Dr. Foster’s AIA lecture “Dionysos and Vesuvius in the Villa of the Mysteries”


“Our friend is not uncovering a phallus.”

Dr. Karen Polinger Foster of Yale University and Trinity College delivered an Archaeological Institute of America lecture on October 26 207 entitled, “Dionysos and Vesuvius in the Villa of the Mysteries.”

Her subject was a fresco on a wall in a house in the ruined Roman city of Pompeii. The common interpretation of that painting was that the figures are engaging in rituals related to the mystery cult of the god Dionsysus. The triangular shape between the two female figured had been interpreted as male genitalia, with the winged female figure on the right expressing shock.

Dr. Foster, however, re-interpreted the scene. She visited Pompeii and drew the scene herself. She now argues that the triangular shape is a cone of incense rather than a phallus.

Both students and community members enjoyed Dr. Foster’s dynamic lecture, which was held on the Trinity College campus in the McCook Building.

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