Showing posts tagged homer


530-525 BC

Made in Attica, Found in Italy

Depicts Achilles slaying Penthesilea: Achilles steps to right, bearded, with long tresses, fully armed, high-crested helmet and short striped chiton, and has beaten down the Amazon queen Penthesilea on one knee, and plunges spear into her throat. She has a high-crested helmet with cheek-pieces and serpent in relief, short diapered chiton, over which is a pardalis (leopard skin), sword and shield, and looks back at him, thrusting vainly with spear; a stream of blood gushes from her wound. In front of Achilles is inscribed: ΑΧΙΛΕΥΣ; in front of Penthesilea: ΠΕΝΘΕΣΙΛΥΑ. On the left is inscribed: Έχσηκίας έπτοίησε; on the right: Όνητορίδης καλός.

Source: British Museum

Head of a marble statue of Homer 

This head is of Homer, the writer of the famous Greek epic poems Iliad and Odyssey. These poems are thought to be the oldest pieces of western literature. The statue is made from marble from mount Pentekilon near Athens. 


1st century BC or 1st century AD 

Source: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 

Siren Vase

Red Figure Pottery

Made in Attica

Found in Vulci, Italy

c.480-470 BC

The ship of Odysseus passing the Sirens. The sea is represented by a narrow space in the foreground shaded in thinned black, and with a wavy outline of the same colour. In this the ship moves to left, propelled by oars, of which six are seen on the port side; the heads and shoulders of five bearded rowers are visible above the gunwale; the fourth and fifth are seated on the same thwart: the stroke oar looks round to left at no. 2; the rowers of the second and fifth oars are not shown, and there is a seventh port near the bows which is not occupied by an oar. High up in the stern seat sits the steersman between the two steering-oars (πηδάλια), which work on cords attached to the ship’s side; with his left hand he steers, his right is extended, and his mouth open, as if he were encouraging the rowers; he is bearded and has an himation around the lower part of his body. This figure and the first two rowers are wreathed, the other rowers have a fillet. Over the aphlaston a fringed piece of drapery decorated with crosses is hung (as ensign or σημείου?). The fore part of the hull is formed like the snout of a boar, with a large eye of archaic form painted in black; above it is a raised platform or forecastle formed of crossed spars, which reaches to the mast. Near the top of the mast is the καρχήσιον, probably of metal, as it is shaded differently from the mast, with two projecting eyelet holes (τροχίλίαί) in which the halyards (ιμάντες) run. The yard, with sail attached to it by a rope (coloured brown), is hoisted to the top of the mast, in a position oblique to the keel, and is kept in position by two braces (ύπέραι), of which one is attached at the bows, the other at the stern, immediately in front of the steersman. The sail is brailed up along its whole length, the brailing ropes (μηρνματα καλωδίων) indicated by brown lines here and there on the sail, and attached on deck within the steersman’s reach. Odysseus, wreathed and bearded, is fastened against the bottom of the mast, facing the stern, with his arms behind his back lashed to it. His head is thrown back, looking upwards towards the Sirens. On each side of the scene a rocky promontory projects over the sea, with a Siren standing on the top. The Sirens are represented as birds with woman’s heads, their hair looped up with a dotted stephane, a single tress hanging beside the ear (parotis): their lips are parted as though singing. The one on the left flaps her wings: over her is inscribed ΗΙΜEPΟΠΑ, Ίμερόπα. The one on the right stands still with folded wings. In front of her a third Siren flings herself down from the edge of the cliff, and falls headlong with closed eyes, as though already dead.

Source: British Museum

Neck Amphora

Red Figure Pottery

Attributed to the Oionokles Painter

Made in Attica

Found in Nola, Italy

c. 460 BC

(a) Type of Menelaus pursuing Helen. Warrior with drawn sword pursuing a woman. He is bearded, wreathed, nude, with petasos hanging by cord at back, chlamys as shield on left arm, scabbard at waist, with brown snake ornament twisted round it, and rushes to right with a drawn sword in his right hand; the woman in chiton, himation, bracelets, earrings, and a radiated stephane, looks back, extending her right with a gesture of entreaty; with her left she raises the edge of her skirt. Between the figures, ΔΙΟΝΟΚΛΕΣ KAΛΟΣ, Διωνοκλής καλός.
(b) A bald-headed old man (or woman?) in long chiton, himation and fillet, and carrying a crutch staff on his left arm, running to left, extending his right arm as if to aid the woman in a. In the field, KAΛΛΙΑΣ, above, KAΛΟΣ, Καλλίας καλός.
Later stage of strong style. Purple inscriptions, wreath, fillet, cord of petasos, and swordbelt. Brown inner markings, folds of chiton in b, and bracelets. Hair of warrior edged with dots, beard with wavy strokes; hair and beard of old man left in brown outline. Eye of warrior of transition type (dotted circle in place of inner angle); the other eyes archaic. Below the scenes a continuous band, sets of five maeanders separated by red cross and dotted chequer squares. On the lower insertion of each handle, an inverted palmette.

