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Men's Life

The motif of the hunt was well-established in Minoan and Mycenaean art by the 2nd millennium BC It was a prominent aspect of Greek literature and art from the time of Homer in the 8th century BC Some of the best-known depictions of Greek myths in vase-painting and sculpture deal with such legendary figures as Odysseus, Heracles and Meleager engaged in the hunt. The goddess Artemis, armed with bow and arrow, is often shown either accompanied by or pursuing wild animals. This preoccupation with hunting at the mythic level mirrors the eager pursuit of rural pleasures by all classes of Greek male society.

The wealthy had the leisure time to hunt wild game with hounds, nets and traps, or, especially during the 6th century when large tracts of uncultivated country were still available, to pursue on horseback deer and wild boar. While Xenophon describes hunting lions, leopards, lynxes and bears in the mountainous regions of northern Greece and southeastern Turkey, it is unlikely that the Greek countryside supported much in the way of large game.

Attic Geometric Kantharos
8th century BC
MS 5290
A hare pursued by two hounds.
H. 14.4; L. 19.2; Dia. 15.3 cm. UM neg. 52126 (83k)
Attic Red Figure Askos
ca. 450&endash;400 BC
On loan, Philadelphia Museum of Art
A naked youth, armed with a club or sling, is pursued by a boar. Xenophon is full of advice on how to attack wild boar and makes it clear that running away is perhaps the worst mistake a hunter can make.
H. 6.5; L. 9.7; Dia. 9.0 cm. UM neg. 120578 (116k)

Campanian Red Figure Bell Krater
Late 5th century BC
By the Cassandra Painter or his circle
MS 5687 detail
A somewhat unorthodox hunting scene, perhaps depicting a legendary event in which a young man slays a boar with his ax.
Photo courtesy Mediterranean Section, Univ. of Pennsylvania Museum (116)

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