Side A: Minotaur, from the neck down

Side B: the Nemean lion, forequarters

Side B: spiral and palmette at side of scene

Side B: Athena, from the waist up

Side A: oblique from right

Side B: Athena, from the chest down

Collection: Cambridge, Harvard University Art Museums
Summary: Side A: Theseus and the MinotaurSide B: Herakles and the Nemean Lion
Ware: Attic Black Figure
Painter: Near Exekias
Date: ca. 540 BC - ca. 530 BC

H. 0.413 m.

Primary Citation: ABV, 148; Para, 62; Beazley Addenda 2, 42.
Shape: Neck amphora
Beazley Number: 310424
Period: Archaic


Broken and repaired, with missing pieces restored with plaster. Some repainting of cracks, but not of missing pieces (the former restoration, visible in Buitron 1972 and Robinson 1956, has now been removed). The added white of the women's flesh has suffered, particularly that of Athena. Drill holes and channels on Side B show that the vase was broken and repaired in Antiquity.

Decoration Description:

Side A: Theseus killing the Minotaur. The bearded hero (not shown as a beardless youth, as he would be in later red-figure versions of the subject) attacks to the right, his (hidden) left hand holding the bull-headed Minotaur by the neck, his right grasping the sword he is about to plunge into the monster's breast. He wears a red chitoniskos with a hem of zigzags and white dots; over this is an animal skin secured by a belt. Baldrics of added white cross his breast, one of them holding the scabbard on his left hip. Added red is used for his beard and hair, the latter tied in a krobylos. His sword has a white hilt. The Minotaur has fallen to his left knee, in profile to the left; his torso is frontal and his head turned to the right, away from his assailant. His face and nipples are tinted with added red, and added white is used for the irregular spots on his body, a further indication of his half-bull nature. Standing on either side of the central pair and watching the action are two white-skinned women wearing necklaces and peploi, the latter secured with red belts and decorated with zigzag hems. Rows of incised squares containing circles decorate the entire peplos of the woman at right and the overfold of the woman at left (the lower half of her peplos is decorated with red stripes). Red spots on the Minotaur's head and the peplos of the woman at right may be from an accidental splatter of red slip. The woman at left points toward Theseus; her hair is longer than that of the right-hand woman, whose right arm and foot overlap the fallen Minotaur. The women are unidentified, but may represent two of the maidens rescued by Theseus, or perhaps Ariadne and Pasiphae.

Side B: Herakles slaying the Nemean Lion. With his left arm, Herakles holds the lion's head in a choke-hold while stabbing it with the sword in his right hand. The sword will have no effect, as the lion's skin in impenetrable, but the strangulation will work, after which the hero will skin the beast with one of its own invincible claws. The lion has reared up on its hind legs, one of which it braces against Herakles' left knee. Its mane is painted with added red, and a white stripe marks the line of its belly. The mouth is open, roaring. Herakles is nude — he cannot wear his lionskin until he wins it in this very combat — but has a scabbard on his left hip hanging from a white baldric. The sword hilt is white and the hero's beard is red. His hair is tied in a krobylos. At left, Herakles' nephew and helper, Iolaos, runs to the left but looks back toward the action at right. He too is nude and has a red beard. Standing calmly at right, watching the combat, is the goddess Athena. She wears a peplos much like that of the left-hand woman on Side A, with red stripes and rosettes on the lower part and incised squares and circles on the overfold. Her cap-like helmet has no cheekpieces but is circled by a red wreath; the stilted crest on the helmet has a white stripe along the bottom. The added white on her flesh parts has largely eroded, taking with it her facial features, but the white device on her shield is still visible: a tripod, only half of which can be seen because the shield is in profile.

Shoulder: On either side, two fighting cocks face each other in the center, their heads lowered as they prepare to do battle. Flanking them on either side are a pair of hens. The parallel with the scene below is subtle but unmistakable. Added red is used for the combs and wattles of the cocks and for selected feathers of both cocks and hens. The groundline is a single line of dilute glaze.

On either side of the neck is a lotus and palmette chain; added red is used for the cuffs of the lotuses and for alternate fronds of the palmettes. Below this, above the shoulder frieze on either side, is a band of tongues, alternately red and black. Below the handles on either side is a symmetrical quatrefoil of palmettes linked by coiling tendrils, with a lotus flower on either side of the central junction and a third pendant below it. Below the groundline — a single stripe — are three bands of ornament framed by stripes: flowering lotuses separated by crosses; lotus buds; rays. Between the buds and rays is a broad stripe of added red. The fillets above the foot and between neck and body are red, and there is a red stripe around the upper edge of the mouth. The foot and handles are black, as are the inner and outer surfaces of the mo

Shape Description:

Broad, flat shoulder; quadruple-reeded handles with flattened flange at juncture with shoulder; echinus mouth; torus foot; fillet between foot and body.


Buitron No. 11

Collection History:

Bequest of David M. Robinson. Bought in Rome in 195O.

Sources Used:

Robinson 1956; Buitron 1972.

Other Bibliography:

Robinson AJA 60 (1956) 7-9, pl. 5; Buitron 1972, 30-31, no. 11; Robinson exhibition catalogue 1961, no. 66; LIMC, V, 20, pl. 37, Herakles 1807.