Prize amphora showing a chariot race

Prize amphora showing a chariot race

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Chariot-racing was the only Olympic sport in which women could take part, as owners of teams of horses. Kyniska, a princess of Sparta, was the first woman to win the Olympic crown in this sport.
British Museum curator Judith Swaddling describes the amphora.

Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora, Archaic, ca 525-500 BC, Greek, Attic, Terracotta black-figure, H 25 in (635 cm), Vases, Obverse, Athena, Reverse, chariot race In addition to stylistic criteria, the device of a flying horse on Athena's shield sugges

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Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar).

Your Easy-access (EZA) account allows those in your organization to download content for the following uses:

  • Tests
  • Samples
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  • Rough cuts
  • Preliminary edits

It overrides the standard online composite license for still images and video on the Getty Images website. The EZA account is not a license. In order to finalize your project with the material you downloaded from your EZA account, you need to secure a license. Without a license, no further use can be made, such as:

  • focus group presentations
  • external presentations
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  • any materials distributed outside your organization
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The J. Paul Getty Museum

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Attic Panathenaic Amphora with Lid

Marsyas Painter (Greek (Attic), active 370 - 330 B.C.) 78.5 × 39.2 cm (30 7/8 × 15 7/16 in.) 79.AE.147

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Currently on view at: Getty Villa, Gallery 104, Archaic and Classical Greece

Alternate Views

Front side A

Inscription, games at Athens


Object Details


Attic Panathenaic Amphora with Lid


Attributed to the Marsyas Painter (Greek (Attic), active 370 - 330 B.C.)


Athens, Greece (Place Created)

Object Number:

78.5 × 39.2 cm (30 7/8 × 15 7/16 in.)


On A., running beside the columns TON AΘENEΘEN AΘLON and ΘEIOΦΡAΣTOΣ AΡΧE ( "of the prizes at Athens" and "[during the] archonship of Theophrastos".)

Alternate Titles:

Prize Vessel from the Athenian Games (Display Title)

Premiada vasija de los juegos atenienses (Display Title)

Panathenaic amphora (Display Title)

Object Type:
Object Description

The Panathenaia, a state religious festival, honored Athena, the patron goddess of Athens. Held every four years, the festival included athletic, musical, and other competitions. Amphorae filled with oil pressed from olives from the sacred trees of Athena were given as prizes in the Panathenaic Games. These amphorae had a special form with narrow neck and foot and a standard fashion of decoration. One side showed Athena, the goddess of war, armed and striding forth between columns, and included the inscription "from the games at Athens." The other side showed the event for which the vase was a prize. Leading vase-painters, commissioned by the state, decorated these vessels, which continued to be decorated in the black-figure technique long after it had gone out of fashion for other vases, probably due to religious conservatism. The same conservatism is applied to the depiction of Athena.

On this example, the figure of Athena is portrayed in an Archaistic or old-fashioned style. An additional inscription, seen here to the right of Athena, names the archon or city magistrate. Because historical records date these magistrates, the vase can be dated very precisely. The event side of this vase shows a special race in which an apobates or armed competitor had to leap off a moving chariot, run alongside it, and then jump back on.

Related Works
Related Works

Carlo Fallani (Rome, Italy) and Dr. Giorgio Fallani, 1921 - 1994, sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1979.

Ancient Art from the Permanent Collection (March 16, 1999 to May 23, 2004)
The Classical Period of Ancient Greece (March 1 to June 2, 2002)

Fredericksen, Burton B., Jiří Frel, and Gillian Wilson. The J. Paul Getty Museum Guidebook. 5th ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1980), p. 47.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Appointment Calendar (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1981), Week of December 21.

Mattusch, C. "Field Notes," Archaeological News, vol. 10, 4, 1981, p. 91, ill. p. 91.

Simon, Erika. The Kurashiki Ninagawa Museum. Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities (Mainz am Rhine: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1982), p.110.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 1st ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1986), p. 47.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 3rd ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1991), p. 51.

Valavanes, P. D. Panathenaic Amphorai from Eretria, 1991, p. 69, 252, passim, ill. pls. 86-87.

Hamilton, R. Choes and Anthesteria. Athenian Iconography and Ritual. Ann Arbor: 1992, p. 237, Appendix 7.

Frel, Jirí. "The Grave of a Tarentine Athlete." Taras 12.1 (1992), 131-134, footnote 19.

Frel, Jiří. "The Portraits of Demetrios Polioketes by Lysippos and Teisikrates." In Studia Varia (Rome: Bretschneider, 1994), "Nugae Panathenaicae," p. 29, h fig. 11.

Manakidou, Elene P. Parastaseis me Armata. Thessaloniki: 1994, p. 296, no. 11.

Frel, Jiří. "Nugae Panathenaicae." In Studia Varia, Jiří Frel, ed. (Rome: L'Erma di Bretschneider, 1994), p. 29, fig. 11.

Eschbach, Norbert. Review of Panos Valavanis, Panathenaichoi Amphoreis apo ten Eretria. Gnomon 67 (1995), pp. 455-463, pp. 460-461, 463.

Hamilton, Richard. "Panathenaic Amphoras. The Other Side." Worshipping Athena. Panathenaia and Parthenon (ed. J. Neils). 1996. 137-162, p. 154, note 103.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 4th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 53.

Bentz, Martin. Panathenaeische Preisamphoren. Eine Athenische Vasengattung und ihre Funktion vom 6.-4.Jahrhundert v. Chr. Antike Kunst Suppl. 18. Basel: 1998, pp. 175-76, no. 4.080 pls. 117-118.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 6th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001), p. 53.

Neils, Jenifer. The Parthenon Frieze (Cambridge: 2001), p. 138, n. 33 p. 139, fig. 101.

Maischberger, M. and Wolf-Deiter Heilmeyer. Die griechische Klassik: Idee oder Wirklichkeit. Exh. cat. Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, March 1- June 2, 2002. Antikensammlung Berlin: 2002, p. 258, cat. no. 156.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection (Los Angeles: 2002), p. 84.

Miller, Stephen G. Ancient Greek Athletics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), pp. 142-143, fig. 229 (incorrectly cited as 77.AE.147).

Laurin, Joseph R. Women of Ancient Athens (Victoria: Trafford, 2005), p. 58, fig. 2.

Simon, Erika. "Ein Fund attischer Keramik aus dem Jahrzehnt 340/330 v. Chr.", in Carina Weiss and Erika Simon (eds.), Ruth Linder. Folia in Memoriam Collecta(Dettelbach:Verlag J.H. Roll GmbH, 2010), 146-159, figs. 1-2.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), p. 81.

Laurin, Joseph R. The Life of Women in Ancient Athens (Bloomington: Authorhouse, 2013), p. 8.

Langner, Martin. “Grundlagen der Chronologie spätrotfiguriger Vasen aus Athen.” BABesch 88 (2013), 127-170, pp. 132-133, fig. 6e.

Eschbach, N. Pananthenäische Preisamphoren aus dem Kerameikos zu Athen. Kerameikos 21. Berlin: Dr Ludwig Reichert Verlag Wiesbaden, 2017, pp. 50, 78n634, 93-94, fig. 15d.

Schertz, P., "From Myth to History: The Chariot in Ancient Greek Art", in The Horse in Ancient Greek Art, edited by Stribling, N and Schertz, P. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017, p. 47, fig. 36.

Massar, N., "Inscribed Black-Glaze Attic Vases", in Proceedings of the Ninth International Scientific Meeting on Hellenistic Pottery, Thessaloniki, December 5-9, 2012 (Athens, 2018), 663-676, pp. 665n12.

McPhee, Ian. "An Attic Red-Figured Bell Krater from Corinth and the Painter of Athens 1472." In Studi Miscellanei di Ceramografia Greca V, edited by Elvia Giudice and Giada Giudice (Catania: Ediarch, 2015), 121-176, 135.

Education Resources
Education Resources

Education Resource

Lesson in which students research and study artworks that depict Greek and Roman deities and present a mock TV talk show with the deities.


As the site of the Olympic Games, the architecture of Olympia is heavily influenced by the theme of athletics. The temple of Zeus, for example, is decorated with a frieze containing the 12 labors of Heracles, who is believed to be the founder of the Olympic Games, and a pediment depicting the myth of Pelops, another origin tale of the Olympics.

The main site of where the Olympic Games took place was the Stadium at Olympia which is located to the east of the sanctuary of Zeus. The physical landmarks of the Stadium are 212.54 meters long and 30–34 meters wide, and it served mainly for running races that determined the fastest person in the world. The track was made of hard-packed clay to serve as traction for the people competing in the running events.

The site of Nemea showcase both the practical and ceremonial use of athletic architecture in the early Hellenistic monumentalization of Panhellenic sanctuaries. The bath house Nemean Baths contains a western room with basin baths and an eastern plunge bath. The western basin room is common of 4th century baths throughout Greece and was likely place where visiting athletes could wash themselves during their stay. The eastern plunge bath however, is one of only 4 others in Greece, all of which have been found at Panhellenic ritual sites. Though its exact function is unknown, its public nature suggests that it may have had a ritual component in the athletic games or ceremonies. Nemea also housed a stadium, where athletes would participate in games, specifically the stadion (running event).

During the Bronze Age, the Minoans practiced several sports, including wrestling, bull jumping, acrobatics, and boxing. This is apparent in multiple pieces of art, ranging from frescoes to pottery. The youth of the boys in the Akrotiri Boxer Fresco hints that athletes began training very early on in life, suggesting that sports were extremely important to Minoan society. It has even been suggested that athletics played a religious role in society due to their widespread practice. Finally, the youth of athletes in many pieces of artwork indicates that athletic competition may have been a rite if passage into adulthood for the Minoans. [1]

One of the most popular and famous combat sports in Ancient Greece was boxing. Boxing in Ancient Greece was far less regulated than modern boxing, with opponents chosen at random, regardless of weight or age, and matches lasting until one of the competitors admitted defeat or was left unconscious. [2] Fighters were often left disfigured for example, one boxing injury commonly depicted was the cauliflower ear, which was depicted notably in the Boxer Stele from Kerameikos. [3] Many who participated in these ancient boxing matches were gravely injured or even killed. [4] Despite this, boxing was highly popular among the Ancient Grecian population and therefore was frequently featured on works of art. Another notable depiction of an ancient boxer is Boxer at Rest, also known as Terme Boxer, who has just finished a match. [5] For example, the kothon, black-figure tripod by the Boeotian Dancer's Group features two men engaged in a boxing match on one of its legs. [6]

Athletic events, particularly Panhellenic festivals, drew both athletes and spectators. Occurrences of athletic competitions were first recorded by Homer in the Iliad. As a result, competitions had ties with war and military training. [7] Depictions of athletic events in ancient art sometimes show the athletes wearing armor in order to illustrate the connection between athletes and warriors.

Depictions of athletic events were also portrayed on pieces of pottery used in everyday life. Artists like Onesimos and the Foundry Painter depicted events such as pancration scenes and wrestling matches on kylixes which were then used at symposiums or male drinking parties. Both of these painters used the red-figure technique, developed in Athens in 530 B.C., in their work and this technique allowed them to have greater freedom to express movement, emotion, and anatomy. [8]

The depictions of Athletic events in Art expanded as major athletic events also expanded. In 708 BCE, the pentathlon was added to the Olympic games. Since this event required the skills for five different events (discus, javelin, long jump, running, and wrestling) these athletes were held in high regard among society. [9] It became common to have a kylix or an amphora depict these events, and in turn, it praised the athletes by leaving their legacy in the art.

The Kleophrades terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (ca. 500 BCE) provides an example of recognition for success in athletic endeavors. At the Panathenaic Games, victors would be awarded a prize amphora filled with a luxury good like olive oil. The amphora itself would depict Athena Promachos, or Athena as a military leader directing troops into battle, and the athletic event in which the victor competed. Recognition for athletic endeavors and success by depicting the event itself as this Panathenaic prize amphora does highlights just how important athleticism was to the Ancient Greeks. Another example of the many Panathenaic Prize Amphoras is the Euphiletos Painter Panathenaic Amphora (530 BC). Painted in black figure, this Panathenaic amphora depicts a stadion from Panathenaic games. Like other prize amphora, this amphora serves to emphasize athleticism and the victors of these events.

Descriptions of women’s sport during Archaic Period mainly come from literary sources, and there are a few examples of female sporting events. One of the most popular forms of physical activity for ancient Greek women is running. [10] The bronze statuettes of athletic Spartan girl, which depicts Spartan young women involving in racing games, provide material evidence to the accounts of different women’s races in ancient Greece.

The prominence of athletic subject material in Greek art is no coincidence. Even statuary, called Athletic Dedications, arose as a way to immortalize Greek athletes and athletic games. Athletic events and art were so closely related that a common practice of athletes was to commemorate their victories with artistic dedications. One example of this would be the marble Apobates Base which commemorates victory in a chariot race at the Panathenaic Games. A competitor would erect a dedication to celebrate an athletic victory and place it in a sanctuary or Panhellenic site. These dedications were an artistic celebration of athletic prowess which every Greek could observe. [11]

As part of the games taking place at Olympia, many individuals competed in the pentathlon, a competition consisting of five events. The Ancient Olympic Pentathlon consisted of the discus throw, long jumps with weights attached to their feet, javelin throw, running, and wrestling. [12] Many victors of the pentathlon would go on to receive prizes such as exclusive items that were made specifically for the victor. For example, the amphorae of the Panathenaic Games, often filled with expensive olive oil, featured Athena standing with a sword and shield to represent their victory in the games. [13] Because the Olympics were dedicated to Zeus, often these prizes would become votive dedications to him. [13]

The Bronze Diskos Thrower (Discobolus) was a rare commodity that came from a time in which not many pieces survived: the end of the Persian Wars. The piece itself still exhibits many traits of archaic art, despite coming from the early Classical period (480 - 460 BCE). The athlete in the statue was a participant of diskos throwing, a very popular event in Ancient Greece and even modern day Olympics.

Olympic Games London – Success in the Ancient & Modern World

And just as at the Olympic games the wreaths of victory are not bestowed upon the handsomest and strongest persons present, but on men who enter for the competitions . . . so it is those who act rightly who carry off the prizes and good things of life*

This is a monumental year for the English with The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations and the Olympic Games at London. The British Museum, like so many other of its institutions, is marking the event with special exhibitions and events. From June 1 to 9th September 2012 it will be staging a victory trail around their Greek and Roman collection consisting of twelve star objects united by the theme of ‘Winning at the ancient Games’. Highlights will include the iconic Discobolus, possibly the most famous, and indeed beautiful sculpture from antiquity. The original was sculpted by Myron c450 BC and the first century Roman Satirist Petronius in his Satyricon, a satire on the sterility and corruption of Roman society, said of Myron that he…almost captured the souls of men and animals in his bronzes. This statue known as the Townley Discobolus, represents the discovery by Myron of the possibilities of demonstrating in marble ‘the dynamic harmony of the human body in a single plane’. It appeared on the 1948 London Olympic Poster, the only other time that august city hosted the games.

