Panathenaeic amphora


Rijksmuseum van Oudheden

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden
Leiden, Netherlands

These Greek amphoras were prizes awarded to winning athletes at the Panathenaea, the festival in honour of the goddess Pallas Athena. Like the Olympic Games in Olympia, these games were held every four years. The amphoras contained olive oil. The standard inscription reads ‘TOONATHENETHEN ATHLOON’: ‘I belong to the Athenian games’.
One side always features a depiction of Pallas Athena, portrayed as a warlike goddess wearing full armour. On her shield we see a panther attacking a deer, symbolizing the aggression inherent in top-level sports. The other side represents scenes from the sporting life. Here, we see a number of participants in the pentathlon: a discus thrower, a javelin thrower, a long jumper bearing weights, and on the right a boy with two spears, watching.
As a prize, the winners of the various games received about a hundred of these amphoras, filled with olive oil,meaning that victory was not only honourable, but lucrative as well. Second and third prizes were not awarded in ancient Greece.


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