Sex Or Symbol: Erotic Images of Greece and Rome  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Sex Or Symbol: Erotic Images of Greece and Rome (1982) is a book on ancient erotic art and sexual symbolism by Catherine Johns published by the University of Texas.

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Entertaining and thoughtful, this book graphically portrays an area of Greek and Roman life that was an embarrassment to the eighteenth- and nineteenth century scholars discovering these objects in their classical collections. At a time of sexual prudery such material was viewed as unsuitable for serious study and removed from public display.
With 125 black and white and 38 color illustrations, Sex or Symbol? shows that while overt sexual representations were common in painting, sculpture, pottery, jewelry and other minor arts, not all the objects that shocked the Victorians had an erotic purpose. Catherine Johns demonstrates that many had a religious and apotropaic function as well as reflecting the classical delight in erotic art for its own sake. They also shed light on the social mores of the time, in particular the wide range of sexual behavior acceptable in classical antiquity.

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