Winning at the Olympic Games was as every bit as potent to the athletes of ancient times as it is today. In the modern world winning at the Olympic Games is still seen by sportsmen and women as the penultimate place to achieve success. 776 BCE is a year in Greek chronological history put forward as marking the transition from the realm of myth and legend into that of real history, with the first record of ‘games’ being held at Olympia in Elis. There is still much discussion and debate over fixing exact dates to ancient events, one of the reasons being the variety of different calendars the Greek city-states, observed. What we do know however is that in our modern way of reckoning, and about that time, one Hippias of Elis recorded for posterity that Koroibos, a cook from Elis, had won the Stadion, or footrace, the only event held at Olympia that year. Its equivalent today would be the 100 metres sprint, the premier event of both the ancient, and our modern Games, revealing the fastest man on earth.

Also on display will be The Motya Charioteer yet another very rare surviving example of an original Greek victor’s statue. It is thought by many to be one of the finest surviving examples of a classical sculpture anywhere in the world. Greek statues were created in three main materials, bronze, marble and chryselephantine (gold and ivory on a wooden base). When they were produced originally they looked very different to the natural state of the stone we see them in today. Their sculptors sought to imitate what they saw before them and coloured their flesh, hair and clothing as it would have been.

Charioteering could be described as being the equivalent of today’s Formula One car racing with owners and sponsors – the race complete with laps, safety rails, etc. Ancient Greek poet and writer Homer’s Iliad includes an account of a chariot race, as part of funeral games held in honour of Patroclos, the Greek hero Achilles beloved comrade and brother at arms, before the walls of Troy.

Modern Lost Wax Model of an Apple

The Greeks were a civilization for whom nudity, in particular male nudity, was accepted and expected when exercising or participating in public games, such as the Olympics.

In our own society however, it is very different. While some people are able to cope with it and are unfazed by it, for the majority nudity still remains a taboo. The only acceptable arena for it seemingly remains the world of art, and most especially sculpture in particular.

Bronze sculpture was produced by what is known as the ‘lost wax’ method. A hard clay model of the figure in all its detail was produced first and then covered all over with a thin layer of wax. This wax was then covered all over with a rough outer coat of clay which hardened to produce a mould. Into this tubes and vents were fixed at certain points and pins were employed to keep the outer coat in place.

Heat was then applied so that the wax would melt and flow out through the tubes leaving an empty space between the inner and outer shell. Then stops were applied to the tubes and the hot bronze was poured into the empty space. Once cooled and hard the outer mould was removed to reveal the bronze formed in the exact shape of the clay statue it was covering. Sheer genius really.

Six centuries before the Christ event (BC) marble began to be used and it emerged as a superior material for creating sculptures. It is a dense material and so made ‘movement’ a challenge for the artist and a real feat to achieve. It was quarried in the Cycladic islands, at Naxos and Paros. Naxos was also a great source for emery in the ancient world, which was one of the most durable stones used for polishing hard surfaces, including weaponry.

Bronze Charioteer from Delphi

The other source was Pentelikon mountain nearby to Athens, where quarrying commenced c570 BC. Its marble was used to construct the Acropolis and many other ancient buildings of the city. Its marble was renowned for being flawless, white with a uniform, faint yellow tin which ensured it glinted golden in the sun.

Reconstruction of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia

Greek sculpture was the first, the only ancient art to break free from ‘conceptual’ conventions for representing men and animals, and to explore consciously how art might imitate nature or even improve upon it.

There was no conscious striving toward realism until it was understood as a possible and desirable goal and this began to happen during the sixth century BC.

By the beginning of the fifth century before Christ the Greek pantheon of Gods were complete and the great myths about them had acquired a definitive form.

Religious life revolved primarily around the cults of the ‘Olympian Gods Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Athena, Aphrodite, Demeter, Artemis, Apollo, Hestia, Hermes, Ares and Hephaestus, and their place of abode was Mount Olympus in Northern Greece.

The Olympian Gods were honoured with offerings of various forms, from animal sacrifice to splendid festivals lasting two or three days. The God of wine Dionysus in particular, who may have seemed a shade marginal, was part of a concept or religion if you like far more concerned with ritual than dogma.

For over 1000 years, between 776 BCE and 395 ACE, citizens from all over the classical world flocked every four years to Olympia. Spectators came from as far away as Spain and Africa long distances when travel was mostly on foot. There was a public banquet for victors, and various private celebrations where the wine flowed and songs, revelry and victory hymns, celebrated the occasion.

And the whole company raised a great cheer, while the lovely light of the fair faced moon lit up the evening*

Athletes competed as individuals, although victory brought great honour to their home city. Prime rewards of victory at the ancient Olympic Games, much as today, were fame and celebrity.

Prize Panathenaic Amphora Made in Attica Excavated Kamiros, made 520 BC acquired 1863: Charioteer wearing a long white chiton with black girdle courtesy The British Museum

Victors were granted the privilege of having a statue made to be set up at Olympia, the oldest sanctuary of Zeus, which became a sort of athletic ‘hall of fame’. However, unlike in the modern Games where participating is considered a conquest in itself, in antiquity winning was the only objective. Coming second or third did not come into it at all.

The British Museum trail will begin with the sculpture that has become a symbol of the modern Olympics although it is a Roman copy of a now lost Greek original. What it does do is capture the Greek ideas of proportion, harmony, rhythm and balance, elements which were sought after in both nature and art.

Visitors will follow the trail to the Parthenon gallery, where the victorious Charioteer will stand awaiting their arrival. He is being exhibited for the first time in England and is only very rarely loaned from Mozia (Motya) in Sicily where he is a national treasure.

Another of the stops of the trail is a magnificent amphora (a type of vase-shaped, usually ceramic container), which was given as a prize at the Panathenic Games in Athens. The pottery industry was a key factor in the strength of the Greek economy and Greek terracotta vases and storage vessels for wine, olive oil and luxury products like perfume and salves were exported all over the then known world. It is mind boggling when you know that creating the scenes on these vessels was made with a glossy slip, which was the same colour as its base. It only emerged as being black after the vase had finished being fired in the kiln.

The scene on the amphora depicts a disheveled winning charioteer, clothed in traditional white robes, triumphantly clearing the finishing post. The sense of movement that the artist has captured is truly exciting, and shows why this spectacular event remained so popular throughout antiquity.

Because of its thrills and dangers, chariot-racing was hugely popular and it was also the only Olympic sport in which women were allowed to take part, although only as owners of the teams of horses.

The Museum’s twelve stops also include a range of impressive objects near each location. By following the free trail around the Museum there is the opportunity for visitors to discover all these rare and wonderful cultural objects, whose stories will tell you more about ancient Games in Greece and Rome. In turn they will also demonstrate how the same passion and aspirations remain unchanged right up until the modern Games taking place at London in 2012.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2012

Winged Victory (Nike) catching a winning wreath

Winning at the Ancient Games

The British Museum
1 June – 9 September 2012
Various galleries
A free trail
Opening hours 10.00-17.30 Saturday to Thursday, 10.00-20.30 Fridays. The trail will run 1 June – 9 September 2012

Objects on the trail:

1. Discus Thrower: The Townley Discobolus
2. Victorious Athlete: The Vaison Daidoumenos
3. Model of ancient Olympia
4. The Motya Charioteer
5. Prize amphora showing a chariot race
6. A competitor in the long jump
7. Stele of Lucius
8. Sprinter on a vase and a bronze running girl
9. Hercules mosaic
10. The victory of the cheating pankratiast
11. The goddess Nike crowning an athlete
12. Gold medal from the 2012 Olympics

NB: The Charioteer is on special loan for this trail, courtesy of the Regione Siciliana Assessorato dei Beni Culturali a dell’Identità Siciliana, with thanks to the Italian Cultural Institute in London.
With the Museum’s “Townley” Discobolus on display in the Great Court this is a unique opportunity to consider them both within the broader context of the history of sculpture.

*Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1099a 1

Charles Townley and his Friends in the Townley Gallery, 33 Park Street, Westminster (1781-83) painted by Johann Zoffany

Additional Information: The Townley Discobolus
Very few original classical sculptures found their way to Britain during the eighteenth century, so most enthusiasts of this art form had to make do with taking home excellent cast.

Taking home a cast or a copy of an original was not shameful. It was the only way to share with friends and family what the years away had meant and how much you had learned about the heritage of Greece and Rome.

However if you were after a really outstanding piece of classical sculpture, or an original High Renaissance master such as Titian or Raphael while they were extremely difficult to find, they were not impossible if you had the right connections.

Country Gentleman Charles Towneley (1733 – 1805) formed a formidable collection of antiquities, which the British Museum purchased from the family in 1805. It was housed in his purpose built town house in the west of London in his lifetime so he and his friends could discuss the merits of each piece.

What is significant is that many of them appear in a conversation piece painted by artist Johann Zoffany, himself a luminary of the day. In August 1781 Townley wrote to his dealer in Rome “Mr Zoffany is painting… a room in my house, wherein he introduces what Subjects he chuses in my collection. It will be a picture of extraordinary effect & truth…


It is unknown exactly when chariot racing began, but it may have been as old as the chariots themselves. It is known from artistic evidence on pottery that the sport existed in the Mycenaean world, [a] but the first literary reference to a chariot race is one described in the Iliad by Homer, at the funeral games of Patroclus. [1] The participants in this race were Diomedes, Eumelus, Antilochus, Menelaus, and Meriones. The race, which was one lap around the stump of a tree, was won by Diomedes, who received a slave woman and a cauldron as his prize. A chariot race also was said to be the event that founded the Olympic Games according to one legend, mentioned by Pindar, King Oenomaus challenged suitors for his daughter Hippodamia to a race, but was defeated by Pelops, who founded the Games in honour of his victory. [2] [3]

In the ancient Olympic Games, as well as the other Panhellenic Games, there were both four-horse (tethrippon, Greek: τέθριππον) and two-horse (synoris, Greek: συνωρὶς) chariot races, which were essentially the same aside from the number of horses. [b] The chariot racing event was first added to the Olympics in 680 BC with the games expanding from a one-day to a two-day event to accommodate the new event (but was not, in reality, the founding event). [4] [5] The chariot race was not so prestigious as the foot race of 195 meters (stadion, Greek: στάδιον), but it was more important than other equestrian events such as racing on horseback, which were dropped from the Olympic Games very early on. [6]

The races themselves were held in the hippodrome, which held both chariot races and riding races. The single horse race was known as the "keles" (keles, Greek: κέλης). [c] The hippodrome was situated at the south-east corner of the sanctuary of Olympia, on the large flat area south of the stadium and ran almost parallel to the latter. Until recently, its exact location was unknown, since it is buried by several meters of sedimentary material from the Alfeios River. In 2008, however, Annie Muller and staff of the German Archeological Institute used radar to locate a large, rectangular structure similar to Pausanias's description. Pausanias, who visited Olympia in the second century AD, describes the monument as a large, elongated, flat space, approximately 780 meters long and 320 meters wide (four stadia long and one stade four plethra wide). The elongated racecourse was divided longitudinally into two tracks by a stone or wooden barrier, the embolon. All the horses or chariots ran on one track toward the east, then turned around the embolon and headed back west. Distances varied according to the event. The racecourse was surrounded by natural (to the north) and artificial (to the south and east) banks for the spectators a special place was reserved for the judges on the west side of the north bank. [7] [8]

The race was begun by a procession into the hippodrome, while a herald announced the names of the drivers and owners. The tethrippon consisted of twelve laps around the hippodrome, [9] with sharp turns around the posts at either end. Various mechanical devices were used, including the starting gates (hyspleges, Greek: ὕσπληγες singular: hysplex, Greek: ὕσπληξ) which were lowered to start the race. [10] According to Pausanias, these were invented by the architect Cleoitas, and staggered so that the chariots on the outside began the race earlier than those on the inside. The race did not begin properly until the final gate was opened, at which point each chariot would be more or less lined up alongside each other, although the ones that had started on the outside would have been traveling faster than the ones in the middle. Other mechanical devices known as the "eagle" and the "dolphin" were raised to signify that the race had begun, and were lowered as the race went on to signify the number of laps remaining. These were probably bronze carvings of those animals, set up on posts at the starting line. [11]

In most cases, the owner and the driver of the chariot were different persons. In 416 BC, the Athenian general Alcibiades had seven chariots in the race, and came in first, second, and fourth obviously, he could not have been racing all seven chariots himself. [12] Philip II of Macedon also won an Olympic chariot race in an attempt to prove he was not a barbarian, although if he had driven the chariot himself he would likely have been considered even lower than a barbarian. The poet Pindar did praise the courage of Herodotes of Thebes, however, for driving his own chariot. [13] This rule also meant that women could win the race through ownership, despite the fact that women were not allowed to participate in or even watch the Games. [4] This happened rarely, but a notable example is the Spartan Cynisca, daughter of Archidamus II, who won the chariot race twice. [14] Chariot racing was a way for Greeks to demonstrate their prosperity at the games. The case of Alcibiades indicates also that chariot racing was an alternative route to public exposure and fame for the wealthy. [15]

The charioteer was usually either a family member of the owner of the chariot or, in most cases, a slave or a hired professional. [5] Driving a racing chariot required unusual strength, skill, and courage. Yet, we know the names of very few charioteers, [16] and victory songs and statues regularly contrive to leave them out of account. [17] Unlike the other Olympic events, charioteers did not perform in the nude, probably for safety reasons because of the dust kicked up by the horses and chariots, and the likelihood of bloody crashes. Racers wore a sleeved garment called a xystis. It fell to the ankles and was fastened high at the waist with a plain belt. Two straps that crossed high at the upper back prevented the xystis from "ballooning" during the race. [18]

The chariots themselves were modified war chariots, essentially wooden carts with two wheels and an open back, [19] although chariots were by this time no longer used in battle. The charioteer's feet were held in place, but the cart rested on the axle, so the ride was bumpy. The most exciting part of the chariot race, at least for the spectators, was the turns at the ends of the hippodrome. These turns were very dangerous and often deadly. If a chariot had not already been knocked over by an opponent before the turn, it might be overturned or crushed (along with the horses and driver) by the other chariots as they went around the post. Deliberately running into an opponent to cause him to crash was technically illegal, but nothing could be done about it (at Patroclus' funeral games, Antilochus in fact causes Menelaus to crash in this way, [20] ) and crashes were likely to happen by accident anyway.

