Neil MacGregor on The Warren Cup
Neil chooses a racy Roman cup for Queer Icons.
Queer Icons is Front Row’s celebration of LGBTQ culture.
You may not be able to access and listen, so I have transcribed it…
“I’ve chosen the Warren Cup in the British Museum. It’s a silver wine goblet. It’s Roman made probably between 15BC-15AD. Accomplished piece of silver work. What’s really special about it is it shows two scenes of two male couples making love (NPP: really, making love? Consensual love? OK, I guess it could be… you sure it is not imposed and forced buggery?). They are being watched by the slave peeping round an open door. In both cases there’s an older man with a younger one and in both cases the younger one looks to be in their mid-teens. We know from the way their hair is cut that these are free men and we’re witnessing a very well established Greek tradition, that boys between the age of 13-16 were the object of great affection (NPP: … and a stiff cock up the bum hole… forgive me, it’s my humour.) of older men and it was part of preparing a boy to take his place in male adult society. It is quite startlingly explicit. On one side we are clearly witnessing an act of penetration. On the other side it’s intimate cuddling. What we do know is the Romans, and this is a piece of Roman silverware, were fascinated by this aspect of Greek society; what a clear statement it makes about the fact that sexuality varies so profoundly between different cultures. We believe this cup was found near Jerusalem, so what we are looking at is an object showing homosexual love (NPP: Really? They are consenting teens then?) at exactly the same time that St. Paul is writing his letters with his severe views about sex; the Jews did not admire this aspect of Greek culture (NPP: Well, that’s since changed then…) in the way that so many Romans did. It’s called the Warren Cup because it was collected by Ned Warren (NPP: I know TAP, I laughed too, in-joke), an American who lived with his boyfriend in England. The Warren Cup was offered to the Metropolitan Museum in NYC, but there was difficulty in getting it into the USA because the authorities regarded it as obscene; the Metropolitan Trustees declined to buy it. The British Museum Trustees acquired it in 1999 and it’s been on show ever since. There are other objects in the museum showing active male homosexual intercourse; for most of the museum’s history they were not on public show. Since 1999 this magnificently wrought (NPP: I think this is the word he speaks…) and made and very explicit illustration has been in the public gallery without concern. A few years ago the museum put on a small exhibition beside the front door of this cup putting it in context. There was a small notice outside warning people about the subject in case they might be offended. Strikingly, in the course of 2 months there were no complaints. Wat this means to me is two things: the object in itself is evidence that there have frequently been societies where homosexual love was totally accepted and indeed, admired and attitudes toward homosexual love are constructed and changed, and the other thing it means is because of the way it is displayed in the British Museum, is the evidence it gives in itself of the change in attitudes in our country within my life time.”
NPP comment: I found this interesting radio listening. I don’t care what you do or with whom you do it, though mutual understanding and consent is ideal. However, I am so bored of this on-going political identification of sexuality as pushed by the BBC. We are going down a path toward the end of human sexual skin on skin, body to body procreation being replaced by off-the-shelf ‘test tube’ reproduction. It is a fact of life and nature we have male female, yin-yang, cocks and khunts. LGBT can go take a frigging jump. Melanie Shaw is locked up in solitary confinement. How abut LGBTQ speak up for her? How about the £3.7billion taxpayer funded BBC report on her case? Yeah, and proverbial pigs might fly. As lovely Winnie Churchill put it, KBO: Keep Buggering On!