Attributed to the manner of the Lysippides Painter
Terracotta; H. 16 3/8 in. (41.5 cm)
Fletcher Fund, 1956 (56.171.14)
This black-figure amphora is attributed to the manner of the Lysippides Painter, a follower of Exekias who specialized in large pots. With only the essential elements, the artist presents us with a scene both elegant and forceful. Two hoplites (foot soldiers), with their spears and shields poised, prepare to do battle. Each is characteristically equipped with a helmet, cuirass (body armor), greaves (shin guards), large shield, and spear. They wear Corinthian helmets, characterized by cutouts for the eyes, a narrow nosepiece, and a small opening for the lips and chin. Their intricately incised body armor refers to the actual bronze pieces that would have been modeled after the male torso. Likewise, their large, circular shields stand for the original armor that would have been made of wood faced with bronze. A hoplite's shield was the most important part of his panoply. Since such expensive equipment was usually paid for by the hoplite, military service became not only a distinction of citizenship, but also a symbol of wealth and social status.
Elegant battle scenes like this one must have afforded great pleasure to an aristocratic class that placed considerable emphasis on military valor and athletic competition. The hoplite and his armor were a source of pridea status symbol and the principle medium for serving one's city-state.