As a result of the rise of the Greek cities of the classic period, other great festivals emerged in Asia Minor, Magna Graecia, and the mainland providing the opportunity for athletes to gain fame and riches. Apart from the Olympics, the best respected were the Isthmian Games in Corinth, the Nemean Games, the Pythian Games in Delphi, and the Panathenaic Games in Athens, where the winner of the four-horse chariot race was given 140 amphorae of olive oil (much sought after and precious in ancient times). Prizes at other competitions included corn in Eleusis, bronze shields in Argos, and silver vessels in Marathon. [d] Another form of chariot racing at the Panathenaic Games was known as the apobatai, in which the contestant wore armor and periodically leapt off a moving chariot and ran alongside it before leaping back on again. [21] In these races, there was a second charioteer (a "rein-holder") while the apobates jumped out in the catalogues with the winners both the names of the apobates and of the rein-holder are mentioned. [22] Images of this contest show warriors, armed with helmets and shields, perched on the back of their racing chariots. [23] Some scholars believe that the event preserved traditions of Homeric warfare. [24]

The Romans probably borrowed chariot racing as well as the design of the racing tracks from the Etruscans, who themselves borrowed them from the Greeks, but the Romans were also influenced directly by the Greeks. [25] [26] [e] According to Roman legend, chariot racing was used by Romulus just after he founded Rome in 753 BC as a way of distracting the Sabine men. Romulus sent out invitations to the neighbouring towns to celebrate the festival of the Consualia, which included both horse races and chariot races. Whilst the Sabines were enjoying the spectacle, Romulus and his men seized and carried off the Sabine women, who became wives of the Romans. [27] [28] Chariot races were a part of several Roman religious festivals, and on these occasions were preceded by a parade (pompa circensis) that featured the charioteers, music, costumed dancers, and images of the gods. While the entertainment value of chariot races tended to overshadow any sacred purpose, in late antiquity the Church Fathers still saw them as a traditional "pagan" practice, and advised Christians not to participate. [29]

In ancient Rome, chariot races commonly took place in a circus. [30] The main centre of chariot racing was the Circus Maximus in the valley between Palatine Hill and Aventine Hill, [f] which could seat 250,000 people. [27] It was the earliest circus in the city of Rome. [30] The Circus supposedly dated to the city's earliest times, [g] but Julius Caesar rebuilt it around 50 BC to a length and width of about 650 metres (2,130 ft) and 125 metres (410 ft), respectively. [31] One end of the track was more open than the other, as this was where the chariots lined up to begin the race. The Romans used a series of gates known as carceres, equivalent to the Greek hysplex. These were staggered like the hysplex, but in a slightly different manner since the center of Roman racing tracks also included medians (the spinae). [32] The carceres took up the angled end of the track, [33] where – before a race – the chariots were loaded behind spring-loaded gates. Typically, when the chariots were ready the emperor (or whoever was hosting the races, if outside of Rome) dropped a cloth known as a mappa, signalling the beginning of the race. [34] The gates would spring open at the same time, allowing a fair start for all participants.

Once the race had begun, the chariots could move in front of each other in an attempt to cause their opponents to crash into the spinae (singular spina). On the top of the spinae stood small tables or frames supported on pillars, and also small pieces of marble in the shape of eggs or dolphins. [33] [35] The spina eventually became very elaborate, with statues and obelisks and other forms of art, but the addition of these multiple adornments had one unfortunate result: they obstructed the view of spectators on lower seats. [36] At either end of the spina was a meta, or turning point, consisting of large gilded columns. [37] [35] Spectacular crashes in which the chariot was destroyed and the charioteer and horses incapacitated were called naufragia, a Latin word that also means "shipwreck". [38]

The race itself was much like its Greek counterpart, although there were usually 24 races every day that, during the fourth century, took place on 66 days each year. [39] However, a race consisted of only 7 laps (and later 5 laps, so that there could be even more races per day), instead of the 12 laps of the Greek race. [33] The Roman style was also more money-oriented racers were professionals and there was widespread betting among spectators. [40] [41] [42] There were four-horse chariots (quadrigae) and two-horse chariots (bigae), but the four-horse races were more important. [33] In rare cases, if a driver wanted to show off his skill, he could use up to 10 horses, although this was extremely impractical.

The technique and clothing of Roman charioteers differed significantly from those used by the Greeks. Roman drivers wrapped the reins round their waist, while the Greeks held the reins in their hands. [h] Because of this, the Romans could not let go of the reins in a crash, so they would be dragged around the circus until they were killed or they freed themselves. In order to cut the reins and keep from being dragged in case of accident, they carried a falx, a curved knife. They also wore helmets and other protective gear. [43] [35] In any given race, there might be a number of teams put up by each faction, who would cooperate to maximize their chances of victory by ganging up on opponents, forcing them out of the preferred inside track or making them lose concentration and expose themselves to accident and injury. [43] [35] Spectators could also play a part as there is evidence they threw lead "curse" amulets studded with nails at teams opposing their favourite. [44]

Another important difference was that the charioteers themselves, the aurigae, were considered to be the winners, although they were usually also slaves (as in the Greek world). They received a wreath of laurel leaves, and probably some money if they won enough races they could buy their freedom. [17] Drivers could become celebrities throughout the Empire simply by surviving, as the life expectancy of a charioteer was not very high. One such celebrity driver was Scorpus, who won over 2000 races [3] before being killed in a collision at the meta when he was about 27 years old. The most famous of all was Gaius Appuleius Diocles who won 1,462 out of 4,257 races. When Diocles retired at the age of 42 after a 24-year career his winnings reportedly totalled 35,863,120 sesterces ($US 15 billion), making him the highest paid sports star in history. [45] The horses, too, could become celebrities, but their life expectancy was also low. The Romans kept detailed statistics of the names, breeds, and pedigrees of famous horses.

Seats in the Circus were free for the poor, who by the time of the Empire had little else to do, as they were no longer involved in political or military affairs as they had been in the Republic. The wealthy could pay for shaded seats where they had a better view, and they probably also spent much of their times betting on the races. The circus was the only place where the emperor showed himself before a populace assembled in vast numbers, and where the latter could manifest their affection or anger. The imperial box, called the pulvinar in the Circus Maximus, was directly connected to the imperial palace. [46]

The driver's clothing was color-coded in accordance with his faction, which would help distant spectators to keep track of the race's progress. [47] According to Tertullian, there were originally just two factions, White and Red, sacred to winter and summer respectively. [48] As fully developed, there were four factions, the Red, White, Green, and Blue. [49] Each team could have up to three chariots each in a race. Members of the same team often collaborated with each other against the other teams, for example to force them to crash into the spina (a legal and encouraged tactic). [33] Drivers could switch teams, much like athletes can be traded to different teams today.

A rivalry between the Reds and Whites had developed by 77 BC, when during a funeral for a Red driver a supporter of the Reds threw himself on the driver's funeral pyre. No writer of that time, however, referred to these factions as official organizations, as they were to be described in later years. [33] Writing near the beginning of the third century, a commentator wrote that the Reds were dedicated to Mars, the Whites to the Zephyrs, the Greens to Mother Earth or spring, and the Blues to the sky and sea or autumn. [48] During his reign of 81–96 AD, the emperor Domitian created two new factions, the Purples and Golds, but these disappeared soon after he died. [33] The Blues and the Greens gradually became the most prestigious factions, supported by emperors and the populace alike. Records indicate that on numerous occasions, Blue against Green clashes would break out during the races. The surviving literature rarely mentions the Reds and Whites, although their continued activity is documented in inscriptions and in curse tablets. [50]

Like many other aspects of the Greco-Roman world, chariot racing continued in the Byzantine Empire, although the Byzantines did not keep as many records and statistics as the Greeks and Romans did. In place of the detailed inscriptions of Roman racing statistics, several short epigrams in verse were composed celebrating some of the more famous Byzantine Charioteers. [51] The six charioteers about whom these laudatory verses were written were Anastasius, Julianus of Tyre, Faustinus, his son, Constantinus, Uranius, and Porphyrius. [52] Although Anastasius's single epigram reveals almost nothing about him, Porphyrius is much better known, having thirty-four known poems dedicated to him. [53]

Constantine I (r. 306–337) preferred chariot racing to gladiatorial combat, which he considered a vestige of paganism. [54] However, the end of gladiatorial games in the Empire may have been more the result of the difficulty and expense that came with procuring gladiators to fight in the games, than the influence of Christianity in Byzantium. [55] The Olympic Games were eventually ended by Emperor Theodosius I (r. 379–395) in 393, perhaps in a move to suppress paganism and promote Christianity, but chariot racing remained popular. The fact that chariot racing became linked to the imperial majesty meant that the Church did not prevent it, although gradually prominent Christian writers, such as Tertullian, began attacking the sport. [56] Despite the influence of Christianity in the Byzantine Empire, venationes, bloody wild-beast hunts, continued as a form of popular entertainment during the early days of the Empire as part of the extra entertainment that went along with chariot racing. Eventually, Emperor Leo (r. 457–474) banned public entertainments on Sundays in 469, showing that the hunts did not have imperial support, and the venationes were banned completely by Emperor Anastasius (r. 491–518) in 498. Anastasius was praised for this action by some sources, but their concern seems to be more for the danger the hunts could put humans in rather than for objections to the brutality or moral objections. [55] There continued to be burnings and mutilations of humans who committed crimes or were enemies of the state in the hippodrome throughout the Byzantine Empire, as well as victory celebrations and imperial coronations. [57]

The chariot races were important in the Byzantine Empire, as in the Roman Empire, as a way to reinforce social class and political power, including the might of the Byzantine emperor, and were often put on for political or religious reasons. [58] In addition, chariot races were sometimes held in celebration of an emperor's birthday. [59] An explicit parallel was drawn between the victorious charioteers and the victorious emperor. The factions addressed their victors by chanting "Rejoice . your Lords have conquered" while the charioteer took a victory lap, further indicating the parallel between the charioteer's victory and the emperor's victory. [60] Indeed, reliefs of Porphyrius, the famous Byzantine charioteer, show him in a victor's pose being acclaimed by partisans, which is clearly modeled on the images on the base of Emperor Theodosius's obelisk. [61] The races could also be used to symbolically make religious statements, such as when a charioteer, whose mother was named Mary, fell off his chariot and got back on and the crowd described it as "The son of Mary has fallen and risen again and is victorious." [62]

The Hippodrome of Constantinople (really a Roman circus, not the open space that the original Greek hippodromes were) was connected to the emperor's palace and the Church of Hagia Sophia, allowing spectators to view the emperor as they had in Rome. [i] Citizens used their proximity to the emperor in the circuses and theatres to express public opinion, like their dissatisfaction with the Emperor's errant policy. [63] It has been argued that the people became so powerful that the emperors had no choice but to grant them more legal rights. However, contrary to this traditional view, it appears, based on more recent historical research, that the Byzantine emperors treated the protests and petitions of their citizens in the circuses with greater contempt and were more dismissive of them than their Roman predecessors. Justinian I (r. 527–565), for instance, seems to have been dismissive of the Greens' petitions and to have never negotiated with them at all. [64]

There is not much evidence that the chariot races were subject to bribes or other forms of cheating in the Roman Empire. In the Byzantine Empire, there seems to have been more cheating Justinian I's reformed legal code prohibits drivers from placing curses on their opponents, but otherwise there does not seem to have been any mechanical tampering or bribery. Wearing the colours of one's team became an important aspect of Byzantine dress.

Chariot racing in the Byzantine Empire also included the Roman racing clubs, which continued to play a prominent role in these public exhibitions. By this time, the Blues (Vénetoi) and the Greens (Prásinoi) had come to overshadow the other two factions of the Whites (Leukoí) and Reds (Roúsioi), while still maintaining the paired alliances, although these were now fixed as Blue and White vs. Green and Red. [j] These circus factions were no longer the private businesses they were during the Roman Empire. Instead, the races began to be given regular, public funding, putting them under imperial control. [65] Running the chariot races at public expense was probably a cost-cutting and labor-reducing measure, making it easier to channel the proper funds into the racing organizations. [66] The Emperor himself belonged to one of the four factions and supported the interests of either the Blues or the Greens. [67] [68]

Adopting the color of their favorite charioteers was a way fans showed their loyalty to that particular racer or faction. [69] Many of the young men in the fan clubs, or factions, adopted extravagant clothing and hairstyles, such as billowing sleeves, "Hunnic" hair-styles, and "Persian" facial hair. [70] [71] There is evidence that these young men were the faction members most prone to violence and extreme factional rivalry. [72] Some scholars have tried to argue that the factional rivalry and violence was a result of opposing religious or political views, but more likely the young men simply identified strongly with their faction for group solidarity. The factional violence probably had similarities to the violence of modern football or soccer fans. [73] The games themselves were the usual focus of the factional violence, even when it was taken to the streets. [74] Although fans who went to the hippodrome cheered on their favorite charioteers, their loyalty appears to be to the color for which the charioteer drove more than for the individual driver. Charioteers could change faction allegiance and race for different colors during their careers, but the fans did not change their allegiance to their color. [75]

The Blues and the Greens were now more than simply sports teams. They gained influence in military, political, [k] and theological matters, although the hypothesis that the Greens tended towards Monophysitism and the Blues represented Orthodoxy is disputed. It is now widely believed that neither of the factions had any consistent religious bias or allegiance, in spite of the fact that they operated in an environment fraught with religious controversy. [76] [77] According to some scholars, the Blue–Green rivalry contributed to the conditions that underlay the rise of Islam, while factional enmities were exploited by the Sassanid Empire in its conflicts with the Byzantines during the century preceding Islam's advent. [l]

The Blue–Green rivalry often erupted into gang warfare, and street violence had been on the rise in the reign of Justin I (r. 518–527), who took measures to restore order, when the gangs murdered a citizen in the Hagia Sophia. [76] Riots culminated in the Nika riots of 532 AD during the reign of Justinian, which began when the two main factions united and attempted unsuccessfully to overthrow the emperor. [78]

Chariot racing seems to have declined in the course of the seventh century, with the losses the Empire suffered at the hands of the Arabs and the decline of the population and economy. [79] The Blues and Greens, deprived of any political power, were relegated to a purely ceremonial role. After the Nika riots, the factions grew less violent as their importance in imperial ceremony increased. [80] In particular, the iconoclast emperor Constantine V (r. 741–775) courted the factions for their support in his campaigns against the monks. They aided the emperor in executing his prisoners and by putting on shows in which monks and nuns held hands while the crowd hissed at them. Constantine V seems to have given the factions a political role in addition to their traditionally ceremonial role. [81] The two factions continued their activity until the imperial court was moved to Blachernae during the 12th century. [82]

The Hippodrome in Constantinople remained in use for races, games, and public ceremonies up to the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204. In the 12th century, Emperor Manuel I Komnenos (r. 1143–1180) even staged Western-style jousting matches in the Hippodrome. During the sack of 1204, the Crusaders looted the city and, among other things, removed the copper quadriga that stood above the carceres it is now displayed at St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice. [83] Thereafter, the Hippodrome was neglected, although still occasionally used for spectacles. A print of the Hippodrome from the fifteenth century shows a derelict site, a few walls still standing, and the spina, the central reservation, robbed of its splendor. Today, only the obelisks and the Serpent Column stand where for centuries the spectators gathered. [3] In the West, the games had ended much sooner by the end of the fourth century public entertainments in Italy had come to an end in all but a few towns. [84] The last recorded chariot race in Rome itself took place in the Circus Maximus in 549 AD. [85]

Media related to Chariot racing at Wikimedia Commons

  1. ^ A number of fragments of pottery show two or more chariots, obviously in the middle of a race. Bennett asserts that this is a clear indication that chariot racing existed as a sport from as early as the thirteenth century BC. Chariot races are also depicted on late Geometric vases (Bennett 1997, pp. 41–48).
  2. ^Synoris succeeded tethrippon in 384 BC. Tethrippon was reintroduced in 268 BC (Valettas & Ioannis 1955, p. 613).
  3. ^ Little is known of the construction of hippodromes before the Roman period (Adkins & Adkins 1998a, pp. 218–219)
  4. ^ The returning athletes also gained various benefits in their native towns, like tax exemptions, free clothing and meals, and even prize money (Bennett 1997, pp. 41–48).
  5. ^ In Rome, chariot racing constituted one of the two types of public games, the ludi circenses. The other type, ludi scaenici, consisted chiefly of theatrical performances (Balsdon 1974, p. 248 Mus 2001–2011).
  6. ^ There were many other circuses throughout the Roman Empire. Circus of Maxentius, another major circus, was built at the beginning of the fourth century BC outside Rome, near the Via Appia. There were major circuses at Alexandria and Antioch, and Herod the Great built four circuses in Judaea. Archaeologists working on a housing development in Essex have unearthed what they believe to be the first Roman chariot-racing arena to be found in Britain (Prudames 2005).
  7. ^ According to the tradition, the Circus probably dated back to the time of the Etruscans (Adkins & Adkins 1998b, pp. 141–142 Boatwright, Gargola & Talbert 2004, p. 383).
  8. ^ Roman drivers steered using their body weight with the reins tied around their torsos, charioteers could lean from one side to the other to direct the horse's movement, keeping the hands free for the whip and such (Futrell 2006, pp. 191–192 Köhne, Ewigleben & Jackson 2000, p. 92).
  9. ^ The Hippodrome was situated immediately to the west of the imperial palace, and there was a private passage from the palace to the emperor's box, the kathisma, where the emperor showed himself to his subjects. One of Justinian's first acts on becoming emperor was to rebuild the kathisma, making it loftier and more impressive (Evans 2005, p. 16).
  10. ^ One of the most famous charioteers, Porphyrius, was a member of both the Blues and the Greens at various times in the 5th century (Futrell 2006, p. 200).
  11. ^ At the root of the political power eventually gained by the factions was the fact that from the mid-fifth century the making of an emperor required that he should be acclaimed by the people (Liebeschuetz 2003, p. 211).
  12. ^Khosrau I (r. 531–579) erected an hippodrome near Ctesiphon and supported the Greens in deliberate contrast to his enemy, Justinian, who favored the Blues (Hathaway 2003, p. 31).
  1. ^ Homer. The Iliad, 23.257–23.652.
  2. ^ Pindar. "1.75". Olympian Odes.
  3. ^ abcBennett 1997, pp. 41–48.
  4. ^ abPolidoro & Simri 1996, pp. 41–46.
  5. ^ abValettas & Ioannis 1955, p. 613.
  6. ^Adkins & Adkins 1998a, pp. 350, 420.
  7. ^
  8. Pausanias. "6.20.10–6.20.19". Description of Greece.
  9. ^Vikatou 2007.
  10. ^Adkins & Adkins 1998a, p. 420.
  11. ^Golden 2004, p. 86.
  12. ^
  13. Pausanias. "6.20.13". Description of Greece.
  14. ^Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War, 6.16.2.
  15. ^ Pindar. Isthmian Odes, 1.1.
  16. ^Golden 2004, p. 46.
  17. ^Kyle 2007, p. 172.
  18. ^ One of them is Carrhotus who is praised by Pindar for keeping his chariot unscathed (Pindar. Pythian, 5.25–5.53). Unlike the majority of charioteers, Carrhotus was friend and brother-in-law of the man he drove for, Arcesilaus of Cyrene so his success affirmed the success of the traditional aristocratic mode of organizing society (Dougherty & Kurke 2003, Nigel Nicholson, "Aristocratic Victory Memorials", p. 116
  19. ^ abGolden 2004, p. 34.
  20. ^Adkins & Adkins 1998a, p. 416.
  21. ^Valettas & Ioannis 1955, p. 614.
  22. ^Gagarin 1983, pp. 35–39.
  23. ^Camp 1998, p. 40.
  24. ^Apobates 1955.
  25. ^Neils & Tracy 2003, p. 25.
  26. ^Kyle 1993, p. 189.
  27. ^Golden 2004, p. 35.
  28. ^Harris 1972, p. 185.
  29. ^ abBoatwright, Gargola & Talbert 2004, p. 383.
  30. ^Scullard 1981, pp. 177–178.
  31. ^Beard, North & Price 1998, p. 262.
  32. ^ abAdkins & Adkins 1998b, pp. 141–142.
  33. ^Kyle 2007, p. 305.
  34. ^Kyle 2007, p. 306.
  35. ^ abcdefgBalsdon 1974, pp. 314–319.
  36. ^Harris 1972, p. 215.
  37. ^ abcdRamsay 1876, p. 348.
  38. ^Harris 1972, p. 190.
  39. ^Potter & Mattingly 1999, Hazel Dodge, "Amusing the Masses: Buildings for Entertainment and Leisure in the Roman World", p. 237.
  40. ^Futrell 2006, p. 191.
  41. ^Kyle 2007, p. 304.
  42. ^Harris 1972, pp. 224–225.
  43. ^Laurence 1996, p. 71.
  44. ^Potter 2006, p. 375.
  45. ^ abFutrell 2006, pp. 191–192.
  46. ^Struck 2010.
  47. ^Waldrop 2010.
  48. ^Lançon 2000, p. 144.
  49. ^Futrell 2006, p. 192.
  50. ^ abTertullian. De Spectaculis, 9.
  51. ^Adkins & Adkins 1998b, p. 347.
  52. ^Futrell 2006, p. 209.
  53. ^Harris 1972, p. 240.
  54. ^Harris 1972, pp. 240–241.
  55. ^Harris 1972, p. 241.
  56. ^Treadgold 1997, p. 41.
  57. ^ abCameron 1973, p. 228.
  58. ^Tertullian (De Spectaculis, 16) and Cassiodorus called chariot racing an instrument of the Devil. Salvian criticized those who rushed into the circus in order to "feast their impure, adulterous gaze on shameful obscenities" (Olivová 1989, p. 86). Public spectacles were also attacked by John Chrysostom (Liebeschuetz 2003, pp. 217–218).
  59. ^Cameron 1976, p. 172.
  60. ^Kyle 2007, p. 253.
  61. ^Theophanes & Turtledove 1982, p. 79.
  62. ^Cameron 1973, p. 249.
  63. ^Cameron 1973, pp. 250–251.
  64. ^Harris 1972, pp. 242–243.
  65. ^Cameron 1976, p. 161.
  66. ^Cameron 1976, p. 169.
  67. ^Humphrey 1986, p. 539.
  68. ^Humphrey 1986, p. 441.
  69. ^Evans 2005, p. 16.
  70. ^Hathaway 2003, p. 31.
  71. ^Gregory 2010, p. 131.
  72. ^Cameron 1976, p. 76.
  73. ^Prokopios & Kaldellis 2010, pp. 32–33.
  74. ^Cameron 1976, pp. 76–77.
  75. ^Gregory 2010, p. 133.
  76. ^Cameron 1976, p. 273.
  77. ^Cameron 1976, pp. 202–203.
  78. ^ abEvans 2005, p. 17.
  79. ^Liebeschuetz 2003, p. 215.
  80. ^McComb 2004, p. 25.
  81. ^Liebeschuetz 2003, p. 219.
  82. ^Cameron 1976, p. 299.
  83. ^Cameron 1976, pp. 302–304.
  84. ^Cameron 1976, p. 308.
  85. ^Freeman 2004, p. 39.
  86. ^Liebeschuetz 2003, pp. 219–220.
  87. ^Balsdon 1974, p. 252.

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The foundation for pottery painting is the image carrier, in other words the vase onto which an image is painted. Popular shapes alternated with passing fashions. Whereas many recurred after intervals, others were replaced over time. But they all had a common method of manufacture: after the vase was made, it was first dried before being painted. The workshops were under the control of the potters, who as owners of businesses had an elevated social position [ citation needed ] .

The extent to which potters and painters were identical is uncertain. It is likely that many master potters themselves made their main contribution in the production process as vase painters, while employing additional painters. It is, however, not easy to reconstruct links between potters and painters. In many cases, such as Tleson and the Tleson Painter, Amasis and the Amasis Painter or even Nikosthenes and Painter N, it is impossible to make unambiguous attributions, although in much of the scientific literature these painters and potters are assumed to be the same person [ citation needed ] . But such attributions can only be made with confidence if the signatures of potter and painter are at hand.

The painters, who were either slaves or craftsmen paid as pottery painters, worked on unfired, leather-dry vases. In the case of black-figure production the subject was painted on the vase with a clay slurry (a slip, in older literature also designated as varnish) which turned black and glossy after firing. This was not "paint" in the usual sense, since this surface slip was made from the same clay material as the vase itself, only differing in the size of the component particles, achieved during refining the clay before potting began. The area for the figures was first painted with a brush-like implement. The internal outlines and structural details were incised into the slip so that the underlying clay could be seen through the scratches. Two other earth-based pigments giving red and white were used to add details such as ornaments, clothing or parts of clothing, hair, animal manes, parts of weapons and other equipment. White was also frequently used to represent women's skin.

The success of all this effort could only be judged after a complicated, three-phase firing process which generated the red color of the body clay and the black of the applied slip. Specifically, the vessel was fired in a kiln at a temperature of about 800 °C, with the resultant oxidization turning the vase a reddish-orange color. The temperature was then raised to about 950 °C with the kiln's vents closed and green wood added to remove the oxygen. The vessel then turned an overall black. The final stage required the vents to be re-opened to allow oxygen into the kiln, which was allowed to cool down. The vessel then returned to its reddish-orange colour due to renewed oxidization, while the now-sintered painted layer remained the glossy black color which had been created in the second stage.

Although scoring is one of the main stylistic indicators, some pieces do without. For these, the form is technically similar to the orientalizing style, but the image repertoire no longer reflects orientalizing practice. [1]

The evolution of black-figure pottery painting is traditionally described in terms of various regional styles and schools. Using Corinth as the hub, there were basic differences in the productions of the individual regions, even if they did influence each other. Especially in Attica, although not exclusively there, the best and most influential artists of their time characterized classical Greek pottery painting. The further development and quality of the vessels as image carrier are the subjects of this section.

Corinth Edit

The black-figure technique was developed around 700 BC in Corinth [2] and used for the first time in the early 7th century BC by Proto-Corinthian pottery painters, who were still painting in the orientalizing style. The new technique was reminiscent of engraved metal pieces, with the more costly metal tableware being replaced by pottery vases with figures painted on them. A characteristic black-figure style developed before the end of the century. Most orientalizing elements had been given up and there were no ornaments except for dabbed rosettes (the rosettes being formed by an arrangement of small individual dots)

The clay used in Corinth was soft, with a yellow, occasionally green tint. Faulty firing was a matter of course, occurring whenever the complicated firing procedure did not function as desired. The result was often unwanted coloring of the entire vase, or parts of it. After firing, the glossy slip applied to the vase turned dull black. The supplemental red and white colors first appeared in Corinth and then became very common. The painted vessels are usually of small format, seldom higher than 30 cm. Oil flasks (alabastra, aryballos), pyxides, kraters, oenochoes and cups were the most common vessels painted. Sculptured vases were also widespread. In contrast to Attic vases, inscriptions are rare, and painters’ signatures even more so. Most of the surviving vessels produced in Corinth have been found in Etruria, lower Italy and Sicily. In the 7th and first half of the 6th centuries BC, Corinthian vase painting dominated the Mediterranean market for ceramics. It is difficult to construct a stylistic sequence for Corinthian vase painting. In contrast to Attic painting, for example, the proportions of the pottery foundation did not evolve much. It is also often difficult to date Corinthian vases one frequently has to rely on secondary dates, such as the founding of Greek colonies in Italy. Based on such information an approximate chronology can be drawn up using stylistic comparisons, but it seldom has anywhere near the precision of the dating of Attic vases.

Mythological scenes are frequently depicted, especially Heracles and figures relating to the Trojan War. But the imagery on Corinthian vases does not have as wide a thematic range as do later works by Attic painters. Gods are seldom depicted, Dionysus never. But the Theban Cycle was more popular in Corinth than later in Athens. Primarily fights, horsemen and banquets were the most common scenes of daily life, the latter appearing for the first time during the early Corinthian period. Sport scenes are rare. Scenes with fat-bellied dancers are unique and their meaning is disputed up to the present time. These are drinkers whose bellies and buttocks are padded with pillows and they may represent an early form of Greek comedy. [3]

Transitional style Edit

The transitional style (640-625 BC) linked the orientalizing (Proto-Corinthian) with the black-figure style. The old animal frieze style of the Proto-Corinthian period had run dry, as did the interest of vase painters in mythological scenes. During this period animal and hybrid creatures were dominant. The index form of the time was the spherical aryballos, which was produced in large numbers and decorated with animal friezes or scenes of daily life. The image quality is inferior compared with the orientalizing period. The most distinguished artists of the time were the Shambling Bull Painter, whose most famous work is an aryballos with a hunting scene, the Painter of Palermo 489, and his disciple, the Columbus Painter. The latter's personal style can be most easily recognized in his images of powerful lions. Beside the aryballos, the kotyle and the alabastron are the most important vase shapes. The edges of kotyles were ornamented, and the other decorations consisted of animals and rays. The two vertical vase surfaces frequently have mythological scenes. The alabastrons were usually painted with single figures.

