Side A: man and woman at right, detail of lower part. Nonsense inscription...

Side B: Herakles and the lion.

Side A: Minotaur, detail of head and torso.

Side B: Herakles and the lion, detail of head and body.

Side B: Athena.

Side B: oblique view from the left.

Collection: Martin von Wagner Museum, University of Würzburg
Summary: Side A: Theseus and MinotaurSide B: Herakles and the Nemean lion
Ware: Attic Black Figure
Painter: Attributed to Group E
Date: ca. 540 BC

H. 0.420 m.

Primary Citation: ABV, 134, 18
Shape: Belly amphora
Period: High Archaic



Decoration Description:

Side A: Theseus and the Minotaur. In the middle of the scene, Theseus is standing with the sword in his right hand, plunging it into the Minotaur's forehead. He is dressed with a tight chitoniskos decorated with stripes. The Minotaur, with a naked human body and the head of a bull, is kneeling in front of Theseus at right. He has been wounded and is dying. Behind Theseus at left there are a youth and a maiden with a wreath in her hand. The youth is naked and has long hair and the maiden is dressed with a decorated peplos. At the right, two youths are standing, and between them and the Minotaur is another maiden, also holding a wreath. She is dressed also in a decorated peplos, but on her head is a diadem. The diadem may identify her as Ariadne; the wreaths carried by the maidens may be gifts for Theseus. Both maidens and youths seem to belong to the tribute given by the city of Athens to Crete for the Minotaur.

The inscriptions on the background make no sense. Simon 1975 suggests that there may have been a picture by Exekias with the same theme and with all the names inscribed, from which the painter of this piece took the inspiration.

Side B: Herakles and the Nemean lion. Herakles, in the middle of the scene, holds the lion by the neck and plunges his sword into its jaws, both wrestling side by side. The lion scratches Herakles with a hind paw and fore paw, digging them into his shoulder and calf. The lion is usually behind Herakles and turning its head back, but in this case it is in front. Athena stands at left, looking inwards at the scene. She is dressed with a chiton and himation and carries a spear. At right, a helmeted Iolaos standing and looking to the scene, carries the scabbard for the sword that Herakles has used.

The first labor of Herakles was to subdue a lion living near Nemea. In some of the literary sources it is said that the lion was invulnerable to weapons or to iron weapons (Diod. Sic. 4.11.3-4). Most artists chose to illustrate Herakles strangling the lion or knocking him with the club, as a variety of literary sources relate the myth: Hes. Th. 326-322, the Diodorus passage cited above, Theocritus 25.266-271, and Apollod. 2.5.1. In this case, as in many other representations, the lion is being killed with a sword, contradicting most of the literary sources, which are mostly later in date.

Collection History:

From the Feoli Collection

Sources Used:

Langlotz 1932, 248, pl. 80 and 84; Simon 1975, 104; LIMC, 5, s.v. Herakles, n. 1833, with plate