Source: British Museum

Roman Cameo Ring

Glass and Gold

Roman c.1-100 AD

A chariot rushes past the walls of a city on this Roman intaglio gem set in a gold ring. Although parts of the story are not depicted, a Roman viewer would have understood this scene as the episode from the Greek poem, the Iliad , in which the Greek hero Achilles drags the corpse of his Trojan opponent Hector behind his chariot around the walls of the city of Troy. The gem carver, however, left out a crucial element of the story—Hector’s dead body. Frequently depicted in Greek art, this episode from the mythological Trojan War remained popular in certain forms of Roman art, especially gem carving. 

This gem appears to be carved as a cameo from nicolo, a semi-precious stone with light and dark blue layers, but it is actually made from glass. Glass gems were a popular alternative to expensive semi-precious stones in Roman jewellery. They often imitated banded stones like agate and nicolo. 

Source: The Getty Museum

Wall Painting of Ulysses and the Sirens 

Roman, mid 1st Century AD


From the home of a wealthy Roman. It shows Ulysses (Odysseus in Greek) and his crew steer there ship past the Sirens. Sirens were half woman, half bird creatures whose songs drew ships in the rocks so they could devour the sailors. 

Source: British Museum

Etruscan Art and Greek Myth: The Tomb of the Bulls, Tarquinia

Etruscan art of the 6th century BC richly reflects the prosperity and activity of Central Italy at this time.  The style of art is at heart Etruscan, strikingly different to that of the Greeks. It was in turn, emboldened by both the literature and iconographical stimuli of Greek culture. The relationship between the two cultures was complex. Even now it is not understood by scholars and several different opinions on the matter exist.An Etruscan tomb in which the art is heavily influenced by Greek myth and iconography is the Tomb of the Bulls.

The tomb was commissioned, according to an inscription painted on the back wall, by Arath Spuriana. Frescoes include images of animals, including those from mythology, Bellerophon and the Chimera, erotic scenes, and trees. 

In one scene in the Tomb of the Bulls, has been identified as the ambush of Troilos by Achilles. Achilles armed with a sword and spear and protected by a helmet, greaves and loin-cloth lurks at the left of the panel, hiding behind several plants and an ashlar fountain. A naked Troilos carrying a long spear rides calmly on a long legged white horse unaware of the ambush. After this scene Achilles fights the young prince and kills him on the altar of Apollo, not shown in this instance.

The exotic plants, and style of fountain are all in the Etruscan style. Some of the plants reflect those that appear on contemporary greek vases, which the Etruscans imported. Though others appear to be wholly Etruscan, appearing in several other tomb scenes.

Beneath the main figure of Troilos, the sun is shown either rising or setting. It is probably setting, representing his impending end, this cosmic “death” precedes that of the prince. This is a particularly Etruscan motif. The image of the sun does not appear anywhere else in Greek of Etruscan art of this mythic scene. Instead it seems to reflect the literature itself which chronologically places the event at dusk. Apollo himself was sometimes conflated with the Etruscan sun god Usil so this motif may represent the god himself being present at the prince’s murder. A numer of Etruscan mirrors show the god Usil with rays emanating from his head while holding a bow (the symbol of Apollo).     

It does differ from the Greek Kypria in so far as Troilos’ sister Polyxena is not present. However, the choice of subject seems to suggest that the artist was familiar with the suspense, the destruction of young life and the significance of the event and therefore how appropriate and powerful it is as an image in a tomb. 

All information from: Olsen, J.P. (1975) “Greek Myth and Etruscan Imagery in the Tomb of the Bulls at Tarquinia”, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 79, No. 3, pp. 189-200  

Terracotta head of Dionysos (1st century BC)

Either Greek or Roman

Height: 17.1 cm

Source:The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Homeric Hymn to Dionysos

I begin to sing of ivy-crowned Dionysos, the loud crying god,  splendid son of Zeus and glorious Semele.

The rich haired Nymphs received him in their bosoms from the lord his father and fostered and nurtured him carefully in the dells of Nysa, where by the will of his father he grew up in a sweet smelling cave, being reckoned among the immortals.

But when the goddesses had brought him up, a god oft hymned, then began he to wander continually through the woody coombes, thickly wreathed with ivy and laurel.

And the Nymphs followed in his train with him for their leader; and the boundless forest was filled with their outcry.

And so hail to you, Dionysos, god of abundant clusters! Grant that we may come again rejoicing to this season, and from that season onwards for many a year.

Aphrodite (Hellenistic Bronze) found in Syria.

Source: British Museum

To Aphrodite (Homeric Hymn X)

Of Cythera, born in Cyprus, I will sing. 

She gives kindly gifts to men: smiles ever on her lovely face, and lovely is the brightness that plays over it.

Hail, goddess, queen of the well-built Salamis and sea girt Cyprus; grant me a cheerful song.

And now I will remember you and another song also.

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