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  • Over the past two hundred years, thousands of ancient Greek vases have been unearthed. Yet debate continues about what the images depicted on these vases actually meant to ancient Greek viewers. In "Figures of Speech", Gloria Ferrari uses Athenian vases and other works of art from the Archaic and Classical periods (520 to 400BC) together with literary evidence to investigate what these monuments can tell us about Greek understandings of gender. She begins by developing a theory of visual representation, arguing that artistic images give us access to how their subjects were "imagined", not necesarily to how they really were. For instance, Ferrari examines the myriad representations of women working wool and demonstrates that these images serve as powerful metaphors that both reflect "and" help construct Greek conceptions of the ideal woman and her ideal behaviour. Ferrari then uses a number of icons representing blameless femininity and ideal masculinity to reevaluate rites of passage by which girls are made ready for marriage and boys become men. Representations of the nude male body in Archaic statues known as "kouroi", for example, serve as metaphors for manhood and shed new light in the much-discussed institution of "paiderastia". And imagery equating maidens with arable land and weddings with buried treasure provide a fresh perspective on Greek marriage. Innovative and thought provoking, "Figures of Speech" demonstrates how the study of visual images as well as texts will enrich our understanding of ancient Greek culture. Classicists, art historians and anyone interested in gender in the ancient world should benefit from its insights.