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"Kalos" is a Greek word meaning "beautiful."

Painters oftentimes painted kalos inscriptions on their vases. The inscriptions are usually composed of an individual's name accompanied by the word "kalos." In an example, "Leagros kalos," "Leagros" is considered the kalos name. It is not unusual to find the generic inscription, "ho pais kalos," which means "the boy is beautiful." The individual who is named, almost always a male, is one who is acknowledged by the painter for his 'beauty,' youthfulness, athleticism, and/or heroics. Some of the kalos names have been traced back to known historical figures, and this is a useful tool in dating many vases.

Beazley makes "a distinction...between straightforward kalos-inscriptions and those in which a 'kalos' is merely tagged on to the name of one of the person's represented: this is especially frequent when the name is feminine." [ARV (2), p. 1559] . Beazley records roughly 700 instances of male kalos names as opposed to roughly 25 instances of feminine kalos names.

Kalos inscriptions may refer to a figure on a vase, but this is not usually the case. Kalos inscriptions are almost always dipinto inscriptions, either painted on (in purple) or incised before firing, though some are graffito inscriptions added later and generally not by the painter or potter. There are noticeable patterns for kalos inscriptions - certain kalos names were popular during certain time periods and also popular within groups of painters. For example, "Leagros" was a popular kalos name during the last quarter of the sixth century B.C., particularly amongst the Pioneer Group.

The accompanying illustration is from a vase in the catalog, ARV (2) 879, no. 2 by the Penthesilea Painter. The inscription reads, "ho pais kalos" (the "sigmas" at the end of both lines are turned on their sides). For examples of other kalos inscriptions in the catalog, see: ARV (2) 16, no. 17; ARV (2) 61, no. 74; ARV (2) 167, no. 5; ARV (2) 328, no. 114; ARV (2) 879, no. 2.

    ARV (2), p. 1559-1616 J. Boardman 1974 200-203 J. Boardman 1975 213

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