Side B: feet of youth on right

Side B: head of youth on right

Side B: oblique from left

Side A: runner on left, lower half

Side B: youth in center

Side A: runner in center

Collection: Cambridge, Harvard University Art Museums
Summary: Side A: torch raceSide B: three draped youths.
Ware: Attic Red Figure
Painter: In the manner of the Peleus Painter
Context: From Gela
Date: ca. 430 BC

H. 0.361 m.; Diam. 0.396 m.

Primary Citation: ARV2, 1041, 10; Beazley Addenda 2, 319.
Shape: Bell krater
Beazley Number: 213533
Region: Sicily
Period: Classical


Broken and repaired, with considerable surface damage effecting all of the figures and reserved areas; discolored re-painting of cracks and worn areas. The black-glaze is scratched and pitted, especially on side B and the handles.

Decoration Description:

Side A: A torch-race (lampadedromia), with two young runners heading for an altar at right. The racers are nude, but wear broad headbands, the first like a radiate crown, with vertical spikes, the second with two vertical spikes and a central upright with a tiny picture of a runner on it. Both youths have the right arm lowered and the left arm outstretched, holding the blazing torch by the handle beneath the drip-plate. The first runner, in the lead, has his right leg forward, which would be very awkward with the left arm extended; the second runner is drawn correctly, with the left leg forward. The altar is decorated with an ovolo molding, volutes, and a palmette akroterion; the wood on top will be kindled by the torch of the winning racer. Behind and to the right of the altar is an olive tree, and in the foreground at left sits a large kalpis-hydria, probably of metal. Behind the altar stands a bearded man gesturing to left and right and looking toward the advancing runners. He wears a laurel wreath and chiton, and over the chiton an ependytes, a type of long, sleeveless tunic with woven or embroidered designs. In the background to the right of the man is a wreath in added white, now largely destroyed.

Side B: A youth with long hair stands between two youths with shorter hair. Beazley called the central youth a boy, but he is the same height as the other two. The two youths at left face the third youth at right. All three wear himations, that of the central youth covering both his arms. The youth at left holds a strigil in his outstretched right hand; the youth at right holds a staff vertically in his right hand.

This torch-race is almost certainly the one at the Panathenaic Festival, for a 4th-century prize inscription states that individual winners in the torch-race were given 30 drachmas and a hydria; the hydria by the altar is the prize. The inscription also states that the races were organized by tribe, the winning tribe receiving 100 drachmas and a bull, and it has been suggested that the different headgear worn by these racers indicates a difference in tribes. The event was a relay race, and the winning team had to arrive with their torch still lit. The torches were lit at the altar of Prometheus in the Academy (Paus. 1.30.2) and the race ended at another altar at the foot of the Acropolis, where the winning torch lit the altar for the sacrifice to Athena Polias, a symbolic journey demonstrating the cultic roots of this and other athletic events. Aristotle says the Archon Basileus was in charge of all torch-races (Arist. Ath. Pol. 57.1), so he may be identified with the bearded man by the altar. The ependytes the man wears identifies him (in this context) as a priest. The altar may be that of Athena Polias herself, as the olive tree is doubtless the one that stood next to her temple on the Acropolis.

An olive wreath circles the vase under the rim. The groundlines on either side consist of groups of three maeanders to right alternating with saltire-squares (and a single cross-square on side A). Bands of egg-pattern nearly circle the handle roots. The space between the handle roots is reserved, and reserved stripes circle the side of the foot at top and bottom, the inside of the lip, and the top of the body inside.

Shape Description:

Bell-krater: disk foot with groove near the top; lower body tapering to a broad stem; torus rim narrowed to a ridge.

Collection History:

ex Hirsch collection, Geneva; Bequest of David M. Robinson.

Sources Used:

CVA, Robinson 2; Neils 1992.

Other Bibliography:

Robinson exhibition catalogue 1961, no. 103; CVA, Robinson 2, 34-35, pls. 47, 2-48, 1; Neils 1992, 178-79.