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Mixing Vessel with Odysseus Escaping from the Cyclops's Cave
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Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman

Unknown
Greek, Athens, 550 - 500 B.C.
Terracotta
13 x 14 x 11 13/16 in.
96.AE.303

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In the Greek epic poem the Odyssey , the hero Odysseus devised a clever ruse to escape from the man-eating, one-eyed giant Cyclops. First, Odysseus blinded the monster, then tied himself and his men to the undersides of the sheep in the giant's flock. The blinded Cyclops checked his sheep as he let them out to graze, but he only felt along their backs, so Odysseus and his men escaped. This Athenian black-figure column-krater depicts Odysseus bound under the ram, the leader of the flock. The scene is placed between a pair of apotropaic eyes, which appear sporadically on Athenian vases of the 500s B.C. The escape from the Cyclops was the most popular scene from the Odyssey depicted on Athenian vases. The back of the vase shows the goddess Nike between scenes of lions attacking bulls.

The Greeks produced a very strong wine, which they drank mixed with water. A krater was used as a mixing vessel to blend the wine and water before serving. The type of krater that scholars call a column-krater takes its name from the columnar appearance of the handle supports.


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