ElAnt v1n7 - J. Paul Getty Museum - Recent Acquisitions

Volume 1, Number 7
February 1994


Kenneth Hamma,
Antiquities Department,
J. Paul Getty Museum,

Incised Greek grave stele of Athanias
Black limestone
Late 5th to early 4th century B.C.
Height: 168 cm (67 in.) Width: 75 cm (29 1/2 in.) - 80 cm (31 1/2 in.)

An unbearded warrior stands on a groundline facing to his left. He wears a conical helmet decorated with a wreath, a short belted tunic that leaves his right shoulder uncovered, and sandals. A sheathed sword hangs by his left side, suspended from a baldric. In his right hand he carries a spear with the spearhead pointing downwards, and he places his left hand on the top of a round shield. The interior of the shield can be seen in accurately foreshortened perspective. It is decorated with a miniature scene showing Bellerophon mounted on winged Pegasus and slaying the Chimaera. The inscription at the top of the stele gives the name of the dead young warrior.

The stele is made of black limestone, a material found locally in the area of Boeotia. The name Athanias is characteristically Boeotian and is known from other inscriptions from the area. The technique in which the stele is decorated is very unusual, since the figure of the warrior is not carved in relief but incised in the black stone. Both the background and the figure would have been painted, but no trace of the original polychrome coloring is preserved today.

The stele of Athanias closely resembles a small group of grave stelai depicting warriors, all found in the area of Boeotia. Six complete and two fragmentary examples are preserved, and they date between the late fifth and the early fourth century B.C.; except for a fragment in the Louvre and a complete stele in the Athens all others are housed in the Thebes Museum. The stele of Athanias, most likely a later product of the same local workshop as the other incised Boeotian stelai, stands apart from most of the previously known stelai of this class in both scale and subject. It is approximately 50% larger than any of the preserved complete stelai. And in contrast to the animated figures of the warriors on the other stelai in Greece, Athanias stands serene and relaxed in the moment prior to or after battle. Only one other piece, the Boeotian stele fragment, Louvre Ma 3566, breaks the conventional iconography and relative size of this group in similar ways.

Panathenaic Prize Amphora
Signed by Nikodemos as potter; attributed to the Painter of the Wedding Processions
363/2 B.C., during the archonship of Charikleides Height: 89.5 cm (35 1/4 in.), including lid

The obverse of the amphora is decorated with the image of Athena Promachos. The goddess stands facing to the right between two columns decorated with acanthus leaves and surmounted by figures of Nikai carrying torches and fillets. These decorative elements are more unusual and until now have been known only to appear on Panathenaic vases made during the archonship of Charikleides (363/2 B.C.). The figures of Nikai in particular are important indicators of date as they seem to reflect a dedication set up in Athens around 363 B.C. for some victory in the Panathenaic torch race.

The reverse is decorated with a scene of either boxing or the pankration. In the center, a magnificent Nike holds out the victor's fillet to the nude youth standing beside her, sheltered by her outspread right wing. The youth is draped with another fillet of victory over his left forearm and he holds a bunch of leafy branches, perhaps of olive, awarded to the winner in his right hand. From his left hand, a single leather boxer's thong hangs down to the ground. To the left, the defeated opponent stands, resting his left elbow on a small fluted column and folding a leather thong in hands. At the right end of the scene, the bearded judge of the contest stands, extending his right hand toward the athletes.

As the kionedon inscription to the right of the goddess on the obverse states, this amphora was a prize awarded in the Panathenaic games. The vase is signed by the potter Nikodemos, an artisan hitherto unknown among the preserved inscriptions. For the attribution of the proposed vase, the group of nine Panathenaic amphorai discovered in excavations in Eretria in 1969 and 1976 are by far the most important evidence. These vases include three amphorai with inscriptions dating them to the archonship of Charikleides as well as six vases from the subsequent archonship of Kallimedes. All have scenes of wrestling or the pankration on the reverse, and thus provide valuable parallels for the athletes on the proposed vase. The vase is in excellent condition, though it has been broken and restored from fragments. The added white in particular has survived very well on the obverse, and the surface overall is generally well- preserved. Remarkably, the vase also preserves its lid, which is intact.

Kenneth Hamma

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reference should be made to this journal if any part of the above is 
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Electronic Antiquity Vol. 1 Issue 7 - February 1994
edited by Peter Toohey and Ian Worthington
ISSN 1320-3606