Early- and Middle Corinthian Edit

The Duel Painter was the most important early Corinthian painter (625-600 BC) [4] who depicted fighting scenes on aryballos. Starting in the Middle Corinthian period (600-575 BC), opaque colors were used more and more frequently to emphasize details. Figures were additionally painted using a series of white dots. The aryballos became larger and were given a flat base.

The Pholoe Painter is well known, his most famous work being a skyphos with a picture of Heracles. The Dodwell Painter continued to paint animal friezes, although other painters had already given up this tradition. [5] His creative period extended into Late-Corinthian times [ clarification needed ] and his influence cannot be overestimated on vase painting of that time. Likewise of exceptional reputation were the master of the Gorgoneion Group and the Cavalcade Painter, given this designation because of his preference for depicting horsemen on cup interiors he was active around 580 BC. [6] Two of his masterpieces [7] are a cup [8] showing the suicide of Ajax, and a column krater showing a bridal couple in a chariot. All figures shown on the bowl are labeled.

The first artist known by name is the polychrome vase painter Timonidas [de] , who signed [9] a flask [10] and a pinax. [11] A second artist's name of Milonidas also appears on a pinax.

The Corinthian olpe wine jug was replaced by an Attic version of the oinochoe with a cloverleaf lip. In Middle Corinthian time, depictions of people again became more common. The Eurytios Krater dated around 600 BC is considered to be of particularly high quality it shows a symposium in the main frieze with Heracles, Eurytios, and other mythical figures.

Late Corinthian Edit

In Late Corinthian times (sometimes designated Late Corinthian I, 575–550 BC) Corinthian vases had a red coating to enhance the contrast between the large white areas and the rather pale color of the clay vessel. This put the Corinthian craftsmen in competition with Attic pottery painters, who had in the meantime taken over a leading role in the pottery trade. Attic vase forms were also increasingly copied. Oinochoes, whose form had remained basically unchanged up until that time, began to resemble Attic forms lekythos also started to be increasingly produced. The column krater, a Corinthian invention which was for that reason called a korinthios in the rest of Greece, was modified. Shortening the volutes above the handles gave rise to the Chalcidic krater. The main image field it was decorated with various representations of daily life or mythological scenes, the secondary field contained an animal frieze. The back often showed two large animals.

Cups had become deeper already in Mid-Corinthian times and this trend continued. They became just as popular as kotyles. Many of them have mythological scenes on the outside and a gorgon grimace on the inside. This type of painting was also adopted by Attic painters. On their part, Corinthian painters took over framed image fields from Athens. Animal friezes became less important. During this time the third Corinthian painter with a known name, Chares, was active. [12] The Tydeus Painter should also be mentioned, who around 560 BC liked to paint neck amphoras with a red background. [13] Incised rosettes continued to be put on vases they are lacking on only a few kraters and cups. The most outstanding piece of art in this period is the Amphiaraos Krater, a column krater created around 560 BC as the major work of the Amphiaraos Painter.. It shows several events from the life of the hero Amphiaraos.

Around 550 BC the production of figured vases came to an end. The following Late Corinthian Style II is characterized by vases only with ornaments, usually painted with a silhouette technique. It was succeeded by the red-figure style, which however did not attain a particularly high quality in Corinth.

Attica Edit

With over 20,000 extant pieces, Attic black-figure vases comprise the largest and at the same time most significant vase collection, second only to Attic red-figure vases. [14] Attic potters benefitted from the excellent, iron-rich clay found in Attica. High quality Attic black-figure vases have a uniform, glossy, pitch-black coating and the color-intensive terra cotta clay foundation has been meticulously smoothened. Women's skin is always indicated with a white opaque color, which is also frequently used for details such as individual horses, clothing or ornaments. The most outstanding Attic artists elevated vase painting to a graphic art, but a large number of average quality and mass-market products were also produced. The outstanding significance of Attic pottery comes from their almost endless repertoire of scenes covering a wide range of themes. These provide rich testimonials especially in regard to mythology, but also to daily life. On the other hand, there are virtually no images referring to contemporary events. Such references are only occasionally evident in the form of annotations, for example when kalos inscriptions are painted on a vase. Vases were produced for the domestic market on the one hand, and were important for celebrations or in connection with ritual acts. On the other hand, they were also an important export product sold throughout the Mediterranean area. For this reason most of the surviving vases come from Etruscan necropolises. [15]

Pioneers Edit

The black-figure technique was first applied in the middle of the 7th century BC, during the period of Proto-Attic vase painting. Influenced by pottery from Corinth, which offered the highest quality at the time, Attic vase painters switched to the new technology between about 635 BC and the end of the century. At first they closely followed the methods and subjects of the Corinthian models. The Painter of Berlin A 34 at the beginning of this period is the first identified individual painter. The first artist with a unique style was the Nessos Painter. With his Nessos amphora he created the first outstanding piece in the Attic black-figure style. [16] At the same time he was an early master of the Attic animal frieze style. One of his vases was also the first known Attic vase exported to Etruria. [17] He was also responsible for the first representations of harpies and Sirens in Attic art. In contrast to the Corinthian painters he used double and even triple incised lines to better depict animal anatomy. A double-scored shoulder line became a characteristic of Attic vases. The possibilities inherent in large pieces of pottery such as belly amphoras as carriers for images were also recognized at an early date. Other important painters of this pioneer time were the Piraeus Painter, the Bellerophon Painter and the Lion Painter.

Early Attic vases Edit

The black-figure style became generally established in Athens around 600 BC. An early Athenian development was the horse-head amphora, the name coming from the depiction of horse heads in an image window. Image windows were frequently used in the subsequent period and were later adopted even in Corinth. The Cerameicus Painter and the Gorgon Painter are associated with the horse-head amphoras. The Corinthian influence was not only maintained, but even intensified. The animal frieze was recognized as generally obligatory and customarily used. This had economic as well as stylistic reasons, because Athens competed with Corinth for markets. Attic vases were sold in the Black Sea area, Libya, Syria, lower Italy and Spain, as well as within the Greek homeland.

In addition to following Corinthian models, Athens vases also showed local innovations. Thus at the beginning of the 6th century BC a "Deianaira type" of lekythos arose, with an elongated, oval form. [18] The most important painter of this early time was the Gorgon Painter (600–580 BC). He was a very productive artist who seldom made use of mythological themes or human figures, and when he did, always accompanied them with animals or animal friezes. Some of his other vases had only animal representations, as was the case with many Corinthian vases. Besides the Gorgon Painter the painters of the Komast Group (585–570 BC) should be mentioned. This group decorated types of vases which were new to Athens, namely lekanes, kotyles and kothons. The most important innovation was however the introduction of the komast cup, which along with the "prekomast cups" of the Oxford Palmette Class stands at the beginning of the development of Attic cups. Important painters in this group were the elder KX Painter and the somewhat less talented KY Painter, who introduced the column krater to Athens. [19] These vessels were designed for use at banquets and were thus decorated with relevant komos scenes, such as komast performers komos scenes.

Other significant painters of the first generation were the Panther Painter, the Anagyrus Painter, the Painter of the Dresden Lekanis and the Polos Painter. The last significant representative of the first generation of painters was Sophilos (580–570 BC), who is the first Attic vase painter known by name. In all, he signed four surviving vases, three as painter and one as potter, revealing that at this date potters were also painters of vases in the black-figure style. A fundamental separation of both crafts seems to have occurred only in the course of the development of the red-figure style, although prior specialization cannot be ruled out. Sophilos makes liberal use of annotations. He apparently specialized in large vases, since especially dinos and amphoras are known to be his work. Much more frequently than his predecessors, Sophilos shows mythological scenes like the funeral games for Patroclus. The decline of the animal frieze begins with him, and plant and other ornaments are also of lower quality since they are regarded as less important and thus receive scant attention from the painter. But in other respects Sophilos shows that he was an ambitious artist. On two dinos the marriage of Peleus and Thetis is depicted. These vases were produced at about the same time as the François vase, which depicts this subject to perfection. However, Sophilos does without any trimmings in the form of animal friezes on one of his two dinos, [20] and he does not combine different myths in scenes distributed over various vase surfaces. It is the first large Greek vase showing a single myth in several interrelated segments. A special feature of the dinos is the painter's application of the opaque white paint designating women directly on the clay foundation, and not as usual on the black gloss. The figure's interior details and contours are painted in a dull red. This particular technique is rare, only found in vases painted in Sophilos' workshop and on wooden panels painted in the Corinthian style in the 6th century BC. Sophilos also painted one of the rare chalices (a variety of goblet) and created the first surviving series of votive tablets. He himself or one of his successors also decorated the first marriage vase (known as a lebes gamikos) to be found. [21]

Pre-Classical Archaic period Edit

Starting around the second third of the 6th century BC, Attic artists became interested in mythological scenes and other representations of figures. Animal friezes became less important. Only a few painters took care with them, and they were generally moved from the center of attention to less important areas of vases. This new style is especially represented by the François vase, signed by both the potter Ergotimos and the painter Kleitias (570–560 BC). This krater is considered to be the most famous Greek painted vase. [22] It is the first known volute krater made of clay. Mythological events are depicted in several friezes, with animal friezes being shown in secondary locations. Several iconographic and technical details appear on this vase for the first time. Many are unique, such as the representation of a lowered mast of a sailing ship others became part of the standard repertoire, such as people sitting with one leg behind the other, instead of with the traditional parallel positioning of the legs. [23] Four other, smaller vases were signed by Ergotimos and Kleitias, and additional vases and fragments are attributed to them. They provide evidence for other innovations by Kleitias, like the first depiction of the birth of Athena or of the Dance on Crete.

Nearchos (565–555 BC) signed as potter and painter. He favored large figures and was the first to create images showing the harnessing of a chariot. Another innovation was to place a tongue design on a white background under the vase lip. [24] Other talented painters were the Painter of Akropolis 606 and the Ptoon Painter, whose most well-known piece is the Hearst Hydria. The Burgon Group is also significant, being the source of the first totally preserved Panathenaic amphora.

The Siana cup evolved from the komast cup around 575 BC. While the Komast Group produced shapes other than cups, some craftsmen specialized in cup production after the time of the first important exemplifier of Siana cups, the C Painter (575-555 BC). The cups have a higher rim than previously and a trumpet-shaped base on a relatively short hollow stem. For the first time in Attic vase painting the inside of the cup was decorated with framed images (tondo). There were two types of decoration. In the "double-decker" style the cup body and the lip each have separate decorations. In the "overlap" style the image extends over both body and lip. After the second quarter of the 6th century BC there was more interest in decorating especially cups with pictures of athletes. Another important Siana cup painter was the Heidelberg Painter. He, too, painted almost exclusively Siana cups. His favorite subject was the hero Heracles. The Heidelberg Painter is the first Attic painter to show him with the Erymanthian boar, with Nereus, with Busiris and in the garden of the Hesperides. The Cassandra Painter, who decorated mid-sized cups with high bases and lips, marks the end of the development of the Siana cup. He is primarily significant as the first known painter to belong to the so-called Little Masters, a large group of painters who produced the same range of vessels, known as Little-master cups. So-called Merrythought cups were produced contemporaneously with Siana cups. Their handles are in the form of a two-pronged fork and end in what looks like a button. These cups do not have a delineated rim. They also have a deeper bowl with a higher and narrower foot.

The last outstanding painter of the Pre-Classical Archaic Period was Lydos (560-540 BC), who signed two of his surviving pieces with ho Lydos (the Lydian). He or his immediate ancestors probably came from Asia Minor but he was undoubtedly trained in Athens. Over 130 surviving vases are now attributed to him. One of his pictures on a hydria is the first known Attic representation of the fight between Heracles and Geryon. Lydos was the first to show Heracles with the hide of a lion, which afterward became common in Attic art. He also depicted the battle between the gods and the giants on a dinos found on Athens’ acropolis, and Heracles with Cycnus. Lydos decorated other types of vessels besides hydriai and dinos, such as plates, cups (overlap Siena cups), column kraters and psykters, as well as votive tablets. It continues to be difficult to identify Lydos’ products as such since they frequently differ only slightly from those of his immediate milieu. The style is quite homogenous, but the pieces vary considerably in quality. The drawings are not always carefully produced. Lydos was probably a foreman in a very productive workshop in Athens’pottery district. He was presumably the last Attic vase painter to put animal friezes on large vases. Still in the Corinthian tradition, his figure drawings are a link in the chain of vase painters extending from Kleitias via Lydos and the Amasis Painters to Exekias. Along with them he participated in the evolution of this art in Attica and had a lasting influence. [25]

A special form of Attic vases of this period was the Tyrrhenian amphora (550-530 BC). These were egg-shaped neck amphora with decorations atypical of the usual Attic design canon of the period. Almost all of the c. 200 surviving vases were found in Etruria. The body of the amphora is usually subdivided into several parallel friezes. The upper or shoulder frieze usually shows a popular scene from mythology. There are sometimes less common subjects, such as a unique scene of the sacrificing of Polyxena. The first known erotic images on Attic vases are also found at this vase location. The painters frequently put annotations on Tyrrhenian amphora which identify the persons shown. The other two or three friezes were decorated with animals sometimes one of them was replaced with a plant frieze. The neck is customarily painted with a lotus palmette cross or festoons. The amphoras are quite colorful and recall Corinthian products. In this case a Corinthian form was obviously deliberately copied to produce a particular vase type for the Etruscan market, where the style was popular. It is possible that this form was not manufactured in Athens but somewhere else in Attica, or even outside Attica. Important painters were the Castellani Painter and the Goltyr Painter.

