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Odysseus Wanders into Late Antiquity

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Chapter Summary

The images on African red slip ware (ARS) hold special significance for scholars of late antiquity and its religious history. This imagery reflects the competition between established beliefs and the new Christian religion. The survey in the Lexicon iconographicum mythologiae classicae makes it clear that the theme of Odysseus tied to the mast was very popular. It can be found on a vast spectrum of media, ranging from vase painting through wall painting, mosaics, ceramic lamps, gemstones, and large- and small-scale sculpture in stone and bronze. The ship of Odysseus on the ARS bowl can be identified as a navis oneraria, a merchant ship, which under normal circumstances carried cargo. In the middle of the hull rises a mast supported by stays and topped with some kind of ornament. Odysseus's ship resembles other images of sailing ships on ARS, which are all merchant ships of slightly different types.

Keywords: African red slip ware (ARS); ceramic lamps; Christianity; late antiquity; Odysseus; religious history

10.1163/9789004256934_013
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