Terracotta kylix (drinking cup)

Attributed to the Amasis Painter

Period: Archaic

Date: ca. 540 B.C.

Culture: Greek, Attic

Medium: Terracotta; black-figure

Dimensions: H. 4 7/8 in. (12.4 cm)
diameter 10 1/8 in. (25.7 cm)

Classification: Vases

Credit Line: Gift of Norbert Schimmel Trust, 1989

Accession Number: 1989.281.62


Of the more than one hundred vases attributed to the Amasis Painter, this cup stands out as being the most epic. The artist treats an episode recounted by Homer in great detail in the thirteenth book of the Iliad. Seeing the Greeks hard-pressed and discouraged, Poseidon ordered his chariot prepared so that he could ride to their aid. On one side of the cup, an atmosphere of feverish excitement reigns in the god's palatial stables at Aigai. Four grooms attempt to soothe four high-strung horses tethered to columns. Perhaps the unusual forces around them occasion the horses' nervousness, as amusing figures race over the backs of two horses, and one climbs onto the architrave of one of the columns. The architectural setting for the scene is also curious–the five columns support an elaborate frieze of twenty-six metopes with fourteen miniature paintings and twelve empty frames. The decorated metopes contain birds, monkeys, a panther, hens, a swan, a lion, and a dog. At the right end of the entablature, a tiny monkey loses his footing and is attacked by the kneeling archer in the final panel.
On the other side of the cup is the next chapter of the story, when Poseidon, in the guise of Kalchas, visits the Greek camp at Troy. For the sake of clarity, however, the painter has omitted the disguise and shows Poseidon clad in his customary chiton and chlamys. With trident in hand, he greets the two Ajaxes—Ajax the son of Oileos, and Ajax the son of Telamon.