In the epic poem, the Iliad, the greatest heroes of the Trojan War demonstrated their strength and courage in single, hand-to-hand combat. A Greek hero, like Achilles or Ajax, was matched against one from the Trojan side. This neck-amphora depicts two such combats. On the front of the vase, a warrior closes in from the left on his collapsing enemy, who attempts to raise his shield and protect himself. The back of the vase depicts a similar scene but with the positions reversed. Since these combat scenes have no inscriptions, they can not be specifically identified, but are of a general heroic nature.
In the early 400s B.C., although most vase-painters now worked in the recently invented red-figure technique, some painters continued to work in black-figure. In the changed pottery market, they sought ways to make their product more interesting. One method used by these late black-figure painters was to cover the normal reddish color of the clay background with a creamy white slip, as seen here. This white slip created a sharper contrast between the figures and the background.