For the Greeks, the mythical Trojan War was the central event in their early history. Episodes from the conflict fill Greek art and literature, and a scene from the culmination of the battle, the sack of Troy, decorates the front of this Athenian black-figure neck-amphora. The Trojan hero Aeneas has lifted his aged father Anchises onto his back in order to carry him to safety. They are preceded by Aeneas's young son. Behind them, the goddess Aphrodite, who had once been Anchises' lover and is Aeneas's mother, gestures in grief and sympathy. The painter who decorated this vase labeled Aphrodite, Aeneas, and Anchises, adding a popular formulaic comment on their beauty, but he also added a variety of nonsense inscriptions--combinations of letters with no apparent meaning--to this scene and others on the vase.
On the neck, a charioteer rides in a four-horse chariot (quadriga), while on the reverse, a warrior departs for – or maybe returns from – battle with his dog. An elderly man, marked by his white hair, gestures before him, and a woman, perhaps his mother or wife, watches from the right. On the reverse of the body, Dionysos, the god of wine, carries a kantharos or drinking cup, between two satyrs, his part-horse, part-human companions. The satyr on the right appears to dance to the music of aulos (double pipes) played by his counterpart.