First half of the fifth century BCE
Height: 39 cm
Ø Rim: 18 cm
Ø Base: 11 cm
Recovered by the Guardia di Finanza in 2002
This neck-amphora features an unglazed collar, a reversed echinus lip, an expansive rim with a wide funnel, and twisted handles attached under the lip and perpendicular to the shoulder. The molded foot has a collar at the base. There is a thin layer of glaze on the disc. The egg-shaped body tapers greatly at the base. The surface of the vase is covered in black sintered glaze, which is very shiny with metallic reflections that adhere to the ceramic body, which exhibits some slight imperfections due to inclusions in the clay’s mixture. In some places, coinciding with the unglazed sections of the pictures, a slight retouching of black glaze outlines and defines the represented figures. The secondary decoration consists of a chain of small tongues on the top of the shoulder. These tongues appear on the unglazed bands and are circumscribed by thin lines in black glaze; the bands are interrupted where the two handles connect to the body of the vase. In the lower portion of the vase, a radial crown is depicted in black glaze on an unglazed surface; it begins at the foot of the vase and radiates towards the body. The principal decoration is framed below by a frieze with a meander pattern. Side A: Athena and Ares. On the left, Athena is seen from a three-quarters view, strutting from left to right. Her head is covered by an Attic helmet that is adorned with a checkered decoration and long lophos (crest or tuft). A thick stroke of black glaze departs from two divergent, curvilinear, thin lines that create decorative details, probably depicting a floral motif incised on the metallic part of the helmet. From the helmet emerges a thick coiffure comprised of soft locks that frame the face, and rigid bands of tight, bristly curls that fall along the shoulders in; at the ear’s height, done in an approximate and hurried manner, a short lock of curls descends down her cheek. Her dress is an ample chiton, created with thin lines of black glaze to portray the drapery in a plastic and naturalistic manner, and a scaly Aegis in chain-mail, the lower portion of which is decorated with a series of reversed “S”-shaped pendants that circumscribe her torso and is fastened with a band. A long apoptygma on the shoulders reveals part of the right arm before softly falling downwards. The right hand holds a spear. A slight imperfection in the design partially places the lines of the shaft over those of the hand, in the proximity of both her thumb and index finger. The left arm is bent upwards as she passes a bow to the figure in front of her. To the right is a nude, male figure who struts to the left. The accentuated twist of the torso creates a nearly frontal view of the upper body while the lower body is in profile. The anatomical details of the body are rendered with a slight retouching of black glaze; an agile but precise stroke defines the abdominal, dorsal, and pectoral musculature, and dots in relief define the nipples, as well as the muscles of the limbs (arm biceps and triceps, femoral biceps and triceps). The right arm is extended to grasp Athena’s outstretched bow. The left arm is placed behind the back, and his hand holds an arrow. The hair consists of long, straight rows of curls cascading between the shoulders. The chest and the left arm are represented in an extremely rigid manner but are consistent with the overall stylistic technique of the picture. One lock of hair falls from below the ear and is painted with a lightly diluted black glaze. The Attic helmet has a checkered decoration and a long lophos. The legs are protected by two greaves. Side B Silenus, seen from a three-quarters view, swaggers from right to left. The right arm is extended forward, and the right hand holds a kantharos. The left hand, placed behind his back, holds a leather wineskin. The head, rather than adorned with a crown of flowers, seems to be adorned with a flowering branch, maybe myrtle, which is painted with dots of black glaze on the forehead and with a precise alternation of unglazed dots beyond the forehead’s profile. The hair is gathered in a knot behind the neck. The locks of curls that extend from the knot are painted on an unglazed area. The thick, pointy beard is represented with black glaze from which fall rectilinear lines that define its details. The body is depicted with the same anatomical precision as seen with the male figure on Side A. An agile stroke creates in a fluid manner the muscular pectoral area, upon which the nipples are painted with a skilled dotted relief pattern. A finer line portrays the abdomen and becomes thicker at Silenus’ groin. Overall, it seems that at least two lines are used for the details of the musculature: the thicker one for the larger muscled areas (chest, calf muscles, and biceps); and the finer one for the complementary musculature (abdominal, dorsal, and anatomical details).
While the identification of the female figure as Athena on Side A is made possible by ample iconographical details, the male figure’s identification as Ares, even if doubtful, is possible due to his physical appearance and armor. Ares is the god of war, and is therefore typically represented with a warrior’s armor. In the archaic imagination, he is illustrated as a bearded man who wears a helmet and holds a spear and a shield; nevertheless, in both epigraphic documents and literary texts his image has never been distinguishable from a normal Hoplite of the sixth century BCE, because they share not only weaponry, but also defensive armor and heroic nudity, a topos witnessed in ancient figurative arts. For this reason, Ares can also be confused with other mythological warrior figures or common mortals. Ares undergoes a transformation beginning at the end of the Archaic period, when as is the case with other gods, his figure experiences rejuvenation, manifested particularly through the loss of the beard and his nudity. The reason for such a substantial change is connected to the historical process that witnessed the slow but inexorable substitution of the archaic Hoplite society with a society that no longer made the ostentation of arms a decisive winning factor.
Although characteristic of Ares, his warrior armor and physical prowess alone are not enough to secure the divinity’s identification. There are, however, often other elements, for example, the association with other divinities or heroes. The relationship between Ares and Athena is not easily defined: they are often adversaries, but on many occasions they fight side by side (the Gigantomachy), engage in a common action, or are simply represented peacefully e next to each other. There is no lack of direct literary references that portray the complexity of their relationships, but none of these seem to be the direct inspiration for the type of iconography shown here. If the identification of the male figure as Ares is correct, it could have been inspired by a single or more specific episode in order to represent a particular moment in the relationship between the two divinities that, as previously mentioned, is everything but univocal and serene in the mythical accounts.
It also is worth noting that the bow in the Greek imagination does not constitute the weaponry of a warrior or hero, seeing as it can be used to hit an adversary from afar. In relation to its use, Euripides says to Lykos about Heracles: “he has never held a shield with his left arm, nor braved with a spear: carrying the bow, the vilest weapon, he was always ready to flee”.
The ancient Greek’s consideration of the bow prompts another suggestive hypothesis concerning the male figure’s identification: he could be identified as Pandarus, chief of the contingent of the Lycians of Troade, who arrived to save King Priam of Troy during the war against the Achaeans.
In the Iliad, Athena, is introduced in the file of the Trojans in disguise as a Trojan soldier. Laodocus, in the attempt to keep the war going following the victory of Menelaus over Paris in the duel, convinced Pandarus, a very skillful archer trained by Apollo, to violate the truce by shooting an arrow toward Menelaus in an attempt to kill him. Pandarus is then killed by Diomedes in the course of combat that inevitably follows.
The scene could therefore be inspired by this episode of the Iliad and represent the moment in which Athena fools and convinces Pandarus to use his ability as an archer with the sole aim of causing the war between the Achaeans and the Trojans to continue. Pandarus dies afterwards, killed in combat by Diomedes.
From a typological point of view, a comparison is provided by a neck-amphora with twisted handles attributed to the Painter of the Kleophrades and dated from 480 BC. Other comparisons are possible with three examples preserved in the National Museum of Villa Giulia (Rome) and dated from the first quarter to the first half of the fifth century BC.
If the object at hand’s authenticity is confirmed, it could belong to the production of the Painter of Keophrades and date to the same time period.
Tiziano Cinti – Mauro Lo Castro