Be Your Own Hero -Brianna Chua-

Heroes from the Trojan War as well as the most famous ancient Greek hero Herakles depicted on traditional Athenian black figure pottery.  

The Trojan War is a central theme in Greek history and art. The scene depicted on this vase shows Aeneas (the hero of Troy), carrying his father Anchises, to safety. The goddess Aphrodite was said to have been Anchises’ former lover, so she looks on at them with grace and sympathy, which is implied by her gesture of bringing her hands to her face.
The two soldiers depicted on this case are assumed to be Achilles (or Ajax), a hero of Troy, who is engaged in combat with an unidentified Trojan enemy. This amphora is unique because of the white slip used to cover the normal reddish color of the clay. Doing so creates a stronger sense of contrast thus making the figures stand out more against the background.
Greek gods and goddesses are identifiable by their attributes and qualities. Dionysus, god of wine, is identified by his wine goblet and Poseidon, god of water, is seen holding his trident. The female figure is unidentifiable due to her lack of attributes. The viewers know she is a woman though because she was painted white. The color black was reserved strictly for painting males and white was for females.
The Greek hero Theseus is credited with killing the legendary Minotaur, a monster with the head of a bull and the body of a human. Theseus is shown her saving a band of maidens from being offered as tribute only to be eaten by the savage beast. The victims are painted to show they are indeed female, and are shown witnessing the carnage of Theseus killing the Minotaur.
Demigod figures are also identifiable in works of art because of their attributes. One of ancient Greece’s most famous heroes Herakles (Hercules) is distinguishable because he is wearing the skin of the Nemean lion he has killed. Athena and Hermes are shown off to the side as if to cheer Herakles on as he battles Kyknos (son of Ares), who challenged him to a duel.
This amphora depicts Herakles in a scene that contrasts his normal scenes of heroism. Herakles is shown playing a kithara, an ancient Greek instrument similar to a lyre. With the presence of two female figures (one being the goddess Athena) it can be assumed that he is serenading the two women.
Herakles is the hero of the people in this scene. The myth goes that he determined to Busiris’ inhuman practice of offering human sacrifices to Zeus. Herakles is shown slaying two Egyptian priests (identifiable due to their white robes) and Busiris has already met his untimely end and his body is shown draped over the altar.
Eurystheus can be held liable for all the obstacles Herakles had to endure. One of the Twelve Labours for Herakles was the kill the Erymanthian Boar. Having defeated the boar, Herakles decides to have a little fun and is shown dangling the carcass over a frightened Eurystheus, who has hidden in a large jar. Eurystheus was a bully to Herakles, so Herakles decides to fight back by teasing him with the dead creature.
During his Twelve Labours, Herakles had a visit with his centaur friend Pholos who provided him with food and drink. But Herakles requested to sample wine meant exclusively for centaurs, much to Pholos’ dismay. Once Herakles opened the wine, trouble just snowballed from there and then the other centaurs came charging in and violence ensued. Herakles is shown grabbing at the centaur’s torso poised and ready to strike.
There is a lot more detail used on this olpe (pitcher). The scene depicted shows Herakles, once again adorned in his lion skin, wrestling a fish-like creature named Triton. Even with their distinguishing features, the task to identify the two can be quite challenging. Triton can be identified by the scale detailing on his tail (done so by using white paint). Herakles is a little bit more difficult to find, but some of the fur details from his lion skin can help the viewer figure out who he is.
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