Religion and Death

Legendary, and Epic

For the Greeks the world of religion frequently crossed over into the affairs of men. This is particularly true of mythological events in which a host of lesser deities, demi-gods, spirits, demons, and other creatures of the imagination intermingled with the mortal heroes of the legendary past. Click here for Gods and Goddesses.

Attic Black Figure Amphora
ca. 525-510 BC
On loan, Philadelphia Museum of Art
L-64-258 detail
Dionysus, holding a grapevine and his drinking horn or rhyton, is flanked on each side by a goat-horned satyr and one of his band of female worshippers called maenads.
Photo by Maria Daniels for the Perseus Project. (149k)
Attic Black Figure Amphora
ca. 540&endash;530 BC
By Exekias
Orvieto, Italy
MS 3442
Scenes from the Aethiopis, a largely lost 7th century BC epic poem. Menelaus fights the Egyptian King Amasis, while Ajax lifts Achilles' body to drag it off the field of battle. The legendary exploits of mortals at the time of the Trojan War provide a rich source of material for artists, especially during the 6th and 5th centuries. Only human protagonists appear here, but the background roles of the gods would have been familiar to most Greeks through their close acquaintance with the epics of Homer and other literary sources.
H. 58.3; Dia. 34.0 cm. UM neg. S8-2751. (149k)
Terracotta Head of Silenos
First half of the 3rd century BC
MS 1869h
Head of an elderly silenos or satyr. Originally part of a large terracotta figurine depicting one of the plump and intoxicated drinking companions of the god of wine. Normally jovial, here the snub-nosed creature grimaces fiercely. Absent too are the horse ears and beard that normally characterize silens in earlier Greek art.
H. 9.2; W. 7.0; Th. 7.0 cm. UM neg. S4-65788. (165k)
Attic Black Figure Kyathos
ca. 520-510 BC
On loan, Philadelphia Museum of Art
A ladle for dispensing wine mixed with water from krater to drinking cup, the kyathos provided the vase painter with an appropriate surface for celebrating Dionysus, god of wine. (The eye, seen on the right, was a favorite decorative motif of the time.)
H. 15.3; L. 14.5; Dia. 11.2 cm. UM neg. S4-90898. (116k)

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