VOLUME 31, NUMBER 17 THURSDAY, January 27, 2000

CAS announces lecture series
Talk by Cole on "Greco swine-life" to open spring session

send this article to a friend

News Services Editor

To refer to Susan Cole, chair of the Department of Classics, as a "pigaholic" is extreme, but when it comes to the hog heaven that was ancient Greece, she can wax rhapsodic on the subject of Hellenic porkers.

Pigs were sacrificial animals, objects of pollution, votive figures, subjects of myth and ritual, literary devices and pork chops, and Cole says their many roles in all Mediterranean cultures life convey much about other aspects of those cultures.

CAS On Monday, Cole, associate professor of classics and a noted humanities scholar, will focus on the ups and downs of Greco swine-life in a lecture called "Pigs for the Gods and Pork for the Table: Dining Out in the Ancient Greek City."

It will be the first in the spring installment of the College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Lecture Series, which is designed to illuminate the nature, significance and application of humanities research. Cole's talk will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Screening Room (Room 114) of the Center for the Arts on the North Campus. It will be free of charge and open to the public, which is invited to remain after the discussion to chew the fat with Cole.

"When we consider that Circe changed Odysseus' men into swine and Semonides insulted sloppy housewives by calling them 'sows in muck,' a pig's life might not seem to be worth very much in the ancient Greek city," Cole says.

"We must take into consideration, however, the complex value system that gave order to the Greeks' ubiquitous use of pigs.

"Pigs were paradoxical objects," she explains. For instance, piglets were considered 'polluted,' but for that very reason were used in purification rituals. But there were exceptions: Aphrodite was said to find swine repulsive and preferred her sanctuaries to be cleaned with pigeons. "Families sacrificed plump piglets to their favorite gods," Cole continues. "Women 'dined for Demeter' on barbecued sow and men swore their oaths on the testicles of boars," signifying pig as fertility object.

"In fact," she says, "pigs were quite common in many religious rites practiced by and for women. This is because both women and pigs are conceptually related as marginal, and thus ambiguous, cultural objects."

Aristotle called pigs 'the animals most like people,' which Cole says may be one reason for the prominence of pigs in many other Greek religious rituals, an aspect of a pig's life that has received her scholarly attention.

For the Greeks the pig was sacred and profane, polluted but used for purification rituals, and conceptually related to fertility. And yes, pork also was highly valued as a good source of protein, as indicated by Greek vocabulary and records of cults and sanctuaries, including menus.

"Meat production was always a tricky business in the eastern Mediterranean," she says. "In the context of early cities-even in cultures you wouldn't expect. Swine were economical to raise, easy to sell and good to eat and animal sacrifice was almost always followed by a ritual meal in which at least part of the sacrificed animal was served.

"The vocabulary the Greeks used to discuss domesticated animals suggests that despite pigs' marginal role, they employed a complex system of swine production and marketing, understandable only in the context of a varied menu for pork," Cole points out.

The CAS series will continue with the following lectures to be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Screening Room in the Center for the Arts:

- Feb. 28: "Human Rights and Human Wrongs: International and American Policy" by Claude E. Welch, Jr., SUNY Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Political Science. This lecture is also part of the Spring 2000 "University and the World" lecture series.

- March 20: "Teaching in 2061!" by Clyde F. Herreid, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and academic director of the Honors Program

- April 17: "Communication Technologies in the New Millennium: Opportunities and Challenges" by Thomas L. Jacobson, associate professor of communication and acting dean of the School of Information Studies

- May 15: "Childhood Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Myths and Misconceptions about Diagnosis, Causes and Treatment" by William E. Pelham, Jr., professor of psychology and director of the ADHD program in the Department of Psychology.

Front Page | Top Stories | Briefly | Q&A | Transitions | Electronic Highways
Sports | Obituaries | Exhibits, Notices, Jobs | Events | Current Issue | Comments? | Archives
Search | UB Home | UB News Services | UB Today