Krater with the madness of Heracles (The Myth of Heracles Gone Mad in the Theatre)

Asteas350 - 320 BC

Museo Arqueológico Nacional

Museo Arqueológico Nacional
Madrid, Spain

Signed by the painter Asteas, this krater is one of the best pieces produced in the workshops of Paestum in southern Italy. The dynamic and markedly theatrical scene depicts one of the most dramatic scenes from the life of Heracles. Driven mad by constant persecution from Hera, the hero throws one of his sons on the pyre – where piled up belongings from his house are already burning – convinced that it is the son of his rival Eurystheus. The child uselessly outstretches his hand to reach his father’s beard, begging for mercy. His wife Megara, terrified, clutches her chest and pulls at her hair while lunging towards the door of the house. Behind the hero, Alcamene, mother of Heracles, and his loyal friend Iolaus, watch the scene from an open gallery with columns. The goddess Mania, the personification of madness, hovers at the end. All of the figures can be identified by accompanying inscriptions. On the other side of the vessel, Dionysius, god of theatre, rides on a panther surrounded by his entourage.


  • Title: Krater with the madness of Heracles (The Myth of Heracles Gone Mad in the Theatre)
  • Creator: Asteas
  • Date Created: 350 - 320 BC
  • Provenance: Paestum (Campania, Italy)
  • Type: Pottery (Red-figure technique)
  • Rights: Museo Arqueológico Nacional
  • External Link: CERES
  • Medium: Clay
  • Cultural Context: Ancient Greece (Classical Greek Period)

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