Achilles slays Penthesilea

THIS black-figure amphora was found at Vulci and is now at the British Museum. It is signed by Exekias as a potter and thought to have been painted by him as well. It shows Achilles slaying Penthesilea, an episode from the Trojan War.

The Dionysos Cup

DIONYSOS, a pretty boy, was once captured by pirates, they wanted to enjoy his body, or sell him into slavery, or both. They tried to bind him, but no ropes would hold him, and he made vines grow out of the ship. Scared, they jumped into the water and were turned into dolphins.

There are many variants of this legend, I have restricted myself to the elements found on the famous Dionysos Cup by Exekias. It is a kylix, a flat bowl used for drinking wine (the English word “chalice” is derived from it), about 30cm in diameter. As the wine was drunk away, first the grapes and the dolphins would be uncovered, the ship with Dionysos on it only in the end.

The kylix is dated around 530 BC, a later work by Exekias. It was found in a tomb in Vulci in the mid-19th century and is now in the Staatliche Antikensammlungen in Munich.

It struck me that this pitcher might easily be taken for a more stylish example of mid 20th century pottery. But it’s about four thousand years old and stands in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.

Photograph by Wolfgang Sauber.