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Wine Cup with an Eagle Battling a Snake
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Attributed to the Hunt Painter
Greek, Lakonia, about 530 B.C.
Terracotta
5 1/8 to 5 5/16 x 7 11/16 to 7 13/16 in.
87.AE.31

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A bird sign appeared to them, flying high and holding to the left and carrying in its talons a gigantic snake, blood-colored, alive still, and breathing, it had not forgotten its warcraft yet, for writhing back it struck the eagle that held it by the chest and neck, so that the eagle let it drop groundward in pain of the bite, and dashed it down in the midst of the battle and itself, screaming high, winged away down the wind's blast. And the Trojans shivered with fear as they looked on the lithe snake lying in their midst, a portent of Zeus. . . .

In the Iliad, the poet Homer described an omen seen by the Trojans as they were attacking the Greek forces. Signifying the eternal conflict of the forces of the earth and the sky, the motif of the battling eagle and snake was used throughout antiquity. On this Lakonian black-figure kylix or cup, the Hunt Painter filled the interior with an eagle flying to the left, gripping the neck of a snake in its beak and clutching the serpent's long, undulating body in its talons. Stylized leaves and rays between bands decorate the exterior of the cup.