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Three-dimensional approximation of the vase

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Side A: sacrifice of Polyxena

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Room with three-dimensional approximations of Greek vases in the British M...

Collection: London, British Museum
Summary: Side A: sacrifice of Polyxena. Side B: komos. Middle frieze: sirens, panthers, rams and swans. Lower frieze: panthers and rams.
Ware: Attic Black Figure
Painter: Attributed to the Timiades Painter
Context: Possibly from Italy
Date: ca. 570 BC - ca. 560 BC

H 39

Primary Citation: ABV, 97.27; Para, 37
Shape: Tyrrhenian amphora
Beazley Number: 310027
Region: Italy
Period: Archaic


The vase is in good condition, but shows much wear of the black varnish on the foot, handles and mouth.

Decoration Description:

Side A: sacrifice of Polyxena. Polyxena is held over the tomb of Achilles as the sacrifice is performed. The rigid body of Polyxena, wrapped in a shroud decorated with crosses, is held horizontally and face downward to facilitate the sacrifice. It is supported by three armed warriors, Amphilochos, Antiphates and Aias Iliades. Neoptolemos, son of Achilles, performs the sacrifice. Standing with legs spread wide and flexed, he holds the head of the princess by the hair, pulling her head up slightly as he plunges a knife into her throat; a blood stream of blood gushes from her throat. Diomedes and Nestor stand watching on the left, while Phoinix is turning away on the right, one hand tightly clenched. Polyxena wears a necklace. Her hair hangs loose down her back and falls in short curls on her forehead. Diomedes carries two spears and a shield. He wears a close-fitting, short white chiton, purple cuirass, greaves and helmet. Nestor, dressed in a long white chiton with a black border and a black himation, holds a single spear resting on the ground. He is shown as a relatively young man, for his hair and beard are black rather than white. Phoinix also holds a spear, and is shown wearing a mantle without the chiton underneath. The three warriors carrying Polyxena are dressed identically in cuirass, helmet and greaves. All but Amphilochos wear swords in their belts. The tomb is depicted as a mound covered with a patterned fabric; the decoration is alternating purple and black squares, the latter incised with a cross with white dots between the arms. A tripod brazier spouting flames rests on top of the mound.

Side B: komos. Naked youths dancing between cocks. Two cocks as tall as men stand facing inward to frame the central scene. The two youths in the center dance facing one another. The left-hand youth has one knee raised and his supporting leg is bent. Both his arms are raised in the air and his head is turned so as to look at the youth behind him. The right-hand youth bends his left leg off the ground and points with both arms toward his raised foot, his head tipped downward. The other two youths stand facing the cocks, their heads turned back toward the dancing pair. Each holds one arm around the neck of the cock, the other arm held at his side.

Lower frieze: row of animals. Griffins, lions, bulls and a swan.

Lowest frieze: row of animals. Bulls? and panthers?

Shape Description:

The body is separated from the neck by a plastic ring.


On side A, written retrograde above the body of Polyxena: *P*O*L*U*X*S*E*N*E, Polyxena. Her three bearers also have their names inscribed. The first on the right, written retrograde, is: *A*N*F*I*L*O*X*O*S, Amphilochos. The second, also written retrograde, is: *A*M*T*I*F*A*T*E*S, Antiphates. The third is *A*I*A*S *I*L*I*A*D*E[*S], an unusual form of Ajax Oïliades (the son of Oileus). The name *F*O*I*N*I*X*S, Phoenix, is inscribed retrograde over the figure on the extreme right. To the left, the man holding two spears and a shield is inscribed with his name, again written retrograde: *D*I*O*M*E*D*E*S, Diomedes. Next to him stands *N*E*S*T*O*R *P*U*L*I*O*S, Nestor of Pylos.

Sources Used:

Walters 1893, 284-286; Vermeule & Chapman 1971, pl. 72, fig. 6; Williams 1985, 28-29, fig. 32.

Other Bibliography:

Walters 1893, 283, pl. 15; Perrot & Chipiez, 10, 113; Atena e Roma 10, 17; 27; Maas 1951, 94; Walters 1905, pl. 23; Homan-Wedeking 1938, Arch V., fig. 8; Stella 1956, 752; EAA, vii 1009; Scherer 1963, 125; Willcock 1970, pl. 1b; Boardman 1974, fig. 57; LIMC, I, pl. 253, Aias II 8; pl. 570 Amphilochus 3; Birchall & Corbett 1974, fig. 68; Robertson 1975, pl. 40b; Bruxelles, 159-161 no. 93; Moon 1983, 88 fig. 6.1; Carpenter 1984, 48 fig. 1; Antike Plastik 15, p. 108, fig. 15; Prag 1985, pl. 41 fig. B; Beazley Addenda 2, 26.