The years of mastery Edit

The period between 560 and the inception of red-figure pottery painting around 530/520 BC is considered to be the absolute pinnacle of black-figure vase painting. In this period the best and most well-known artists exploited all the possibilities offered by this style. [26]

The first important painter of this time was the Amasis Painter (560–525 BC), named after the famous potter Amasis, with whom he primarily worked. Many researchers regard them as the same person. He began his painting career at about the same time as Lydos but was active over a period almost twice as long. Whereas Lydos showed more the abilities of a skilled craftsman, the Amasis Painter was an accomplished artist. His images are clever, charming and sophisticated [27] and his personal artistic development comes close to a reflection of the overall evolution of black-figure Attic vase painting at that time. His early work shows his affinity to the painters of Siana cups. Advances can be most easily recognized in how he draws the folds of clothing. His early female figures wear clothes without folds. Later he paints flat, angular folds, and in the end he is able to convey the impression of supple, flowing garments. [28] Drawings of garments were one of his chief characteristics he liked to depicted patterned and fringed clothing. The groups of figures which the Amasis Painter shows were carefully drawn and symmetrically composed. Initially they were quite static, later figures convey an impression of motion. Although the Amasis Painter often depicted mythological events—he is known for his pig-faced satyrs, for example—he is better known for his scenes of daily life. He was the first painter to portray them to a significant extent. His work decisively influenced the work of red-figure painters later. He possibly anticipated some of their innovations or was influenced by them toward the end of his painting career: on many of his vases women are only shown in outline, without a black filling, and they are no longer identifiable as women by the application of opaque white as skin color. [29]

Group E (550–525 v. Chr.) was a large, self-contained collection of artisans, and is considered to be the most important anonymous group producing black-figure Attic pottery. It rigorously broke with the stylistic tradition of Lydos both as to image and vessel. Egg-shaped neck amphoras were completely given up, column kraters almost entirely abandoned. Instead, this group introduced Type A belly amphoras, which then became an index form. Neck amphoras were usually produced only in customized versions. The group had no interest in small formats. Many scenes, especially those originating in myths, were reproduced again and again. Thus several amphoras of this group show Heracles with Geryon or the Nemean Lion, and increasingly Theseus and the Minotaur, as well as the birth of Athena. The particular significance of the group is, however, in the influence it exerted on Exekias. Most Attic artists of the period copied the styles of Group E and Exekias. The work of Lydos and the Amasis Painter was, by contrast, not imitated as frequently. Beazley describes the importance of the group for Exekias as follows: "Group E is the fertile ground from which the art of Exekias sprouts, the tradition which he takes up and surpasses on his way from an excellent craftsman to a true artist". [30]

Exekias (545-520 BC) is generally considered to be the absolute master of the black-figure style, which reaches its apex with him. [31] His significance is not only due to his masterful vase painting, but also to his high quality and innovative pottery. He signed 12 of his surviving vessels as potter, two as both painter and potter. Exekias probably had a large role in the development of Little-master cups and the Type A belly amphora mentioned above, and he possibly invented the calyx krater, at least the oldest existing piece is from his workshop. In contrast to many other comparable craftsmen, as a painter he attached great importance to the careful elaboration of ornaments. The details of his images—horses’ manes, weapons, clothing—are also outstandingly well executed. His scenes are usually monumental and the figures emanate a dignity previously unknown in painting. In many cases he broke with Attic conventions. For his most famous vessel, the Dionysus cup, he was the first to use a coral-red interior coating instead of the customary red color. This innovation, as well as his placing of two pairs of eyes on the exterior, connects Exekias with the classic eye cups. Probably even more innovative was his use of the entire inside of the cup for his picture of Dionysus, reclining on a ship from which grapevines sprout. At this time it was in fact customary to decorate the inside surface merely with a gorgon face. The cup [32] is probably one of the experiments undertaken in the pottery district to break new ground before the red-figure style was introduced. He was the first to paint a ship sailing along the rim of a dinos. He only seldom adhered to traditional patterns of depicting customary mythological subjects. His depiction of the suicide of Ajax is also significant. Exekias does not show the act itself, which was in the tradition, but rather Ajax’ preparations. [33] About as famous as the Dionysus cup is an amphora with his visualization of Ajax and Achilles engaged in a board game. [34] Not only is the portrayal detailed, Exekias even conveys the outcome of the game. Almost in the style of a speech balloon he has both players announce the numbers they cast with their dice—Ajax a three and Achilles a four. This is the oldest known depiction of this scene, of which there is no mention in classical literature. No fewer than 180 other surviving vases, dating from the Exekias version up to about 480 BC, show this scene. [35]

John Boardman emphasizes the exceptional status of Exekias which singles him out from traditional vase painters: "The people depicted by earlier artist are elegant dolls at best. Amasis (the Amasis Painter) was able to visualize people as people. But Exekias could envision them as gods and thereby give us a foretaste of classical art". [36]

Acknowledging that vase painters in ancient Greece were regarded as craftsmen rather than artists, Exekias is nevertheless considered by today's art historians to be an accomplished artist whose work can be compared with "major" paintings (murals and panel paintings) of that period. [37] His contemporaries apparently recognized this as well. The Berlin Collection of Classical Antiquities in the Altes Museum contains the remnants of a series of his votive tablets. The complete series probably had 16 individual panels. Placing such an order with a potter and vase painter is likely to be unique in antiquity and is evidence of the high reputation of this artist. The tablets show grieving for a dead Athenian woman as well as her lying in state and being transported to a gravesite. Exekias conveys both the grief and the dignity of the figures. One special feature, for example, is that the leader of the funeral procession turns his face to look at the viewer directly, so to speak. The depiction of the horses is also unique they have individual temperaments and are not reduced to their function as noble animals, as is otherwise customary on vases. [38]

There was further specialization among producers of vessels and cups during the mature Classical Period. The large-volume komast and Siana cups evolved via Gordion cups [39] into graceful variants called Little-master cups because of their delicate painting. The potters and painters of this form are accordingly called Little Masters. They chiefly painted band cups and lip cups. The lip cups [40] got their name from their relatively pronounced and delineated lip. The outside of the cup retained much of the clay background and typically bore only a few small images, sometimes only inscriptions, or in some cases the entire cup was only minimally decorated. Also in the area of the handles there are seldom more than palmettes or inscriptions near the attachment points. These inscriptions can be the potter's signature, a drinker's toast, or simply a meaningless sequence of letters. But lip cup interiors are often also decorated with images.

Band cups [41] have a softer transition between the body and the rim. The decoration is in the form of a band circling the cup exterior and can frequently be a very elaborate frieze. In the case of this form the rim is coated with a glossy black slip. The interior retains the color of the clay, except for a black dot painted in the center. Variations include Droop cups and Kassel cups. Droop cups [42] have black, concave lips and a high foot. As with classic band cups the rim is left black, but the area below it is decorated with ornaments like leaves, buds, palmettes, dots, nimbuses or animals on the cup exterior. Kassel cups [43] are a small form, squatter than other Little Masters cups, and the entire exterior is decorated. As in the case of Droop cups, primarily ornaments are painted. Famous Little Masters are the potters Phrynos, Sokles, Tleson and Ergoteles, the latter two being sons of the potter Nearchos. Hermogenes invented a Little Master variety of skyphos [44] now known as a Hermogenes skyphos. The Phrynos Painter, Taleides Painter, Xenokles Painter and the Group of Rhodes 12264 should also be mentioned here.

Lip cup by the potter Tleson with signature ("Tleson, son of nearchos, made me"), c. 540 BC, now in the Munich State Collection of Antiquities

Band cup by an unknown artist showing fighters, c. 540 BC, from Vulci, now in the Louvre, Paris

Droop cup by an unknown artist, c. 550/530 BC, from Greece, now in the Louvre, Paris

Kassel cup by an unknown artist, c. 540 BC, now in the Louvre, Paris

The last quarter of the 6th century BC Edit

Until the end of the century the quality of black-figure vase production could basically be maintained. But after the development of the red-figure style around 530 BC, presumably by the Andokides Painter, more and more painters went over to the red-figure style, which provided many more possibilities for adding details within the figure contours. The new style also permitted many more promising experiments with foreshortening, perspective views and new designs for arrangements. Scene contents, as always, reflected trends in taste and the spirit of the times, but the red-figure style created better preconditions for presenting more elaborate scenes by exploiting the new arrangement possibilities.

But in the meantime, a few innovative craftsmen could still give new impulses to the production of black-figure vases. The most imaginative potter of the time, also a talented businessman, was Nikosthenes. Over 120 vases bear his signature, indicating that they were made by him or in his workshop. He seems to have particularly specialized in producing vases for export to Etruria. In his workshop the usual neck amphoras, Little Masters, Droop and eye cups were produced, but also a type of amphora reminiscent of Etruscan bucchero pottery, named the Nikosthenic amphora after its creator. These pieces were found particularly in Caere, the other vase types usually in Cerveteri and Vulci. The many inventions in his workshop were not limited to forms. In Nikosthenes’ workshop what is known as the Six's technique was developed, in which figures were painted in reddish brown or white atop a black glossy slip. It is not clear whether Nikosthenes also painted vases, in which case he is usually presumed to be identical with Painter N. [45] The BMN Painter and the red-figure Nikosthenes Painter are also named after Nikosthenes. In his workshop he employed many famous vase painters, including the elderly Lydos, Oltos and Epiktetos. The workshop tradition was continued by Nikosthenes’ successor, Pamphaios. [46]

Two black-figure vase painters are considered to be mannerists (540-520 BC). The painter Elbows Out decorated primarily Little Masters cups. The extended elbows of his figures are conspicuous, a characteristic responsible for his pragmatic name. He only seldom depicted mythological scenes erotic scenes are much more common. He also decorated a rare vase form known as a lydion. The most important of the two painters was The Affecter, whose name comes from the exaggeratedly artificial impression made by his figures. These small-headed figures do not seem to be acting as much as posing. His early work shows scenes of daily life later he turned to decorative scenes in which figures and attributes are recognizable, but hardly actions. If his figures are clothed they look as if they were padded if they are naked they are very angular. The Affecter was both potter and painter over 130 of his vases have survived. [47]

The Antimenes Painter (530–500 BC) liked to decorate hydria with animal friezes in the predella, and otherwise especially neck amphoras. Two hydria attributed to him are decorated on the neck region using a white ground technique. He was the first to paint amphoras with a masklike face of Dionysus. The most famous of his over 200 surviving vases shows an olive harvest on the back side. His drawings are seldom really precise, but neither are they excessively careless. [48] Stylistically, the painter Psiax is closely related to the Antimenes Painter, although the former also used the red-figure technique. As the teacher of the painters Euphronius and Phintias, Psiax had a great influence on the early development of the red-figure style. He frequently shows horse and chariot scenes and archers. [49]

The last important group of painters was the Leagros Group (520-500 BC), named after the kalos inscription they frequently used, Leagros. Amphoras and hydria, the latter often with palmettes in the predella, are the most frequently painted vessels. The image field is usually filled absolutely to capacity, but the quality of the images is still kept very high. Many of the over 200 vases in this group were decorated with scenes of the Trojan War and the life of Heracles [50] Painters like the witty Acheloos Painter, the conventional Chiusi Painter, and the Daybreak Painter with his faithful detailing belong to the Leagros Group. [51]

Other well-known vase painters of the time are the Painter of the Vatican Mourner, The Princeton Painter, the Painter of Munich 1410 and the Swing Painter (540-520 BC), to whom many vases are attributed. He is not considered to be a very good artist, but his figures are unintentionally humorous because of the figures with their large heads, strange noses and frequently clenched fists. [52] The work of the Rycroft Painter bears a resemblance to red-figure vase painting and the new forms of expression. He liked to depict Dionysian scenes, horses and chariots, and the adventures of Heracles. He often uses outline drawings. The approximately 50 usually large-size vessels attributed to him are elegantly painted. [53] The Class of C.M. 218 primarily decorated variations of the Nikosthenic amphoras. The Hypobibazon Class worked with a new type of belly amphora with rounded handles and feet, whose decoration is characterized by a key meander above the image fields. A smaller variant of neck amphora was decorated by the Three Line Group. The Perizoma Group adopted around 520 BC the newly introduced form of the stamnos. Toward the end of the century, high quality productions were still being produced by the Euphiletos Painter, the Madrid Painter and the imaginative Priam Painter.

Particularly cup painters like Oltos, Epiktetos, Pheidippos and Skythes painted vases in both red- and black-figure styles (Bilingual Pottery), primarily eye cups. The interior was usually in the black-figure style, the exterior in the red-figure style. There are several cases of amphoras whose front and back sides are decorated in the two different styles. The most famous are works by the Andokides Painter, whose black-figure scenes are attributed to the Lysippides Painter. Scholars are divided on the issue of whether these painters are the same person. Only a few painters, for example the Nikoxenos Painter and the Athena Painter, produced large quantities of vases using both techniques. Although bilingual pottery was quite popular for a short time, the style went out of fashion already toward the end of the century. [54]

Late Period Edit

At the beginning of the 5th century BC until 480 BC at the latest, all painters of repute were using the red-figure style. But black-figure vases continued to be produced for some 50 additional years, with their quality progressively decreasing. The last painters producing acceptable quality images on large vases were the Eucharides Painter and the Kleophrades Painter. Only workshops which produced smaller shapes like olpes, oenoches, skyphos, small neck amphoras and particular lekythos increasingly used the old style. The Phanyllis Painter used the Six technique, among other methods, and both the Edinburgh Painter and the Gela Painter decorated the first cylindrical lekythos. The former primarily produced casual, clear and simple scenes using a black-figure style on a white ground. The white ground of the vases was quite thick and no longer painted directly on the clay foundation, a technique which became the standard for all white-ground vases. The Sappho Painter specialized in funerary lekythos. The workshop of the Haimon Painter was especially productive over 600 of their vases have survived. The Athena Painter (who is perhaps identical with the red-figure Bowdoin Painter) and the Perseus Painter continued to decorate large, standard lekythos. The scenes of the Athena Painter still radiate some of the dignity inherent in the work of the Leagros Group. The Marathon Painter is primarily known for the funerary lekythos found in the tumulus for the Athenians who died in the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. The last significant lekythos painter, the Beldam Painter, worked from around 470 BC until 450 BC. Except for the Panathenaic prize amphoras, the black-figure style came to a close in Attica at this time. [55]

Panathenaic prize amphoras Edit

Among black-figure Attic vases, the Panathenaic prize amphoras play a special role. After 566 BC—when the Panathenaic celebrations were introduced or reorganized—they were the prize for the winners of sport competitions and were filled with olive oil, one of the city's main export goods. On the front they routinely bore the image of the goddess Athena standing between two pillars on which roosters perched on the back there was a sports scene. The shape was always the same and was only modified slightly over the long period of its production. The belly amphora was, as its name suggests, originally especially bulbous, with a short neck and a long, narrow foot. Around 530 BC the necks become shorter and the body somewhat narrower. Around 400 BC the vase shoulders were considerably reduced in width and the curve of the vase body looked constricted. After 366 BC the vases were again more elegant and become even narrower.

