
"In this book [Beaumont] turns her attention to mortal children, using Athens’s rich visual culture to understand childhood in its socio-historical context. Beaumont’s work is an important contribution to the field of ancient childhood and is notable for its broad scope and the way she brings together the iconography with the historical and archaeological evidence. The book also contains a large number of high-quality black and white images that supplement the text well…. an authoritative and comprehensive book on Athenian iconography as evidence of the perceptions of childhood and experiences of children." - Katherine V. Huntley, Bryn Mawr Classical Review
"Beaumont’s approach, dealing not merely with representations of children but drawing on archaeological and literary evidence, succeeds in producing a comprehensive study of the perception of children in Classical Athenian art…this authoritative account will surely become a standard work of reference, and Beaumont’s proposed study of adolescents in ancient Athens is awaited with great interest." - Georgina Muskett, Childhood in the Past: An International Journal
"Lesley Beaumont’s book examines "the iconography of childhood from birth through the whole prepubertal. phase of life as presented by Athenian two- and three-dimensional figured art produced between the late seventh and the late fourth century B.C." (207)… furnished with 120 illustrations and generous references to both ancient literary evidence and modern scholarship, it will immediately become a standard starting-point for discussions of the artistic representation of Athenian children." – Mark Golden, Phoenix
Part 1: Introduction, definitions and methodology 1. Framing the Context 2. Athenian Definitions of Children & Childhood, and the Iconography of Age Part 2: The Juvenile Life Course 3. Birth & Infancy 4. The Developing Child 5. Conclusion
Lesley Beaumont is Senior Lecturer in Classical Archaeology in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sydney, and was formerly the Assistant Director of the British School at Athens.