A t h e n a a n d A d r a s t u s
An old man, dressed in chiton and himation, walking stick in left hand, raises his right hand in greeting to Athena, who turns her head toward him. They are flanked by warriors, one on each side.
The Goddess dominates the picture, the crest of her helmet and the head of her spear protruding into the floral border above, aegis and himation displayed in full frontal sweep as she holds a phiale high across her chest in her right hand and delicately balances her planted spear with her left. The darkbordered folds of her himation, elaborate and symmetrical, bounded by the horizontals of her arm above and the narrow black lines through her chiton below, emphasize the severe verticals of the composition. A frivolous snake escapes from the aegis at her shoulder, as though to listen to the old man. At her left, from behind, and mirroring the fall of the drapery, four more snakes rear out from the aegis toward the warrior near them.
The warriors both are bearded and wear short chiton and cuirass. The one at left wears his Attic helmet, the cheek-piece raised, leans on his spear and holds a leaf out to Athena. The warrior at right dips his leaf into Athena's phiale. He holds his Thracian helmet, his sword hangs in the scabbard at his waist, his shield, seen in three-quarter view, is propped up near him; there is a line, probably an anklet, around his left ankle. Of the shield-device, the forepart of a lion, in black, is visible. Letters on the shield about the edge appear to read "kalos."
The old man would seem to have short white hair, with black fringe about the face, and a short dark beard. But his hair, long and done up in a krobylos, his beard, and the long wavy lock over his shoulder, were painted on in yellowish-white, overlapping the line of head and beard.
The gadroons on Athena's phiale are painted alternately red and white, and the leaves held by both warriors were done in added white. There are traces of added paint for a broad band tied around the head of the warrior at right and knotted in back.
The interpretation of this scene concerns the story of the Seven who fought against Thebes. We have here Adrastus, King of Argos, come to Athens to plead for help against the Theban Kreon who had refused burial for those heroes who died fighting against him. With Adrastus then might be Polyneikes (on whose behalf the battle was fought) with the Theban Lion on his shield, and possibly Tydeus of Kalydon. Both were sons-in-law to Adrastus and were killed in the war. Or the two might be children of the dead, the so-called Epigonoi, who came with Adrastus to plead their cause.
Late Archaic Attic Red Figure
Amphora with cover from Poseidonia, Campania
(Click the image for a full screen view)
Copyright ©1998-2000 Roy George