These vases were primarily produced in the leading workshops of the Kerameikos district. It seems to have been an honor or particularly lucrative to be awarded a commission for producing the vases. This also explains the existence of many prize amphoras by excellent vase painters. In addition to superior black-figure painters like the Euphiletos Painter, Exekias, Hypereides and the Leagros Group, many red-figure master craftsmen are known as creators of prize amphoras. These include the Eucharides Painter, the Kleophrades Painter, the Berlin Painter, the Achilleus Painter and Sophilos, who was the only one to have signed one of the surviving vases. The first known vase was produced by the Burgon Group and is known as the Burgon vase. Since the name of the ruling official (Archon) occasionally appears on the vase after the 4th century BC, some of the vases can be precisely dated. Since the Panathenaia were religious festivals, the style and the type of decoration changed neither during the red-figure period nor after figured vases were no longer really traded in Athens. The prize amphoras were produced into the 2nd century BC, and about 1,000 of them have survived. Since for some dates the number of amphorae awarded to a winner is known, it is possible to deduce that about one percent of the total production of Athenian vases has survived. Other projections lead to the conclusion that in all about seven million vases with painted figures were produced in Athens. [56] In addition to the prize amphoras, imitative forms known as Pseudo-Panathenaic prize amphoras were also manufactured. [57]

Laconia Edit

Starting already in the 7th century BC painted pottery was being produced in Sparta for local consumption as well as for export. The first quality pieces were produced around 580 BC. The zenith in black-figure pottery was reached between about 575 and 525 BC. Besides Sparta, the main discovery sites are the islands of Rhodes and Samos, as well as Taranto, Etruscan necropolises, and Cyrene, which was at first considered to be the original source of the pottery. The quality of the vessels is very high. The clay was well slurried and was given a cream-colored coating. Amphoras, hydriai, column kraters (called krater lakonikos in antiquity), volute kraters, Chalcidic kraters, lebes, aryballoi and the Spartan drinking cup, the lakaina, were painted. But the index form and most frequent find is the cup. In Lakonia the deep bowl was usually put on a high foot cups on low feet are rare. The exterior is typically decorated with ornaments, usually festoons of pomegranates, and the interior scene is quite large and contains figures. In Laconia earlier than in the rest of Greece the tondo became the main framework for cup scenes. The main image was likewise divided into two segments at an early date, a main scene and a smaller, lower one. Frequently the vessel was only coated with a glossy slip or decorated with just a few ornaments. Inscriptions are uncommon but can appear as name annotations. Signatures are unknown for potters as well as painters. It is probable that the Laconian craftsmen were perioeci pottery painters. Characteristic features of the pottery often match the fashion of known painters. It is also possible that they were migrant potters from eastern Greece, which would explain the strong eastern Greek influence especially on the Boreads Painter.

In the meantime at least eight vase painters can be distinguished. Five painters, the Arkesilas Painter (565–555), the Boreads Painter (575–565), the Hunt Painter, the Naucratis Painter (575–550) and the Rider Painter (550–530) are considered to be the more important representatives of the style, while other painters are regarded as craftsmen of lesser ability. The images are usually angular and stiff, and contain animal friezes, scenes of daily life, especially symposia, and many mythological subjects. Of the latter, Poseidon and Zeus are depicted especially frequently, but also Heracles and his twelve labors as well as the Theban and Trojan legend cycles. Especially on the early vases, a gorgon grimace is placed in a cup tondo. A depiction of the nymph Cyrene and a tondo with a rider with a scrolling tendril growing from his head (name vase of the Rider Painter) are exceptional. [58] Also important is a cup with an image of Arcesilaus II. The Arcesilas cup supplied the pragmatic name for the Arcesilas Painter. [59] It is one of the rare depictions on Greek pottery of current events or people. The subjects suggest Attic influence. A reddish purple was the main opaque color. At present over 360 Laconian vases are known, with almost a third of them, 116 pieces, being attributed to the Naucratis Painter. The decline around 550 BC of Corinthian black-figure vase painting, which had an important influence on Laconian painting, led to a massive reduction in the Laconian production of black-figure vases, which came to an end around 500 BC. The pottery was very widely distributed, from Marseille to Ionian Greece. On Samos, Laconian pottery is more common than Corinthian pottery because of the close political alliance with Sparta. [60]

Boeotia Edit

Black-figure vases were produced in Boeotia from the 6th to the 4th century BC. As late as the early 6th century BC many Boeotian painters were using the orientalizing outline technique. Afterward they oriented themselves closely on Attic production. Distinctions and attributions to one of the two regions are sometimes difficult and the vases can also be confused with Corinthian pottery. Low-quality Attic and Corinthian vases are often declared to be Boeotian works. Frequently, good Boeotian vases are considered to be Attic and poor Attic vases are falsely considered to be Boeotian. There was probably an exchange of craftsmen with Attica. In at least one case it is certain that an Attic potter emigrated to Boeotia (the Horse-Bird Painter, and possibly also the Tokra Painter, and among the potters certainly Teisias the Athenian). The most important subjects are animal friezes, symposia and komos scenes. Mythological scenes are rare, and when present usually show Heracles or Theseus. From the late 6th century through the 5th century a silhouette-like style predominated. Especially kantharos, lekanis, cups, plates and pitchers were painted. As was the case in Athens, there are kalos inscriptions. Boeotian potters especially liked to produce molded vases, as well as kantharos with sculptured additions and tripod pyxides. The shapes of lekanis, cups and neck amphoras were also taken over from Athens. The painting style is often humorous, and there is a preference for komos scenes and satyrs. [61]

Between 425 and 350 BC Kabeiric vases were the main black-figure style in Boeotia. In most cases this was a hybrid form between a kantharos and a skyphos with a deep bowl and vertical ring handles, but there were also lebes, cups and pyxides. They are named after the primary place where they were found, the Sanctuary of the Kabeiroi near Thebes. The scenes, usually painted on only one side of the vase, depict the local cult. The vases caricature mythological events in a humorous, exaggerated form. Sometimes komos scenes are shown, which presumably related directly to the cult. [62]

Euboea Edit

Black-figure vase painting in Euboea was also influenced by Corinth and especially by Attica. It is not always easy to distinguish these works from Attic vases. Scholars assume that most of the pottery was produced in Eretria. Primarily amphoras, lekythos, hydria and plates were painted. Large-format amphoras were usually decorated with mythological scenes, such as the adventures of Herakles or the Judgment of Paris. The large amphoras, derived from 7th century shapes, have tapering lips and usually scenes relating to weddings. They are apparently funerary vases produced for children who died before they could marry. Restrained employment of incising and regular use of opaque white for the floral ornaments were typical features of black-figure pottery from Eretria. In addition to scenes reflecting Attic models, there were also wilder scenes like the rape of a deer by a satyr or Heracles with centaurs and demons. The vases of the Dolphin Class were previously regarded as being Attic, but are now considered to be Euboic. However, their clay does not match any known Eretrian sources. Perhaps the pieces were produced in Chalcis. [63]

The origin of some black-figure regional styles is disputed. For example, Chalcidian pottery painting was once associated with Euboea in the meantime production in Italy is considered to be more likely.

Eastern Greece Edit

In hardly any other region of Greece are the borders between the orientalizing and black-figure styles as uncertain as in the case of vases from eastern Greece. Until about 600 BC only outline drawings and empty spaces were employed. Then during the late phase of the orientalizing style incised drawings began to appear, the new technique coming from northern Ionia. The animal frieze style which had previously predominated was certainly decorative, but offered few opportunities for further technical and artistic development. Regional styles arose, especially in Ionia.

Toward the end of the Wild Goat style, northern Ionian artists imitated—rather poorly—Corinthian models. But already in the 7th century high quality vases were being produced in Ionia. Since approximately 600 BC the black-figure style was used either entirely or in part to decorate vases. In addition to regional styles which developed in Klazomenai, Ephesus, Milet, Chios and Samos there were especially in northern Ionia styles which cannot be precisely localized. Oil flasks which adhered to the Lydian model (lydions) were common, but most of them were decorated only with stripes. There are also original scenes, for example a Scythian with a Bactrian camel, or a satyr and a ram. For some styles attribution is controversial. Thus the Northampton Group shows strong Ionian influence but production was probably in Italy, perhaps by immigrants from Ionia. [64]

In Klazomenai primarily amphoras and hydria were painted in the middle of the 6th century BC (c. 550 to 350 BC), as well as deep bowls with flat, angular-looking figures. The vessels are not very elegant in workmanship. Dancing women and animals were frequently depicted. Leading workshops were those of the Tübingen Painter, the Petrie Painter, and the Urla Group. Most of the vases were found in Naukratis and in Tell Defenneh, which was abandoned in 525 BC. Their origin was initially uncertain, but Robert Zahn identified the source by comparison with images on Klazomenian sarcophagi. The pottery was often decorated with sculptured women's masks. Mythological scenes were rare fishscale ornaments, rows of white dots, and stiff-looking dancing women were popular. The depection of a herold standing in front of a king and a queen is unique. In general, men were characterized by large, spade-shaped beards. Starting already in 600 BC and continuing to about 520 BC rosette cups, successor to the eastern Greece bird cups, were produced, probably in Klazomenai. [65]

Samian pottery first appeared around 560/550 BC with forms adopted from Attica. These are Little Masters cups and kantharos with facial forms. The painting is precise and decorative. Samos along with Milet and Rhodes was one of the main centers for the production of vases in the Wild Goat style. [66]

Rhodian vase painting is primarily known from Rhodian plates. These were produced using a polychrome technique with many of the details being incised as in black-figure painting. From about 560 to 530 BC situlas were common, inspired by Egyptian models. These show both Greek subjects, such as Typhon, as well as ancient Egyptian themes like Egyptian hieroglyphics and Egyptian sport disciplines. [67]

Italy including Etruria Edit

Caeretan Hydria Edit

"Caeretan hydria" is the name used for an especially colorful style of black-figure vase painting. The origin of these vases is disputed in the literature. Based on an assessment of the painting the vases were long considered to be Etruscan or Corinthian, but in recent years the view predominates that the producers were two pottery painters who emigrated from eastern Greece to Caere (modern Cerveteri) in Etruria. Inscriptions in Ionic Greek support the emigration theory. The workshop existed for only one generation. Today about 40 vases produced by the two master craftsmen in this style are known. All are hydriai except for one alabastron. None were found outside of Etruria most came from Caere, which is the reason for their name. The vases are dated to approximately 530 to 510/500 BC. The Caeretan hydria are followed stylistically by neck amphoras decorated with stripes.

These technically rather inferior hydriai are 40–45 cm. high. The bodies of these vases have high and very prominent necks, broad shoulders, and low ring feet in the form of upside-down chalices. Many of the hydriai are misshapen or show faulty firing. The painted images are in four zones: a shoulder zone, a belly zone with figures and one with ornaments, and a lower section. All but the belly zone with figures are decorated with ornaments. There is only one case of both belly friezes having figures. Their multiple colors distinguish them from all other black-figure styles. The style recalls Ionian vase painting and multicolored painted wooden tablets found in Egypt. Men are shown with red, black or white skin. Women are almost always portrayed with an opaque white color. The contours as well as the details are incised, as is typical for the black-figure style. Surfaces of black glossy slip are often covered with an additional colored slip, so that the black slip which becomes visible where there is scoring supplies the various shapes with internal details. On the front side the images are always full of action, on the back heraldic designs are common. Ornaments are an important component of the hydrias they are not subsidiary to other motifs. Stencils were used to paint the ornaments they are not incised.

The Busiris Painter and the Eagle Painter are named as painters. The latter is considered the leading representative of this style. They were particularly interested in mythological topics which usually revealed an eastern influence. On the name vase by the Busiris painter, Heracles is trampling on the mythical Egyptian pharao Busiris. Heracles is frequently depicted on other vases as well, and scenes of daily life also exist. There are also uncommon scenes, such as Cetus accompanied by a white seal. [68]

Pontic vases Edit

The Pontic vases are also closely related stylistically to Ionian pottery painting. Also in this case it is assumed that they were produced in Etruscan workshops by craftsmen who emigrated from Ionia. The vases got their misleading name from the depiction on a vase of archers thought to be Scythians, who lived at the Black Sea (Pontus). Most of the vases were found in graves in Vulci, a significant number also in Cerveteri. The index form was a neck amphora with a particularly slender shape, closely resembling Tyrrhenian amphoras. Other shapes were oenochoes with spiral handles, dinos, kyathos, plates, beakers with high bases, and, less often, kantharos and other forms. The adornment of Pontic vases is always similar. In general there is an ornamental decoration on the neck, then figures on the shoulder, followed by another band of ornaments, an animal frieze, and finally a ring of rays. Foot, neck and handles are black. The importance of ornaments is noticeable, although they are often rather carelessly formed some vases are decorated only with ornaments. The clay of these vases is yellowish-red the slip covering the vases is black or brownish-red, of high quality, and with a metallic sheen. Red and white opaque colors are generously used for figures and ornaments. Animals are usually decorated with a white stripe on their bellies. Scholars have identified six workshops to date. The earliest and best is considered to be that of the Paris Painter. He shows mythological figures, included a beardless Heracles, as was customary in eastern Greece. Occasionally there are scenes which are not a part of Greek mythology, such as Heracles fighting Juno Sospita ("the Savior") by the Paris Painter, or a wolf demon by the Tityos Painter. There are also scenes of daily life, komos scenes, and riders. The vases are dated to a time between 550 and 500 BC, and about 200 are known. [69]

Etruria Edit

Locally produced Etruscan vases probably date from the 7th century BC. At first, they resemble black-figure models from Corinth and eastern Greece. It is assumed that in the early phase primarily Greek immigrants were the producers. The first important style was Pontic pottery painting. Afterward, in the period between 530 and 500 BC, the Micali Painter and his workshop followed. At this time Etruscan artists tended to follow Attic models and produced primarily amphoras, hydriai and jugs. They usually had komos and symposia scenes and animal friezes. Mythological scenes are less common, but they are very carefully produced. The black-figure style ended around 480 BC. Toward the end a mannerist style developed, and sometimes a rather careless silhouette technique. [70]

Chalcidian pottery Edit

Chalcidian vase painting was named from the mythological inscriptions which sometimes appeared in Chalcidian script. For this reason the origin of the pottery was first suspected to be Euboea. Currently it is assumed that the pottery was produced in Rhegion, perhaps also in Caere, but the issue has not yet been finally decided. [71] Chalcidian vase painting was influenced by Attic, Corinthian and especially Ionian painting. The vases were found primarily in Italian locations like Caeri, Vulci and Rhegion, but also at other locations of the western Mediterranean.

