The depiction of a mythological theme of the Battle of the Gods and the Giants is spread on the front side of the large votute-krater like a colourful carpet. While the Gigantomachy on the Pergamon altar occupies a single band of the large frieze, here the battle is horizontally divided into three areas, in which separate groups of fighters are shown one above the other. In the middle a four-horse chariot speeds forward: Zeus, the leader of the Olympians, is driving the quadriga with his left hand, while in the right he triumphantly brandishes his terrible weapon the deadly thunderbolt. Alongside him stands Nike, goddess of victory, an omen of success. Zeus' opponent has collapsed immediately in front of the chariot, completely undone, as if thunderstruck. Around the chariot other figures are doing battle, as for instance the giant on the left, who tries to throw a rock up at Poseidon with his trident, mounted on the winged horse Pegasus. The image on the neck of the krater shows a duel of a different kind: Peleus is fighting with Thetis, goddess of the sea. The winged Eros symbolizes the outcome of the struggle: Peleus will defeat the goddess and win her love. This volute-krater belongs to a group of elaborately painted funerary vases from southern Italy. As some of them were made without bottoms, they would hardly have been used as vessels, but were rather surfaces for funerary images and depictions of fables. In the funeral rites the representation of mythical events – separations of various kinds, such as murders on the one hand, but also divine abductions and the union of gods with mortals on the other – served as metaphors for the deadly stroke of fate and offered consolation in misfortune.


  • Title: Zeus battling the Giants
  • Creator: Attributed to the Underworld Painter
  • Date Created: -350
  • Location: Apulia
  • Physical Dimensions: h113 cm
  • Type: Krater
  • Medium: Clay
  • Object acquired: Acquired on the art market in 1984
  • Inv.-No.: 1984.44
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-814319
  • External link: Altes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Text: © Scala Publishers / Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Ursula Kästner || Photo: © b p k - || Photo Agency / Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Johannes Laurentius
  • Collection: Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz

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