previous next

Scenes of Theatrical and Poetic Competitions

Both the theater and dithyrambic competitions are associated with Dionysos, and both themes are found on Polygnotan vases. Some scholars have related the return of Hephaistos scenes and their remarkable popularity in the Classical period to a satyr play on that subject.1 Beazley suggested that the Prometheus Fire-lighter scenes, of which some are by Polygnotan painters, might relate to a satyr play as well.2 One of these, a bell krater fragment by the Lykaon Painter in Oxford (Oxford 1927.43, shows a satyr costume and can thus definitely be linked to this genre. Representations of subjects known from Greek tragedy are also found on Polygnotan vases, and two in particular have been linked to specific dramas. A fragment of a bell krater in Adria by Polygnotos (Adria, Museo Civico Bc 1044 shows part of a scene of the death of Laios (the scene is identified on the basis of inscriptions) which has been associated with a lost play on that subject by Aeschylus.5

Fragments of a late double-register calyx krater by Polygnotos in the University of Vienna collection (Vienna, University 5056 combine the ransom of Hektor, the arming of Achilles, and Achilles mourning Patroklos, a combination found on one other vase, the large three-register squat lekythos by the Eretria Painter in New York (New York 31.11.13).7 The same combination occurred in the Achilleis of Aeschylus, from which the vase painters apparently drew their inspiration.8 Dithyrambic competitions are to be associated with vases that show the tripods and bulls awarded as prizes in these contests.9 Typical representations show the altar and sanctuary and often the contestants or winners along with their prizes. The Hector Painter's picture on his stamnos in Munich (Munich 2412;

10 of Nike pouring water from a hydria for the prize bull to drink can be read as dithyrambic because of the monumental tripod that dominates the central axis of the scene. This vase remains unique in the repertoire of such dithyrambic sacrifice scenes.

1 Brommer 1959b, 72, no. 12; and Webster 1967, 165, link a bell krater by an unnamed Polygnotan once in the Hope collection and formerly on the Paris art market (ARV2, 1053, no. 39) to the Hephaistos by Achaios of Eretria. On the vase, a satyr dances on a table in front of Hephaistos and Dionysos.

2 J.D. Beazley, "Prometheus Fire-Lighter," AJA 43 (1939) 618-39.

3 ARV2, 1046, no. 10; Beazley (supra n. 41) 631-32, 634, fig. 9; CVA, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum 2 (Great Britain 9) pl. 66, 40.

4 ARV2, 1029, no. 19; Para., 442; Beazley Addenda 2, 317; CVA, Adria 1 (Italy 28) pl. 42, 1.

5 Webster (supra n. 40) 142.

6 ARV2, 1030, no. 33; Para., 442; Beazley Addenda 2, 317; CVA, Vienna 1 (Germany 5) Universität pl. 24; Hedwig Kenner, "Zur Achilleis des Aischylos," ÖJh 33 (1941) 1-24; LIMC, I, 117, Achilles no. 480, and 125, Achilles no. 524; LIMC, III, 161, pl. 136, Briseis no. 18.

7 ARV2, 1248, no. 9; Lezzi-Hafter 1988, pls. 150, 154, 155.

8 Kenner (supra n. 45) 1-24; Webster (supra n. 40) 142-43; Kossatz-Deissmann 1978, 10-32.

9 See Heidi Froning, Dithyrambos und Vasenmalerei in Athen (Würzburg 1971).

10 ARV2, 1936, no. 5, 1679; CVA, Munich, Museum Antiker Kleinkunst 5 (Germany 20) pl. 247,2, pl. 249,3-4; Para., 443; Beazley Addenda 2, 318.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: