Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora

Attributed to the Euphiletos Painter

Period: Archaic

Date: ca. 530 B.C.

Culture: Greek, Attic

Medium: Terracotta; black-figure

Dimensions: H. 24 1/2 in. (62.2 cm)

Classification: Vases

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1914

Accession Number: 14.130.12


This Panathenaic amphora would have been filled with oil from the sacred olive groves in Attica, and would have been awarded as a prize to some worthy victor in one of the Panathenaic games held in Athens every four years. With its typically fat body and small neck and foot, the prize vase is, perhaps, the best example of a vase shape made to serve an official function. Each Panathenaic amphora was made according to a standardized shape and capacity of one metretes (approximately 42 quarts), and was decorated in black-figure technique. The principle decoration is always in the panels of the body of the amphora, with an armed Athena typically on the front and an illustration of the featured competition on the back.
Foot races, the earliest competitions of the Olympic games, were undertaken over varying distances. The stadion, probably the original race, was a fast sprint over one length of the track (over 200 meters), while the diaulos and the dolichos, both introduced somewhat later, covered distances of approximately 400 meters and 1,400 to 3,800 meters, respectively. The painter of this vessel has neatly fit five sprinters—four men and a youth—into the panel of the pot. Notice the wealth of incised lines depicting musculature, a preoccupation of Greek artists for centuries to come.
Orders for Panathenaic amphorae were placed with leading artists of the time. On the basis of style, this vessel has been attributed to the Euphiletos Painter. An inscription on the front of the amphora gives not only the official designation of the vase as a prize, but also the signature of the potter, Nikias, a rare occurrence on pots of this shape.