The production of Chalcidian vases began suddenly around 560 BC. To date, no precursors have been identified. After 50 years, around 510 BC, it was already over. About 600 vases have survived, and 15 painters or painter groups have been so far identified. These vases are characterized by high quality pottery work. The glossy slip which covers them is usually pitch-black after firing. The clay has an orange color. Red and white opaque colores were generously used in the painting, as was scoring to produce interior details. The index form is the neck amphora, accounting for a quarter of all known vases, but there are also eye cups, oenochoes and hydria other vessel types being less common. Lekanis and cups in the Etruscan style are exceptions. The vases are economical and stringent in construction. The "Chalcidian cup foot" is a typical characteristic. It is sometimes copied in black-figure Attic vases, less often in red-figured vases.

The most important of the known artists of the older generation is the Inscription Painter, of the younger representatives the Phineus Painter. The former is presumably the originator of the style some 170 of the surviving vases are attributed to the very productive workshop of the latter. He is probably also the last representative of this style. The images are usually more decorative than narrative. Riders, animal friezes, heraldic pictures or groups of people are shown. A large lotus-palmette cross is frequently part of the picture. Mythological scenes are seldom, but when they occur they are in general of exceptionally high quality.

Pseudo-Chalcidian vase painting is the successor to Chalcidian painting. It is close to Chalcidian but also has strong links to Attic and Corinthian vase painting. Thus the artists used the Ionian rather than the Chalcidian alphabet for inscriptions. The structure of the clay is also different. There are about 70 known vases of this type, which were first classified by Andreas Rumpf. It is possible that the artisans were successors to the Chalcidian vase painters and potters who emigrated to Etruria. [72]

Pseudo-Chalcidian vase painting is classified into two groups. The elder of the two is the Polyphemus Group, which produced most of the surviving vessels, primarily neck amphoras and oinochoes. Groups of animals are usually shown, less seldom mythological scenes. The vessels were found in Etruria, on Sicily, in Marsellle and Vix. The younger and less productive Memnon Group, to which 12 vases are currently attributed, had a much smaller geographical distribution, being limited to Etruria and Sicily. Except for one oinochoe they produced only neck amphoras, which were usually decorated with animals and riders. [73]

Other Edit

The vases of the Northampton Group were all small neck amphoras with the exception of a single belly amphora. They are stylistically very similar to northern Ionian vase painting, but were probably produced in Italy rather than in Ionia, perhaps in Etruria around 540 BC. The vases of this group are of very high quality. They show rich ornamental decorations and scenes that have captured the interest of scholars, such as a prince with horses and someone riding on a crane. They are similar to the work of the Group of Campana Dinoi and to the so-called Northampton Amphora whose clay is similar to that of Caeretan hydriai. The Northampton Group was named after this amphora. The round Campana hydriai recall Boeotian and Euboean models. [74]

Other regions Edit

Alabastrons with cylindrical bodies from Andros are rare, as are lekanis from Thasos. These are reminiscent of Boeotian products except that they have two animal friezes instead of the single frieze common for Boeotia. Thasian plates rather followed Attic models and with their figured scenes are more ambitious than on the lekanis. Imitations of vases from Chios in the black-figure style are known. Local black-figure pottery from Halai is also rare. After the Athenians occupied Elaious on the Dardanelles, local black-figure pottery production began there as well. The modest products included simple lekanis with outline images. A small number of vases in black-figure style were produced in Celtic France. They too were almost certainly inspired by Greek vases. [75]

Scholarly research on these vases started especially in the 19th century. Since this time the suspicion has intensified that these vases have a Greek rather than an Etruscan origin. Especially a Panathenaic prize amphora found by Edward Dodwell in 1819 in Athens provided evidence. The first to present a proof was Gustav Kramer in his work Styl und Herkunft der bemalten griechischen Tongefäße (1837). However it took several years for this insight to be generally accepted. Eduard Gerhard published an article entitled Rapporto Volcente in the Annali dell’Instituto di Corrispondenza Archeologica in which he systematically investigated the vases he was the first scholar to do so. Toward this end in 1830 he studied vases found in Tarquinia, comparing them, for example, with vases found in Attica and Aegina. During this work he identified 31 painter and potter signatures. Previously, only the potter Taleides was known. [76]

The next step in research was scientific cataloging of the major vase collections in museums. In 1854 Otto Jahn published the vases in the Munich State Collection of Antiquities. Previously, catalogs of the Vatican museums (1842) and the British Museum (1851) had been published. The description of the vase collection in the Berlin Collection of Classical Antiquities, put together in 1885 by Adolf Furtwängler, was especially influential. Furtwängler was the first to classify the vessels by region of artistic origin, technology, style, shape, and painting stye, which had a lasting effect on subsequent research. In 1893 Paul Hartwig attempted in his book Meisterschalen to identify various painters based on kalos inscriptions, signatures and style analyses. Edmond Pottier, curator at the Louvre, initiated in 1919 the Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. All major collections worldwide are published in this series, which as of 2009 amounted to over 300 volumes. [77]

Scientific research on Attic vase painting owes a great deal to John D. Beazley. He began studying these vases in about 1910, making use of the method developed by the art historian Giovanni Morelli for studying paintings, which had been refined by Bernard Berenson. He assumed that each painter created original works which could always be unmistakably attributed. He made use of particular details such as faces, fingers, arms, legs, knees, and folds of clothing. Beazley studied 65,000 vases and fragments, of which 20,000 were black-figure. In the course of his studies, which lasted almost six decades, he could attribute 17,000 of them by name or by using a system of pragmatic names, and classified them into groups of painters or workshops, relationships and stylistic affinity. He identified over 1,500 potters and painters. No other archaeologist had such a decisive influence on the research of an archaeological field as did Beazley, whose analyses remain valid to a large extent up to the present time. After Beazley, scholars like John Boardman, Erika Simon and Dietrich von Bothmer investigated black-figure Attic vases. [78]

Basic research on Corinthian pottery was accomplished by Humfry Payne, who in the 1930s made a first stylistic classification which is, in essence, being used up to the present time. He classified the vases according to shape, type of decoration and image subjects, and only afterward did he make distinctions as to painters and workshops. He followed Beazley's method except for attributing less importance to allocating painters and groups since a chronological framework was more important for him. Jack L. Benson took on this allocation task in 1953 and distinguished 109 painters and groups. Last of all, Darrell A. Amyx summarized the research up to that point in his 1988 book Corinthian Vase-Painting of the Archaic Period. It is however a matter of scholarly dispute whether it is at all possible in the case of Corinthian pottery to attribute specific painters. [79]

Laconian pottery was known since the 19th century from a significant number of vases from Etruscan graves. At first they were erroneously attributed, being considered for a long time to be a product of Cyrene, where some of the earliest pieces were also found. Thanks to British excavations carried out in Sparta's Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia, their true origin was quickly identified. In 1934, Arthur Lane put together all the known material and was the first archaeologist to identify different artists. In 1956 the new discoveries were studied by Brian B. Shefton. He reduced the number of distinct painters by half. In 1958 and 1959 other new material from Taranto was published. A significant number of other vases were also found on Samos. Conrad Michael Stibbe studied anew all 360 vases known to him and published his findings in 1972. He identified five major and three minor painters. [80]

In addition to research on Attic, Corinthian and Laconian vase painting, archaeologists are frequently especially interested in minor Italian styles. The Caeretan hydriai were first identified and named by Carl Humann and Otto Puchstein. Andreas Rumpf, Adolf Kirchhoff and other archaeologists erroneously suspected the origin of Chalkidischen Pottery to be Euboea. Georg Ferdinand Dümmler is responsible for the false naming of the Pontic vases, which he assumed to come from the Black Sea area because of the depiction of a Scythian on one of the vases. [81] In the meantime, research on all styles is carried out less by individuals than by a large international group of scientists.

2,500-Year-Old Skeleton is Oldest Known Remains of a Panathenaic Athlete

In ancient Greece, successful athletes were rich and celebrated like they are today. Evidence for this comes in the form of the oldest known skeleton of a young athlete, buried with rich honors at Taranto in Greco-Italy 2,500 years ago. His bones and grave goods show all the signs he was an athlete.

Four large Panathenaic amphorae that likely contained precious olive oil were buried with him. These large jars showed scenes of the pentathlon, four-horse chariot race and boxing, says a 1984 National Geographic New Service article.

In addition to the amphorae, he had clutched in his left hand a small jar that contained ointment of a type used by athletes.

The skeleton of the ancient athlete found at Taranto. He can be seen with the small jar of ointment by his left hand. (

Taranto was in Magna Graecia, the part of Italy then controlled by Greece.

The Panathenaic Games, held at four-year intervals, were the most popular in Athens. There is no way to know if the athlete in question competed in the more prestigious Olympic Games upon which the Panathenaic Games were modeled. Researchers believe his success at the Panathenaic Games may have made it possible for him to have competed in the Olympics, though.

Unlike the Olympics, during which only olive branches were awarded, the Panathenaic Games included rich prizes. The extreme antiquity of the burial precludes any chance of finding botanical evidence of olive branches in the tomb, says a story on

Investigations show muscle markers where the muscle attached to his bones were large, especially in his trapezius and deltoid muscles, according to an article by archaeologist Kristina Killgrove on This, plus the fact that he had a lot of wear and tear in his right shoulder joint and a large right forearm bone reveals he may have been a great discus thrower.

He also had well-developed calf muscles, indicating he could have had the ability to jump up to 3 meters (9.84 feet), according to simulations conducted by physical anthropologist Sara C. Bisel and her team in the 1980s.

This ancient Greek amphora shows the long jump and other contest at the Olympics similar to the ones found in the tomb of the Athlete of Taranto. ( Wikimedia Commons photo /Carole Raddato)

The pentathlon includes discus throwing, the javelin, running, wrestling and the long jump.

Another research team, led by Gaspare Baggieri in the 1990s and 2000s, found the ancient athlete was likely in his 20s or 30s at death. He stood 5 feet 7 inches (1.7 meters), which was taller than average for that era. He had strong muscles with powerfully built shoulders and was stocky. He likely ate a diet of meat and seafood, and his teeth were in good condition, confirming a low-carb diet, wrote Dr. Killgrove.

The fine condition of his teeth and the straightness of his nose confused the researchers somewhat because of the boxing amphora found in his tomb, which was unearthed in 1959 when construction workers discovered the skeleton and tomb.

“The boxing amphora is interesting because there is no indication on this man’s skeleton that he competed in a sport that involved hand-to-hand combat or wrestling,” wrote Dr. Killgrove in Forbes. “His teeth were perfect. His jaw and nose were straight. A complete lack of broken, healed bones in his body means that this amphora is still a bit of a puzzle for archaeologists.”

Archaeologists also were puzzled by the presence of the chariot-racing amphora because they think he was a sponsor of races rather than a competitor.

His remains showed no sign of the cause of death, but Dr. Killgrove writes that at the time there were no antibiotics to save him from any number of diseases that could have killed him.

The Panathenaic Games were celebrations of the goddess Athena and other Greek deities, including Poseidon. Sacrifices were made to the goddess, and people competed in cultural events and poetic and musical contests in addition to athletics.

Top image: Main: A tomb of athletes at Taranto (Photo by TarantoSotteranea). Inset: The skeleton of the ancient athlete found at Taranto (

Mark Miller has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and is a former newspaper and magazine writer and copy editor who's long been interested in anthropology, mythology and ancient history. His hobbies are writing and drawing.


This vase dates to the Late Geometric period (c. 700 B.C.E.) and is made of a coarse, reddish-yellow clay. The vessel seems to be typical in shape for its time: contemporary Geometric amphorae tend to be relatively slim with tall necks and high-set handles (1). The amphora shape (plural: amphorae) is best understood as a general purpose storage vessel for both dry goods, including grains, and liquids, including wine, honey, or olives. The name is probably a combination of the Greek word "amphi," meaning "on both sides," referring to the handles, and the word "phoros," meaning "carrying" (2). The name may also be a play on words meaning "an ear on each side," as the Greek word "amphôtis" refers to a protective covering for the headgear worn by boxers.

Amphorae were produced in a large variety of types and some amphorae had specific and specialized purposes. A special type of amphora, so-called Panathenaic amphorae, were reserved for use as prizes in the athletic competitions that were part of the Panathenaic games, which were held in Athens every four years (3). Panathenaic amphorae were filled with olive oil and presented to victors in the various events. An early 5th century B.C.E. Panathenaic amphora in the Getty Villa in Malibu, for example, depicts a four-horse chariot race, representing the event for which it was given as a prize. Funerary amphorae could serve as grave markers or as urns to hold the cremated remains of the deceased.

This particular Boeotian amphora likely served as a funerary urn because of its relatively small size and its decoration. The molded snakes on its handles and rim are similar to others found associated with funerary amphorae in the Geometric period in Greece.

This amphora is likely Boeotian, or perhaps Attic, in origin, although it is difficult to determine with certainty. Boeotian graves often contained vases imported from Attica Boeotian imitations of Attic wares are also relatively common, as Attic influence was prominent in Boeotian pottery during the late 8th century B.C.E. (4). Further complicating the identification is the similarity between Boeotian and Attic clays, although Boeotian clay is generally coarser and has a lighter color (5). Because this amphora is made of a clay that is more yellow than the characteristic orange-red of Attic clay and has a rough texture, it is likely that it is Boeotian in origin.

Unfortunately, this vase's decoration is difficult to see in most places. This is probably due to a misfiring during the pottery production process (6). Also contributing to its poor condition is a significant amount of salt efflorescence, or crystalline deposits on the vase's surface, which indicates that the vessel was once buried in very salty soil. It is possible to distinguish, however, a monochrome, brownish-black decoration. Immediately below the rim of the vase is a band of vertical zigzag patterns bounded by horizontal lines. On either side of the neck, between the handles, are metopes, or rectangular panels, each painted with a wild goat standing on its hind legs, with plant-like filler ornamentation. Framing the goats on both sides are vertical panels of diagonal lines below each is a band of zig-zagging lines. A thicker, solid line separates the neck from the shoulder of the vase. Barely visible on the shoulder is a band of vertical lines interrupting the band on each side are metopes that are decorated with a wild goat crouching its head and turning its head across its ack. These goats evoke animal friezes common on vases in the so-called Orientalizing period in ancient Greece these friezes were becoming popular at this time, especially in Corinth. The remainder of the vessel's body is decorated with bands of vertical, zigzagging lines and parallel horizontal lines.

Watch the video: Chariot Racing Aka Chariot Games 1960 (August 2022).