Bell–krater (mixing bowl), ca. 400–380 b.c.; red–figure
Attributed to the Sarpedon Painter (active ca. 400–360 b.c.)
Greek, South Italian, Apulian
Terracotta; H. 19 5/8 in. (49.9 cm), Diam. of mouth 22 3/8 in. (56.8 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1916 (16.140)
Obverse: Europa pleading with Zeus for the life of Sarpedon; Hera, Hypnos, Pasithea
Reverse: Europa with attendants watching Hypnos and Thanatos bringing the body of Sarpedon
Sarpedon, the son of Zeus and Europa, was the king of Lycia, who was fated to die in combat with the Greek hero Patroklos during the Trojan war. Hera persuaded Zeus to allow Sarpedon to be slain, but he was assured a hero's burial in his homeland. Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death) lift him from the battlefield and transport him to his kingdom. The decoration probably reflects Europa or The Carians, a lost play by the Greek tragedian Aeschylus. The subject of the reverse is unusual and has posed difficulties of identification. Europa, in regal Oriental costume, is seated on a throne in a stage naiskos, looking toward the arrival of her son's corpse for burial in the arms of Hypnos and Thanatos. The woman seated to the left of Europa is perhaps Sarpedon's wife, and the two youths in Eastern dress may represent his sons. The depiction of Sarpedon being transported by Sleep and Death to his native Lycia for burial originated in Athens, possibly with the painter Euphronios, and it assumed some currency on vases. With the numerous props, including the abode of Zeus and Hera and of the enthroned Europa, the Apulian vase likely represents a specific theatrical interpretation.