Euphronios Krater: The Continuing Saga (ca. 515 BC)

By: The Scribe on Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Euphronios Krater.

The two-handled ancient Greek bowl shown here was created around the year 515 BC, and is considered to be one of the finest existing Greek vases today. Referred to fondly as the ‘Euphronios krater’, the bowl was made out of terracotta in the calyx-krater style, and would have been used to mix wine with water. It can hold about 45 liters of liquid, and was decorated with the red-figure pottery style.

The bowl represents a collaborative effort between two men who were known as some of the best artists to have lived in the 6th century BC in Athens. The potter’s name was Euxitheos, and the painter was Euphronios – looking at the vessel, it is not difficult to see that the shape of the bowl and the figural composition work together almost perfectly to create a vivid scene that conforms precisely to the proportions of the vessel.

Quite unusually, both the painter and the potter signed their names to this bowl! Usually it was only the painter who signed his name, however on this piece, both men who worked on it gave themselves credit for the work – which seems to suggest that they both believed that it was one of their best pieces ever created.

There are two scenes on the Euphronios krater . The first side depicts an episode from the Trojan War: the death of Sarpedon, son of Zeus. On either side of the dying man, personifications of Sleep and Death lean over to pick up Sarpedon and carry him off to his homeland for burial. Behind the youth is Hermes, directing the way for the body to be carried. The level of detail in this scene is so intense and graphic that not only did Euphronios choose to illustrate the scene while Sarpedon is still bleeding profusely from his wounds, but you can also see extremely delicate details such as his eyelashes and toenail cuticles!

Athenian youths arm themselves on the Euphronios krater.

On the opposite side, Athenian youths arm themselves for war or training – the scene seems rather generic, however the ideal of young, fit, trained men ready for battle was an important part of Athenian culture at the time the vessel was crafted.

Along with the painters’ signatures, there is an inscription on one side that reads: “Leagros is handsome.” Incredibly, this inscription was what allowed historians to date the bowl accurately to around 520-510 BC, because it was at this time that textual evidence explains that Leagros was considered by many people to be the handsomest man in Greece!

Want to read more?

Tomorrow: More Ancient Standard


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