the scene, reads like a legal document: “This graphic

Reveals how Hercules, son of Uni, drank milk.” Here a
private act becomes , ritual act. The mirror
and third centuries B.C. Clearly this was a motif
Figures of breastfeeding mothers or kourotrophoi either
holding children or actually suckling them were popular all over Italy-they appear in Etruscan, South
Italian, and Sicilian art, in regions where the concept
birth of kids had never ceased to be important.
Some of these images have endured, with their wonderful existence: the so called Mater Matuta from
Chiusi, a big flagstone cinerary urn dating from the fifth
century B.C., depicting a girl holding a baby in
her lap; a mom breastfeeding two babies from Megara
Hyblaea, near Syracuse, in Sicily, from the sixth century; and a whole chain of some 200 “mums” or kourotrophoi from a sanctuary near Capua, in South
Italy, holding as many as 14 kids. (The latter are
Just occasionally nursing.) All present the topic of
fertility on a massive scale. Thousands of little,
cheap terracotta votive figurines from sanctuaries
were also offered as presents to powerful mother goddesses.142 Written sources and inscriptions give us the
too, just incompletely identified with the Greek Athena, was a kourotrophos in Italy.143
Extraordinary, by comparison, is the conspicuous lack
of the motif of the nursing mom from Ancient
Greek artwork. Here, too, a strong taboo is certainly called for. follow is otherwise hard to explain why such a
should be so studiously averted. Like female nudity,
this picture enters the repertory of Greek art exclusively in the
Hellenistic period together with numerous other
genre themes. Even in the fourth century B.C., as


[AJA 93

Brian Shefton has revealed, it is used nearly exclusively
for figures of Aphrodite with her child, Eros, on
There, the
Could the absence of this picture from Ancient
Greek art reflect life? Interesting studies have focused
on the problem of breast feeding by the mother in various
cultures and civilizations.145 Certainly aristocraticor even “bourgeois”-Greek and Roman women infrequently
nursed their infants-they had wet nurses, frequently slaves
from their own home. The wet nurse is well
known from Greek art-for example on Greek funerary stelai, where she gives the baby to the seated
Mommy.146 It is a sign of culture for a woman to be
freed of this embarrassingly physical requirement, all too
And truly
Ancient Greek artwork traditionally signifies barbarians, in addition to animals or wild creatures such as centaurs nursing their young.”47 The lack of such an
Significant image, nevertheless, isn’t so much due to the
fact that women didn’t nurse their own children, or
that the picture of the wet nurse was too unimportant
to be represented, except in a secondary job, in relation to the mom-surely not in the private action of
holding the baby at her breast. The reason is rather to
be sought in the attitude to any type of female exposure or nudity, believed to be too private, unique, shameful
and dangerous, all at the exact same time.
The picture of the female breast was too strong to
be depicted lightly in artwork. Like the phallus, the eye,
and the frontal face, the sight of the nude breast has a
double role. It truly is an indicator of helplessness; at the same


time it’s a remarkablemagic force.148 The face of
evil eye can ruin, or save. It truly is no coincidencethat
the potent image of the naked female breast (fig. 9).s10

nudity was depicted in art in both Greece and
Italy, but with distinct meanings. In Greece the early pre-Homeric awareness of man nudity was overturned, while for women, especiallyin Athens, the old
Meaning of the shame, humiliation, and vulnerability of exposure and nudity stayed unchanged.
In Italy, Greek civilization brought with it its “modern” ways, without, however, changing customs and
attitudesdeeply rootedin the religion and traditionsof